I haven't done one of these in a few years, but I was really impressed by the releases this year, so I made a playlist of some favorite tracks and highlighted a couple of my favorite records. There was a lot more pop in my rotation this year, which has been a fun change of pace.
Here are a handful of the albums I want to highlight:
For Those I Love – For Those I Love (Spotify, Apple Music)
My favorite record of the year. Introduced to me in a music Discord with the description, "a stunning piece of work, think The Streets with a lot more potent grief," and I can't come up with a more succinct definition. This is a singer/songwriter/electronic/garage debut record from the Dublin artist David Balfe who wrote it as a sort of love letter and eulogy to his best friend, the Irish poet Paul Curran who died from suicide in 2018. There were some weeks where I’d just listen to this record through once or twice a day, hanging on every word, and I'd still somehow pick up something new with each listen. Put on your headphones on and listen through this one with your eyes closed.
Porter Robinson – Nurture (Spotify, Apple Music)
My comfort record of the year. If For Those I Love is a meditation on pain, Nurture is a celebration of life and creativity. Porter struggled with writing this record for the past seven years. Coming from an EDM background, he had to teach himself to write a traditional verse/chorus song structure. He did basically everything for this record himself, and even pitches his vocals to sound more feminine in some tracks, which sounds wonderful. In one interview, he mentioned finding musical inspiration for this record in the soundtrack of the 2012 anime Wolf Children.
Maybe it's a gift that I couldn't recognize
Maybe I don't really need to feel satisfied
Maybe it's a gift that I spend all this time
Just trying to feel alive
Tigers Jaw – I Won't Care How You Remember Me (Spotify, Apple Music)
A little indie/emo band from Scranton I’ve been listening to since college that seems to get better with every release. I basically had this on repeat the whole month of its release.
Fiddlehead – Between The Richness (Spotify, Apple Music)
The second release from the Massachusetts band Fiddlehead, fronted by Pat Flynn of one of my all-time favorite bands, the legendary Have Heart.
CHVRCHES – Screen Violence (Spotify, Apple Music)
Another amazing release from the Scottish synthpop band, with perhaps the silkiest, smoothest, opening track I've ever heard. With this release, the band channels some more gothic influences, and even has a feature with Robert Smith of The Cure on the track "How Not to Drown."
I also had a lot of fun with releases from Kississippi, Jetty Bones, Jail Socks, R.A.P. Ferreira, and Chloe Moriondo. Deafheaven's new LP fell a little flat for me, unfortunately, but EPs from Lorna Shore and Knocked Loose were great, and Rebecca Black's EP was an unexpected delight.
Also, I have Long-Legged Larry on the playlist, but the accompanying music video is a silly stop-motion romp that I highly recommend.