Honorable Mentions: Run the Jewels by Run the Jewels and …Like Clockwork by Queens of the Stone Age.
#10. m b v by My Bloody Valentine
My Bloody Valentine doesn’t have to blow out your eardrums to sound transcendent. On m b v, the group’s first album since their 1991 masterpiece, Loveless, Kevin Shields trades deafening reverb for something equally textured in its layers of noise yet more accessibly gorgeous, with each track taking their time to slowly unfurl. Also, it’s still pretty goddamn loud. m b v is both a throwback and completely of its time, occasionally in the same song, like in the vibrating “only tomorrow,” which Billy Corgan has spent his entire career trying to sound like. Unlike most decades-in-the-works albums, m b v was worth the wait, though hopefully it’s not another 20 years before album #4.
#9. Acid Rap by Chance the Rapper
For a musician, the term “labor of love” is a backhanded compliment. It implies that there are singers, rappers, ukulele players, whomever, who aren’t giving their whole when they’re making new music, either because they’re lazy, they don’t care, or they’re lazy AND don’t care. But it’s an endorsement, I swear, when I say Acid Rap is a labor of love, because Chance the Rapper, who lives in the permanent haze of a smoker’s paranoia, puts everything he has into every track. As he should. He’s 20 years old, hasn’t released a full-length studio album, and before this year, his biggest claim to fame was “Childish Gambino opening act.” The future is now for the often playful, always determined Chance, whose elastic Acid Rap isn’t a sign of great things to come; things are already pretty great.
#8. Random Access Memories by Daft Punk
Ain’t Daft Punk a bunch of stinkers? One of the funniest music moments of the year came from two French robots, who began their first album in eight years with a rising crescendo of electro-noise that made Random Access Memories sound like a spiritual sibling to Discovery. Then it all vanishes, into a smooth stream of soft disco. Random was not what we thought it’d be. There is no “Digital Love” or “Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger.” It owes as much to an obscure Italian record producer as it does any dance music trend. That’s because Daft Punk were the forefathers of many of those trends, and they weren’t interested in reliving the past. Or at least not the immediate past. Better to pretend it’s the late 1970s, when Chic was one of the biggest bands in the world. That’s how we got the perfectly perfect “Get Lucky,” which dance groups are going to try to replicate for the NEXT 20 years. It’s a cruel cycle.
#7. Silence Yourself by Savages
Savages make it easy for us: they sound savage. A very particular kind of savage, the kind that exists in a meat locker with unforgiving acoustics, but savage nonetheless. Silence Yourself is a self-assured post-punk debut that rumbles like a band that’s been together for fifteen years, not less than three; it’s direct, confrontational angst, forcing you to put aside the bullsh*t. Over and over again, singer Jehnny Beth chants, “I am here, I am here, I am here,” until it becomes a way of life. Savages is here; everything else doesn’t matter.
#6. The Greatest Generation by the Wonder Years
“Jesus Christ, I’m 26/All the people I graduated with all have kids, all have wives, all have people who care if they come home at night/Jesus Christ, did I f*ck up?” That might be the most fiercely honest lyric I’ve heard all year. There’s a guy who pops up later on this list who’s well known for exposing his emotional scabs to everyone, but unless you’re a fashion designer/rapper with a Hobbit for a wife, he’s impossible to relate to — I can, however, scream and self-loathe with a bunch of pop-punk sad sacks from the Northeast who named their band after a TV show. The Wonder Years make small details sound life-changing, where every heart-on-sleeve song sounds could be the soundtrack to a climatic movie scene. The Greatest Generation recharges an often-stagnant genre.