AM - Arctic Monkeys
In my humble opinion, there is no band in the world better than this Sheffield quartet. Their fifth studio album is their most accomplished and their most fulfilling. In both the pulse pounding moments of R U Mine? and Knee Socks, and the quieter refrains of No.1 Party Anthem and I Wanna Be Yours the songwriting genius of Alex Turner and the masterful musicianship of this band shines through. With each album, this band has reinvented itself. This reinvention is much more than just cool haircuts and leather jackets. AM is a revelation, and one that presents a very convincing argument as to why these icy primates should be counted among some of the greatest bands of all time.
Essential Tracks: Arabella, No. 1 Party Anthem, R U Mine?
Yeezus - Kanye West
Kanye West is not a celebrity. It sounds stupid to say that about a man who appears on gossip magazines almost as frequently as his reality TV star girlfriend, but it’s true. Ever since The College Dropout was released, Kanye has not only elevated his rap game with every one of his six albums, but looked back as he laughed at everyone else trying to catch up. 2010’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy was one of the best hip-hop albums of all time, and the mysterious Yeezus proved to be a very worthy follow up. The experimental album, laced with EDM and primal screams not only gave the people of the world the soundtrack to their summer, but serves as the much needed reminder that Mr. West is one of the best and most important artists in the world today.
Essential Tracks: Blood on the Leaves, Hold My Liquor, Guilt Trip
Modern Vampires of the City - Vampire Weekend
They adeptly avoided a sophomore slump after their debut was one of the best of the new millennium, but it was a 3 year rest period before these Ivy League rockers returned with a third effort. They spent that layover crafting one of the best indie albums of the decade, and one that truly outdoes both of its predecessors. The true beauty of this album shines brightest, not in the joyous blasts of Diane Young or Ya Hey, but in the calm, intimate moments like the ones found in Hannah Hunt and in the recesses of Finger Back where the true brilliance of Koenig and Batmangli takes center stage.
Essential Tracks: Everlasting Arms, Hannah Hunt, Finger Back
Because the Internet - Childish Gambino
Up to this point, not a whole lot of people have taken Donald Glover’s music career seriously. That’s not to say that no one has, of course. Countless artists, from Danny Brown to Beck have worked with Gambino and he has one of the most loyal fan bases in all of music. This success and recognition hasn’t been enough for Glover to be counted among some of the best hip hip artists in the world as he rightly should be. His second studio album, presents something wholly unique both from his previous work and from what exists in the world of hip hop today. Influences as varied as Kanye West, Drake, LCD Soundsystem and Sufjan Stevens as well as innumerable other rappers and indie bands weigh heavily on Gambino’s music. The world isn’t ready for a man as vastly talented as Glover. Although Because the Internet is better than almost everything that exists in hip hop today, it’s unlikely that he’ll ever really be counted as a mainstream artist, It’s hard for me to believe that Mr. Glover would have it any other way.
Essential Tracks: Zealots of Stockholm (Free Information), Shadows, Telegraph Ave.
Honorable Mentions: The Next Day - David Bowie, Matangi - M.I.A., Random Access Memories - Daft Punk, The 20/20 Experience - Justin Timberlake