As has been tradition the last couple of years, here're the albums that stuck with me the most. Along with my thoughts, I've listed my personal highlights.
One of those rare records that find simultaneous commercial, critical, and personal success. Though the album flirted with overexposure in the months after its release, I believe it will endure a long time.
Faves: Rollin' in the Deep, Rumour Has It, Set Fire to the Rain, One and Only, Someone Like You
The Cars: Move Like This
Reunion albums tend to have an air of desperation and the sweat of trying too hard to recapture past glories. Move Like This manages to avoid that completely. Ric, David, Greg, and Eliot pick back up and zip through these 10 songs as if it'd been 24 hours, not 24 years, since they last recorded.
Faves: Blue Tip, Too Late, Soon, Sad Song, Take a Look, Hits Me
Death Cab for Cutie: Codes and Keys
For me, their previous album, Narrow Stairs, was a slow-grower, revealing its considerable charms after many many listens. This one got to me quicker, but I have a feeling it will make less lasting impression. Even so, it's got a lot to recommend it.
Faves: Codes and Keys, You Are a Tourist, Unobstructed Views, Underneath the Sycamore, St. Peter's Cathedral, Stay Young,Go Dancing
The Decemberists: The King is Dead
The Decemebrists past work has felt too affected to me, but this one is straight ahead and irresistable. Straddling the middle ground between Americana and indie rock, the album is a gem from front to back.
Faves: The whole thing, but especially June Hymn. I don't typically have emotional reactions to songs, but that one gets me.
Fountains of Wayne: Sky Full of Holes
Less bombastic than F.O.W.s last couple of albums, Sky Full of Holes has quieter charms. The songwriting, however, is as sharp as ever.
Faves: The Summer Place, Acela, Action Hero, A Dip in the Ocean, A Road Song
Kaiser Chiefs: The Future is Medieval
Kaiser Chiefs have quickly and quietly (at least in the U.S.) been building up a pretty amazing oeuvre. The Future is Medieval (released in 2012 as Start the Revolution Without Me) is a great addition. The band initally offered a "make your own album" via their website, with 20 tracks to choose from. Then they released their own 12 song version. The 8 songs they left off are equally (and in some cases more) worthy.
Faves: Things Change, Long Way from Celebrating, Out of Focus, Man on Mars, Heard it Break, Howlaround, Problem Solved, I Dare You, Can't Mind My Own Business, My Place Is Here
This is pretty amazing. In a one year timespan, Minneapolis songwriter Chris Koza and his bandmates released four proper albums, one for each season. Winter's entry, False Floors, was the only one to come out in 2011, but it's also my favorite.
Faves: False Floors, Blueprints, Orion, The Scattering Moon
Sloan: The Double Cross
Sloan's 10th album (which came out in their 20th year, thus the punny XX title) is typically great.
Faves: The Answer was You, Unkind, Shadow of Love, Your Daddy Will Do, Beverly Terrace, Laying So Low
They Might Be Giants: Join Us
Faves: Can't Keep Johnny Down, You Probably Get That a Lot, Canajoharie, Let Your Hair Hang Down, When Will You Die, Judy is Your Vietnam, Never Knew Love, You Don't Like Me
Wilco: The Whole Love
Wilco continue to surprise. The third album with this iteration of the band manages to happily marry their pop sensibilities to their need to experiment.
Faves: Art of Almost, Sunloathe, Dawned on Me, Open Mind, Capitol City