Staff Picks - Josh Jackson (editor-in-chief)
We've just released our collective Top 50 at Paste, and there's been the usual response both on our site and others' about what you think we missed, what we got wrong and what the list really should have looked like. Since this was a collaborative effort with votes from staff and some of our regular critics, everyone would have made this list a little differently, including me. Here's my personal top 10 (i.e. the actual 10 best albums this year).
1. Bon Iver—For Emma, Forever Ago
Some albums stampede their way into your brain, others creep in during the middle of the night and lay claim to some hidden corner forever. Justin Vernon's debut is one of the sneakiest albums since Sam Beam whispered his way into my cerebral cortex in 2002.
2. Sigur Rós—med sud i eyrum vid spilum endalaust
Up until now, Sigur Rós has given sonic expression to the wintry fjords and barren interiors of Iceland—the cold, somber but strangely beautiful landscapes most of us have only seen in pictures. But med sud is a summer record, full of the joy and playfulness of a warm weekend roadtrip. A little sunshine does the band well.
3. Vampire Weekend—Vampire Weekend
Sure it was ridiculously hyped, but there are few albums that deserve the buzz more. I can't listen to "A-Punk" without a giant smile forming on my lips.
4. Okkervil River—The Stand-Ins
Let this be my public apology for mostly overlooking this band up until now. If you haven't been paying attention to Okkervil River, go listen to "Lost Coastlines" right now.
5. The Hold Steady—Stay Positive
When I was in 9th grade, my friend Jamie turned 16 before the rest of us and used to pack everyone inside her old tri-tone Monte Carlo and drive around Dunwoody, Ga., with the windows down and the radio up loud. I wish we had this album back then.
6. Ida Maria—Fortress Round Your Heart
I can't think of an album where carefree collided so beautifully into heartbreaking. Loose, loud rock and beer-hall choruses aren't enough to hide the soul that's been laid bare.
7. Fleet Foxes—Fleet Foxes
As much as I love the weird left-turn that was My Morning Jacket's Evil Urges this year, I love where Fleet Foxes have taken MMJ's earlier sounds on their lovely debut even more.
8. The Dodos—The Visitor
If theaters and arenas are getting crowded with the safer descendents of Radiohead, Wilco's template is getting twisted in wonderfully new ways by bands like The Dodos.
9. Girl Talk—Feed The Animals
Call it a guilty pleasure. Say it doesn't belong on a list with original recordings. But a truckload of Cracker Jacks doesn't have this many prizes hidden inside.
10. Johnny Flynn & The Sussex Wit—A Larum
If you like #1, 4, 7 & 8 on this list, you'll probably like the debut from these Brits. Hey, it's been a really good year for folky, spacious indie roots.