8.) "21" by Adele -- Yes, I bought this album the day it came out. It's sort of sad that I feel a little ashamed of admitting that, because Adele really is a great songstress. But the radio stations, TV shows, media in general have just beat these songs into the ground. I will probably revive this album in about three years, when I'm not sick of it anymore. That said, this is not a style of music I typically listen to. It's bluesier, poppier... just not as rock and roll or alternative as I tend to keep it. But I do think Adele did a good job with this one. I'm sorry, Adele, that popular media ruined it for me.
7.) "Zonoscope" by Cut Copy -- I'd heard of Cut Copy before this year but hadn't paid much attention. However, I saw them at ACL this year completely by chance, and they were one of my favorite acts of the entire weekend. They were just so much fun. So, naturally, I bought their newest album the next week. I have to say, I like it but I don't love it as much as I thought I would. It's good, but I don't have the connection to it I have with albums higher on this list. But it is dancy, catchy, upbeat, and fun. I guess I would say, with the exception of a couple of songs that I really do like a lot, it's great background music. But don't listen to it on a road trip by yourself. You'll get bored. Or at least, I did.
6.) "If Not Now, When?" by Incubus -- I've been a fan, but not a diehard one, of Incubus for the past 10 years or so. They have some phenomenal songs, but as for entire albums, I couldn't really get into them. All that changed with this album. It's a little different, a little more mellow than previous stuff, but it's also more precise, more planned, if that makes sense. Great intricate melodies, and of course Brandon Boyd sings his ass off. I mean, this guy can sing. Let's face it, sometimes guy bands don't focus so much on the quality of the vocals. But Brandon's voice is an instrument. I'd say this album is classic Incubus, but better.
5.) "Mylo Xyloto" by Coldplay -- I was a slow fan of Coldplay. After buying their first two albums "Parachutes" and "Rush of Blood to the Head," I was kind of like, "eh." (Although now I have jumped on the "Rush" bandwagon... the Coldplay album, not the band from the '80s). But "X & Y" totally changed my mind, and I loved "Viva la Vida" as well. "Mylo Xyloto" does not disappoint. I saw Coldplay live for the first time in September, and it was a freaking amazing show. Chris Martin is a great performer, as is the rest of the band. The new album is a bit dancier than the previous albums, but I don't think that's a bad thing. The quality of the music and lyrics is the same, if not better, that it's always been, as are the guest artists (Hello, Rihanna, didn't expect to hear you in a Coldplay song). This album is a pure celebration of music.
4.) "Codes and Keys" by Death Cab for Cutie -- As much as I love Death Cab, I was not a fan of their 2008 album "Narrow Stairs." In fact, while I've heard all the songs, I don't think I've ever listened to it all the way through without getting bored and changing it. However, "Codes and Keys" is the Death Cab I remember. Brooding, deep while still upbeat, always surprising me and adding new things to their melodies on top of lyrics that also surprise me and make me think. Sunny or rainy, I can always be in the mood for it. I particularly love "You Are A Tourist," which totally sums up how I feel in my life right now. An interesting take on the feeling that you need a change, you need to move on to something new. As usual, there's at least one song with a minute or longer intro that builds on itself so you never want to skip it. That song on this album is "Unobstructed Views." If you like classic Death Cab, you will like "Codes and Keys."
3.) "People and Things" by Jack's Mannequin -- Okay, for all of you out there who think I'm a traitor to Andrew by not calling this one #1, but I'm not saying it's not amazing. I think it's a great third album by a brilliant band. It did not initially dazzle me as much as the previous album, "The Glass Passenger," but I think of it more as an extension of that album. Plus, so much has to do with what you, the listener, need from the album at the time. But, this is a great road trip album. A great album to have on and jam out to anytime. There are some really stellar tunes on it too -- I particularly enjoy "Release Me" and "Amelia Jean." I'm having trouble putting this album into words. But just listen to it. You'll like it. Piano prodigy and rock and roll -- can't go wrong.
2.) "Ceremonials" by Florence + the Machine -- I'm so happy that my top two albums this year feature female leads! What can I say about the brilliance that is Florence? I only bought her first album, "Lungs," at the beginning of the summer, and by fall, the second was out. I fell in love with "Lungs" of course, and a description I read of it calling the song "Rabbit Heart" a rainstorm in a flower garden I think describes Florence's overall sound perfectly. "Ceremonials" has the same great sound as "Lungs," but the sophomore album has more power. I mean seriously, if you don't feel a surge of something listening to this album, you're dead inside. There is so much about this album that is just plain interesting. You can listen to it over and over and notice different things each time. Florence=sophistication. Both lyrically and musically. You need this album.
1.) "The Valley" by Eisley -- What sums up this choice for BEST ALBUM OF THE YEAR for me is that I still listen to it all the way through, over and over, and it came out in March. I took several road trips this year listening to nothing but this album on repeat. All 11 songs are on my "25 Most Played" songs on iTunes. But, about the album (other than my obsession with it): I mean these guys (and girls!) really outdid themselves. Every album, EP, whatever they've done has been better than the one before it, and they started out good. This one really increased their depth of lyrics, vocal ranges, and overall musicality. I mean, there is some serious guitar playing going on. And keys and drums and bass... I just love it. It's still whimsical, lovely Eisley with more of a rock and roll edge. Just buy it (or illegally download it) and listen to it, ok? If you don't like it, you can't be my friend anymore. Just kidding. Sort of.