Hey friends! It’s me Britt aka ‘The Reclusive Blogger’ back with my yearly special. My favorite albums of the year. This was a brilliant year in music which made narrowing down the list to ten difficult but I did it. I did name other albums I loved as well though. Great right? So let’s get started …
Also remember the list is not in order so no hurt feelings.
Alrighty then, my first pick is.
1. Niall Horan – Flicker
Going way back to when his first single “This Town” was released I was still unsure about the direction Niall was taking his solo work. It was a nice enough song but I loved the video more as it drove home the song for me more. When Niall released “Slow Hands” I could start to see the direction of where I think Flicker where could go. Niall loves 70s and 80s Rock. Bands like Fleetwood Mac & The Eagles. So upon hearing the entirety of Flicker I caught those influences immediately, especially on songs like “On The Loose” and “Seeing Blind” which a beautiful duet with Country artist Maren Morris. Flicker has combined the best of both worlds from “This Town” and “Slow Hands”. My favorite influence though is that of his home Country (Ireland) in songs like “On My Own”. But softer songs like “Paper Houses” and the title track are the crowd faves. Which leads me to say that Niall is definitely one to see live. Overall it’s a great road trip record and beautiful ode to rock of the 60s and 70s without being dated.
2. Mondo Cozmo – Plastic Soul
What’s a Mondo Cozmo? Well, it’s really an artist by the name of Joshua Ostrander he’s had previous bands but this incarnation is gold. After discovering him on Bastille’s tour earlier this year. I was anxious to hear his debut “Plastic Soul”. To describe the album is hard but it’s rock at its core, soulful with its vibe and intention with many unique samples interspersed throughout the album. Namely on the title track, “Come With Me” and “Chemical Dream”. Mondo had a radio hit with “Shine” which is a beautiful song about never giving up on ones’ dreams. But Josh’s voice is what really pushes it over the edge, it’s raw and different than a lot out there. If you like Rock this is a great bet.
3. AFI – The Blood Album aka Self-Titled
Having been a fan for a long time now (since the tail end of DECEMBERUNDERGROUND). I can safely the band has put out several releases each completely unlike the other it might make your head spin. But my point is that’s art, that’s creativity, that’s AFI and what I love most about AFI. Each record is so different while still keeping the core elements of AFI. The Blood Album is no different besides the fact that it’s the bands best work to date. It’s dark and foreboding. Something that hangs about throughout the album though not overwhelming as it was on Burials. Davey’s vocals are peak especially on tracks like “Still A Stranger”, “White Offerings” & “Dumb Kids” (both songs bring back to mind their early punk days so well) & “Dark Snow”. “Feed from the Floor” has got a great New Wave 80’s vibe and the lyrics are a great juxtaposition to it. But for me the track “Aurelia” is the standout beautiful, haunting, calming with all of AFI’s core rock values. The video is beautiful as well.
4. Maroon 5 – Red Pill Blues
Yes, I said. Maroon 5’s Red Pill Blues is there most musically diverse album. It’s the album to me that most bridges the gap between the Songs About Jane fans and the fans that discovered them via Pop radio. It’s truly a fun listen with lots of cool collabs and many vibey lyrics that reference late nights in Hollywood, cool party girls, mistakes in love and out of love and of course “The One”. For me when you become the band that puts out a song like “Closure” which is an all-out jazzy, R&B, rock jam session that clocks in at 10 minutes long. You’re doing something right. The record is full of Soulful Pop gems, “Wait” is a departure for the band but it works, “What Lovers Do” is infectiously happy with the best collab on the record featuring SZA. Other highlights for me include “Plastic Rose”, “Lips On You” which reminds of “Shiver” but way sexier and “Girls Like You”. But the best thing about “Red Pill Blues” is that the band is more tight and cohesive then ever and Adam’s vocals are better than ever. And speaking of ones’ vocals being better ever my next pick is anything but just a slow burn …
5. St. Vincent – MASSEDUCTION
Ah yes, Annie Clark aka St. Vincent on “MASSEDUCTION” definitely took a left turn then veered onto a new course for this one. It worked. It’s a refreshing and surprising change from her. Whereas she’s only given hints to this side of her on previous albums with such songs as “Chloe In The Afternoon” and “Birth In Reverse” among others. This album and all of the visuals for it are very overt in its sexuality, rawness, and those emotions. She’s just in your face with it. All with the added gloss and sheen of Pop Art colors. While still very St. Vincent as the lyrics are a dead giveaway. The album led by the melancholic single “New York” is a beautiful slow burner anchored by one lyric yes THAT lyric. “Where you the only Motherf**ker in the city, Who can handle me.” With most of the record being high energy along with Annie’s dreamy vocals defined by her signature guitar sound. Tracks like “Masseduction” and “Sugar Boy” showcase the theme well without going over. Then there are quieter moments too. On “Happy Birthday, Johnny”. Annie is at her most reflective singing what has to be one her most melancholy songs she’s written. But she really sunk her teeth into my fave “Los Ageless”. The wordplay is so her and best she’s done. It’s biting and it’s beautiful. It’s good songwriting. In fact, that’s how I would describe the entire album.
6. Rationale – Rationale
If you don’t know well now you know. I kind of have a thing for Synth-Pop and Dance-Pop but only when it’s at it’s finest. And well Rationale’s debut is. This is another artist I found through the band Bastille as they were one of the bands’ tour openers. And Rationale (the stage name of musician Tinashe Fazakerley) is one of the artists Dan Smith of Bastille has on his Best Laid Plans record label. Rationale’s uniqueness purely lies in voice and vocal ability. In his ability to connect with the listener emotionally. From start to finish it runs the gamut of highs and lows of being a new artist and one touring constantly. All the while taking you on this ride via the dancefloor. The album is fantastic from start to finish. Songs like “Oil And Water” & “Into the Blue”, “Fuel to the Fire” are such stone cold jams and the three songs where you can hear Rationale’s African influences the most (he was born in Zimbabwe). But it’s all 90s R&B vibes, heavy drum beats and good Synth-Pop dripping in British cool. Even quieter more romantic songs like “Re-Up” & “Tethered”. Throughout all of the songs Rationale’s songwriting is so vivid you can almost feel what he singing about. The trials and tribulations of being an adult, being in and out of love, never giving up on one’s dreams, etc. On second thought I can feel it because it’s that relatable. Speaking of very relatable lyrics along with dance music my next artist and album pick has that down as well …
7. Allie X – CollXtion II
If you haven’t heard of her. You need to. She’s a Dance-Pop Musician & Songstress from Canada. But the fact that she’s a bit weird, unusual and different (that good different). It’s loud and clear in her visuals and lyrics. It’s what makes Allie and this album “CollXtion II” stand out so much for me this year. Earlier in the year, I had become obsessed with “Paper Love”. I loved the vulnerability in the lyrics, loved that weird Wild West whistle at the beginning of the song. It was just a bop. I also knew I had to check out the album from which “Paper Love”. Lucky for me “CollXtion II” was more than a pleasant surprised. It was thrilling. Softer songs like “Need You” & “True Love Is Violent” show off her incredible penchant for being caustic and vulnerable at the same time. Her vocals and delivery are fantastic and clear as a bell floating along each song. She’s at her most devious in “Casanova” and “Downtown”. With “That’s So Us” being the perfect love song for millennials. Allie’s album is fun and filled with heavy 80’s analog beats and bass inspiring her synth-pop bops. Perfect music to dance your heartache or blues away. Which brings me to my next artist …
8. Sam Smith – The Thrill Of It All
Speaking of lyrics and music you can have a good cry. For me, no one does it better Sam Smith. His music is in no way morose as people try to claim. But it is soulful and mournful. Mournful of lost times, ideas and circumstances and most importantly on “The Thrill Of It All” lost relationships and love not through death but change and time. Sam captures it all beautifully on here with minimal instrumentation, just his voice sliding up and down full of so many emotions. Highlights for me “Say It First” where Sam is telling his lover (or a lover because Sam did say most songs weren’t about him!) to take initiative and say “I Love You” first. “No Peace” with a stunning assist from YEBBA, “Midnight Train” and well really the entire album. Allie X will make you cry while you dance. Sam will straight up make you sob. We all need a good cry every once in awhile right?
9. Harry Styles – Harry Styles
Sometimes we just need to rock out. Which is what we get on Harry’s solo debut. The opening track “Meet Me in the Hallway” brings to mind the days of 60s psychedelia before launching into the very grandiose lead single “Sign Of The Times” which was a top song for me this year. The song swells just at the perfect time with Harry’s voice soaring. Other standouts “Only Angel” a stomp your feet rock with great 80s rock vibes. With a bit of Bowie and Robert Palmer for good measure. We get more of that on “Woman” where Harry is at his most soulful pining over a lost love with a pretty topical opening to the song. “Two Ghosts” is acoustic rocker filled with melancholia and melody and just absolutely stunning all around. But the closing track “From the Dining Table” is the one that hit me the most. It’s unexpected, it’s lonesome, it’s raw and real. Honestly not what I would expect from anyone from One Direction or any recent boy band for the matter. It so different it doesn’t even sound like Harry. I think it’s his best song on the album. I hope to hear more like this in the near future. And speaking of beautiful acoustic guitar music …
10. Ryan Adams – Prisoner
Everything about this record hit me in the gut unexpectedly. The lyrics, the whole faraway analog feel that is throughout the album, the grungy guitars and the best part Ryan’s gravely country-ish voice lilting along each song with different intensities. All showcasing his panache for capturing love, loss, heartbreak all with meaningful intent. That’s the sign of a great storyteller. That’s what has Prisoner firing on all cylinders. The opener and lead single “Do You Still Love Me?” A swampy garage rocker that’s about coming to terms and the feeling of sadness after a major heartbreak. Other songs like “Haunted House” and “Prisoner” use a lot “held hostage” or “trapped” word imagery to re-emphasize more of those same themes, without feeling cliched. But some of my favorite moments on the record are the more reflective quieter ones like “Shiver and Shake” and “Breakdown”. Pure ‘Gold’.
More albums I loved:
CTRL by SZA – Favorite track: “Love Galore”
Something to Tell You by Haim – Favorite track: “Ready For You”
Evolve by Imagine Dragons – Favorite track: “Dancing In The Dark”
Lust For Life by Lana Del Rey – Favorite track: “Cherry”
How Did We Get So Dark? by Royal Blood – Favorite track: “She’s Creepin”
After Laughter by Paramore – Favorite track: “Fake Happy”
Dua Lipa by Dua Lipa – Favorite track: “New Rules”
DAMN by Kendrick Lamar – Favorite track: “LOVE. FEAT. ZACARI”
Three Artists to Listen for in 2018:
1. Jacob Banks
2. Bruno Major
3. Amy Shark
Thanks so much for reading this and as always. I want to hear your favorite music from this year and also what you’re looking forward to next year. Leave your comments below or tweet me. Please share let’s get this discussion going!