There's still over 3 weeks to go, but there aren't that many high profile releases left, so here's the annual albums of the year thread.
I generally limit my year-end list to the stuff I got to listen to repeatedly. Normally there aren't that many I actually care about, but this year was very different. For the first time since I was a teenager in the 90's, there was more great music coming out than I had time to listen to. What a great problem to have. Unfortunately, that means I really didn't have time to dig into new releases from Thom Yorke, Angel Olsen, or Chromatics as much as I'd like.
In the meantime, here's a list of the best music I did get to listen to.
Pond - Tasmania: A direct follow-on to the psychedelic knuckleheads' previous (and best) album The Weather, this one continues the electronic experimentation from that release. Kevin Parker of Tame Impala returns for production, and while it's not the breakthrough The Weather was, it's still awfully damn good for a band that once released a song called "Heroic Shart."
Danny Brown - uknowhatimsayin: What a career trajectory this guy's had. He didn't break through until he was 30. Now pushing 40, he's every bit as weird and inventive as ever. This one has Q-Tip, Flying Lotus, and JPEGMAFIA on production, and sounds less dark than his last album Atrocity Exhibition. Also check out his bizarre talk show on Viceland if you get a chance. It's like Pee Wee's Playhouse on crack. Also, he's now a character in GTA Online.
King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard - Infest the Rats' Nest: The was actually the second album the psych/prog weirdos released this year, after the bluesy Cyboogie, and their 14th overall. And yet, for a band known for swerving in different directions with each new album, they came ever further out of left field than ever here: they put out an 80's thrash metal album. And it's almost dead on. Ostensibly a concept album about a dying future Earth, you'd be forgiven for thinking you're listening to a lost Slayer album from 1985 for a minute.
Clairo - Immunity: For all the bad stuff that technology has done for the music industry (lowered sales, Auto Tune), there have been a few benefits. Arguably the best one has been the lowered bar to entry for young musicians. Clairo had a viral hit on YouTube as a teenager using just a Casio keyboard and her vocals. Three years later, her debut album is probably the best indie pop album I've ever heard from someone so young. Produced by Rostam of Vampire Weekend, and featuring Danielle Haim on guitar, it's restrained and understated, just like her vocal delivery. Can't wait to see how her career unfolds.
Flying Lotus - Flamagra: Another loose concept album, not surprisingly about the theme of fire, this one refines his unique blend of jazz, hip hop, and spaced-out funk. There aren't a ton of new ideas here, but it feels like the execution here is solid throughout. The list of collaborators here is ridiculously long, which could also be said of the album itself (76 minutes!). Side note: I saw him live this year, and it's probably the best show I've ever seen.
Fire Is Coming (f. David Lynch)
DIIV - Deceiver: Less than two months after their last album, DIIV basically broke up while their singer Zachary Cole Smith went into inpatient rehab for his heroin addiction. Which was ironic, considering that album was about his supposed recovery from just that. He reemerged this year after actually getting clean, and the band moved away from their previous reverby, beachy sound toward early 90's shoegaze. The songs are better written, they sound heavier, and the stakes seem higher. This was probably my #1 album of the year.