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Every year a new set of albums come out that change how we think about music and how our iPods are populated. It seems like I ran into some amazing albums this year. I thought I would post a list of the five albums that have made the biggest impact on me over the past year. In no way am I implying that these are the best albums, they are just the ones that have gotten stuck in my headphones. They are in no particular order.

The Suburbs-Arcade Fire


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Arcade Fire continue a run of amazing albums that seem to strike a chord and resonate with the zeitgiest. Both emotional and cutting, it feels like it could be the soundtrack for life in America. It walks a fine line between being an album mourning lost innocence of the past, brutal honesty about the present, and anticipation of what the future holds.

Beyond the music itself, I love everything they do, from mastering their album on vinyl then transferring them to digital, to making amazing HTML5 demos for music videos.

Oh, and bonus 500% Hipster cred if you listen to them.

My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy-Kanye West


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Yes. Kanye is a total jerk. Yes. Yes he is. Anyone who tweets “I like me” has a real problem.

But I can’t get over this album. I have always loved Kanye’s use of melody in his music and this album is no exception. The songs stretch beyond trash-pop generic lyric and contain impressive orchestration and production. There is plenty of self-aggrandizing and boasting about the brand of handbags Kanye purchases for his conquests, but that is par for the course.  Many indie music fanatics will turn their noses up at this album based on… well… the very fact that it is Kanye. I can’t really blame them, but I know I would listen to way more hip-hop if I could find more stuff like this.

Just watch the music video for the album. The full length one is 34 minutes long, below is a snippet containing one of the standout songs of the album.

Gorilla Manor-Local Natives


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This is the first release for the Local Natives and I cannot wait to hear more. They are a described as an psychedelic version of the Fleet Foxes.

I love everything about this album. Each song is a soundscape between your ears. I am not really sure how to describe it any better than that. I love the literary references spread throughout the album. With panning guitars, etherial harmonies, overdriven bass, and complex driving drum parts this is an album that needs to be listened to with headphones. Better yet, go for a walk in the snowy woods while listening.

(For those sharp eyed viewers out there, this video was filmed before a certain Mumford and Sons music video.)

The Age of Adz- Sufjan Stevens


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I think we can all agree that Sufjan has taken the music scene by storm. If you do not agree, just go back to watching VH1. I will call you when I start talking about Lady Gaga. Which is hopefully never.

Where past Sufjan albums were mellow and could place you in a catatonic state, this album is surprisingly abrasive. It is an album that needs to be digested through headphones. I found myself disliking it initially, but then was humming and singing snippets later in the day.  As time has worn on I have become endeared to it.

This album signals a maturing in Stevens’ sound, a desire to be more creative, and the confidence to do it. I am excited to see where he takes his music.

The Wild Hunt- The Tallest Man on Earth

Great album. I already wrote on this album several months back, so I will let you read about it there.

Honorable Mention-

I figure I would be doing the world a disservice by not mentioning Sigh No More by Mumford and Sons.

I did not include them on this list because I first heard their album in 2009, when it was released in the UK. So I am categorizing their album as a 2009 release. I thought about adding it, but it would have meant getting rid of one of the others, which I did not want to do.


The album of the week is The Wild Hunt by the Tallest Man on Earth.

The entire album is by the Tallest Man on Earth, aka Kristian Matsson of Sweden.  The album is a minimalistic endeavor highlighting his unique voice and intelligent guitar work. Most of the songs are just guitar, but the title track incorporates the ghost of a banjo, hovering transparently in the singing guitar. The final track Kids on the Run is one man-one piano masterpiece that evokes an empty subterranean stage inhabited by the last man on earth, playing to the abyss. The emotion is overpowering. I dare anyone to listen with headphones in the dark and not feel an emotional response from the song. Overall the album seems short at 34 minutes, but I would rather have 35 minutes of emotion and no filler than an hour of mediocrity.

Many folk artists attempt to emulate rather than innovate. Many think they are following the trail of Bob Dylan or Woody Guthrie, but are in fact desecrating the genre by thinking that a horrible voice is excusable in folk. Matsson makes no attempt to sound like a great, but he comes off as one.

Buy it. It’s good.

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