#1: Awake by Tycho
Without a doubt this album takes the number one spot. Scott Hansen’s music is like a dream. Some of the singles off of this album came out in the months I was packing up to leave LA and head back to the east coast, and this album brings me back to sunny drives along the coast of Southern California with the slight chill of a winter breeze. On a side-note, the latest episode of one of my new favorite podcasts, Song Exploder, released an episode this month in which Hansen walks through his songwriting process. The song he breaks down is Awake, which is, coincidentally, my favorite track on the album.
#2: Lost in the Dream by The War on Drugs
The War on Drugs always packs beautiful sadness into their songs. That doesn’t change in this album, but there’s an added energy in many of the tracks on Lost in the Dream. The melancholy is accompanied by a “just keep going” attitude, and the first couple songs especiallly conjure up for me images of being out on a highway in the middle of Nowhere, USA looking for adventure. This album captured for me the bittersweetness of saying farewell to dear friends in two different cities, trekking back to the east coast, and embracing some of the most exciting adventures of my life. Favorite song is the Dylan-esque Eyes to the Wind.
There’s a cold wind blowing down my old road / Down the backstreets where the pines grow / Where the river splits the undertows / But I’d be lying to myself if I said that I didn’t mind / Leave it hanging on a line / Lost inside my head
#3: Alvvays by Alvvays
Alvvays’ lo-fi indie pop isn’t something I expected would end up on this list, but Molly Rankin’s steady vocals make this record for me. She’s also an amazing guitarist. I was excited to see her and her Toronto-based crew play a brilliant set in Brooklyn the first month I moved up to New York. This album has a rawness to it that brings a lot of that live energy into the recording, and their live show didn’t disappoint. Favorite song: Party Police.
You don’t have to leave / You could just stay here with me / Forget all the local police / We could find comfort in biology / We wrote our names on the overpass / And I hope it lasts / Forever
#4: Into the Wide by Delta Spirit
I’ve listened to Delta Spirit since they released Ode to Sunshine back in 2007 and I’ve seen them live a few times. Their songs have always packed energy but have often been more understated and raw in their volume and instrumentation. Not so with Into the Wide. This album is big, and was produced with walls of guitar and big drum build-ups that are in your face. And yet that energy seems to accentuate the resolute sadness that permeates these songs. Several of the tracks on this record carried me through a dark time, as I faced the sudden, tragic death of one of my dearest friends. The most meaningful song on this album for me is without a doubt Take Shelter.
Take shelter, take cover. / The lightning and thunder. / When the skies light up and the ground shudders. / We’ll be there, with each other. / Take shelter, take refuge, with the people who love you. / All of my friends and lovers, will be there with each other. / Hold your head up to the light, wait till it’s over now. / Take my hand and hold it tight, wait till it’s over now. / Everything will be alright, wait till it’s over now.
#5: Worlds by Porter Robinson
I really enjoy EDM, but I’m not a heavy listener and I pick and choose a lot in this genre. If you haven’t heard of Porter Robinson, you have probably heard his stuff before – he co-wrote the hit song Clarity with Zedd. This was his full-length debut and most of the singles he’d put out before were very dubstep-influenced – not normally my jam – but this album was pure pop EDM. My favorite song on the album: Sad Machine. The otherworldly melodies, choir build-up to the chorus, and synth leads on the turn make this song and characterize the entire record.