We saw a ton of great music coming through this year and we’ve culled through it to pull out the gems for you. Below, in no particular order, are the year’s top 10 from our music critic Jon Young—albums he’s found himself going back to again and again.
1. Speedy Ortiz’s Major Arcana: Fronted by the charismatic, loquacious Sadie Dupuis, this muscular Boston quartet updates early ’90s faves Pixies and Pavement. (Read full review.)
2. Heliotropes’ A Constant Sea: Four Brooklyn women mix grunge, metal sludge, and psychedelia to stunning effect in an unforgettable debut.
3. Various Artists, King Bullard Version: Songs of the BOS Label: From Numero Group, America’s most creative archival label, comes stunning late ’60s gospel, via Cleveland.
4. Big Star: Nothing Can Hurt Me (film, DVD/Blu-ray): Flawed but intriguing, this lovingly crafted documentary chronicles the brief, unhappy life of the revered (albeit overhyped) ’70s Memphis pop band led by Alex Chilton and Chris Bell. The soundtrack of the same name shows why they endure.
5. Robyn Hitchcock’s Love from London: The durable ex-Soft Boy continues to muse on sex, death, and whatever in surreal, deceptively heartfelt psychedelic folk rock.
6. Radiation City’s Animals in the Median: Portland, Oregon’s Lizzy Ellison floats on air as she croons wistfully, evoking half-forgotten memories. (Read the full review.)
7. Van Dyke Parks’ Songs Cycled: Brian Wilson’s pal makes a triumphant return, whimsically mixing old-fashioned Americana, 20th-century classical. and goofball outsider pop. (Read the full review.)
8. Tony Joe White’s Hoodoo: Defying age, the “Polk Salad Annie” man casts an irresistible swamp-blues spell. (Read the full review.)
9. Venom P. Stinger 1986-1991: Rude and crude, this boisterous Australian quartet made the competition seem staid, with demented frontman Dugald McKenzie spearheading the attack. (Read the full review.)
10. Bettie Serveert’s Oh, Mayhem!: Led by the charming Carol van Dijk, the graceful Dutch pop band produces its liveliest set in many moons.