I like to think of myself as someone with varied tastes who keeps their finger on the pulse of what's new and happening. But really, I mostly just listened to the same old Elvis Costello albums for most of the year. But there were a few albums that broke me out of my rut! Run he Jewels 2 is #1, of course, but no one needs to hear me go on about that any further.
Chumped - Teenage Retirement
I don't think I've ever had the experience of hearing some new music that makes me nostalgic for music I didn't ever really like. People describe this as "pop punk" but wait, I hate pop punk...right? Whatever. This album is on constant replay in my car because it's definitely top tier car singing music. I feel a little old to enjoy it as much as I do, it feels very much like quarter-life crisis music but I had a terrible quarter life crisis (turning 30 was no big deal but when I turned 25? I was a wreck) so I can still stand to wallow in that feeling sometimes. Something about Anika Pyle's voice cuts right to the core of those sorta whiny, sorta pathetic emotions while being so clear and beaming (and it cannot be denied, she is adorable.) Honestly, this album is great, but so was their self-titled EP. This is in no way a creative pick; they are on a bunch of year end lists but I can feel cool because I got into them slightly before that.
The official video for this song doesn't do it for me so I included instead this sloppy live video.
Big K.R.I.T -- Cadillactica
He is just a smooth dude, his flow just really gets me going. He can rap fast, he can go slow, but it sounds effortless and whether he's just bragging, going into detailed descriptions of his car speakers, or more substantive stuff he's just cool as hell. But for me, all the flow is the world is useless without hooks (if you say you don't have "Cadillac-lac-lac-lac" in your head all day, I'll know you're lying) and beats which this also delivers, he actually produces many of the tracks. The 1-2 punch of My Sub Pt. 3 (Big Bang) and Cadillactica is like damn; "I can barely feel my face but I hit 'em with the bass." Even the skits are kinda funny, he doesn't want no given away biscuits! I like the way he says south in King of the South, I like the way he spells out Cadillactica, I like how he spells out K.R.I.T, he could spell out anything for me (I might also find him very attractive.)
Speedy Ortiz - Real Hair EP
I was nutso for their full-length Major Arcana last year and like this EP even more. I was never deep into Pavement so the constant comparison is just annoying to me; I hear the influence but let's just move on, shall we? I love her voice, the weirdo lyrics, the weird melodies. My favorite track is "Everything's Bigger."
Tacocat - NVM
They are too cute and too fun. I was initially lured in by Crimson Wave because, yes, I'd like some white wine and Vicodin during my "time of the month" at the beach. But then I heard Hey Girl and it was all over, namely because of their response to random men telling women to smile ( a pet peeve of mine since I work on a public reference desk; wouldn't it be way weirder if I just sat there smiling into space?): "oh what great advice/can't imagine why you're so nice!" with a heavy dose of playful sarcasm. The whole album is very fun, Psychedelic Quinceanera being another standout ("she will wear her teenage tiara/but she will party like a queen.") It's not everyday that I find a fun band making funny, feminist jams like this!
Vince Staples - Hell Can Wait EP
I initially listened to this because I thought the cover was really eye-catching; straight up judging books by their covers. I thought I only liked fun hip hop but this EP is dead serious. He's not going for crazy word play, the lyrics are mostly straight forward with the occasional interesting turn of phrase. I think I vibe more on his tone and flow than the lyrics (I also think he's very cute, he's working that tooth gap.) The beats are eerie and kind of menacing (that mournful jazzy intro on 65 Hunnid is the best example but the album starts with some hella spooky beats on Fire.) and many of the hooks get me all amped up and that's what really made me listen to it repeatedly. On Blue Suede, I didn't even realize what the "the bouquet, the bouquet" was at first, just thought it sounded super cool (it's about flowers on a grave, duh.) There's a song called Hands Up which is a Ferguson anthem that he claims isn't about Ferguson. Regardless "they expect respect and nonviolence/I refuse the right to be silent" is a great line. He was affiliated loosely with Odd Future (his verse on Earl Sweatshirt's Hive got a lot of notice) but he seems to be making a name for himself on his own (which is fine by me because sometimes Odd Future acts try a little too hard to be weird for my taste.)
I did not include anything that I discovered in other year-end lists but really, the only thing I saw listed that was brand new to me is this Childbirth video I Only Fucked You as a Joke. "I can't make good decisions every day!"Childbirth features a member of Tacocat, so it all comes together.