It’s that time of year again. “The silent majesty of a winter’s morn…the clean, cool chill of the holiday air…” and the long-awaited, definitive list of the albums that you should totally be (1) listening to right now, or (2) purchasing for your music-loving friends and family this Christmas.
Last year’s epic six-part tour of the then-current music scene (here, here, here, here, here, and here for you newbies) was brilliant, insightful, and correct—but it was also exhausting. I’m a writer; I’m lazy by nature. And, to be perfectly honest, it was just too hard to trim my list down to a manageable 10.
Most likely to persuade you that, really, you’re not that great of a guitar player:
The Aristocrats—Tres Caballeros
Julian Lage—Worlds Fair
David Torn—Only Sky
Best excuse to drop $45 on a box set of hippy-dippy sonic meditations:
Kronos Quartet—One Earth, One People, One Love: Kronos Plays Terry Riley
Most convincing case for metal as a legitimate art form:
Between The Buried & Me—Coma Ecliptic
Best argument against the death of jazz:
Dave Douglas—High Risk
Jack DeJohnette—Made in Chicago
Vijay Iyer Trio—Break Stuff
Most likely to bring you to your knees as you acknowledge the existence of a higher power:
Francis Poulenc—Choral Music
Wolfgang Rihm—Et Lux
Best music for practicing omphaloskepsis:
Bruce Brubaker—Glass Piano
Most likely to convert a hip-hop* lover into a jazz aficionado:
Kamasi Washington—The Epic
Best tonic against the pervasive commodification and homogenization of American rock:
Steven Wilson—Hand. Cannot. Erase.
Gentle Giant—Octopus (new high-resolution and partly remixed version of the 1972 classic)
There you have it: the one best-of list you need to read this year. You’re welcome.
*Confession: For reasons that are far too complicated to go into right now, I recently listened to Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp a Butterfly. No, I still don’t understand hip-hop. No, I can’t express exactly how I feel about the experience. But yes, I’m pretty sure it’s as good as they’re saying it is.