The year's best music—so far
July has arrived, reminding me that I need to fulfill my compulsion to assess how good a year in music it has been.
And it has been a good one. As much trouble as the music industry is having, music lovers have more options and more products than ever.
I broke my list into two parts: 15 favorites, roughly in descending order, followed by another 15 selections that could easily be on the list. As I said, it has been a good year.
Leonard Cohen, "Old Ideas": My favorite album this year. It looks mortality square in the eye and decides to embrace life with all its attendant sadness and travail.
Fiona Apple, "The Idler Wheel ...": A gripping trip into the mind of a woman who is doing hand-to-hand combat with her troubles. The music, which is more spare than ever, is fascinating.
Alejandro Escovedo, "Big Station": This punk veteran has never really been a star. If there was any justice, this album would change that. A great listen.
Dr. John, "Locked Down": Grungy New Orleans voodoo funk that recalls the Doctor's classic "Gris Gris." His best in a long time.
Lisa Marie Presley, "Storm & Grace": I was dumbfounded to like this disc as much as I did. Shame on me. Working with T-Bone Burnett, Ms. Presley has crafted a tough, smart, entertaining record.
Galactic, "Carnivale Electricos": Another New Orleans outing, this time a funky, good-times concept album about Mardi Gras.
Fun., "Some Nights": This feels like a Broadway soundtrack, boasting a huge sound with surprisingly incisive lyrics. Oh, and lots of great hooks.
Jack DeJohnette, "Sound Travels": One of the jazz world's great percussionists, DeJohnette visits the world and teaches it how to swing.
Gotye, "Making Mirrors": A well-produced pop music album. And that's enough.
The Beach Boys, "That's Why God Made the Radio": A glorious, shockingly good album (at this late date) that feels like a capstone to a career. Its beauty and poignancy is almost overwhelming. Thanks, Boys.
Paul McCartney, "Kisses on the Bottom": I know I will take heat for this. Some have this on their worst albums of the year list. But Sir Paul and Diana Krall's band put together a wonderful, sentimental visit to Tin Pan Alley. McCartney's "My Valentine" is a classic song in any era and among his best.
Chromatics, "Kill for Love": The best night music of the year so far. This casts a spell with its slow-burn atmospherics.
Dirty Dozen Brass Band, "Twenty Dozen": There has been a lot of good New Orleans music this year and DDBB is definitely on the list. Fantastic fun.
The dB's, "Falling Off the Sky": A wonderful return from a group of pop craftsmen. This album is hook heaven. Some complain the band is still pumping out the same stuff it did in the 1980s. That's OK by me.
Vijay Iyer, "Accelerando": Maybe the best jazz album of the year. Iyer is earning a reputation as one of the top pianists in jazz. This is music that demands your attention but is amply rewarding.
And another 15: Jack White, "Blunderbuss"; Bonnie Raitt, "Slipstream"; Japandroids, "Celebration Rock"; Pat Metheny, "Unity Band"; Patti Smith, "Banga"; Bobby Womack, "The Bravest Man In The Universe"; Spiritualized, "Sweet Heart Sweet Light"; Anathema, "Weather Systems"; Sigur Ros, "Valtari"; Air, "La Voyage Dans La Lune"; Roberta Flack, "Let It Be Roberta"; John Wesley Harding, "The Sound of His Own Voice"; Dion, "Tank Full of Blues"; Squarepusher, "Ufabulum"; Cassandra Wilson "Another Country"
I can't wait for the next six months.
What's your favorite album or song this year? Has it been a good year, in your opinion, or a lousy one? Please share your thoughts with us.
Follow Shawn Sensiba on Twitter @shawnsensiba.