Here is my 11th annual list of music that you may have missed and might like. As in previous years, this list is for those who want to hear new music but don't get a chance to discover as much as they'd like. I generally don't include releases that received a good deal of attention (Lorde, Justin T) or music that might seem inaccessible to those with limited time.
More music is being released now than ever before. Lots of it is really good. Finding the great stuff can be a challenge. I'm not sure that we will be listening to everything on this list in ten years but I find something worthwhile in each entry. As always, I encourage feedback. Have a great holiday.
Here is the top album list with a playlist at the bottom:
Tom Odell - Long Way Down -- Young, uber talented Brit sounds like he could become a more rocking Coldplay.
Jim James - Regions Of Light And Sound and God - Soulful, timeless travel from the leader of My Morning Jacket.
John Fullbright - From The Ground Up - Surprisingly fresh stuff from new singer clearly influenced by Steve Earle and James McMurtry.
Bring Me The Horizon - Sempiternal - ROCK in all its epic, heavy, screaming, ambitious glory. Leader Ollie Sykes has Cobain-like potential.
Vampire Weekend - Modern Vampires Of The City - Give them props for not sounding like anyone else (except occasionally Paul Simon) and making a smart, contemporary album.
Rhye - Woman - Sexy, slick, intimate, electro-sheen songs led by Sade-ish singer who happens to be a dude.
Laura Marling - Once I Was An Eagle - UK's top contemporary folk singer.
Phosphorescent - Muchacho - Great sounding mystical record from artist seeking salvation and redemption.
Avicii - True - The rap on new dance music is that the songs suck and it doesn't work outside the club. Avicii is talented and ambitious and this album is huge breakthrough for the genre.
M.I.A. - Matangi - Unique mix of world, hip hop, pop, politics, nothing like it out there.
Frank Turner - Tape Deck Hart - Big open songs, sing along choruses, uninhibited rock.
Janelle Monae - The Electric Lady - Starts in r+b but travels all over the place like some of her leading influences --Sly, Marvin and most directly, Prince, who makes a cameo.
Arctic Monkeys - AM - Brit Rock as only they know how to do it.
Bombino - Nomad - Swampy guitarist/vocalist from Niger, produced by Dan Auerbach of Black Keys, makes for very cool album.
Queens of The Stone Age - Like Clockwork - Josh Homme, one of rock's most distinctive, reliable front men does it again.
Ashley Monroe - Like A Rose - Provocative country girl, favorite title: "(give me) Weed Instead of Roses".
Josh Rouse - The Happiness Waltz - He just keeps making great records, if you haven't heard him, it's time.
Generationals - Heza - Quirky, smart pop.
Valerie June - Pushin' Against A Stone - New singer from Memphis --soul, gospel and country in one.
Lucius - Wildewoman -- Two women singing as one over strong melodies, fuzz handclaps, reverb and occasional girl-group echoes.
The Lone Bellow - The Lone Bellow - Americana soul.
Mikal Cronin - MC11 - That melodic rock-pop thing I'm so fond of.
Palmyra Delran - You Are What You Absorb - 21st century female fronted garage rock.
Houndmouth - From The Hills Below The City -- Organs, harmonies, soul, love for Levon. I'm good.
Passenger - All The Lights - Brit who sounds like Irish troubadour is getting big all over the world.
Jason Isbell - Southeastern - Great songs and singing, alt-country.
The Infamous Stringdusters - Silver Sky - Revved up bluegrass.
Alice Smith - She - Sassy R&B from amazing singer.
City and Colour - The Hurry And The Harm - There are lots of guys out there with beautiful, ethereal voices singing pretty indie rock. He's one of the best.
Bastille - Bad Blood - Big, melodic, alternative rock. Sounds like they might play stadiums some day.
Gregory Porter - Liquid Spirit - Evocative contemporary jazz/soul vocalist.
Cass McCombs - Big Wheel and Others - Spooky, cinematic, travelogue through outlier America.
Dawes - Stories Don't End - If 1978 Jackson Browne fronted a rootsier band.
Bonus blast from the past:
I never heard Steven Stills' album Manassas until this year and much of it is as good as the CSN debut and Déjà vu. Reminds you why in the early '70s, many viewed Stills and Neil Young on the same level.
Here are the singles I liked by artists that aren't on the top album list. The playlist is included below:
Daft Punk/Julian Casablancas - Instant Crush
Keane - Higher Than The Sun
Amos Lee - Chill In The Air
Robin Foster - A Collapsing Light
Family Of The Year - Hero
Churchill - Change
Milo Greene - 1957
The Virgins - Prima Materia
Neko Case - Man
Galantis - Smile
The Head And The Heart - Cruel
Follow Cliff Chenfeld on Twitter: www.twitter.com/@cliffmessage