21. Frankie Rose, Herein Wild — She’s put in her time. Frankie Rose worked in Vivian Girls and the Dum-Dum Girls before striking out on her own, and that experience shows. She doesn’t always hit the heights that Dum-Dum Girls do, but damn she’s consistent. This is some of the best indie pop songcraft out there. Strip away the reverb and shimmer (which I wouldn’t advise–the production is gorgeous) and you’d still have some beautiful songs.
22. Pusha T, My Name Is My Name — This is hip hop for serious hip hop fans. Despite Kanye’s support I don’t see big crossover success in Pusha T’s future and that’s OK. He’s spitting out some tight, dank rhymes. This is music for headphones, late nights, postmodern Eric B. and Rakim shit.
23. Dirtfoot, Coming Up For Air — I’m not always one for rootsy Americana, but this just works. Dirtfoot isn’t just looking back to 70s music–they’ve got that spirit of Frank Zappa at his funkiest, Captain Beefheart trying to make a hit single.
24. Frank Turner, Tape Deck Heart — It’s weird that it took me so long to hear of Turner; equally odd that he’s only now getting more success. He makes no bones of drawing on the archetype of the sincere, politically active young singer-songwriter. Indeed, I still half-suspect that he’s a clone of Billy Bragg who was kept in stasis until 2003. No matter his origin this is British folk-pop at its peak.
25. Childish Gambino, Because the Internet — The more I see of Donald Glover the more I am convinced that he’s one of the smartest, bravest men in the entertainment industry. One of the best comic writers of the past decade, Glover then decided to record some of the most relevant rap songs of his generation. He came under some poorly thought out criticism this year for being so open and honest in social media about his struggles with anxiety, and those worries come to the forefront of the new album. Far from weakening him, songs like “3005” show the uncomfortable and worthwhile juxtaposition of youthful swagger and existential dread.