Category Archives: year-end list

My Top 15 Books of 2016

I’ve always enjoyed reading but only in the last couple of years have I recovered a love (and a regularity) that was birthed as a kid reading the likes of Roald Dahl and J.R.R. Tolkien. Life has a way of pushing out the slower, measured spaces needed to read this type of literature but as I’ve prioritized this discipline, it has unearthed much fruit. This list is comprised of hard copies of books (seen above) that impacted me the most, regardless of publication date.*

And yes, this was “The Year of Keller.” Having already read his books on gospel life, the gospel of Mark, self forgetfulness, mercy ministry, urban ministry and preaching, I tried to make my way through the rest of his catalog this year and I almost did it. I’ll need to tackle his recently released prequel to The Reason for God and his book on Christmas, as well as his book on faith and work and he and his wife’s book on marriage in the upcoming year.

My favorite books from 2016:

15. Gospel-Centered Youth Ministry: A Practical Guide by Cameron Cole and Jon Nelson (ed.) (Crossway, 2016) // A blueprint for modern ministry to youth. No stone unturned. Clear and cogent.

14. The Unbelievable Gospel: Say Something Worth Believing by Jonathan Dodson (Zondervan, 2014) // Contextualized evangelism for the 21st century. Astute. Challenges our gospel fluency.

13. Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God  by Tim Keller (Penguin, 2016) // The new standard on prayer. Comprehensive. Personally reinvigorating.

12. Tradecraft: For the Church on Mission by Larry McCrary, Caleb Crider, Wade Stephens, and Rodney Calfee (CreateSpace, 2013) // Affirms the concept that all are missionaries wherever they are. Strategic. Purposeful.

11. The Prodigal God: Recovering the Heart of the Christian Faith by Tim Keller (Penguin, 2011) // Religion and irreligion are both ways to avoid God. One of Keller’s most potent insights. Humbling.

10. Counterfeit Gods: The Empty Promises of Money, Sex, and Power, and the Only Hope That Matters  by Tim Keller (Viking, 2009) // Delves deeper in idol diagnosis than any that have come before. Attacks culture’s biggest golden calves. Weighty.

9. The Deep Things of God: How the Trinity Changes Everything by Fred Sanders (Crossway, 2010) // Foundational. Deeply biblical. Pastoral.

8. Walking with God through Pain and Suffering by Tim Keller (Penguin, 2015) // Exhaustive. Hopeful. Takes into account the diversity of humanity and their responses to suffering.

7. Onward: Engaging the Culture Without Losing the Gospel by Russell Moore (B&H Books, 2015) // Penetrating. Ahead of its time. Foreshadowing. “A prophetic minority…”

6. Delighting in the Trinity: An Introduction to the Christian Faith by Michael Reeves (IVP Academic, 2012) // Accessible yet deep. Clever. Stopped almost every paragraph to distill. Funny. My new favorite book on the Trinity.

5. Generous Justice: How God’s Grace Makes us Just by Tim Keller (Penguin, 2012) // Helpful. Incontrovertible. Puts to rest the debate on the Christian and church’s responsibility to the poor, the widow, the orphan, and the refugee.

4. How (Not) to be Secular: Reading Charles Taylor by James K.A. Smith (Eerdmans, 2014) // Smith brings Taylor from the air to the ground. Profitable. Effective.

3. The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism by Tim Keller (Penguin, 2009) // Ground-breaking. Thorough. A new apologetic. In my opinion, Keller’s most important tome.

2. You Are What You Love: The Spiritual Power of Habit by James K.A. Smith (Brazos, 2016) // You become what you set your affections upon. Visionary. Bettering.

And the book I read in 2016 that was my favorite was…

1.  The Whole Christ: Legalism, Antinomianism & Gospel Assurance – Why the Marrow Controversy Still Matters by Sinclair Ferguson (Crossway, 2016) // I know this is #1 on most people’s year-end lists but I have to agree with them, this was the cream of the crop for 2016. An amalgamation of church history, biblical theology, and pastoral application masterfully woven together unlike any I’ve seen before. At it’s center is something as relevant as its ever been – the ditch of legalism or antinomianism as we seek to apply the relationship of the gospel with the law. And Ferguson swimmingly maneuvers in these difficult waters with deft and proficiency in a way that not only instructs the mind but reengineers the heart.

Honorable Mention:

Learning Evangelism from Jesus by Jerram Barrs (Crossway, 2009)
I Am: Exploring the ‘I Am’ Sayings of John’s Gospel by Iain Campbell (Evangelical Press, 2011)
Good News to the Poor: Social Involvement and the Gospel by Tim Chester (Crossway, 2013)
Delighting in the Trinity: Why the Father, Son, and Spirit are Good News by Tim Chester (The Good Book Company, 2010)
Reordering the Trinity: Six Movements of God in the New Testament by Rodrick Durst
Encounters with Jesus: Unexpected Answers to Life’s Biggest Questions by Tim Keller (Penguin, 2015)
You Lost Me: Why Young Christians Are Leaving the Church…and Rethinking Faith by David Kinnaman (Baker Books, 2016)
Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer by C.S. Lewis (Mariner Books, 2002 printing)
The Next Christians: Seven Ways You Can Live the Gospel and Restore the World by Gabe Lyons (Multnomah, 2012)
Under the Unpredictable Plant: An Exploration in Vocational Holiness by Eugene Peterson (Eerdmans, 1992)
Honest Evangelism by Rico Tice and Carl Laferton (The Good Book Company, 2015)
The Story of Everything: How You, Your Pets, and the Swiss Alps Fit into God’s Plan for the World by Jared C. Wilson (Crossway, 2015)
The Story Telling God: Seeing the Glory of Jesus in His Parables by Jared C. Wilson (Crossway, 2014)

*I enjoy other kinds of mediums of reading as well. I probably read the equivalent of another 5-7 books from the blogs, journals, and news sites that I save and read via Feedly and Pocket.

My Top 16 Albums of 2016

It’s that time of the year again. As is the case for me each year, I go with what moves move me. While I refer to year-end lists, many of my favorites won’t be found on their tabulations. In actuality, the major music publications and sites end up being fairly homogeneous anyways. Here is how I determined what swayed me musically in 2016. I peruse and listen to most of…

1. Spotify new music releases
2. Spotify “Discover Weekly” (an algorithmically personalized playlist of mostly new artists that I likely haven’t heard but fit my preferences)
3. Swarm.fm (aggregates new releases of my Spotify followed artists)
4. Allmusic new music releases
5. iTunes new indie releases
6. Metacritic new music releases

And since it’s 2016, naturally, here are my top 16 albums in ’16…

Top 16 Albums of 2016

16. Myzica: Love + Desire

“…a glossy slab of synth, breezy melodies and a jangly hook…” Paste Magazine

“It’s unpretentious, casual, authentic pop…” Nashville Scene

15. Paper Lions: Full Colour

“A heavenly fusion of modern sounds and glorious 80s influences, this is high rotation stuff…a work of masterful pop, capitalizing on four very talented musicians abilities and their clear love of all things 80s. It’s an instantly accessible, highly rotational outing…” The Lowdown Under

14. The Head and the Heart: Signs of Light

“The Head and the Heart moved away from ‘folksiness’ to embrace a bigger, bolder musical vision — one filled with louder guitars, heavier rhythms and bigger arrangements, all encased in gorgeous vocal harmonies…” The Current

13. Two Door Cinema: Gameshow

“…their twitchy but undeniably danceable electropop/rock has long been soul- and disco-adjacent.” Consequence of Sound

“Its main currency is glossy pop-funk with a twist of 1980s AOR sieved through latterday production techniques: a bit of filtered house here, an EDMish synth noise there.” The Guardian

12. Fort Frances: Alio

“Fort Frances’ Alio is a sort of record that breathes and exists somewhat outside of the sphere of the horizon-less Spotify shuffle. These are, pound for pound, the Chicago-based trio’s catchiest songs to date…they have created a bona fide rock album that not only ceases to forfeit the roots of where they come from but ramps up the urgency, musicianship and sense of adventurousness across the board.” Denim on Wax

11. Grouplove: Big Mess

“Grouplove’s newest piece delivered just what you wouldn’t expect: an odd-looking, weirdly-sounding collection of fond memories and brutal truths wrapped up in a fantastically-crafted manifestation of dynamic indie rock.”  Niner Times

10. Bon Iver: 22, A Million

“Bon Iver’s first album in five years takes an unexpected turn toward the strange and experimental. But behind the arranged glitches and processed voices are deeply felt songs about uncertainty… 22, A Million sounds only like itself. There are precedents for all of Vernon’s moves deep in the histories of rock‘n’roll and rhythm and blues and electronic music…But this particular amalgamation is so twitchy and idiosyncratic it feels truly singular. Its searching is bottomless.” Pitchfork

9. Wintersleep: The Great Detachment

“Every element of the album’s production – from the song writing through to the record’s mastering – shouts the band’s ambition, with songs featuring call-and-response and sing-along friendly lyrics, and the volume levels and EQs set for maximum punch over the radio waves. ” Renowned for Sound

“…in adding a layer of freshness to their sound, and a rousing new collection of songs to their catalogue, they feel like a band invigorated.” Loud and Quiet

8. Kwabs: Love + War

“[The] accommodation of opposites is one of the key attractions of Love + War, with the warm, intensely human timbre of Kwabs’s voice held in prickly equilibrium with the chilly electro arrangements…There’s a strange synergy in operation here, as their keyboard pads, handclap grooves and sharp, cracking synthetic snare sounds chip away at his humanity, while also steering him firmly towards the future.” Independent

“Kwabs certainly possesses a formidable vocal instrument – a luscious, impressively controlled baritone which one minute can soar with sublime grace, the next can make the skin crawl through deep, breathy intimacy.” Drowned in Sound

7. Francis: Marathon

“Swedish alternative musicians Francis return with their sophomore album, softening the experimental post-punk folk of their early music into more subtle, gentle melodies and contemplative lyrics. Francis have stripped their music to the bare bones…and embracing the simplicity of soothing guitar sounds and drum beats.” GIGsoup

“On first listening, each track could almost blur into one but there is something warm and welcoming about Marathon, and something sharply intelligent that invites you to delve a little deeper with each listening.” The London Economic

6. Cub Sport: This is Our Vice

“This is Our Vice is a glistening, hypercolour pop record, boasting hooks that could melt into your mouth…and hitherto-unseen production sheen. Sonically, the record sends guitars off into the distance, builds giant pyramids out of layers of synths and launches the intertwined vocal arrangements into the proverbial stratosphere.” Faster Louder

“Cub Sport‘s sound is grounded in Aussie indie pop, based around hook-filled melodies, anthemic choruses, and sophisticated arrangements.” Pop Matters

5. Eliot Sumner: Information

“Sumner changes things up a bit, going for a darker electro-rock vibe that perfectly propels her storytelling vocals. Her vocals sound eerily reminiscent of Sting – who by the way is her dad – with an androgynous, husky tone and studied intonation…the record is full of darker, 80s-tinged synths.” Seattle Music News

“As a whole, the album is nuanced; individually, the songs are flawlessly written, dark explorations of 80s genres. Sumner provides her own lush take on moody electronic rock, and rather than feeling pretentious, these songs are genuine, and masterfully executed.” Renowned for Sound

4. Local Natives: Sunlit Youth

“Far from the indie-folk of their earlier days, Sunlit Youth leans heavily on the synths and flirts with big-melody pop forms.” Pitchfork

“These are traditional Local Natives songs dressed in a glittering neon overcoat. The strings that marked the band’s early work are mostly missing, replaced by swirling synths that play against the guitar lines. Huge choruses are underpinned by throbbing grooves.” Consequence of Sound

3. Leagues: Alone Together

“Take the murkier aspects of Howard Jones, Human League, Gary Numan and New Order, fold in some dark, intermittently cynical, more often alienated lyrics and you’ve got an edgy, retro-leaning yet contemporary album as effective on the dance floor as it is at home…” American Songwriter

2. Frightened Rabbit: Painting of a Panic Attack

“With all of these factors in mind—frayed internal relationships within the band, general fatigue and a successful solo album—one would think that the writing would be on the wall for this record. But the end result is the exact opposite; Painting of a Panic Attack is a triumph for a veteran band and represents one of their best efforts to date…Frightened Rabbit evolve the right way with this release, changing their sound, but not so much that they lose their trademark sound. This is still the Frightened Rabbit we all know and love, as gloomy as we last heard from them.” Paste Magazine

“Painting of a Panic Attack is more a sensible repositioning than a reinvention…maybe Frightened Rabbit have just gotten too good at their formula for it to not seem self-aware. And too often, the title of Painting of a Panic Attack serves as an unintentional reminder of the way Hutchison comes across: like a television version of a person with a broken heart.” Pitchfork

And my top album this year…

1. Bear’s Den: Red Earth + Pouring Rain

“…this London-based band have carefully crafted a second album which showcases a euphoric step forward and poignant growth in their musicality…Every piece of Red Earth & Pouring Rain is so undeniably delicate and intricate, like an antique family heirloom, it even makes you question how hard you hit the play button for fear of damage. But it’s the aforementioned heartfelt lyrics that really make you take care.” Clash

“…it seems only natural that Bear’s Dan should expand their sonic palette too. The result is a record steeped in pop polish and the grandeur of Seventies and Eighties rock, yet rooted in the lilting folk of its predecessor.” Drowned in Sound

Honorable Mention:

Adele: 25
ANIMA!: self-titled
Barcelona: Basic Man
Bell X1: Arms
D.D. Dumbo: Utopia Defeated
Dawes: We’re All Going to Die
Glass Animals: How to Be a Human Being
Jack Garrett: Phases
Jarryd James: High
Jinja Safari: Crescent Moon
Joan as Police Woman: Let it Be You
Jones: New Skin
Joseph: I’m Alone, No You’re Not
Parachute: Wide Awake
POP ETC: Souvenir
Ready Set: I Will Be Nothing Without Your Love
Pete Yorn: ArrangingTime
Young the Giant: Home of the Strange

Here is a look back at my #1 albums from years past:

2015: Oh Wonder Self-titled
2014: Bear HandsDistraction
2013: Frightened RabbitsPedestrian Verse
2012: Sea WolfOld World Romance
2011: Foster the PeopleTorches

My Top 15 Books in 2015

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One of my new year’s resolutions for 2015 was to read more. The first five years of church planting left little time to read but I’m glad to say that there was a significant uptick in this department in 2015. I read more this year than I have in a long time. And by read, I mean physical books. I regularly read what accounts for probably another 5-10 books a year if you add up all the words in blogs, journals, and news sites that I save and read via Feedly and Pocket – but for this list, I’m sticking with the ink on paper variety.

Here were my favorite books of 2015. Not all were written in this past year. Still yet, they comprise the books that impacted me the most:

15. Elders and Leaders: God’s Plan for Leading the Church by Gene Getz (Moody, 2003) and 40 Questions About Elders and Deacons (not pictured) by Benjamin Merkle (Kregel, 2007)

One of the projects I have the privilege of working on this year on behalf of our church’s elders was our position paper on church polity. While I read over a plethora of resources, these two books were indispensable. Getz’s book seemed to most closely parallel our church’s polity – which is not pure congregationalism or Presbyterianism but rather what we call “elder-led, member-engaged” – and both books helped us determine practicalities that will serve us well moving forward.

14. Preach: Theology Meets Practice by Mark Dever and Greg Gilbert (B&H Books, 2012)

This is the resource we used with our preaching lab participants at Mercyview in 2015. I’m cheating a bit here because I read it in December 2014 in preparation for the 9-month lab that took place between February through October of this year. As I did, I was immediately struck by it’s accessibility and humility. A great book to help teach the framework of gospel-centered preaching without getting bogged down in the minutiae.

13. Gospel Centered Discipleship by Jonathan Dodson (Crossway, 2012)

I finally got around to reading Dodson’s book on discipleship this year and I’m glad I did. It’s easily the best modern text on discipleship to come out in the past few years. I particularly appreciated how he talks about the “three conversions” that successively happen in discipleship – conversion to Christ, his church, and mission. This grid assists disciplers in patience with those they disciple because this is a progression towards spiritual maturity.

12. God Redeeming His Bride: A Handbook for Church Discipline by Robert Cheong (Christian Focus, 2012) and Church Discipline: How the Church Protects the Name of Jesus by Jonathan Leeman (Crossway, 2012)

One of the pieces of the polity paper I developed this year was an extensive treatment on the issue of church discipline. While I disagree with Leeman on who holds the final authority for discipling members and leaders, his book is a must read on this issue. He and Cheong are the leading voices in the resurgence of restorative discipline in the church and their books are essential for anyone looking to understand this important practice of the church.

11. Gospel Conversations: How to Care Like Christ by Bob Kellemen (Zondervan, 2015)

Though written primarily for biblical counselors, Gospel Conversations has a broader application in giving anyone language and skills for relating effectively to others. And in the arena of counseling, Kellemen can always be trusted to write from a firm gospel-centered approach. Here is my review of the book I wrote in November: http://www.graceuntamed.com/book-review-gospel-conversations-by-robert-kellemen/

10. Jesus Outside the Lines: A Way Forward for Those Tired of Taking Sides by Scott Sauls (Tyndale, 2015)

This book is on many year-end lists and rightfully so. In his introduction, Sauls says, “When the grace of Jesus sinks in, we will be among the least offended and most loving people in the world.” In Jesus Outside the Lines, Sauls successfully weaves the grace of Jesus into the clash of opinions and activism of our age. To understand how to winsomely engage in culture, this book is a must read for all Christians.

9. The Pastor’s Justification: Applying the Work of Christ in Your Life and Ministry by Jared Wilson (Crossway, 2013)

The first of two of Wilson’s books on this year’s list. This book has served the elders of Mercyview tremendously during our bi-monthly meetings as we process our hearts in ministry on the issues Wilson tackles in The Pastor’s Justification like freedom, holiness, humility, and confidence, among others.

8. A Long Obedience in the Same Direction: Discipleship in an Instant Society by Eugene Peterson (IVP, 1980)

Admission: I’ve had this book in my library for many years and thought it was Peterson’s book on discipleship. I was wrong. We preached through the Psalms of Ascent this summer and this is what A Long Obedience is about. Peterson was my go-to resource (although I didn’t always agree with his interpretations) because he unpacked these psalms with his usual inventive and “heart-level” writing. Great inspiration from a very accessible “commentary” on the Psalms of Ascent.

7. The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness: The Path to True Christian Joy by Tim Keller (10 Publishing, 2012)

I read this on the heels of our annual men’s summer retreat on the theme of pride and humility as suggested by our retreat speaker. A super-short resource (only 46 pages) but power-packed with gospel goodness on why true joy comes in life when it isn’t about us.

6. The Gospel: How the Church Portrays the Beauty of Christ by Ray Ortlund (Crossway, 2014)

I devoured this little book (a part of the 9 Marks “Building Healthy Churches” series) on the plane rides to and from the Desiring God Conference for Pastors in February. Ortlund is one of my favorite preachers and writers out there. In The Gospel, writes with such wisdom and humbleness. It is chock full of the practical implications of a gospel-rich church culture and it gives a vision to any church who desires to place Jesus at the center of its ministry and mission.

5. The Prodigal Church: A Gentle Manifesto Against the Status Quo by Jared Wilson (Crossway, 2014)

It’s not easy to critique the pink elephant in the room: the attractional church. Some will cry in defense Paul’s edict, “I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some,” while others will criticize too heavy-handedly. Not Wilson. I was impressed with the way in which he took the middle ground and truly was “gentle” in his approach. Rather than condemning, he asked open-ended questions as if he wanted us to see the answers in the questions. At the risk of sounding dramatic, all pastors should wrestle with Wilson’s thoughts in The Prodigal Church – the future of much of evangelicalism depends on it.

4. Recovering Eden: The Gospel According to Ecclesiastes by Zack Eswine (P&R Publishing, 2014)

We preached through the book of Ecclesiastes passage by passage in the fall of 2014 and spring of 2015 and this was my favorite commentary to learn from and it was all I could do not to quote this commentary in large chunks in my sermons (sometimes, I did!). In my opinion, Recovering Eden could easily be read as a traditional “book” because it it doesn’t feel like a commentary – yet it is every bit of one. Part of the reason it doesn’t feel like a commentary is that Eswine doesn’t follow the book chronologically but rather weaves themes throughout Ecclesiastes into a collective whole. And to boot, Eswine is the quintessential wordsmith in the vein of authors from another age. He writes as a theologically-robust poet and his insights into the human heart are inescapable. Grab Recovering Eden if you want to understand the plight of the soul and how the God “above the sun” is its answer.

3. A Loving Life: In a World of Broken Relationships by Paul Miller (Crossway, 2014)

As Recovering Eden was a commentary that didn’t feel like one, The Loving Life wasn’t one that easily could be used as one. Miller takes us on a comprehensive journey through the book of Ruth, meticulously uncovering gospel gems all along the way. It expertly handles the theme of how grace empowers love, particularly in the context of community, in ways that I’ve not seen since reading Life Together by Dietrich Bonhoeffer. From Ruth to Naomi to Boaz, we see types of Christ in The Loving Life, but most of all, we see Christ!

2. Preaching: Communicating Faith in an Age of Skepticism by Tim Keller (Viking, 2015)

When I first heard Keller was working on a book on preaching, I have to admit I couldn’t wait. Many of us have “endured” by deciphering his extensive preaching syllabus from his time teaching homiletics at Westminster. I even have a friend who transcribed his well-known “Preaching to the Heart” talks from Gordon-Conwell in 2006 word-for-word to try to aggregate his thoughts into one resource. But this year, Keller released Preaching, distilling his many years of experience into one tome. And it is brilliant. The end notes alone are worth the price of the book. Alongside his instruction in the “how to” of preaching, I found his ability to mentor us in reading culture as equally important. To communicate the gospel is to contextualize the gospel. Borrowing heavily from philosopher Charles Taylor, Keller does this masterfully in this book. The new standard in preaching in the “late modern” times we live in.

sensingjesus

1. Sensing Jesus: Life and Ministry as a Human Being by Zack Eswine (Crossway, 2013)

I started reading Sensing Jesus about the time another book by Eswine called The Imperfect Pastor was released. I soon found out that The Imperfect Pastor was Sensing Jesus rebooted, just a bit more compressed and focused. Eswine, as stated before, it a dazzling word slinger so I get why Crossway did this but I’m glad I read the more expanded version of this book in all of its requisite strength. Now, to the book. It’s extraordinary when a work is so well done you feel like you’ve read something that has changed you on the spot but this is exactly what happened with Sensing Jesus. Eswine has the ability to tackle difficult idolatries of the heart with a patience, gentleness, and personal confession that is rare in today’s writing culture. And no one gets a free pass. Eswine swings to both sides of the soul spectrum to bring godly confrontationIn particular, Part 1 of the book entitled, “Exposing Our Temptations,” Eswine skillfully unearths the three primary temptations of the human heart – being everywhere-for-alls, fix-it-alls, or know-it-alls. In fact, everyone should print out the introduction to this part of the book (pp. 55-56) and post it in a prominent place in their home or office – it’s that important to keep in front of you. The closing line of the introduction summarizes the overall motif of Sensing Jesus perfectly: “Jesus invites everywhere-for-alls, fix-it-alls, and know-it-alls to the cross, the empty tomb, and the throne of his grace for their time of need.” Eswine’s Sensing Jesus helps us “sense” this great truth – the throne of grace is always available for approach and forgiveness.

 

My Top 15 Albums of 2015

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This has been the best year for music I have ever experienced, hands down. It may be that I have figured out how to listen to more music in a shorter amount of time and in the end, I’ve been exposed to more great music than ever before. Here is my weekly process. I peruse:

1. Spotify new music releases
2. Spotify “Discover Weekly” (an algorithmically personalized playlist of mostly new artists that I haven’t heard of, that also fits my somewhat narrow likes)
3. Allmusic new music releases
4. iTunes new indie releases
5. Metacritic new music releases
6. America’s Music Charts new entries (those that charted for the first time that week)

As for my rankings each year, I go with my gut. I don’t let year-end lists sway me very much other than to see if there were any records I still need to listen to. In fact, you probably won’t find many of my favorite albums on other’s lists. Most major publications/websites all seem to like the same people anyways – with a few exceptions, of course.

So, without any further ado, these are the top 15 albums that moved me in the year ’15…

15. Susanne Sundfør: Ten Love Songs | Off-kilter electro-pop beamed in from another planet, menancing, eerie and resolutely downbeat but always accessible.

14. Wildcat! Wildcat!: No Moon At All | Indie-pop, dance-rock “anthems made for night driving toward nothingness, the neon nihilism of the most American of all cities not named Chicago or Las Vegas.” Pop Matters

13. Low: Ones & Sixes | Slowcore vets keep the airy, luscious backing vocals and sparse, gritty instrumentation rolling on their newest, but up the ante on an immediacy and liveliness missing from their most recent records.

12. Swiss Lips: Overflowing Futures | I want to dance with somebody! An album of previously unreleased material and remixes that is better than its straight-ahead self-titled release earlier in the year that straddles early 80´s disco and modernity.

11. Lemelo: Red Right Return | Subtlety and minimalism reigns supreme on this organic dream pop, accented by smoky, intimate vocals.

10. Pure Bathing Culture: Pray for Rain | Blurred around the edges but with real substance – glazed, left-field pop at its best.

9. Chad Valley: Entirely New Blue | Soulful, digital dream-pop that is uplifting yet intermingled with a slightly melancholic atmosphere.

8. COIN: self-titled | An amalgamation of post-80’s nostalgia and California pop, as mellow as it is vivacious.

7. Lost Lander: Medallion | Built around synths, communal vocals, and chamber elements, the sophomore effort from these Portlandians has a breathtaking bounciness that makes it soar.

6. WATERS: What’s Real | Equal parts radio rock and heart-on-sleeve-indie vibes, purring with high- strung guitars and convulsive percussion.

5. The Japanese House: Pools to Bath In EP and Clean EP | A stellar showcase of talented songwriting and exquisite musicianship – soothing, hypnotizing, electro-folk.

4. The Dø: Shake, Shook, Shaken | The ridiculously catchy shift in sound fits. Restless electro-pop replete with sparkles and musical curiosity.

3. JR JR: self-titled | Whimsical and addictive indie pop that is bursting with sleek intensity. Even better than its predecessor. Not a track to be missed here.

2. Everything Everything: Get to Heaven | No sophomore slump here. Complex art-pop, boisterous and unorthodox, that mirrors the broken, discomforting world we live in.

And my top album this year…

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1. Oh Wonder: self-titled | The hookiest melodies you ever did hear betwixt haunting and subdued chill synth-pop and delicate vocals from this UK duo. Every track is truly confident and sublime – which is rare for any album. Best of the year.

Here is a look back at my #1 albums from years past:

2014: Bear HandsDistraction
2013: Frightened RabbitsPedestrian Verse
2012: Sea WolfOld World Romance
2011: Foster the PeopleTorches