So look: For those of you who still take a large portion of your listening cues from Pitchfork, this album is way better than how it was treated. Second spot on a Thursday, five days before it's released? And with a rating of only a 7.4? No. It's one of the first great albums of the year, stylishly arranged and beautifully recorded, with the type of understated hooks that will appeal to the Belle and Sebastian disciples among us, of which I'm just going to assume there are still many. It's not every day a Brooklyn band releases their debut full-length on Merge Records, and in this case it's totally justified.
2. Adam Arcuragi—Like a Fire That Consumes All Before It
I've been a fan of this still relatively unknown Philadelphia-based songwriter for about a decade at this point, and since I don't know if that means anything to you, I will also mention that NPR's Bob Boilen is equally fond of him. (Insert your own NPR joke here, or better yet, don't.) Arcuragi's got a voice that just doesn't quit: soulful and aching, but strong enough to pull itself—and the listener—out from under whatever's ailing. His most recent album, Like a Fire That Consumes All Before It, includes more forays into gospel and country than normal, and the results are typically impressive.
3. Imperial Teen—Feel the Sound
Imperial Teen's first new album in five years would provide the perfect soundtrack to a laid-back dinner party turned ever so slightly less laid-back dance party. That may sound like faint praise, but it's not. It's a pristine collection of songs that display their hooks proudly, without any of the various filters currently being used to make hooks sound less hooky for the benefit of people who're afraid to admit they like hooks.
4. Golden Calves—Collection: Money Band LP + Century Band 12"
Woodsist is reissuing the pre-Wooden Wand/Vanishing Voice recordings of James Jackson Toth, and while it's certainly not the most focused work he's done, it's an intriguing glimpse into the early stages of his development. Digital and vinyl only, limited to 1,000 copies.
5. Bob Dylan and The Band —The Basement Tapes, Mobile Fidelity Reissue
This one's not coming out till February 14, but you might want to get your pre-order in now: It's a 180-gram, individually numbered, limited edition pressing from the audio nerds at Mobile Fidelity, so you can expect it to look awesome and sound even better. At only $40, this is a no-brainer, especially if the spine on your current copy was mangled by one of your stupid cats.
6. Cough, Cough Billy Joel Mobile Fidelity Reissues Cough, Cough
I don't think I can actually get myself to pay $50 each for some fancy-ass versions of Piano Man or Turnstiles, but I do know that if one or both of them were to accidentally be slipped into the package with The Basement Tapes, I would not complain. Make of that what you will.
7. Gotye—Making Mirrors
Originally released in the fall of last year, this album by Australian artist Wally de Backer, aka Gotye, is seeing wider release this month, and it should be met with some acclaim. He manages to incorporate the influence of Peter Gabriel and Sting without sounding stuck in the past.
8. Fucked Up—Year of the Tiger 12"
The seventh installment of their annual 12" series celebrating the Chinese New Year, centered around a 15-minute track with guest spots by Austra, Annie-Claude Deschenes and, strangely, Jim Jarmusch.
9. Sharon Van Etten—Tramp
Perhaps this is implied, since we went and put her on the cover, but seriously, the record is very, very good and you should be listening very closely and very often.
10. This Horrible "Jack and White" Band I Keep Seeing on iTunes
They're just reaping the benefits of people Googling the new Jack White song, right?