For the past eight years, I've compiled a year-end album of favorite songs released in the 12 preceding months, with no artists repeating from previous years. I've done it again.
Beyond the artists presented here, my favorite album was O'Death's Out of Hands We Go - which, if not quite as consistently great as the band's 2011 record Outside, is a stunning accomplishment - a warbling, adventurous, authentic backwoods blend of introspection and primal emotion putting bluegrass instrumentation through the aesthetic amp of folk, punk, lo-fi, and indie rock. The band's "Vacant Moan" is probably my favorite song of the past decade (it was on my 2008 album), and since then O'Death has largely abandoned thrashing furor in favor of a more measured sound that finds its power in places other than speed and volume.
My initial effort at compiling this album was decidedly pop-oriented, with a few digressions into my natural proclivity toward the odd. But 19 songs became 16, and as I pared away tracks I loved that felt a little too reliant on formula, I recognized a thread of elemental music. Sometimes it took the form of naked aggression (another proclivity), but just as often it was songs stripped down to base emotion - concentrated states of the heart and mind. I ran with that.