AJ Davila y Terror Amor – Beibi (Burger Records)
Ty Segall may dominate the garage-punk conversation, but AJ Davila is one of the game's leading firestarters. Without all the hotshot guests on his breakout debut, the biggest revelation of the second rapid-fire album this year by the Davila 666 frontman is that he doesn't need anyone's help to hit shit right between the eyes. It's fast, dirty and dead-on. – Bao Le-Huu
Alvvays – self-titled (Polyvinyl)
Between the indie-pop perfection and the gorgeously fuzzy dew that coats it, there's little not to adore about this astonishingly effervescent and consistent Canadian debut. – BLH
Angel Olsen – Burn Your Fire for No Witness (Jagjaguwar)
Her glassy eyes when Angel Olsen performs reflect the dauntless sensitivity of this charging, evocative, nearly unrivaled folk release, with its shriveling-inward, emotional delivery that's pretty, devastating and somehow also empowering. Emboldened by a full band, Olsen – with that distinctly fractured vocal – compels you to play it again. Again. Again. – Ashley Belanger
Benjamin Booker – self-titled (ATO Records)
New Orleans may be his launch site now, but Florida raised this deadly young trifecta of soul, punk and blues. There's a reason this Tampa Bay kid went from total obscurity to serious contender this year, and it's this album. – BLH
Broncho – Just Enough Hip to Be Woman (Dine Alone Records)
Why this Tulsa, Oklahoma, band remains one of the most underrated acts around is a mystery, because this album – '70s and '80s rock & roll smeared with garage-punk attitude – is a bull's-eye balance of sunshine and snot. – BLH
Cloud Nothings – Here and Nowhere Else (Carpark Records/Mom + Pop)
Dylan Baldi may not wanna talk about it, but I do. Here and Nowhere Else takes your ears on an indie-rock high-speed chase, setting an unrelenting pace fueled by throat-ravaging growls demonstrating self-disappointment that sonically and lyrically remind us each who our harshest critic is. – AB
Fear of Men – Loom (Kanine Records)
There's nothing fancy, flashy or trendy about this full-length debut. But the starry, Sleepy Vikings-esque sound of this English band is a dark flower in an understated but gorgeous dance of light and shade. – BLH
FKA Twigs – LP 1 (Young Turks Recordings Ltd)
It's hard to steady yourself for the pop swerve of catchy and heart-catching British songwriter-producer FKA Twigs songs like "Pendulum" and "Two Weeks." Twigs' music evolves with amorphous interpretations dependent on the listener's mental state, with lyrics as flexible as the artist whose dancing transfixes the eyes while her vocal mesmerizes your membranes. One listen. You're gonna feel it. – AB
Floor – Oblation (Season of Mist)
This sudden burst of creative life from the resurrected proto-Torche band is the most concentrated and maximum riffage dropped all year, and it's pure triumph. – BLH
Flying Lotus – You're Dead! (Warp Records)
An enigma, this album feels old and new all at once – like a ghost Crip-walking in modern times. It's dark, different and gets you jazzed up over morose material. – AB
The Golden Pelicans – self-titled (Total Punk)
The Total Punk debut LP of local guys Golden Pelicans develops their own strain from decades of schooled listening to the fiercest underground punk to cultivate a modern mutation of rowdy garage punk pedigree that's satisfying like a sonic snot rocket. – AB
Mac DeMarco – Salad Days (Captured Tracks)
La la la la la la. What? That's me still singing along to every word in that languid, swaying way Mac DeMarco has on Salad Days of delivering his dogma, like Jonathan Richman on codeine-laced cough syrup. – AB
Neneh Cherry – Blank Project (Smalltown Supersound)
Mood-rich and sparsely confident, trip-hop's Neneh Cherry proves herself a rare artist whose innately peculiar notions reliably get listeners feeling some kinda way. Get the fever in you. – AB
Nikki Lane – All or Nothin' (New West)
It's a golden age for women in country music but not necessarily a golden age for country music. It could be, however, if Nashville followed the lead of this Dan Auerbach-produced album. It's a primer on American roots music that's at once classic, confident and current. – BLH
Parquet Courts – Sunbathing Animal (What's Your Rupture?/ Mom + Pop)
Quickly becoming the kings of shrugging off sounds, Parquet Courts fired off Sunbathing Animal, which luxuriates in tasteful influences from Dylan to Television while squinting at its own original, noisy, bright qualities. – AB
Roadkill Ghost Choir – In Tongues (Greatest Hiss Records)
Sure, the production is generically professional, but the songs and craft on this proud homegrown pick still stand tall enough to herald a major folk-rock force on the rise. – BLH
Run the Jewels – Run the Jewels 2 (Mass Appeal Records)
Run, Killer Mike and El-P, run. We'll be huffing your dust, breathless, and the rest of the rap game will have no choice but to try and keep up. – AB
Tinariwen – Emmaar (Anti Records)
With the introduction of some American stomp and dust, the nomadic Saharan group hits a new level of penetration with their aboriginal groove and proves again why they're the biggest desert-blues band in the world. – BLH
Unicycle Loves You – The Dead Age (Highwheel Records/Mecca Lecca)
One of the most overlooked records of the year, this album is a chunky stew of garage, noise, jangle and pop. It's a fun, scrappy, '90s-juiced romp that hits the mark with extraordinary consistency. – BLH
White Fence – For the Recently Found Innocent (Drag City)
If "Like That" isn't the new anthem for disgruntled Americans, it's only because folks are too busy tapping their toes to this catchy, fuzzy furtherance of the electricity conjured when Tim Presley and Ty Segall collaborate. – AB
We welcome readers to submit letters regarding articles and content in Orlando Weekly. Letters should be a minimum of 150 words, refer to content that has appeared on Orlando Weekly, and must include the writer's full name, address, and phone number for verification purposes. No attachments will be considered. Writers of letters selected for publication will be notified via email. Letters may be edited and shortened for space.
Email us at [email protected].
Support Local Journalism.
Join the Orlando Weekly Press Club
Local journalism is information. Information is power. And we believe everyone deserves access to accurate independent coverage of their community and state. Our readers helped us continue this coverage in 2020, and we are so grateful for the support.
Help us keep this coverage going in 2021. Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing membership pledge, your support goes to local-based reporting from our small but mighty team.
Join the Orlando Weekly Press Club for as little as $5 a month.
Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.