Alexandra Kelley

Top 10 Albums

Grand Archives
Keep in Mind Frankenstein
Sub Pop

It’s amazing that an album created almost entirely out of improvisation resulted in something this powerfully warm and creative. Recorded in an old mining town, Mat Brooke (formerly of Band of Horses) and his Seattle-based band explored a number of experimental themes and instruments for their second record. Whether they’re lamenting the fate of an errant Coney Island elephant or exploring the mindset of a Norwegian novelist, their charismatic old-world cadence is undeniable.

Cymbals Eat Guitars
Why There Are Mountains
Sister’s Den

This quartet’s debut record is the most technical and monotony-shattering one I’ve heard all year. Joseph Ferocious and his misfit vortex don’t make for easy listening, but they’re satisfying and fiercely unpredictable. I’m anxious to see what the youngsters from Staten Island do next.

Rodrigo y Gabriela

As a lifelong admirer of classic Spanish guitar, I can’t resist Rodrigo Sánchez and Gabriela Quintero’s insanely hypnotic flamenco-style fury. This is the Mexican duo’s first album with all original songs. A guest performance by Testament’s Alex Skolnick pays serious homage to their thrash-metal roots.

Preservation Hall Jazz Band
New Orleans Preservation, Vol. 1

There’s nostalgia, and then there’s Tradition. Listening to fourth-generation Lower Ninth Ward musicians cover Louis Armstrong, Jelly Roll Morton, historic Mardi Gras chants, and ceremonial dirges is deeply gratifying. Factor in that all songs were recorded in an 18th century seasoned skillet of a room in the French Quarter, and you have an ageless masterpiece.

The Jayhawks
Music from the North Country: The Jayhawks Anthology

So maybe I did a roundoff when I heard that the Jayhawks decided to release an anthology at excruciatingly long last. Short of being able to see them perform live, this was the biggest gift that Gary Louris and Mark Olson could have given me and every other Jayhawks diehard. With 20 tracks from six albums in chronological order, it’s a big lovey explosion of alt-Americana.

AA Bondy
When the Devil’s Loose
Fat Possum

After a witness protection program–like transformation, the artist formerly known as Scott Bondy traded major-label rock for arcane acoustic introspection. The singer-songwriter’s sophomore effort is eerily raw and humbling. Only someone with the purest intentions and talent could pull off this kind of reinvention.

Oh, Glory. Oh, Wilderness
Bakery Outlet

Although they’ve been around for a few years, I didn’t discover Holopaw until their third album. The boys from Gainesville generate soft and intellectual sunshine rock with loose, easy lyrics. John Orth’s falsetto whisper actually reminds me a little of Jeff Buckley. Sometimes I want to breathe, unwind, and stare out the window—and this is a welcome accompaniment.

Son Volt
American Central Dust

Dear Jay Farrar, thank you for still recording new material. A lot of people may have overlooked this collection of breezy, hands-in-pockets excellence, but I love it so much that I included it in my list of top 10 albums for the year. Stay cool, friends 4-eva, don’t ever change.

Dan Auerbach
Keep It Hid

I’ll fess up: the more potent Black Key could hack in a paper bag and I’d gush. But his first solo album readily trails new arteries of dark blues. Whether he’s performing on his own, as a twosome, with a full backing band, or part of a hip-hop project, his fuzzy swagger and ability to keep evolving are vital.

Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix

It took a decade and four albums, but Phoenix proved that ingenuity and eloquent feel-great pop is worthy of mainstream fanfare. And that Frenchmen really can be nice. Songs like “Lisztomania” and “1901” precisely captured the wannabe sanguine spirit that reverberated around the globe.