Well, that was a doozy! January is usually the month where film production companies and music labels take a step back, recharge their batteries, and get ready for a furious marketing push to sell their products during the next eleven months. While the motion picture industry certainly held up their end of this bargain in January (exception: American Sniper) record labels forgot where we stand in the yearly cycle. Lucky for us! Because this was one of the best years for January releases in quite some time. There were releases expected (Sleater-Kinney, Panda Bear), releases slept-on (Låpsley, Viet Cong) and releases no one was ready for (Björk). It all adds up to a stellar thirty-one days that will be hard to top. I’m looking forward to February through December’s efforts to prove me wrong.
This is a round up of the month’s best songs and albums, all in alphabetical order. While it’s fun to make charts and all, I’ll wait a little longer before I declare any one artist the true champion of the month. There are simply too many winners.
1. Action Bronson, “Actin’ Crazy”
2. Björk, “Stonemilker”
Björk’s devastating new album Vulnicura spares no time in exposing the singer’s painful past couple of years. “Stonemilker” is emblematic of what makes Björk the creative, musical genius that she is. The string section adds gravitas to the proceedings, with the small doses of electronica reminding us of Björk’s otherworldly abilities to mix and match disparate elements to form something even more powerful than the features are by themselves.
3. Calexico, “Cumbia de Donde”
4. Charli XCX ft. Rita Ora, “Doing It” (A.G. Cook Remix)
5. Courtney Barnett, “Pedestrian At Best”
6. Låpsley, “Brownlow”
7. Giorgio Moroder ft. Kylie Minogue, “Right Here, Right Now”
8. Hannah Cohen, “Keepsake”
9. Jessica Pratt, “Strange Melody”
10. Modest Mouse, “Coyotes”
11. Natalie Prass, “My Baby Don’t Understand Me”
“My Baby Don’t Understand Me” is the rare breakup track that finds the speaker discovering the failed relationship in media res. “Our love is long goodbye,” Prass comes to understand. Even in knowing the end has passed, there’s a desire to keep the moment whole.
12. Panda Bear, “Crosswords”
13. Rae Sremmurd, “This Could Be Us”
A piano-based hip-hop track based on an internet meme? Yeah, I didn’t know I was missing that, either. But I was. Thankfully, Rae Sremmurd was here to show me what I didn’t know I needed with “This Could Be Us.” On an album that features titan Nicki Minaj and breakout hits “No Type” and “No Flex Zone,” “Us” fleshes out the duo’s sound, proving they aren’t as easy to pigeonhole as previously thought.
14. Rihanna, Kanye West, & Paul McCartney, “FourFiveSeconds”
15. Sleater-Kinney, “Price Tag”
16. Torres, “Strange Hellos”
17. Viet Cong, “March of Progress”
1. Björk, Vulnicura
2. Jessica Pratt, On Our Own Love Again
3. Låpsley, Understudy EP
4. Mark Ronson, Uptown Special
5. Natalie Prass, Natalie Prass
6. Panda Bear, Panda Bear Meets the Grim Reaper
7. Rae Morris, Unguarded
8. Rae Sremmurd, Sremmlife
9. Sleater-Kinney, No Cities To Love
10. Viet Cong, Viet Cong