1. Mumford and Sons – Babel
It was not an easy decision for best album of the year, but Mumford & Sons exceeded my already extremely high expectations on this follow-up to their 2010 smash hit Sigh No More. Babel starts tremendously strong with five straight killer tracks, which includes their single I Will Wait, and ends perfectly with the somber Not With Haste. I would recommend picking up the deluxe edition, which has three bonus tracks–two of which are quite good. Favorite tracks: Not With Haste, I Will Wait, Babel, Holland Road, Broken Crown.
2. Of Monsters and Men – My Head Is An Animal
This Icelandic band nearly took the prize this year with one of the best debut albums I have heard in some time. Little Talks and From Finner are perfect single material, while the rest of the album is Indie Pop gold. Lead-singer Nanna Bryndís Hilmarsdóttir is my favorite female vocalist currently in any genre of music. Favorite tracks: Little Talks, King and Lionheart, Lakehouse, From Finner, Six Weeks.
3. Grizzly Bear – Shields
This is Grizzly Bear’s fourth album, and their best yet. That is saying a lot because their last album, Veckatimest, is about as good as it gets. Shields was named best album of the year by iTunes, which is quite the accomplishment. This is an album that grew on me, and has become one of my favorites. A Simple Answer and Sun In Your Eyes are two of their best songs to date. I was quite shocked Shields was not nominated for a Grammy. Favorite tracks: A Simple Answer, Sun In Your Eyes, Yet Again, Sleeping Ute, Half Gate.
4. The xx – Coexist
I knew it was going to be impossible for The xx to outdo their first album, xx, but Romy Madley Croft and Oliver Sim created a beautiful, slow-paced, moody album worth seeking out. They will never be able to top Infinity, Stars and Crystalised from their 2009 album, but tracks like Sunset, Our Song and Reunion make due and will satisfy loyal followers. Favorite tracks: Our Song, Sunset, Reunion, Chained, Try.
5. Silversun Pickups – Neck of the Woods
Despite being Silversun Pickups’ least effective album, it is still one of the best of the year. I was highly anticipating this follow-up to the fantastic Swoon, but this album relies too heavily on their new rock sound which is ineffective in comparison to their previous three Indie sounding albums. That being said, The Pit and Bloody Mary (Nerve Endings) are two of the best songs they have created yet. The album does not have bad tracks or low points; it is steady all the way through and should satisfy fans looking more for of a Carnavas sound rather than their breathtaking Swoon sound. Favorite tracks: The Pit, Bloody Mary (Nerve Endings), Make Believe, Busy Bees, Gun-Shy Sunshine.
6. Two Door Cinema Club – Beacon
This is another album that really grew on me. It had to be tough to follow-up a major accomplishment like Tourist History, but these Irish fellows succeeded. There are weak points on the album, but it also features some of their best work. They still are not on the same level as Phoenix, Grouplove or The xx but two very solid albums have me thirsting for me. Favorite tracks: Wake Up, Someday, Settle, Spring, Handshake.
7. The Shins – Port of Morrow
Arguably the best Shins album yet; which is saying a lot. Wincing the Night Away and Chutes Too Narrow are two monumental Indie albums, and Port of Morrow solidifies The Shins as one of the best Indie bands of the last 25 years. There is not a bad track to be found here; they all work, some more than others. Lead singer James Mercer, who also fronts Broken Bells, has one of the best voices in the genre. Favorite tracks: The Rifle’s Spiral, Simple Song, 40 Mark Strasse, It’s Only Life, No Way Down.
8. Animal Kingdom – The Looking Away
This British band is finally starting to make noise here in the U.S. with this follow-up to their debut album, Signs and Wonders (which is slightly better). They have an interesting sound you can not quite pinpoint; possibly a mix between Grouplove, Arcade Fire and Coldplay. While they are nothing compared to any of those sensational bands (especially Arcade Fire), they are a band to look out for on the Indie Pop scene. Strange Attractor and Everything At Once are their two big hits on the album. Favorite Tracks: Skipping Disc, Strange Attractor, Everything At Once, The Wave, Straw Man.
9. Sea Wolf – Old World Romance
It is hard to imagine such a great album by such a fantastic band falls all the way to number nine, but it has been a very good year. This album does not touch White Water, White Bloom, but is an improvement over Leaves in the River. The album starts out tremendously strong with Old Friend, In Nothing, Priscilla and Kasper and does not miss a beat from there. Favorite tracks: Miracle Cure, Whirlpool, In Nothing, Old Friend, Kasper.
10. The Lumineers – The Lumineers
This was the second best debut album of the year (Of Monsters and Men). They are one of the more popular bands on this list now that their new single Ho Hey (which is actually one of their weaker songs) gets played constantly on popular radio. While this album does not set the world on fire, it certainly gets the job done and I look forward to their sophomore album. Their sound reminds me of a mixture of Mumford & Sons and Of Monsters and Men (but not NEARLY as good as either of those bands). Favorite tracks: Stubborn Love, Submarines, Morning Song, Dead Sea, Slow It Down.
Honorable Mention: Beach House – Bloom