Happy holidays! It's that time of year when we take a look back to celebrate what kept us moving forward. This week, we'll countdown the Top 25 albums and next week we'll take on the singles.
10. Leonard Cohen, “Old Ideas” (Columbia): The lyrics to the opening “Going Home” was seen as so moving and substantive that the New Yorker printed them as a poem. The melody of the lovely “Lullaby” sticks with you long after the song fades away. But it's “Crazy to Love You,” a gorgeous, poignant tale that will last as long as Cohen's other masterworks, including “Hallelujah” and “Bird on the Wire.”
9. Alabama Shakes, “Boys and Girls” (ATO): Brittany Howard's gorgeous singing – the stunning midpoint between Janis Joplin and Amy Winehouse – is the star here and the spare, rootsy arrangements here let her shine, especially in “Rise to the Sun” and “I Ain't the Same.”
8. Bob Mould, “Silver Age” (Merge): Bob Mould has long combined heavy guitars with memorable pop melodies, as a solo artist and in his bands Husker Du and Sugar. On “Silver Age,” that continues, but Mould adds more intense emotions and, often, a much-needed feeling of hope.
7. Usher, “Looking 4 Myself” (RCA): Look, I'm as surprised as the next person that Usher had this kind of album in him – one that bristles with innovation, artistry and ambition. He injects EDM beats with '60s soul in “Twisted,” crafts a new sort of R&B ballad in “Climax” and keeps us dancing with “Numb” and “Scream.”
6. Taylor Swift, “Red” (Big Machine): T. Swizzle comes out as a full-fledged pop superstar, complete with a dubstep breakdown and some dancefloor hooks, and she's not looking back. Like, ever.