Tartan staff picks our favorite music of the year

A few of The Tartan staff got together and picked their favorite albums they discovered this year.

“Timely!!” - Anri

This was the year I discovered city pop and my life is better as a result. City pop is a Japanese pop style that became popular in the 1980s, and it sounds like how the 1980s would interpret jazz and funk fusion. Even though it is technically pop music, the album sounds more like an upbeat jazz big band with synths. Anri’s vocals are just absolutely beautiful, and they soar so clearly over really catchy countermelodies from the wind section and a tight and groovy rhythm section. Each time I listen to the songs off the album, I discover a new detail, which makes each listen more rewarding than the last. - Sujay Utkarsh

“Everything Feels Better Now” - From Indian Lakes
Though it took me a while to check out From Indian Lakes’ discography after adding “Breathe Desperately” to one of my Spotify playlists, I am glad that I did. The album starts with “Happy Machines,” whose lyrics give the album its title. The 12-song album feels like an ache for love with its low-key vibes that seem to come and go as the album progresses. The distorted guitar that is present in many of the songs is a nice compliment to the overall feeling of the album. My personal favorites from the album are “The Monster,” “Blank Tapes,” and “Sunlight,” but the rest of the album is not far behind. - Cole Skuse


This album elevates JPEGMAFIA from one of the best rappers in the game to one of the best musicians around today. His voice is already so smooth, and he takes advantage of that to deliver killer bars with impeccable delivery. His beats were already fairly experimental on his previous efforts, but he takes them a step further on this album. There is a versatile mix of lo-fi, glitch hop, and even rock, yet it feels cohesive and every stylistic choice feels deliberate and well-thought. He’ll frequently change upbeats and flows from out of nowhere, but he knows when to hold back and let the listener jam out for a minute. It’s even more impressive when you realize that JPEGMAFIA writes, produces, and performs all of his music. - Sujay Utkarsh

“Nilsson Schmilsson” - Harry Nilsson
I was introduced to this album after binge-watching “Russian Doll,” and I gotta say, it’s pretty good. Harry Nilsson’s most successful album has had a great influence on future musicians, with Nilsson considered by some to be in that category of musician’s musicians. This album celebrated its 50th anniversary this month, and it stands the test of time, though maybe only for those with a certain taste in music. “Gotta Get Up” and “Coconut” are my standouts of the album, both songs sounding great and being interestingly constructed. Although not as good as “Nilsson sings Newman,” “Nilsson Schmilsson” still impresses. - Zachary Gelman

“Bleed The Future” - Archspire
I listened to this album when it dropped at midnight, and after listening to it, I ran around for three hours, tripped over my chair, and smacked my face into the door. But the adrenaline from the music numbed me to all the pain. This is technical death metal destruction honed into a perfect, 34-minute package. The balance between melody, heaviness, and sheer virtuosity is like no other metal band out there. One of the songs is at 400 beats per minute, yet it never feels like too much. I want to find more like this but there is nothing else like this that exists as far as I’m aware. It’s easily one of the best metal albums I’ve ever listened to. My only complaint about this album is that I’m probably never going to be technically competent enough at guitar to ever be able to play any of these songs. - Sujay Utkarsh

"The Original Motion Picture Soundtrack" - Saint Motel
Somehow I missed the full album coming out in June despite having listened to Saint Motel for several years. The album is 15 songs long and is divided into three parts, each five or six songs long. While the first part of the album debuted over two years ago in 2019, the full album was not released until this year. I was impressed by “Old Soul,” “A Good Song Never Dies,” “Van Horn,” and “It’s All Happening,” all of which found their way onto at least one of my playlists upon first listen. The first part has official visualizers on the Saint Motel YouTube channel, which I feel describes the songs’ vibes very well. While I might not be able to relate to all the songs, they all have their unique charm that expresses a variety of moods and showcase some healthy experimentation from Saint Motel. Overall, a solid album with some very strong songs. - Cole Skuse

K/DA as a group honestly fascinates me. I’m not particularly interested in “League of Legends” as a game, but whatever Riot Games is doing with K/DA, they’re doing it right. Despite being music intentionally made to promote a game, their songs are pretty musically interesting, though lyrically lacking (though most of their audience doesn’t pay attention to the lyrics anyway). It’s also interesting that despite being corporate construction, their music does seem to have a unique style, featuring heavy percussion, powerful but balanced vocals that harmonize well, and a bit of synth that makes the music feel as colorful as their album covers. The most standout songs in this album to me are “MORE,” the first song I listened to by K/DA, which has some cool harmonies and a recurring instrumental theme that instantly grabbed my attention, and “VILLAIN,” the chorus of which has this nice moment where the instrumentals drop out and there’s only the main vocal line, a mirrored vocal bassline, and percussion. - Kaylin Li

“SINNER GET READY” - Lingua Ignota

This is the scariest thing I’ve ever listened to. I have listened to songs from death metal bands that sound like literal exorcisms, and Lingua Ignota blows them all out of the water with this esoteric, hellish, nightmare fuel that feels like what opera would sound like on a bad acid trip. I’ve never heard music with a soundscape that envelops you quite like this one. The production is immaculate, simultaneously making you feel cold and uncomfortable in a satisfying way. It is not an easy listening experience, but it still manages to be beautiful at the same time. This is not for everyone, but if you want to venture out into something experimental and terrifying, this album is for you. - Sujay Utkarsh