I gave substantial attention to more albums this year than in any previous year — nearly one hundred records. And I heard so many impressive things that I almost gave up on the annual ritual of making a Favorite Recordings list — a ritual I began when I was 13 years old.

But I don’t want to break the tradition, so I’ve picked 25 favorites, but I want to mention 35 runners-up that I enjoyed all the way through several times. These are all albums I admire, continue to play, and highly recommend for their striking expressions of beauty, energy, creativity, and conscience.

Oh, one more thing…

I’m grateful to the Looking Closer Specialists. Their generosity keeps this site alive and enables me to immerse myself in music so that I can make these recommendations. In my next post — the Top 25 — I’ll write more about what I’ve been hearing as I listen closer.

Because these legends are showing
the kids how it’s done…

Egypt Station

Paul McCartney

American Utopia

David Byrne

She Remembers Everything

Roseanne Cash

The Tree of Forgiveness

John Prine


Jeff Tweedy



Wide Awake!

Parquet Courts

Songs of Praise


For the glory of guitars…

13 Rivers

Richard Thompson

Ty Segall

Freedom’s Goblin

Music IS

Bill Frisell

These are the master keys
(and, I might add, excellent music for writers)…

Music for Installations

Brian Eno

All Melody

Nils Frahm


Rival Consoles

Because these dynamic duos were made for each other…


First Aid Kit

I’m All Ears

Let’s Eat Grandma

Healing Tide

The War and Treaty

For their deeply personal poetry
and striking solo voices…


Adrianne Lenker


Alela Diane

In a Poem Unlimited

U.S. Girls

Because they’ve been around for decades,
answering their own particular muse,
and this is one of their finest records…

All That Reckoning

Cowboy Junkies

For pure pop-rock pleasure…


The Ophelias

Future Me Hates Me

The Beths

These EPs are as good as most full albums…

Weed Garden EP

Iron and Wine

boygenius EP


Because these bands and artists are
working their way to the top of the class…

Cocoa Sugar

Young Fathers

Be the Cowboy


Golden Hour

Kacey Musgraves

Wide Awake

Rayland Baxter

Because these recordings were brilliant soundtracks,
but they also stand strong on their own…

Phantom Thread

Johnny Greenwood

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

Various Artists

Black Panther

The Album — Various

Because it’s just so wacky and weird…



Because the roots of this music are so wildly widespread…

Con Todo El Mundo


Because it was the blockbuster breakthrough
that best represented this moment in time…
(and because I miss Prince)…

Dirty Computer

Janelle Monáe

Because rarely has a covers album
been a more inspired match of artist and material…

Juliana Hatfield Sings Olivia Newton-John

Juliana Hatfield