The holidays are upon us, so many are about to live out a real-life All in the Family marathon. It can all be awkward, painful and tiresome, but there are steps you can take to make the time go (more) quickly. Obviously: Drink heavily. Beyond that and watching football till your eyes bleed, take control of the stereo system. Here are ten fantastic records that were released this year which should barnstorm their way into the Nat King Cole-Bing Crosby rotation. The best part? They will please the young and old alike. You may argue over the merits of boxer shorts as a viable Christmas present, but grandparents to young cousins will be cool with these picks.
10. Marissa Nadler, July
Taylor Swift might be owning the non-Spotify airwaves right now, but check out this female crooner’s effort that was released back in February. Nadler’s voice is devastatingly beautiful and the cohesiveness of the album can plug ahead without interrupting your aunt’s annual speech about President Obama’s birth certificate.
9. S. Carey, Range of Light
Remember that time your mom said she liked that one Bon Iver song? Great, well, this fellow is the backing vocalist and drummer in that project. Range of Light is Sean Carey’s second solo full-length and offers the kind of indie-folk elegance you might expect from a man with his résumé.
8. Beck, Morning Phase
Mr. Hansen might be better known for out-there songs and antics, but his record from this year is a reflective, moody foray—with splendid production, to boot. Hung over from too much eggnog? Slowly nurse yourself back into form with a spin of this.
7. Sharon Van Etten, Are We There
The secret’s out: Van Etten has one of the most formidable, lush voices in the biz. Coupled with her overall badass vibe and ascending song structures, her music is always a pleasure. Even while your misbehaving nephews are repeatedly kicking you in the shins.
6. Spoon, They Want My Soul
These vets from Austin may have made what amounts to the best straight-up rock record of the year. The group has aged well; these songs are vibrant and engaging. Pour some stout whiskeys and watch your aunts and uncles embarrass themselves dancing to it in your living room.
5. TV on the Radio, Seeds
Gone are the days of TVOTR’s in-your-face experimentalism. Seeds surveys pop, rock, dance and R&B influences while Tunde Adebimpe’s passionate vocals prop the whole affair up. It’s all anchored by the epic “Ride,” which Hanukkah Harry will no doubt be bumping on his donkey-steered cart this year.
4. Sturgill Simpson, Metamodern Sounds in Country Music
Cousin Eddie-style family members parked their RV in the driveway? Invite ‘em inside for a few Lone Stars and pop this disc on. It’s extremely listenable country, with elements that reach back to the good ‘ol days of Willie Nelson and Conway Twitty.
3. The War on Drugs, Lost in the Dream
All sorts of dads are sure to love this one, which harnesses the sounds of Springsteen, Dylan and Petty. Caveat emptor: Older listeners of Lost in the Dream have been known to talk for hours about that one Plymouth GTX roadtrip back in ’78, man.
2. Lykke Li, I Never Learn
This Swedish songstress released a stunner in May. She pulls off being at-once haunting and catchy with aplomb. Take your mom’s worn-out Adele CD and replace immediately with this.
1. Real Estate, Atlas
The Brooklyn-based outfit released yet another hyper-chill effort in ‘14. It’s the kind of record that would work well in almost any situation, the aural equivalent of a light red wine. Pop it on during dinner and cycle through it again when the cool cousins from Colorado hit the garage to “get some fresh air.”