The Year of the Stream

It all changed July 14.

When Spotify expanded its service to the United States earlier this year, the streaming platform altered and improved the way I consume and find music — hopefully forever. No more forking over $9.99 per digital album on iTunes. No more sifting through shady sites in search of a decent free version of the week’s biggest release.

Most importantly, Spotify raised my music library’s ceiling from “however much I can afford/find the time to download” to “infinite.” The service charges $10 per month and doesn’t limit me to one album. It’s the music-lover’s equivalent of being locked in the mall candy store after hours (sorry, can’t find The Simpsons video, but surely you know the one). I can find new music by using the remarkably intuitive Spotify Radio feature (incomparably better than Pandora), by scrolling through playlists created by my Facebook friends, or by utilizing one of the program’s native apps — Pitchfork, Rolling Stone and Fuse have their own apps, with more to come.

Through the magic of Spotify, I have grown my music library five-fold. I’ve discovered whole decades and entire genres I never would have had the money, time or access to explore through antiquated channels. Also, all of the artists I listen to on Spotify get a cut, small as it may be. Some dinosaurs are still living in the past* (ahem, Coldplay and The Black Keys) and complaining about the small chunk of change they get from every stream, but they’ll eventually realize their choice is not between selling their album for astronomical prices or selling it affordably on streaming services, it’s a choice between having their album stolen or selling it affordably on streaming services.

*The music industry is facing the same conundrum the newspaper industry did once content started moving online. Coldplay and The Black Keys should probably read up on what happened to those who insisted on living on the wrong side of history.

In summary, thanks to Spotify, I was able to listen to more than 100 albums released in the past year. Here are my 11 favorites.

11. Ólafur Arnalds – “Living Room Songs

10. Fleet Foxes – “Helplessness Blues

9. Real Estate – “Days

8. Youth Lagoon – “The Year Of Hibernation

7. The War On Drugs – “Slave Ambient

6. Kurt Vile – “Smoke Ring For My Halo

5. Los Campesinos! – “Hello Sadness

4. Radiohead – “The King Of Limbs

3. James Blake – “James Blake

2. St. Vincent – “Strange Mercy

1. Bon Iver – “Bon Iver

Honorable Mention: Feist – “Metals”; Beirut – “The Rip Tide”; Bjork – “Crystalline”; M83 – “Hurry Up We’re Dreaming”; Radiohead – “TKOL RMX 1234567”; Rihanna – “Talk That Talk”; Atlas Sound – “Parallax”; Wilco – “The Whole Love”; Destroyer – “Kaputt”; Drake – “Take Care”; Active Child – “You Are All I See”; Owen – “Ghost Town”; Oneohtrix Point Never – “Replica”; Washed Out – “Within and Without”; The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart – “Belong”; Sepalcure – “Sepalcure”; Julianna Barwick – “The Magic Place”

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