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|2009 Yeti Come A'marching Yr Way. |
2009 imo -- 51-60 are honorable mention -- shoegaze.
|1||A Sunny Day in Glasgow|
So, Scribble Mural Comic Journal was a pretty good album, but I wouldn't go so far as to say I really cared for it as much as appreciated what the Daniels (Ben, Robin & Lauren, respectively) an co. were trying to do --create a Hazy mix of freak folk tinged ambient post-pop. So when news of integral members Brice Hickey (bass) and vocalists Robin and Lauren Daniel dropping from the line up reach my ear, I was less than enthused about the idea of a sophomore release from them. Ashes Grammar is a fractured dance/ambient-pop album with heavy holds in shoegaze, dreampop, and freakfolk. In essence it's a 'Nu-Gaze' album and falls into the movement to rehash the brilliant bit of 90s indie rock that's been prevalent over the past 10 years. It just happens to do it so goddamn well, not to mention uniquely, and infectiously. In the loss of members and movement from a bedroom to a studio, Ben Daniels and drummer/guitarist Josh Meakim and newly recruited vocalist Annie Fredrickson create magic. A 22 track behemoth that is setup in movements as opposed to singular tracks, most 'real songs' sitting between mood setting ambient interludes that hold their own against the longer songs. Really these interlude portions just help the flow of the album, as it's 60+ minutes wiz by accordingly and are just a logical setup for the next bit of songs. From the freakfolk/dance induced 'Failure' and 'Close Chorus', to shoegazer tour de force(s) 'Nightime Rainbows' & 'Blood White'', Ashes Grammar delivers. Dream pop masterworks , 'Shy', 'Headphone Space', 'Starting at a Disadvantage' and 'The White Witch' top off the album as the (hard to chose) stand outs but let's not be picky here. Why be, when there' s so much about Ashes Grammar to love.
Ed Droste, and Daniel Rossen along with Chris(s) Taylor and Bear probably have some pact, with some indomitable spirit that's allowed them to successfully rip both the Wilson Brother and Beatle songbooks and swirl it around a shit ton of phycadelia for 3 albums now. I say this mostly because each one is clearly better than the previous and they keep doing it with a slightly wider grin than the last time out. I think they know...
Regardless, Veckatimest is a triumph and what lays hidden beneath it' sugary pop, soft strings and superb vocal harmonies (not to mention voices), is a ripping beast of distortion that erupts and just the right time. Meticulous craftsmanship and extreme attention to detail that they have put into, what it's a very, studio album, pays off in full. Every arpeggio is placed at the right point, every downturn exact, and when the choruses hit or the band just takes the time to explode into a tunnel of sound, it's generally quite amazing.
Merriweather Post Pavilion
In growing up, Animal Collective keep getting better, and have really, produced their finest album to date. 'Feels' may hold sentimental value, but MPP is pure pop genius and what may just become the staple document of 'freak-folk'. Avey and Panda work in tandem with one another like never before, mixing harmonies brilliantly and gelling together as if they were one. Each time they show up in the backing vocals, it works to great success, seeming as if it was meant to be, elevating the melody to massive heights. This is of course just one part of the many things that give Merriweather its merits, the instrumentation is superb, from the house beats of 'My Girls' and 'Brothesport' over to the acid washed 'Daily Routine' and 'Taste', MPP just sounds appealing as fuck. Not to mention their writing, coming from the honest to god shit-heap that was a good portion of their early record's lyric sheets, the pavilion is full of gems and brilliant turns of phrase. 'My Girls' explaining Panda's earthly ideals, 'Also Frightened' showcasing Avey's fear of fatherhood, and 'Brothersport', Panda's, as he cries out for his girls to 'open up your throat' and 'keep it real, shout out', and then there's 'Bluish', Avey's ode to love (and his wife) in all it's beautiful whimsy and quirkiness(I makes me so crazy/No I can't say why). Aging has done nothing but cement the Collective's talent and tamed their 'wild-side' that wanted to jam the fuck out on 6 notes and a few whispers and yelps for 12 minutes. Sometimes I miss it, I do, but then I just start 'In the Flowers' and it all just fades away.
Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix
From start to finish the definition of pop-perfection, at least the most you can pull out of 2 guitars, some pedals, a drum kit and keyboards. Thomas Mars and co. deliver a whopper of a dance album, full of bouncing beats, great synth lines, dynamic lyrics and just a little bit of ambient electronica on top. Oh yeah, it's also catchy as fuck, try listening to tracks like '1901', 'Lisztomania', 'Armistice' or 'Lasso' and not hum them to yourself for the next 2 weeks. Then there's 'Love Like Sunset'(pt. 1 & 2) their masterpiece of ambient work that enters with a roar and exits with a beautiful comedown . All the while encompassing these dance beats and pop riffs around dejected lyrics reminiscent of the end of a long term relationship. Mars shines with his David Byrne-esque voice, hitting all its essential yelps, croons, 'wellwellwell's' and key changes, skipping the pretention with some good ole'fashioned honesty. Phoenix basically took the last 20 years of dance pop, and not to mention their own career, and turned it on its head with a few swivels added in for good measure. Wolfgang wins, throughout its 35 minute run time, delivering palpable, yet infectiously danceable pop mixed with heartbroken, yet uplifting lyrics and Mars' unique Byrney croon.
I'm not sure what I expected when I first unwrapped 'Actor', it was an album I bought in physical form, thinking, 'It's that kind of LP, right'? What I got was a gorgeously structured, elegantly written and beautifully sung collections of songs that form a startlingly superb album. Clark's bare all song writing casts her as many a character, the easy girl next door (The Strangers), depressed optimist (Laughing With a Mouth of Blood) to the lovable slacker (The Party), moving between each facade as though it were her own (probably is, duh). Each part played is handled with care, delivering deeply personal lines, Clark bares all as if it were a daily exercise for her. Her string arrangements are beautiful and expertly utilized, bringing lasting emotion to the downturns and grandeur to the crescendos. Did I mention she shreds? Female Axe Slayer of the year goes to Annie Clark in my book, honestly, this chick rips it on half the album. Songs like 'Marrow', 'The Neighbors' and 'Actor Out of Work' she pretty much just lets the pedals and whammy-bar go and noodles away at her best Thurston Moore meets J. Mascis. Oh yeah, and she's insane live, bada-boom, winner.
All the beauty, honesty and restraint found in this ridiculously strong debut from the promising South London, trio, can do nothing to overshadow that fact that after everything, it's about 40 minutes of songs about fucking. How we do it, how fun it can be, how good it can make you feel, and how terrible -- how far we go for it, what we would do to keep fucking and above all how much being able to, or not, affects our lives. Oh, and it's delivered in a uniquely mesmerizing form of minimalist electronic pop that owes as much to contemporary R&B as it does to dream pop or lo-fi. So basically, the then quartet, crafted the best debut of the year. Trading vocals for most of the albums tracks, lead singers (as well as guitarist and bassist) Romy Croft and Oliver Sim throw biting quips out, presumably at one another, one minute, then shift to loving, confessional whispers the next. At one point bridging the gap between verses of 'Heart Skipped a Beat', with an interchange of "sometimes, I still need you" that's genuinely heartbreaking. The two bounce off each other capably, balancing the ebb and flow of each song, which is important because above all other things what gives 'XX' it's legs is its timing. Maybe it's how long these kids have known each other, maybe they're just innately in tune with one another, but once one drops a beat, the others find the most logical and jarring way to build it. In reality, many artist try to build epic bridges and finales with hordes of instruments to varying degrees of success, these guys nail it with nary more than 2 guitars, a drum machine, sample deck and keyboards. Focusing on the importance of tension, pulling all they can out of the note, or beat, before adding another, or changing tempo. Their "epics" last about 2-4 minutes though, so you're not waiting 20 minutes for the payoff. Making 'XX' an extremely repayable album from a promising new band with a reasonably unique sound in the age where nothing is new.
Brooklyn Avant-garde darlings follow up about 5 years of so-so to subpar originals and one baller ass cover album with what is their first, real(good), proper(not shitty) LP. 'Bitte Orca' continues their high streak of mixing sublime pop rooted in blues and girl groups of the 50s with wall shaking distortion and experimental bombast of modern indie rock. Dave Longstreth's woozy croon mixes perfectly (still) with the serene chorus of his female cohorts, Angel Deradoorian, Amber Coffman and Haley Dekle, who meld together as one epic force of female vocal power. Moving in and out of harmonies with ease, each grabbing a small portion of the needed register and pulling all they fucking can out of it. Most songs involve the lead melody and deeply layered backing vocals, the three work superbly together never outshining the lead singer, but simply adding to the song. All his harmonizing, or at times, frayed, off-harmonies, are balanced out with Longstreth's Jimmi-Paige-like rips at guitar and solid rhythm kept by Brian McOmber(drums) and Nat Baldwin(bass). The album shifts flawlessly between expert track, dropping funk beats, as Dave weaves his way in and out of the groove on guitar (Stillness is the Move) to restrained chamber pop (Two Doves) and blues infused rock anthems(Useful Chamber & Florescent Half Dome). 'Bitte Orca' teeters on the edge of catastrophe, barley balancing it's experimental tendencies with its inclination to just be loved by all. The Projectors seem to have a serious hard-on for the likes of classic Motown, Jazz and modern folk and should they keep moving in this direction, I see only better things from them. Longstreth has figured out how to keep his individuality while still making music people care to listen as well as now understands how to structure songs as opposed to clusterfucks. Thank god for it really, this is a special breed of pop, that shouldn't be missed.
|8||Cymbals Eat Guitars|
Why There Are Mountains
I was handed this album earlier in the year, with a note on it stating 'For you my friend, and all who've sincerely missed the road-trip album'. All I could think was, 'Bitch, 'An Airing of Grievances' came out last year -- but that's beside the point. 'Why There are Mountains' is a brilliant, bombastic, chaotic then serene bit of rock music, that bounces it's way in between walls of distortion, lush horn overtures, moving string bridges and 90s Northwest indie guitar noodling. This also is liable to happen all within one song, and it's all executed superbly. Joseph D'Agostino's exceptional voice can travel from a Jeff Tweedy like everyman croon to an Isaac Brock yelp that could shake the earth and it's really the rock that holds together the (at times) mess of sound that's backing it. Each song presents a rolling movement to itself, giving 'Why There are Mountains' a traveling quality, as it's lyrics take you from the wasted fields of the US plains, to the rolling hills of the Midwest up to the frozen landscape of Northeastern America. They arrange the songs pretty perfectly, each note and overture hitting exactly how it was intended, and stuff just the right amount of bells and whistles(literally) in to get their point across as successfully as possible. 'Why There are Mountains' is an extremely strong debut full of track after track of astonishing indie-rock from a(nother) New York band worth keeping your eye on.
Poor, poor Chris Owens, all he wants is a pizza and a bottle of wine, or a father, maybe some friends, or really a girlfriend, or is it a boyfriend? Whatever he wants, whatever is pushing him, I won't lie, I kinda hope he never finds it. Cause if trying to get there sounds this good, I don't ever want him to succeed. Not to be an ass, but the band's brand of surf-rock by way of The Flaming Lips meets My Bloody Valentine is all gusto and substance, and I hope it continues to be so. Their ties to shitgaze, which ironically, is one of the less shitty off-shoots of noise rock, mean nothing. More structured than peers No Age and with better harmonies than fellow shitgazers Vivian Girls, these San Francisco boys stand atop their pile. Owens may be a little fucked in the head (abandoned by father, born into crazy cult, child run away and homeless at 16), but he'll be goddamned if he'll let it get him down. Presenting an album full of sunshine, redemption, happiness, and guess what, girls, 'Album' practically bleeds California. Songs 'Laura' and 'Lauren Marie' in particular are acid washed surf ballads centered around a past love, 'Headache' is a hazy ode to monogamy by way of the smoky lounge. 'Big Bad Mean Motherfucker' and 'God Damned' are fuzzed out homage's to being young and in the sun. 'Hell Hole Ratrace' and 'Darling' are campfire epics, acoustic strummers that build to life affirming anthems, Owens crying out 'I don't wanna cry/My whole life through/Yeah I wanna do some laughing too; capping off the grand 'downpoint' of 'Album'. Owens Buddy Holly meets David Byrne voice is unique and versatile, successfully playing the part of the surfer dude, folk hero, lounge singer, young rebel and even takes to the air like vapor in 'Morning Light', easily one of the best attempts at sounding like MBV in the past 10 years.
No More Stories
Danish Prog-Rock gurus Mew take a serious crack at dream pop and smash the shit all the way home. With a title so long and progressive, it might as well just have been 1 long word, these dudes are armed to the teeth. 'No More Stories' is bursting with soft melodies, rich phycadelia and great riffs, and then more great riffs, topped with Jonas Bjerre's increasingly angelic voice -- oh, did I mention, riffs. Counting the standout tracks is frivolous, seeing as it's basically an album full to the brim with quality songs, not one is to be missed. From head-trip opener 'New Terrain', and it's warped guitars, flowing around Bjerre's fluxing vocals to the rotating bells and choir like chants of 'Hawaii', all the way to the epically beautiful back-ender 'Sometime Life Isn't Easy', 'No More Stories' is soft and engaging. Mew present an album full of enough weird time signatures, and experimental fluctuation to satisfy any prog-head, as well as enough epic, sugary goodness to pique the interest of the casual listener. Though not aimed at the masses exactly, Mew certainly play 'No More Stories' as an epic force of sound, that would fit well atop a mountain blaring out for all to hear. Really, it wouldn't be half bad if things turned out like that, because if there's one thing we all need, and 'No More Stories' has in more than enough of --is some serious heart.
First hearing 'Chunk of Change', I certainly didn't expect now-Bostonian Michael Angelakos to get his shit together, and turn his anniversary project for his then girlfriend into this seriously awesome collection of electronic indie-rock tracks. 'Manners' is a pop-perfect mix of house, post-punk, and disco -- with Angelakos' dividing(awesome) Brian Wilson-like falsetto, the band bounce, drone and groove behind him through 11 stellar songs. Besides the fact that the songs are all catchy as fuck, filled with banging beats, great bass lines, and epic electronic flourishes, 'Manners' is expertly tracked. Bangers like 'Make Light', 'Little Secrets', Sleepyhead' and 'The Reeling' sit successfully juxtaposed against gorgeous electronic ballads 'Moth's Wings', 'Swimming in the Flood' and 'Seaweed Song' . This setup of tracks gives the album an ease to it, it's simple to settle into, it also causes 'Manners' to outplay it's runtime, sincerely feeling like a journey as opposed to just 40 or so minutes. That ease of listening, plus undeniable catchiness make 'manners' one of the most rewarding sugary sweet pop albums of the year.
|12||Orphans of Cush|
So, I totally called Nick Butler's bluff when I first read his review of 'White Noize' a few weeks back. Citing, in all my wisdom, the release of Roots Manuva's 'Brand New Secondhand' as the arrival of British Hip-Hop. Now regardless of how little success both of these artist have seen on this side of the pond, I bring up both things as a simple bridge to this point. 'Brand New Secondhand' was the best UK originated rap album until now, and everything written in Mr. Butler's review is, ya know, 100% right (duh). His acclamation of 'White Noize' as an album akin to the British '36 Chambers' is pretty much spot on, sharing the same ideals and themes as the Wu classic. Melanin9, Cyrus Malachi, Kyza, and Masikah owe a great debt to the clan, with an obvious heavy influence in their flow(s) and backing beats from the NYC juggernauts. But really, it's just that serious ride on the coat-tails of 36 Chambers, Liquid Swords, Paid in Full and Mezzanine that give the Orphans their sense of "a breath of fresh air". They don't harp on their idols, preferring to intertwined useful bits of their styles together to surround their own personal brand of malice that would give any 'hardcore' MCs a run for their money. Lines painting pictures of a gray urban landscape, full of killers, thieves, dealers, sluts, backsliders, but more importantly, hope. Among London's torrid streets and filthy populous there's still room for 'fixing up' and 'getting off the floor' for a 'proper life' . On title track 'White Noize', the Orphans throw a hook out that questions the uselessness of violent death but returns to defeated heart of the people who suffer it daily. It's this balance of grit and regret that give the Orphans their human feel, and make you want to listen. Not to mention all their flows are sick as hell, but it's really their ability to be intensely honest and personal that pushes 'White Noize' up another level. Few moments in recent hip hop are more jarring than hearing 'They made me ashamed of how I look/ say I have the face of a thousand slaves owned by captain cook/ I heard you say that the powers in the books/ but I find the power's in the powder when it's cooked/ on 'Lost Generation'. A progressive, essential piece of hip hop that's one for the ages.
There really is something magical about the child-like wonder Dan Deacon seems to imbed in every piece of his music, like the dudes got that classic, Christmas special twinkle, in his eye at all times. Something that has paid off for him in full over the course of a few LPs and every single damn live show he's done, the man is a beast and fun as hell. So it seems somewhat fitting that when Dan tries to "humanize" his inherently robotic sound, that 'Bromst' would cause you to dance just as much as it melts your heart. Sacrificing the heavy handedness in the way of serial synths and glitch-like song "structure" for a warmer, more personal form of music, filled with lush sonics, almost landscapes of sound, the album is stuffed full. Deacon taking the time to build the songs, as opposed to 8 minutes of glitchy freak outs, and don't get me wrong, I love them, and they're still here, but there's just really something special to the softness of 'Snookered' or Baltihorse' that you couldn't always find previously with Deacon. 'Bromst' is as good on your headset as it is blasting from the speakers at a party, providing what all great dance albums should, palpable headphone space. The album is chock-full of little Easter eggs, Deacon packing each joyous crescendo full of as much fun as humanly possible and every low (if you could call them that) with enough weight to pull even the highest rider down. A warm, heartfelt, fulfilling and at times touching release from everyone's favorite big kid.
|14||The Pains of Being Pure at Heart|
The Pains of Being Pure at Heart
For a band with one of the most emo names this side of I Would Set Myself On Fire For You, 'The Pains of Being Pure at Heart' is a wispy, whimsical ode to C86, dream pop, fuzz and all their glory. Expertly aping styles from the early indie-pop stalwarts like Primal Scream and The Field Mice, with a little JAMC thrown in, they kind of create their own sound by seemingly mixing together their influences. Some have come down on the quartet harshly because of their lack of innovation, but to be honest, even if it is true, they play that style of music so fucking well. The LP is 10 tracks of extremely catchy, well crafted hazy dream pop that's not afraid to play with the distortion pedals, full of heady pop lyrics depicting lazy love, family tribulations, and even some sex in the library. Lead singer/guitarist Kip Berman works whispery vocal wonders with keyboardist Peggy Wang, the two practically melt into their backing instrumentation. Working their studio 'magic' with an assurance rarely seen by band producing their 3rd or 4th full length, let alone debut. Packed with surf rock melodies, jangly guitar , and bouncy bass lines -- plus Ride-style closer 'Gentle Sons', 'The Pains of Being Pure at Heart' is an easy to swallow, warm to the heart debut from this confident Brooklyn quartet.
|15||Bat For Lashes|
Straight off, from the triumphant start of 'Two Suns', with 'Glass', it's pretty evident that this aint no 'Fur and Gold pt. II' . Natasha Khan comes out the gates swinging, with a fervor scarcely apparent on her debut, and 'Two Suns' is that much better for it. Khans psychadelic -baroque-space rock finds itself situated in a world of medieval-esque kings, queens and heroes, as well as the evils our heroes must conquer. Natasha is as cunning as she is beautiful though, her rooting of the characters and journey in identifiable emotions and themes was a smart move; leaving the concepts to just enhance its backing instrumentation, as opposed to drawing away from the music with too many 'ideas, man'. Leave it to the mythical Khan to essentially create a brilliant, catchy, and at times heartbreaking RPG musical. But her skill for mixing the classical with the current gives all the bated strings, lush horns, and banger dance beats a sense of fantasy, otherworldliness, like two alien worlds meeting for the first time, and realizing they both were honestly meant to be together all along.
Only Built 4 Cuban Linx... Pt II
Easily the best Wu-related release since 'Fishscale' and could damn well give 'Supreme Clientele' a run for its mone, OB4CL2 is a hiphop head's (!me!) wet dream. 'Cuan Linx pt. II' sees Rae take up a legit sequel to his 90s bar setter, the music has cinematic aspirations, and somewhat like 'American Gangster', these blockbuster inclinations reinvigorate their makers. It's almost sad really, that we pretty much had to, save Ghost, trade a decade of average to poor performances on the norm from these guys for the 22 tracks of brilliance here. I mean shit, even Ghost seemed to have used up all his gusto here, later dropping the giant turd that is Ghostini: The Wizard of Poetry. But really that's just it, every single person on this album just seems to be lifted from the shit surrounding them previously. Ghost takes the cake (wtf, 'Gihad'!), but Inspectah Deck, RZA, GZA, Meth and even Rae himself all spit as though they were being told to at gun point, or else. That urgency adds to the top shelf beats from Alchemist, Dilla, Pete Rock and a Rza who's forgotten the past 10 years, and is again seemingly shitting gold. Morose cityscapes filled with grim projects, killers, cops are presented amongst rewind-worthy lines from dudes who seemed to have aged like a fine wine. Please stay this sharp Wu-tang, you can't leave rap alone, the game needs you.
See Mystery Lights
DFA, James Murphy's (of LCD fame) dancey, punky, label comes out with another killer record from some super serial hipsters, and it's pretty much the definitive nerd party record of the past few years. Jona Bechtolt and Claire Evans head up the bands first proper LP as a duo, dropping an, expectantly, beat centric , heavily punk influence dance rock album with a dash of experimentation and a shitload of intelligence, they score. Preferring to hold hands and question to br00taly beating face (don't worry tho, the beats are still br00tal), YACHT take a decidedly open-minded, realist friendly, religion/society questioning stance on the world. Which could seem a bit heavy-handed, but they present themselves sans the pretension by, well, just wanting to party, and keeping that the focus. They pay the most attention to their engaging buildups and electronic freak outs, or the acid washed dub beats, I mean, you won't hear 'See Mystery Lights' playing in any churches, but they certainly don't let the message outweigh the means by which it's conveyed. When you get down to it, 'It's Boring/You Can Live Anywhere You Want', 'I'm in Love With a Ripper', 'Afterlife' and 'Psychic City' are nu-age anthems on an album chock full them. 'See Mystery Lights' is full of great building beats, grand flourishes, awesome electronic breakdowns expertly layered behind deliveries from two of the most interesting voices to arise this year.
|18|| ||Yeah Yeah Yeahs |
Karen O, I love you and have little problem saying it. You and I have been doing this for a long time now, and I'm through. I was 14 when we were first introduced, I still remember first hearing 'Art Star', as you shoved the microphone as far down your throat as you could screaming on that tiny stage at the Living Room in Providence, Rhode Island, horribly fucking up the show. Or was that the superbly drunk Nick Zinner fumbling his guitar? Or Brian Chase leaving for 3 of the last 4 songs to, really, do some blow. God I hate you guys. That was the old you though, and I know that, I accept it. This new, dicso era, syth rock fixation you have now though is honestly quite fitting. Judging by your past lifestyles, it's almost like in age, you're looking back to how it was before for your inspiration. And unlike your other NYC buddies that have tried (The Strokes, Interpol), you didn't totally fuck it up. 'Zero', 'Heads Will Roll', 'Soft Shock' are race line rockers that outplay most of the past few years of dance punk. 'Dull Life', 'Runaway', 'Skeleton' and 'Little Shadow' are soft ballads that rival your best, and 'Hysteric' is easily on par with 'Maps'. Guys, 'Maps', seriously, and 'Dragon Queen' just rocks face. So, please, keep making a totally different record each time, and keep maturing with each release, you're all a far way from those days in the dingy clubs, covered in beer and cocaine. Now, you do the good shit on your tour bus before headlining a festival, but it's ok, I'm not jealous.
Former Goth rockers who's debut was one of the biggest piles of dung to surface from the depths in a long time, return with a fantastic sophomore release, stacked with killer tracks full of skill and promise. 'Primary Colours' sees this British quintet ditch the heavy, morose electro goth-punk wankery for a shoegazer sound any member of the Jesus and Mary Chain or Ride would be proud to call their own. Lead singer Faris Badwan's goofy ass hair is totally acceptable now that he's found power in the supreme tool that is his baritone. Like, as in, any dude other than Paul Banks trying to sound like Ian Curtis, please take your seat, we've no more need for you. The rest of the band is easily on par, crafting a keyboard infused J&MC meats The Cure style of sound that is distinctly shoegaze. But they excel at it, taking the core idea and working in bits of post-rock, britpop, trip hop, surf rock and even a bit of classic do-wop, 'Primary Colours' is an intricate and heady ride. All I can do now it hope they keep this up, oh, and just keep listening to 'Sea Within A Sea'.
My Maudlin Career
Evolving from bookish, Belle and Sebastian wannabes, to do-wop, Motown worshipers and now settling on into a lush, show-stopping barrage of rockabilly melodies, big horns, flowing strings, and well, Tracyanne Campbell, CamObsc are back. The gruff croon of John Henderson is still missed, but Campbell, if nothing else, steps the hell up this album. Where as she got lost in her own soulfully shy moniker on 'Let's Get Out of This Country!'. this time around she's found strength in her voice, and more importantly lyrics. 11 great tracks that move seamlessly into one another, 'My Maudlin Career' betrays it run time flowing together, with nary a clunker to be found. 'French Navy' is a gorgeous romp through a doom relationship, 'Forests and Sands' is a gorgeously hazy, Eagles-esque desert ballad, and big band boomer 'Honey In the Sun' is full of so much charming fun and beauty it damn near just prompts you to play the whole thing over again.
Brooklyn distorted star-punkers return with a follow-up to their epic shoegaze tour-de-force, sophomore release, 'Citrus', with a more gentle affair. Whereas 'Citrus' definitely presented beauty to you, right before you were assaulted with distortion at a Thurston level, 'Hush' looks to show you the prettier side of things. Yuki Chikudate's beautiful, sugary voice is at the forefront here, with production preferring to clean her up, no Citrus-y whispers or the yelps of their debut, and with little to no Japanese this time around as well. It doesn't register as a drawback though, in the long run, her restructuring of her voice is perfect for the music they're creating. 'Hush' is knee deep in Cocteau Twins and Lush, and the newly duo (Yuki and Guitarist/Programmer/Drummer/Workhorse James Hanna), turn out lush (lol) dreamy melodies with expert ease. Album opener 'Layers' sounds like it was a lost track from 'Treasures', while 'Sing Tomorrow's Praise' is a post-punk meets Field Mice alt rocker aimed straight at the G-Man . 'Gliss', it's warped keys and 'Glacially' and it's affection for pedals and slide guitar reek of early pre-Loveless MBV. While album rockers 'Me & Mary' and 'Transparence' are a successful mix of Chapterhouse and The Replacements. Again, Chikudate and Hanna wear their influences proudly, and by adding together their childhood LP collections with a nice twist of their own, and just plain old skill, create a solid, albeit lesser, follow-up and continue their ridiculous high streak.
Peter Silberman and his buddies get all hulled up in Brooklyn and craft a delicate, narrative piece of music that suffice it's cold shell warms your heart. Diverse musicianship, at times, godawfulboring, more often utterly brilliant, coupled with Silberman's well put together tale leave 'Hospice' with a warm feeling despite itself. The lyrics revolved around a man watching his wife die of cancer in front him, and systematically reliving their life together in her final moments. Heavy shit, and The Antlers handle it with care, and respect, giving life to their characters, around their distorted post-rawky guitars, rag time piano, walls of sound and some sweet ass harmonica. Silberman offers up defeated whispers at the start of album standout 'Two'; 'the choirs gonna sing, and this thing is gonna kill you' -- before the acoustic guitar drops back and the keys pick up - a lifetime between these two people breaksdown on the lyrics sheet, it's quite breathtaking. Few moments this year could stand up to when Silberman begins the final lines of 'Daddy was an asshole, he fucked you up' at the end of 'Two' as the song would fade out to jumbled horns, for its sheer sense of emptiness. That really is what is at the heart of 'Hospice', in the end, no matter how joyous the road, there's an end, so take pleasure in the ride.
Wilco (The Album)
Wilco have spent their last like 4 albums trying to make the 'Wilco album that's still a great "Wilco Album" that doesn't sound like Yankee Hotel'. Well, here it is, finally, and it's even called fucking 'Wilco'!
|24||A Place To Bury Strangers|
Coming out the gates last year poised to be labeled the grave diggers of their respected music movement (HaiGuyzShoegaze!) for how much sludge they dumped on their sound, 'A Place to Bury Strangers' was a pedal assault on your ears. And it was friggin awesome. 'Exploding Head' seeing APTBS clean up their sound a bit, and look more towards the likes of Ride, Blur and Joy Division as opposed to JAMC, and it pays off. Whereas their debut still houses their best songs, it's like a 1/2 and 1/2 split between the shit and the sky. Here, it's pretty much all gold. Starting right from rocking opener 'It Is Nothing', to the dizzy frenzy of 'Dead Beat' and 'Exploding Head', they prove they still know how to be successfully loud and fast as fuck while playing styles of music decidedly for the reserved. Big fuzzy epics 'Ego Death', 'Lost Feeling' and closer 'I Live My Life to Stand in the Shadow of You Heart' anchor down the high flying tracks with their meandering buildups and enveloping walls of distortion, giving you a diverse, challenging but infinitely rewards sophomore release.
|25||Various Artists (Indie)|
Dark Was The Night
I HATE COMPS
KNOTTY PINE Iz GUD
After dropping two of the best albums in the history of Rap then promptly disappearing to the world of shitty albums, acting, modeling, and generally being a celebrity, the BK Monsta is back. Mos seemed to seemingly drop bullshit, then pop back here and there on guest spots, or special tracks with enough pure magic to remind us why we granted him so much good grace in the first place, and I mean, dude, 'Blackstar'. Thankfully after years of label disputes and protest releases, Mos Def returns with the 'The Ecstatic', a true follow up to his game changer ,'Black On Both Sides'. Almost sharing a spiritual bond with Cuban Linx Two, if only for the fact that it's two of NYCs finest MCs returning to (a better?) form this year after their classics hit their decade mark and subsequent to years of lackluster follow ups. Whatever reason Mos had for not releasing music up to snuff with what he was capable of is null and void -- now he can. 'Supermagic' is a Bollywood infused banger backed by a baller guitar lick in the beat and Mos' definitive flow. 'The Ecstatic' pretty much sets it's bar there, following with the NeoSoul funk breakdown that is 'Twilite Speedball', to the hand clapper 'Quiet Dog Bite Hard', the electro beats and horns at the end of the world that occupy 'Life In Marvelous Times' and the syrupy stream of 'Pistola', it's all great. Topping off the album, with a verse from 2009's back from the dead rapper, Slick Rick, depicting a grim, war torn world back by a heady deep bass line. 'Auditorium' slays as well. Really all of 'The Ecstatic' slays.
|27||The Juan Maclean|
The Future Will Come
Rhode Island dance punkers and DFA forefathers The Juan Maclean return with a follow up to their lauded debut 'More Than Human', recruit some new band members and adopt a more vibrant sound. It pays off, with 'The Future Will Come' providing track after track of electro-infused disco punk, full of wiry strings, boy/girl vocals, pitch perfect hooks and bouncy synth breakdowns that's are as effective in the headphone space as on the dance floor. Ebb and flow bangers that mix just the right amounts of pop and experimentation that provide a satisfying casual listen as much as a deep seeded dissection of the music.
|28||Do Make Say Think|
|29||The Flaming Lips|
The Lips finish off the decade much like how they finished off last decade, by dropping the best mix of trippy acid rock and phycadelic pop they've produced since 10 years ago. Also I think Robin Smith was dead on with that whole Wayne recording with the giant hands thing. Highfive!
It's almost unfair to have this here, because we all know Lightning Bolt doesn't make 'real' music or whatev-- oh, really? This is their accessible album? Really? The going off on those Doom inclinations the Rhode Island duo has been flirting with for years is considered more accessible? I see. Well then 'Earthly Delights' might just be the epitome of experimental noise rock build for stadiums, with all its grandeur, fuzz out guitars licks, that are, well, catchy as hell. Mid section 'Colossus' , 'the Sublime Freak; and 'Flood Chamber' damn near beg to be raved to, with their crazy time signatures, frantic drumming and muddled vocals. It's easily the most digest able the duo's been, but they do it by simply making good songs, not trying to play to a crowd, or adopt a successful style, it's still Lightning Bolt, just, different.
|31|| ||Animal Collective|
Fall Be Kind EP
OMFG It's an Animal Collective EP released in the wake of an album that's not just 1 worthwhile song! In fact it could easily just be an extension of that album's brilliance. Nice.
Ayrton Seena EP
Barcelona dance DJs drop a collection of 5 (really 4 and 1 remix) of the warmest, trippy and downright fun 'techno' songs seen this year on their stellar EP. Incorporating reverbing strings, luxuriant horns, sugary synth lines and bass so warm it could heat your town. Delorean swing their way in between their hushed female swoons, uplifting keyboard fills and trance pacing with a sense of swagger and a James Murphy meets Mick Jagger voice that seems like it was made for electronic music.
UGK 4 Life
Ironically fitting that it wouldn't be bullets, drugs or even prison that would finally get Pimp C, but the syzurp itself. Even though the man will be missed dearly, with this album, few others, even their Houston counterparts, can attest to being as consistent as Bun B and the Pimp, and UGK 4 Life is the nail in that coffin. After 2007s double disc magnum opus with enough quality shit on it to make it easy to forget those years Pimp C spent in jail, much was expected out of them, as proven Vets hitting their stride once more. 'Still On The Grind', 'The Pimp & The Bun (Here We Go Again)' & 'Da Game Been Good to Me' are Southern friend bangers that could stack up to any of their best. 'Hard as Hell' (ironically) and 'She Luv It' are soft soulful cuts with a less than touching underlying meaning (Boners & gettin' some, respectively), and even a little bit of the usual protest rap with 'Purse Come First'. The song seeing Bun B with one of his most inspired verses, outreaching to an America more concerned with how we praise Jesus than where our money is going and who our bullets are killing. Admitting to playing the fool himself -- They played me too/Shit, I paid taxes; as always UGK giving us a little heartfelt personality along with the money, hoes, and bling. However mixed it may be, and it is 16 tracks at 58 minutes that could have been sequenced better, 'UGK 4 Life' is a fitting send off and a goddamn good hiphop album, from two dudes who've proved why Houston still is their city.
Everyone's favorite Canadian folksy woman of the wilds is back, still gorgeous, and still armed with that Stevie Nicks like voice that probably couldn't even stop itself from rocketing into the stratosphere. Whereas before, Neko seemed to have a problem pulling herself out from the shadows of her heroes, (Patti, Stevie, Janis, Bob & John to name a few), settling for imitation to innovation. 'Middle Cyclone' sees her take those bits of profuse brilliance apparent on many of her previous recordings and turns out an album full of it. Fleshing out her folk songs, adding layers, shying away from lyrical clich?s, preferring honesty over marketability, she fully delivers on all those amazing New Porno performances. Not to say she hasn't been churning out quality these past years, just that, until 'Middle Cyclone', she hadn't found her true voice, and now she relishes in it. The album is anchored in Case's strong persona, and biting lyrics , and she is, above all else, as she puts it, a 'Man Eater', but 'Middle Cyclone' doesn't skip the pop or the folk whimsy. Expertly mixing it's downturns with emphatic overtures and choruses, giving Case's strong lyrics a feminine quality, a softness that balances her natural gruff. Also, did I mention she's still hot as hell?
It's a new Sonic Youth album, and guess what it doesn't suck. On par with the likes of their other 'naughts releases, 'The Eternal' is another skewed, grimy, distorted trip through the heads of these 4 amazing musicians with enough clever lyrics and killer guitar licks to continue their argument for 'coolest grandparents ever'. And 'Anti-Orgasm' is the shit.
lewis perry pls.
it's also one of the most diverse and intricate pieces of punky bedroom avant-pop that's catchy while still retaining its sense of singularity and purpose, from a group of musicians worth keeping an eye on.
Bonfires on the Heath
Basically it's just 'God Save The Clientele', but a lot better.
Bradford Cox steps back into the maelstrom with his side project, but fleshes it out a bit more this time around. Don't get me wrong, 'Let The Blind...' had its moments, but 'Logos' says bye-bye to it's boring sound-scapes and bland song crafting for a beautiful mix of ambient post pop, a little freak folk, dream pop and good old classic psycadelia. Employing some friends here and there (Panda!) Bradford meshes with his counterparts serenely, with the albums two best tracks ('Walkabout' & 'Quick Canal'), being the two with guests appearing. But Cox is still pretty great all on his lonesome, Ziggy Era Bowie head trip 'Attic Lights', Kraut Rock ballad 'Kid Klimax', beautiful ambient opener 'The Light That Failed' and post-punk w/ synths closer 'Logos' all prove Cox has chops beyond his collaborators and other band. 'Logos' is a great follow up and a worthy release from a 'side-project' proving it's worth as a separate act.
Danny Boeckner and his wifey Alexei Perry drop their second album as The Handsome Furs, and like the aforementioned album 'Logos', basically shit all over their debut making an album full of chops and poise that outplays some of their 'other bands' songs. Face Control reeks of post punk, krautrock and even a bit of the E Street Shuffle, but Boeckner's growingly prolific writing and deeper, richer, Bowie meets Black Francis howl is where the magic lies. Honestly their instrumentation is great, and Perry's drum machine fills and keys and synths, all superb, they balance different styles successfully, make catchy, yet challenging tunes, but in the end it's all about Dan's riff and what he's singing. But it's all gravy, they mix the appeal in the instrumentation with the painted metaphors of blasted cities, urban waste, and a detrimental society under constant surveillance. But like, the dude at the center of the story revels in it, so it's fun as hell.
jj n 2
So, check it, seriously, the cover for this album is a visual representation of the music itself. A faded blue pot leaf, juxtaposed against a dreary white background, splattered with blood. First, the background, white, desolate, bright, warm, clinical, yet inviting, visible. The mary jane leaf, blue to represent the cold air the predominantly inviting and warm music has underling it. Amongst its beautiful horns, delicate strings and sunny disposition are lyrics depicting hope, struggle, love lost, and an understanding with death(No matter how lol they may be sometimes). Plus it's definitely better when you're hiiiigh. Finally the blood, which symbolizes menstrual blood, and it's splattered over everything else, the white background, and dark weed, emphasizing the strong feminine presence the music has in it innately. Not to mention the Swedish beast delicately providing the serene female vocals behind it. 'jj n 2' is like a sunny day with a band playing soft strings, sweet horns, a few African drums and some sultry synth lines behind you while a woman sings gorgeously in your ear. Also 'Ecstasy' is the best song about doing E in Miami ever -- ever.
|41||The Big Pink|
A Brief History of Love
Another in a great year for nu-gaze, 'A Brief History of Love' is a JAMC meets Slowdive opus concerning love from that time it's just a inkling in the back of your head, to a full blown game all the way to a life affirming experience. They do it pretty f'in well too. Handling the early years with more gusto, the starting four tracks are easily the best on the album. Opener 'Crystal Visions' builds from its humble rumble of keys to a fuzzy epic culminating in a journeys end at a land with '200 naked pure gold girls'. 'Too Young to Love' is a well, a hazy Britpop diddy about forgoing feelings insight of good old ugly bumping. Album standout 'Dominos', with its brazen chorus, killer syths and deep hitting drum line, tops their hedonistic peak, as we all do, at 15. 'Love In Vain' is a sultry surf ballad situating itself in that rare space in time where you try to convince someone they love you, to no avail. Opening up that moment, the initial break, the first fall out with love. That morose outlook keeps up the mid section of the album with its dark ballads until 'Golden Pendulum' starts off its more assured, joyous closing. I mention this because, regardless of how clich?d it may sound, they actually handle the concept with class and make it an appealing factor. The Big Pink drop and LP full of fuzzy, booming, sunny yet skuzzed out electro-rockers and haunting, beautiful ballads, about, well, love. Just, they aren't afraid to examine it under the bright light, and it pays off on 'A Brief History of Love'.
|42|| ||Modest Mouse|
No One's First And You're Next EP
MM complied an EP of songs from the 'Good News' and 'We Were Dead' recording sessions, and it on a whole sounds exactly like really good b-sides from those 2 albums. Think about how much you like those LPs, then judge accordingly.
|43||The Low Anthem|
Oh My God, Charlie Darwin
RI Folksters drop a fun, sweet, and thoughtful debut full of acoustic twangs, soft trumpets, and a bevy of bells of whistles.
|44|| ||Charlotte Hatherly|
Edgar Wright's ex-main squeeze turns out another album of intelligent blues infused psycadelic pop tunes with a singer-songwriter's pen and a monster of a voice. Hatherley's vocals range from cute, to sinister, to sultry straight to downright frightening, effectively holding down the upward bound instrumentals enveloping her.
|45||The Pains of Being Pure at Heart|
Higher Than the Stars EP
Jay Stay Paid
Rainwater Cassette Exchange EP
More hazy rock from my favorite 5 Atlanta hipsters.
Emily & Co. drop a decent follow up to their best album yet. 'Gold Gun Girls', 'Twilight Galaxy' and 'Collect Call' are standouts on the Canadian rock groups satisfying stadium-inclined, 4th proper out at it.
|49|| ||Major Lazer|
Guns Dont Kill People...Lazers Do
WTF Diplo, I love this.
Easily the weakest of their albums, but the French pop auteurs still have enough great shit lying around to throw together a really good, albeit at times forgettable, album.
|51|| ||The Doves|
Kingdom of Rust
title track is so goooooddddd
I love E.
this dude is so punk rawk
|54|| ||Sunset Rubdown|
lol, Spencer Krug
Underwhelming, but can't deny the good songs.
Fuck Your Emotional Bullshit
I like screaming! D:
|58||God Help the Girl|
God Help the Girl
Stuart Murdoch is my hero.
|59|| ||Rick Ross|
Deeper Than Rap
Where the fuck does this dude get off dropping this album? After two of the biggest shit heaps of the past decade, Miami's idiotically prolific Boss, Rick Ross, abruptly turns coat, points a finger towards his city, and somehow -- FINDS INSPIRATION. Basically the best unabashedly mainstream hiphop album this yurr I think, at least my favorite, and a nice surprise.
...In Shallow Seas We Sail
|fuck CD art -- I'm done with this|
|yar not a big 'Post-Nothing' fan. |
|40 surprised me |
|awesome list, obvie a lot of time put into this|
|damn, this must have taken forever. good list, i've never heard of 1 though haha. 2, 3, and 8 are some of my favorites from this list. |
|just went through this list again and had to change my pants|
|hahaha ^ |
|Some questionable choices but nothing you don't explain well. woo micachu|
|I will take that as a compliment Lewis and there's nothing you can do about it. |
|52, 56: nice.|
57: not so much...
|Hehehe, I love how the description of 40 and how there is no artwork. It may me chuckle out loud. Some great albums that I need to check out/diverse more time into.|
|tl;dr but i'm sure it was awesome|
|^ what? speak less dinosaur. |
|looool i read it now and i think i need to get 1|
|^ good plan. :D|
|what the hell, how did i miss this list.|
hits all my sweet spots.
|Greaaaat list! I feel like Micachu, Mos Def and Metric were all very overlooked this past year.|