It was a great year for music if you know where to look this year. A couple of artists especially put out some truly groundbreaking albums to break the monotony of most of what you hear on the radio. So, without further adieu, my top ten of the year...
Feist has blown up this year, mostly due to her hit 1234, but this album shows she should be around for a while. Introspective, but mostly playful and optimistic, she has crafted a fine folk rock album. Leslie also possesses the strongest female voice in rock right now, just check out "The Park" if you don't believe me. Past in Present and I Feel it All are other highlights. Would've rated higher for me, except sometimes it just makes me want to listen to Broken Social Scene.
Band of Horses follow their amazing debut with Cease to Begin, a more spotty record, but still a great listen. It starts strong with the crashing guitars of Is There a Ghost and Ode to LRC. Like some of the album, the latter borders on cheese with it's "the world is such a wonderful place" line, but somehow Ben Bridwell sounds sincere enough to pull it off. There are a couple of clunkers like No One's Going to Love You, but enough good stuff to balance it out.
After last year's dissappointing and samey Lullabyes to Paralyze, Josh Homme is back to rocking our faces off like only he can. This album is loose and fun throughout, starting with the opening riff of Turning on The Screw. Make it Wit U and 3's and 7's are also highlights
Damon Albarn returns with a(nother) supergroup and yet a different style. Combining the rhythms of Femi Kuti, the ska and punk of the Clash, and the guitarscapes of the Verve, The Good the Bad and the Queen make a diverse album that takes you for a ride. Mellow at times, to the rush of the ending title song, Albarn sounds like he's having fun with some of his friends despite the album's intense and dark overtones. Hopefully not a one off
Mostly your typical Spoon album, but that's not a bad thing by any means. GaGaGaGaGa is not as good as Gimme Fiction, but then, not much is. What sets this album apart is the things you don't normally hear Spoon do. They jam out in Don't Make Me a Target and add horns throughout. Not all the experiments work (Ghost of you Lingers is a headscrather) but it's nonetheless good to hear Spoon flesh it out a little.
Set Yourself On Fire was a minor masterpiece for Stars and In Our Bedroom After the War follows up on that promise. For the most part they play beautifully psychadelic "chamber pop" but check out Bitches in Tokyo or Take me to the Riots where they show they're not afraid to rock out. Stars are labelled as cheesy because of their sincerety sometimes, but that's unfair. I'd much rather listen to a sincere band any day of the week than some lame hipster wearing a powered by puppy kisses shirt or some shit like that talking about how awesome they are. Get this album
I have a feeling that 5 years ago I might have thought this album was pretty lame. Listening to it now, though, I feel like it kind of speaks to me. Sometimes there's nothing better than sitting around with a bottle of wine, some takeout and "staying inside til someone finds us." Or how I felt "mistaken for strangers" the first time my friends saw me "showered and blue blazered." Oh, and there's the music too. Matt Berninger's voice is the centerpiece to the arrangements, and his soft baritone carries the songs well. The drums thunder throughout and in songs like Apartment Song and Slow Show the guitars cut through when they need to. I really would love to hear these guys with Daniel Lanois at the board, that would be unbelieveable.
The theme for my top three albums is that the artists are turly originals on top of their game right now. If you have seen Andrew Bird, you know there is absolutely no one like him. Combining a restless sense of adventure with virtuosic chops and a strong songwriting sense, Bird has made his best and most diverse album yet. Guitar percussion, which took more of a backseat on his previous albums, push their way to the front now. Check out Firey Crash and Dark Matter for the guitar, and Simple X for the influence of Martin Dosh and the percussion. It's rare that you get an artist with so much ability that can also right a great song. Get this record enjoy a truly special artist.
Any other year, this album is #1 hands down, but #2 is still pretty good, right? Neon Bible is much darker than Funeral this album is also much more dense. Whereas Funeral felt like Win and Regine's songs with a lot of musicians filling in their parts, Neon Bible sounds like a full 11 person band filling every bit of space avaliable. What I've always loved about Arcade Fire are the little things. Check out the random Whoa-ohs in Keep the Car Running or how the background in the chorus of Intervention goes from xylophone to a full on choir of voices. There's so many goosebump moments here that it would be impossible to name them all. What a great album.
So I was driving to see my Mom last week. Kala was on and I got to thinking about my list for this year when all of a sudden I kind of freaked out. Kala made every record I was thinking about sound boring. You just don't hear creativity like this anymore, especially in hip hop. While we were calling Kanye a genius for taking old soul hits and making them new hits (imagine that) and giving the Shop Boys airplay at all (they are the most abysmal group...ever), MIA toured the world and came back with the most sonically audacious and diverse album in a decade. Check out the beat in Bird Flu or how the chorus of Hustle sounds like an air horn. Kala is a call taction, not just more half baked tales of rapper's gangster fantasies, but tales of people around the world. "You think it's tough now? You should come to Africa." It's commendable to MIA for "putting people on the map who never seen a map." In a world where the common denominator is status quo, it's refreshing to hear an album as unique and genius as Kala.
Song of the year:
Mastadon: "Cut You Up With a Linoleum Knife" The opening scene of the Aqua Teen Hunger Force Movie where the metalhead food items sing this song to the old school concession items is probably the funniest thing I've seen...ever