Archive for December, 2009
The venue of choice – as it has always been on New Year’s Eve – is New York City. ‘New York, I love you,’ but found below are just a few reasons why ‘you are bringing me down’.
Cheer: The hottest new band from Boston will relocate to the Lower East Side of Manhattan for the celebration of the new year. You can expect to see Passion Pit at the Pianos. Jeer: But if you haven’t already heard of these guys, visiting this venue may not be the best way to start since it’s only a DJ set. Way to bring me down NYC. So to begin, here is one of my favorite live performances by Passion Pit.
Cheer: This is where new bands spring out from Brooklyn like May flowers and kids in Columbia dorm rooms listen to Cymbals Eat Guitars before Pitchfork does. A comical look at just how music savvy NYC is appears below. Jeer: But Chicago may be stepping it up and offering a superior New Year’s Eve lineup to NYC’s.
Cheer: Yours truly is sunbathing in Costa Rica. Jeer: So will not be watching the ball drop from its residing location, or even from the same time zone.
Wherever you may find yourself, happy New Year! We’ll be in touch in 2010. Cheers.
#10 Wye Oak: The Knot
The award winning drama
The Knot places you in various vignettes of emotional experiences. “Take It In” brings you to a place of heartbreak laden with isolation and longing. “Sight, Flight” takes you to the monotony of everyday life filled with despair and claustrophobia. By the end of the album I’m emotionally exhausted. But Wye Oak has succeeded in making every scene so grippingly beautiful that by the end of the album I also want to revisit heartbreak over and over again.
#9 Royksopp: Junior
The feel good music
Imagine living your life set in the “Brave New World” riding on Dopamine enhancing drugs. You’re just sweating happiness in the sun. I think that’s the spirit of the album Junior – it’s supposed to put you in that happy, surreal place. Fortunately, the release of this album’s counterpart, Senior, was delayed till 2010. Otherwise we may have had to put Royksopp on the list twice.
#8 The Dead Weather: Horehound
A really good fit
Horehound is a really fun album. Jack White assembled a super group with an ensemble that would suggest they’ve been around for years. I feel like this is the band that Jack White was always meant to be in. The only thing that could make The Dead Weather an even better fit for White, is if it existed in a world run by Clint Eastwood and western movies.
#7 Wilco: Wilco (The Album)
The introspective self-reflexive album
Wilco’s Wilco (The Album) begins with Wilco the song. Listening to this album over and over I began to realize that it embodied Wilco the artist and all of their creations from the other albums. For example, when I heard “One Wing”, it sounded so familiar I was sure they had taken it from one of their other albums.
This familiarity is not a bad thing. It means that when I listen to this album I hear beautifully written music, excellent lyrics and amazing skill that Wilco can clearly create over and over. Wilco impressively recreated themselves and everything they have ever stood for musically in one album.
#6 Discovery: LP
Because you can’t always take yourself too seriously
Discovery’s LP has been called ‘appalling‘ by some – but I think they completely missed the point. This album is a parody; it’s Indie’s parody of contemporary R&B. I mean the lead guys from Vampire Weekend and Ra Ra Riot created the freaking band!
Take their version of The Jackson 5’s “I Want You Back”. Their atrocious twist on it can only be a satire of their own exuberance. Similarly songs like, “I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend” and “It’s Not My Fault” are ridiculously heavy on the handclaps and synths; heavy enough that they scream humorous sarcasm. I mean, Discovery sings about ‘Never lookin when you type T9’ and ‘Googl[ing] yourself when you get home.’ Come on, that’s hilarious.
For some quality songs listen to “So Insane” and “Osaka Loop Line”.
#5 The XX: XX
So subtle that it gets better with every listen
One particular reviewer originally gave this album a pretty insufficient rating. A commenter then complained: ‘“For what it’s worth I think you have confused ‘apathy’ with restraint, (a rare thing in music these days).” And I’ll stop right there.
# 4 Phoenix: Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix
A few French guys paving a better road for the American auto industry – at least for Cadillacs
Cadillac commercials have featured great songs since their breakthrough commercial with Zeppelin’s “Rock and Roll”. This year, GM decided that “1901″ was captivating enough to represent Cadillac.
I agree that “1901″ like other songs on the Phoenix album are catchy and so refreshing that they don’t get old. This album stands out because it’s that attractive 80s sound, without the cheese and without sounding obsolete.
What made me fall in love with Wolfgang even more is that these guys sure can perform this album live. In a recent video of them playing on the streets of Paris, it’s impressive to hear Thomas Mars make the switch from his native, nasal French to his crisp, yet adolescent English vocals. As the four of them stand in front of the Eiffel Tower strumming away “1901″, the piece transforms from being an image of a sleek Cadillac to a light-hearted summer in the sun.
#3 The Antlers: Hospice
Using the album as a medium on which to create a story
The album, Hospice, tells a story about losing a loved one to cancer. However, this is no Nicholas Sparks novel. In “Kettering”, Silberman’s chilling voice bleeds onto the page to begin the story in a sincere tone. The blend of his voice and the instruments play like a musical rendition of one’s thoughts during a time of tragedy. A mix of major tonality with somber songs implies hope and despair. He makes it a very real experience.
This album reminds us that owning every song on an album and playing it straight through without skipping tracks is a rare accomplishment. With a playlist culture and the ability to download one song at a time, the format of the album has become less important. Yet, The Antlers once again gave it a purpose – they used it to create a story, where playing the album through is like turning the pages of a good book. That is why they are in the top ten albums of 2009.
The other impressive thing about The Antlers is that the lead singer, Peter Silberman, single handedly wrote the music and then self-released the album. It picked up speed online and is now one of the most highly rated albums of 2009.
#2 Animal Collective: Merriweather Post Pavilion
For their ingenuity – weird music turned user friendly
Animal Collective was over the top bizarre. But, I have to give Merriweather Post Pavilion serious credit for being a balance of Animal Collective’s inclination to experiment to the extreme and music grounded in tradition. The result is a clusterfuck of sounds that makes really sweet, new music.
I gave into Animal Collective, not because of Pitchfork’s incessant raving about them, but because my 13 year old brother posted a link to “My Girls” on my facebook wall. He said something like, ‘I thought this might be your techno/dance style.’ And although that is not at all an accurate description of the song, it did motivate me to click on the link. Then I played it on repeat for the next half hour.
This album gets the number two spot because it’s as if Animal Collective invented a new color. Their album sounds like something I could never imagine or compare to anything I’ve heard before. And when I listen to a song like “Bluish”, I don’t even know what I’m listening to (in one of their songs the drum beat is composed of sped up words), but at the same time, I love it. It’s a brand new sensory experience.
Great songs to start with on this album are “In the Flowers”, “My Girls” and “Bluish” – also check out the 2009 EP because it almost made this list.
#1 Grizzly Bear: Veckatimest
Because pure talent and unmatched perfectionism ought to be rewarded
I like to think of Veckatimest as Grizzly Bear dressed up in a good suit and encased in awesome album cover artwork. Because for me, Grizzly Bear is still what stands naked under the suit and cover: pure talent and unmatched perfectionism.
I first saw Grizzly Bear live when they were naked indeed – without an image or a large following. However, those of us watching them were stunned by Ed Droste’s and Dan Rossen’s angelic voices, and the flawless four part harmonies created when every member joined in to sing. This is one of those rare bands where every single member has an extraordinary voice. I have to reveal that the high pitched, synthy sound that shrieks in the background of “Knife” is actually produced by the bassist’s bare voice.
Thus, this album is a continuation of that same precision and talent; in fact, think of it as a perfect man in a well-fitted suit. Don Draper comes to mind.
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