So finally I’m at the end of my lists that have explained my lack of constant posting in the past month. We’re in for a ride.
1. LCD Soundsystem – This Is Happening
Five years would seem like an insignificant amount of time in any other industry but music. Since their self-titled release in 2005, LCD Soundsystem have released two more albums, the final being this year’s This Is Happening. He dives into some really intense influences: Brian Eno, David Bowie, ‘80s dance music. It’s really wonderful stuff, with repetitive but passionate synth-lines, almost shredding guitar work and James Murphy’s infamous croon. Lyrics, like those from “I Can Change,” frolic around self-depreciation, desire, lust and regret, all in the same song. It starts with the mantra “Never change, never change, never change, never change/This is why I fell in love” that eventually evolves into “I can change, I can change, I can change, I can change/If it helps you fall in love.” It may seem simple lyrically, but you can certainly tell where the songwriting’s coming from.
2. Future Islands – In Evening Air
What would anything Fresh Heirs related be without some Future Islands in the mix? Wonderful synthesizer riffs and electronic drums that sound straight out the ‘80s, with passionate bass playing cover lead-singer Sam Herring’s almost Tom Waits-esque growl, with lyrics teeming with sadness and heartbreak. But inside that sadness is something of hope.
3. Deerhunter – Halcyon Digest
Deerhunter finally completed their sound on Halcyon Digest by doing something most bands fail to realize: Stick with the sounds you’ve made all along. Front-man Bradford Cox took elements from his beloved Atlas Sound solo project, all the while keeping that traditional raw Deerhunter sound. Not to say they didn’t keep it experimental (what would the band be without it), but overall it’s their most solid effort to date.
4. Beach House – Teen Dream
Bands that have a great sound should keep their sound, and that’s exactly what Beach House did on their third LP. With wonderful “makeout jams” (via their Facebook genre) like “Norway” and “Walk in the Park” they seemed to have honed their sound to something great. With a haunting church-like organ and a harsh singing from Victoria Legrand, they’ve created a genre best described as “dream-pop.”
5. Sufjan Stevens – Age of Adz
It had been five years since the eccentric banjo playing singer-songwriter Sufjan Stevens released his album Illinois, the second part in his attempt to create an album for each state. He has since abandoned the overly ambitious project, but has returned, dropping the banjo and songs about locations, adding synthesizers, deep drum beats and lyrics concerned more with his own state of mind.
6. Avey Tare – Down There
Even though Animal Collective, possibly the poster group for independent music took 2010 off, the solo members of the band certainly picked up some of the slack, the most notable of which came from David Portner, also known as Avey Tare. His solo album Down There reflects on some incredibly personal topics, while managing to create this sort of swamp-like imagery, combining dubstep, electronic and folk influences.
7. Gil Scott-Heron – I’m New Here
He’s certainly not new here. During Gil Scott-Heron’s 16 years between albums, he’s certainly been missed. Spending most the aughts in and out of prison on drug charges, he remained silent until this year, releasing I’m New Here. He sounds even more bitter then the poet of the ‘70s, lamenting about the death of the American Dream. His voice, even more gravelly, and instrumentally, it has evolved into something great, like on the titular track.
8. Toro Y Moi – Causers of This
Chillwave: the greatest internet invention of all time. Seriously, I can’t think of a more fun genre ever created, and on the debut record by South Carolina’s second musical son (Erney Greene y’all) he made an incredibly fun sound. Lathered with samples and R&B drum sets, it captured the essence of summer, and still continues to do so even as we advance into the ever so bitter Maryland winter up here.
9. Twin Shadow – Forget
Heartbreak, loneliness, despair, and awesome ‘80s synth pop outline the makings of this wonderful album, with excellent production by Chris Taylor of Grizzly Bear making the album is more high fidelity then most other “related” albums of the year. The instruments sound clean and crisp, but where it really comes through is on the drum beats. The snares are right on line with the hi-hats and etc.
10. Titus Andronicus – The Monitor
The only real analogy I can think of with this wonderful album is a punk version of “In the Aeroplane Over the Sea.” With its basis on the Civil War, and references to Bruce Springsteen and Abraham Lincoln, the album ends up being a more personal battle than an external one. The guitar is simply thrashy, the lyrics have this “fuck it all” sort of attitude and the constant feeling of distress, make the album one of my favorite of the early part of the year.
11. Vampire Weekend – Contra
I’m really glad that Vampire Weekend didn’t include any songs with the titles of locations in affluent Massachusetts. I feel like that would’ve gotten old. But this album is a solid improvement on the last one, with a greater range of sounds and dynamics.
12. Brian Eno – Small Craft on a Milk Sea
Brian Eno and ambience go hand-in-hand, but on this he adds certain elements of the krautrock scene he was involved with in the ’70s. Not to mention, he’s being influenced by the artists he influenced on Warp.
13. Prince Rama – Shadow Temple
I could’ve put them on solely for their live act, but hearing the album a few times this year, and it’s a wonderful grower, with Indian mantras and chants taking a forefront to a wonderful drone.
14. Daniel Higgs – Say God
“It’s like every word he says is the right word” – Ross Miller on Daniel Higgs. His spoken word ideas and heavenly ambience is wonderful.
15. The Walkmen – Lisbon
I first heard “Stranded” on an NPR podcast and it reminded me of like, a World War II England sort of thing. I don’t even know if that makes sense, but it’s a really good album. This was my first exposure to the band, and I’ll probably end up getting a lot of their previous efforts. That’s usually a good indicator.
16. MGMT – Congratulations
Everyone’s gonna hate me for this one, but there’s something charming about all of the songs of this album. It’s incredibly listenable, especially with its shout outs to Dan Tracey and Brian Eno.
17. The National – High Violet
The National are the band that got me into like. Music. So I’m sort of eternally grateful to them. I just love the miserable sound that comes from them, which sounds terrible, but it just fits with the vocals entirely.
18. Lower Dens – Twin Hand Movement
Fell in love with these guys at the re-located Sonar part of Whartscape. It’s filled with so many tones and emotions on it. It’s the sort of band I wish the xx were.
19. Wild Nothing – Gemini
A band I knew relatively nothing about before seeing them open for Neon Indian in June, but have worked their way into my heavily played jams. It has the aesthetic of the bedroom project, without the sound.
20. Beach Fossils – Beach Fossils
If there was one piece of imagery we grew incredibly familiar with this year, it was the beach. With dozens of bands trying to capture this sort of lo-fi, washed out sound, Beach Fossils seemed to be at the forefront of it with their premier self-titled effort.
21. SOARS – SOARS
22. Dum Dum Girls – I Will Be
23. Yeasayer – Odd Blood
24. Sleigh Bells – Treats
25. The Drums – The Drums