June 26, 2010

Albums we like

Wherein Mark and Jack attempt to catalog the new albums we've listened to this year. We'll try and keep it simple. It's not really a "best of" list, more of a "things we just really like this year" list. Also note that if one of us lists something and not the other, it's probabaly because the other hasn't listened to it much yet. (But intends to.)

Feel free to tell us about/ berate us for any records we missed in the comments section.

the National - High Violet There's no "Mistaken for Strangers" or "Abel" to give it an adrenaline shot. But High Violet has such an amazing sense of mood and sound and so perfectly uses Matt Berninger's (ever improving) baritone to sing their best lyrics yet that it is better off staying at a slow pace. It's subtle but not boring. "Buzzbuzz Ohio"

the Tallest Man on Earth - the Wild Hunt The latest "early Dylan," or so they tell me. Quotable legend-building lyrics like "Rumor has it that I wasn't born / I just walked in one frosty morn / into the vision of some vacant mind." "King of Spain"

Vampire Weekend - Contra A healthy middle finger to the haters, a second serving of Ivy League, superficially-cosmopolitan pop to the fans. "Run"

Sleigh Bells - Treats All swagger. Think M.I.A., Ratatat, Santigold, Fuck Buttons. Music so loud, driving, filled with hooks. Voice a little cutesy. Clocks in at 32 minutes–five more would be too much, but at half an hour it's perfect. "Crown on the Ground"

Local Natives - Gorilla Manor It is trendy, bordering on "if you like the Dodos, Fleet Foxes, Grizzly Bear, and My Morning Jacket, try," except I really like the album. It hasn't gotten old. "Airplanes"

Hot Chip - One Life Stand There's no musician I can think of offhand that crafts songs so precise, so emotional and yet so flippant. I think they know exactly what they're doing, though: Take a listen to "I Feel Better". Perfectly crafted, but not exactly "hip" (autotune doesn't have much hipster cred). One wonders how firmly their tongues are lodged in their cheeks. At the same time, though, there's a level of sincerity one doesn't find in more jokey electronic indie bands these days.

LCD Soundsystem - This Is Happening
3:06. That's how long it takes This Is Happening to begin in earnest it's also the moment I was hooked to this album start to end. You can hear it developing from a mile away, and when that release comes in the form of a huge drumbreak and dirty synth keys, it's cathartic. Every song, save "Dunk Girls," my least favorite on the album, has a similar buildup-release-cooldown. I heard this was Murphy's last LCD album. If that's the case, he picked a great note on which to end.

Titus Andronicus - The Monitor They might be extending the Civil War/ end of relationship metaphor a bit farther than necessary. Nice idea though. Besides, Ian Graetzer has a fantastic "Jeff Tweedy/ Craig Finn/ guy from the Constantines" type voice where he half sings/ half yells verbose things over Thermals punk chords. The part in "A More Perfect Union" where he yells "No, I never wanted to change the world, but I'm looking for a new New Jersey/ Because tramps like us, baby, we were born to die!" and that solo begins... I kind of want to kick someone's ass. Elsewhere, a few songs sound like a more intelligent Rancid, some like The Walkmen, and others a bit like Neutral Milk Hotel. In other words, this band was made for you and me.

Black Keys - Brothers This album is really long. Longer than it needs to be, maybe, at 15 songs. But the fact remains that the first three and last three tracks are some of the most ambitious out good 'ole Keys have ever attempted. More falsetto, please!

Caribou - Swim I still don't know what to make of this album, but I like the fact that whenever I listen to it I feel like I'm wandering aimless in the Canadian hinterland.

Broken Social Scene - Forgiveness Rock Record
Mark: This album brings up all sorts of good associations for me stretching back to high school. The opener suggests U2, "Meet Me in the Basement" sounds like a Bradford Cox collaboration, "Sentimental X's" has a Postal Service feel, and the album closes with a distinct M. Ward flair. A handful of moments on this album even remind me of Juny (seriously, listen to the opening lead guitar in "World Sick" or the synth on the chorus of "Texico Bitches").
Jack: I have nothing to add aside from my already-stated affinity for "Chase Scene". A great album-lover's album.

Beach House - Teen Dream
Mark: Tony says their sound "seems to speak to 'these days,'" and I'd say that's about right. Dan M. says "Zebra" makes him think of the civil war, which I don't quite understand, but I don't think it's bullshit. I suppose I'd say that Beach House has a foot in some trends without sounding trendy. Or to put it as pithily as possible, Beach House is of the moment but not ephemeral.
Jack: I think this is one we disagree about. (If I correctly understand him.) I love this record. It's like My Bloody Valentine on quaaludes (maybe it's the fact that you can't always tell which voice is singing and which is singing background... their voices meld so well together). At any rate, it gives me a bit of a tingle inside whenever I hear the weird buzz of "Silver Soul". I just want to hear it again.

Gorillaz - Plastic Beach
Mark: Chill, electronic hip-hop. Imagine TV on the Radio relaxing by a pool (or a beach! a plastic one!) with a margarita, only they're talking about the end of the world.
Jack: Musically, it's invigorating: The Snoop Dogg song after the intro, with its G-funk bass, signals greatness that follows on every track of the album. Highlights include "Sweepstakes" (Mos Def), "Some Kind of Nature" (Lou Reed) and "Rhinestone Eyes" (Damon Albarn all by his lonesome). But all purely musical considerations aside— thematically, that is— it's a pretty stunning concept album. I'd venture that Plastic Beach is going to be THE definitive album of "these days". (Sorry Beach House.) Why's that, you ask? Oh, I dunno. Just a hunch...

the New Pornographers - Together
Mark: There are some mediocre moments (even Neko Case's voice can't lend life to "My Shepherd") but on the whole it's a thoroughly enjoyable album that earns the power-pop billing.
Jack: Hello, Neko. I still love your voice. Could you just tell Carl Newman to write you some barn burners like he used to? If I wanted to hear midtempo alt rock, I would listen to your solo albums. (And I do. They're good.) At least we got "Your Hands Together" out of it. Also, Dan Bejar: Never change. Finally, good call giving Kathryn Calder her own song and not just having her sub for Neko during live shows. Still guys, good effort overall.

Spoon - Transference
Mark: I like the album, especially when I'm driving. I love "Trouble Comes Running" with all my heart, and the part of "Written in Reverse" where Britt Daniel screams "IIIIIIIII'mm-nossstandinere!" makes me want to get in a fight.
Jack: Notthebest, butstillprettygood. I mean, it's Spoon. It's not like it's possible to suck. "Who Makes Your Money" just might be the coolest song they've recorded. Maybe not the best. Just cool.

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Blogger Tony said...

This is a terrific post and I may need to comment more than once.

I need to check on the National's latest, Contra, and Sleigh Bells. I'm pretty sure I'll love the new Hot Chip.

Good insight into Beach House being of the moment. Still not sure how lasting they'll be, but I often use their YouTube playlists on endless repeat. Continuing to live life on such high alert for trendy shit is fatiguing.

June 27, 2010 at 12:06 AM 
Blogger JHitts said...

Re: Hot Chip, I neglected to mention that "Take It In" is my favorite song on the album and possibly by favorite song released this year. I think it's the one that best exemplifies their "emotional, yet precisely crafted" qualities.

June 27, 2010 at 5:04 AM 
Blogger M. Perkins said...

I think Jack's dead-on about Plastic Beach being the most relevant album on earth right now. It helps, too, that Gorillaz sell millions of their albums instead of the tens of thousands or, at most, couple hundred thousand Beach House probably sells.

On top of what I wrote about: Shearwater put out a solid album that fell well short of Rook. She & Him improved–livelier. There are three or four songs by Lawrence Arabia that get stuck in my head for hours. I loved "Madder Red" and "Ambling Alp" on the new Yeasayer, but the rest was so-so for me. I listened to the new Roots album a couple times while it was streaming on myspace before the release, and it's really good.

The opening track on LCD Soundsystem is just outrageously good, but I need more time with the rest of the album. I'm looking forward to getting Hot Chip, Titus Andronicus, etc.

June 27, 2010 at 11:22 PM 
Blogger JHitts said...

I think we can add the new Roots album to the list.

July 8, 2010 at 12:51 AM 
Blogger M. Perkins said...

I definitely agree.

My brother says the Broken Bells album is good but I haven't heard it yet.

July 12, 2010 at 8:29 PM 

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