Sunday, July 11, 2010

Sonic Sunday: Best Albums of the Year...So Far

I usually always do a "Best Songs of the Year" post at the year's end, but 2010 has been such an AMAZING year for music and we're only to the halfway point. Therefore, I figured that I should honor some of this great music now by pimping some of my favorite records so far.

Infinite Arms, Band Of Horses

As usually happens when an indie band jumps from an indie label to a major one (in this case, from SubPop to Columbia), there is no shortage of hipsters whining about Band Of Horses (now a five-piece) "selling out" and "losing their edge." But if you read my blog regularly (and you should), there is one thing you should have learned by now: never listen to hipsters. This is a beautiful record full of BoH's usual pretty pop melodies, almost ethereal vocals and jangly guitars but with a much more roots rock/alt-country vibe going on.

Listen to "Laredo."

Other choice cuts: "Compliments," "Dilly," "Older"

Broken Bells, Broken Bells

This collaboration between The Shins' James Mercer and super-producer Brian "Danger Mouse" Burton was one of this year's most highly anticipated ones, and it doesn't disappoint. Mercer brings his unmistakable voice and melodic flair and Burton brings the beats. He also pushes Mercer into experimental territory, which saves this record from being another Shins album. It's a perfect collaboration in that both artists contribute equally, rather than one acting as a dominating force. So what you end up with is a mix of hip-hop, R&B, electronica, retro pop and indie guitar rock that meshes so well together that it should really be its own genre. And I'm going to make it one right now: electro-rhythrock indie hip-pop.

Listen to "The High Road."

Other choice cuts: "The Ghost Inside," "October," "The Mall & Misery"

Head First, Goldfrapp

I only have one word to describe this album: "awesome." No, no, wait: "rad." No, no: "Xana-super-duper." Well, any of those words will do, really. Usually when artists try to make an album with a retro sound, you can hear the effort and it just sounds derivative. But with this record, it honestly sounds like something that was recorded back in 1983 that the world hadn't uncovered until now—perhaps the soundtrack to the direct-to-Betamax film Xanadu II: Frapptastic Boogaloo. Overall, the response to Goldfrapp's fifth album has been positive, although I have read a few negative reviews, which I have to assume were all written by people who are repressing bad childhood memories of their daddies never taking them roller skating, or their mommies refusing to buy them the sparkly pink leg warmers all the cool girls (and at least one boy) in school were wearing. Perhaps they should seek therapy so that they can experience joy again. Aha! There it is...the word I was looking for to describe this album: "JOY." No, no: "LOVE." Head First is love.

Listen to "Rocket."

Other choice cuts: "Alive," "I Wanna Life," "Head First"

Plastic Beach, Gorillaz

It feels weird to call this a Gorillaz record since Jamie Hewlett's cartoon characters have taken a bit of a backseat this go-round. Visually, it's great to see Damon Albarn having fun as a frontman (although he doesn't like that word) again, surrounded by an amazing group of musicians and guest stars that only an artist of his caliber could attract: Mick Jones, Paul Simonon, Simon Tong, Lou Reed, Bobby Womack, Snoop Dogg, De La Soul and many more. And sonically, it's great to hear Damon making pop music again and expertly blending it with the electro-funk of the two previous Gorillaz albums.

Listen to "Stylo."

Other choice cuts: "On Melancholy Hill," "Rhinestone Eyes," "To Binge"

Together, The New Pornographers

Oh, the harmonies! Oh, the melodies! Oh, the hooks! Oh, Neko Case!! This is yet another wonderful record that hipsters are trying to piss on. Oh, boo hoo, it isn't Mass Romantic Part II. Oh no, it doesn't sound completely different from anything anyone on this planet has ever heard before. Oh God, they're about a hop, skip and a jump away from becoming *shudder* mainstream! Quick, throw on that Okkervil River record and let's pretend that being bored and depressed is better than put-put-putting our hands together to feel-good, grandiose folk-pop!

Listen to "Crash Years."

Other choice cuts: "My Shepherd," "Moves," "We End Up Together"


Honorable mentions:
(Tracks from each of these records are on the EyePod over in the near sidebar.)

Forgiveness Rock Record
, Broken Social Scene
History From Below, Delta Spirit
The Brutalist Bricks, Ted Leo & The Pharmacists
Barbara, We Are Scientists
Wake Up The Nation, Paul Weller
Odd Blood, Yeasayer

14 comments:

Malcolm said...

You are right... this has been a damned good year for music! The Broken Bells album is literally in my ever growing stack of CDs I need to check out. I did hear a track or two on NPR and liked it. Speaking of the stack, I think the New Pornographers album is on my desk at work.

words...words...words... said...

I have some YouTubing to do. I haven't heard anything here except for the New Pornographers record. But that Band of Horses album cover is one of the best ever.

words...words...words... said...

Oh, and I forgot to say you are totally right to never listen to hipsters. It's easy to remember, because I never listen to hippies either, and the words sound the same.

Scott said...

Interesting, I've been thinking this is the worst year for music in ages. I've only heard a single record (Jonsi) I like. But I also haven't spent as much time listening to new stuff as I usually do. Perhaps I just haven't been exposed to the right records.

Gorillaz is ok... MGMT is ok... Hold Steady is ok... the National is ok... Vampire Weekend is ok... New Porns is ok... but nothing really excites me.

I've been meaning to check out the Band of Horses & Broken Bells records... maybe one of those will be 'the one.'

Johnny Gruber said...

Great list, Beckeye. I also love the Janelle Monea record, along with LCD Soundsystem and the new Apples in Stereo. What do you know about the new Squeeze record coming out in August. They are playing Radio City on Tuesday night.

McGone said...

Top of my list for the year so far is The Black Keys album "Brothers." Easily number 1, possibly even numbers 1 through 8.

The new "Dead Weather" is also quite good, but then again, I'm a Jack White devotee. And I'm really liking the New Pornographers album - definitely a step up from "Challengers."

However, the Yeasayer album is filed under "Crap I Just Don't Get." I don't get the appeal of it at all.

Anonymous said...

Plastic Beach is my best album now.
Thumbs up.

Mathdude said...

I was gonna say Broken Bell's album is probably the best album of the year (so far) and that you've never heard of them, but I would have been wrong. Score one for you!

Amber said...

I have that Band of Horses album on permanent loop. I don't really listen to the radio much or have friends with the same musical taste as me so I never know which songs/albums to buy. Thanks for the suggestions.

Dale said...

Sounds like I've got some more listening and downloading to do! Some interesting sounding choices (thinly veiled code for omigod haven't I heard one of these fecking albums?!) Beckeye. I love the Pornographers and will probably start with that!

Heff said...

I haven't heard of ANY of these.


Oh yeah, I listen to Heavy Metal....

Candy's daily Dandy said...

I suck at music...

Billy said...

Sooooo weird. I swear I almost published a "Best of 2010 Part I" post last month because I, too, think this has been a seriously kick-ass year for music.

I'm down wif yo' list, most especially the New Pornographers. As a huge 'Frapp fan, I thought her new album sounded too much like Ladyhawke, but even as a derivative of a derivative, she's still absolutely amazing. (Like "Rocket," also really like "Shiny & Warm"). Agree on Ted Leo, and very intrigued to check out the new Weller album, and the Yeasayer and Band of Horses albums. (BoH actually sent us their stuff free the first time around, but they've made it big enough now that they don't need to do such things anymore. Good for y'all, BoH!)

A couple of albums I'd recommend you check out. (1) Sleigh Bells, 'cuz they're in a category all their own, which is tough to do in 2010; and (2) Hold Steady, Josh Ritter, Stars.

I won't mention Hanson. Even if I love 'em, I won't mention them.

Sadako said...

"never listen to hipsters"

I repeat this mantra to myself every day of my life!

 

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