Articles

RSS
  • Best of 2010

    2 fév. 2011, 5h10m

    Yes, yes, I am very late posting this, and for that I am ashamed. But better late than never...

    Best albums of 2010

    1. Sufjan Stevens - The Age of Adz
    Sufjan Stevens' "sound" evolves completely, incorporating gorgeous analog synths and obtuse, syncopated 7/8 drum kit patterns (à la 15 Step by Radiohead). He also finally sheds the layers upon layers of geographic and historical references in favor of a much more personal approach to the lyrics. The resulting album feels initially foreign, and takes a few listens to warm up to, but quickly reveals itself to be a sprawling work of almost unequalled depth. I Walked is one of the most immediate tracks, with some of the most beautiful, soaring synths I've ever heard, but takes many listens to reveal all of its intricacies. Perhaps most impressive is the closer Impossible Soul, if not just for somehow managing to justify every last one of its 25 minutes, but providing several of the album's many stop-everything-and-listen moments as well. Such moments are very rare in music, but Sufjan seems to conjure them effortlessly.
    Check out: Age of Adz, I Walked, Get Real Get Right, Impossible Soul

    2. LCD Soundsystem - This Is Happening
    This album served as my introduction to LCD Soundsystem, and what an introduction it was. James Murphy's genius is quite subtle; oftentimes, nothing particularly amazing is happening with the music. But the songs as a whole simply shine with Murphy's quality production and meticulous attention to detail. Layers are masterfully added and stripped away at just the right moments, and most importantly, the songs are given room to breathe; You Wanted a Hit plays around with some beautiful synths for a full 3 minutes before bringing in any vocals, and another 2 minutes before hitting the first chorus. The lyrics are also excellent, and full of wit and subtle humor, with lines like "You wanted it smart/But honestly, I'm not smart/No honestly, we're never smart/We fake it/Fake it all the time" leaving you simultaneously amused and surprised at Murphy's honesty.
    Check out: Dance Yrself Clean, I Can Change, You Wanted a Hit, Pow Pow

    3. Gorillaz - Plastic Beach
    When I first discovered that Plastic Beach was going to be more of a collaboration than any previous Gorillaz album, I was apprehensive. I suppose it's that I naturally want to hear as much Damon Albarn as possible on a Damon Albarn album. But after hearing Plastic Beach a few times, my perspective shifted completely. The album is nearly the perfect summation of Albarn's skills as a producer; he is finally excellent at mediating himself. He picks just the right guests, and most importantly, gives them creative space on the album. The most important thing he does here is restrain himself, and genuinely let others not just share the spotlight, but sometimes take it completely. And finally, despite each song sounding very different, the album absolutely meshes as one hugely enjoyable retro-pop/electro-funk epic.
    Check out: White Flag, Rhinestone Eyes, Some Kind of Nature, Plastic Beach

    4. Vampire Weekend - Contra
    I liked Vampire Weekend's debut, but wouldn't call it anything more than an enjoyable listen. Two years later, on Contra, they fuse some subtle electronics into their afro-pop sound, and generally grow quite a bit as musicians and songwriters. The entire album is far more varied than the first, with higher highs, lower lows, and a broader palette than their debut by many times over. Plenty of the songs are straightforward and catchy, but a few show some seriously impressive musicianship, such as the closer I Think Ur a Contra, featuring remarkable vocals by Ezra Koenig atop a bed of ethereal synths and glitched, fingerpicked guitar. Ultimately, Contra is one of the more impressive sophomore efforts I've ever heard, and I can't wait to see where the band goes next.
    Check out: White Sky, Holiday, Giving up the Gun, I Think Ur a Contra

    5. Spoon - Transference
    Transference takes Spoon's pop-rock sound (which I previously was not too big a fan of) and muddles it up quite a bit. Many of the songs on the album sound rough, and rightly so; some songs made it to the album directly from their demo form. The songs are sometimes sprawling, sometimes over before you know it - sometimes both. Many tracks end abruptly, such as The Mystery Zone, which literally cuts Britt Daniels off mid-sentence. The album feels dark, unpredictable and a little mysterious. But also rockin'. This is a very unique piece, and even after further exposure to their back catalog, which I can now apprecite a bit better, Transference probably still my favorite Spoon album.
    Check out: Is Love Forever?, The Mystery Zone, Got Nuffin, Nobody Gets Me but You

    6. MGMT - Congratulations
    I literally despised MGMT's debut album, Oracular Spectacular. So how did the band turn around and create a new album from which a handful of songs turned out to be some of my favorite of the year? Congratulations is a very different-sounding album than Oracular, heading into '70s psychedelic rock territory. The pinnacle of the album's achievement would have to be Siberian Breaks, a 12 minute prog-rock journey that moves through 7 or 8 completely different segments, each one feeling more awe-inspiring than the last. There are one or two weak songs on the album, but there are several truly excellent ones that easily make up for that.
    Check out: Song for Dan Treacy, Flash Delirium, Siberian Breaks

    7. Arcade Fire - The Suburbs
    Fans seem like they'll never be satisfied with a new Arcade Fire album as long as it's not a carbon copy of Funeral. (In fact, I suspect even if they got "another Funeral" like they ask for, they'd still be disappointed with it.) But to hell with them. I think this may be Arcade Fire's best album, and it's certainly my favorite. It's less overly dramatic than the prior two, and spreads its wings further conceptually, with many songs referencing each other; but they stand very well on their own too, and most are genuinely affecting. On the other hand, songs like Month of May show that Arcade Fire aren't afraid to play some rock, either.
    Check out: Modern Man, Suburban War, Month of May, We Used to Wait

    8. Broken Bells - Broken Bells
    James Mercer and Danger Mouse is certainly an interesting (and exciting) sounding pair of people to be making an album together. Fans of The Shins were probably bound to be a little disappointed by the album if they went into it with any expectations; but if one judges it on its own merits, the album is quite good. Musically, it's completely different for both of them, a kind of dark space-pop-rock symphony with gratuitous electronic embellishments. Mercer's lyrics are good and the tunes are quite catchy, and even if neither are quite up to the standard set by The Shins, the album is plenty enjoyable, even after repeat listens.
    Check out: Your Head Is On Fire, The Ghost Inside, Trap Doors
  • Best of 2009

    4 jan. 2010, 3h49m

    my top five albums of 2009:

    5. Arctic Monkeys - Humbug
    see: Secret Door, Crying Lightning, Fire and the Thud

    4. Thrice - Beggars
    see: Circles, The Weight, Wood And Wire

    3. Manchester Orchestra - Mean Everything To Nothing
    three of the best songs of the year: Pride, I've Got Friends, Shake It Out

    2. Animal Collective - Merriweather Post Pavilion
    highly enjoyable.. no pun intended.
    see: Summertime Clothes, Brother Sport, Bluish

    1. Brand New - Daisy
    unexpected, dense, extra polarizing and maybe their best album to date.
    see: Gasoline, Bought A Bride, You Stole


    oh, and

    best singles of 2009:

    1. Vampire Weekend - Cousins
    needs no elaboration.