As is the case with any reputable hipster wanna-be, I compile a mental list of my top albums throughout the year. Naturally, this list has a shelf life of about a week, until I read everyone else’s list and realize their picks are all better than mine.
As usual, I am a terrible music reviewer, so I’ll write a little blurb about each album on here – but don’t be looking for anything too erudite – I can’t explain why I like certain music, I just do. I’ll leave the reviewing to the professionals.
And here we go….
Swede alert! From the PopMatters review: “… the music is delicate, building to momentous peaks and accented by sturdy hooks. The key to these songs are gentle arrangements that build organically from the guitar based centers. Horns, reeds, organs, and careful backing vocals never overpower the songs but are used like curtains around a window.” Sure, I’ll go along with that.
More Swedes! When first hearing about this album, I thought “Oh, great – another Swedish singer/songwriter.” But I was surprised by how well “Kortedala” blends deadpan humor and chamber pop. Songs like “The Opposite of Hallelujah,” “If I Could Cry (It Would Feel Like This)” and “Your Arms Around Me” are impossible not to hum after the third listening.
8. Los Campesinos! – Sticking Fingers Into Sockets
Impossibly catchy and irrepressibly bratty. Gets knocked down a couple rungs because it’s only a six-song EP (running at 15 minutes), but the songs are strong enough to warrant this effusive of a recommendation.
7. Radiohead – In Rainbows
I can’t agree with my friends who claim that somewhere in this album lies the cure to cancer (or even halitosis), but it is certainly good enough to slide into the Top 10. And trust me, after inadvertently paying 40 bucks for it, I was hoping it would fundamentally change my life in some way. The only really change it made was to rob me of the opportunity to go to Wendy’s a couple more times. “House of Cards” gives me chills.
Normally, my lists have a few albums that are more experimental, with long, sprawling obtuse songs. Not so this year, and The Broken West exemplifies that trend. A strong collection of short, catchy pop songs with a southern rock flavor.
I don’t dance, yet I can appreciate the booty-shaking appeal of such songs as \”Heimdalsgate Like a Promethean Curse\” and \”A Sentence of Sorts in Kongsvinger\” – two of the best songs of the year, despite sounding as if they were a product of an Abba tribute band. I actually forgot this album came out this year, as one of my friends gave me a bootleg copy in mid-2006. I\’m not sure how that’s relevant in any way.
The little album that could. This album attempts to correct the scandalous dearth of xylophones in our nation\’s indie albums. With its jangly guitars and heavy use of glockenspiels, it seems that this album could have been made in any basement in America. Of course, the same could be said of meth.
3. Arcade Fire – Neon Bible
It’s the way of things in America – when someone jumps on to the public scene with universal praise (as Arcade Fire did with \”Funeral\” in 2005), it immediately becomes fashionable to be part of the backlash. While derided by much of the horn-rimmed glasses wearing mafia as being inferior to Funeral, this album is perfect from the first note on.
2. LCD Soundsystem – Sounds of Silver
A perfect reminder that electronic music doesn’t have to take itself so seriously. A genre-hopping masterpiece that my kids also enjoy dancing to. So they have that going for them. Which is nice. “Someone Great” is probably my favorite song of the year.
1. Andrew Bird – Armchair Apocrypha
The main test of whether an album can be my best of the year is how hard it was to delete it from my iPod. I couldn’t pry this one out of my playlists with a crowbar. (In fact, iTunes reports to me that my three most listened-to albums this year are all from Andrew Bird.) A perfect blend of experimentation, pop hooks, and obtuse lyrics. And his epic show at the Memorial Union Theater didn’t hurt, either (even though this album was a top three lock even before then).
Some more really good albums from this year:
Band of Horses – Cease to Begin
Bill Callahan – Woke on a Whaleheart
Norfolk & Western – The Unsung Colony
Band of Bees – Octopus
My Teenage Stride – Ears Like Golden Bats
Lily Allen – Alright, Still
Fiery Furnaces – Widow City
The Go! Team – Proof of Youth
Idlewild – Make Another World
Panda Bear – Person Pitch
Rilo Kiley – Under the Blacklight
Shout Out Louds – Our Ill Wills
Voxtrot – Voxtrot
Velvet Revolver – Libertad
Best Albums From Other Years That I Heard This Year:
Figurines – Skeleton
Heartless Bastards – Stairs and Elevators
Fiery Furnaces – Bitter Tea
British Sea Power – The Decline of British Sea Power
Fiona Apple – Extraordinary Machine
Golden Smog – Another Fine Day
Guillemots – From the Cliffs (EP)
Clap Your Hands Say Yeah – Some Loud Thunder
Fountains of Wayne – Traffic and Weather
Iron & Wine – The Shepherd’s Dog
The Shins – Wincing the Night Away
You can check out the Muzzle of Bees top 30 here – there seems to be a reasonable amount of overlap.
Metacritic also has posted their best-reviewed albums of the year here.