This could either be really good or really bad, but according to an interview with the Guardian, Damian Albarn’s animated project Gorillaz next album, entitled Plastic Beach, will have a lengthy guest list that includes Mos Def, Snoop Dogg, Lou Reed, Barry Gibb and Bobby Womack. You’ll have to use your imagination to figure out how they will all fit in, but if anyone can pull it off, it’s Albarn, who calls the album his “most pop record [he's] ever made.” Look for Plastic Beach to be released sometime next year.
Remember The Strokes? Everyone’s favorite band for half a decade, before suddenly disappearing into the wilderness? Well it looks like they aren’t dead and gone after all as they have been slated to perform at the seemingly epic Isle of Wight Fest in England. Performing alongside such talented acts as Jay-Z, Blondie, Orbital and even P!nk, it should be an interesting three day summer fest to say the least. For more information about the festival, go to their website.
Proof that Original Pirate Material wasn’t a fluke, A Grand Don’t Come for Free finds Mike Skinner churning out another set of intriguing, occasionally thought provoking and always quick-witted songs. A loose concept album about the protagonist losing a grand and attempting to recoup the money– the album works well with Skinner’s awkward-yet-smart and poignant slice of life lyrics, a terrific follow-up.
“Blinded by the Lights” (Explicit)
Released on his 32nd birthday and three days before his sudden death, Donuts is a collection of beautiful, organic instrumental snippets that would later find themselves on a slew of other hip hop tracks. While as an album Donuts may be hard for the casual fan to appreciate, Dilla’s superb execution is impossible to ignore. Although there have been several posthumous releases since, Donuts stands as Dilla’s last crowning achievement.
Tom WaitsBlood Money
Based on the play Woyzeck, written by Georg Büchner, these songs were developed for a theatrical adaptation that was directed by Robert Wilson. The songs carry on the Waits tradition of not only being heavily surreal, but also containing jet black humor, especially on songs such as “Everything Goes to Hell” and “God’s Away on Business.” A haunting and intriguing album indeed, Blood Money is unlike anything else you’ll find on this list.
“God’s Away on Business”
Herbert’s first release to see US shores, Bodily Functions is a diverse, yet constantly impressive effort. With each track, the Herbert’s experimentation with instruments and constant tweaking is put in the forefront with the album’s intimate nature. A very impressive album, indeed.
The HivesVini Vidi Vicious
Much of the albums success deservingly stemmed from the hit single, “Hate to Say I Told You So,” which skyrocketed into the mainstream and was even featured in the first Spider-Man soundtrack. Beyond that though, Vini Vidi Vicious is a 28-minute rock out, a paint-by-numbers “how-to” blueprint with all the moxie of an early Rolling Stones release.
”Hate to Say I Told You So”
In what would be Sleater-Kinney’s last album before their indefinite hiatus, The Woods makes for a fantastic curtain call, with incredible production, a never-ending exuberance, and even the one surprising “pop” song on the album (“Modern Girl”) dissolves into dissonant noise. A true rocker with serious chops, The Woods is a stand out all around.
M.I.A. rode a well deserved wave of hype leading into the release of her debut album. While it would turn out to be just the tip of the iceberg, Arular is a cocktail of highly conscious rap, dance hall and electronica, with a revolutionary message that can be appreciated by anyone, despite the heft of the subject matter.
The Postal ServiceGive Up
The awe inspiring side project of Death Cab for Cutie’s frontman Ben Gibbard and electronic musician Jimmy Tamborello, the duo surprisingly worked on the album separately– which you would never notice from the intimate nature of the album. While “Such Great Heights” became the synonymous track for the album (the USPS still use it for their ads, thanks to legal responsibilities on the bands part), Give Up as a whole is a very important release.
“Such Great Heights”
Late of the PierFantasy Black Channel
Fantasy Black Channel is an exuberant romp fueled by heavy beats and an arsenal of rock influences. A weird fusion indeed, but Late of the Pier somehow always clicks on all cylinders, and it makes for one very joyous listening experience. Already an accomplished album, it’s all the more impressive to see it come on a debut from such a very young band.
As strong as Annie Clark’s debut album Marry Me was, it doesn’t hold a candle to her follow up, Actor. Fully representative of all that she brings to her live shows, Actor is beautiful and affecting one minute, and abrasive and dissonant soon after. The arrangements are wonderfully done and demonstrate Clark’s incredible maturity as an artist, and she finally (thankfully) fully demonstrates her awesome abilities on the guitar as well. A supremely gorgeous album through and through.
While a collection of love songs from Animal Collective may seem like a stretch, Animal Collective isn’t your average band. The space age Beach Boys vibe is still present, and their densely layered songs may seem infinitely busy, but they’re also quite beautiful. Somehow, someway, despite all the noise, Feels is a masterfully executed and cohesive album.
LowThings We Lost in the Fire
Highly cinematic and articulate, one could make a case for Things We Lost in the Fire being Low’s greatest achievement. While somber, there is a bittersweet quality to their music, with Mimi Parker and Alan Sparhawk provide incredibly touching vocals. A highly recommended listen.
CalifoneQuicksand / Cradlesnakes
From the minute the slow burning opener, “Funeral Singers” begins, it’s clear that Califone is completely dialed in on this album. As sharp as ever, Quicksand / Cradlesnakes combines the experimental sound the band is known for with some incredibly sharp songwriting, making the final product all the more fascinating. A very addicting album that may take a few listens to truly appreciate, but once you get it– you’ll be hooked.
“Horoscopic Amputation Honey”
If you don’t include the shelved and recently re-released Kamaal the Abstract, there was a nine year span between The Renaissance and Q-Tip’s solo debut Amplified. As hard as it is to believe, it was worth the wait– The Renaissance is, simply put, a timeless hip-hop album, one of the few released in the last few years that could dare stake such a claim. While it will particularly appeal to fans of the “old school” or “golden age” of hip-hop, Q-Tip’s latest truly has something for everyone.
Released a decade late thanks to the original studio recordings being stolen from Tom Waits’ car, Alice was written for a play with the same title, which was directed by frequent collaborator Robert Wilson. As the play was based on the relationship between author Lewis Carroll (Alice in Wonderland) and Alice Liddell, the album is expectedly dark, haunting and soaked in imagery in a way that only Tom Waits can deliver. An exceptional album.
ElbowThe Seldom Seen Kid
A sprawling masterpiece, The Seldom Seen Kid, Elbow has a definite flair for the dramatic, and its on full display here. From fantastical orchestral arrangements on songs such as “Starlings” and “One Day Like This,” to the more aggressive “The Bones of You” and pub tune “Grounds for Divorce,” Elbow manages to keep everything grounded with their incredibly sincere lyrics. The Seldom Seen Kid is a huge album in just about every way possible, but it’s also just about perfect.
“Grounds for Divorce”
Iron & WineThe Creek Drank the Cradle
Sam Beam’s debut album is an impressively heartfelt and intimate debut– raw, unabashed folk in the same vein as Nick Drake. The Creek Drank the Cradle, would eventually find company with a slew of other indie folk albums that were released around the same time, but this is one of the true standouts from that period.
Cut CopyBright Like Neon Love
This wonderful debut from the Australian Cut Copy truly surprised the hell out of me upon first listen and it still impresses me to this day. Rather than being retro for the sake of being so, Cut Copy writes really well within the genre, complete with smart hooks and danceable grooves– Bright Like Neon Love is a great debut.
”Time Stands Still”
Queens of the Stone AgeSong for the Deaf
Before there was Them Crooked Vultures, the idea of former Nirvana member and Foo Fighters frontman stepping behind the kit and working with the already successful Queens of the Stone Age seemed too good to be true. Then, all of a sudden, with the release of Songs for the Deaf many considered rock to have finally been resurrected by this 14-track masterpiece. Grohl brings incredible depth to their music, and with its wonderful production, excellent songwriting, and thrashing guitars, you could say that the Queens caught lightning in a bottle with Songs for the Deaf.
“God is in the Radio”
The Go! TeamThunder, Lightning, Strike
Based on their exuberant live shows, it was hard to imagine The Go! Team could ever capture that energy in the studio. Surprise, surprise, they did indeed– bringing more pep to your rally than any cheerleading squad, Thunder, Lightning, Strike is a mosh-posh of genres all constructed for the sole purpose of making you move. As their enthusiastic name would imply, they are immensely successful at doing just that.
Secret MachinesNow Here is Nowhere
An immensely talented band from Dallas, Now Here is Nowhere is an awfully ambitious debut, as they pool their shoegaze, krautrock, and prog rock influences into an epically large sound, complete with a nine minute opening track. Somehow, between the walls of guitar, and psychedelic space rock nuances, the album more than holds its own over the span of time it encompasses. The end result is by far the Secret Machines’ finest album.
Super Furry AnimalsMwng
Sung entirely in Welsh, and completed in a mere few weeks, Mwng is one of the many outstanding releases SFA came up with this decade. The vocals are beautifully layered, and the sweeping guitars on songs such as “(Nid) Hon Yw’r Gân Sy’n Mynd I Achub Yr Iaith” make for a wondrous listening experience.
PhoenixIt’s Never Been Like That
Phoenix flipped the script on It’s Never Been Like That, branching away from the electro-pop that brought them modest success in the past to becoming a more complete band. Sharper songwriting and more dynamic musicianship make for a winning combination with this breakthrough release.
“Sometimes in the Fall”
…And You Will Know Us by the Trail of DeadSource Tags and Codes
Their first major-label release, Source Tags and Codes would become something of an albatross for the band as they have yet to match this record since. On its own however, Trail of Dead stayed the course throughout this album, never straying too far off into their own self-indulgence. Some may question their brilliance, but no one can question the impact that this album had, as it managed to scour near perfect ratings from most critics and still has the same musical impact that it did seven years ago.
“Another Morning Stoner”
Ghostface Killah has always been an impeccable storyteller, with his frenzied pace underscoring the pulpy nature of his tracks, especially on tracks such as “Shakey Dog.” Even on the more mainstream “Back Like That” with Ne-Yo, Ghostface Killah still gives it his all, heightening what would otherwise be a generic R&B/Hip Hop track into something special. A truly superb album.
After their middling 10,000 Hz Legend, Air won their way back into critics and fans hearts with Talkie Walkie, which boasts two big singles in “Cherry Blossom Girl” and “Surfing on a Rocket.” A tremendous return to form for this French electronic band.
“Alpha Beta Gaga”
Arctic MonkeysFavourite Worst Nightmare
While Arctic Monkeys’ debut was often too cheeky for its own good, the band appeared to let the music do the talking on Favourite Worst Nightmare. Laying off the clichéd posturing, the band not only brought the energy for songs like the lead single “Brianstorm,” but also sharpened their songwriting skills as well and dared to experiment. All these chances paid off for what ended up being a much more enjoyable album than what was thrown together on their debut.
Elliott SmithFrom a Basement on the Hill
Completed after Smith’s death in 2003, the first thing noticed will be the entirely different production style that Rob Schnapf brought to the table. Although he had worked with Smith on earlier albums, Schnapf never referred to Smith’s notes during the production process. That being said, the album is as daring as anything that Smith has released– dark and dense, while retaining that slight undertone of bittersweet hope. Many fans may have been left wondering what could’ve been, but as it stands, From a Basement on the Hill is still a great album.
Fucked UpThe Chemistry of Common Life
To understand what is incredibly special about this album, one only needs to listen to the opening track, “Son the Father”– an epic, sprawling opener that builds so incredibly well over the span of six and a half minutes that you’d almost fear that the rest of the album can’t hold up to it. Fear not, from beginning to end Fucked Up brings it on this one, a controlled chaos of balls-to-the-wall rocking, The Chemistry of Common Life is anything but subtle, and in this case, that’s a good thing.
“Son the Father”
Los Campesinos!Hold On Now, Youngster…
The fun is endless on this release from the Cardiff based septet, whose boundless energy permeates through every note. Rife with pop culture references and self-referential lyrics, this glockenspiel-wielding band succeeds brilliantly, even when they’re not taking themselves seriously.
”You! Me! Dancing!”
Iron & WineThe Shepherd’s Dog
While Sam Beam has always written beautifully crafted songs, The Shepherd’s Dog stands as the one clear cut album where it’s obvious he made a conscious decision to shake things up a bit and expand beyond the occasionally tepid soundscapes. Thankfully, rather than sinking fast in the new musical digs, Beam and company are more than up for the challenge creating some of the most musically stimulating music that Iron & Wine has ever released.
“Boy With a Coin”
If there was any justice, Tokumaru would be somewhere in between Sufjan Stevens and Animal Collective on the hipster coolness scale of the world. Instead, the multi-instrumentalist continues on with limited stateside exposure, but for those whose ears happen to catch a glimpse of avant-garde pop done right, Exit is sure to provide quite the delightful listen. Tokumaru used more than 50 instruments to record Exit, and while singling every one of those sounds may be impossible to do, it helps to explain the seemingly infinite depth that even the straightforward songs possess. Specifics notwithstanding, Tokumaru makes lovely music, even when just taken on the surface.
The LibertinesThe Libertines
Back when The Libertines were still known for their music and not as one of the many casualties of Pete Doherty’s destructive lifestyle, they released two stellar albums, with this eponymous release being the second of them. In retrospect, it could’ve been that the band was aware that this was the beginning of the end. With the album being based on Doherty’s rocky relationship with fellow Libertine Carl Barât, all of the cracks in the Libertines armor are on full display here, but they’re being shown quite proudly. Albums like The Libertines is one of the reasons why this band should never be forgotten.
“Can’t Stand Me Now” (Explicit)
Bright EyesLifted or The Story is in the Soil, Keep Your Ear to the Ground
Conor Oberst sustained further popularity by later releasing I’m Wide Awake It’s Morning and Digital Ash in a Digital Urn in the same year, but Lifted… is the album that garnered him worthwhile praise. Daring and intimate, Oberst thrills with this release.
“Lover I Don’t Have to Love” (Explicit)
Showtime is an evolution of Dizzee Rascal’s astounding debut, Boy In Da Corner– comparatively more palatable and even somewhat playful, Showtime has both the shimmer that the title infers as well as the grimy weight that Rascal is known for.
After the mixed reviews and controversy surrounding Electric Circus Common went back to square one and joined forces with fellow Chicagoan Kanye West to produce what was not only a return to form, but one of Common’s best albums of his career. While the album is incredibly concise (especially when compared to its predecessor), it is so polished and well-executed that the final product is nothing short but terrific.
“Go!” (feat. John Mayer) (Explicit)
Influenced by Beck’s break up with his longtime girlfriend, Sea Change was drastically different from everything else Beck had released until then. Heavily influenced by such folks artists as Nick Drake, Sea Change could be both stark and barren on some songs such as “Already Dead” and “Guess I’m Doing Fine” to heavily orchestrated like “Paper Tiger.” A moody affair, Sea Change found Beck at his best and most mature.
Yeah Yeah YeahsIt’s Blitz!
It took It’s Blitz! for their previous album, a relatively disappointing Show Your Bones, to make sense. Here, YYY take the listener head on, demanding attention in the same way that they did on Fever to Tell, but also keeping your attention with some incredibly well written dance-influenced songs, not just short punk-influenced sketches. In time, this could be seen as the Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ crowning achievement.
“Heads Will Roll”
CalifoneRoots and Crowns
Roots and Crowns is a staggeringly beautiful album from the talented Chicago-based band. Dense, occasionally haunting, as exemplified on the opening “Pink & Sour,” this is hardly a Wilco sound-alike album as most comparisons would lead you to believe– no, this is an album truly deserving of its own merit.
“The Orchid” (Psychic TV cover)
Animal CollectiveStrawberry Jam
From the opening “Peacebone,” you could start to see that Animal Collective had figured out a way to be both experimental and approach some sense of palatability– twisted pop if you will. Continuing to branch out and experiment with new sounds the only way they know how, Animal Collective is strange and sublime all at once on Strawberry Jam.
Of MontrealHissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer?
Even by Of Montreal’s standards, Hissing Fauna… is completely out of left field. Daring and excessive, this concept album which frontman Kevin Barnes describes as his personal transformation into his alter ego Georgie Fruit, has a bit of everything. The crux of the album is the twelve minute opus, “The Past is a Grotesque Animal” the bridge between the two worlds so to speak, and from that point on the album gets all the more grittier, and perhaps even a bit stranger. It’s a difficult album to comprehend, but it is by far Barnes most consistently brilliant release.
“Heimsdalsgate Like a Promethean Curse”
MursMurs 3:16 The 9th Edition
The silky smooth production from 9th Wonder matches Murs’ brutally honest lyrics perfectly, creating an intoxicating blend of hip-hop that requires repeated listens. Although brief, 3:16 is like a set of musical vignettes offering slices of life through the eyes of Murs.
“And This is For…” (Explicit)
While Feist showed a lot of talent on her solo debut, her sophomore release The Reminder, is a staggering album, packed with incredibly well written pop songs (the most obvious of which is iPod anthem “1, 2, 3, 4”), and a level of confidence and vocal presence that simply only seemed to exist in bursts previously.
”Sea Lion Woman”
DangerdoomThe Mouse and the Mask
The combination of Danger Mouse and MF Doom is exciting enough as it is, but throw in Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim for good measure, and you have something truly special. With the cartoon humor further adding to Doom’s already absurdist lyrics, and Danger Mouse keeping things grounded with a steady dose of funky classic hip-hop productions, The Mouse and the Mask is terrific fun.
Their first album in a decade, and their first album with the original lineup in nearly 20 years, Beyond is surprisingly fresh, while the band sounds as sharp as ever. While Beyond may be viewed as a comeback album, the transcendent nature of it makes it feel as though the band never left.
Hercules and Love AffairHercules and Love Affair
While this stellar electro-disco debut became synonymous with the breakthrough “Blind,” there was a lot more to the album than just that one song. An overall noteworthy debut, this is sure to win over many a club hopper.
To simply classify this album as electronic doesn’t do Scale justice, as its well-orchestrated to the point that it almost comes across as jazz-based in a sense. The layered vocals enhance the dense beats and sound effects that Herbert has created. An incredibly involving experience, Scale is truly a great album.
“Moving Like a Train”
Initially skeptical about the hype surrounding the generically named British group, The xx seriously impress beyond belief. A true grower, xx is incredibly subtle, but thoroughly enjoyable on each and every listen, and the next thing you know, you’re hooked on their dark, haunting grooves. One of the must have albums of 2009.
Kings of LeonBecause of the Times
Because of the Times is the magnum opus of a band who up until the release of this album was seen as mostly a novelty act, content with replicating classic southern rock, rather than creating something new. That all changed here, from the stellar seven minute opener “Knocked Up” to the hard driving “McFearless,” Kings of Leon evolved in a way that few expected, and they have been on the fast track to superstardom since.
The BugLondon Zoo
A hard hitting project from Kevin Martin, he collaborated with a number of artists to form one of the most memorable dubstep albums of the decade. The grimey and angst-ridden sound is underscored by socially and politically conscious lyrics, but stops just short of being overly brooding. A very worthwhile listen.
Since last seeing The Walkmen and White Rabbits, as they opened for Spoon just a year and a half ago at the Vic, the two bands have changed a surprising amount in a short period of time. White Rabbits, who were just gaining attention with their relatively prominent single “The Plot”, are now getting radio play with their lead single “Percussion Gun” off of the Britt Daniel (Spoon) produced album, and have supremely polished their act. While the obvious influence of The Walkmen is still in tact, the band has also found a way, perhaps under the tutelage of Britt Daniel, to strip down their sound, while still maintaining the rhythmically-inclined musical structures that became the bands signature. This translated beautifully to their live performance at the intimate Lincoln Hall, as every subtlety to their sound was represented superbly. While they abbreviated their most popular songs such as “Kid on My Shoulders” and “The Plot”, they did deliver, once again, on sounding even better than the studio counterparts when playing the songs from It’s Frightening.
The Walkmen, who at the Vic came off as surprisingly tame at the Vic show, were really on point at this Lincoln Hall showing– with Hamilton Leithauser displaying incredible confidence in performing the quieter tunes from their critically acclaimed album You & Me. The local horn section was a welcome addition, and the band did an admirable job of mixing in their older songs with the new. The ebb and flow of slow-fast-slow paced songs caused a palpable sense of anticipation before the band finally went into playing “The Rat,” but even with that, it was hard not to appreciate their performance.
If you haven’t had the opportunity to go to Chicago’s latest venue Lincoln Hall, do yourself a favor and go the first chance you can. A wonderfully executed venue from the folks behind Schuba’s, White Rabbits and The Walkmen did a great service to the venue’s outstanding acoustics.
Now I understand that this is supposed to be a fun Christmas song and all of that, but listening to this brings to mind a certain scene from Love Actually (see here). It isn’t nearly as bad, but between Dylan looking like an ungainly hybrid of Johnny Depp’s portrayal of Willy Wonky and Tom Petty, and his rant-like delivery, you kind of wonder what the point of it all is. Call me a grinch if you want, but at the very least it’s an interesting way to spend three minutes of your time.
Arguably the most anticipated supergroup of the year, Them Crooked Vultures (Dave Grohl, Josh Homme, and John Paul Jones), has allowed for their album to be streamed on YouTube in wake of the album recently leaking. While the official release date is just next week (November 17), this is a great chance to preview what is certainly going to be a highly discussed record.
A deeply personal album with undertones of depression, loneliness and even death, M. Ward impresses early with the deceivingly upbeat “Vincent O’Brien” and turns the David Bowie-penned “Let’s Dance” completely on its head with a haunting cover. “Vincent O’Brien”
The FutureheadsThe Futureheads
This eponymous debut from the highly talented post-punk outfit is a sheer joy to listen to. With fantastic vocal harmonies, catchy hooks, and the ability to rock a bit when necessary, The Futureheads delivers big time. “Hounds of Love” (Kate Bush cover)
From the moment the bass hits on the opening “Backyard Betty,” you know you’re in for something completely different. Raunchy as hell, yes, but Spank Rock has immense talent to go with it, from heavily layered beats to witty wordplay that constantly toe the line of what’s accepted (even on a rap album). Not an album for the weakhearted, Spank Rock’s debut is a terrific album if you can handle it. “Sweet Talk” (Explicit)
Camera ObscuraLet’s Get Out of This Country
A great indie pop album that’s bubbly as all get out but packs an emotional punch to match, the Scottish band truly stepped up their game with this release and also emerged from the shadows of Belle and Sebastian in the process. “Lloyd, I’m Ready to be Heartbroken”
Lupe FiascoThe Cool
More consistent than Food & Liquor, and also quite a bit darker, Lupe Fiasco’s concept album may not have been entirely well executed as a concept, but the music stands proudly on its own. The Cool also benefitted from having a bona fide single in “Superstar”, which was missing from his debut, to garner well-deserved mainstream attention. “Superstar” (feat. Matthew Santos)
The CoupParty Music
The fourth release from The Coup is a politically hard-hitting album laid mostly over funky 70’s-influenced live instrumentals. There are some moments of levity with Boots Riley penning “Wear Clean Draws” as a song of advice tips for his daughter, but for the most part it is a highly critical social commentary that’s well worth hearing. “Ride the Fence” (Explicit)
SpiritualizedSongs in A&E
Completed after frontman Jason Pierce’s serious illness, Songs in A&E is deeply affecting, especially when taken in context. Vivid imagery abound, as well as striking arrangements, Songs in A&E is an emotionally charged triumph. “Soul on Fire”
The Black KeysRubber Factory
Rubber Factory was largely The Black Keys’ breakthrough album. Garnering a lot of critical acclaim after their first two albums, Rubber Factory found The Black Keys not only continuing to win the critics’ hearts but also helping them gain a substantial fanbase. All this was for good reason, as Rubber Factory not only stayed the course of immensely enjoyable blues-rock, but found their songwriting sharper and perhaps even a bit more confident in their sound. “Girl Is On My Mind”
Hardly anyone could’ve expected that an animated band could not only make the big splash Gorillaz did on their first go round, but actually sustain it long enough for a sophomore release. If that’s not enough of a shocker, the second album ended up being better than the previous– less novelty, more complete songwriting, and a hearty list of quality guest appearances to boot. A very enjoyable album. “Dirty Harry”
Don’t let the Dave Chappelle intro fool you, Quality is as conscious and powerful as you would expect from Kweli. Also, per usual, Talib Kweli’s lyrics are as potent as his delivery. Surprisingly consistent given the wide array of producers on the album, Quality is just what you would expect based on the title. “Get By” (Explicit)
Belle & SebastianThe Life Pursuit
An evolutionary step from their previous release, Dear Catastrophe Waitress, Belle & Sebastian’s sound is the slightest bit more polished here, while also introducing new elements to their sound. The Motown-influenced “Funny Little Frog” to the extremely lush and playful “We are the Sleepyheads” and “For the Price of the Cup of Tea,” there’s plenty to like about this album. “The Blues are Still Blue”
Modest MouseGood News for People Who Love Bad News
While Good News… will be most well known for boasting the single “Float On,” which propelled both Modest Mouse into the conscious mainstream, and also helped them earn their first platinum album, it’s also noteworthy for its polished sound and the inclusion of The Dirty Dozen Brass Band on two of the tracks. While there are some songs, such as “Dance Hall”, “Bukowski” and “The Devil’s Workday” that are just as weird as anything else Modest Mouse has done in the past, Good News… as a whole, is a very listenable Modest Mouse release– and likely strikes the best balance between palatability while showing serious songwriting strength. “Float On”
GrouperDragging a Dead Deer Up a Hill
The latest of Liz Harris’ albums, Dragging a Dead Deer Up a Hill is an other-worldly ambient folk album. Curious, delicate, and indelible all at the same time, this is a true grower album that will certainly have you coming back for continued listens. “Heavy Water/I’d Rather Be Sleeping”
The StrokesRoom on Fire
After supposedly changing the world of indie rock and being plastered on every single hip magazine in publication based on the success of Is This It?, there was honestly no way for this New York City band to keep the train going. Room on Fire on its own terms is a very good record, but was doomed from the start based on critical and fan expectations. That being said, if it’s enjoyed for what it is, there are a lot of very rewarding moments. “Reptilia”
MyloDestroy Rock & Roll
With Mylo working on little more than an old PowerMac G4 and a lite version of Pro Tools (which is an upgrade from his previous kit of an iMac and the free version of the software), he was able to create an innovative dance/electronic album that truly took the world by storm. Blending elements of dance, ambience, and pop, Destroy Rock & Roll is a terrific album. “In My Arms”
The New PornographersTwin Cinema
The New Pornographers is one of the few groups that have yet to release a bad album, and Twin Cinema stands as one of their best. Hitting hard from the get go with the rocking title track, A.C. Newman’s already exemplary songwriting skills appear to be even sharper on this release. A thoroughly enjoyable album, Twin Cinema is sure to put a smile on your face. “Sing Me Spanish Techno”
MadlibShades of Blue
What happens when Blue Note Record Label hands the reins over to one of hip-hops most talented producers? A courageous masterpiece that never bastardizes the music that Madlib is sampling. Instead, he turns it into something both modern and nostalgic, a result the label had to be exceptionally pleased with, as it also won over its fair share of both fans and critics. “Mystic Bounce”
While not quite as atmospheric as some of their earlier work, or even their album previous to that Drum’s Not Dead, Liars’ sound is as hypnotically gorgeous as always, utilizing fuzzed out guitars and incessant drums. From the driving opener of “Plaster Casts of Everything”, to the trippy pop of “Houseclouds” to the demented dance-rock of “Clear Island,” Liars is wickedly perfect. “Clear Island”
Blu & ExileBelow the Heavens
An immensely talented MC paired up with an equally skilled DJ, Blu & Exile show a great deal of chemistry here, as Exile’s productions fit Blu’s dynamic rhymes like a glove all the way through the album. An incredibly smart and vibrant album, Below the Heavens is the reason why Blu has been considered one of the noteworthy up and coming hip-hop artists. “Dancing in the Rain” (Explicit)
St. Germain aka Ludovic Navarre may have been around the block a few times when it comes to jazz-infused projects, but nothing has come even remotely close to being as realized or accomplished as Tourist. Using live jazz orchestration in addition to samples, Tourist has a depth and soul that most other jazz-dance albums simply lacked. While St. Germain has all but disappeared as a solo artist, Tourist still lives on. “Rose Rouge”
Fuck ButtonsTarot Sport
Fuck Buttons managed to surpass the talent they showed on their debut Street Horrrsing with an absolutely superb sophomore release. From the strong opener in “Surf Solar” to the closing “Flight of the Feathered Serpent”, Fuck Buttons take the listener on a ride that makes for worthwhile repeated listening sessions– a terrific album. “The Lisbon Maru”
Doves return to the list again, this time with the later Some Cities, a more abbreviated record than The Last Broadcast to be sure, yet still as enjoyable as the previous album. Songs like “Almost Forgot Myself”, “Walk in Fire”, and “Sky Starts Falling” show the progression and maturity of the band. “Snowden”
Sigur Rós( )
An impressive concept to say the least, ( ) is divided by two halves, one side featuring lighter airier songs, the other being a bit darker and moodier. As with all Sigur Rós albums, the arrangements are mesmerizing, and the tunes provocative– ( ) is yet another worthy achievement from an always terrific band. “Untitled IV”
The RapturePieces of the People We Love
The Rapture sought out to make a killer party album and did just that with their follow up to the terrific Echoes. With songs such as “Get Myself Into It” and “Whoo! Alright Yeah… Uh Huh”, the band show their fun side, but also show their honed songwriting skills on songs such as the entrancing “Calling Me” (one of the handful of tracks produced by Danger Mouse). “Pieces of the People We Love”
Despite the fact that most folks will sum up the past decade as the time when MP3s ruled supreme and the concept of the album as we used to know it died, there’s certainly a lot of good that came about as well. For every overhyped blog-created band there were a number of DIY releases that astonished critics and likely never would’ve seen the light of day in any other time period. Furthermore, with the cutthroat record labels searching for ways to fatten the bottom line, bands such as Radiohead and others looked to self-release albums own their own terms. With all that in mind, here’s the first installment of the top 200 Albums of the Decade.
Josh RitterThe Historical Conquests of Josh Ritter
There weren’t many albums from this decade that I played more than this one. Solid from beginning to end, The Historical Conquests of Josh Ritter not only represents the great deal of maturity that Josh Ritter has undergone through the course of his young career, but it also is easily representative of one of the true bright spots the 2000′s had in terms of singer-songwriters.
“To the Dogs or Whoever”
The WalkmenBows + Arrows
From the frenzied pace of “The Rat” and “Little House of Savages,” The Walkmen showed a fire and prowess that had only been hinted at previously. From here they would continue to show staying power, but Bows + Arrows deserves its own place here as the point at which The Walkmen established themselves fully as a band.
Lily AllenAlright, Still
Now here’s something that could only happen in this decade– Ms. Allen’s big break came through thanks to none other than Myspace. After unleashing a number of demos on her page, her quirky pop-flavors won over music fans and eventually labels alike. Combine her flair with the magic touch of Mark Ronson and you’ve one of the quintessential pop albums this decade.
DovesThe Last Broadcast
Despite an impressive string of very, very good albums, Doves are still under the radar when it comes to their popularity here in the US. Even so, it’s hard to ignore an album like The Last Broadcast, which in terms of individual moments, features some of Doves best work as band.
“There Goes the Fear”
Black Rebel Motorcycle ClubB.R.M.C.
While they didn’t have the staying power of The Strokes or The White Stripes, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club was right at the forefront of the garage revival bands of 2001 and this self-titled debut was considered among the cream of the crop. While they would only once come close of matching this album with the more Americana-influenced Howl, B.R.M.C. still stands as one of the better examples of garage rock done right.
“Whatever Happened to My Rock N Roll (Punk Song)”
DJ ShadowThe Private Press
Given the critically acclaimed status of DJ Shadow’s debut Endtroducing…, it seemed that his sophomore release was almost doomed from the start. Not so fast– while not quite memorable enough to achieve instant classic status, DJ Shadow provided one heck of a follow up to satisfy even the harshest critics.
Cody ChesnuTTThe Headphone Masterpiece
Between the surprising MTV2 coverage to helping The Roots pen one of their strongest singles with a remake of “The Seed,” Cody ChesnuTT was an overnight success of sorts. While his solo talent was too raw for radio, with “Look Good In Leather” being the only song to receive any kind of commercial attention, it’s not surprising that ChesnuTT was unable to maintain that level of mainstream appeal– not that he wanted anyway as he would step away from music a short period of time after. That being said, The Headphone Masterpiece, a title that stems from the fact that the recording and production was done from the comforts of his home, is a sprawling, stream-of-consciousness approach to R&B/Soul that is truly refreshing.
“The Seed” (Explicit)
The Flaming LipsAt War With the Mystics
Musically invigorating, the lyrics on At War With the Mystics just weren’t quite enough to give it the staying power that their other albums benefitted from. That being said, The Flaming Lips had a handful of great singles on this album, and it was also a logical progression from Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots.
“The Yeah Yeah Yeah Song”
MuseBlack Holes and Revelations
After being constantly referred to as that band that sounds a bit too much like Radiohead (except with half the talent), Muse truly broke the cycle with Black Holes and Revelations. Anchored by the glammed-up “Supermassive Black Hole,” the anthemic “Starlight” and Depeche Mode-influenced “Map of the Problematique,” it’s clear that Muse had an array of influences walking into this project. The resulting album is by far and away their most interesting, as refreshing as it is dynamic.
“Supermassive Black Hole”
My Chemical RomanceThe Black Parade
This album just about destroyed every preconceived notion I had about the band, not to mention blew the similarly conceived rock-opera American Idiot out of the water as well. My Chemical Romance aimed incredibly high with this album, and mostly delivered– a truly exceptional experience.
Working for a Nuclear Free CityBusinessmen & Ghosts
While the Shortlist prize nominated album may owe a great deal to bands such as Joy Division, Working for a Nuclear Free City showed a great deal of promise as a new band to watch with their 2007 release– their US debut. Relying heavily on dense, industrial backdrops, there’s a sense of urgency to their sound that never gets lost.
Sunset RubdownRandom Spirit Lover
The third release from Spencer Krug’s “other project” (the primary one being Wolf Parade) is nothing short of wondrous, and its apparent the moment the lead guitar launches into the beginning of the opening “The Mending of the Gown.” While those familiar with Krug’s work will find familiarity with some of the styles presented here, Random Spirit Lover excels through dramatic and poignant songwriting, and heavily-nuanced arrangements.
“The Mending of the Gown”
While his relaxed, observational vocals may be more associated with The Whitest Boy Alive or Kings of Convenience, Erlend Øye’s electronic solo effort is as intriguing as the destinations he traveled just to record the album (each song was recorded in a different city, spanning eight countries in all).
PhoenixWolfgang Amadeus Phoenix
After finally breaking through with It’s Never Been Like That, Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix finds the band finally comfortable within their newfound skin, after having mixed results as a more electronic-based band. While much of the staying power with this album lies within accessible tracks such as “Lisztomania” or “1901,” the epic “Love Like a Sunset” show Phoenix’s talent extends far beyond three minute pop songs.
Badly Drawn BoyThe Hour of Bewilderbeast
The 2000 Mercury Prize winning album finds Badly Drawn Boy in top form, ranging from the beautifully orchestrated folk vignette of “The Shining” to the guitar pop of “Once Around the Block,” there are no real misses here. The Hour of Bewilderbeast is both a diverse as well as brilliant album.
“Once Around the Block”
An achingly beautiful and intimate album, Rice found lightning in a bottle with a string of successes with the singles “The Blower’s Daughter” (released a year ahead of time to much success in Ireland), “Cannonball,” and finally “Volcano.” A must-own for any fans of the singer/songwriter genre, O is a terrific debut.
FeistLet It Die
Although no one could have anticipated the breakthrough sophomore release that would follow, Feist’s debut certainly wasn’t a shabby start. With her frequent collaborator Gonzales in tow, Feist’s Let It Die is a collection of songs that in a lot of ways is the antithesis of her Broken Social Scene work– quiet, intimate, and incredibly sweet, the lead single “Mushaboom” serves as a centerpiece for this very well done album.
My Morning JacketIt Still Moves
Swooping in like a creature from a far away land, the incredibly heavy reverb of My Morning Jacket gave the band an unassuming stance. Without seeing them live, one could mistake songs such as “Mahgeetah,” “Golden” or “Just One Thing” as being merely quaint. Even on their jam-oriented “One Big Holiday” on “Run Thru,” much of the sting is taken out thanks to the epic reverb. Only within the context of My Morning Jacket’s later albums did people even begin to understand that It Still Moves, was the sound of a band on the fast track to being something truly great.
“One Big Holiday”
Admittedly, it was nearly impossible for Interpol to exceed expectations after wowing fans and critics alike with Turn on the Bright Lights. That being said, Antics was about as good a follow up as anyone could sincerely expect, and standing on its own, its a terrifically fun listen. Not quite as dour or grizzly as Turn on the Bright Lights or its successor Our Love to Admire, for that matter– Antics is a self-assured, and steadily entertaining listen.
Belle & SebastianDear Catastrophe Waitress
At the time, Dear Catastrophe Waitress stood as Belle & Sebastian’s most polished album, and that shift in production really brought their sound to life, adding a flair of sophistication to their frequently humorous wit. Dear Catastrophe Waitress still stands as the best album the band has produced.
“If She Wants Me”
Art BrutBang Bang Rock & Roll
Art Brut could be written off as nothing more than a gimmicky band if it weren’t for the fact they were so damned good. The razor sharp lyrics bring to mind Jarvis Cocker, while the band rocks along with the best of them. While Art Brut has yet to fulfill the promise they showed on this awesome debut, Bang Bang Rock & Roll is still one of the essential album of the decade.
King GeedorahTake Me To Your Leader
Easily one of the most prolific artists of the decade, MF Doom aka Viktor Vaughn aka King Geedorah (and endless other aliases) always seems to have an album or a project handy. Even crazier is the fact that just about all of his musical output is worthwhile, with Take Me To Your Leader being one of the many prime examples. While the album is a bit feature heavy, the contributions are welcome and don’t distract from the overall feel of the album. Take Me To Your Leader is just one of the many great Doom albums from this decade.
“Next Levels” (feat. Lil’ Sci) (Explicit)
The Black KeysThickfreakness
Perhaps its the midwest origins, or perhaps its the fact that they’re a mere duo of drums and guitar, or maybe its because of the somewhat familiar name. Whatever the case may be, The Black Keys are not the White Stripes, and that is no disrespect at all to this Dayton, Ohio band– they do things their own way. Serving up a blend of blues-rock that is hard to come by these days, Dan Auerbach’s vocals punch through the fuzzy guitar effects with an effortless snarl.
An exceptionally deranged, scatterbrained album of hip hop abstractionisms that could only be pulled off by someone like producer Madlib. Interspersing old tv clips with DJ cuts, sparse rhymes, and some occasional silliness, The Unseen is something of a cult classic these days, but still well worth hearing.
“Discipline 99, Pt. 0″ (Explicit)
Lupe FiascoFood & Liquor
Hard to believe that this is the guy that got his start from being featured on the Kanye West track “Touch the Sky,” the hype train for Lupe Fiasco quickly grew as Food & Liquor continued to be pushed back due to album leaks. The wait was worthwhile as Lupe released an undoubted breath of fresh air, interjecting a style and substance into hip-hop that hadn’t been prominently seen since the 90’s.
“Daydreamin’” (feat. Jill Scott)(Explicit)
Les Savy FavLet’s Stay Friends
The always entertaining Les Savy Fav struck gold with Let’s Stay Friends. The first album they had released in six years, it not only was worth the weight, but further solidified Les Savy Fav’s place in indie rock. Whether they’re rocking (“The Equastrian”), dancing (“Patty Lee”), or displaying their quieter side (“Comes and Goes”), Les Savy Fav always brings their “A” game.
Nothing like some new Yeasayer to kick off the month of November. This single will be featured on their highly-anticipated 2010 release entitled Odd Blood, and it looks as though it’s been well worth the weight. For the cost of your email address you can download the single here, or if you’re into collecting additional swag, you can pony up $3.99 to get the full Single release which also includes some remixes by Memory Tapes & DJ/Rupture. If you want the limited edition treatment, you can opt for the 12″ Vinyl package for $8 or better yet the T-shirt, Vinyl, and MP3 bundle for $28. Not a bad way to start a return, no? Stream “Ambling Alp” below to see if it’s worth your dime.
Fifty. Action Bronson Blue Chips You might remember Action Bronson making an appearance on last year’s list with his Dr. Lechter album. Despite the lower ranking, Blue Chips as a whole is even better than what Bronson has shown before. Between his deft wordplay and some outstanding, gritty production from Party Supplies, Blue Chips is a winner. Forty-Nine. Dr. […]
This is one album that you can definitely judge from the cover. Release Date: June 26, 2012 Record Label: In The Red Records Rating: 95 The first album under the Ty Segall Band name, Slaughterhouse is rife with the kind of raw, unrelenting, “F*** you!” type of energy that is the most damning thing to hit one’s […]
Frank Ocean’s major label debut proves to be a masterpiece. Release Date: July 10, 2012 Record Label: Def Jam Rating: 100 The most universally celebrated artist out of the Odd Future collective, Frank Ocean has managed to impress even with the monumental expectations leading into his major label debut. Taking pages from Stevie Wonder’s notebook, […]
While rumors and leaks run wild regarding the potential Lollapalooza lineup, Pitchfork has announced the rest of the bands for their 2012 festival. It looks a little thin at the top, to be sure, but this (like every other P4k festival) is a very solid lineup of bands at what is always a wonderfully intimate […]
A Church That Fits Our Needs is an elegant and wondrous album, it’s certain to be one of the better ones you’ll hear all year. Release Date: March 20, 2012 Record Label: Anti- Rating: 97 Written in the aftermath of the suicide of frontman Ari Picker’s mother, it’s not surprising that A Church That Fits Our Needs […]