Following up on, at least in the loosest of senses, the most recent Year in Music in Review dictum is this more definitive, less jejune, if equally pointless summary of my favorite albums of the past year. A quadrennial PR farce masquerading as democracy, the continuation of two protracted and highly illegal (and immoral) military campaigns, and the continued degradation of my hockey game - though more accurately described as a continued decrease in the rate of my improvement (negative dx/dt) rather than a comment on the absolute quality of play itself - notwithstanding, these albums did their part to numb the pain of modern life:
10) The Gaslight Anthem / The '59 Sound - When did straight ahead guitar-driven rock without pretense, but with an implicit (and certainly not explicit) class consciousness become so rare, so appreciated (from under-appreciation) in the way that warm apple pie under cold vanilla ice cream after a long drive has become? These ne'er heard of 'fore boys deliver the goods honestly and incorruptibly, with a workmanlike devotion to craft and care that should make them the envy of every gaggle of lads in the garage or the van. Unlike another band sharing a home state - what I like to call the worst that achieved statehood and never tried to secede from the Union at one time - a band that'll remain nameless, but let's just say it rhymes with Fight-us And-stomp-on-us, a band that everything from their obscure Shakespearean titular appellation to the belabored vocal bellowing and blatant Connor Oberst ripping off to the cliched indie-rock pantomimes and rantings and ravings sans substance mind you, or evocation or meaning, ultimately betray any feeling, confident or otherwise, of authenticity... unlike this celebrated retinue of the damned, another "Joisey" band, The Gaslight Anthem, in the parlance of times no more than a handful of years outdated - though who can be sure what with pop culture idioms viz. legitimate and ironic usage changing hands so quickly these days - "keep it real."
9) High Places / 03/07-09/07 - A woman sings beautifully, if in an unassured way that makes it all the more compelling, over a dude fiddling with knobs and mixers and samplers and various electronic scenaria creating clicks and thuds. Very pretty yet still in a head nodding way.
8) Girl Talk / Feed the Animals - Probably the most controversial and polarizing selection here. If you're a fan of English-language popular music from the 1960's on, I'm not sure how you can honestly, or at least definitionally, not like this music. Apropos to the living in the past meme, those first few bars of recognizing an old song once loved e.g. the Temple of the Dog intro halfway into the first track is just cash money smiles and tingly feelings all around. The dude's song selection is varied over genre and era, including canonical hooks and subtler tracks, and his mash-up skills are, I think inarguably, beyond reproach. I imagine the people that don't like this stuff to be joyless automaton-like haters of the human spirit. Who wants to cop to that?
7) The Dodos / Visiter - Psych-folk-rock-type stuff from SF. I saw these guys by myself out on top of the East River (to all those people I called offering my free extra ticket, you suck), and they didn't play any of my favorite songs.
6) Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds / Dig Lazarus, Dig!!! - This was the first Bad Seeds' album to come out since I became a big Nick Cave fan. I had long been vaguely aware of homeboy and knew he was kinda sweet, but it wasn't until being hungover beyond belief, I'm talking about inambulatory and face-down on the couch, blasting And No More Shall We Part, Cave's redemptive album re straightening out and finding God, that I understood the genius of Mr. Nick Cave and quickly thereafter discovered his catalog and anticipated eagerly this work. It doesn't disappoint. Cave's superb if not unmatched storytelling is on display, and The Seeds do their thing, including the guy who makes the weird sounds that sound like a cross between an electric guitar and a distorted fiddle, but which are certainly neither. This album confidently rocks, a touch no doubt owing to the recent Grinderman effort.
5) Azeda Booth / In Flesh Tones - This is undoubtedly the album here least likely to be listened to by the fellow Pfork-ites et al amongst us. And that's a shame because it's phenomenally brilliant, with reference points that don't quite do it justice but I'd begrudgingly have to include Radiohead as in terms of some squirk/sqeal-type beats, Porishead with the female lead over some weird shit musically speaking backing it (though I guess there are no women in the band), and maybe even the Cocteau Twins in terms of overall sexiness and loungy feel. Scary, enticing, soothing, pretty, intense, Albertan: they do it all with seemingly minimal effort and zero subterfuge. I fucked up the description of this record, more due to, I'd like to think, the complexity of the work and not the deficiency of my skills. Either way, it's a beauty.
4) M83 / Saturdays = Youth - Once upon a time long ago, a strapping young buck named Tears for Fears, Songs From the Big Chair era, laid down a comely lass, My Bloody Valentine, making an honest woman of her and siring a beauty of a girl (with a body that was kind of unreal, especially for those times). Said girl went through her life unaffected and untamed and unloved, that is, until she met the bastard son of Spandau Ballet, who shared a torrid but only single night of drunken passion with the French dance-pop duo, Air. The honest wench and bastard scion found a love that would last all of times, full of elysian days and ravenous nights. They, thankfully, produced but one heir, M83's Saturdays = Youth. It is for each of us to enjoy.
3) Wolf Parade / At Mount Zoomer - What happened to this album? These guys were media darlings following their last, first?, studio effort, and through their brilliant and seemingly never-ending world tour. And through the numerous and various side-projects, what have you, though with none of them reaching the ability of the main deal. And then this album, liked and noted, but never really having taken off (where you at aforementioned Pfork?) like you may have expected given the pedigree and ultimate if not in your face quality. I don't know, I liked the hell out of this album. It may have lacked the bombast and natural aggressive hookiness of its predecessor, but there are some great songs, great grooves on this one; it's Wolf Parade as its species being: manic drumming, jangly guitars, Dan tossed, and Spencer melodizing to the end. One of my favorite Wolf Parade memories, aside from and way in excess of seeing them at Bowery or at that NYU show or wherever else we saw them (NYC's the same every night out in a way), or covering Father's Son at show from time to time, was the day we, VV sans Joel, had to "soundproof" the studio on N. 4th (N.B. our second unique studio in that space). This consisted of, mainly, mainlining Jim Beam to the dome, duct taping that foam spongy material to the walls, but mainly listening to Apologies to the Queen Mary through the PA, the umpteenth time at this point, and loud, and basically rocking out, with the position of the phallus not having been definitively determined, depsite the known expression. Mount Zoomer, its own material and not a rehash of the past for sure, takes me back to those moments, being young and drunk and having fun, and doing it well, that meant and still means and will mean something to me.
2) Why? / Alopecia - I've written about this album before and there's not much more to say. It's a masterpiece.
1) TV on the Radio / Dear Science - Same deal.