Tuesday, January 19, 2010

TOP 10 ALBUMS OF 2009.

10. Dan Deacon - Bromst

Ahh. Bromst. The complexities of chaos. Dan Deacon is known for evoking a whole lot of community vibes in his music and his performance (cue Golden Plains, The Tote, Brooklyn Bowl.) The group chanting, the cartoony voice effects, it's like your common manifestation of mass hysteria. The difference between this album and it's predecessor Spiderman of the Rings is that although it's still conjures ritualistic emotions, there seems to be a more introverted, personal feel all over. Some may put it down to the fact that the man's clearly making a buck (despite travelling around on an old yella' school bus, bless) enough to say, subtract some of that static out of the sound and use real instruments and smoother samples. Others may say it's Dan Deacon's coming of age album. And, if you're in to signs, the last track on Bromst is called "Get Older." Clever, right!? It's music that sounds like it's in your brain. There are less crowd-pleasers, more complexity. It's rich and colourful and thought provoking.

I also think that it is worthy to note that I saw Deacon play a round robin show with Deerhunter and No Age at the Brooklyn Bowl in the New York summer of this year... it was truly INCREDIBLE.

9. Real Estate - Real Estate

I know I said I'd happily re-review this album during my ugly desperation of having to do a mid-year review (I was excited ok!) but I honestly can't be arsed. So here it is again, in case you missed it...

8. Bon Iver - Blood Bank EP

And coming in at Number 8 is last years Numero Uno, Mr Justin Vernon as Bon Iver. It seems to be a little unfair as For Emma, Forever Ago can never, will never be touched by anyone, ever, including the man who wrote it in terms of personal sentiment for me BUT that is not to say that this 4 song follow-up is not equally as beautiful. Vernon smashes it on the vocoder more than ever before to create that haunting, wintery, echo from a wood cabin sound he does so well. It's hard to say whether this album still retains that desperation and intimacy that made For Emma so special. All those little quirks have been taken away, it wasn't written in solitude in a shack in the woods, it was studio recorded, it is riddled with effects and there is a band of two backing him up. But despite the romance being somewhat dismissed, somehow this guy can still do it. The lyrics for one thing are heart-achingly beautiful and the way in which he can transport you into a winter wonderland using that vocoder wood-folk noise is all too much. You've found a life-long fan in me Mr. Vernon... Good Winter to you.  

7. Surfer Blood - Astro Coast

Ok, so technically, this little doozy is apparently a 2010 release, but heck! is it really my fault if I received it in 2009 and have flogged it ever since? Let's face it, by the time we get to our Top 10 2010 albums this will be gathering dust somewhere down the back of my shelf with the likes of Weezer and Arcade Fire. Cool? Good. On with the proceedings then. Florida's Surfer Blood idealise Nineties alternative rock the way Seventies punks idealised Fifties rock &roll: as a tangible past just distant enough for them to misremember in awesome new ways. Pavement noise scrimmages, warped Pixies surf rock, fresh-faced Weezer tuneage, Arcade Fire's opening crescendo's; it's all the same mess to them. But they dress up their guitar-mad escapades in a stadium get-up that Nineties indie kids were too grumpy to try. It's not break-through but it's well done and it is sublime summer listening.

6. Bill Callahan - Sometimes I Wish I Were an Eagle

This album is indescribably beautiful. I will try my hardest though. To be honest, I am not much of a Smog fan and I can't exactly pin point what it is that sets Eagle apart from all of Callahan's prior work as Smog. I suppose it's obvious in the allocating of titles. This, the album in which he puts his name to is intensely personal. Smog seems to me more of a finger pointing snob towards all of humanity. This album however, is pure poetry. It is impossible not to be drawn into the lyrics all while feeling as if you are eavesdropping on an intimate conversation. The way in which Callahan uses words is how an eagle uses his wings. He sours into the light and into the dark. "I used to be darker/Then I got lighter/Then I got dark again." These are the three lines from the opening track "Jim Cain" that sum up the album perfectly. Also, "with the death of the shadow came a lightness of verse/But the darkest of nights, in truth, still dazzles..." What resonates through the entire album is what I would agree to be the perfect subject for any musing/album/poem/story is the ability to step back and take a long hard look at oneself and one's beliefs all while having the wisdom that one knows nothing. So incredibly stunning. Just listen to this album.

5. The Pains of Being Pure at Heart - The Pains of Being Pure of Heart

This is The Pains of Being Pure at Heart's debut album and they have done a damn good job of crossing off all those little things in this internet day and age that can make you an over night sensation aka name dropped on various blogs, etc. They have the name, they have the black and white d.i.y cover art, they have the super 8 video clips, they reign from New York and make this whole band business look easy as pie in their sly confidence. But what TPOBPAH holds over any other seasonal internet success is these guys actually make damn good music. It's like Peter, Bjorn and John at their most shoe-gazy crossed with Ride all mixed up in sparkling melodies with an undercurrent of sad teenage mopery. It's not break through by any measure, it's just damn good pop music. Song highlights include "Young Adult Friction" and "Stay Alive."

4. The Black Ryder - Buy the Ticket, Take the Ride

Finally, some psychedelia! Ex-Morning After Girls members Aimee Nash and Scott Von Ryper have put together this thoroughly enjoyable debut album and have since toured with Black Rebel Motorcycle Club and Brain Jonestown Massacre because of it (with original BJM drummer and current guitarist, Ricky Maymi featuring on more than a few tracks.) The opening track, "To Never Know You," starts in a haze perfectly reminiscent of My Bloody Valentine's Loveless, but goes on to differ in a pretty significant aspect: audible lyrics - not that that's an issue, just a difference... Nash's got a beautifully soothing and gentle pair of lungs that cut through the grit of the layered guitars perfectly. "Let It Go" is my personal highlight, with the overtly contradictory lyrics, "there's nothing left to give you/except for everything" which perfectly commensurate with that all-important mind-expanding ethos. There's also the gun-slinging, saloon door-swinging "Sweet Come Down" which features a harmonica cameo from BRMC's Peter Hayes... nice. There's good stuff throughout this entire affair all you gotta do is listen to it!

3. Animal Collective - Merriweather Post Pavilion

Woooooo! Look at the pretty cover art! Okay and stop.

I can't help but hold a little grudge towards these guys post Meredith. I can appreciate why they did what they did; all that self righteous, self-proud, selfish showmanship. I understand that this is a band that finds musical boundaries and breaks them down. They have no problem in playing a single chord for 10 minutes or destroying a perfectly likeable indie song with bleating vocals or utterly irritating noise, and that is all very well and good but COME ON! We are a crowd of music lovers. We LOVE your music. We love your music because we love your albums so why not give us a little bit of what gave us access to you in the first place! Especially considering that this album would have to be considered Animal Collective's "pop" album. It is here in Merriweather Post Pavilion that Avey Tare and Panda Bear have found a natural way to integrate the sing-along melodies, sticky hooks, and driving percussion that have long been the make-up of popular music. There are so many highlights, "My Girls, "Summertime Clothes" and "Also Frightened" which is reminiscent of early psychedelia, a "See Emily Play"-style tribute to childhood insanity. I can guarantee that any of these tracks, along with any of their older stuff would've possessed the entire crowd in an instant. The album, despite the complexity of sound is still friendly and accessible by nature. It's digitally made but feels human. I only wish that was what was delivered live. Oh well, back to the old album-playing machine then.

2. Grizzly Bear - Veckatimest

It's been almost three years since Grizzly Bear's last release Yellow House but since then, blogs and magazines kept count of every day between then and the release of Veckatimest and by the looks of it, not one person was disappointed. This album is truly brilliant. It rides a “more is more” philosophy and carries vocal harmonies by the barrel full. Veckatimest, named after an island in Massachusetts, starts inconspicuously with “Southern Point,” a Daniel Rossen-led, slice of jangle pop. Second track, “Two Weeks,” is perhaps Grizzly Bear’s finest moment. It’s the band’s most pure “pop” song, as frontman Ed Droste emotes about a relationship over laid-back, hip-hop-like keys and a plucky bass line. "Two Weeks” showcases Grizzly Bear’s eye to detail best; nothing here isn’t highly considered and crafted (much like the entire record.) Chris Bear’s drums roll and saunter underneath Chris Taylor’s harmonies. Droste’s lengthening of the song’s key phrase (“I told you I would stay”) and the addition of Beach House vocalist Victoria Legrand on the chorus make for tiny little moments that create a completely satisfied song, and listener.

Hype can be a cruel and unforgiving mistress, but Veckatimest surpasses the expectations. It plainly improves Grizzly Bear’s sound, and lends itself well to multiple plays, because with each repeated listen reveals another perfectly crafted moment you may have missed last time.

1. Girls - Album

"Girls frontman Christopher Owens grew up in the Children of God cult. His older brother died as a baby because the cult didn't believe in medical attention. His dad left. He and his mother lived around the world, and the cult sometimes forced his mother to prostitute herself. As a teenager, Owens fled and lived as a Texas gutter-punk for a while. Then a local millionaire took Owens under his wing, and Owens moved to San Francisco. There, he and Chet "JR" White formed Girls, and recorded Album, their debut album, under the influence of just about every kind of pill they could find."

This dejected tale is the kind that not only couldn't be made up but also has the weight to overwhelm a band so much that the music could never shine through. This is not the case. The songs Owen writes are simple and about heartbreak. He's playful; he has fun with it but there's always a wounded, raggedy hiccup at the back of his throat, one that implies worlds of hurt beyond the simple break-up songs he's singing.

Album is musically messy and simple. It has all the guitar-jangles, sha-la-la harmonies, muffled heartbeat drums of a Beach Boys album but it's that jaded, dark side that lends a total seduction. It turns me on like "Heroin" turns me on (the song doofus.) This is great album for a good old-fashioned bedroom romp. The film clips are the perfect visual for the sound... dirty d.i.y scene scapes of San Francisco under the stars and bettes in bras. I want to say lo-fi but I think it's more than that. I think the scuzzy elements and staticy sounds are all part of the production in creating what this band is all about and it's wrapped in a extremely well executed music. Without being showy about it, they swing from rushing power-pop to acoustic campfire sing alongs to "Morning Light", which is a truly bang-on revival of shoegaze and we all love a little bit of shoegaze.

I think despite all this hoo-haa, the real reason I adore album is because of its modesty and rawness. If I were to ever meet Christopher Owens I'd wanna get real wasted with him and probe him to find out what lies behind the songs but in the meantime I'm just gonna put this on repeat and turn it up real loud.


Christopher said...

hey, thank you. really.
- Christopher Owens

Sunni Hart said...

Wow. Now I'm embarrassed. No, thank-you, very much, Christopher Owens.