10. Eddy Current Suppression Ring - Rush to Relax
Maybe I'm way off, but is Brendan Suppression a modern beat poet with less colloquialisms? The frenetic ramblings of this boy genius are more present than ever in this brilliant release. This was a driving album for ex-boyfriend and I. A great one for me, with songs such as "Gentleman" and "I Can Be a Jerk" (unfortunately it didn't penetrate the former as much as I hoped.) The best bits of this album however would have to be where Eddy Current's brawn has always lay, and that is the jam-factor. Those guitar riffs over basic tinny drums are irresistible and make me seat-dance all jerky, like my friend Leah. Other highlights include "Burn" which sees Brendan consoling a friend with manic-depression... it's fierce and to the point. The closer is the 24 minute title track (which my dear friend Joey filmed the film clip for. See below.) This is what I mean when I say that Brendan is a modern beat poet. If "you're going on a holiday and your never coming back... slow down before you fall down" is not a coined phrase of the highest order, I don't know what is. You could think about these words for a good 20 minutes straight, perhaps at the beach, with sea birds singing all around you. Or you could just keep listening to the album because that is exactly what you'll get.
Eddy Current Suppression Ring RUSH TO RELAX from Johann Rashid on Vimeo.
9. Wild Nothing - Gemini
Ok so I've been obsessed this year, with finding the genre name for anything that includes 80's bands such as The Smiths, Echo and the Bunnymen, Magazine, The Cure, Tears for Fears, Depeche Mode, Simple Minds, etc, etc. It's NOT New Romantic. It's all in a feeling, not a time. Anyway, anyone who can help me out here, please do oblige.
Anyway, this band and album doesn't fit into whatever that genre might be (that awful segway was just an excuse to get to the bottom of it.) It is very reminiscent of the 80's however, except that there is emotion in lead singer Jack Tatum's haze. On first listen it reminded me a lot (2009's 5th place getter) The Pains of Being Pure at Heart but it's more committed and less showy. It feels as if Wild Nothing are being completely honest in their expression rather than just flexing their highly influenced, feigned indie-pop muscles (oxymoron?) "Live in Dreams" has been a personal constant throughout the year and is still my favourite. Don't stop there though, the entire album moves like life, in peaks and troughs and is really very good at each point.
8. Beach Fossils - Beach Fossils
If you were to put all my recent listening into a pie chart this beachy, lo-fi slice would be one of the largest, and it would be highlighted in aquamarine, just because. Wild Nothing would be in there as would Real Estate, Girls, Best Coast, etc. I played this a lot at my cafe and often got the complaint that the song was on repeat... FOOLS. This is the perfect soundtrack to just kick back to. Isn't that the point of "beachy" and "lo-fi?" After a few listens, if you allow it, you can pick up the tiny details and nuances that really make this album what it is. It's also a fantastic break-up album. One that transports you but doesn't distract or force you to be happy (thank you Daphne Shum. x)
7. The Black Keys - Brothers
Let me simply dot point why this album rules.
- Max Turner's Dance Room Party to "Everlasting Light" (and the "Everlasting Light" back up vocals.)
- "Next Girl" ("Oh, my next girl , she'll be nothing like my ex girl. It was a painful death. Now, I got a second chance. Oh, her beautiful face and her, and her wicked ways. And I'm praying for , her beautiful face everyday. All that work, over, over so much time . If I, if I think too hard, I might lose my mind. Oh, my next girl, yeah, will be nothing like my ex girl . I made mistakes back then , I'll never do it again")
- "Tighten Up"
- Dan Auerbach's falsetto
- The Black Keys are back in my life for the first time since 2004.
6. Joanna Newsom - Have One On Me
Giney sounds like Joni Mitchell! It's true. Listen to "In California." It's uncanny. That should be enough, but that's not all. This album is a true progression of a whimsical harp playing angel turned into a knowing, wiser woman. There's a change in her voice, more force perhaps. There's also a shift in the arrangements. They're simpler. It's as if Giney no longer needs to prove herself. You also feel closer to the music/magic than ever before... perhaps that's all part of it. She ready to let us in. She's conversing with us rather than showing us. This album is 18 tracks of heaven. She's seminal. Not only does she sound like Joni Mitchell, she IS the Joni Mitchell of our generation. Okay so that might be enough... not much more can be said really, can it.
5. Antony and the Johnsons - Swanlights
This was a late contender as I only heard it about two months ago. It was on vinyl, in a lounge room, by candlelight and I was lying on a big, cushy white couch, stoned. I became utterly lost in it. If you've heard anything by Antony and the Johnson's you can half imagine. Plus, look at those odds!
I've listened to it over and over, and in less blissful surroundings...still works. This may not be his best album, for reasons that are beyond my musical comprehension. All I know is that this album does feel like the maestro is slightly unsettled in his direction. Each track differs greatly from one another. Not a bad thing necessarily, I personally love a little unpredictability. It is a strange concept though considering he has always been so settled in his individual style. What this agitation makes room for, however is something really quite stunning. From that very first time I heard it, I was taken with the concept of redemption. Death or dying which leads toward a better place. Perhaps Antony is looking for some redemption himself. Redemption from the (beautiful) despair he has always stood for. "The Spirit Was Gone" is what struck this chord initially but on further listens it's riddled throughout. "Thank You for your Love" is a powerful and genuine appreciation for something that has died. "Ghost" frees snakes from their hosts. The highlight is his duet with Bjork on Icelandic sung "Fletta."
Do listen to this on vinyl. Also, read the cover story about "Swanlights the Polar Bear." A masterpiece in itself.
4. Best Coast - Crazy For You
This album reminds me of Issy Beech. First tick. It's also part of the big aquamarine slice on that pie chart graph. Second tick. It's also a banger break-up album. Don't know if that's a tick... let's chuck it in for good measure. The honesty of Beth Cosentino's lyrics are so damn endearing. Simple, sometimes a little naff but raw without a hint of irony. I like that. It's rare in lyrics these days. Not only is it the honesty that grabs you but her delivery and pitch is flawless. "I just wanna tell you that I have always loved you/miss you." "And there's something about the sum-mer." (Could almost sound like "There's something about Sun-ni." Almost.)
Best Coast couldn't be a more fitting name for this band as it screams loud and proud California. Great stuff. That's it really.
3. Gorillaz - Plastic Beach
("Sweepstakes"/"To Binge"/"Pirate Jet"/"Some Kind of Nature")
2. Beach House - Teen Dream
Beach House has the ability to stop me in my tracks so that I can take a big, deep breath. It's intensely, intensely personal. It doesn't make me think about break-ups or make-ups or friends or anything external. It hits a chord deep within my soul. It's raw, sad, swirling emotion carried predominately through the haze of that mid-70's organ sound and of course, Victoria Legrand's fucking incredible, amazing, soul-filled (not soulful) voice of honey and heaven. Zebra is such a well formed album. The imagery it creates is golden. I'm even writing more whimsically and that's because I'm listening to it right now. "It is happening again" are the repeated lyrics from the second track "Silver Soul." I think I've had entire days with these four words dancing around my head. No complaints. Third track "Norway" opens with a light "ahh-ahh-ahh" that builds into a boat ride of a song. The best boat ride I've ever had. The entire album is so well put together and undeniable that it does make you wonder how a band with such a distinctive sound can keep releasing new music that people want to hear. Why not just turn to Devotion or their self-titled... I'm not really sure, but whatever it is, I can't turn away from Zebra.
I can not wait to see these babes play at Laneway. Oh geez, oh heck.
1. Ariel Pink - Before Today
Being a fan of Ariel Pink's for some time now, it was hard to know what to expect from this, there first studio recorded album. It had me from hello. It is no doubt my most played album of the year. Every track! Every. Single. Track. There's no loss of Pink's true essence either. I guess that what comes with being the king of d.i.y lo-fi home recordings... you tell them how it's supposed to sound even if they're the one's with the expensive equipment and years of recording experience under their headphones. Despite this power over sound, Pink has utilised the opportunity to play around with the big toys and he has done it exceptionally well. You can't help be pleasantly surprised as each track comes to play. I think that's a good word for it. Surprising. "Beverly Kills" shows us this in it's heavy 80's power-riff opening which catches me off guard every time. There are a few favourable influences thrown in also which definitely gets me on-side. One that I can't resist is the Alan Parson's Project, heard loud and clear in "Can't Hear my Eyes" and "Remininscences." "Fright Night (Nevermore)" could just be the song of the year.
This is probably the least emotionally involved I've been with my number 1 album of the year. I'm happy with that. Before Today reminds me of Pushka and it's family and the carefree times of a tumultuous but all round (and round -see what I did there?) important year. It's ultimately just a very cool album. Maybe this means that I might finally be cool...
Happy New Year everybody. X