Posts tagged ‘Fleet Foxes’

November 27, 2008

Top 10 Favorite Albums 2008

This year has been a weird one for me. I think I’ve listened to music less this year then I ever have before. Some of it has to do with less free time, too many podcasts (which I’ve cut down on), too much news watching and obsessing over the election, my job taking a huge toll on me. An album had to really stand out for it to demand my attention. And, in the end perhaps this is a better list for it. That’s not to say I haven’t listened to a lot of music this year. I’ve heard the Bon Iver, Cut Copy, Shearwater, Deerhunter, She & Him, Santogold, etc albums. And, I do recommend those albums as well. But, this list represents what I put on repeat this year. In order, but in no way claiming it’s the “best” music of the year, my Top 10 for 2008:

10. The Hold Steady – Stay Positive: I became a believer with this, their 4th album. I had read so much about how well respected and liked The Hold Steady are. While I definitely agreed that Craig Finn is a charismatic singer and gifted storyteller, I felt musically little on their first three albums stood out. Stay Positive is a whole other story. The songwriting is so much stronger this time. Sure, I can point to the usage of harpsichord on “One For The Cutters”, or the gothic banjo tinged song “Both Crosses”, or the non-cheesy use of a talkbox on “Joke About Jamaica”. But, even the traditional Hold Steady rock songs are memorable this time. What an awesome rock anthem “Constructive Summer” is, especially that piano-led bridge. Favorite Songs: Constructive Summer, Both Crosses, Joke About Jamaica

9. Los Campesinos! – Hold On Now, Youngster…: British twee pop/punk with shared male/female lead vocals and seemingly the rest of the seven-piece band on background vocals. Plus glockenspiels. Plus violins. Plus whatever else. The band earns its exclamation point. Each song is a controlled mess, seemingly about to go off the rails, yet it never quite does. Instead it’s just really fun to listen to. The six-minute “You! Me! Dancing!” doesn’t seem any longer than the the two-minute “My Year In Lists”. For me, what makes the band really stand out is the wittiness of the lyrics. There are great lines that stick out all over. “I’m taking far too many chances on these less idealistic romances”, or “Four sweaty boys with guitars tell me nothing about my life”, or “The opposite of true love is as follows: Reality” are just a few great examples. If only every indie pop/punk band were this intelligent about their emotional issues. Favorite Songs: Broken Heartbeats Sound Like Breakbeats, My Year In Lists, You! Me! Dancing!

8. Gang Gang Dance – Saint Dymphna: This is clearly their “pop structure” album. Gang Gang Dance have taken their stew of Brooklyn indie guitars, tribal drumming, beats, ambient synths, and the exotic vocal mews and wails of Liz Bougatsos and tightened it all into (slightly) more structure. Hell, there’s even a hiphop track with a guest rapper, UK grime artist Tinchy Stryder, on “Princes”. All the songs flow into each other, much like previous album God’s Money, but especially on tracks like the out and out er… house jam of “House Jam” there are actual resemblances to songs. You can tell apart the tribal-punk of “First Communication” from the techno of “Afoot”. Clearly, this band is talented enough to go all out dance-pop if they wanted to. They’re all the better for subverting pop into their own unique hypnotic soundscapes. Favorite Songs: Afoot, House Jam, Desert Storm

7. Hercules & Love Affair – Hercules & Love Affair: Hey look, it’s the annual DFA production on my top 10. This is modern disco. But not cheesy. Instead, it’s classy, sophisticated, mature. Which makes sense, as it’s been 30 years since disco’s peak. “Blind” is the peak of the album, melancholic lyrics about growing older and finding yourself alone set to a pulsing dancefloor backdrop. Everything sounds lush and gorgeous. There are live horns all over the album, for example on the extended outro of “This Is My Love”, creating a jazzy Manhattan atmosphere. Finally, I must add what an achievement it is that they have cast Antony of Antony And The Johnsons in the roll of disco siren, a role that I don’t find irritating at all and actually feel perfectly suits his androgynous vocals. Favorite Songs: Blind, This Is My Love, True False/Fake Real

6. Portishead – Third: Do I need to tell you about Portishead? If so, get yourself an education already. Their third album will not surprise you in its mood. It’s suffocating in its dark mood, and filled with heartbreak and dread. The sound is still modern noir, blues, and ::sigh:: trip-hop. And it’s still gorgeous. That’s not to say the songwriting is more of the same. In fact, nothing on their previous two albums sounds like the pulsing drone of “We Carry On” or the powerful industrial track “Machine Gun”. It takes two minutes before Beth Gibbons makes her entrance during the krautrock of “Silence”, which begins the album with a sample of a man talking in Portuegese. What may be surprising is that 11 years after their last album, it easily is an equal of their first two, now considered classic, albums. I really hope 11 years doesn’t pass before their fourth. Favorite Songs: Silence, The Rip, Machine Gun

5. Neon Neon – “Stainless Style”: You know all those bands who have been aping 80’s moves? It took Gruff Rhys, the singer from Welsh rock band Super Furry Animals, and Boom Bip, hiphop/electronica producer, to realize the obvious: Why not make actual 80’s music!? A concept album about John DeLorean (think Back To The Future), most of the songs are lush with new wave synths, canned snare hits, falsettos, echoed guitars, and synthy bongo drum percussion. But with no irony, no winking. It’s serious. And seriously fun. Me and my friend Ian drove around listening to this album one day and we kept breaking out in laughter. You can’t listen to the opening 1:20 of “Raquel”, where they ride the beat before the melody even arrives, and not feel they’re having a blast creating this music. The lyrics, “Michael Douglas” being the perfect example, totally evoke the sad decadence of the era. Add to this great hip hop songs fronted by Spank Rock, Yo Majesty, and Fat Lip, and it’s almost too great of an idea to believe it exists. Favorite Songs: I Told Her On Alderaan, Raquel, Michael Douglas

4. Annie – Don’t Stop: This album wasn’t officially released. Annie, saying she’s being a “typical Norwegian”, decided to go back and work on more songs. Just recently Annie said she has severed her relationship with her record label because they didn’t want to give her a concrete release date. Either way, the album was leaked. Annie produces what I call Intelligent Pop Music (IPM). I could talk about every song on the album, but here’s the highlights. “I Know Ur Girlfriend Hates Me” is the adult version of Lavigne’s “Girlfriend”. Sexy and self-confident, where Lavigne can only manage teeny brattiness. “Loco” combines dance-pop with the britpop guitar of guest Franz Ferdinand’s Alex Kapranos. “What Do You Want (The Breakfast Song)” is on the surface ridiculously silly with its cheerleader chant of “What do you want, what do you want for breakfast”, but listen to the complexity of the drums and beat structure. The song also gets less silly when you realize she’s talking about matters of the post-coital variety. If she thought this wasn’t good enough to release, I cannot wait for the official release to find out what is. Favorite Songs: I Know UR Girlfriend Hates Me, Loco, What Do You Want (The Breakfast Song)

3. Robyn – Robyn: The Swedes and the Norwegian have it all over the rest of the world. I don’t want to beat a dead horse about the pathetic state of pop music. Lets just say I’m not a fan of Katy Perry. Yes, this is Robyn of Show Me Love fame. In the 11 years since that album she’s somehow quietly managed to perfect pop music. This, her third album, was almost all cowritten by her and released on her own label. She’s capable of singing (really singing!) honest, emotional songs, like on the epic techno ballad “With Every Heartbeat” or the dance-pop “Be Mine!”. She’s capable of doing cute rapping on the fun “Konichiwa Bitches” or improving other people’s songs and outdoing Mad Cobra on her cover of the Teddybears’ “Cobrastyle”. She’s even capable of sounding right at home at the cutting edge of electronica like on The Knife produced “Who’s That Girl”. And she’s capable of it because of her obvious talent and her personality that shines throughout the entire album. Every song is a potential hit single, and eight have been released so far. People need to start paying her millions to write songs for them. Favorite Songs: Konichiwa Bitches, Be Mine!, With Every Heartbeat

2. Lykke Li – Youth Novels: Pop music that does so much with so little. The album was produced by Bjorn Yttling of the excellent Peter Bjorn & John. Some songs often have barely a synth, piano or guitar, a beat, and singing, but unless you pay attention you won’t even notice. The sparseness makes it all the more beautiful when the songs become more ornate. Like the strings that grace “Melodies & Desires” or the saxophone that dances around toward the end of “Dance, Dance, Dance”. She’s Swedish, so naturally all the songs are tinged with sadness and melancholy, as all great pop music should be. It permeates through the dance kiss-off of “I’m Good, I’m Gone” or the gorgeous Spanish guitar balladry of “This Trumpet In My Head”. An exception is “Melodies & Desires”, which attains a poetic sensualness I’ve rarely heard. Not for those who cringe at pixie European-accented female vocals, which I happen to adore. Favorite songs: Melodies & Desires, Dance Dance Dance, This Trumpet In My Head

1. Fleet Foxes – Sun Giant EP/Fleet Foxes: Epically gorgeous folk music. The lead singer’s voice, the vocal harmonies, and the instrumentation are beautiful on the same level that classical composers must have been reaching to Heaven with their oratorios and cantatas . On top of that, the songwriting is not just merely pretty, but also complex and surprising. Somehow the album encompasses all four seasons in its sound. It’s a masterpiece, all the more so for being a debut album. The kind of album that I imagine would make other musicians burn their instruments in defeat. Favorite Songs: English House, Your Protector, Blue Ridge Mountains

Honorable Mention: Girl Talk – Feed The Animals: Night Ripper Version 2, different songs, same awesome.
Honorable Mention Pt. 2: Flying Lotus – Los Angeles: You know the great instrumental hip hop interludes on Adult Swim. This guy does them. Total ear candy.
Biggest Disappointment: My Morning Jacket – Evil Urges: What a snoozefest.
Band I Still Can’t Quite Get Behind: TV On The Radio – Dear Science,: Everything I read tells me they’re geniuses. But, I just don’t find myself enjoying them as much as I apparently should? I dunno, their music sounds like aural soup to me.
Notice Something Missing?: Vampire Weekend – Vampire Weekend: Because I feel empty after listening to it. It inspires nothing out of me.
Finally: The Raveonettes – Lust Lust Lust: Was included on last year’s list since it was released in Europe in 2007.

July 6, 2008

Annie’s 2nd album.

I’ve already called the Fleet Foxes album the best album of the year. It’s a masterpiece.

But, based on what little i’ve heard of Annie’s 2nd album, it might rival Fleet Foxes. I make no secret of my love of British and European female pop singers. I own Spice Girls, Sugababes, and All Saints albums, just as examples. Annie’s first album is one of my top 50 favorite albums of all time, and my favorite female pop album. So far, her new songs are just as good. The anticipation is killing me now. If Avril Lavigne weren’t an immature brat, and knew how to be sexy, she might have done something on this level:
Click here for the video for “I Know Ur Girlfriend Hates Me”. Embedding has been disabled.

If you think i’m crazy, have a look at the sampling from the blogsphere:
Stereogum
Idolator
Panic Manual
Pitchfork

Annie’s Myspace

June 26, 2008

John Legend is a whore. (Music 6 months in)

C’mon dude. Lexus, Target and JC Penney commercials?

Anyway, here are my favorite albums of the year so far, in alphabetical order.

1. Cut Copy – In Ghost Colours: What a weird mix of indie rock, techno, new wave, etc. Not one song quite sounds like the last. Somehow it works.
2. Fleet Foxes – S/t: Will go down as the most gorgeous album of the year. It fills my heart every time I listen to it. A masterpiece.
3. Hercules & Love Affair – S/t: The DFA astonish me every year. Modern disco at its finest. Sexy. Endlessly inventive. Antony on his own albums is a bit grating, but as a disco siren he’s great.
4. Ladytron – Velocifero: They didn’t top Witching Hour, their last album, but still a strong set of songs on a more gothic industrial bent.
5. Los Campesinos! – Hold On Now, Youngster: British indie pop fun from start to finish. Seems to throw every instrument into the mix at breakneck speed but somehow never sounds cluttered.
6. Neon Neon – “Stainless Style”: Modern 80’s music. What fun. Finally someone gets it right.
7. Portishead – Third: It’s easy to be disappointed when you’ve been waiting 11 years for a new album by one of your favorite groups. Instead Portishead created their third classic album.
8. Robyn – S/t: Every song is a hit single. Between the sass of the pop hiphop song “Konichiwa Bitches” or the raw emotion of the trance ballad “With Every Heartbeat”, once again I am scratching my head as to why it takes a Swede do make great pop music and Americans are stuck with shit like Britney or Katy Perry.
9. Santogold – S/t: Easily can be compared to M.I.A. and Lily Allen, both of whom she’s friendly with apparently, but doesn’t make the album any less good. Good music is good music, no matter how much it reminds you of other artists. Great album to drive to.
10. She & Him – Volume One: Zooey Deschanel should give up on acting and just sing. That’s how good her voice is. What an easy album to like.

Special mention:
Girl Talk – Feed The Animals: Really it’s Night Ripper Pt. 2. Some of the novelty is gone, but still a great time. He cuts up the songs a bit more this time around, I think more craft went into the album. Favorite moment is “Boyz” by M.I.A. and “Dreams” by The Cranberries mashed.

Biggest disappointment:
My Morning Jacket – Evil Urges: Already discussed it. “Touch Me I’m Going To Scream Pt 2.” will be one of my favorite songs of the year though.

I’m not including The Raveonettes “Lust Lust Lust” album since I put it on my top 15 for 2007.

June 5, 2008

“English House”

by Fleet Foxes is so beautiful it hurts my heart. It’s not fair music can sound like this.

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