With July half over, it’s time to look back over what has already been an incredible year in terms of new releases. I foresee a hard task ahead for myself in December…
David Byrne and Fatboy Slim – Here Lies Love
I was drawn to this album by the amazing and diverse list of contributors (Florence Welch, Steve Earle, Cyndi Lauper, Kate Pierson, Sharon Jones and Allison Moorer, to name a few) and was held rapt by the stories they told about the life of Imelda Marcos and the disco-infused beats and melodies that swirled around them. A fascinating project and an incredible collection of music, this is currently my favorite album of the year.
Yeasayer – Odd Blood
I liked their debut, but this album really catapulted Yeasayer onto a new level. A delightful blizzard of beeps and blips swirls around a strong crop of songs. And I won’t lie and say that “Ambling Alp” didn’t guide me through a few personally frustrating moments: “Now, the world can be an unfair place at times / But your lows will have their complement of highs … You must stick up for yourself, son / Never mind what anybody else done.”
Mumford & Sons – Sigh No More
From the moment I first heard the driving tour de force that is “Little Lion Man” on WERS, I was sold. The edgy amalgam of Americana-meets-UK folk rock is a galloping, emotional headrush. Their songs pulse with life and urgency and won’t be denied. This album feels essential, in part because the members of the band play and sing as if their lives depended on it.
The National – High Violet
Is it boring to say that The National have created yet another masterpiece, and that there is little one can offer in the way of critique for their fifth full-length album? Matt Berninger continues to confound and mesmerize, and he and his bandmates continue to expertly weave their layers of lush and compelling songcraft. No, something this captivating can’t be boring.
New Pornographers – Together
This album took a while to grow on me, as I wrote about previously, since I was blinded by my love for “Challengers.” But, like I said, this may be the fullest realization of the band to date. Neko Case really steps out and shines (not that we didn’t already know she was a gem), Dan Bejar is at his most accessible and A.C. Newman continues to steer his pop ship in enlightening directions.
Stars – The Five Ghosts
I first heard this album performed live in its entirety at a concert, so I may be biased, but this is a strong addition to the Stars discography. “We Don’t Want Your Body” is a fun, dance-y track, and I find that there is a lot on this record to groove to. At the same time, appropriate to the title, there are some more grief-stricken moments, as well. That range, of course, is par for the course with Stars.
Hot Chip – One Life Stand
LCD Soundsystem – This is Happening (tie)
I’m glad I have another few months to chew on this one for the proper year-end roundup. Both of these albums are dance parties in a box, with solid stand-out tracks like Hot Chip’s “I Feel Better” and LCD Soundsystem’s “Dance Yrself Clean.” I have a feeling Hot Chip will win out in the end, but right now, I’m too busy dancing to pick one or the other.
Surfer Blood – Astro Coast
This is a bit fuzzier than I normally go for, but the riffs are tight, the melodies are catchy and as summer winds on, I find myself turning to this album more and more. Must be something about the easy shimmer and faint throwback vibe these guys convey. Roll your windows down for this one.
The Kissaway Trail – Sleep Mountain
One of my favorite albums last year was Wild Light’s “Adult Nights,” and I categorize this band in a similar vein. This is just a fun, varied listen, swooping from broad, epic brushstrokes to muted pockets of falsetto from one moment to the next. Echoes of Grandaddy and the Arcade Fire pop up throughout this lush work. It’s an engrossing listen.
Tracey Thorn – Love and its Opposite
My friend Tim was raving about this album by the lead woman from Everything But the Girl, so I had to check it out. After listening through once streaming online, I had to buy it at the next available opportunity. Her voice is captivating, and these powerful songs are full of elegance and verve. This is a dark horse entry into the top 10 of 2010 so far.
Other high-ranking releases: Magnetic Fields, “Realism”; Ted Leo & Pharmacists, “The Brutalist Bricks”; Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes, “Up From Below”; Local Native, “Gorilla Manor”; Laura Veirs, “July Flame”
Disappointments: Bird and the Bee, “Interpreting the Masters, vol. 1”; Broken Bells, “Broken Bells”; Rogue Wave, “Permalight”; Midlake, “The Courage of Others”; The Hold Steady, “Heaven is Whenever”
Surprises so far: Peter Wolf, “Midnight Souvenirs”; John Hiatt, “The Open Road”; Magic Man, “Real Life Color”
What am I missing? I am sure I missed a few of your favorites.
Come back next week to see my favorite songs of the year so far!