Rather than compiling a huge list at the end of the year, not having enough time to do a good job, and simply throwing something together really fast, I’m going to start compiling my thoughts on albums over the whole year – month by month. Some of these may have actually been released earlier in the year, but are in this months set because this is when I got my hands on them.
Phoenix has been on my shortlist of bands that I have been meaning to try out for quite some time. Boy am I glad that I finally did. First, I saw that they were playing on SNL, so I gave the performances a look and was just blown away. Check them out here and here. This album is so full of energy and is a great blend of electronica without getting overbearing in attempts to be experimental (as it seems SOOOO MUCH of the electronica genre does). This is well crafted indie-pop that is fresh and original while seeming very familiar at the same time. There were no tracks that I had to go back and relisten to because I didn’t quite get it. Yet, I didn’t find myself getting bored with any of the tracks either. An all around awesome, very fun, high engery album. Officially my favorite French band now. Top tracks include all, but certainly check out the 2 singles that have been put out so far: Lisztomania [download mp3] and 1901.
Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix
Conor Oberst and the Mystic Valley Band:
I first heard Oberst’s “solo” debut last summer while on a long solo road trip in Montana. I downloaded it while sitting in the Montana State University Archives and since I only had my laptop with me, could not load it onto my iPod to listen to while driving – so I stuck an audio cable from my laptop to the aux port in my car. Awkward, but satisfying. I found that album refreshing. Distinct from Bright Eyes, but recognizably Oberst (not just the vox, but lyrics and style as well). Coming off of that, Outer South is a little disappointing. I don’t care for any of the songs sung by other band members, and it is clear which songs were not written by Oberst. There are clear deliniations of quality in song-writing throughout the album. I think those songs should have been excised. The album seems a bit bloated and the fat which could be trimmed easy to identify. The songs that are good, however, are very good. Top tracks include Slowly (Oh so Slowly) [download mp3]
, Ten Women
and Roosevelt Room
Also consider Conor’s previous venture, Bright Eyes
Iron & Wine:
Around the Well
It is hard to believe that an Iron & Wine double-disc (triple vinyl LP) isn’t at the top of this months list! For Iron & Wine fans, it is definitely worth picking up! However, if you are extremely OCD like me and have to collect every single last rarity track of the bands you like, you probably already had most of the songs from Around the Well. With the exception of God Make the Automobile, I had already dug these up. So, if you haven’t dug them up and especially if you like the more lo-fi end of Iron & Wine’s discography, this is a must buy. And, don’t worry, there are plenty of more hi-fi tracks as well. My favorites (which have been played quite a bit on my iPod for the last couple years) are Dearest Forsaken, Communion Cups and Someone’s Coat [download mp3], Sinning Hands and The Trapeze Swinger.
First – I would like a pair of the sweet kicks that the kid is wearing on the albums cover. Nice! As Enigk himself has explained, this LP is a bit more similar to Sunny Day Real Estate than his previous solo efforts. That is both good and bad. I like hearing Enigk with a little bit of edge. The Fire Theft was very satisfying in that way. However, I (and my wife) became very attached to the lush strings and acoustics of World Waits, The Missing Link and the United States of Leland soundtrack. I like OK Bear, but if I had my pick, I would plunge Enigk deep back into his most latest styles – rich with strings, piano, acoustic guitars and quite harmonies. Top tracks include Just a State of Mind [download mp3], Same Side Imaginary and Vale Oso.
Sing Songs [EP]
Joshua James is quickly rising on my list of bands that I sincerely hope break it huge! His songs are intimate, passionate and sincere. His voice took a little getting used to, but now it has really grown on me. This new little 5 song EP is great and combined with Crash This Train/The Garden mini EP from last year spells good things for his upcoming 2nd full length LP. I hate to try and make comparisons, but something like a mix of Elliott Smith, J. Tillman, Bright Eyes, etc . . . You get the general idea. Go buy everything this guy has put out. Support local musicians! Here’s a sample: Baby Boy [download mp3].
Oh Mr. Vanderslice. I really liked Pixel Revolt. I liked it a lot. I also enjoyed Emerald City, but not quite as much. Romanian Names disappoints me. First, I am fluent in Romanian, so I had high hopes for this LP. I’m not sure why that would make the album inherently better, but I thought, “Holy Crap! Someone other than me mentioned Romania! Awesome!” The album seemed inconsistent. It didn’t hold together well. Some of the better tracks were Fetal Horses [download mp3], D.I.A.L.O. and Carina Constellation.
After much prodding from friends, I reluctantly gave Grizzly Bear another try. I had given some of their previous work a few listens and really didn’t like what I heard. Veckatimest is better, but not by much. I don’t know what you call this style of vox – but it seems to be spreading like wildfire. Indie band after indie band has singers sounding like this, and I’m not a fan. This said, its not absolutely horrible. There are a few tracks that I enjoyed, but the majority of the album simply bored me. If I was on a road trip and a friend put this in, I wouldn’t be gritting my teeth the whole time, but I probably wouldn’t ask for a repeat spin. Top tracks include Two Weeks [download mp3], Ready, Able and While you were Waiting for Others.
Running LP List
- Phoenix – Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix (May)
- J. Tillman – Vacilando Territory Blues (January)
- Shark Speed – Sea Sick Music (April)
- The Decemberists – The Hazards of Love (March)
- Andrew Bird – Noble Beast (January)
- Say Hi – Oohs & Aahs (February)
- Art for Starters – Drugs Made / Drugs Ruined (April)
- Conor Oberst and the Mystic Valley Band – Outer South (May)
- Iron & Wine – Around the Well (May)
- Jeremy Enigk – OK Bear (May)
- The Great Lake Swimmers – Lost Channels (March)
- Dent May and his Magnificent Ukuele – The Good Feeling Music of Dent May (March)
- Coconut Records – Davy (January)
- Jimmy Eat World – Clarity Live (April)
- Iain Archer – To the Pine Roots (April)
- The Appleseed Cast – Sagarmatha (February)
- John Vanderslice – Romanian Names (May)
- Peter, Bjorn and John – Living Thing (March)
- Grizzly Bear – Veckatimest (May)
- Lateef the Truth Speaker – Truth is Love Mixtape (April)
- Vetiver – Tight Knit (March)
- General Elektriks – Good City for Dreamers (February)
- Dark was the Night compilation (April)
- Ben Kweller – Changing Horses (January)
Running EP List
- Common Market – The Winter’s End (March)
- Death Cab for Cutie – Open Door (March)
- Joshua James – Sing Songs (May)
- The Mountain Goats and John Vanderslice – Moon Colony Blood Bath (April)