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My latest musical crush is Bobby Long. I’d heard about this guy a while ago (and momentarily wondered if he was somehow connected to the 2004 Scarlett Johansson movie that I’ve never seen, A Love Song for Bobby Long. He’s not.), but I’d never really listened to his stuff. But now that his debut LP, A Winter Tale, is currently streaming over at spinner.ca, I decided to see what the fuss was about. And literally from the opening few chords, I knew that this was an album that I was really going to like.
His husky, soulful voice was the first thing that got my attention. It sits comfortably between Gavin DeGraw and Ray LaMontagne, and he sings with a refreshing clarity. And while his style could sometimes be described as “blue-eyed soul”, there is none of the posturing or affectation that tends to comes along with that tag. Instead, Long’s delivery style suggests a world-weariness far beyond his 24 years. While someone like Marcus Mumford (whose voice I like quite a bit) seems to belt every lyric like it’s a matter of life and death, Long knows when to pull back. And some of the album’s most stirring moments occur in these moments of calm.
It’s going to take a few more listens to establish favourites, but on first listen, I liked every song on A Winter Tale. It’s (mostly) sombre folk, and it certainly won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, but those who like that style are sure to be presently surprised by this newcomer (he has a couple of self-released efforts, but this is his first release on a record label). His sound may not be as trendy as fellow British folk acts Noah and the Whale and Ellie Goulding, but Long strives for something far more enduring and timeless.
I have to say, this has been quite a strong year for music, so far. We’re barely a month in, and I’ve heard four albums that I really like so far (as well as Long, Bright Eyes, Cage the Elephant, and Iron & Wine have had very strong efforts). With a new Fleet Foxes album on the horizon (I love the first single) and endless possibilities for musical greatness, 2011 could be as good as or even better than 2010.
I’ve been checking out a bunch of new albums recently, so I figured that I’d recap a few notable ones, along with one slightly older release that I’m just catching up with.
Champ – Tokyo Police Club
For my money, Tokyo Police Club is one of the most exciting new Canadian bands out there (and they put on a great live show, too). And while I liked their debut full-length, Elephant Shell, quite a bit, it felt a bit incomplete to me. But they’ve cleaned up every rough edge for their second LP, Champ. Their sound is a bit derivative at times (Strokes comparisons are still apt), but the sheer strength of their songwriter is far better than anything on Elephant Shell.
The opening track, “Favourite Colour” adds depth to their snappy sound, and lead singer Dave Monks has a refreshing nuance in his vocals. Other highlights include the instantly catchy “Boots of Danger (Wait Up)” and the album’s closer, “Frankenstein”. A couple of mid-album filler tracks aside, the songs feel fully-formed. Rather than falling prey to the sophomore slump, they’re a band that took the hype from their first album and used it to grow.
A Larum – Johnny Flynn
Since I dug the new Mumford & Sons and Laura Marling albums so much, I figured that I’d check out another mainstay of the current U.K. folk movement, Johnny Flynn. As well as being quite easy on the eyes (see above), Johnny Flynn can write an amazing song. His 2008 debut LP, A Larum, is chocked full of simultaneously hushed and rousing acoustic gems, sung in Flynn’s beyond-his-years husky tone. “The Wrote and the Writ” is a gorgeously written song on spirituality and love, while “Wayne Rooney” harkens back to the lovely stuff of Nick Drake’s catalogue. The album is fantastic all the way through.
Flynn’s follow up LP, Been Listening, was released earlier this year in the U.K., and I can’t wait for it to get its North American release on October 26. I’ve heard a few tracks (“Barnacled Warship” being my favourite), and it sounds great! A bit of a different vibe from A Larum, but still very Johnny Flynn.
Lisbon – The Walkmen
Best known for singles like “The Rat” (which made Rolling Stone‘s best songs of the decade list), The Walkmen is a band that’s never quite fully crossed over to more mainstream success. But on their sixth album, Lisbon, they make a convincing case as to why they should. Lead singer Walter Martin still sings with every ounce of abandon that he did in the beginning, and that’s best displayed here on the ferocious “Angela Surf City”. As a whole, the album is very cohesive, and it moves along at a faster clip than their previous effort, You & Me. At times, that cohesiveness starts to turn into a kind of -y-ness that I don’t like hearing from The Walkmen, but as a whole, it’s a very, very solid album.
Treats – Sleigh Bells
One of the most buzzed-about albums of the year, I decided to check out Sleigh Bells’ Treats for myself. I found it to be a very mixed bag. Some songs, like “Rill Rill” have a great groove to them. Others, like “A/B Machines” made me want to chuck my laptop out the window just to make it stop. To me, it was far less innovative or fresh than I was expecting. The little girl vocals are old, and the whole thing feels a bit amateurish. To me, it sounds like they tried to combine the aesthetic of M.I.A. (at times) with the fun mindlessness of Wavves, and it didn’t work on either account. It’s too dumb to be smart, and it’s too contrived to be offhanded.
…has Sufjan Stevens been this gorgeous?
Since always? Oh, alright, then. Just wondering.
He looks like some mythical hybrid between Clive Owen and John Krasinski. And that is a very, very good thing.
Musically, I’ve always been a bit ambivalent about Sufjan Stevens. “Chicago” is one of the most beautiful songs I’ve heard, but sometimes I find his music a bit too pretentious or overdone. And the constant presence of music journalists sucking his dick (figuratively speaking, of course) doesn’t help any, either.
But I have to say, I’m a big fan of his new All Delighted People EP on first listen (you can stream it for free here, or download it on iTunes for a mere $5). It’s more of a proper album than an EP, considering half of its eight tracks over six minutes long (with the final one clocking in at a whopping seventeen minutes), but it has some really gorgeous songs. I love the opening track, “All Delighted People (Original Version)”, which swells just enough times to keep it exciting but still restrained. Stevens’ voice has never been the problem for me, and he sounds just as lovely as ever.
After this, I’m considerably more excited for his first non-Christman LP in 5 years, The Age of Adz, which comes out October 12. If you are so inclined, you can pre-order it here. In the meantime, here is another completely unnecessary batch of pictures. Please comment on the composition or lighting of these photos or something to make me feel less shallow.
Wavves’ third full-length album may be full of triumphantly self-loathing couplets like, “My own friends hate me / but I don’t give a shit”, but somehow frontman Nathan Williams (who started the Wavves as a one-man effort) always keeps the mood light. Full of would-be summer anthems and massive hooks, King of the Beach proves Wavves could be a viable pop-punk act, if Williams wasn’t seemingly in his own way.
The album’s celebration of self-destruction and dysfunction has inevitably drawn comparisons to slacker Gen X acts like Beck and Green Day, but at the mere age of 24, Williams represents an entirely different generation. And it would seem that this particular group isn’t afraid to have fun, and maybe even care a little. For someone so apparently apathetic, he manages to pull together some pretty brilliant songs. “King of the Beach” is a pop-punk blast with a huge chorus, and it makes for an unlikely surf-rock gem. And “Green Eyes” may fall near the end of the album’s short runtime, but the rowdy fuck-you to Williams’ frenemies packs the biggest punch of the entire album.
William’s loose, shout-y vocals (which are often just this side of grating) provide an interesting contrast to the sort of slick, layered production of the album. Certain tracks turn to technology for drum loops and multi-track vocals, but Williams proves to be much more masterful on the simpler tunes. The title track is almost numbingly basic, yet its sheer catchiness is something to behold. As tossed-off as Williams would probably want you to think this album is, in reality, it’s shrewdly calculated and well-constructed.
Wavves has had more than their share of online fans (regarding the music) and detractors (regarding Williams’ onstage antics). And while that may seem like extraneous information for an album review, this strange fascination in a relatively minor musical figure may be worth discussing. Many have complained about the lack of “rock stars” in modern music (who is the last one? Jack White? Lady Gaga?), and while the verdict is still out on whether Williams is someone who the public can embrace, he certainly is someone who gets them talking. And public antics aside, King of the Beach is an extremely solid, refreshing take on a genre that easily could have felt gooey and retro. Don’t let the goofy album art fool you.
10. Astro Coast – Surfer Blood
At ten songs and a total of forty minutes, Astro Coast is breezy and concise. It may be easy to play the “Spot the Influences” game with Surfer Blood, but that hardly matters when the album is so inherently listenable.
9. Transference – Spoon
After the candy-coated blast of Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga, Spoon return with a grittier, grounded batch of songs here. “Written in Reverse” shows a surprisingly intense facet to Brit Daniel’s usually off-handed singing style, and the whole album feels refreshingly innovative for a band with such a signature sound.
8. Together – The New Pornographers
Thirteen years into their career, The New Pornographers give us a diverse, mesmerizing batch of songs on their fifth full-length disc, Together. The highlight of the disc is Neko Case’s showcase piece, the fierce pop gem “Crash Years”, but each song is gripping in its own right.
7. Teen Dream – Beach House
As the title promises, the third album from this Baltimore duo is downright dreamy. Victoria Legrand’s voice floats beautifully over the album’s ten tracks, and Teen Dream is perfect for just about any mood.
6. High Violet – The National
Like its wonderful predecessor, Boxer, High Violet as a whole is a grower. But it doesn’t take more than one listen to appreciate the beauty of songs like “Bloodbuzz Ohio” and “Conversation 16″. Matt Beninger is just as bummed out as ever, thankfully.
5. Gorilla Manor – Local Natives
This L.A. quintet’s debut disc is a blend of many different styles, but their multi-layered harmonies most closely echo the folk of Fleet Foxes. “Shape Shifter” shimmers while “Sun Hands” is a foot-stomper, but the whole album is gorgeous.
4. Contra – Vampire Weekend
Returning after the success of their debut album couldn’t have been easy, but Vampire Weekend’s second effort is just as good, in my opinion. “Holiday” and “Cousins” are pop gems, and Contra maintains and expands upon their world music influence.
3. I Speak Because I Can – Laura Marling
At the ripe old age of 20, Laura Marling is writing some of the most beautiful, haunting folk tunes of recent memory. Ryan Adams is a fan of her (and the feeling is mutual), and the raw honesty of songs like “I Speak Because I Can” and “Rambling Man” recall Adams’ own gutting masterpiece, Heartbreaker.
2. Brothers – The Black Keys
Back with their sixth album, Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney top themselves with this smart, tight set of songs. They’re up to their usual ferocity, but the album still feels entirely fresh thanks to the strength of songs like “Next Girl” and ” She’s Long Gone”
1. Sigh No More – Mumford & Sons
Not receiving a North American release until 2010, Sigh No More is the breakthrough debut of the year so far. “Little Lion Man”, the band’s unlikely hit, is propulsive, and the rest of the album is full of heartfelt sing-a-longs, too. It begs for many, many repeat listenings.
Despite what the title of The Black Keys sixth full-length album may suggest, Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney are not siblings (and, unlike another popular duo, The White Stripes, they’re not pretending to be). But there’s such easiness in their collaboration at this point that one could easily think otherwise.
While other recent musical duos like Japandroids and The Kills bask in the jangly limits of guitar and drums, The Black Keys seem to take pride in doing as much with one song as two people can physically do. They’ve always played as one unit – with Auerbach on vocals and guitar, and Carney on drums – but Brothers is their most cohesive effort to date.
As a whole, Brothers slants more towards slow-burning blues than to the psychedelic rock of early singles like “Set You Free”. Auerbach and Carney have clearly settled into a groove, and it’s one that suits them well. “She’s Long Gone” is blistering and loping, with Auerbach wailing about a girl who’s gone “like Moses through the corn”. “Next Girl”, a sludgy stomper about past mistakes, combines the perfect amount of sludge, soul, and guitar solos to make for one of The Black Keys’ best songs yet.
The album also explores the different influences that can be found in the band’s music. “Never Gonna Give You Up” fully realises their retro inspirations with the addition of horns and a motown beat, while “Ten Cent Pistol” plays on swampy southern rock.
Having been around for a while, these Akron natives boast audible evolution here. Auerbach now seems to favour an introspective, crisp singing style, rather than the crackling wail he unleashed in the past. This added maturity is refreshing, but a couple of additional up-tempo rockers wouldn’t hurt Brothers at all. Near the end of the disc, things get a touch too mellow to maintain the level of interest of the opening five tracks.
The songs on Brothers are more easily digestible than those on The Black Keys’ previous album, 2008′s great Attack and Release, with only one song clocking in at over five minutes. The band is clearly on the rise (Brothers debuted at #3 on the Billboard Chart, making it the band’s most successful sales week ever), and the songs here make it easy to see why. But it’s refreshing to see the band grow without sacrificing the root of their back-to-basics appeal in a time where selling out and cashing in is virtually expected in alternative music.
Actress Zooey Deschanel and singer-songwriter M. Ward first teamed up as She & Him for 2008′s successful Volume One, and now they’re back with more of their sunny vintage-y pop.You can listen to Volume Two (out March 23rd on Merge) in its entirety over at NPR.
Click here to listen to Volume Two.
After a glut of year-end and decade-end lists, it’s now time to finally move on and appreciate the present (or, um, the future). 2010 is already looking like a great year for new music releases. I like Vampire Weekend’s Contra almost as much as their self-titled debut, and Spoon’s Transference is an interesting follow-up to 2007′s Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga. But there are also a slew of announced upcoming albums from some of the biggest names in rock. Here’s a look at the ones that I’m most excited for, in chronological release order (plus a bunch of albums tentatively scheduled for 2010 release). Obviously, all info is subject to change.
She & Him – Volume Two (Merge)
Release Date: March 23
Actress Zooey Deschanel famously showed her singing chops in the Will Farell film, Elf. As well as having an obligatory “singing scene” in every subsequent film that she’s appeared in, Deschanel teamed up with singer-songwriter M. Ward to form indie rock superduo She & Him. 2008′s Volume One was a surprise hit, and now the pair is back with another set of retro tunes with the appropriately titled Volume Two. You can check out the video for the album’s first single, “In the Sun”, which premiered this week, over at Pitchfork.
Rufus Wainwright – All Days are Nights: Songs for Lulu
Release Date: March 23 (Canada), April 5 (UK), April 12 (Europe), April 20 (U.S.)
With an unusually complicated release schedule, Rufus Wainwright is returning with his first studio album since 2007′s Release the Stars. Some feel that he faltered a bit with Release the Stars, so it’ll be interesting to see how he does with his latest release (which is reportedly stripped down to just Wainwright and his piano. Sounds good!)
Dr. Dog – Shame, Shame (Anti-)
Release Date: April 6
Philly rockers Dr. Dog will be back with their sixth album, Shame, Shame, on April 6. Their gothic-inspired sound was last heard on 2008′s stellar Fate. The album’s first single, “Shadow People”, can be heard on the band’s MySpace page, and Rolling Stone premiered another new song from the album, “Stranger”, this week. You can check it out here. Most of the bands on this list are quite well-known, but Dr. Dog is pretty underrated, by comparison. If you aren’t familiar with them, be sure to check out their new songs.
Jakob Dylan – Women and Country (Columbia)
Release Date: April 6
Teaming up with T Bone Burnett (who produced 1996′s Bringing Down the Horse by Jakob Dylan’s old band, The Wallflowers) again is a great idea, and Dylan proved that he has the folk chops required for the new rootsy sound that he dove into head-first on his 2008 solo debut, Seeing Things. You can download “Nothing But the Whole Wide World” at Spinner.com for free, and check out an exclusive stream of “Everybody’s Hurting” on Rolling Stone’s Spring Music Preview.
MGMT – Congratulations (Columbia)
Release Date: April 13
Apparently this week is the time of choice to premiere new album material, since MGMT also unveiled a new track from their album a couple of days ago, “Flash Delirium”. You can currently download it for free on their website. For a band that was already as groovy as MGMT, it seems that they’ve ramped up their psychedelic tendencies considerably with this new song. While it’s not usually my style, I like their trippy new song. It seems that the duo is getting quite ambitious with their sophomore disc. No matter what, it should be interesting.
Kate Nash – My Best Friend is You
Release Date: April 20
Details about Kate Nash’s follow-up to her 2008 debut, Made of Bricks, are sketchy, besides the fact that it’ll be released April 20 (The UK gets it one day earlier). Despite a poorly received secret show in Glasgow that took place a couple of days ago, with all of the positive attention that her debut received, there should be sufficient interest in her next release.
Hold Steady – Heaven is Whenever (Vagrant Records)
Release Date: May 4
The Hold Steady won me over with 2008′s Stay Positive, and I can’t wait to see how their sound evolves on their next disc, Heaven is Whenever. Apparently it will be less anthemic, and more focussed on guitar rock. I always thought of their style as anthemic guitar rock, so I’m not entirely sure what the difference will be.
The National – High Violet (4AD)
Release Date: May 11
The National is one of the most respected indie bands around, thanks to the strength of albums like Boxer and Alligator. And for the first time since 2007, they’ll be releasing a new album. They premiered the first single from the album, “Terrible Love”, on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon (say what you want about Fallon, but his show has been getting fantastic musical guests recently. By far the best music on late night TV). I love the song on first listen, and I’ll likely be listening to it a whole lot more in the next two months. You can watch the performance here.
Tokyo Police Club – Champ (Saddle Creek)
Release Date: May 11?
Canadian favourites Tokyo Police Club made waves with their 2006 EP, A Lesson in Crime, and their full-length debut, 2008′s Elephant Shell. I think they’re great (and the sound fantastic live), but I also like that there’s room for improvement on their follow-up. They established themselves with Elephant Shell, but they didn’t set the bar so incredibly high for themselves that the sophomore album will be a disappointment no matter what (good luck, Fleet Foxes!) If you’re looking for more details, frontman Dave Monks is actively blogging about the new record here.
Band of Horses – Inifinite Arms (Brown Records/Fat Possum/Columbia)
Release Date: May 18
Splitting with former label, Sub Pop, Band of Horses will return with Infinite Arms this May. Their last record, 2007′s Cease To Begin, was the one that caught my attention with lively songs like, “Cigarettes, Wedding Bands” and “Is There a Ghost?” This Seattle group is touring with Pearl Jam this summer, and if they want bigger success, they’ll have a captive audience waiting.
Against Me! – White Crosses
Release Date: June 8
Working with producer Butch Vig (Nirvana’s Nevermind), folk-punks Against Me! didn’t have quite the breakthrough that some predicted with 2007′s New Wave. But the album did introduce them to a whole new audience, and the band will release their first album since then on June 8. After apparently almost breaking up last year (guess I missed that one), they are reportedly working with Vig again, and White Crosses is said to re-introduce acoustic guitars to their music.
And that’s just the next three months. Can’t wait.
Possible/Expected 2010 Releases:
Them Crooked Vultures debut album is released next week, but in the mean time, the band is streaming the full album on their YouTube channel. Be sure to check it out here. I’m only a few songs in, but I’m loving it so far. Dave Grohl (Nirvana, Foo Fighters - as if you didn’t know!), Josh Homme (Queens of the Stone Age), and John Paul Jones (Led Zeppelin) are delivering the kind of awesome rock that those three names are associated with. To me, “New Fang” had clear influence from Queens of the Stone Age (probably because Homme is on vocals and guitar). But the band has their own wonderful, powerhouse sound.
I’ve been listening to “New Fang” a lot in the past couple of weeks. The other songs sound great too, though. I love “Mind Eraser, No Chaser”. Perhaps they’re a supergroup that lives up to their promise?
20. Beyond – Dinosaur Jr.
Dinosaur Jr.’s 2007 comeback initially seemed to be under the radar, but then Beyond (the band’s first album in ten years) was met with great critical acclaim. It seems as the guys managed to please their original fans, and gain new ones, with their fuzzy anthems. The songs are great, and Beyond kind of picks up where Bug left off.
19. Ashtray Rock – Joel Plaskett Emergency
Joel Plaskett’s another one of those well-kept Canadian secrets. His band’s 2007 disc, Ashtray Rock, made the short list for the annual Polaris Prize, only to lose out to Patrick Watson (he lost to Fucked Up this year). There’s lots of fun to be found on Ashtray Rock, as well as some genuinely lovely moments, like the shimmering “The Glorious Life”.
18. Icky Thump – The White Stripes
I’m not really sure what to make of this album. I’m a huge White Stripes fan, but I’m still not able to connect with Icky Thump the way that I can with all of their other albums. It has some great songs (“Effect and Cause” is my favourite), but I think it just seems too calculated to me. But anything put out by the White Stripes is still better than most of the other music around.
17. Into the Wild – Eddie Vedder
Based on a lot of exasperating technicalities, Eddie Vedder’s soundtrack for the 2007 film, Into the Wild was not nominated for either of the songwriting Academy Awards. This collection of the songs that he wrote for the film (with a few instrumental tracks) is really lovely. It’s much more tender than anything Pearl Jam has done. You can decide if that’s a good thing or not.
16. A Weekend in the City – Bloc Party
I’m not really sure how one would classify this music, but whatever it is, I really like it. I’m not a big expert on Bloc Party, but when I first heard A Weekend in the City (their sophomore effort), I was immediately drawn to their sound. Their first album (which I’m yet to hear) seems to be more beloved among fans, but I’m not sure how they could be disappointed with this.
15. Welcome to the Night Sky – Wintersleep
Halifax, Nova Scotia makes its second appearance on this list in the form of Wintersleep. These guys had something of a hit with their first single off this album, “Weighty Ghost”. I was surprised to hear how much their style varies (“Oblivion” sounds like some especially good Interpol), and I think the entire album is really solid.
14. The Story – Brandi Carlisle
Apparently, Brandi Carlisle’s voice has been compared to Thom Yorke. I have listened to her music specifically trying to pick out the resemblance, but I don’t get it at all. But nonetheless, her music is great in its own right. Her songs are heartfelt and searing, and I think that it’s the emotion (which this album has heaps of) that is Carlise’s strongest suit.
13. The Stage Names – Okkervil River
This is one album on here that I just recently got around to listening to, and it caught my attention right away. I guess Okkervil River has a classically “indie” kind of sound, but I like it. Their songs are so impeccably written, and it seems like they have a lasting quality to them.
12. Cease to Begin – Band of Horses
This is where I began to have a lot of trouble putting the rest of the list in order. These twelve albums are all great, and I could probably justify putting any of them at the top spot. Cease to Begin has kind of an ethereal, slightly haunting sound that I really liked. There are lots of great songs to be found, including “Cigarettes, Wedding Bands”.
11. We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank – Modest Mouse
This album probably could have cracked the top five if they’d shaved a few songs off the track listing, since I’m generally biased towards shorter albums. But there are definitely some great songs on here, and I really like the addition of Johnny Marr on guitar. The Shins’ James Mercer also does some great guest vocals on a few tracks (most notably on “Missed the Boat”).
10. Era Vulgaris – Queens of the Stone Age
Queens of the Stone Age are one of the most popular hard rock bands to emerge in the new millennium, and Era Vulgaris is a great example of why this is the case. It may not have a hit as catchy as “No One Knows”, but the whole album is a fantastic mix of hard rock and solid songwriting. Josh Homme has one of the best voices in rock, too.
9. Easy Tiger – Ryan Adams
Ryan Adams is undoubtedly one of the most prolific songwriters around, and he kept up with his album-per-year standard with Easy Tiger. It’s probably one of his most consistent and listenable solo albums to date. I also think that “Two” and “Halloweenhead” are two incredible additions to Adams’ already impressive catalogue.
8. Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga – Spoon
No one writes a pop song quite like Spoon. The first single off Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga, “The Underdog”, was one of my favourite songs of ’07. The album has a bit of a Beatles influence to it, in a very enjoyable way. Even if I’m in a terrible mood, this album is likely to make me smile.
7. In Rainbows – Radiohead
Kid A and Hail to the Thief lost me a bit with their heavy electronic influence, so I was glad to hear that In Rainbows was (somewhat) of a return to their earlier sound, circa The Bends. I think this is probably their fourth best album. And when the band I’m talking about is Radiohead, that’s no small feat.
6. Wincing the Night Away – The Shins
The Shins released their third stellar album of the decade with Wincing the Night Away. “Phantom Limb” and “Australia” are two tracks that jumped out at me immediately, but the rest of the album soon grew on me in a big way. It’s too hard to pick my favourite Shins record. I’ll say it’s a three-way tie for first place.
5. Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace – Foo Fighters
The Foo Fighters are constantly proving that they’re so much better than the “post-grunge” label that lazy critics slap onto them. Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace has some fantastic, catchy hits, and hidden gems like “Summer’s End” and “Stranger Things Have Happened”. It’s some of their best work yet. Grohl seem to just get better with age.
4. Cassadaga – Bright Eyes
2007 may have been a bad year for Conor Oberst’s hair, but it was a perfectly wonderful time for his music. Oberst decided to embrace his country roots by taking a pilgrimage to…Florida? Seriously, though, Cassadaga is a great album, and it’s nice to see Bright Eyes expand their sound. There are lots of brilliant songs here, but I think that “Classic Cars” is my favourite.
3. New Wave – Against Me!
These Florida punks got a lot of flak for “selling-out” with New Wave, but it also gained them a lot of new fans (like yours truly). I’ve gone back, and I really like their older stuff too, but I think that New Wave is their masterpiece, so far. New Wave pretty much had a permanent spot in my CD player during late 2007/early 2008, and I connected to it in a way that I rarely do with new albums.
2. Neon Bible – Arcade Fire
2004′s Funeral earned Arcade Fire major acclaim, but I much prefer their follow-up, Neon Bible. The thing that I like most about this album is the atmosphere that they created. Each song has a specific feel to it, but the whole album is amazingly cohesive. “Intervention” is easily one of the best songs of the decade, and every song on the album feels like it serves a specific purpose.
1. Boxer – The National
How could this band possibly have released a better album than Against Me! and the Arcade Fire? It’s hard to explain, but it feels like everything came together perfectly on Boxer. The songs are aching and sombre, and Matt Berninger’s voice suits the mood beautifully. In a time when singles and ringtones are measures of success, I have so much respect for a band that can make an entire album that is this amazing.