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I hope I don’t disappoint all you Styx fans out there, but this is a different “Sail Away” - Admittedly one of my least favorite tracks from one of my favorite albums of the year, Cut/Copy smooth out the somewhat grating vocal intro of the original with a signature 80s infused Disco Beat. I think it’s pretty great and definitely an improvement, especially after around the 1:45 mark.
Pretty much everyone knows part of this song thanks to Eminem (and to a lesser extent Jay-Z, Wu-Tang Clan, and others). But have you ever listened to the whole thing? It’s kick-ass, to say the least.
#4 - Girls - Father, Son, Holy Ghost
Whereas Album was a good study in in updating the primary sounds of the 60s and 70s, this album is a great study. From the surf-rock opening of “Honey Bunny” that sounds like a cross between the Beach Boys and Iggy Pop to the song below, which sounds a bit like what might happen if you crossed George Harrison’s ‘All Things Must Pass’ with Pink Floyd’s ‘Great Gig in the Sky’
#3 - Mister Heavenly - Out of Love
Now I’m not a big fan of Nick Diamond’s post-Unicorns projects, I take my listenings of Man Man in small doses, and since Joe Plummer joined Modest Mouse they haven’t been the same (possibly just a coincidence); so it comes as a great surprise to me that I love this project so damn much. From the hard rock of opener ‘Bronx Sniper’ to the doo-wop of ‘Charlyne’ the melding of styles works perfectly.
#2 - Smith Westerns - Dye It Blonde
This album was the early front-runner for the Album of the Year; in the month or so after it came out it was pretty much all I listened to. This overplaying may be the reason it sits at the #2 spot. Gimme anything that sounds like T Rex, and I’m probably gonna love it.
#1 - Widowspeak - Widowspeak
As solid a debut as I have heard in the past few years, much like my favorite album of 2009, Real Estate’s self-titled debut. They share the same effortless but beautiful guitar riffs and simple accompaniment that combine for songs that easily get deep inside your head. Going by sheer number of plays in my iTunes , Widowspeak wins out, and it only came out in the fall. It may not be the most original or intricate collection of songs, but does have the most immediately infectious ones. I really can’t begin to understand why this band is creating more of a buzz, especially considering how rabid critics are about Real Estate.
#0 - YACHT - Shangri-La
So it turns out this list has 30 albums, and since I started counting down, and not up, I didn’t discover this fact until yesterday, whoops. So here, we are, and my true number 1 gets the number 0. I mentioned that Widowspeak had the most iTunes plays, but Shangri-La has the most overall plays, as I listened to it on NPR’s First Listen probably 20-25 times when it was up, in addition to all the plays on my iPod while driving. I might stand alone here, but I couldn’t stop listening to this ridiculous electro-pop, that I know many people will scoff at. I’ll even forgive their obnoxious press photo that I had to look at every time I played their album on NPR.
Thanks for bearing with me, and although I’m sure no one agrees with me, I hope you heard a few things that piqued your interest! Stay tuned for honorable mentions, biggest disappointments, and some other stuff.
#8 - Fleet Foxes - Helplessness Blues
I wasn’t worried that the Fleet Foxes would make an album that I wouldn’t like, and they didn’t disappoint. It’s different enough from their debut that it didn’t sound boring, but contained all the elements that make Fleet Foxes so damn pleasing to listen to.
#7 - The Rapture - In the Grace of Your Love
This album seems to have been ignored by pretty much everyone. Granted there are a few cheesy tracks that I skip over, there are more than enough stand-out tracks to make up for them.
#6 -The Weeknd - House of Balloons
It may be a bit of an outsider compared to the rest of this list, but this album is magnetic; I couldn’t stop listening to it throughout the spring. When my computer got stolen, this was the first album I downloaded on my replacement.
#5 - Kurt Vile - Smoke Ring for My Halo
This is what I was trying to sound like when I made music last winter, after hearing this album, I gave up; Kurt Vile has already mastered this sound. His hair is gross though.
#12 - Lykke Li - Wounded Rhymes
Lykke Li really kicked it up on a notch on her follow-up to 2008’s excellent Youth Novels.
(sorry for the low quality version, it sounds amazing with a higher bit-rate on good speakers or headphones)
#11 - Wilco - Whole Love
Wilco is back! After two smooth jazz-infused Adult Contemporary nightmares, this comeback of sorts is finally something I can listen to. I think it could have been pared down to remove the songs that sound like outtakes from Wilco or Sky Blue Sky (‘Open Mind’ & ‘Capitol City’ stick out to me) to make it even better as a cohesive album. I’m just so happy they kept Nels Cline’s elevator music guitar solos mostly in check.
#10 - My Morning Jacket - Circuital
Another return to form by a band that strayed away from their sound (although in a very different direction), Circuital is so packed with rockers, anthems, and crooners that it doesn’t really have a weak track on it.
#9 - St. Vincent - Strange Mercy
Annie Clark proved me wrong; I thought she was garnering a bit too much praise from Actor and would never write a song that I would want to put on repeat. Strange Mercy has about 5 of these songs that I’m still not tired of.
I’m too tired to write anything about these albums and I’m way behind if I want to finish by year’s end, so here they are, without much comment
#17 - The Antlers - Burst Apart
I want to listen to this more and more every time I hear this song.
#16- Tune-Yards - whokill
I refuse to acknowledge the ridiculous capitalization and spacing, but I dig the tunes.
#15 - Black Keys - El Camino
Just good, raucous, fun, even if they manage to rip off both ‘Stairway to Heaven’ and Petty’s ’Last Dance with Mary Jane’ on ‘Little Black Submarines’
#14 - Real Estate - Days
Nothing gets to me quite as much as ‘Beachcomber’ did, but a great sophomore effort.
#13 - Bon Iver - Bon Iver
A wee bit overproduced, but a remarkable batch of songs that build off each other seamlessly in a way that For Emma couldn’t.
#21 - Cut/Copy - Zonoscope
Not quite as hit-filled as In Ghost Colours (there’s nothing as strong as “Nobody Lost, Nobody Found” here). Cut/Copy add some psychedelia to their synth-pop for a strong third album.
#20 - James Blake - James Blake
James Blake is a bit of an acquired taste, but I acquired it and found this album to be a perfect soundtrack for the bleakness of late winter.
#19 - Portugal. The Man - In the Mountain, In the Cloud
I didn’t start listening to this until the end of the year, and I am so glad I did. Just a terrific, solid album of folky psychedelic rock. I think this is the kind of album that MGMT were going for with their not-so-great sophomore effort.
#18 - M83 - Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming
'Midnight City' might be my favorite song of the year, and even if the rest of the album was a dud (which it is not), it would deserve a place in my top 20.
#25 - Telekinesis - 12 Desperate Clear Lines
Like a cross between Elliot Smith and Chad VanGaalen, Telekinesis moves from acoustic strumming to punchy rock and roll with moody aggression in a matter of seconds. A lot like Liam Finn’s I’ll Be Lightning.
#24 - Justice - Audio, Video, Disco
A bit of a disappointment; Cross this is not. But Justice still brings what I want from them, crunchy, anthemic electronica that is equally great to listen on the highway, on a run, or at a party (probably clubs too, if that’s your thing).
#23 - Bare Wires - Cheap Perfume
I love T. Rex, you will hear more of this later on with my (spoiler alert) high placement of Smith Westerns. While this band is a little less complex and original, it’s a still a great collection of glammy, fuzzed out garage rock.
#22 - Peter Bjorn & John - Gimme Some
I’m probably alone here, as this was pretty universally given a mediocre review. Maybe it was because it was such a relief after Living Thing, but I really enjoyed listening to this album, especially the top half.
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