This was going to be a collaborative post, where all of us would write about our favorite music of the year, but Ant said he didn’t have enough music, and Doug has a very convincing alibi:
“Hugh, I cannot believe it! You won’t believe it! I wrote up my whole musical recap, and then printed it out. And since I had it printed, I figured I didn’t need the digital copy anymore so I deleted it and scrubbed the hard drive. Then I bought a dog and he ate my printout. sry”
Sounds plausible enough. So, here’s my list, anyway. I tried to provide at least a song for each album, but that was not the case for a few of these.
15. Hawksley Workman – Treeful of Starling
On his latest offering, Workman slows it down considerably from his previous work. For those who know him primarily for Striptease and Jealous of your Cigarette, they might be shocked at how dissimilar his newest songs are. For those among us who are perpetually depressed or at least act like it, Treeful of Starling will be a good fit.
14. The Whitest Boy Alive – Dreams
Ant informed me that he had read about this band in a magazine, though all he could remember was “something about a white boy.” Luckily, I already had the album, so I knew what he was talking about (a first!). This band also seems like something he’d enjoy – a handful of Swedes playing catchy indietronic the only way they know how. This is actually a side project of the mellow Kings of Convenience, so this catchy indietronic only encompasses half of this album, and in the other half, they delve into the lo-fi that made the Kings ofConvenience famous and me fall asleep from boredom. As such, I only like half this album, but if you are one of those people who likes the aforementioned Kings, this whole album should tickle your fancy.
13. Beirut – Gulag Orkestar
If you are a fan of either Eastern European or Italian folk music, you will want to bend your ears towards Beirut. While it’s composed by an American teenager, it sounds more authentic than a lot of the folk coming out of those countries these days. Mount Wroclai (Idle Days) is one of the most beautiful songs I’ve ever heard, and I challenge anyone to feel differently (though most people seem to like Postcards From Italy more).
12. Man Man – Six Demon Bag
More polished than their debut, Six Demon Bag actually sounds like a bag of six demons – at least if such a bag sounds fairly crazy! I am all about the Eastern European influences this year (except for when I’m not), and in this category Man Man does not disappoint. The singing for Hot Bat reminds me of the Soviet National Anthem, which can only be a good thing. The very notion of a song being called Van Helsing Boombox is delightful as well, and the song is almost better.
Song to check out: Van Helsing Boombox – (MP3, 5.1 MB)
11. The Tiger Lillies – Die Weberischen
I know a few people (read: everyone!) will be disgusted and/or disappointed to see The Tiger Lillies make this list, but to them I dedicate a rendition of one of my favorite songs on this album, Screw You. For those of you who are unaware of the musical juggernaut that is The Tiger Lillies, they are a band that is insane as they are prolific; I have 15 of their albums, and pretty much every one of them is insane as the next. They play the neo-cabaret that I am such a fan of, and their singer sings most of their songs in what can only be described as a ridiculous falsetto. The accordion is as prevalent and delightful as ever. This latest album of theirs, they actually have some songs where they don’t sing in the falsetto, or at least not all the time. It is amazing, but don’t expect to like it (is the advice I give to everyone about this band).
10. Jenny Lewis With The Watson Twins – Rabbit Fur Coat
“I can’t remember why I hated you” are the lyrics that sum up my feelings towards Jenny Lewis. Before, I pretty much hated Rilo Kiley, or at least their music. Nowadays, I can’t remember or even fathom why. Rabbit Fur Coat, Lewis’ alt-country “solo album,” doesn’t have much in common with Rilo Kiley, outside of the generally downbeat songs. If you are into that sort of the thing, you should get Melt Your Heart; if you prefer something a bit more bombastic, get You Are What You Love. If you are into classic rock covers, get the much-whored cover of the Traveling Wilbury’s Handle With Care.
9. Mon Frere – Blood, Sweat and Swords
If you enjoy hard-driving rock with some electronic keyboards and synthesizers thrown in for good measure, you could not dislike Mon Frere without blowing my mind. They combine the musical sensibilities of a mainstream band with the talent of a… non-mainstream band. I’m surprised that they’re not way more popular than they are.
Song to check out: Drain – (MP3, 3.8 MB)
8. El Perro Del Mar – Look! It’s El Perro Del Mar
If you enjoy Swedish music that bigs up the mellow and sad, you will have to get yourself some El Perro Del Mar. The saddest of these songs is, of course, Sad. What a downer. I guess this is why the next song is Party, which while not being something to bang at the club, it is not so much of a downer. Nice transition, at least.
7. Sierra Swan – Ladyland
If you are a fan of female-fronted piano-pop, you probably like Regina Spektor. If you are like me and prefer a more melodic voice (my love for The Tiger Lillies notwithstanding), you will enjoy Sierra Swan. I got this album from Doug because of the name and was so impressed with the opening track, Copper Red that I had to listen it to a few times before venturing further. Usually that ruins an album for me, but not in this case. Nay. This album is amazing.
Song to check out: Copper Red – (Music video)
6. Persephone’s Bees – Notes From The Underworld
For those who like their music ridiculously happy, enter Persephone’s Bees. For example, one night, Doug gave me a logic puzzle revolving around unfaithful husbands, and since I was listening to Persephone’s Bees at the time, I honestly couldn’t fathom that unfaithful husbands even existed. They do, of course, but not in the world of this gloriously upbeat album.
Song to check out: Nice Day – (MP3, 3.7 MB)
5. Nanuchka – A Carefully Planned Accident
Nanuchka! While I have not the foggiest notion how that is pronounced, their musical prowess is solid. Their singer is the ex-bassist of the previously mentioned World/Inferno Friendship Society, and sang on a few of their tunes as well. Nanuchka does not have the horn section that is required for full-blown gypsy punk shindigs, but they still retain the gypsy punk spirit. And there is certainly no need to mention how ridiculously attractive she is. If a song titled The Tale Of The Little Falafel Girl And Her Only Love does not pique your interest, nothing will… ever.
Song to check out: Captain Sensible Calling – (MP3, 3.1 MB)
4. The World/Inferno Friendship Society – Red-Eyed Soul
It’s been a while now since Doug told me a story about how he was listening to “world inferno” and expecting me to understand just what in the hell he was talking about. While I imagined it to be a mix of genres (i.e. really fiery world music), it’s actually a band, and a damn good one. I wasn’t entirely wrong with my original assumption though, as they are pretty fiery, and they do mix genres, but these genres are ones that could actually be described as fun, such as gypsy punk and ska. Red-Eyed Soul is probably my favorite album of theirs, and if that’s not good enough reasoning, it’s definitely my favorite album of theirs that came out this year (Just The Best Party is also worth your time).
Song to check out: Brother Of The Mayor Of Bridgewater – (MP3, 2.8 MB)
3. The Thermals – The Body, The Blood, The Machine
Ah, The Thermals, what a strange and wondrous band. Their debut album was slightly repetitive, but damn if it didn’t rock my socks off. Their second album? Perhaps more melodic, but if you expected to be rocked, like I did, it was one hell of a letdown. So I’m filled with much joy that their latest album compromised, mixing the energy of their first with the melodies of their second, and making for an album that everyone can agree on.
Song to check out: Here’s Your Future – (MP3, 2.8 MB)
2. The Divine Comedy – Victory For The Comic Muse
Once upon a time, I asked for an album to be depressed to, and so was recommended Absent Friends by The Divine Comedy. Despite not being the best album I’ve ever heard (not that I would have expected such a thing), the opening track, Charmed Life was piano-pop perfection. It alone intrigued me into getting their latest album, Victory For The Comic Muse, which I found much more to my liking overall. It also has many of their best songs, including Arthur C. Clarke’s Mysterious World, A Lady Of A Certain Age, Mother Dear, To Die A Virgin, and Diva Lady. It is truly a masterpiece, and I cannot recommend it enough.
1. Margot & The Nuclear So and So’s – The Dust of Retreat
Here is one of the best debut albums I’ve ever heard, though if you were going to be very anal about it, it’s not a “true” debut as the members have been in various bands previously. Regardless, Margot (ah, shorthand) is one of the most lyrically-proficient bands out there, and neither the music nor singing is lacking. Jen Is Bringin’ The Drugs, for instance has the heartbreaking lyrical eloquence of Bright Eyes without the cracking voice. Can a higher compliment be paid? Probably, but I can’t think of any.
Song to check out: Skeleton Key – (MP3, 4.7 MB)