i actually posted this one after the previous one, but for the sake of going in reverse numerical order this post is now second.
5. Deerhunter - Microcastle
i like liking music. i say that to be kind of contrary to the kind of hipster idea that it's cool to not like certain music just because. it keeps up the image of a discriminatory listener. but really, liking music you hear is so much more satisfying. that brings me to deerhunter and all of last year's megahype that i really didn't get in to. i decided to give this one a go and have been very pleased. this is what i think of when i hear the words "indie rock". it's pop music but with a hitch in its step. whether that hitch is production quality, off-kilter vocals, angularity or ambience, there's always some kind of quirk that either draws you in or alienates you. in deerhunter's case, that hitch is one of a couple things: bradford cox. wait, that's only one. either way, this music is my little shiny pearl in an otherwise underwhelming year for indie rock.
4. Cut/Copy - In Ghost Colors
i've never been to a rave. wait, yes i have: when i listen to this album! hooo! never ever has my love for the 80s been much more than some kind of nostalgic irony. cut/copy made my butt shake in a way that all the 80s songs i "love" only made my head bob. i could seriously see myself almost wanting to take ecstacy if i were at their show. well, kind of. let's just say that this album makes me *that* out of control and high on life. the best ones: "out there on the ice," "lights and music," "heart on fire" and several others i can't remember now. every once in a while, it's really nice to hear such an immediately pleasing album. i can't say that i loved every album on this list the first time through, but this one will definitely be on heavy rotation into 2009.
3. The Dodos - Visiter
i already wrote a review of this album for the Forge journal, so i'll (cut)/copy/paste some parts of it here: "I have thought the dynamics of the relationship between melodic and percussive elements to be the opposite of what I hear in the Dodos. Whereas I would normally assume the melodic element to be the dominant, attractive force of the music, I have come to recognize the irresistible rhythmic pull that this album has over me. Besides the guitar and percussion, almost all of the additional instruments (of which there are very few) seem to have less melodic impact than rhythmic. This is the kind of album that opens its listener up to new musical possibilities, and just like all great albums, it clothes its unique pop in a recognizable form." Standout songs are: "Fools," "Jodi," "Ashley" and many others.
2. Deerhoof - Offend Maggie
deerhoof have the unique position of being the only band that always surprises me. their music is such an odd rock 'n' roll circus that purchasing every new album feels like a crazy adventure at the check-out counter. this album, however, is filled with as much instantly gratifying, chair-kicking rock satisfaction as it is with subtle ear worms. "my purple past" has the best rock hook i heard all year. second and third place are also on this album: "the tears and music of love" and the bombs away coda of "numina o". it's no wonder if i ever felt the primitive need to ...just...rock...out, this was the album i turned to. i gave myself plenty of neck aches from these tracks and probably nearly caused several car accidents all with sincere intentions of keeping up with all the RAWKING OUT deerhoof are doing here. that's not to say that "family of others" isn't the most sublime harmonic soundscape of the year, because it is. deerhoof has always been a rather diverse-sounding band, and i think those endless possibilities are what keep me coming back. i never know what i'm going to hear, but i always know their deviant song-writing and allegiance to RAWKING OUT will rattle my cage and make me wish more bands could make music this free and creative.
1. Department of Eagles - In Ear Park
this album did not come out of nowhere. i've been building a steady admiration over the last couple years for DoE's main band Grizzly Bear. one of the main songwriters for that band is Daniel Rossen, who has written the majority of the music for this album with some help from fellow Grizzly Bear members. i have a hard time saying exactly what it is that makes this album so stunning. Daniel's vocals are haunting and float effortlessly over the phenomenal song writing. this album feels like a walk through an abandoned house: the piano is dusty, the guitar strings are rusted, the harmonies are ghostly, the percussion deepens the echo, the wind chime clangs out a lonely welcome, and yet there is such warmth in that darkness - a measured, slow-plodding elegance. when i found out that the album is dedicated to the recently deceased father of Rossen, everything i had been sensing about the album's tone made sense. the memories are audible and otherworldly present. i have carried the weight of these songs with me more often than any others this year. Rossen's song-craft is the shining centerpiece on songs like "waves of rye," "no one does it like you," and "floating on the lehigh." the tracks here are the most moving i heard all year, powerful in their subtlety and eerie familiarity. needless to say, i can't wait for the new Grizzly Bear later this year. : )
that's the list. i'll begin normal blogging later this week or next.