Wednesday, January 04, 2012

2011 Music Lists (2)

Favorite Albums of the Year #10-6

10. Deerhoof - Deerhoof vs. Evil
Ranking among the most accessible collections in their run of great albums, Deerhoof still hold true to their sprightly garage rock sound. At this point, I’ve stopped wondering whether I’m going to enjoy their releases or not: just purchase and enjoy. Satomi Matsuzaki’s youthful vocals continue to be counterbalanced by other band members’ chimings-in, which lends the band broader emotional dexterity. Consistent, inventive and playful. This is Deerhoof.

9. Youth Lagoon - The Year of Hibernation
This series of warm-blooded broodings flickers best in interior spaces: hollows, hallways and nestled dens. However, I feel confident that, given the ability to embed speakers into the ground, this album would thaw my wintery yard over 42 minutes. As such, it’s been a grower for me over the cooler parts of the year, and its soft melodies have soundtracked many early winter sunsets.

8. Real Estate - Days
Can my catalogue possibly hold another guitar-driven indie band? Yes, apparently. A good jangle here, some wholehearted melodies there, and you’ve got Ways. Standout “It’s Real” is a top five song-and-video of the year both for combining its theme (love’s sobriety) and sound (textbook jangle rock) with the joyous memories of family dogs. These guys may be LATFH material, but they’re also a kind of Shins Light – and that ends up not being such a bad thing at all.

7. ...And You Will Know Us By the Trail of Dead - Tao of the Dead
It’s been nearly ten years since 2002’s once-in-a-decade burner Source Tags and Codes. Since then, the Trail of Dead have received a couple of second looks from me, but nothing has (nor could ever) come close to that enduring record. It’s time to recognize that even though they may never repeat that, they shouldn’t be expected to – and furthermore: this album rocks pretty damn hard and without some of the overwrought tendencies they’ve become known for. Rocking and getting rocked: this defines our relationship. That’s how it should have always been.

6. Wilco - The Whole Love
After a forgivable misstep in the eyes of many (2009’s Wilco: The Album), Wilco once again cement themselves in my mind as one of the most consistent bands churning out albums today. I keep wondering just how deep Jeff Tweedy’s song well can reach, cause he’s still pulling out gems (“I Might”, “Born Alone”). The biggest, though, is the 12-minute acoustic closer, “One Sunday Morning.” Like a 12-mile drive down a sun-baked gravel road, the scenery doesn’t change much, the sounds consistent, the hills rolling in rhythm, an apex on the horizon only opens up to more of the same, vast and unending. “One Sunday Morning” weeps softly with well-earned laments about religion, family and death. Nearly 20 years in, Wilco show no signs of letting off the gas.

Monday, January 02, 2012

2011 Music Lists (1)

Songs I loved on albums I didn't:

"Me Gusta La Noche" - Adrianigual (from Éxito Mundial)
Everything I know about Chile I learned from Adrianigual and this video. And Pablo Neruda. ...And Diamela Eltit. Ok, so I know some things about Chile, but this song/video opened a Whole New World for me. They pose a cross-cultural question: are these guys heroes of the uncool or just coolyears ahead of everyone? I always sensed that there was more behind the Latin music curtain, but never something so fresh and perfectly odd. Song and video of the year on a disappointing album.

Atlas Sound - "Mona Lisa" (from Parallax)
Expectations were high after Bradford Cox's excellent Logos (2009), and Deerhunter's stellar Halcyon Digest (2010). Parallax didn't resonate with me as strongly, but a couple songs stand among my favorites from his catalogue. "Mona Lisa" putters along sweetly for three minutes. The weightlessness of the acoustic verse and chorus folds nicely over a middle section of warm electric strums. Hits me right in that indie rock sweet spot.

Battles - "Ice Cream" (from Gloss Drop)
I'm overwhelmed by this band. Even at low volume, the sheer intensity of every sound coming out of the speakers threatens to deafen. At higher volumes, you're just bringing new epileptics into the world. With this in mind, it hardly seems fit to call "Ice Cream" a "song." It's more of an experience. As rough as the first 50 seconds are, they appropriately introduce the onslaught of noise waiting on the other side. This is aural caffeine.

Neon Indian - "Polish Girl" (from Era Extraña)
Alan Palomo apparently isn't the best of singers, but he's found a place for himself in the world of electropop. The futuristic video pairs well with this robotic jam, whose unfolding synthesized layers grow in warmth from an icy intro - aided by Palomo's breathy, falling melody. I like. The rest of the album's actually pretty durn good, too.

Young Galaxy - "Peripheral Visionaries" (from Shapeshifting)
I heard this song on a blog and found its infectious groove hard to shake. The soft pull of bongos, wavy synth, bouncing bass and some delicate riffage sets you drifting past a verse/chorus before soaring vocals and newer, moodier riffage takes over. Then a stadium-sized coda?? The rest of album failed to live up to this single, but Young Galaxy nailed this song.