Honorable (death before dishonor!) Mentions (in alphabetical order!!):
Andrew Bird – Nobel Beast
Antony and the Johnsons – The Crying Light
Bat for Lashes – Two Suns
Elvis Perkins – Elvis Perkins in Dearland
Florence and the Machine – Lungs
Grand Archives – Keep in Mind Frankenstein
jj – jj n° 2
M. Ward – Hold Time
Passion Pit – Manners
Richard Swift – The Atlantic Ocean
The Swell Season – Strict Joy
Volcano Choir – Unmap
Wild Beasts – Two Dancers
Yeah Yeah Yeahs – It’s Blitz
10. Sea Wolf – White Water, White Bloom
Here is the annual winner of the Why the Hell Do I Like This? award. With lyrics full of imagery seemingly composed in a high school’s AP English class, vocals straight out of your least favorite Bright Eyes tune, and musical compositions thieved from the likes of Arcade Fire, this should be receiving my scorn, if anything at all. I suppose once you mash all of this together, it brings out the Team Edward in me (they’re even on the New Moon soundtrack!). I’ve fallen for this indie pop stew, even if it needs a little more of a kick.
9. Thao with The Get Down Stay Down – Know Better Learn Faster
“Have I been just a body in your bed? Won’t you reach for the body in your bed?”
“Bring your hips to me.”
“Everybody put your clothes back on.”
“We have sad sex, we move steady to forget.”
This is a more mature Thao Nguyen than we found on We Brave Bee Stings and All, which mostly brought us back to the days of running around as a kid. But now? Ms. Nguyen knows better and learns faster when it comes to sex and loss. The album concludes wonderfully with the track “Easy,” a bouncy song that begins with the spoken line, “Sad people dance, too.” Perfect.
8. The xx – xx
This album, guaranteed, is responsible for hundreds of pregnant hipsters. This nonsense is straight up sex on vinyl. Hushed vocals, sung by a pair of 20-year old kids from London, set to driving bass lines, slow-strummed guitar, and subtle drum machines, that make the listener feel like they’re eavesdropping on an intimate moment not intended for them. Example: “I’ve been down on my knees, so don’t think that I’m pushing you away.” More like The xxx.
7. The Avett Brothers – I And Love And You
Some have complained that this Rick Rubin produced effort was a little TOO polished and put together, totally rejecting the natural aesthetic that the boys from North Carolina had crafted over the years. I’m not one of these people. This is a fantastic record, one that has really struck a nerve in me. From the instant classic title track, which I listened to on mega-repeat my first month in Brooklyn, to the closer “Incomplete and Insecure,” whose opening line “I haven’t finished a thing since I started my life, don’t feel much like starting now,” reminds me of an inner dialogue I’ve had with myself for close to a decade. The earnestness is still there (see: “Kick Drum Heart”), so take a pill, naysayers.
6. David Bazan – Curse Your Branches
Here we have possibly the most well-known man in Christian indie rock (Pedro the Lion) openly questioning his faith, sometimes in the most blunt manner: “Wait just a minute, you expect me to believe that all this misbehaving grew from one enchanted tree?” This is an important record, simply because it shows how one man can struggle so deeply within himself. Alcoholism, wavering faith, depression, this is as personal as it gets. “When all this lethal drinking is to hopefully forget about you. I might as well admit it, like I even have a choice. The crew have killed the captain, but they still can hear his voice.” This shit is heartbreaking.
5. Girls – Album
Girls is a band with the same old back story you’ve heard over and over: Lead singer grows up in a cult, mother becomes a prostitute, homeless and drug addicted until he’s adopted by a millionaire, and then…..rock fame! You know, THAT rags to riches typical American success story. You would think, with that backdrop, that this debut album would be a lot more jacked up than it is. In actuality, it’s a sun-soaked throwback to summer, with jangly guitars and harmonies. Sure, there’s a few “why’d you rip out my heart and throw it into a vat of acid” downers (“Lauren Marie”), but what doesn’t have those these days?
4. Why? – Eskimo Snow
Lyrically my favorite album of the year. Every song contains at least one line that makes me laugh, not because they’re flat-out hysterical, but because they’re just so smart that it confounds me.
“I see the rain does not respect state lines, why should you?”
“A gift from the Maccabees to mom to me.”
Musically, Eskimo Snow is no slouch, either. Within you’ll find some rich compositions reminiscent of Sufjan Stevens’ intermingling pianos and bells. This is a layered album, one to be listened to with headphones and a strong grasp of irony.
3. Phoenix – Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix
Yeah, yeah, I know, everyone likes this record. But can you blame them? It’s the best dance pop album in years. These are nine perfectly crafted pop songs, nary a miss or mistake among them. This was my summer album. Every memory of my first summer in New York will always be set to Phoenix.
2. Neko Case – Middle Cyclone
All apologies to Ms. Case, for I wanted this album to be number one for the longest time. I’m quite torn up about lowering it down a spot, actually. I love this one. It’s full of pretty songs sung by a pretty lady with pretty words, like “It will end again in bullets” and “The next time you say forever, I will punch you in your face.” Ahhh, she’s such a sweetheart. Although, “This Tornado Loves You” is actually the sweetest song ever written about murderous twirling winds: “I miss how you’d sigh yourself to sleep.” I’m playing that ish at my wedding.
1. St. Vincent – Actor
My love for this lady and her latest album has already been documented here. I called it the best album back in June and I’m going maintain that thinking in December. Nothing came along to take its place. Annie Clark is an incredible guitar player with a beautiful voice that happens to like destructive sounds and piano ballads. I also am confident that she is walking Enzyte.