–Thom McMahon IV
11. Bodies of Water – Ears Will Pop And Eyes Will Blink
A glorious batch of catchy, triumphant symphonies. These four young folks sing their hearts out and make a joyful noise unto the Lord.
10. Alasdair Roberts – The Amber Gatherers
Mr. Roberts’ albums have been alternating between traditional folk songs and original folk songs. His new one is of the latter type, but you might think these had been handed down through the ages if you didn’t know any better. He has a gift for writing timeless melodies. The tone is much lighter than that of his last album (which was all songs about death). In fact, some of these songs sound like lullabies. Perfect to play on the stereo when you have a baby crawling around the room.
9. Blonde Redhead - 23
A nearly perfect collection of dream pop. Not groundbreaking stuff — just masterfully executed and thoroughly enchanting.
8. Caribou –
Pulsing, psychedelic wonder. Essential listening for a drive through the wilderness. Dan Snaith’s last album sounded a bit inconsistent to me. This is a strong return to the majesty of his Up In Flames record — back before some Dick forced him to stop using the name
7. Jens Lekman – Night Falls Over Kortedala
Mr. Lekman gets my vote for best songwriter to emerge in the 21st century thus far. His music is frequently sublime. His lyrics are sharp and hilarious, and English isn’t even his first language. This album has some of his strongest tunes, but I feel like it loses some magic in the middle. Still, I would highly recommend this and all of his other output to anyone who enjoys charming, playful pop.
6. Panda Bear – Person Pitch
Sure, he sounds like a Beach Bro from way back when. Why shouldn’t he? More accurately, this album evokes a drug-induced dream of some of Brian Wilson and company’s finest work. Gorgeous harmonies, high on reverb, flowing comfortably across warm and friendly waters. This is the best trip I’ve ever been on.
The first time I heard this record, I thought Kevin Barnes had lost it — and he just may have (12-minute-long “The Past Is A Grotesque Animal” provides some convincing evidence). But after about 10 times through, these tightly wound, emotionally revealing outbursts had soaked through my skull and left me addicted.
4. Marissa Nadler – Songs III: Bird On The Water
I’ve already used the word “haunting” once in describing Ms. Nadler’s music, so I’ll try not to do it again. She has one of the most moving, elegiac voices that I’ve heard, and the stark arrangements on this album provide the perfect atmosphere for it. I’m slightly embarrassed to admit that she left me misty-eyed on a recent winter eve. Haunting. Damn.
3. Deerhoof – Friend
Deerhoof is one of the more distinctive-sounding bands out there, and they manage to sound fresh with each new album. They’re talented musicians, and their songs are fairly complex, yet they sound playful and innocent. It’s an unusual contrast that’s due in large part to Satomi Matsuzaki’s child-like voice and apparent lack of a grasp on the English language. Ultimately, though, it’s the abundance of savory hooks that keeps me coming back for more.
2. Cass McCombs – Dropping The Writ
Mr. McCombs’ last album was a fairly ragged, low-fi affair; this one sounds more polished, more mature even. Of course, you won’t be hearing any of it on your local adult alternative radio station. But you should. The songwriting is impeccable, and his falsetto reaches incredible highs that will send chills up your headphone cords.
1. Battles – Mirrored
This is rock music as found in the wild, as opposed to the all-too-common domesticated incarnation of the genre. The album is an intoxicating stew of unusual sounds and rhythms. It might sound challenging, but it ain't math homework — just some good, clean, disorienting fun. Surprising, amusing and heavy. I have Battles in my life, and I'm loving it.