Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Colin's Favorite Albums

I always hesitate to call these lists "best of" because there is still so much I haven't gotten the chance to hear. I'd like to take a closer listen to those Jens and Cass gentlemen, for instance. But I guess that applies to just about everybody, so this is what you get from me.

by Colin F. McCormick

17. Bright Eyes - Cassadaga
A thick coat of production gloss has rendered Connor Oberst a relatively edgeless version of his former self. That said, he'll still win you over if you're a sucker.

16. Okkervil River - The Stage Names
A bold and passionately personal examination of (possibly) meaningless life as art. Also wins the prize for most interesting insertion of "Sloop John B."

15. Spoon - Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga
It's great stuff, but I feel like most people went a little more ga ga over this album than I did. But hey, I'm not gonna be a baby about it. Sorry.

14. Band Of Horses - Cease To Begin
I love Ben Bridwell's voice. And while this folksier effort didn't resonate with quite the same degree of emotional impact as last year's Everything All The Time, I'll take what I can get.

13. The Arcade Fire - Neon Bible
The level of grandeur much of this album shoots for may have required a bit too epic a trajectory for The Arcade Fire's own good. But what it does manage to accomplish is still compelling in its own right.

12. The Clientele - God Save The Clientele
It may be slightly more upbeat than The Clientele's previous material, but God Save's hushed, understated melodies lilt by so unassumingly, you might fail to notice just how lovely they can be.

11. The Shins - Wincing The Night Away
The Shins' earlier albums were driven by their charming youthful spontaneity, and the more mature Wincing sounds a little constrained by comparison. Still, this album contains several legitimate gems, and even some of the best melodies they've ever released.

10. Deerhoof - Friend Opportunity
Deerhoof seem to have somehow finally gotten a firm handle on their unique haphazard style, and they've honed it well on this great haphazard album.

9. Beirut - The Flying Club Cup
When Balkan gypsy music this convincing is blaring and bellowing from a 21-year-old New Mexico native, it's surprising, to say the least. But Zach Condon infuses his songs with just enough Western pop sensibility and charm to quiet the questioning and make them instantly enjoyable.

8. Dan Deacon - Spiderman Of The Rings
"I try to write music that I think if like really cool six-year-olds got together...and they were like, 'Let's write the most awesome music ever,' this is hopefully what I hope they would come up with." When Dan Deacon gave that description of his style during an incredible (and inexplicable) TV appearance in 2005, Spiderman Of The Rings was still more than two years away. The aesthetic, however, holds true, and he's come surprisingly close to realizing his most-awesome-music-ever goal. "Wham City" is easily one of the best tracks I heard all year.

7. Radiohead - In Rainbows
With all the hype surrounding the style of its release, I feel like I heard little about how good this album actually is. It's classic Radiohead, without feeling at all rehashed or tired. Maybe I just wasn't looking hard enough.

6. Iron & Wine - The Shepherd's Dog
Sam Beam has continued the fleshing out process he began on the Woman King EP, and Iron & Wine is now a far cry from its solo bedroom project roots. This folksy album is beautiful and haunting.

5. Caribou - Andorra
These songs are just solid pop melodies at their cores, but they are wrapped in insistent, driving percussion, and dipped in a sparkling coating of psychedelic ambience. It's a delicious concoction.

4. Battles - Mirrored
Technical prowess coupled with innovative, progressive songwriting make this one of the most interesting and enjoyable albums I've heard in a long time. Could this be the music of the future?!

3. of Montreal - Hissing Fauna, Are You The Destroyer?
I always assumed post-romantic separation albums were gloomy and sullen, consisting mainly of guys crying into acoustic guitars (see Beck's Sea Change). Such is not the case for Kevin Barnes, who here takes us on a wild journey through his hurt and frustrated (yet extremely hyperactive) psyche. The album progresses from bouncing, frenetic pop confusion through a 12-minute cathartic bout of rambling bitterness, and finally settles on flamboyant, Prince-esque, funked-out sex jams. Despite the recent ridiculous Outback Steakhouse campaign (among other advertisements), and long-winded rants in support of selling out, Kevin Barnes managed to craft my most listened-to album of the year, and the best of Montreal LP to date.

2. Panda Bear - Person Pitch
Awash in reverb-saturated ambience, Person Pitch is hypnotic, dizzying, uplifting, and gorgeous.

1. Animal Collective - Strawberry Jam
I read that the title for this album was chosen after one of the members opened an airline packet of strawberry jam during a flight. The idea was that, like jam, their music is starts with something as natural as a strawberry, say a catchy hook, and processes it to such a degree that its appearance and texture are rendered so unnatural as to seem almost alien. Well, if you've ever eaten jam, you know that end result, bizarre as it appears, is extremely sweet.


Ricky said...

I'll have to check out more of the Panda Bear album. I heard the "Comfy in Nautica" track and the vocals really reminded me of Brian Wilson. Thanks for the list.

thom said...

Yeah, man, yeah. I see that we have similar taste in musics. The one album here I haven't heard at all is the new Okkervil River, but I really want to get a load of that "Sloop John B" bit.

I need to spend more time with the Animal Collective jam, but Panda Bear will definitely be near the top of my list.

So no Chinese Democracy? Oh, wait -- I guess that still hasn't come out yet.

Paul B. said...

Warning: I kind of went overboard w/ the comments, but I just finished finals and am taking solace in Colin's great list and my newfound free time.

I'm glad you mentioned the Bright Eyes record. I've never been a big fan of his/them, but when that album came out (when? in February?) I must've streamed it in its entirety 2-3 times and really liked it. I actually think it has everything to do with the thick coat of production gloss, but perhaps I need to give the older albums some more listens.

Have you heard "We All Belong?" It has a pretty good "Sloop John B" insertion, as well. Comfy in Nautica they both are, I guess.

The songs on "Cease to Begin" keep growing on me, but, yes, it really does come back to Ben Bridwell's amazing voice.

See, I thought "Neon Bible" was much less ambitious than "Funeral," but let's face it: I'm probably wrong.

Re: The Shins. Does the melody in "Turn On Me" remind anyone else of the melody in "Young Pilgrims?" I think that's what I'm hearing, but it could be something else.

I'm fairly sure he'll be high up on Thom's list as well, but I don't get Dan Deacon (and, to a lesser degree, Battles) at all. Actually, I'll rephrase: I don't get repeated listens of Dan Deacon at all. That said, Thom's recounting of Mr. Deacon's request for "25 Twenty-fives" at his show at the Echo had me dying of laughter.

I also am not sold on the new Radiohead record, although I admit it has everything to do with the opening track which I just don't like at all. Warmed-over Hail to the Thief that song is.

That new Iron & Wine album sounds great. I've heard two songs and they're leaps and bounds beyond anything I've heard from him/them. I think that Calexico collaboration awakened Sam Beam to other greater possibilities. Colin, did you go to that show at the Knitting Factory about five years back where Sam Beam, James Mercer, and, uh, Rosie Thomas played acoustic sets? Where has the time gone? That incredibly long night, minus James Mercer's incredible set, seems just like yesterday . . .

thom said...

Actually, I was just recently telling Colin about how that Sam Beam performance was one of the things that's kept me from getting into Iron and Wine. As I remember it, he could hardly get through some of his songs and didn't seem to care much. Maybe my memory has made it worse than it actually was. Regardless, I do like what I've heard of the new album.

Paul B. said...

I just remember him having a big beard and playing way too long. And I remember Rosie Thomas' incredibly annoying alter ego schtick.