Top 11 Records of (2+0-0+9)
Slicing up percussion beats and play-toy beeps to build dreamy, semi-manic atmospheres for his sugary-sweet vocal melodies, Deacon turns the brightness down a tick with Bromst. As usual, the tracks will trigger a synthesized, cerebral trip, with sonic space ships flying through sparkling skies full of twinkling bells, but never have Deacon’s songs sounded so full, smart, or dark. Stronger than Spiderman of the Rings, Bromst sticks to Deacon’s strengths while refining his use of space to fill out his floating dance party sound.
10.Built to Spill—There is no Enemy
The last BTS record, You in Reverse, sounded like the band might be going down a more “psychedelic jam band-ish” avenue. The relief came eventually, though, with There is no Enemy, on which Doug Martsch brings the best technical aspects of his last 5 albums together in yet another instant classic. Enemy blends shimmery tunes and mournful melodies of pure gold with the clever guitar scribbling that lifts BTS beyond the unwashed indie masses. Tangents are great, if you have a pretty good idea where you’re going, and this one has brought the band back to what made them great. This album’s sound is appropriately easy going, but nothing is easy unless you are Doug Martsch.
09.Andrew Bird—Noble Beast
Bird has perfected the art of layered composition. On Noble Beast, mouthwatering hooks, harmonies, and spicy rhythms fertilize an unflawed bloom of lyrical mastery. On past albums, Bird seemed more inclined to choose words that fit rhythmically, while Beast gives off the feeling that although the vocabulary didn’t get any smaller, words came easier on this one. Some critics said that no tune on this album stood out as a single, but I disagree. The opener, “Oh No” is instantly irresistible, and three or four others are right there as well. This is (another) AB album that is easy to become obsessed with.
Big Tracks—Oh No
Athens, Georgia spawns neurotic genius, so it is no surprise that Deerhunter’s Bradford Cox was born and raised there. In the summer of ’09, he accidentally dropped his beautifully haunting, lo-fidelity solo demos all over the net. Luckily, he pulled himself together and decided to package them anyway, eventually releasing Logos. The album is wonderfully deceiving. On the surface, Cox’s ethereal arrangements sound experimental, without much direction. A closer listen reveals a brilliant singer/songwriter with Brian Wilson-esque talent for architecture, pumping melodies through a deliciously melancholy filter.
07.Beirut/Realpeople—March of the Zapotec/Holland
Something is wrong with you if you don’t love a good 19-piece Mexican band. Everybody knows that. Zach Condon is a sponge, and he is soaking up all of the earth’s folk music styles, but his songwriting is so strong that it withstands all influence. The first half of Beirut’s latest effort sounds like a funeral procession that took place in 1908. Neutral Milk-esque horn parts only add to the songs’ antique appeal, and Condon’s crooning never misses. The 2nd half of the album is electronically charged. The change is drastic, but the songwriting shines through so strongly that the record is a success. Not many artists have a style that transcends time like this guy does. Holland is superbly crafted, and it is interesting to compare the two sections of the album, which are astoundingly similar for being so separate. Someone with such a remarkable sound easily could stay inside his comfort zone and remain esteemed, but Condon craves inspiration, and he gets it, no matter how far away it takes him.
Big Tracks—La Llorona
My Night With the Prostitute From Marseille
06.Fever Ray—Fever Ray
Karin and Olof Dreijer could not be more perfect for each other. He controls tribal beats and galactic sounds to blanket her passive aggressive tone. Unlike on the powerful “Silent Shout”, Karin’s anxious vocals are often more open and vulnerable on this album, which is not to say that she has lost her power, but this time the tracks are more fragile, and more pretty. Most of the album is her dueting with sped up or slowed down versions of her self, creating the familiar druid-like eeriness surrounding the entire album. This is some of the best work they’ve done yet.
Big Tracks—When I Grow Up
If I Had A Heart
05.Mew—No More Stories Are Told Today…
This is the pop record I’ve been waiting for from Mew. The album flows smoothly along, without occasionally falling off track this time. The production couldn’t be any better, and with progressive shred contrasting the soaring, angelic voice of Jonas Bjerre, this album doesn’t have one low moment. …Glass Handed Kites was also extremely good, and Mew has since learned how to utilize their strengths in writing, and in the studio. Multiple-movement pieces are nothing new to the band, but unlike before, the assembly has definite direction all throughout. That, and the songs are very good throughout.
They have been around for a long time, but this masterpiece proves that Mew is ready to become the biggest stadium rock band in the world. It’s about time, too, because Muse is really starting to blow.
Big Tracks—Introducing Palace Players
Cartoons and Macreme Wounds
04.Dirty Projectors—Bitte Orca
Dirty Projectors have taken their experimental compositions to great new heights with Bitte Orca. They splash an R&B feel onto their pop tunes, but the group often sounds like it comes from another time. Dave Longstreth is the genius behind the curtain, and his arms and legs are Amber Coffman and Angel Deradoorian, who manage to catch his every drift. Some of the record’s riffs sound like a wall is melting around them, and the whole album is a wonderfully fresh, very approachable musical experience. Every track has surprises, but Longstreth clearly has control of his unique sound, which is a good thing for the rest of us.
Big Tracks—Stillness is the Move
03.Phoenix—Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix
Phoenix has discovered a musical fit for Thomas Mars’ sweet n’ drowsy falsetto on the great WAP. Every track could be a hit single, minus the 7:00 Love Like a Sunset, which could be a hit single if anyone had an attention span (or listened to the radio). The tunes are all simple but memorable, and every song is ornamented to perfection. The same way Green Day’s Dookie appealed to the masses 15 years ago, and The Strokes’ Is This It? Did the same 10 years ago, everything here just sounds right. Good songs, all perfectly catered to their front man’s unique croon. Phoenix is now added to my “get whatever they release” list. (Green Day is not on that list. Strokes are.)
The critics were praising this album before it even came out, and the follow up to the dreary, sluggish Yellow House did, in fact, turn out to be all together amazing. Layered sound textures create an interesting backdrop for soaring vocals and shimmery percussion, but what makes this record great is the songwriting. Beautiful but haunting, the tracks feel as though they were written as one masterwork, and the album’s resonating aftertaste is eerily gloomy. The record was flawlessly produced, and no detail was overlooked. I can find nothing wrong here.
Big Tracks—Two Weeks
01.Animal Collective—Merriweather Post Pavilion & (Fall Be Kind)
MPP took its place as my favorite album of the year early on, and although some bands came quite close, no one could de-throne Animal Collective in 2009. The album is covered with danceable rhythms, sweet hooks, new twists, and so much more. Each member brings his own style to the effort, and the pieces combine to form an hour long, sonic adventure moon vacation. Avey Tare’s vocals are somewhat less scratchy than on previous records, and Panda Bear’s choirboy whining is still smooth and clean. The lyrics on MPP are peculiar as ever, with metaphors sailing around with jibberish, in a colorful spectrum of sound. Fall Be Kind is a 5-song EP that was released earlier this winter, to deservingly rave reviews. Same formula. Same success. Post Pavilion is their 9th record, and Animal Collective sound better than ever, which for them should be perfectly impossible.
Big Tracks—My Girls