Capturing a mood seems to be the only common thread in this year’s list…in some cases a zeitgeist, in others a creepy 'locked in my room’ vibe…These were the records that, no matter what name brand release momentarily occupied the spotlight, fought their way back into my heart and on my sound system…On that basis alone, they are the survivors…
The booby prize goes to RADIOHEAD’S In Rainbows, which was released in January on CD, but was already old news thanks to their ‘October Surprise’ digital release strategy, and was considered an ’07 release in my humble heart…the deluxe version came w/a second disc of very strong outtakes, 2-3 of which equal most things on the record. Worth finding the extras...
Honourable mention goes to: Kaki King, Los Campesinos!, Kills, Frida Hyvonen, M.I.A., Amanda Palmer, Beck, Gnarls Barkley, Fleet Foxes, and No Age for their latest releases, all records worth checking out…Cap of the year for producer could only be Danger Mouse, who helmed the Beck, Black Keys, and Gnarls records, and probably one or two i'm forgetting.
Enjoy the Grammies tonight, I doubt there will be much intersection w/this column...
10) AMERICAN MUSIC CLUB: The Golden Age
After a few years hiatus, Mark Eitzel reconvened the American Music Club a few years back in the wake of 9/11 to deliver the righteously angry ‘Patriot Songs’…Golden Age is no less incisive, but turns back to Eitzel’s signature portraits of the citizenry of this land, in all their glory…
9) OKKERVIL RIVER: The Stand Ins
Will Scheff is carving out a niche that back in the day would have earned him the weighty sobriquet of ‘new dylan’ and an avalanche of unwanted expectations…might still for that matter, but now he can dwell in the hype machine of cyber.space and fight off the 21st century equivilant. 'The Stand Ins' is more songs from the sessions that gave us 2007’s majestic 'The Stage Names'...it's not leftovers, it's not a sequel...it's another piece of the puzzles, as the artistically linked covers attest to. My favorite kind of record, the one you can keep going back to and get lost in...
8/8) (tie) BURIAL: Untrue/FLYING LOTUS: Los Angeles
Two sides of a coin...in the endless driving miles I’ve racked up this year, these two records hit it like chocolate & peanut butter…the rarest cases of sountracks for movies not yet made and worthy successors in the 'moody abstract beats' department to DJ Shadow’s ‘Endtroducing…’
7) ABE VIGODA; Skeleton:
Just when one thought that nothing further could be squeezed from the basic punk template, here comes the beautifully named Abe Vigoda a loud, quirky northern CA band that has relocated to LA, and reminds me of At The Drive In in their salad days…relentless. They find themselves part of a group of LA bands along with Mika Miko & No Age that could conceivably be the finest trifecta that city has provided since the X/Blasters/Los Lobos outburst of the '80's. Time will tell.
6) SONS & DAUGHTERS: This Gift
Caustic, aggressive, and unjustly overlooked…this is the record where it all came together for them. Past records split the vocals male/female, but this time the focus is on Adele Bethel, and the band’s attack is vicious & melodic. Some say the band is too one.track, but like the Ramones, what a track!
5) JESSICA LEA MAYFIELD: With Blasphemy So Heartfelt
Simple songs that feel classic from the first notes, a punk Patsy Cline w/an assist from Dan Auerbach from the Black Keys, who helped create a great non.intrusive instrumental pastiche for her to work off of. All the attention on new female vocalists this year seemed to center on the UK brigade of Adele, Duffy, etc, but this young lady stole my ears and heart.
4) DIPLO: Top Ranking Santogold, A Diplo Dub
Yes, it’s a mixtape, but what a blast. Against all hope, (could he possibly top his MIA blast ‘piracy funds terrorism’?), indeed…the grooves are deep & hard w/the usual suspects throwin’ down on an airtight base of deep dub sides…He finds room for Aretha, Sir Mix.A.Lot, and the B'52's, as well as the featured Santogold, leavens it w/a cheeky sense of humor and doesn't drop a beat…a jam from start to finish.
3) SIGUR ROS: Með suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust
One of a kind, sharpening their sound while continuing to defy all expectations in this post.rock world. They continue to conjure beautiful dreams…also, ‘Heima’ a documentary of their musical journey through rural Iceland is enchanting, heartfelt, and quite unexpectedly, one of the most engaging rock documentaries made…
2) PORTISHEAD: Third
Sound of the times, defining what is now a bygone era, (before ‘hope’), this most unlikely of comebacks, from a band that never went away, just stopped….Moving aggressively away from the sampling frenzy of their 90’s triumphs to a cold hard edgy groove, overlayed with Beth Gibbons’ inimitable vocalizings, it thoroughly captures the disconnectedness & overt dread of the last eight years, and I have a feeling that years from now, if the man’s name is so much as uttered, it will be a song from this record that creeps into my consciousness…
1) SUN KIL MOON: April
Pastoral acoustic laments and ominous thunderclouds of electric guitar woven together over Kozelek’s reveries of friends and love, lost and found. In every sense, the soundtrack to my year. The magic here is the way Kozelek takes all the disparate threads, musically and lyrically, that he's been playing with through the years under the names: Red House Painters, Sun Kil Moon, and his own, and finds a place for them to coalesce. Constant movement, running from and running to are recurrent themes, and it's truly the journey, and not the destination.