And here we go – my (admittedly) under researched and poorly thought-out top twenty albums of the year. Tonight I’m counting down from twenty to eleven, with ten to one coming in a day or so. I’ve provided links to Youtube videos which may or may not be high quality. They all seem to be OK, though. Also, little images of the album art! It’s almost professional!
Enjoy. And please comment on any errors or poor taste!
20. Animal Collective – Strawberry Jam
Well, this is probably the strangest sounding album I’ve heard for a long time. I don’t know whether it’s possible to call the tracks on this album ‘songs’, because they often bear no resemblance to what the word ‘song’ generally refers to. But that’s not a bad thing. Strawberry Jam is full of beeps and squelches and odd noises and doesn’t seem to make much sense at all. But as the vocals flip about seemingly independent of the music, you can’t help but get drawn into it. I imagine this is what it sounds like if your brain is having a fit.
Key Track: The first track, Peacebone, pretty much sets out where the rest of the album is going. It’s also one of the most ‘song-like’ tracks on the album.
19. The Good, The Bad and the Queen – The Good, The Bad and the Queen
The Good, The Bad and the Queen is rather gloomy. Damon Albarn’s gone all depressed about the state of the world, and he wants everyone to know. While I don’t usually go in for politically-charged albums (I find that most musicians obsessed with politics are full of shit), this obscures the political messages with good songwriting and the quality musicianship and production that we’ve come to expect from Albarn and Dangermouse.
Key Track: Herculean is my favourite. Just because it is (this is a live vid).
18. Radiohead – In Rainbows
I don’t know what I can say about In Rainbows that hasn’t already been said a billion times before, and much better than I ever could. It’s a good album. Their sound is amazing. It’s better than Amnesiac. And they rock out on a few tracks, which is always appreciated. It also comes in really cool packaging where you fold out the cardboard envelope and find a DIY CD case set.
Key Track: Bodysnatchers is the first thing that leapt out at me on my first listen. It’s rock-mode Radiohead and is awesome.
17. !!! (Chk Chk Chk) – Myth Takes
Myth Takes is basically a big dumb polyrhythmic dance-up, chocked full of funk and drums and terrible rapping, but nobody cares how bad it is because it’s so fun. You could almost say !!! are going back to that Stone Roses sort of sound – a heavy emphasis on bass grooves that stretch on for ages, over drums and guitar noises and things. You know what I mean. But then again, if you listen to All My Heroes Are Weirdos, it’s nothing like that. Sort of. In any case, it’s a really fun album, despite the failure of the last two tracks. They’re greatly overshadowed by the genius that is Bend Over Beethoven.
Key Track: Must Be The Moon contains the aforementioned bad rapping. But somehow it works.
16. Spoon – Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga
I didn’t expect to really like this album, as I didn’t get into Spoon much on their earlier albums. But Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga surprised me. It wasn’t just the Pulp-like intro of You Got Yr Cherry Bomb, or the repetitive piano chord in The Ghost Of You Lingers – the album works together as a whole, not just a collection of singles. I like that. Or maybe it’s just that there are so many single-worthy tracks on this album that it’s impossible to not like just about everything on it. Except for the title. It’s ridiculous.
Key Track: The Underdog has horns. I freaking love horns. It also has sleigh bells!
15. Modest Mouse – We Were Dead Before The Ship Even Sank
This is an album about the sea, pretty much. It’s almost edging into Decemberists (the eternal whalers’ band) territory, the way the sea manages to worm its way in. Despite WWDBTSES being an excellent record, there’s not actually any real standout tracks. Like Spoon’s latest, it’s the record as a whole which makes it great. Sure, there’s Dashboard, but that’s because it’s in its own little world. It doesn’t really seem to fit with the rest. If I had to pick a favourite though, it would have to be Parting of the Sensory. There’s nothing quite like angry ranting about how ‘someone’s gonna steal your carbon’
Key Track: Dashboard, of course! It flies along at a cracking pace, has trumpets and strings, and is one of the best tracks of the year for sure.
14. Muscles – Guns Babes Lemonade
Guns Babes Lemonade is the sort of music I’d make if I had some semblance of musical ability. Muscles made this in his bedroom, and it’s rough and loud and so awesome. There’s so much personality in Muscles’ music, which is a nice change to other dance releases where it’s almost robotic. You can tell there’s a guy behind this who’s having tonnes of fun making music to jump around to. He also can’t sing, which the generous use of multitracked vocals makes even more obvious. But that doesn’t take away from the dumb joy of Guns Babes Lemonade.
Key Track: Sweaty. This is what got me listening to Muscles. You can just imagine him jumping about in a little bedroom studio, yelling into a mic, and having a grand old time. Well, that’s what I’d be doing if I had a track this awesome.
13. Pelle Carlberg – In A Nutshell
Oh, Sweden. Why is it that so many great singer-songwriters have been coming out of Sweden lately? Pelle Carlberg is pure indie-pop, kind of like early Belle and Sebastian, and writes great little tunes about love (I Love You, You Imbecile), music (I Touched You At The Soundcheck) and other things (Showercream and Onions) that are impossible not to like. His lyrics are also quite clever and funny and sad, which is always appreciated in indie-pop.
Key Track: Clever Girls Like Clever Boys Much More Than Clever Boys Like Clever Girls. Not only a good title, a tight pop song.
12. The Go! Team – Proof of Youth
Nobody does ’70s-influenced schoolyard chanting dance quite like The Go! Team. Maybe this is because there aren’t any other bands doing it. Who knows. The Go! Team had a lot to live up to after the first album (Thunder Lightning Strike), and I reckon they succeeded with this. Maybe it’s not as strong, and it is pretty much Thunder Lightning Strike part 2, but you can’t blame a band for sounding like themselves. It would have been a bigger worry had they gone in a completely different direction. There’s the same cop show theme horns that make you feel like a superhero (particularly in Titanic Vandalism) mashup feel and giant crashing cymbals as before, but I feel it’s all enhanced by the presence of the full band, which didn’t actually exist for the recording of the first album. Definitely a very solid album.
Key Track: Grip Like A Vice is, really, all you need to hear to make up your mind about The Go! Team. It’s the perfect example of what they’re about. It’s got everything.
11. Silverchair – Young Modern
I’d never really been a Silverchair listener until I got into Daniel Johns and Paul Mac’s Dissociatives album, which led me to the Live from Faraway Stables album. The evolution of their sound from basic grunge in 1994 to the superbly arranged orchestral sections of Diorama, I’ve found amazing, especially as this evolution has brought them closer to music I enjoy (I really do not enjoy early 90s grunge). Young Modern is the obvious evolution from Diorama – they’ve streamlined the expansive soundscapes into perfect pop songs, while keeping the sweeping strings and big guitars. Just from listening to the straight-up 70s piano-rock of Mind Reader and the beautiful closer All Across the World, You get the feeling that Silverchair are able to go just about anywhere from Young Modern. This is the first Silverchair album that I can truly say I thoroughly enjoy from start to finish. That’s a success in my books.
Key Track: If You Keep Losing Sleep is like a big musical number, all marching drums and ‘na na na na’s and changes in tempo and an orchestra and it’s a brilliant pop song. I would probably be happy with an album of songs just like this.