Sunday, June 29, 2008

The 2008 Music "All-Stars", If You Will

2008 is half over, so I think it's a good time to stop and reflect on the albums released thus far (that I've heard). The roughly ordered top 10 so far (because I like making lists) with links to some videos:

10. Cut Copy - In Ghost Colours
"To be sure, In Ghost Colours is a triumph of craftsmanship rather than vision--a synthesis and refinement of existing sounds rather than anything dramatically new and original--but it is an unalloyed triumph nonetheless, and one of the finest albums of its kind." - All Music Guide
I don't really listen to dance music, but these guys did such a good job with it that it got my attention.
NT: Feel The Love; Lights And Music; Hearts On Fire

Lights And Music

9. Destroyer - Trouble In Dreams
"Though it has its strong and weak points, Trouble In Dreams will no doubt receive well-deserved commendation. As a whole, however, it is the result of a grand but imperfect design (which, as we all know, has merit of its own)." - Lost At Sea
The second half still isn't very good to my ears, but the first half is growing on me. Definitely not some of his better work, but it's still Destroyer.
NT: Blue Flower/Blue Flame; Dark Leaves From A Thread; Foam Hands

Foam Hands

8. Islands - Arm's Way
"Arm’s Way is a detailed, richly-rewarding album. These are undeniably melodramatic AOR songs--but they’re nuanced in form, graced with melody, and any obvious tropes are usually subverted." - Tiny Mix Tapes
The first track is very good - the guitar and the violin backing it are extremely catchy. After that it's a bit hit-or-miss. It's a step down from Return To The Sea, but it's not bad.
NT: The Arm; Creeper; Vertigo (If It's A Crime)

The Arm

7. Frightened Rabbit - The Midnight Organ Fight
"Hutchison and his bandmates reward patience as well as repeated listens, and they deserve credit for unearthing a unique chunk of the Scottish heart, raised on equal parts American punk and traditional folk and bleeding beautifully." - Slant
The Scottish accented vocals are more interesting and less grating than The Twilight Sad's. It's not the most original thing in the world, but it's extremely well crafted.
NT: The Modern Leper; Old Old Fashioned; The Twist

The Modern Leper

6. Liam Finn - I'll Be Lightning
"Liam has an ear for hooks and a predilection for melodic craft...a richness in lyric and music uncommon to young singer/songwriters. The arrangements are slyly inventive, too." - All Music Guide
Finn has been compared to Elliot Smith, but I find this album to be catchier than any of Smith's, if not quite as good as some of them. Neil Finn's (of Crowded House) son has inherited some impressive talent.
NT: Better To Be; Second Chancel Energy Spirit

Second Chance

5. Bon Iver - For Emma, Forever Ago
"It’s seamless in its construction, poetic in its songwriting and moving in its aesthetic impression." - Delusions Of Adequacy
Great sparse folk album in the vein of Iron & Wine's earlier work.
NT: Flume; Creature Fear; For Emma

Skinny Love

4. The Helio Sequence - Keep Your Eyes Ahead
"Even when it fails, Keep Your Eyes Ahead has a refreshing maturity and presence, old enough to admit that folk jamboree and synth-rock can coexist, hopeful enough to think "Joshua Tree," or at least "Ocean Rain," was a really good idea." - Pitchfork
Maybe I'll get tired of it later, but for now I enjoy it thoroughly every time I listen to it. It sounds just different enough from other things I've been listening to for it to be interesting.
NT: Can't Say No; Keep Your Eyes Ahead; Hallelujah


3. Vampire Weekend - Vampire Weekend
"Bring any baggage you want to this record, and it still returns nothing but warm, airy, low-gimmick pop, peppy, clever, and yes, unpretentious--four guys who listened to some Afro-pop records, picked up a few nice ideas, and then set about making one of the most refreshing and replayable indie records in recent years." - Pitchfork
It's still just as catchy and fun as it was a few months ago.
NT: Oxford Comma; Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa; Walcott


2. Fleet Foxes - Fleet Foxes
"The sense of wonder in Fleet Foxes' songs is matched only by the discipline and talent that created this adventurous, evocative record. One which is already shaping up as an album of the year." - Mojo
The harmonies are fantastic, and the production is clean and adds to the music without overshadowing it a bit. If I had to pick any album on here to recommend to someone it would be Fleet Foxes.
NT: White Winter Hymnal; He Doesn't Know Why; Oliver James

White Winter Hymnal

1. Stephen Malkmus - Real Emotional Trash
"Real Emotional Trash conjures a virtuoso meld of folk rock, prog and cosmic blues tropes, all filtered through the ex-pavement frontman's trademark arch surrealism." - Mojo
It's kind of unfair - Malk makes a flawed album with songs that drag on too long, and there's still nothing else I've heard that I'd rather listen to.
NT: Hopscotch Willie; Cold Son; Gardenia

Hopscotch Willie

So that's it for now. There are still a lot of albums that I just haven't gotten around to listening to yet (like the new Wolf Parade and Notwist). There have also been a few releases this year that have really disappointed me. I'm a big Silver Jews fan, but Lookout Mountain, Lookout Sea falls kind of flat - it's a bit boring, and doesn't have the guitars that picked Tanglewood Numbers up. The new My Morning Jacket, Evil Urges, is just upsetting. I don't know how they can go from the guitar-riffic, Jim James yelling excellence of "What A Wonderful Man" (and co. on Z) to the over-produced and falsetto fronted "Evil Urges". After the initial bad-ness, the album does have some actual MMJ on it, but even that isn't their best work. There isn't much that I know being released later this year that I'm excited about - unless, of course, The Wrens finally get around to finishing the follow-up to The Meadowlands. That would be awesome.

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