Sunday, December 21, 2008

Top Ten Albums I Didn't Review

Seeing as this is a blog, not a job, I simply don't always find time to review all the albums I'd like to. However, with it being the end of the year, and since not all of these albums can make my final top ten list, here's a chance for these albums to get some love and for me to briefly explain what made them great. If you're wondering about how they score, the range is 7.8 to 8.6.

10. Man Man - "Rabbit Habits" - Man Man's third effort is arguably their best yet, with a bigger sound, crisper production, and an even more original reworking of their Tom Waits + pop + vaudeville formula. As with the group's other albums, it's not for everyone. Man Man invite you down the rabbit-hole into a bizarre alternate world of theatrics, and for those willing to make the journey it is a memorable experience.

(video is "Easy Eats or Dirty Doctor Galapagos")

9. Pale Young Gentlemen - "Black Forest (Tra La La)" - Last year, after rewarding Pale Young Gentlemen's debut with a ridiculously high 9.1 rating, they earned spots on both my album and song of the year lists. They also earned a record deal with Science of Sound, which released their second album less than 18 months after their debut. The use of a label is reflected in the crisper production and deeper sonics, but lost in the transition is the spontaneity and, well, fun of the debut. It was still good enough to make this list and avoid a "sophomore slump," but better albums are ahead for this band.

(video is "The Crook of My Good Arm")

8. Flying Lotus - "Los Angeles" - This is how Warp interprets hip-hop. "Los Angeles" sounds like nothing else released this year, yet is accessible to fans of a wide variety of genres. Electronica, hip-hop, IDM; the lines between all three were blurred and erased in under an hour. Not bad, Steven Ellison. I can't even begin to fathom what he's got planned for album number three.

(video is "Riot")

7. Hold Steady - "Stay Positive" - Craig Finn and company are certainly consistent. One knows what to expect from them each time out. Sing-along refrains surrounded by Finn's storytelling sung-spoke vocals and plenty of guitar. Four albums in, and the formula is showing very little (if any) diminishing returns. "Stay Positive" is another solid Hold Steady album, with the usual stand-outs ("Constructive Summer" and "Lord, I'm Discouraged") and hardly a weak track on the album. Sure, the Hold Steady don't change much, but why should they?

(video is "Constructive Summer")

6. Cut Copy - "In Ghost Colours" - Just give in. There's no use resisting. Click play.

(video is "Feel the Love")

5. Deerhunter - "Microcastle" - Bradford Cox has reached the point when he can do anything and critics will adore it. "Microcastle" marks the first time on a full-length that he's deserved the praise. Removing himself from the jam-out tendencies of the band's previous two LPs to find an increased level of structure, and finding originality through variety rather than spontaneity, Cox showcased abilities in composition and songwriting which converted me. I believe in Bradford Cox... except for Atlas Sound.

(video is "Agoraphobia")

4. Black Milk - "Tronic" - In a year in which many big name hip-hop artists released albums, none were able to match what Detroit beat connoisseur and MC Black Milk was able to accomplish with his latest album (unless you thought "Tha Carter III" was a masterstroke). It's fourteen tracks of hip-hop, no filler, ranging from good to jaw-dropping. The frequent comparisons of Black Milk to J. Dilla are easily drawn here, although on tracks like "Hell Yeah" Black Milk out-Dilla's the late Jay Dee himself. With "Tronic," Black Milk rises from the ashes of J. Dilla to become an even more powerful version of the late producer extraordinaire.

(video is "The Matrix")

3. Torche - "Meanderthal" - In a year in which a lot of hard rock albums drew praise ("Fortress," "The Chemistry of Common Life," "Life... The Best Game in Town," etc.), the best of all was an album masquerading as hard rock. Torche explore genres and annihilate each and every one of them. "Speed of the Nail" does up death metal while adding a hint of pop levity, "Grenades" takes the power anthem and soars it to new heights. Torche exemplifies genres while rebuking them, joke too straight-faced to possibly be kidding, and just happen to make kick ass rock music the whole time.

(video is "Grenades")

2. Fleet Foxes - "Fleet Foxes" - The "Sun Giant EP" was good, but Fleet Foxes' debut convinced me the hype surrounding the band was warranted. Robin Pecknold's vocals are an instrument in themselves, with a level of reverb previously reserved only for My Morning Jacket's Jim James. Consistent, gorgeous, and impeccably arranged, "Fleet Foxes" may have gained recognition through hype and buzz, but will be able to sustain it through the shear quality and craftsmanship of its songs.

(video is "Ragged Wood")

1. Jacaszek - "Treny" - Post-rock is dying. Mogwai will never make another "Young Team." Sigur Rós will never make another "Ágætis Byrjun." Tortoise are no longer relevant. Jacaszek offers the solution in this eulogy to the genre. On the surface, "Treny" appears simple but encased within its songs are labyrinthine structures of sound, a plethora of tiny parts each contributing to a massive whole, then muffled to create the illusion of ambience, a façade of peace created by constant war. Maybe it's all a metaphor, maybe I'm over-thinking it, maybe that's why I never wrote a review. Whichever way, it's certainly one of the year's finest albums.

(video is "Lament")

1 comment:

royalewithcheese_ said...

Props on the Deerhunter. I've been enjoying Microcastle for the past month