This year was good to me. I found more good music from this year than perhaps the ten previous years combined. This is probably partly because technology is making it so easy to find and get new music. But Iâ€™ll give the artists some credit too.
Because what music I like depends so much on my mood at that moment, Iâ€™ve decided to just clump the albums into tiers.
Andrew Bird â€“ Armchair Apocrypha: Like several of you, I am a fan of his 2005 release Andrew Bird and The Mysterious Production of Eggs, but I like Armchair Apocrypha five times as much. Itâ€™s a little less quirky, just as philosophical, and thereâ€™s more whistling. If you donâ€™t know Bird, heâ€™s a singer/songwriter/violinist/whistler/philosopher with a distinctive, ever-changing, and hard-to-describe style. A cohesive album with single material too, but the best of the best is far from radio friendly. Easiest criticism: too adult contemporary. Start with: Fiery Crash; Dark Matter; Armchairs.
Arcade Fire â€“ Neon Bible: The best band in the world finally has enough material to play a full set without cover material. Easiest criticism: not as good as Funeral. Start with: Keep the Car Running; Antichrist Television Blues; and the simple but beautiful Neon Bible.
Beirut â€“ The Flying Club Cup: an unmistakable â€œnew world indie popâ€ sound and an unmistakable masterpiece. DeVotchka (Little Miss Sunshine Soundtrack) is about the only band I can compare them to, and even that falls short by a few furlongs. Easiest criticism: too weird and over the top. Start with: Cherbourg; Nantes.
Blonde Redhead â€“ 23: a haunting and lush electronic indie rock album that sounds like a gift from the future. Easiest criticism: inconsistent and lyrics that are almost impossible to decipher. Start with: 23; The Dress; My Impure Hair.
Cloud Cult â€“ The Meaning of 8: Their best album yet sounds like what most indie rock bands are trying to sound like. This description from AMG fits many of the songs â€“ â€œfeatures a Montreal indie-rock chamber pop formula that focuses on the build — a guitar part slowly propels from finger-picking into a militant strumming over orchestral swells until the bottom drops out and then returns with a grandiose tom-fueled chorus.â€ Easiest criticisms: whinny voice, too many tracks, and dorky lyrics. Start with: Chemicals Collide; Dance for the Dead.
The Maccabees â€“ debut album from a young British Rock band with new-wave, post-punk, and indie influences rocks like only the British know how. Easiest criticism: too loud and lacking the bad-ass factor. Start with: About Your Dress; Good Old Bill.
The National â€“ Boxer: this is what The Arcade Fire would sound like if you took away half of their instruments, mellowed them down a little bit, and dropped Butlerâ€™s vocals an octave. Boxer is an example of a whole that is greater than its parts. A steady pulse of intense drumbeats holds it all together nicely. Easiest criticism: while the sound is pleasant and unique, the songs are easy to play and could be covered by eighth graders. Start with: Fake Empire; Squalor Victoria; Brainy.
Phosphorescent â€“ Bonnie Prince Billy? No. Damien Jurado? No. Iron and Wine? No. Band of Horses? No. Phosporescent? Yes. Pull this one out when youâ€™re about ready to fall asleep but donâ€™t have another reason to go to be bed. Easiest criticism: depressing, weird, and short. Start with: Wolves; At Death, a Proclamation; My Dove, My Lamb.
Radiohead â€“ In Rainbows: As good as any Radiohead album. So sonically unique and complex. Easiest criticism: Thom Yorke is a whinny non-sensical scar on this planet. Start with: Weird Fishes/Arpeggi; All I Need; Nude; 15 Step.
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