Saturday, January 07, 2012

2011 in Review - Top 25 Albums

I'm sure I'll eventually get around to beefing this up with reviews, cover art, mp3 links and other such niceties -- for now, here's the list of my Top 25 Albums for 2011:

1 Ron Sexsmith - Long Player Late Bloomer
2 Cornershop - Cornershop & The Double 'O' Groove Of
3 Wye Oak - Civilian
4 Jonathan Coulton - Artificial Heart
5 Unknown Mortal Orchestra - Unknown Mortal Orchestra
6 Sloan - The Double Cross
7 The Vaccines - What Did You Expect From The Vaccines?
8 Kate Bush - 50 Words for Snow
9 Burial - Street Halo EP
10 Telekinesis - 12 Desperate Straight Lines
11 The Field - Looping State of Mind
12 Cloud Nothings - Cloud Nothings
13 Royal Bangs - Flux Outside
14 White Denim - D
15 Radiohead - The King of Limbs
16 Feist - Metals
17 Beastie Boys - Hot Sauce Commitee Part Two
18 Young Knives - Ornaments From The Silver Arcade
19 Deerhoof - Deerhoof vs. Evil
20 Washed Out - Within And Without
21 Girls - Father, Son, Holy Ghost
22 Fleet Foxes - Helplessness Blues
23 Nicolas Jaar - Space Is Only Noise
24 Pete And The Pirates - One Thousand Pictures
25 The Pains of Being Pure At Heart - Belong

Thursday, January 05, 2012

Top 50 Songs of 2011

Here's a link to a .zip file of the entire collection - in alphabetical order by artist name.

A printable list of the Top 50 is available here.

Addendum: As last year, this collection includes a number of songs from records that did not make my Top 25 Records of 2011 list; likewise, several of those records are not represented in this collection.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Also Rans: 2010 Edition

2010 was an unusually good year for music -- it was extremely difficult to limit myself to a Top 25. All of the records below are excellent and many of them could easily have been in my Top 25. Herewith -- in no particular order -- the Also Rans of 2010:

1. Buke and Gass - Riposte

2. Vampire Weekend - Contra

3. Four Tet - There is Love in You

4. Gorillaz - Plastic Beach

5. The Radio Dept. - Clinging to a Scheme

6. The Sugar Stems - Sweet Sounds of

7. These New Puritans - Hidden

8. Belle and Sebastian - Write About Love

9. Wild Nothing - Gemini

10. Jónsi - Go

11. Washed Out - Life of Leisure e.p.

12. Glasser - Ring

13. Superchunk - Majesty Shredding

14. Super Wild Horses - Fifteen

15. Wolf Parade - Expo 86

16. Teenage Fanclub - Shadows

17. The Futureheads - The Chaos

18. Mystery Jets - Serotonin

19. Freedy Johnston - Rain on the City

20. Midlake - The Courage of Others

21. Reflection Eternal: Talib Kweli + Hi-Tek - Revolutions per Minute

22. The Rescues - Let Loose the Horses

23. The Posies - Blood/Candy

24. Emancipator - Safe In The Steep Cliffs

25. Deerhunter - Halcyon Digest

Sunday, January 02, 2011

2010 in Review - Top 25 Albums

Here, at last, is the list of my 25 favorite albums of 2010 -- a .zip file containing a track from each of these 25 albums can be downloaded by clicking here:

1. Janelle Monáe - The ArchAndroid
I'm ashamed to admit that I'd never heard Janelle Monáe's music until her jaw-dropping performance of "Tightrope" on The Late Show With David Letterman in May 2010. I don't think I've ever downloaded an album more quickly. Monáe is a remarkably unique artist and The ArchAndroid is an amazingly ambitious album. That she has produced a work of such startling scope and originality at such a young age is a bit frightening, frankly.

Listen: Tightrope (Feat. Big Boi)

2. Field Music - Field Music (Measure)
Field Music -- and the Brewis brothers, individually -- have released a series of fantastic records over the past several years. They are extremely gifted multi-instrumentalists who can effortlessly segue from prog rock to power pop and back again within a single song. I was lucky enough to see them perform live twice in 2010 -- don't miss them if they visit your town.

Listen: Measure

3. Beach House - Teen Dream
On the surface, this is not the sort of album that generally makes my list. It's pretty and spare and slow and acoustic, and I'm all about the rock. Still, these melodies are undeniable. . . .

Listen: Zebra

4. LCD Soundsystem - This Is Happening
The more James Murphy embraces that Bowie in Berlin sound, the more I like him.

Listen: All I Want

5. Zeus - Say Us
I haven't seen this tremendous record on any "Best of 2010" lists, and that is a tremendous injustice to these guys. I can't say enough about their songcraft and the wonderful sound of this album. Imagine a supergroup made up of members of The Zombies, Village Green-era Kinks, Big Star, Revolver-era Beatles and early ELO -- this is the record they would have produced.

Listen: Marching Through Your Head

6. Telekinesis - Telekinesis!
Yes, this record was released in 2009, but I didn't hear it until 2010. Indie pop of the first order.

Listen: Coast Of Carolina

7. Owen Pallett - Heartland
The Artist Formerly Known As Final Fantasy has produced his finest work under his own name. His live performance of "Lewis Takes Off His Shirt" in the POURING rain at the Hillside Festival in Guelph is the stuff of legend. The true grandeur of his orchestrations is a thing of great beauty and power -- and that trumpet melody at the 5:22 mark in "Tryst With Mephistopheles" gets me every single time.

Listen: Tryst With Mephistopheles

8. Sleigh Bells - Treats
One guitarist - One singer. The massive sonic onslaught at the 1:52 mark in "Infinity Guitars" is so ridiculously over the top that it might be my favorite musical moment of the year.

Listen: Infinity Guitars

9. Kanye West - My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy
Yes, he's insufferable. The quality of his work is undeniable. Plus: King Crimson sample!

Listen: Power

10. Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti - Before Today
Ariel Pink has been releasing his genuinely weird records for years. Somehow or other, everyone -- myself included -- finally took notice this year. This is an eclectic, yet approachable, album for fans of 70s Rock and Guided By Voices-style lo-fi.

Listen: Bright Lit Blue Skies

11. Girl Talk - All Day
Gregg Gillis a/k/a Girl Talk has taken the mash-up to a new level with his latest album, All Day. It was nearly impossible to select a single song to represent this album, as every track is masterful. I particularly love the T'Pau (!) sample under Skee-Lo in "Jump on Stage" -- it's hilarious and awesome in equal measures.

Listen: Jump on Stage

12. Tame Impala - InnerSpeaker
70s-style psychedelic rock from Perth. Made to be listened to while wearing enormous headphones and bell-bottoms.

Listen: Desire Be Desire Go

13. Robyn - Body Talk
Robyn is the only artist to merit two songs on my list of the 50 Best Songs of 2010. She's quirky and genuine and nobody does melancholy dance music as well as she does. The three volumes of Body Talk that she released during 2010 combined to make one terrific record at the end of the year.

Listen: Hang With Me

14. Best Coast - Crazy for You
I wasn't a fan of earlier Best Coast music, but this record charmed me. It's messy and lo-fi and you might get a contact high from handling the jewel box, but there's something delightfully pure and free of artifice about Bethany Cosentino's songwriting.

Listen: Boyfriend

15. Arnaud Fleurent-Didier - La Reproduction
Ce disque est très français. Si vous appréciez Serge Gainsbourg ou Mathieu Boogaerts, vous apprécierez ceci, aussi.

Listen: Mémé 68

16. Wavves - King Of The Beach
As with Best Coast, earlier Wavves music didn't make much of an impression on me. The ramshackle charm and irrepressible spirit of King of the Beach made me a believer.

Listen: King Of The Beach

17. Twin Shadow - Forget
Terrific synth-pop which wouldn't have sounded out of place in the 80s. Just the way I like it.

Listen: When We're Dancing

18. Fang Island - Fang Island
Fang Island's music sounds like nothing else I heard this year -- anthemic, largely instrumental guitar-based rock that is immediately engaging and familiar. I love this record.

Listen: Daisy

19. Flying Lotus - Cosmogramma
Steven Ellison a/k/a electronica artist Flying Lotus has released a series of outstanding records, and Cosmogramma may well be his best yet. I think he was criminally overlooked for a Grammy nomination this year -- an opinion he clearly shares.

Listen: Table Tennis (feat. Laura Darlington)

20. The New Pornographers - Together
The New Pornographers can do no wrong in my book. Even their lesser albums -- and I'm not convinced that Together deserves that description -- are jam-packed with hooks. Dan Bejar's songs on this record are some of my favorites, and that never happens.

Listen: Crash Years

21. Dungen - Skit I Allt
This is a quieter, more introspective Dungen than I was expecting. Still, it's fantastic and utterly original. I wonder what I'd think if I could understand the lyrics?

Listen: Skit I Allt

22. The Soft Pack - The Soft Pack
Ten perfect, snotty noise pop songs that whiz past in barely half an hour. Bliss.

Listen: C'Mon

23. Gold Panda - Lucky Shiner
Gold Panda is another of those guy-and-his-sampler artists -- but the emphasis is on artist in this case. Haunting downtempo electronica of the sort that Telefon Tel Aviv made before Charlie Cooper's untimely demise.

Listen: Snow & Taxis

24. Fol Chen - Part II: The New December
Fol Chen's avart-garde pop records sound like nothing else out there. Their thrillingly experimental sounds meld with accessible melodies and curious looping lyrics in an utterly original way.

Listen: In Ruins

25. Bombay Bicycle Club - Flaws
Last I'd heard, Bombay Bicycle Club were a thoroughly generic "Faux-asis" Britpop band. The fact that they released this out-of-left-field acoustic album that sounds as though they are channelling Nick Drake and Fairport Convention was completely unexpected and a minor miracle.

Listen: Rinse Me Down

Top 50 Songs of 2010

Here's a link to a .zip file of the entire collection - in alphabetical order by artist.

A link to a list of the Top 50 is available here.

Addendum: As last year, this collection includes a number of songs from records that did not make my Top 25 Records of 2010 list; likewise, several of those records are not represented in this collection.

Saturday, January 02, 2010

2009 in Review - Top 25 Albums

1. Mathieu Boogaerts - I Love You
OK, this record was released in November 2008, but I didn't know about it until mid-2009. My Blog = My Rules. I've loved every one of Mathieu Boogaerts' records since my friend Justin first introduced me to his music a few years ago. It's catchy, charming, quirky and largely impenetrable to a non-French speaker such as myself.

2. Grizzly Bear - Veckatimest
It took months and months for this record to finally work its hooks into me. Once it did, it was in constant rotation. This was the closest thing to a new Midlake record for me (and, having already heard a few tracks, I can guarantee that Midlake's upcoming release, The Courage of Others, will be on this list next year.)

3. Fol Chen - Part I: John Shade, Your Fortune's Made
I can't understand why I haven't seen this record on anyone else's Best of 2009 list -- it is consistently catchy, brilliant, beautiful and surprising.

4. Animal Collective - Merriweather Post Pavilion
Within the first five minutes of listening to this record in January 2009, I knew it was destined for a spot on my Best of 2009 list. Yep, here it is.

5. The Pains of Being Pure at Heart - S/T
I don't know whether this record is calculated or sincere, but it really doesn't much matter to me. A delight from start to finish.

6. Phoenix - Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix
I love the direction Phoenix has been going in the past few years, and this is their strongest record yet.

7. Passion Pit - Manners
This record has been in constant rotation, too. Fun, fun and more fun.

8. Dirty Projectors - Bitte Orca
Challenging and thrillingly original.

9. Röyksopp - Junior
Their first record, Melody A.M., is one of my all-time favorites. Junior is an outstanding effort, as well, with several memorable guest vocalists. Nearly docked a spot for the ugliest sleeve of the year.

10. St. Vincent - Actor
Eclectic and twisted, yet accessible.

11. the dodos - Time To Die
This record just barely missed my Top 10 -- melodies which will stick in your head for weeks and weeks.

12. Metric - Fantasies
Far stronger than their earlier records -- not a bad track to be found.

13. Telefon Tel Aviv - Immolate Yourself
The saddest music news of the year for me was the unexpected death of Telefon Tel Aviv's Charlie Cooper just as this, their latest (and likely final) record, was released. It is lovely and elegiac and a fitting, if unintended, epitaph.

14. Royal Bangs - Let It Beep
ROCK in ALL CAPS. Noisy and fun.

15. The Thermals - Now We Can See
Their best record to date -- The Thermals have been consistently releasing the catchiest punk-pop of the decade. Great live band, too.

16. Tegan And Sara - Sainthood
So many of these records could easily have made my top 10 -- case in point: this one.

17. Tahiti 80 - Activity Center
I just adore Tahiti 80, and their latest release is every bit as bouncy and sugary as you'd expect.

18. The XX - xx
I really enjoy their minimalist Young Marble Giants feel.

19. Manic Street Preachers - Journal for Plague Lovers
A remarkable return to form for the Manics. I'd more or less written them off for the past 13+ years -- nothing they'd released after Everything Must Go merited more than a single spin for me -- yet, this record is powerful, cohesive and thought-provoking. If you miss the sound of The Holy Bible-era Manics, this is the record for you. Docked a spot or two for Nicky Wire's dreadful lead vocal on the closing song, "William's Last Words."

20. The Whitest Boy Alive - Rules
This spot could easily have gone to Erlend Øye's other band, Kings of Convenience -- but I find I prefer his solo work and his work with The Whitest Boy Alive.

21. The Bird and the Bee - Ray Guns Are Not Just The Future
Not quite the tour de force that their debut was, but I would listen to Inara George sing the phonebook.

22. Spookey Ruben - Mechanical Royalty
Thanks to my pal Dave for introducing me to this thoroughly insane Prog-meets-Power Pop record, which its creator describes as a 'concept album about a kingdom of robots who are attacked by the humans who originally created them because they possess a magnetic force that keeps harmony in society that the humans want back for themselves'!

23. Mew - No More Stories Are Told Today I'm Sorry They Washed Away No More Stories The World Is Grey I'm Tired Let's Wash Away
While I think it's unlikely that Mew will ever top their previous record, And The Glass Handed Kites, there's plenty to love about their latest effort. Plus they are the most dynamic live act out there.

24. Rickie Lee Jones - Balm In Gilead
A supremely lovely outing by one of the enduring talents of the past 30 years. Seeing her perform at World Cafe Live was one of the highlights of my year.

25. Dent May & His Magnificent Ukelele - The Good Feeling Music of Dent May & His Magnificent Ukulele
More catchy melodies than you can shake his shtick at.

You can download all 25 tracks as a .zip file here.