Listed are the albums, where the band’s from and when they formed, with the song that I think represents it the best if you wanna give it a shot (via i-tunes or what you will)
1. Boxer, The National
a. An amazingly solid, complicated, dense, yet accessible album. A conglomeration of all post-punk and indie rock sensibilities of this century, darkened, smoothed, and made, at times, shockingly personal. This is a rare album, one that is so meticulously produced, but sounds solely intimate, something I haven’t heard since Beck’s Sea Change. The atmosphere is like the band came back on stage after playing a show in a small NY club long after the crowd’s left; it’s 2am,still a mess inside, and you, and a couple of devoted drunks are lucky enough to be around to hear.
c. Song: Green Gloves
2. Neon Bible, The Arcade Fire
a. This album grew on me. It’s not quite as good as Funeral (I didn’t really think the Springsteen elements worked enough to warrant two songs) but it’s just as complex, much darker and angrier, and just as demanding of multiple listens. This album cements The Arcade Fire’s status as the most important band working today; lyrically and compositionally they’re at the height of their game. They’re also one of the most important bands working today concerned with the spiritual; this is a devastating yearning for sincere spiritual connection in a post-modern, ideologically polarized, war-torn world, where religion is just another device to further divide and destroy. Where individual spirituality is oppressed by the larger social constructs, making the expressionistic album art all the more appropriate. “Intervention” is one of the most beautiful, yet terminal songs in the rock cannon, and may be the most indexical songs of the decade.
b. Montreal, (via Texas) 2003.
c. Song: Intervention
3. .Guns and Drums, Low
a. Their best album since Things We Lost in the Fire, is full of droning electronic noises which add a whole new effect to Low’s sublime ,soft, if you’re not listening you’ll miss it beauty, which makes its angry, political content even more effective, and in some cases disarming. While Neon Bible is an album searching for any sort of spirituality, this album gives us a band that has not only found spirituality, but religion, angrily trying to reclaim that religion from the hands of zealots and pundits.
b. Duluth, MN, 1993.
c. Song: Murderer
4. The Besnard Lakes are the Dark Horse, The Besnard Lakes
a. The Beach Boys by way of The Doves (with a few healthy doses of Low and one song that sounds like the rebirth of Julie Cruse), this is a complex album that is full of amazing moments that may be missed on first listen, though it definitely is self-assured enough to suggest there is much more there first time around, in its long compositions, layered guitars, well used distortion, and vocal effects.
b. Yes, another husband/wife group from Montreal, 2003.
c. Song: Because Tonight
5. . Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga, Spoon
a. Is there a cooler band out there than Spoon? So far all of their albums are incredibly solid, effortlessly pulled off, and so sure-footed, that they’re almost too cool to care rock classics. I really can’t recall another band that could make incredibly dense rock songs that feel like demo tracks (since maybe T. Rex?). This effort is their farthest departure from their signature sound, adding a few elements of math/rock, a horn section, and playing with sound “accidents,” distortions, and feedback.
b. Austin, TX, 1994.
c. Song: You got Your Cherry Bomb
6. Once: Original Soundtrack
a. The soundtrack for one of the best films of the year (or one of the best films built around a soundtrack?) and the best soundtrack for any film since Aimee Mann’s Magnolia nearly a decade ago (wow I’m getting old). A collection of songs of breathtaking beauty and heartache.
b. Ireland,(1/2 via Czech Republic) 2006
c. Song: Falling Slowly (you’ll hear it at the Oscars, or else [shakes fist]…actually nominate the whole album, I mean are there seriously four better songs made for a film this year than any of these?)
7. Grinderman, Grinderman
a. …and second behind the Arcade Fire, I’d probably put Nick Cave. This side project from Cave and 3 of his Bad Seeds, is a gritty, violent, low down and dirty, garage rock album recalling his days in the early 80’s (or a grittier Spiritualized; “Depth Charge Ethel,” essentially samples “On Fire”). The name, Grinderman, is fitting, both in imagery, and in connotation, either of someone grinding something out, or a monkey chained and played for enjoyment. Either image works, from the profanity laden, evangelist styled opening monologue, followed by a gleefully distorted guitar, and punch drunk piano strikes; to the dissonant, near out of register, bass line of the title track; to Love Bomb, where the guitar is so unwieldy, it strays from the song. And, of course, no Nick Cave album would be complete without a near neurotic search for some sort of existential meaning via either sacred or profane means, though the two are always, for Cave, inseparably mixed.
b. Melbourne, Australia, 2006 (The Bad seeds, 1984)
c. Song: Honey Bee (Let’s Fly to Mars)
8.Comicopera, Robert Wyatt
a. Almost as accessible as it is ambitious, this experimental jazz/rock/Latin/psychedelic-folk record by the former Soft Machine lead, is divided into three acts: the first what would make a tremendous post-rock ep , with the really unprecedented love ballad “Just as you are.”The second a sort of ironic, what The Soft Machine may have sounded like if Randy Newman was the lead singer, and ending with a dream-like Latin acid-Jazz portion, for which Wyatt learned Spanish. The middle is difficult, and it often pushes its experimental edges too often, but the bookends work so well it’s hard to dismiss this, either as a rock or Jazz album.
b. Bristol, UK, 1963.
c. Song: AWOL
9. Raising Sand, Robert Plant and Alison Krauss
a. On paper what looked like a match made in weirdsville, or cast members from a Jim Jarmusch movie, was a match made in pop heaven. A melancholy set of covers, with tremendous atmosphere.
b. Plant: England, 1966. Kraus: Illinois, 1987.
c. Song: Sister Rosetta...
10. The Stage Names, Okkervil River
a. Oft pretentious, hyper-referential, both self and culturally, songwriting is one of the ill effects of the prevalence of so-called “indie rock.” However, Okkervil River, who’s worked for years in obscurity, has broken through with this record that’s all of that, but played so perfectly along with deep sincerity and commitment that it works, and works terrifically. Its title track may be (erk) called “Title Track,” but writing a complex song about suicide incorporating “Sloop John B,” and having it work? That is impressive.
b. Austin, TX, 1998
c. Song: A Hand to Take Hold of the Scene
· Sound of Silver, LCD Soundsystem
o This barely missed the top 10. A big step forward from their first album, this is more coherent, concise, and still as danceable, yet agreeable to those who, like me, are more inclined to like the punk part of dance-punk. However, unlike their fellow Brooklynites, !!!, LCD still lacks the visceral punch that is present in their live shows on their albums; like the later Talking Heads albums the album is too polished for its anxious, rhythmic content.
· Hello Rainey, Kid Theodore
o Probably the best band in Utah (by the way, I was really disappointed with the EP The Happies put out this year) they have the talent, the energy, and the sense of humor to make it, and I’m not sure why they haven’t a bigger following. Their late ‘60’s influences, particularly the Doors, make them stand out in a torrent of bands trying to sound like U2 or The Fall. But they need to get some more substantial lyrics. Trying to make a “Who sell out” type album was gutsy, but it goes on far too long for its material.
· In Rainbows, Radiohead
o This may have been lost on me from expectation. After Hail to the Thief I was hoping for an even darker, denser, and noisier Radiohead. Instead, this is their most friendly album since The Bends, and sounds more like the album they’d make after Pablo Honey than The Bends. It’s a good album, though not nearly as great as the rest of their catalogue.
· Street Warrior, Richard Thompson
o More aggressive and rootsy, it may be his best since Mock Tudor.
· Sky Blue Sky, Wilco
o After rehab I was expecting a dissonant, heavy, demon-cleansing album. Instead, this is a blast from the past, a free feeling, light-weight, Eagles-like, sometimes so sentimental that its best songs got bought up and ruined by VW adds-type album. The virtuosic guitar work by Nells Kline, is amazing though.
· All of A Sudden I Miss Everyone, Explosions in the Sky
o I’m not one much for instrumental rock albums, but this is one is exceptionally pretty.
Closer, Joy Division- In conjunction with the release of Control, both of Joy Division's studio albums, and the apocryphal "Still," were released in 2-disc special editions. While the re-mastering isn't anything too spectacular on Closer, it is the most important album of the last 30 years, and also has, out of the three releases, the best live-recording. While all of the Joy Division concert recordings are essentially bootlegs, and low quality, the performance here captures the group at their best. And if you haven't heard Joy Division's violent live performances, you really need to, to understand their work.
5 Albums whose influence was felt quite heavily this year:
Surf’s up! The Beach Boys
Solid Gold, Gang of Four
Let it Come Down, Spiritualized