Tag Archive | Lou Barlow

Top 20 Bands: 20 & 19

In typical LITC obsessive list-making fashion I’ve decided to compile a list of my Top 20 Bands of all time.  I must admit that this list is prone to change, whether it be in order or in composition (perhaps in the coming years more recent groups like Frightened Rabbit, Grizzly Bear and Deerhunter might make their way on or classics that have been in my rotation for most if not all of my life will sneak in like Starflyer 59, Nirvana, The Rolling Stones and The Smashing Pumpkins).  I’ll probably modify this list with my ever-changing taste and an ever-growing musical collection, but I will say that the bulk of this list has remained rather consistent over the last few years.  I’ve decided instead of one massive post to split it up into groups of two.  Perhaps you’ve not really given some of these groups a fair listen, or perhaps this will encourage you to give them another shot.  So without further ado, I give you 20 and 19.

20. Spiritualized

This group, borne from the ashes of Spacemen 3 in 1990-1, consists primarily of Jason Pierce (J. Spaceman) and his inability to stop creating good music.  From space rock to gospel, Spiritualized have been a mainstay of English music for two decades, while their commercial success has yet to match their commercial success.  Annette first turned me onto this band in 2006 (very late in the game) and I can’t get enough.  Their 2008 record Songs in A & E can found among my Top 50 Albums.  Might I also suggest 1997’s Ladies and Gentlemen We are Floating in Space, which was narrowly edged out of my Top 50 Albums in a move I’m not entirely confident in.

‘Broken Heart’ from Ladies and Gentlemen We are Floating in Space, live in 1998 on Later… with Jools Holland:

‘You Lie You Cheat’ from Songs in A & E, live on The Late Show with David Letterman, 2008:

+++++

19. Sebadoh/Lou Barlow

Lou Barlow is an amazing songwriter and over the last 20+ years he has certainly spread his influence through Dinosaur Jr., Sebadoh, Sentridoh, The Folk Implosion and his recent solo career.  As mentioned before, Greg first turned me on to Lou Barlow.  Read more about him (and take a look at list of Greg and my ‘Top 30 Lou Barlow Songs‘) in this post.  His amazing record with Sebadoh III (1991) is featured among my Top 50 Albums.

‘Rebound’ from Sebadoh’s 1994 album Bakesale:

‘Too Much Freedom’ from Lou Barlow’s 2009 album Goodnight Unknown:

A modest proposal for Sufjan Stevens regarding the completion of his 50 States Project

Dear Sufjan,

The other day my friend Erin Hennessy saw you on the F train in NYC, but she couldn’t get up the nerve to say anything to you.  That got me thinking of what I would say to you if I ran into you (even though I never would, as I live on the other side of the country).  The first thing that came to mind was to talk to you about your 50 states project, which you began so beautifully with Greetings from Michigan: The Great Lakes State and Illinois/The Avalanche.

Now back in the day (the early two thousands or so), I took your proclamation to make an album (or EP, maybe?) for each one of the 50 states seriously, even though some of my more cynical friends would mock me saying it was impossible for you to do in your lifetime (they would start with some calculations, ask your age, etc. PS We share the same birthday!).  The reason I believed you was because I saw this limitless sort of creative genius in you, and even beyond that, it was as if you were the Emersonian “Poet” for this generation of Americans–seeing and showing us the beauty and agony and the divine in the everyday, transforming the mundane into the sublime, telling us stories full of wonder and longing and brilliant details from towns like Ypsilanti and Holland and Romulus.

You made me suddenly attentive to the people and places of America: you imbued them with a magical luster simply by naming them in the midst of your deeply moving, melancholic, and rich melodies and arrangements, or by inserting them amongst such evocative mystical lines of verse:

When the revenant came down
We couldn’t imagine what it was
In the spirit of three stars
The alien thing that took its form
Then to Lebanon, oh God!
The flashing at night, the sirens grow and grow
(Oh, history involved itself)
Mysterious shade that took its form
(Or what it was!), incarnation, three stars
Delivering signs and dusting from their eyes

-“Concerning the UFO Sighting Near Highland, Illinois”

All that to say that I really, really wish the 50 states project would continue–I think it could become one of the national treasures of our country for centuries to come, a Leaves of Grass for the 21st century that American kids would listen to to understand where they’ve come from and what kind of people we are.  I heard at one point that you said the 50 states project was “such a joke,” but I would challenge you in earnest, if only for the sake of those future little kids, to reconsider abandoning this momentous endeavor.

Realizing that it might very well be impossible for you to write and record all of the albums yourself, what if you instead became the director of the project–you have set the standard quite high with your first two albums–and with the profound respect you have from your artistic peers, I honestly believe you could rally together the best artists from each state to collaborate with to make this happen, creating a kind of ark of American culture.

Here are some suggestions to begin with (I admit some may be wishful thinking) & I call on any reader to add to/better the selection of songwriters for any state (I have put brackets around bands with whom I have only a cursory familiarity & some states I have absolutely no idea about):

  • Alabama = The Snake the Cross the Crown
  • Alaska = Portugal The Man
  • Arizona = Calexico
  • Arkansas = ???
  • California = Elijah Wade Smith, Beck, Stephen Malkmus
  • Colorado = DeVotchKa, The Apples in Stereo
  • Connecticut = Rivers Cuomo?
  • Delaware = The Spinto Band
  • Florida = Iron & Wine, Aaron Marsh
  • Georgia = Deerhunter, Of Montreal, Bill Mallonee
  • Hawaii = Mason Jennings
  • Idaho = Built to Spill, Finn Riggins
  • Illinois = Sufjan Stevens
  • Indiana = Mock Orange
  • Iowa = Caleb Engstrom
  • Kansas = Drakkar Sauna, Mates of State, The New Amsterdams, The Appleseed Cast
  • Kentucky = Bonnie “Prince” Billy, My Morning Jacket
  • Louisiana = Jeff Mangum, Mutemath
  • Maine = [Phantom Buffalo]
  • Maryland = John Vanderslice, Wye Oak
  • Massachusetts = Lou Barlow, Winterpills
  • Michigan = Sufjan Stevens
  • Minnesota = Low, Cloud Cult, Lucky Wilbur
  • Mississippi = ???
  • Missouri = [Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin]
  • Montana = Colin Meloy
  • Nebraska = Cursive, Bright Eyes
  • Nevada = The Killers?
  • New Hampshire = [Wild Light]
  • New Jersey = Sufjan Stevens (?), Danielson, Yo La Tango
  • New Mexico = The Shins, Beirut
  • New York = The Magnetic Fields, Sonic Youth, Interpol, The Walkmen
  • North Carolina = The Mountain Goats
  • North Dakota = [The White Foliage]
  • Ohio = Robert Pollard, Over the Rhine, The National, Mark Kozelek
  • Oklahoma = The Flaming Lips, Kings of Leon
  • Oregon = Laura Veirs, M. Ward, Miles Benjamin Anthony Robinson, The Decemberists
  • Pennsylvania = The Innocence Mission, Denison Witmer, Matt Pond PA
  • Rhode Island = The Low Anthem, Death Vessel
  • South Carolina = Band of Horses
  • South Dakota = Haley Bonar
  • Tennessee = Derek Webb
  • Texas = Josh T. Pearson, Ramesh Srivastava (formerly of Voxtrot), The Polyphonic Spree, Okkervil River, Devendra Banhart
  • Utah = [Joshua James]
  • Vermont = Anais Mitchell
  • Virginia = Thao Nguyen, Hush Arbors
  • Washington = David Bazan, Damien Jurado, Jeremy Enigk, Fleet Foxes
  • West Virginia = ???
  • Wisconsin = Bon Iver, Marla Hansen
  • Wyoming = ???

With the deepest respect & admiration,

Greg Stump

Sometimes Sebadoh, sometimes rock ‘n’ ro’, sometimes Emoh, always Barlow

While I have already noted the subjectivity of some of my rankings, I must point out that [in error] I omitted Lou Barlow’s Emoh from out best of the decade list.

Shortly after I met Greg, Lou released Emoh and Greg the ‘Band Evangelist‘ went about formally introducing me to the Gospel of Lou Barlow.  Since then, Lou’s various incarnations—Dinosaur Jr., Sebadoh (and Sentridoh to a lesser extent), The Folk Implosion, solo Lou Barlow—have occupied a place both deep in my heart and oft played in my music library.  Lou Barlow, on top of the whole lo-fi signature, is a great songwriter.  His music is intensely personal and honest in a Neil Young and Elliott Smith sort of way.  On top of both the lo-fi signature and the songwriting, Lou is extremely musically creative – his recent use of more complex musical arrangements always catches me off-guard.  So if I could add another album to my list of favourite albums of the first decade of the 21st century I would most certainly add Emoh (and it would occupy a spot in the top ten).  I mean, who else could cover Ratt so well?

Some of my favourite Barlow-related material to listen to if you have yet to do so:

Albums

  • Dinosaur (1985) Dinosaur Jr. – This was Dinosaur Jr.’s first album.  It’s very hardcore/protogrunge/all over the place and that’s probably why I’m in love with it.  Essentialness: 9
  • You’re Living All Over Me (1987) Dinosaur Jr. – This album is a lot more coherent with itself and more obviously an album as a whole while retaining some of the edginess of DinosaurEssentialness: 8.5
  • III (1991) Sebadoh – As one can deduce from the title, this was Sebadoh’s third album and like the reissue of their first record, 1989’s The Freed Man, the reissue has a second CD-worth of additional tracks, some good, some meh.  Still, there are enough gems on this lo-fi masterpiece to consider it such.  Essentialness: 9.5
  • Bubble and Scrape (1993) Sebadoh – This album marks a turning point in Lou’s musical career.  The excessively lo-fi and haphazard style for which he was known was traded for a more refined and musically complex (and longer) songs.  Essentialness: 10
  • Bakesake (1994) Sebadoh – This album, along with 1996’s Harmacy, is worth owning, especially if the earlier lo-fi material is too inaccessible for one’s taste.  These records contain plenty of catchy choruses and guitar riffs to make good mainstream records while remaining unique and unconventional thanks to Lou’s songwriting.  Essentialness: 8.5
  • Emoh (2005) Lou Barlow – This album is Lou’s first solo album.  Each track is incredibly well written and as a whole represent a synthesis of everything that makes Lou Barlow amazing, some of which include his songwriting, engaging arrangements, noise/screwing around on a 4-track between songs.  The second track on the record is entitled ‘Home’, which spelled backwards is Emoh – I see a connection!  Essentialness: 9.5
  • Farm (2009) Dinosaur Jr – In 2005, the three original members of Dinosaur Jr. (J Mascis, Murph and Lou Barlow) regrouped and recorded their ‘comeback’ Beyond in 2007.  Farm ended up the better record of the two, though I prefer more Lou and less J Mascis.  Essentialness: 8.5
  • Goodnight Unknown (2009) Lou Barlow – This album was on Greg’s Best of 2009 and my honourable mentions for Best of 2009, but the more I listen the more I hear how incredible a follow-up to Emoh this record truly is.  Essentialness: 9.5

As a added bonus, because his [early] albums are oftentimes inconsistent, here are Greg & my Top 30 Lou Barlow Tracks (in alphabetical order):

  1. ‘Back To Your Heart’ – Dinosaur Jr. (Beyond)
  2. ‘Brand New Love’ – Sebadoh (The Freed Weed, 1990)
  3. ‘Caterpillar Girl’ – Lou Barlow (Emoh)
  4. ‘Cats in a Bowl’ – Dinosaur Jr. (Dinosaur, written by J Mascias, vocals by Lou)
  5. ‘Flame’ – Sebadoh (The Sebadoh)
  6. ‘Free To Go’ – The Folk Implosion (One Part Lullaby, 1999; American Beauty: Music from the Motion Picture Soundtrack, 1999)
  7. ‘The Freed Pig’ – Sebadoh (III)
  8. ‘Goodnight Unknown’ – Lou Barlow (Goodnight Unknown)
  9. ‘Home’ – Lou Barlow (Emoh)
  10. ‘Homemade’ – Sebadoh (Bubble and Scrape)
  11. ‘I Can’t See’ – Sebadoh (The Freed Weed)
  12. ‘Kath’ – Sebadoh (III)
  13. ‘Magnet’s Coil’ – Sebadoh (Bakesale)
  14. ‘Mary’ – Lou Barlow (Emoh)
  15. ‘Modesty’ – Lou Barlow (Goodnight Unknown)
  16. ‘Monkey Begun’ – Lou Barlow (Emoh)
  17. ‘None of Your Goddam Bizness’ – Sentridoh (Free Sentridoh: Songs from Loobiecore, 2002)
  18. ‘Not A Friend’ – Sebadoh (Bakesale)
  19. ‘Not Nice to Be Nice’ – Lou Barlow (Winning Losers: A Collection of Home Recordings 89-93, 1994)
  20. ‘One Machine, One Long Fight’ – Lou Barlow (Goodnight Unknown)
  21. ‘Paradise’ – Lou Barlow (Loobiecore MP3s)
  22. ‘Poledo’ – Dinosaur Jr. (You’re Living All Over Me)
  23. ‘Spoiled’ – Sebadoh (III)
  24. ‘Strange Love’ – Sentridoh (The Original Losing Losers, 1995)
  25. ‘Think (Let Tomorrow Bee)’ – Sebadoh (Bubble and Scrape)
  26. ‘Too Much Freedom’ – Lou Barlow (Goodnight Unknown)
  27. ‘Total Peace’ – Sebadoh (III)
  28. ‘Truly Great Thing’ – Sebadoh (III)
  29. ‘Willing to Wait’ – Sebadoh (Harmacy)
  30. ‘Your Weather’ – Dinosaur Jr. (Farm)

And here’s Lou Barlow’s ‘vast and confusing website‘ to keep yourself well-occupied for 30-120 minutes.

Best Albums (and more) of 2009 (thus farther)

Our own brilliant Elijah Wade Smith posted his favorite new albums of the year a bit early this year (August) [ELIJAH ADDS: and with a stated reason for doing so…], but I’d like to pick up where he left off and share some favorite albums from this year, along with my definitive songs of 2009 and one marvelous musical discovery…

Since Elijah already listed 4 of the albums I would have chosen (We Were Promised Jetpacks, Cass McCombs, Grizzly Bear and Animal Collective), I will use this space to highlight 10 other albums (3 of which earned an honorable mention from my esteemed colleague).  Between my regular CD purchases and my beloved eMusic account (which I was not paid in any way to mention), I was able to purchase around 50 albums this year, but I still feel like I have certainly neglected many more releases that should have been heard (e.g. I have not heard one note of the new Muse album).

Sadly, this year some of my favorite artists only turned out middling efforts at best (Andrew Bird, Jeremy Enigk, Imogen Heap, Patrick Watson) and deeply disappointing at worst (Doves, Pete Yorn, Morrissey).  The jury is still out on the new Swell Season album (feelings are ambivalent–is it too derivative or a purposeful homage?) and I intentionally neglected to include U2‘s album, as I am unable to evaluate their work in isolation from their status/body of work.  A final note:  though Sufjan Stevens‘ “The BQE” was released this October, it feels like it belongs to another year (2007, when it was initially performed)…I will say that I LOVED his “You Are the Blood” on the Dark Was the Night compilation, and of course, I admire his work in general more than anything else I’ve ever heard, so I’m sure any appraisal of it would be unfairly elevated as well.

Without further caveat, I give you (alphabetically listed) the best, with my best…

TOP TEN ALBUMS (not on Elijah’s list):

Counter-offensive? Um, what counter-off...oh, that.

• Lou Barlow—Goodnight Unknown: I would include Barlow amongst the best living American songwriters.  His stylistic range is somewhat limited (he’s practically copyrighted a particular kind of staccato down strum), but if it isn’t broke…(I couldn’t force the “ain’t” in there).  He’s lyrically sentimental on some songs, but it’s the tender truthful sort, and then in other places he’s brutally insightful.  A beautiful, rich album:  see “Gravitate,” “Too Much Freedom,” and “Modesty.”

• David Bazan—Curse Your Branches: To quote from the Barsuk Records press release:

“…Curse your branches is his masterpiece — a beautiful, passionate, profoundly courageous work of art that deserves and will reward your close attention. It is a deeply personal, frankly autobiographical dispatch from the front lines of a crisis of faith. Song after song peers deep into the abyss of insoluble mysteries and comes up with something far more useful than answers.”

Do I agree?  Maybe.  Still, it’s light years better than any of the shite that makes millions these days.

• Neko Case—Middle Cyclone: One day, I drove my sister-in-law Megan’s truck up to LAX to pick her up and this CD was in the player.  Love at first listen.  I knew her voice from The New Pornographers (lovely, fierce, voluptuous), but her singing her own melodies and lyrics = twisted longing & lovely loss.  The experience was so intensely moving I ended up listening to all 30 minutes of the last song–which is only the sound of crickets in the field outside her studio.

• Hayden—The Place Where We Lived: He was on my top 10 last year…how in the heck did he put another little gem together so quickly.  I will say that he may be an acquired taste, so do give this album a test run before you trust my quirk-happy palate.

• Lightning Dust—Infinite Light: I have no recollection of where I came across this album, but it’s a rare flower:  timeless (and therefore similar to what has come before) and unique (the quaver of the singer’s vibrato–again, may not be to all tastes–and her wry, experienced, and [creepy to say it] sexy delivery…kind of a Chick Jagger if you get my meaning).

• Passion Pit—Manners: The sound of this album is like eating a substantial meal of sweets.  I’m not sure if people can keep from loving this band…it is my kid’s number one choice off my iPod.  Unbelievable hooks, propulsive beats & a mystifying falsetto…

• The Low Anthem—Oh My God, Charlie Darwin: I’m just going to admit that before two weeks ago, I knew only the name of this band.  I am so seriously excited about looking more into this band, past & future…go to iTunes and listen to the first three songs (then skip the next two) and tell me you can’t hear the talent.  I’m anxious to figure out the evolution (if you will) of the lyrical themes, but it’s work I look forward to.

• Matt & Kim—Grand: Another admission–I only discovered this band because of the placement of their insanely catchy song “Daylight” in a Bacardi ad.  BUT these two performers give me hope for the next generation of bands…and they DIY’d it without the help of a guitar, fueled only by raw passion and teen spirit.

• The Mountain Goats—The Life of the World to Come: Every song is named after a passage from the Bible, but just listen to the lyrics and you’ll know you’re not in Jesusland:  “I became a crystal healer and my ministry was to the sick / Creeping vines would send out runners and seek me in their numbers / I sold self-help tapes.”  I would strongly recommend “Hebrews 11:40,” “1 John 4:16,” and “Deuteronomy 2:10.”  I haven’t yet looked up any of the scripture references, but I think that the passages will probably function in a way similar to the inspiration of the 10 commandments in Krysztof Kieślowski’s Decalogue.  Perhaps this could be a topic for some student of theology & culture…in Scotland?

• Regina Spektor—Far: This album almost didn’t make this list due to the dolphin noises she makes at exactly 2 minutes into “Folding Chair”–she needs a naysayer in her entourage.  But she can write a pop song or melancholy ballad with her piano and lovely, funny voice like nobody’s business (see “Laughing With,” “Human of the Year,” and “Genius Next Door” along with most of the other cuts…though “Machine” is a bit awkward as well).  She’s really amazing…

BEST SONGS OF THE YEAR:

I made an iMix of these which can be found by pasting the words “Sgt Grumbles Best Songs 2009″ into the iTunes iMix search box…570 seconds of goodness at least.

  1. “Charlie Darwin”: The Low Anthem/Oh My God, Charlie Darwin
  2. “Hard To Be”:  David Bazan/Curse Your Branches
  3. “Dear God (Sincerely M.O.F.)”:  Monsters Of Folk/Monsters Of Folk
  4. “Ten Thousand Words”:  The Avett Brothers/I And Love And You
  5. “Laughing With”:  Regina Spektor/Far
  6. “Too Much Time”:  John Vanderslice/Romanian Names
  7. “Two Weeks”:  Grizzly Bear/Veckatimest
  8. “Little Secrets”:  Passion Pit/Manners
  9. “My Girls”:  Animal Collective/Merriweather Post Pavilion
  10. “Wondering What Everyone Knows”:  Lightning Dust/Infinite Light
  11. “Daylight”:  Matt and Kim/Grand
  12. “Modesty”:  Lou Barlow/Goodnight Unknown
  13. “The Pharoahs”:  Neko Case/Middle Cyclone
  14. “Deuteronomy 2:10”:  The Mountain Goats/The Life Of The World To Come
  15. “The Executioner’s Song”:  Cass McCombs/Catacombs
  16. “An Almighty Thud”:  We Were Promised Jetpacks/These Four Walls
  17. “I Want You Back”:  Discovery/LP
  18. “Let It Last”:  Hayden/The Place Where We Lived
  19. “Lille”:  Lisa Hannigan/Sea Sew

BEST DISCOVERY:

• The album The Texas/Jerusalem Crossroads by the band Lift to Experience.  I don’t completely know how to describe how important this album has become to me.  It is simply one of the most fascinating ALBUMS ever recorded, as in a musical composition where everything is working together towards one purpose/theme on EVERY LEVEL IMAGINABLE.  You listen to it, and you must listen to in IN ITS ENTIRETY & you feel like you are in some run down warehouse listening to them play, no CREATE–right there and then–this mad, apocalyptic masterpiece of beauty and fierce passion that is flowing in some profane mixture of Ahab-esque monomania and true divine inspiration.  I don’t have the inclination to ruin the bizarre experience of discerning the “tale” of this one-of-a-kind concept album, but here is a formula that may help give a sense of what we’re talking about here:

Jeff Buckley + Explosions in the Sky + My Bloody Valentine (the book of Revelation/ fundamentalist preacher’s kid) + Texan pride/outsider art (messiah complex) – worst album cover art ever (it looks like it was designed on Microsoft Word!) = one of the greatest albums ever

Hard to believe, but it is a damn MAGNUM .357 OPUS

I was going to include some books, but I’ve asked enough of your time.  I will be back with more later…

Best Albums of 2009 (thus far)

It’s late August and I’ve already got a top ten list for the best albums of the year.  As I pointed out in an entry last year, it isn’t really my thing to jump on ‘new’ music per se.  I am typically balancing myself between ‘new’ music and ‘old’ music that’s ‘new’ to me.  This year I wanted to challenge myself to listen to more “new” music (i.e. music that has been/will be released in 2009).

With the trusty aid of music blogs, Lala, random databases, and Greg I’ve been able to become exposed to a larger body of ‘new’ music this year and I decided that before I leave to Scotland and my postgraduate occupation with a large number of books, I would compile a list of my top ten albums of the year.  Who knows, maybe this will be my final top ten list for the year (though it has been altered a bit even in the last 24 hours).

10 - Catacombs

10.  Cass McCombs—Catacombs
Cass McCombs reminds me of T Bone Burnett and Neil Young more than ever.  He remains very unpretentious and sincere, perhaps on this album more than his previous records.  Two tracks to reel you in: “You Saved My Life,” & “Lionkiller Got Married.”

09 - Noble Beasts

9.  Andrew Bird—Noble Beast
I really thought I would hate this album.  I’m not much of a fan of Andrew Bird’s music.  I’ve never enjoyed his voice.  Perhaps Noble Beast’s inclusion on this list is a response to how much I tolerated it as opposed to how much I loved it.  But I am leaning more toward its inclusion because I thoroughly enjoy listening to this album.  Two tracks to reel you in: “Masterswarm,” & “Not a Robot, But a Ghost.”

08 - Mythomania

8.  Cryptacize—Mythomania
This album was very surprising.  I hadn’t been very impressed with Chris Cohen’s work with Curtains on Asthmatic Kitty, so I didn’t expect a lot.  I saw Cryptasize for the first time with Danielson last November and they didn’t leave a very strong impression, but this album really brings out their strengths.  It has a great mood—unpredictable but not irritating (like the Dirty Projectors’ new album…).  Two tracks to reel you in: “Blue Tears,” & “Gotta Get Into That Feeling.”

07 - These Four Walls

7.  We Were Promised Jetpacks—These Four Walls
Thanks to Sgt. Grumbles for this suggestion a couple months back.  It reminds me of high school, in the best way possible.  Enjoy the lovely accent, the token glockenspiel, and the incredible sincerity—one of the most important qualities I look for in an artist.  Two tracks to reel you in: “It’s Thunder And It’s Lightning,” & “An Almighty Thud.”

06 - Pains

6.  The Pains of Being Pure at Heart—The Pains of Being Pure at Heart
American faux-Brit pop never felt so great!  It’s delightfully reminiscent of The Smiths, Jesus & Mary Chain, and My Bloody Valentine.  Two tracks to reel you in: “Young Adult Friction,” & “A Teenager In Love.”  Note: the album cover bears a ridiculously close resemblance to Belle & Sebastian’s 2006 album, The Life Pursuit:
Compare
05 - Dragonslayer

5.  Sunset Rubdown—Dragonslayer
This album is a great step forward for Sunset Rubdown.  It’s not obnoxiously poppy like Shut Up I Am Dreaming tended to be.  There’s a lot going on musically, yet no component is overpowered by another within a song.  Two tracks to reel you in: “Silver Moons,” & “Idiot Heart.”

04 - My Maudlin Career

4.  Camera Obscura—My Maudlin Career
Let’s face it, I’m a sucker for Scotch indie-pop.  This is probably my favorite release from Camera Obscura.  Maybe I love it so much because Belle & Sebastian hasn’t released an LP since 2006.  Even if there is a hint of my love for B & S in this pick, the album (and the band) stands on its own through musical precision and artistic maturity.  Thank you Tracyanne Campbell for your exceptional wit.  Two tracks to reel you in: “French Navy,” & “My Maudlin Career.”

03 - Mama

3.  Cursive—Mama, I’m Swollen
Mama, I’m Swollen probably seems to be an odd pick for this number three slot, but I will always have a soft spot for Cursive.  This is not to say that this album is undeserving of praise.  Cursive is not interested in being another experimental freak-folk-electro-post-rock-cross-genre-remixed piece of overproduced crap like so many other groups are becoming (namely Dirty Projectors).  They are faithful to their expressive indie roots, this album being far less poppy than Happy Hollow.  It reminds me of Domestica even.  Tim Kasher is still obsessed with refuting a theistic/morally superior worldview, but he does it with so much passion and angst I can’t help but be stirred.  Cursive encourages us to realize the failure of our Enlightenment/modern ideals and to accept our animalistic/primitive nature.  I don’t buy it but not because it’s not packaged well.  Two tracks to reel you in: “From the Hips,” & “Let Me Up.”

02 - Merriweather

2. Animal Collective—Merriweather Post Pavilion
Though it is more accessible (think Pet Sounds) than their entire repertoire (a bad start in my odd musical sense), this album is very unique, big (to the point of breathtaking at times), and yet more cohesive with itself than any other Animal Collective album.  The songs don’t leave you asking, “When is this going to end/how does that even fit?”  Two tracks to reel you in: “My Girls,” & “Summertime Clothes.”

01 - Veckatimest

1.  Grizzly BearVeckatimest
My first listen of this record was a positive, but not profound experience.  Only two tracks really stuck out to me: “Two Weeks,” and “While You Wait for the Others.”  I was even a little disappointed with the album version of “While You Wait for the Others,” at first (compared to their incredible live performance I saw on Morning Becomes Eclectic last year).  I sat with the album for another month and at that point it hit me.  This is by far (maybe I’ll get harassed for saying that) Grizzly Bear’s best record.  By best I mean that they demonstrate great maturity and excellence both in writing and execution, two points that have always seemed to miss one another by an ever-so-slight degree.  This record is certain to remain among my favorites unless I fully give myself over to jazz-fusion or something.  Two tracks to reel you in: “Two Weeks,” & “I Live With You.”

Compilations worth mentioning
Let It Roll: Songs by George Harrison - a compilation of George Harrison’s solo music spanning his entire post-Beatle career.
Dark Was the Night – a compilation release benefiting the Red Hot Organization.
Royal City – a Royal City B-side compilation released by Asthmatic Kitty.
God Help the Girl – a music/film project written Stuart Murdoch, the singer of Belle & Sebastian.  Members of Belle & Sebastian with guest vocalists.  CD Booklet features a short story that goes with the music.

Honorable mention
Lou BarlowGoodnight Unknown
David BazanCurse Your Branches
CastanetsTexas Rose, the Beasts, and the Thaw
Dan Deacon—Bromst
The Decemberists (primarily because of Shara Worden’s contribution)—The Hazards of Love
Passion Pit—Manners
St. Vincent—Actor
Wye OakThe Knot

Look out for
Converge—Axe to Fall (20 October)
Atlas SoundLogos (20 October)

Why does anyone like
Dirty ProjectorsBitte Orca – It could’ve been so great, but it’s incredibly obnoxious.

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