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Below are my top 10 (or so) released this year, in no particular order. It's been a pretty good year for music. I've especially enjoyed the reverby vocals of Blitzen Trapper, and the fun vocal mishmosh of Fleet Foxes. Seems that there have been all these bands with "woodsy" themed names in the past few years, just recently reaching a fevered pitch. To wit: Grisly Bear, Fleet Foxes, Department of Eagles, Silver Antlers, The Mountain Goats, Donkeys, Gregory + The Hawk. Many bearded men.
I dug these records this last year:
Fleet Foxes - S/T (Sub Pop): Amazing orchestration of vocals. Melody structures are evolved from the voice. I love their rhythmic structures. Kind of other-worldly. Great mix of folk and pop, reminds me of 70s soft rock in a weird way (but a good one.. I think). They really experiment with vocals, it's a very different approach than most bands would take.
Benga - Diary Of An Afro Warrior (Tempa): Techno, electronica, house, or whatever you want to call it (I frankly don't know all the differences). What struck me about this were the amazing tonal structures in the music, and the tempo changes. It's pretty funny too. Electronica can be really funny. Electronic artists can get away stuff that other artists can't. This release has a fantastic cut named "Go Tell Them" that totally rocked my socks off, and made me crack up on almost every listen: robot voices along with a deep groove, mixed with video game sounds. Very cool. Dance music with a sense of humor, and with a great deal of thought.
Jennifer O'Connor - Here With Me (Matador): A great voice and great pop songwriting. I can't resist happy/sad songs! She's got a great mix in this record. Highlights on this are "Daylight Out" a great pop song with chimey guitars, and "Always In Your Mind," one of those really great sad and pensive pop songs. Might just be one of my favorites this year.
The Broken West - Now Or Heaven (Merge): Another great record, much less overtly poppy than their last release "I Can't Go On, I'll Go On", but still pretty. They seem like they are in the middle stage of their careers, on the way to something greater. "Ambuscade" and "Gwen, Now And Then" are my faves, of course because of the poppy, happy/sad stuff.
Brazilian Girls - New York City (Verve): A mishmoshy record of world and dance stuff that turns out really interesting. It's kind of cinematic, kind of 80s New Romantic, and very danceable. The recording is done really well, everything is mixed great, it makes a fantastic listening experience. Highlights for me are "Losing Myself," a great dance song, "Nouveau Americain," a feverishly pulsating 80s-esque dance number. Fun!
Calexico - Carried To Dust (Quarterstick): They just keep getting better at the western half of Americana. Part spy movie sounds, mixed with latin rhythms and instruments, this record keeps me on my toes, and has a great vibe to it.
The Rollo Treadway - S/T (Rollosound): I'm a sucker for Rickenbacker guitars and pop music, the first track starts out with a really great chimey pop song. Beach Boys influences throughout.
The Moondoggies - Don't Be A Stranger (Hardly Art): I was really interested in the laid-back rock sound of this record. I expected to hate it because of the band's name (I do that a lot these days...). Turns out it's a fine rock record, in the great tradition of 70s rock bands.
Nortec Collective Presents: Bostich & Fussible - Tijuana Sound Machine (Nacional): I typically shy away from anything with the "collective" moniker, but this really caught my ears at the station. Electronic music and mexican brass! Like Kraftwerk mixed with Herb Alpert. Pretty cool.
The Dirtbombs - We Have You Surrounded (In The Red): I love the Dirtbombs, they can do no wrong! This one is particularly chaotic, urgent, and paranoid.
Stereolab - Chemical Chords (4AD): I've always loved Stereolab's groove, this album is really great, I love the sound and song structures. Great little aural tidbits throughout. Amazing to hear an album with so many fantastic musical ideas.
The In-Kraut Vol. 3 (Hip Shaking Grooves Made In Germany 1967-1974) (Marina) &
Sprechen Sie Pop? (Bureau B): Both of these comps are just awesome. I love Germans, I love music. Put the two together! Ausgezeichnet.