Throughout the month of December we’ll be posting lists of the best music of the year as determined by the volunteers that make CHIRP what it is. Today’s is from CHIRP volunteer, David Staples.
National Skyline – Bliss & Death (Self-Released) Amazon / iTunes
National Skyline grew from the broken pieces of Hum. Only available through download, Bliss & Death is an epic and emotional roller coaster, and by far my personal favorite release from Nat. Skyline. It’s a shoegaze wall of sound flavored with layered guitar harmony. I can’t say enough. Ok… I’ll go ahead and say it: This is the best album I’ve heard in years.
Camera Obscura – My Maudlin Career (4ad) Amazon / Insound / iTunes
his album breaks my heart every time I hear it. Tracyanne Campbell’s voice is simply arresting. Of the eleven songs on the album, I called nine of them my favorite of the bunch at one time or another during the period that I spent steeping and soaking and immersing myself in this outstanding release.
Engineers – Three Facts Fader (K Scope) Amazon / Insound / iTunes
My Shoegaze appreciation indicator needle redlined and then snapped with a rifle sound when I first heard this. This is just the kind of trancey Shoegaze bliss that a fella could get lost in (..could also make you drive faster than you’d intended, or maybe miss your train stop). These guys have been around for awhile, but this is only their second release in the past 5 years.
Andrew Bird – Noble Beast (Fat Possum) Amazon / Insound / iTunes
This was my first exposure to Andrew Bird which makes it harder to compare it to his earlier releases, but I’ll say this: If you’re into masterful violin, lyric and whistling that’s waaay better than the temp in the cubicle next to you.. then you’re in the right place, kiddo. This album is full of songs that patiently build & grow to fill your room or headphones. Shut your eyes and smile.
Neko Case – Middle Cyclone (Anti) Amazon / Insound / iTunes
The first track, “This Tornado Loves You” grabbed me by the throat immediately. I listened to it over and over so many times that it took me days to come to the realization that the rest of the album was just as perfect. Neko Case’s vocals are what makes it so great. Piercing and sharp enough to shake down a brick building, warm enough to warp your record collection.. (if you leave it too close to the speakers)
Isis – Wavering Radiant (Ipecac) Amazon / Insound / iTunes
I’m definitely not a fan of “cookie monster” vocals. I’m normally put off by it, but Isis uses them as ‘another tool in the box’ rather than as a foundation of the sound that makes up Isis. In this context it’s not only tolerable, but completely at home and quite essential. I don’t know how to categorize Isis, but if i were pressed, I’d probably end up calling it “odyssey metal”. There are layers and layers, and songs within songs here, and the whole thing feels the soundtrack to a Homerian or Tolkenian epic. (am I being mellow-dramatic?)
Dinosaur Jr. – Farm (Jagjaguwar) Amazon / Insound / iTunes
The ninth full album from Dinasour Jr since they began in the mid-80’s, Farm took me by surprise. I thought “how can these guys keep making great music? aren’t they just milking the whole reunion tour thing?”. But no, despite my lack of expectations it won me over instantly. (I should know better, I suppose). Farm features twelve songs of great guitar work from J. Mascis, and those who followed Lou Barlow to Sebadoh and Folk Implosion will be able to hear his influence throughout the album. I especially enjoy the songs Lou Barlow wrote and sings, such as “Imagination Blind” and “your weather”.
The Pains of Being Pure at Heart – Self-Titled (Slumberland) Amazon / Insound / iTunes
The Pains of Being Pure At Heart are a noisy and upbeat indie rock band from New York City. This ten song Debut full length album of theirs wants to be played loudly. This stuff brightens your mood and quickens your pulse (its good music to clean your apartment to. You’ll be done in half the time!) A couple of the songs on this album remind me of pre-Lovless My Bloody Valentine. I guess it’s just that same kind of happy distortion that I associate between the two.
Metric – Fantasies (Metric Music Intl.) Amazon / Insound / iTunes
Sexy indie-stadium pop from Canada. Here’s another one that dominated my playlist for weeks when I first got it. Fantasies is solid, catchy and high energy album. Any of the first twelve songs could stand on their own in a mix CD for your new girlfriend or boyfriend. <3
It Hugs Back – Inside Your Guitar (4ad) Amazon / Insound / iTunes
This album came out of nowhere for me. I still don’t remember where I first heard it, but who cares?
It’s all a dose of blissfull dream pop wholesomeness. Soft vocals and warm melodies are plenty. This is one of those albums that I found myself playing back in my head as I wandered through the grocery store or at work. I love it when that happens because it simmers and brews in my head all day and I have something to look forward to as soon as I get my hands on my little electric jukebox.
Short list of best albums not from 2009 that I only just now discovered:
Torche – Meanderthal (from 2008) Amazon / Insound / iTunes
Torche is currently a three piece outfit from Miami Florida. Fast and heavy sludge metal, Meanderthal is a solid album from top to bottom and the songs fit together nicely. One notable example is the way “Healer” runs into “Across The Sheilds” (songs 6 and 7). This album charges me up and just flat-out blows my mind. There should be an Interview with lead guitar & vocalist Steve Brooks on The Apparatus quite soon.
Witchcraft – The Alchemist (from 2007) Amazon / Insound / iTunes
Black Sabbath-esque doom metal from Sweden. These guys sound like they stepped out of the 70s with their vintage sound. The lyrics are mostly in English, but a bit of Swedish (I assume) too. Great stuff… very listenable.
Band of Horses – Cease to Begin (2007) & Everything All the Time (2006) Amazon / Insound / iTunes
As Neko Case is the Female Vocalist whose voice can pierce through 2 inches of military grade steel, Band of Horses’ Ben Bridwell is the Male counterpart. I’m late on the bandwagon, they’ve been pretty well exposed before I ended up hearing them for the first time in a freestyle street bike video:
Very, very short list of albums that I’ve only heard once as of the writing of this list, and therefore didn’t deem it fair to include them (it) on the list despite the fact that it’s awesome:
Them Crooked Vultures – Self-Titled (Columbia) Amazon / Insound / iTunes
Josh Homme, Dave Grohl, and a little bassist known the world over as John Paul Jones. (!) Supergroups often don’t live up to expectations to say the least. However, when I listened to this album at a friend’s house, my skeptical ear did not find one single half-baked or hokey moment throughout. TCV has my attention, and I’m going out to buy it right… nowwww… P.S. you can clearly hear the John Paul Jones signature in the basslines, and that’s awesome.