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’s Vice President and Legislative Wonder Woman, Jenny Lizak.
St. Vincent – Actor (4ad)Amazon / Insound / iTunes
Annie Clark’s saintly voice and beautifully crafted songs have made this onetime backup gal to Sufjan Stevens’ someone to watch this year, and in the future.
Them Crooked Vultures – Self-Titled (Columbia)Amazon / Insound / iTunes
Most rock supergroups have a tendency towards train wrecks, but Them Crooked Vultures breaks the mold – probably because Dave Grohl and Josh Homme are themselves still so worshipful of Jean Paul Jones. It’s rare to see a band that seems to be having this much fun together, and that joy brings an all out exuberance to their never-gonna-stop rock. I saw them live, they blew my mind.
Tegan and Sara – Sainthood (Sire Records)Amazon / Insound / iTunes
The sisters are back with their sixth album, and they continue to be a delight. What’s not delightful is their attempts to write together – a failed New Orleans experiment was totally scrapped, and on this album the pair continues to alternate songwriting duties. Hey, anyone who has tried to work with their sibling knows, Sainthood ain’t easy.
Neko Case – Middle Cyclone (Anti)Amazon / Insound / iTunes
After three years, Neko returns with a solo album that is, I think, her best yet. With a naturalistic (possibly biographical/confessional) theme and chock full of guest appearances by folks like M Ward, Sara Harmer and her bandmates in The New Pornographers, it’s apparent why this album took so long to be birthed, and why it was worth the wait.
Yeah Yeah Yeahs – It’s Blitz (Interscope)Amazon / Insound / iTunes
I loved this album, but I never thought that the Grammy folks would agree with anything I think – to my surprise, It’s Blitz was just nominated for Best Alternative Music Album this month.
Metric – Fantasies (Metric Music Intl.)Amazon / Insound / iTunes
While I’ve stopped fantasizing about moving to Canada and assimilating myself via my love of the Montreal music scene, it’s clear to me now that my love of Canadian indie rock will never go away, perhaps the only pleasant side effect of the Bush years. Metric returns with another album that I can’t stop playing from start to finish – and, they did it on their own album. Oh Canada… swoon!
Swell Season – Strict Joy (Anti)Amazon / Insound / iTunes
I’ve been a fan of Glen Hansard from his days with the Frames, so I was worried when Swell Season (and the movie “Once”) became overnight hits last year that his down to earth simply beautiful songs would change. Silly doubter. Not even his romantic breakup with the other half of Swell Season, Marketa Irglova, could affect Glen’s dignified devotional storytelling that often seems more at home in a church than in a rock club. Let’s hope that these two really are still “very good friends” and keep recording and playing together.
Imogen Heap – Ellipse (Megaphonic)Amazon / Insound / iTunes
Imogen’s DIY ethics in the writing, producing and recording of her albums are such that when this one was leaked and put on eBay, she and her fans bid over $20 million to prevent its sale. Now that’s a perfectionist. The wait was worth it, as Ellipse delivers with sparkling pop songs perfect for these cold winter days.
Silversun Pickups – Swoon (Dangerbird)Amazon / Insound / iTunes
Yep, I thought it was a new Smashing Pumpkins song the first time I heard the Silversun Pickups. But my reluctance to investigate them further was worn down when I remembered, hey, I really liked the Pumpkins. The second chance I gave them was worth it, and I’ve been nothing but pleased.
Scotland Yard Gospel Choir – And The Horse You Rode In On (Bloodshot)Amazon / Insound / iTunes
This album was one of my favorites from the year, as SYGC displays their increased maturity and depth in the new songs, and an overall feeling of the band coming together as one unit finally, after some years of rotating members. This feeling on the album perhaps foretold the response in darkest hour in the band’s life as they were in a serious car accident this fall while touring. All signs are that the band has indeed pulled together to heal, look forward, and count their blessings – let’s hope to see them playing songs from this album soon.