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 President, Shawn Campbell.
The Pains of Being Pure at Heart – Self-Titled (Slumberland) Amazon / Insound / iTunes
I love a pop song. Make it a nice, fuzzy, lyrically-nasty-but-sweet-sounding pop song with male-female vocals, and that’s even better. The best C86 record since, if not 1986, at least the last Velocity Girl album.
Phoenix – Wolfgang AMadeus Phoenix (Glass Note) Amazon / Insound / iTunes
Proof that, at least occasionally, what’s good and what’s popular can collide. When I first heard them years ago, I never would’ve tagged this French band as a future Next Big Thing, but with bigger production and a strong set of songs, WAP is impossible to deny, whether you’re a giddy Twilight fan or a jaded indie rocker.
C. Joynes – Revenants, Prodigies and the Restless Dead (Bo’ Weavil) Amazon / Insound / iTunes
A step outside my usual realm for this gorgeous, pastoral instrumental album from a young guitar player often compared to John Fahey. Perfect rainy day, time-to-think music.
Kurt Vile – Childish Prodigy EP (Matador) Amazon / Insound / iTunes
From the moment I heard his name (and later, when I learned it was his REAL name), there was no way I was not going to like Kurt Vile. The fact that he’s got a bit of a lo-fi Springsteen thing going on doesn’t hurt either, what with my previous Springsteen guy, Craig Finn, letting me down by using the exact same “this means so much to me” stage patter for the last several years – but that’s a whole different story. Undeniable songs about going places and standing still.
Rose Melberg – Homemade Ship (K Records) Amazon / Insound / iTunes
The onetime Tiger Trap and Softies frontwoman delivers another album full of quiet, lovely, wistful songs. No worse for it being exactly what we’ve come to expect from her. A good book, a warm afghan, a cup of hot chocolate.
Hidden Cameras – Orphan (Arts & Crafts) Amazon / Insound / iTunes
Another band whose sweet vocals and general twee sensibility run head on into some very, shall we say “mature,” lyrics, their self-identification as “gay church folk” is surprisingly on the money. With great big production that finally lives up to the band’s legendary live shows, this feels like the album Hidden Cameras have always wanted to make.
St. Vincent – Actor (Matador) Amazon / Insound / iTunes
Annie Clark is a mysterious creature, with her lovely voice, disturbing lyrics, mean guitar playing…sometimes seemingly detached, other times, on the verge of a complete breakdown. Some say “quirky,” but there’s too much darkness here for that label to fit. You find something new every time you listen to this record.
Lily Allen – It’s Not Me, It’s You (Capitol) Amazon / Insound / iTunes
Yeah, it’s glossy and got played on the Mix, but the songs are clever and hilarious, and the whole thing is a tremendous amount of fun.
Passion Pit – Manners (Frenchkiss) Amazon / Insound / iTunes
Another album that got a lot of exposure this year, and I liked it from the first time I heard it. Hey, I like to dance. I like to sing in a falsetto. What’s not to love?
Cymbals Eat Guitars – Why There Are Mountains (Sister’s Den) Amazon / Insound / iTunes
Yes, along with twee indie pop, I also like grand, sweeping guitar rock, and this debut from four young Staten Islanders offered up several, alongside plenty of shorter, more exuberant pop songs. Couldn’t really pull it off live in the middle of the afternoon at Pitchfork, but the record is solid and enjoyable, if not groundbreaking.
Favorite boxed set
Big Star – Keep an Eye on the Sky (Rhino) Amazon / Insound / iTunes
The easy pick this year is the Beatles’ Mono Box, but this long-awaited Big Star set has gotten less press, and holds plenty of treasures. Early glimpses of Chris Bell, songs that have been floating around the Big Star collector world for ages, an entire previously-unreleased live set…far more rewarding to discover “new” Big Star tracks this way, than to live under the threat that the current incarnation of the band will decide to record another album.
Various Artists – This LP Crashes Hard Drives (Numero Group)
The Numero Group can do no wrong, and the Record Store Day comp that they curated (actually consisting of one track from each of ten great specialist labels) was no exception. Not only is every track a standout (raising the question, can every track BE a standout?), but the packaging is top-notch as well, with a gatefold sleeve that holds posters, stickers, zines, and more goodies.
Very Truly Yours – Reminders (Self-Released) MySpace
Local indie popsters opened for The Pains of Being Pure at Heart at Schuba’s this past spring, and garnered some positive attention following that show. This EP is full of charming, catchy songs featuring sweet boy-girl vocals. As you can see by now, it’s the kind of thing I am completely powerless against.