NOTE FROM TOM: I will format this later, and add music tomorrow. Scouts honor!
A Foreward to my Top 5 Albums of the Year.
Hello everyone who reads Tom’s blog. I am the sometimes-referenced roommate for the last two years good friend of the Tom we all know and love. I, too, am an avid reader of the ol’ Schrodinger’s blog and am actually honored that Tom wants to have my music selections put on the interwebs. I don’t tell him that enough, but it means a lot to me to be giving you all my top five albums of the year. I also apologize for taking so long to get these descriptions to Tom, but such is the nature of things.
5) Wolf Parade- At Mount Zoomer
Wolf Parade is a bit of an interesting band. They were created incredibly quickly, as one of their singers had a 3 week deadline to create a band. The guy, Spencer Krug, called up this other guy Dan Boeckner to form this band and we have Wolf Parade. Their first album, Apologies to the Queen Mary, was a big favorite in my car back in high school, so I was excited that they released a second album.
Both Krug and Boeckner take turns writing songs, so one of their biggest challenges as a band is maintaining a unified sound. What comes about is plenty of catchy songs filled with synthesizer, like Language City my standout on the album, but then also a lot of slower deeper songs. I think they haven’t fully hit their stride finding that Wolf Parade sound, but I couldn’t help but to enjoy this album.
This album on the whole gave me a good batch of catchy songs to pull me through the drudges of what was last semester. I know it came out in summer, but I really didn’t get going until Fall with this, so it was exactly what I needed at the middle of this fall semester.
4) Deerhunter- Microcastle
Who would have known Baltimore would be coming out with so many musical acts lately? Deerhunter, Beach House, and Dan Deacon have all come out of Maryland in what seems the last couple years. Deerhunter has proven to me finally with their sophomore album that they are the best of the Baltimore class. I used to have this aversion to them because my friends, who while they put more effort into discovering new music and intelligently making opinions make any music pretensions I have look like nothing, were such big fans of Deerhunter.
Bradford Cox leads Deerhunter and the band became indie famous for as much his antics, crazy blog posts, dress-wearing stage antics, as for their music. I felt there was so much hype that maybe this band was just liked because of this publicity they created for themselves. I’m pretty sure I was wrong now.
Their sound hasn’t exactly matured, but they have just so much range to their sound. They continue to have the two dominant styles from their first album, Cryptograms, heavy shoegaze and mellower almost soundscaped songs. Their sound is just very dynamic and while the songs “Agoraphobia” and “Nothing Ever Happened” don’t sound similar at all, they definitely feel like Deerhunter. Cox’s very personalized lyrics and singing lead to a more unified sound and one higher spot than Wolf Parade.
“Nothing Ever Happened” is the song I chose from this album because it may be one of the best songs I have heard all year. That constant driving beat, ferocious bass and simple words culminate in one of the best outros I have heard in a couple years. You’ll get a lot of this Deerhunter album, and maybe you too can get passed the indie hype.
3) Born Ruffians- Red, Yellow & Blue
If I didn’t know any better, I would say that I personally don’t believe in the sophomore slump after this year in music. The Born Ruffians are a Toronto based trio who I have been following since they released their EP full of hootin, hollerin, fun bass lines, and just a lot of energy. Early this year, they finally released their debut album and I couldn’t have been happier.
The trio managed to stay just as excited as they were on their EP while maturing their sound as well. Choosing songs for my top three albums was so hard that I decided to put their first single up for everyone’s listen. “Hummingbird” is a great example of how much fun I have listening to them, a big reason is because I think they are having so much fun. Rim clicks, surf guitars, a fun bass line, and Luke Lalonde’s almost boyish voice are abound in this song.
One of the biggest downsides of an indie punk, or in my opinion any punk, album is that I lose interest as the tracks keep going. While Red, Yelow & Blue has maybe the best first five songs of the year for me, they show an emotional depth and staying power as the album progresses. “Little Garcon, Little Fille” is maybe my most romantic song of the year. Lalonde professes
“I don’t care just where you go
As long, as long as it’s with me
I don’t mind just what you do
As long, as long as it’s with me, too”
Those kind of simple gentle romantic lyrics appeal to the sap in me, what can I say. Throughout the album, the band makes the most out of what they have. Repeated use of backup vocals creating a round with Lalonde make a nice atmosphere. Especially in the cold weather of January and February, this album kept me thinking it was at least 10 degrees warmer than what it was. When it finally got warm, this album was still in my playlist.
2) Dodos- Visiter
Did I mention that I don’t believe in a sophomore slump? Dodos, a two piece featuring Meric Long on acoustic guitar and Logan Kroeber on drums, released their second album this year all the way back in January. Visiter joined Red, Yellow & Blue on my permanent playcount this spring semester.
I was definitely into lighter acts this year. I have really enjoyed musicians getting everything out of their talent that they can. Especially on a song like “Fools,” you can see just how talented these guys are. Kroeber is formally a heavy metal drummer and that probably helped him a lot with all that is going on between guitar and drums in this song. A special sidenote: I think, for me, this was a year for rim clicks. If you put rim clicks in a song, I was going to like it.
What carried this album into my top two was how much it related to my life. This isn’t even my blog, so no need to get into any of that, but this album meant more to me as parts of my life were crumbling and other parts were growing back. It seemed that no matter what was going on, a song in here spoke to that circumstance. “Jodi” is one of the better examples of this, but I will leave that at that.
I think Dodos have done a lot to break away from the guitarist singer/songwriter with a drummer mold. They crafted a musically strong interesting album whose words were able to break through my often lyrically challenged skull. This album means a whole lot to me, and is one of those few cases where I don’t really care if anyone else likes this album. If you want to get a different take on a guitar/drum duo, I recommend this album with all my heart.
1) Fleet Foxes- Fleet Foxes
It is true, this was a year for newer music for me. None of my favorite bigger bands- Radiohead, Arcade Fire, Animal Collective, Broken Social Scene, Interpol- released an album this year, so it was up to me to find newer music to keep me going for the year. I really couldn’t be any happier with all of the new bands I found this year. In keeping theme with my softer year in music, my best album of the year goes to the Fleet Foxes self-titled debut album.
After releasing two EPs, this band finally got a chance to go for the full album. What resulted was maybe the best indie folk album since… well, I don’t exactly know many indie folk albums to answer that question but I bet a while.
What propelled this album to number 1 over the Dodos, an album that means more to me on a personal level, is that it is flat out the best singing I have heard in years. The vocals are astounding. Take, for example, “White Winter Hymnal.” When you listen to this song, you will or I guess should be impressed by the sound they make. Then, I urge you to listen with headphones on and really hear what they are doing. That this is one of the catchiest songs of the year for me even though they repeat the same verse throughout the song is saying something for their talent.
The album gives off this rustic feel that helped me feel at home wherever I was. It wasn’t just that the vocals are so good, but the instrumentation is perfect as well. On “He Doesn’t Know Why,” the guitar overlaps perfectly with vocals. The drumming/guitars/bass are never overwhelming, they fill exactly what space they need to and don’t overstep any boundaries. I think this record has more goosebump moments for me than any other, and that musical connection propelled it to the top.
I hope you listen to this album, if possibly on a still clear wintry night. It may just give you a new perspective on things. I know it did with me.
Well, that is my list. I hope everyone enjoyed music in 2009, because there is always more good music out there. I know I missed some things, as did anyone. I hope this list is a little bit off the beaten path for anyone, so if you want to try something new, these have all been good albums to me. I’m still catching up on some 2008 albums before we venture into a new year. Will there possibly be “a best albums of the decade” on schrodingers blog next year? I hope so.