having followed manchester since about 2006, the release of their sophomore album was one of my more anticipated album releases of the year. needless to say, andy hull and company delivered fantastic record. bolstering a much more full and produced sound than ‘i’m like a virgin loosing a child’, the album also has lyrics that are up to par with past songs, such as golden ticket or colly strings. though there is some filler on the album (who’s idea was 100 dollars, anyway?), the vast majority of the album is strong and to the point.
9)japandroids - post-nothing
i had originally dismissed this band as just being another lo-fi act thrown into the indie rock hype machine; all scene and no substance, if you will. HOWEVER, ‘post-nothing’ is actually a fantastic and almost danceable debut. the album is chock full of wonderfully distorted guitars, energetic drums and the songs seem to be made with the soul purpose of seeing how many hooks can be thrown in a single song.
8)silversun pickups - swoon
if i didn't know better, i'd think it's 1992. the band harkens back to the lush sounds of my bloody valentine’s opus, ‘loveless’ and revisits the smashing pumpkins classic ‘siamese dream’ to put together a pretty solid release. although there are a few tracks that leave room for improvement, the best tracks on the album pick up any slack left by the lesser tracks. if the band continues on their pumpkins-esque musical journey, hopefully their next album will be comparable to ‘mellon collie and the infinite sadness’.
7)russian circles – geneva
russian circles is one of the bands that have been on my radar for some time, but for one reason or another, i’ve never gotten around to listening to them until more recently. after experiencing their live show, which was at the newer chicago venue lincoln hall, located (quite obviously) at 2424 lincoln avenue, i immediately obtained their newest effort ‘geneva’. the title track ends up tearing the listener to shreds at a little before the two minute mark, where guitars lift you higher than any city skyscraper enter the previously sparse song and a mere minute later a crushing bass riff (the studio version doesn’t do justice to what they do live) hurtles the listener back down to a cold pavement. the band continues this pattern for the rest of the album, but they reach perfection during the closing track philos, a somewhat slower and more serene piece which eventually takes off into explosions in the sky-esque territory and finishes with a reflective guitar melody and eventually white noise. the album definitely an exhausting musical journey, but it’s well worth it.
6)the paper chase - someday this could all be yours, vol. 1
there’s an old saying i’ve heard on many an occasion that states: ‘everything is bigger in texas’. the paper chase, hailing from dallas, prove this to be true; ‘someday this could all be yours’ is a schizophrenic experimental album that tells tales of natural disasters and the people who get caught in them. beginning with if nobody moves, a hypnotic track which features what sounds like a marching band from hell and vividly paints a picture of human extinction, the listener is instantly entrapped. the rest of the album tackles forest fires, mass hysteria, floods, blizzards and ends with the human condition itself and even though the majority of the album is an a major key, i can’t think of many albums that are as menacing as this one.
5)the decemberists - the hazards of love
the people at pitchfork media, as they seem to be almost trying to do these days, have left a sour taste in my mouth after rating this album a 5.7 on their animal collective-centered rating scale. will they ever learn? the answer is probably not, but that’s why we have blogs. the hazards of love sees the decemberists exploring even more territory than they have with their past release ‘the crane wife’. though not as good as the picture perfect ‘picaresque’, i don’t think that colin and company were really trying to make a great ‘pop’ album. so, instead of focusing on great individual songs, the band proves here that the sum is greater than the parts; ‘hazards’ is a sprawling 17 song epic about love, transformation, and death. oh, and heavy metal.
4)cursive - mama, i’m swollen
a saddle creek flagship; cursive proves that art isn’t as hard as they had once claimed, or at least the very least, they sure make it seem easy. ‘mama, i’m swollen’ is a monstrous improvement from the lackluster happy hollow and bolstering songs such as the first single from the hips, the poppy i couldn't love you, and the epic closer what have i done?, cursive shows the doubters that they’re still
3)m. ward-hold time
2009 has, it seems, brought my love of straight forward pop music to a close and has brought a newfound love of folk music into my life of all the folk artists i’ve been listening to since in my time, there are very few that i enjoy more than matt ward; and with the release of both the adorable she & him album last year and this year’s offering ‘hold time’ he shows that his craft is truly one of a kind. there’s a certain rustic feel to all of his music that no one else has been able to replicate, and even when the production is pristine, that sound still shines through. his guitar work (as if anyone doubted) is second to none.
i'm not too original for having this one near the top of my list, i suppose; many others already have and many more will be ranking ‘hospice’ near the top of their lists, but the album deserves as much recognition as possible. That being said, there's not much i can really say that hasn't already been said about this album already; it’s epic, beautiful, and heartbreaking. the album hasn't gotten any less desolate sounding or any less stunning since i first listened to it, and i doubt it will.
1)califone-all my friends are funeral singers
i came across califone after a recommendation from a good friend of mine. she told me that i needed to hear their 2001 effort ‘roomsound’, and after checking it out i was blown away; the band finds a way to harness classic folk sounds with some post-rock and other experimental sounds. fast forward a few weeks and i had acquired their most recent album ‘all my friends are funeral singers’ and, after hearing just the first track, giving away the bride, which features a drum machine and folk guitar riffs, i knew this was something special. the album highlight is funeral singers, which features an amazing film to go with the song (http://www.youtube.com/watch?