I figured I may as well jump on the list bandwagon. Everyone who knows me well, knows music is my “thing”, so I’ve done a lot of listening this year. It’s a tough decision limiting myself to this year as it omits more recent discoveries such as Deer Tick’s “War Elephant” and Delta Spirit’s “Ode to Sunshine” but hey, it’s my blog and I can make more lists, in fact I feel some coming on already…
U2 – No Line on the Horizon: I admit I am ridiculously biased as U2 are my favorite band but I think I’m just one person among quite a few that thought this was a pretty fantastic little album. It’s got a sort of energy I haven’t felt in the last few albums. Mind you I do say this with some guilt as I am an avid, dedicated U2 fan (lost my voice for two days after the last concert) but there is some extra spark here that takes them a little higher. There’s also some real optimism woven into these songs.
Karen O and the kids: Karen O is a much more recognizable figure as the lead singer of indie rock band the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, but her dynamic presence lets her move effortlessly into different incarnations of songwriter. This album was the soundtrack for the recent film re-imagining of Where The Wild Things Are and does actually feature children’s voices, but the mix of youthful energy and bittersweet sadness ultimately results in an album of children songs every adult can identify with.
Rocco Deluca and the Burden – Mercy: Rocco Deluca and his band have the interesting and somewhat bizarre distinction of being promoted by actor Keither Sutherland. Almost in spite of this, the band manages to keep things gritty on their second album. Like their first, this album suffers from a few unexciting inclusions but when Deluca nails it, he really nails it. Check out the track “Save Yourself” to see what I mean…
Fiction Family – Fiction Family: This one is arguably my favorite album of the year. I’ve listened to it over and over again. The combo of Jon Foreman, lead singer of Switchfoot, and Nickel Creek guitarist Sean Watkins is so auditorally satisfying. There are some bizarre musical intros and outros that don’t suit the collective atmosphere created by the music, but overall, this is the perfect little album.
Swell Season – Strict Joy: Most listeners will be most familiar with Markéta Irglová and Glen Hansard from their roles in the movie “Once”. Swell Season was the real musical pairing that came into being after the film was made. Widely noted was how real life imitated art – the two musicians started as lovers and ended as friends. This album is a diary of sorts documenting the twists and turns in their personal relationship. It can be heartbreaking at times to listen to, but honesty can be powerful
Avett Brothers – I and Love and You. This album is deceptively simple and sweet with lots of life learning thrown in for good measure. The instrumentation on this album is beautiful – layered full sounding arrangements paired with sparsity at the right moments. The songs also further thrive from their strong lyrics. Definitely not one to miss.
Mute Math – Armistice. The interesting problem with Mute Math is their recorded albums are excellent, but can’t even touch their live performances. So I’m more of an advocate of their performance of this album than the album itself. As usual, the band creates a new batch of songs that are overall alluring, not the least due to the their ability to bring in a lush layering of sounds in new and innovative ways.
Lisa Hannigan – Sea Sew. Hannigan was the beautiful haunting voice that brought an extra layer of power to Damien Rice’s albums. Hannigan however has struck out on her own and succeeds with an album full of a surprisingly different sort of songs that takes the listener to unexpected places.
A Fine Frenzy – Bomb in a Birdcage: A Fine Frenzy is really a grandiose name for one Alison Sudol, the creative force behind A Fine Frenzy. Her first album was lavish and beautiful but on this sophomore effort, the beauty is also joined by a sense of fun and playfulness
There was a lot of excellent albums put out this year I just didn’t get to listen to enough but warrant some honorable mention:
Them Crooked Vultures – Them Crooked Vultures
Various Artists – Dark Was the Night
Sparklehorse, Danger Mouse, David Lynch – Dark Night of the Soul