Saturday, November 20, 2004

End of the year again. Which means it's time for Best of Year lists at music sites all across this fine virtual world of ours. I don't know about you, but I'm excited. While I don't think this year was quite as jam-packed full of awesomeness as 2003, it's possible i've missed a lot of great albums. (I'll be reading those lists very closely, as you can imagine.)

Anyway, I'm going to talk (write) about a few albums I liked this year and then maybe I'll rank them - or not, depending on how I feel. (so, no order in the below.)

Earlimart - Treble and Tremble

I can't help rooting for these guys. I feel like, even though I've only known the second phase of their career, that they are a true grassroots indie band, have been through tons of shit, and deserve success. That's why it gives me great pleasure to see a video of theirs (for the sublime "Heaven Adores You") on my campus, over the TV screens, thanks to MTVU - which, i might add, only plays videos. Anyway. Ever since I heard the first track off their 2003 album, Everyone Down Here, I've been love with their sound. It's definitely not one for everyone, and the fact that their sound is similar (and has been compared) to a hundred and fifty different bands doesn't degrade it. The atmosphere on their records is a soft-spoken, cerebral, dreary view out of a window looking out at a rainy day. And maybe getting a little angry. The soundtrack on Tremble and Tremble, "Unintentional Tape Manipulations," pulsates and growls with pedal effects, distorted vocals, oddly clear guitar pricks, and a bold ending that speaks loads about the band's confidence. The songs on Everyone Down Here were fine with whimpering or whispering to a close, but here, songs end with a confident shout.

The Arcade Fire - Funeral

This album, for me, is the find of the year. It is ambitious and original and familiar. It is loud, soft, huge, and quiet. It is simple and it is complex. It is the sound of a new era of rock and roll coming out of Montreal. With Broken Social Scene and these guys, I need to get my broke ass up there just to see some shows.
The title of the album is misleading, in part. You might expecting a record by Stujan Stevens with this name. It is so named because of a long list of deaths in the families of the band members leading up to the recording of their debut. Unlike albums or books preoccupied with death that descend into melodrama, this album takes the overabundance of emotion in grief and channels into something wonderful. At every moment, this album suprises you. It zigs when it should zag. It flourishes at any given moment. The words - tough to decipher but worth it - scream out phrases designed for poems but do better, and stronger and livelier, in song. Their sound touches on the modern NYC-spawned-revivalism, but their sources are so many, I have a hard time naming one (and maybe it's better that way).
A challenging and rewarding album, a must-listen.

TV on the Radio - Desperate Youth, Blood Thirsty Babes

I'm sure a lot of people have been writing about TV on the Radio over the last two years and I hope that number continues to rise. Here's a band that demands discussion, that takes every step to entice, to seduce you, to frighten you. From the sound of this album, you'd have no idea it's a debut. It's so brash and pretty, like a billionaire debutante in a modern setting. It's rough around the edges and it's core, disturbing; it's a very New York City record. Specifically, Brooklyn, that great melting pot of melting pots. Like The Arcade Fire - in truly modern musical fashion - TVOTR blend as many elements from other genres, another decades, into a wonderful medely. You know when you happen to grab a bite of your thanksgiving dinner and get a taste of every course, it's like that. The combination of staticky guitars, sleepy beats, and do-woop vocals blend in a pure way, a sound that could only come from one band, from one city, at one time in history.

Interpol - Antics

"I was really worried," says my friend, Jared, about Interpol's second album. "I was sure it was going to suck."
This, from a huge fan of their debut? Why the doubt? I, personally, didn't doubt my faith. I may have questioned it, picked at it. So, you can imagine, I breathed a huge sigh of relief, listening to my leaked copy of Antics months ago, getting over my first-few-listen-jitters, and rocking out. I hate to sound like a broken record, but the thing that impresses me the most about art (any art: literature, music, painting) - and what I strive most for in my own work - is confidence. That unparalleled emotion you know the artist was feeling when producing. A tangible reality like that of a professional poker player's face. It's almost as if you can hear the studio chatter during the recording: it's mostly silent, communicating with nods and smiles. The silent-to-loud transitions in "Evil," "Narc," and "Slow Hands" sounds like a mature band and a brilliant producer under perfectly aligned stars. The background dynamics, structure, and instrument placement on songs like "Take You on a Cruise" and "C'mere" are skin to modern Radiohead or The Flaming Lips. Divergents in unexplored territory, "Not Even Jail" and "Public Pervet," are hesitant and not a hundred-percent successful, but worth the journey. The album's bookend tracks, "Next Exit" and "A Time to Be Small," capture and release you with embraces so warm and inviting, you feel like friends are calling you home in a vivid dream.
I've read reviews of this album from wildly praising to disparaging and that (too) makes me happy. Only a great album can divide people on minor points, on tricks of style and subtlety of sound. Antics is another masterpiece from the brightest, best-dressed, band from New York City.

More to come… (maybe).

1 comment:

CassieLove said...

I stumbled across your blog while doing research on Valentine's Day Poems for my site Valentine's Day Poems. Thought I'd say thanks!