So here’s a rundown of the albums that I’ve enjoyed that were released this year:
I never would have thought this album would become my #1 of the year when it was first released back in May. Even though they are my favorite band, it just didn’t grab me like their previous work has done. The first single, “Bloodbuzz Ohio” is such a frantic piece that I expected the album to be filled with that vibe. But it’s a little slow, a little quiet, a little more lyrically abstract. But with each listen, I loved it more and more. The songs are huge. They are sprawling. They are intense. They encompass every part of your head as you listen. “Terrible Love” has shot up to my Top 5 Songs of All Time list (not that I have an official list anywhere. Just in my head). They released an expanded addition of the album a couple of months ago and there is an alternate version of “Terrible Love” on it that blows my mind. This album is one that will be remembered years from now.
Top Tracks: “Terrible Love”, “Bloodbuzz Ohio”, “Runaway”, “Afraid of Anyone”, “Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks”
This is the album I thought would be #1 for the year. It’s not that it did anything wrong to drop down to the #2 spot. The National just won me over in the end. But this album is summertime. This album makes me want to sing. This album makes me want to get in my car and drive and sing at the top of my lungs. This album makes me want to sit in my back yard with a beer on a beautiful sunny summer day and annoy my neighbors by singing along at top volume, which wouldn’t really be all that loud because it’s a pretty mellow album. Not mellow in a sad way, but mellow in a lazy summer day way. This album kicked off a girl-crush on Zooey Deschanel that only grew stronger after watching (500) Days of Summer (go see this movie!). Her voice is so soothing and the songs are adorable.
Top Tracks: “Lingering Still”, “Home”, “Gonna Get Along Without You Now”, “Thieves”
Like She & Him, Jenny and Johnny is album made for summer. Bummer it wasn’t released until September. This is an album filled with upbeat, delightful duets between boyfriend and girlfriend Jenny Lewis and Johnathan Rice. Though, lyrically, some of the songs come across as being a bit bitter, the melodies and music help to keep it playful. It’s short. It’s poppy. It’s fun – just like the title suggests.
Top Tracks: “Big Wave”, “New Yorker Cartoon”, “Just Like Zeus”, “Switchblade”, “Scissor Runner”
If mellow is what you’re looking for, than this is the album for you. These guys first caught my attention when I had a “driveway moment” with the song “Burning Stars” on 89.3 The Current. I assumed it was a new Modest Mouse song, as the lead singer sounds just like the guy from Modest Mouse, only to find out that Isaac Brock was singing back up and produced this album, but these aren’t his songs. They are sparse, simple, acoustic, dream-like songs. Nate Lacey sings almost under his breath. He whispers strange imagery to you as acoustic guitars duel in the background along with the constant thump of a bass drum. If it were a movie, it would be what they call a “sleeper hit”. It’s just kind of there, but it’s so good when it is.
Top Tracks: ”Burning Stars”, “Remnants and Pictures”, “Them”
I’m going to be honest, I’m still in the process of this one. I bought it because I really enjoy what Sufjan has done in the past. I think he’s an amazing songwriter and just incredibly talented. I had heard so much negativity surrounding this album that I held off on purchasing it for the longest time. Then one day I just thought, what the hell? And I bought it. And I wasn’t sure what to think. So I put it on my iPod and let the songs just come to me as they (or my iPod) wanted them to. One by one they each began to grow on me and now I think this album is pretty amazing. It suits the weather around here perfectly. Sufjan’s albums always seem perfect for the long, cold, dark winter months and this one is no different. I look forward to having it around in January.
Top Tracks: “Futile Devices”, “Now That I’m Older”, “I Walked”
I saw this band when I went to Montreal in October of 2009. I thought they were fantastic-ly weird and hunted them down on the internet to pick up whatever they had out there. They had nothing. I friended them on MySpace and kept tabs on what they had going on and then, finally, they announced they were releasing their self-titled album. I bought it right away. I was concerned that my memory of them was stronger than what their actual output would be. But it wasn’t. This is a fun album only marred by the vocals being placed so far back in the mix. Not sure why they did this, but it is the only thing that stops this album from being placed higher on the list. When I do catch the lyrics, they sound incredibly fun and catchy and I wish to sing along. But straining to hear them just lessens the listening experience, so I choose to just enjoy it for what it is. And it is highly enjoyable.
Top Tracks: “The Tape Deck Ate My Hit”, “Motherless Kids Have Eyes”, “Miracle Whipped”
I love Cloud Cult. I love how earnest they are. I love the epic-ness of their songs. The cellos, the horns, the guitars, the voices all swirling around to create this amazing swell of emotion. Each and every song created with such detail that you would think it would take years and years to put together, yet they have no problems releasing albums in a rapid manner. Light Chasers is a concept album. Being so, I was a little put off at first because it sounds like a concept album. There are interludes and noises and chapters. It just seemed a little too serious. But, like with Age of Adz, the individual tracks are what hooked me. The lead single “Running With the Wolves” is one of the best songs this band has ever done.
Top Tracks: “Running With the Wolves”, “There’s So Much Energy in Us”, “Forces of the Unseen”
I know this band personally, so it makes it feel a little weird to put them on the list. I don’t know why that it is. I’m just weird that way. They put out a great album that I find is stuck in my head most days. Kyle and Kristin Koseracki’s vocals blend so perfectly together. The lyrics are fun. You can’t help but bop along as you listen.
Top Tracks: “USA Up All Nite”, “Kitchen”, “Feelin’ French”
This isn’t really an album. It’s a mash-up of songs everyone knows. But it’s a whole lot of fun. If you are having a house party this New Year’s Eve, download this album and press play. Also, it’s free.
This is a girl’s album. I don’t want to put such gender roles on it, but it is a girl’s album. It is just girly girly girly. It’s not going to change your life. But it is pleasant to listen to. Pretty pop songs sung by a pretty voice. Sometimes that’s all you need. I am a girl and I approve of this album.
Top Tracks: “The Chain”, “Sort Of”, “So Long”