These are my top 15 albums of the year. All of this will end up on The Yellow Stereo soon - maybe tomorrow. But here it all is now for ya. And a quick list of the top 5 from last year that I wish I had known about last year.
15) Sun Kil Moon - April: Placating a rather attractive member of the opposite sex is a terrible, horrible reason to listen to an album. Except of course, when they happen to be right. Even though I've previously been bored to tears by Mark Kozelek's output, I went into this album with a "fine, for YOUR sake" attitude and actually came out of it finding this subtly captivating album that I listened to long after aforementioned man vanished into thin air.
14) Vampire Weekend - S/T: I can see you sneering from behind that shiny LED screen of yours and yeah, I kind of agree with you. They remind me of preppy frat-tastic guys who went to my college and on occasion their lyrical content triggers my upchuck reflex with its thinly veiled elitism. That said, the rhythm section is tighter than a hipster's pair of jeans and the songs are pretty catchy. As often as I've listened to this album, I can't omit it in good conscience.
13) These New Puritans - Beat Pyramid: Loud, aggressive, dance-ready, quick British post-punk? Yes please, k thanks, bye.
12) Why? - Alopecia: I have an old cLOUDDEAD album that I don't listen to a whole lot, but despite my love of experimental noise, I was actually relieved to find that Why?'s solo effort was more straightforward rhyming and less noise. Why? is brilliantly understated, which may be the reason why this album fell between the cracks on a lot of year end lists and nearly got left off of mine.
11) Wye Oak - If Children...: This falls under another Deerhunter-esque exception to the rule. I actually prefer the album to the live show. The stark, bare vocals work so well with the swirling arrangements on record and that's not terribly easy to reproduce live which is why I saw Wye Oak three times before actually picking up the disc. It became clear after the first listen that I shouldn't have waited so long.
10) Sic Alps - U.S. EZ: On paper, Times New Viking and No Age should be right up my alley, but try as I might...I can't really take more than two or three songs at a time by either band. Sic Alps on the other hand takes those same elements of lo-fi recording, no wave sensibilities and a noisy punk aesthetic and actually put out a record that was challenging but not so abrasive that I felt the need to hit the "next" button repeatedly.
9) Fleet Foxes - S/T: I'm under the distinct impression that a lot of people put Fleet Foxes in their top albums solely on the strength of "White Winter Hymnal" which might just be the most haunting track of the year. But basically, this plays like a Shins album, if the Shins listened to more CSNY with only a smattering of The Beach Boys and a few more harrowing tracks. I didn't listen to it as much as any of the albums listened above (or even as much as any of my Shins collection), but I understand why everyone caught the Fleet Foxes bug this year...even if I didn't catch it to the same extent.
8) Cut Copy - In Ghost Colours: New wave was never really my thing but when I first saw Cut Copy make the entirety of The Black Cat jump (not an easy feat in DC), I knew I had to check out the album. After getting over that initial aversion of hearing yet ANOTHER band that sounds like they're aping Depeche Mode, I started putting tracks on repeat and dancing. Okay, Cut Copy, you win.
7) Lykke Li - Youth Novels: She's a twenty-two year old firecracker with a soft side who can't decide whether she wants to kick her man to the curb with her spiky heeled boot or timidly admit her affection. The best part about this display of her range of emotion is that she also shows a range of stylistic influences from dance floor jams to '50s girl group harmonies. Maybe on the next album we'll hear her break out some raps.
6) Pattern Is Movement - All Together: For the past couple of years, Pattern Is Movement has been one of those bands that I always respected but never listened to. All Together changed that. Although I have a soft spot in my heart for raucous dissonant guitar work, the happy atmospherics seem to suit them better.
5) Wolf Parade - At Mount Zoomer: There's always been an inherent darkness about Wolf Parade, even when they played bouncy tracks like "Grounds for Divorce" and "Disco Sheets." Here they bring out that darkness in force, as if Apologies to the Queen Mary was meant to start a long night of drinking with At Mount Zoomer to be played afterwards as the raucous drunks start to get more tired, more bitter and more introspective.
4) Jukebox the Ghost - Live and Let Ghosts: I've been singing the praises of Jukebox the Ghost for the past year and with good reason. It takes skill to sing tunes about the devil, the apocalypse and spontaneous combustion with such a sly, lighthearted wink. Their pop actually seems to serve a purpose.
3) Deerhunter - Microcastle: Deerhunter breaks the rule of bands that made it onto my Best of '07 list that continued to release material in '08. Not only are they actually on my list again this year, they've moved up. Initially, I missed some of the angst that made tracks like "Cryptograms" so engaging. However, the woozy, spaced-out pop that makes for a stronger album as a whole seems a more than fair trade for the noise-ridden angst that only made for a few incredible standout tracks.
2) The Mae Shi - Hlllyh: Some bands can put out a good album and others can put on a fantastically memorable live show but the two do not always coexist (see: Monotonix.) However, the Mae Shi not only have one of these spastic, audience-engaging live shows filled with tarps and sing-a-longs...but they have an album of frightfully joyful tunes that are as much fun to listen to outside of the dark smoke-filled rooms.
1) The Dodos - Visiter: This one wasn't even close and I honestly can't believe that most of the year end lists of more prominent publications either relegated this one to some unforgiving number or left it off entirely. I can speak to so many things on this album that utterly wowed me: the skillful fingerpicking, the drumbeats as hooks, the fantastic storytelling, etc. But in the end, the composition of memorable song after memorable song has ensured that I will be listening to this album as heavily in the years to come as I did this year.
Top 5 albums that I loved in 2008 that were actually released in 2007:
5) Battles - Mirrored
4) Caribou - Andorra
3) Georgie James - Places
2) White Rabbits - Fort Nightly
1) Animal Collective - Strawberry Jam