Monday, February 7, 2011

Media Review 2010: Top Music.

[So much good music this year! I couldn't narrow it down to only five, so I cheated and made two top five lists: one for American bands, one for bands from places other than the United States.]

Broken Bells, Broken Bells
A Chorus of Storytellers, The Album Leaf
I Learned the Hard Way, Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings
Love and Its Opposite, Tracey Thorn
Magic Chairs, Efterklang

5) Leave Your Sleep, Natalie Merchant [Miss Merchant wanted to teach her daughter a few poems, so, she did what any loving parent would do--she set them to music, then recorded them so the rest of us can enjoy. It's like brand-new Americana.]
4) Beautiful Things, Gungor [At first, I was unimpressed. It felt like a checklist of tracks from all of Michael Gungor's favorite bands (here's the Muse song! and now here's the Regina Spektor song! and now here's the Switchfoot song! Sufjan, anyone? etc.), but the more I listened to it, the more it grew on me. Really good worship songwriting, and hardly a Jesus-is-my-girlfriend number on it.]
3) My Room in the Trees, The Innocence Mission [They coasted a bit with their last album (2007's We Walked in Song), so I set the bar a little lower than usual when I heard this one--and then had to raise it right back up, and they still cleared it. They have their thing, but they do what they do so unbelievably well that it never gets old. Fun fact: "God Is Love," the third song on this album, is the unofficial theme song of my newly born baby daughter.]
2) Provenance, Maya Beiser [There are very, very many musicians who are technically proficient on their instruments but who always sound like they're playing a bunch of notes by the rulebook. Maya Beiser is a cellist who uses her instrument for Art, who speaks through it, who lives through it, who breathes through it. Oh, and she covers Led Zeppelin's "Kashmir." What's not to like?]
1) Interpol, Interpol and High Violet, The National [I wound up getting these albums days apart from each other, and as a result, began listening to them back-to-back, so much so that they became a sort of double album. Now they are inseparable in my mind. And as far as I'm concerned, their drummers contribute most of the awesomeness.]

5) Miike Snow, Miike Snow [The Official Adam Palmer Album of the Summer of 2010. Creative electronic music that goes far beyond the standard and mixes in some artistic flair. Perfect for barbecues, cleaning the house, or for bumping in your car, with the windows down, as you drive to go view the mushroom cloud that wipes us all out. Yes, it's that epic.]
4) Black Swan, Athlete [Not to be confused with the Darren Aronofsky film of the same name, this is Britpop at its finest. Break out the cigarette lighter and rest your arms well, because you're going to want to raise it up for every single song. An entire album's worth of anthems.]
3) Go, Jonsi [Exactly the sound you would expect from a pop album by the lead singer of Sigur Ros and produced by Nico Muhly.]
2) ...And They Escaped the Weight of Darkness, Olafur Arnalds [Breathtakingly beautiful minimalistic orchestration, again from Iceland. Holds a special place in my heart because, while I already had it at my #2 spot, it was playing while my daughter was born a few weeks ago. Great music to have your kid be born to.]
1) Sigh No More, Mumford & Sons [The nexus of great music, insightful lyrics, and at a time in my life when I needed both. Unless something crazy happens, this will be on my decade-best list in 2019.]

The Fountain Soundtrack (2006), Clint Mansell [I'm already a huge fan of the movie, but I never realized the degree to which Clint Mansell's score adds to the overall experience. This is some fantastic writing music.]
Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space (1997), Spiritualized [This is the same year that Radiohead released OK Computer and The Verve released Urban Hymns, and this album just may be better than both of them. Layer upon layer upon layer of musical genius that speaks to the futility of trying to numb pain through drug use, though it does have some unfortunate swearing.]

Plastic Beach, Gorillaz [What a letdown, especially after the pleasant time I had with their previous album. Sounds like, instead of writing actual songs with something to say, they invited a bunch of celebrity rappers into the studio to smoke weed and spout the first things that come to mind. Total harvest? One decent song ("Stylo," if you must know).]

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