Arcade Fire
Funeral
One of those rare, striking debuts that storms your ears before your head can even put up a defense. Strong, somber, mature and manic, Arcade Fire distill the inventive art and (post-) punk of the Pixies and Talking Heads, eastern european folk and strings into a breathtaking orchestra. Funeral is a truly crafted album, enveloping the listener from start to finish with both anthemic urgency and plaintive mood. Their set at the Great American was one of the best live shows I’ve seen.

Blonde Redhead
Misery Is A Butterfly
The title couldn’t be any more apt. A record colored by sweet melancholia, minor key string laments, and odd time signatures, but constantly moving like a broken heart keeps beating.

Camera Obscura

Under Achievers Please Try Harder
First dismissed as Belle & Sebastian worship, but with that band sounding more like T. Rex meets Bay City Rollers, this bright and breathy tribute to early 60’s pop and soul hits all the right notes. Impossible to resist.

The Walkmen
Bows and Arrows

CocoRosie
La Maison de Mon Reve
Low-fi trip-hopera vignettes formed of guitar, harp, beat box, and found sound recall the messy eclecticism of early Beck and a bedroom interpretation of Portishead. Beguiling, spooky and beautiful. If heaven is a place where cherubs play toy instruments and Billie Holiday sings the blues, this collection might be the basement tapes.

Jim White
Drill Under The Substrate And Tell Me What You See
Pensacola raconteur’s existential ruminations trace the arc from spiritual yearning to earthly despair. Featuring the most guest appearances of any record I can recall (Aimee Mann, Bill Frisell, the Sadies, M. Ward, Joe Henry…) Jim White delivers his most polished and sonically diverse record yet.

Tom Waits
Real Gone
The lovechild of Screamin Jay Hawkins and Howlin Wolf sings jagged ghostly beat box blues from the back of a circus tent.

The Magnetic Fields
i
It’s been 5 years since the magnum opus (in all sense of the word) 69 Love Songs. For this, their jump to the major label Nonesuch, they’ve virtually abandoned the the synths and electronic textures for acoustic instruments and a sparer construction. Still, it’s Stephen Merritt and that means some of the sharpest lyrics you’ll hear all year.

Sufjan Stevens
Seven Swans
Austere, even ambient, folk accompaniment of banjo and piano underly Sufjan’s near-whispered meditations of ostensibly biblical themes that feel more like allegories for the frailty of relationships. At least to this listener who reflexively spits up at the notion of any kind of overt ‘christian music’.

A.C. Newman
The Slow Wonder
The AM radio cousin to his brash and powerful New Pornographers outfit. Like any good pop record it balances the sunny with the heavy-hearted.

a l s o g o o d:
brian wilson – smile
madvillain – madvillainy
elliott smith – from a basement on a hill
rogue wave – out of the shadow
the go! team – thunder lightning strike
low – a lifetime of temporary relief (box set)
midnight movies – s/t
earlimart – treble and tremble
tv on the radio – desperate youth, bloodthirsty babes

mediocre-to-banal-to-offensive:
wilco
franz ferdinand
pj harvey
interpol
REM
devendra banhart

 

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