This year in music, particularly the indie scene, was interesting because there is no consensus. Just take a look at Metacritic‘s or Fimoculous. Some albums keep popping up: Tom Waits, The Holdy Steady, Bob Dylan, Joanna Newsom (among the uber indie snobs)…but none of these made my list. (P.S. Also be sure to check out NPR’s All Songs Considered lists.)
In my world, banjos, acoustic guitars, and beautiful voices fill my list of favorite albums. Pitchfork has yet to publish their list, so maybe some more of my list will be justified by them. Is that snobbish?
- Midlake – The Trials of Van Occupanther: It seems like this album was just a bit too under the radar for enough folks to hear it and therefore love it. The people I’ve talked to online about this album, and all the reviews I read are totally positive. So why the absence from so many big lists? It’s original, it’s beautiful, it’s haunting, it’s amusing…it’s just about perfect.
- Beirut – The Gulag Orkestar: Um hi, wasn’t this one of the most talked about indie albums of the year? Indeed it was, so why is it missing from 99% of the lists out there? Who’s doing anything more unique and well-played than Beirut right now? Nobody. Maybe it’s a novelty, but only time and Zak can tell.
- Yo la Tengo – I Am Not Afraid of You and I Will Beat Your Ass: Reviewed very highly, but absent from most lists. I don’t get it. This is quite possibly the best album by one of the best and oldest indie bands. They sound fresher and much more interesting than their last one, “Summer Sun” which collects a lot of dust on my shelf. There is so much on this album. So many songs, so many styles, so many voices. It’s the album to contend with, as it’s name dictates.
- The Beatles – Love: The last “new” Beatles album, “Let it Be… Naked” was everything it shouldn’t have been. Wrong songs. Wrong producers. Wrong second disc. This one did all those things correctly. I wish Apple would have explicitly called this a soundtrack, since that’s what it really is. And making that distinction is what makes this album a good thing. And it makes music lovers everywhere even more anxious for the Beatles catalog to be remastered.
- Tapes ‘n Tapes – The Loon: Representin’ a possible revival in the Minneapolis sound. Just good, fun, rock. We need more of that kind of stuff.
- Sean Lennon – Friendly Fire: Okay, so maybe if this wasn’t the son of John Lennon, I’d be less forgiving. But this album just keeps getting better to my ears. I saw him last week at First Ave, and he’s a great musician with tremendous stage presence. His voice has improved almost as much as his songwriting from “Into the Sun”. Plus he’s a big nerd, and that’s cool.
- Cat Power – The Greatest: Chan Marshall has got to be one of the best songwriters out there today. She just completely invents stuff and she totally has no idea how good she is. The Nashville sound has sort of been a theme of mine this year. It seems to be a theme for the big indie ladies as well…
- Jenny Lewis – Rabbit Fur Coat: Usually I like a songwriter because they say what I can’t say, but feel. I don’t “agree with” much of anything Lewis says on this album, but I’ve got a lot of respect for her abilities. The country sound is perfect — not kitsch, not bluesy — just country. Plus she covered the best Traveling Wilbury’s song, and one of George Harrison’s best post-Beatle songs, “Handle With Care”.
- His Name is Alive – Detrola: I typically don’t get into any sort of computer or synth-based music, but every once in a while I totally fall for something along those lines. This album is one of those times. So catchy. So groovy. So fun, yet kinda depressing.
- Art Brut – Bang Bang Rock & Roll: Ah, here’s the Brits. I’m not one for punk, but these guys are so funny and soooo British that I can’t help myself. “Modern art makes me want to rock out” is such a brilliant chorus.
- Band of Horses – Everything All the Time: At first I thought this album was really boring. But as I did with “Yankee Hotel Foxtrot”, I found its beauty. Nice, fuzzy guitars. Pacific Northwest feel. Yummy.
- Johnny Cash – Personal File: Maybe it’s my love of bootlegs and the forbidden part of music that makes me love this 2-disc album so much. The packaging is great and listening to it is like hearing the grandpa I never had when I was young. Ok, that was way too sappy.
So, where’s your list?