This, then, is the list I submitted to Stylus, with some explanations. I should note that I was told not to vote for the Delgados Hate
, as it apparantly came out the year before (which the liner notes bear out). Otherwise it would have been high.
20. Black Rebel Motorcycle Club - Take Them On, On Your Own (Virgin)
Hindsight = 20/20. Not that I dislike this album, but really any one of Audio Bullys, Massive Attack or Super Furry Animals should probably be here. That this made it instead is a testament to how much I was listening to 'In Like The Rose' when I made the list (early December). Plus, my little sister like this one.
19. The Dears - No Cities Left (Maple Music)
Was absolutely obsessed with this for about a month, but no staying power. I may have burned myself out on this one. Might return to it in the future, but right now #19 feels about right.
18. Mogwai - Happy Music For Happy People (PIAS)
This is one of those albums that I feel like it should be higher - until I look at what is
higher. I love Mogwai (especially live), and this is a good record, but not one of their greats (like I think Rock Action
is). A consolidation, rather than a new peak.
17. Chris Whitley - Hotel Vast Horizon (Messenger)
But maybe this one should
be higher, I don't know. It's a beautiful, beautiful record, but I don't pull it out very often. It's an exemplar of a style I don't feel I need many records of, so this stands in my collection in liu of a bunch of other records that could probably do just as well. But I found this one first, and I love it. I think my dad would probably like it. I love the guitar work, although it's a bit odd.
16. Spiritualized - Amazing Grace (Sanctuary)
for reasons why it's not higher. Great songs, continues Jason Pierce's strings of albums I love, but in a year of so many albums I liked, the shitty sequencing kills it.
15. Explosions In The Sky - The Earth Is Not A Cold Dead Place (Temporary Residence)
Yes, I gave it 10/10
, and yes it's only #15 on my list. No, that does not mean every album after that is a 10. Hell, I gave my number one album a 7.9. But reread part of this review: "The feeling I'm left with, after 'Your Hand In Mine' ebbs away, is that I may never need another instrumental album like this again." It gets a 10 because it sets out to do something and then does it perfectly. That that something isn't my favorite thing in the world doesn't make it any less worthy of the ten. But it does mean I liked other records, records which failed in ways The Earth Is Not A Cold Dead Place
14. Hinterlandts - Poprekordt (Dhyana)
Late addition. Haven't listened to it in a while, but I loooove this record, and the other Hinterlandts one I have. Can't explain why I respond so readily to Jochen Gutsch's work, but his loopy pop songs enthrall me, even in expanded form.
13. Blur - Think Tank (EMI)
I've written previously that I'm not a typical Blur fan, in that I first encountered them in 'indie'
configuration. I now have The Great Escape
, and like it well enough, but I like their later stuff at least as much. And although I like Graham Coxon just fine, his departure doesn't particularly bother me. In fact, I began my Ontarion review of this album with the words 'Fuck Graham Coxon'. Why? Because this is the best album they've made. Why? Becase for once it doesn't sound like Damon is gnawing his own liver when he was writing these songs. From 'Ambulance' ('I ain't got nothing to be scared of") to 'Battery In Your Leg' ("This is a ballad for the good times"), he finally sounds shakily, wonderfully happy. No idea if that has to do with Coxon or not, don't care. Albarn being spiteful and cynical was quite entertaining, yes, but life's too short. I'd rather listen to the weird Clashisms of 'Gene By Gene'. Or, in other words, I agree with Sam
. And Pitchfork
12. Kid606 - Kill Sound Before Sound Kills You (Ipecac)
Gabba gabba hey! Miguel Depredo seems just as stupid, and is really just as smart, and the Ramones ever were. Here he puts it all together, from thrashing IDM monuments to calmer moments of Mille Plateaux reflection, to some kickin' dancehall/Squarepusher hybrids. The Roadrunner "meep meep" sample in 'The Illness' alone is more fun than most of the electronic records released this year.
11. OutKast - Speakerboxxx/The Love Below (Arista)
Way too much has been written about this one, so I'll keep it short: I prefer Big Boi's half (Andre needs to cut about 20 minutes, including 'My Favorite Things'), but both are pretty brilliant, no I don't wish they'd made it one disc, and someone should get Sleepy Brown a solo album now. Also, for the fifth time, why didn't they just outright sample Vini Reilly for the brilliant 'Flip Flop Rock'?
10. Killing Joke - Killing Joke (Zuma)
Best 'heavy' album in a year not terribly thick with them, admittedly. Good to see some experienced veterans back and doing it correctly. Dave Grohl should be proud for keeping up, and Jaz Coleman should be proud that after 'Total Invasion' and 'Implant' he can still talk.
09. The Constantines - Shine A Light (Sub Pop)
Another album hamstrung by sequencing. This could have been my #1, if not for the last three tracks. They've grown on me, and they're not bad, but they should be scattered throughout the album, not stacked at the end. Even with that, if they'd just made 'On To You' the final track, this would have been top 3, easy. But as is, it just leaves me with the bad taste of wasted potential in my mouth. I still think they might 'save' this whole rock and roll thing, though.
08. Shins - Chutes Too Narrow (Sub Pop)
Can you tell I'm a 'song' sort of guy? Not that I dislike other forms, but just that they don't tend to get on my year-end lists. James Mercer, after not terribly impressing me with Oh, Inverted World
, blew me away with this. Love the 3D liner notes, too. Second best pop album of the year.
07. My Morning Jacket - It Still Moves (ATO)
These guys are on Dave freakin' Matthews' record label? Just goes to show Dave isn't that bad a guy after all. A classic case of me hearing hype, downloading some tracks illegally
, and then liking it enough to buy. 'Mahgeetah' and 'Just One Thing' mostly did that, but the more I listen the more I love the sprawl of the whole album, 'Steam Engine' in particular. Also, of course, a very home-y album for me, as the echoes of country rock, Neil Young, the Allman Brothers, etc, brings me back to parts of my dad's record collection. Probably the highest rated album here I think he'd like.
06. Elbow - Cast Of Thousands (V2)
I didn't expect it either. I liked Asleep At The Back
at purchase, and it really grew on me, but this blew it away. That I got it the same day as number four made for a great week. If you ask me just as 'Ribcage' ends and 'Fallen Angel' begins, I would tell you this is my favorite albums ever. And, perhaps perversely, I think 'Buttons And Zips' is oneof the sexiest rock songs released this year. Hints of the old paranoia ('Snooks (Progress Report)', 'I've Got Your Number') peek through, but mostly this is a redemptive effort of small grace. And Guy Garvey's voice (I don't know if I've mentioned this before) is one of my favorites, it's like a warm, fuzzy, old and comfortable sweater.
05. British Sea Power - The Decline Of British Sea Power (Rough Trade)
The run from 'Something Wicked' to 'Blackout', inclusive, is some of my fvorite self-defined pop music of the year. Each song (there's six of them) boasts what are to me irresistable choruses. Fuck indie rock, these guys should be on MTV. Have you heard
'Carrion'? That that run is surrounded by great Mclusky/Pixies type thrashers ('Apologies To Insect Life', 'Favours In The Beetroot Fields') and the most listenable 14-minute noise epic I've heard on a 'proper' rock album in a long, long time ('Lately'), is only more amazing. On the basis of this, sounds like they can do anything.
04. Belle & Sebastian - Dear Catastrophe Waitress (Rough Trade)
My favorite pop album of the year. No other songs quite made me feel the same way 'I'm A Cuckoo', 'Piazza, New York Catcher' and 'Roy Walker' (along with every other song here) makes me feel. Even 'Step Into My Office, Baby' grew on me. Stuart Murdoch is one of my favorite current lyricists, and I've liked all of their albums, so there was no way I was going to dislike this.
03. radiohead - Hail To The Thief (EMI)
Turns out I didn't like Kid A
that much, unbeknownest to myself at the time. I couldn't tell until I bought Hail To The Thief
a good month after release (unlike the day of, as with the past two), and eventually popped it in, and fell in love. In my opinion, the best thing they've done: yes, better than OK Computer
and The Bends
, as great as they were. Here they finally amalgamate that sound with their later directions into something new and compelling. Our generation's Pink Floyd (which makes Tool King Crimson, incidentially), for better or for worse. So far, it's for better.
02. The Wrens - The Meadowlands (Absolutely Kosher)
I love it when one of these comes out of nowhere. I would have given this a ten, too. My blurb on Stylus (number 11 here
) gives you part of it, but this is simply the best written indie rock effort, perhaps ever. Listen to 'She Sends Kisses', and it's devastating. Do it again, this time read the lyrics as you do, and it's even more so. Such complete mastery of both music and words is rare and precious, and coming from a bunch of relative unknowns is even more rare and precious. I'm seeing them in Toronto soon, and I can't wait.
01. Elefant - Sunlight Makes Me Paranoid (Kemado)
Assuming anyone's reading this, I'm expecting 'huh?'s right now. I gave it a 7.9. No one else at Stylus (for example) voted for it. Huh? This is my favorite rock album of the year (what makes this rock, and the Shins pop, is avery fine line. I don't think I could articulate it if I had to). It's short, it's sweet, it's got lyrics that I guess remind me of me, and it makes me want to fall in love all over again every time I hear it. I played no other record more this year, and no other sons spent more time in my head than 'Make Up' (another of the year's sexiest songs), 'Misfit', 'Bokkie', 'Tonight Let's Dance' and the rest. Sure, it sounds like The Strokes Meet Interpol Uptown
, to make a joke, but I don't care. We like what we like.