Now on to my favorites. I'll be counting down from 25 to my favorite album of the year over a series of posts in the coming days. Some of these will merit more description than others (meaning that I have reasons for inclusion over and above listening to something a helluva lot).
25. Bloc Party - A Weekend in the City
I know that I'll probably get some flack for this one, since Bloc Party is no longer the critics' darling, but you know what, this is a damn fine album. True. It didn't hit me in the gut quite as immediately as Silent Alarm. However, if they made that same album again, I'd been very disappointed (see Interpol). This album shows growth, and even though I wasn't intially all that excited about this effort, time has been very kind. "Waiting for the 7:18" especially captures something that resonates with me.
24. Grizzly Bear - Friend
I don't know anyone that knows me that would think I would enjoy music best, or most famously categorized as psychedelic folk, but what do you know, I really enjoyed this album (or EP depending on the review). While this wasn't on my sought after music as often as other albums on this list, it's appearance on shuffle on the train ride to work was never unwelcome (which is high praise indeed).
23. The Good The Bad and the Queen - The Good The Bad and the Queen
Paul Simonen meets Damon Albarn? Clash meets Blur meets Gorillaz? 'Nuff said. Really, those opening questions pretty much characterize it. Does this sound the least bit like The Clash. No. But to see Paul Simonen return to making music is something to get a bit excited about. I actually found this album a bit more accessible than the previous Gorillaz efforts, even though I enjoyed them a lot as well. And hey, they play live!
22. José González - In Our Nature
hile nothing on this album stands out quite as much as his cover of "Love Will Tear Us Apart", nothing could be said to be so derivative. For better or better, there's no coat-tails here. I don't know that I could sing a single verse off this album, but then again, it's not that kind of album. I often find myself looking for this one when I'm working.
21. Iron and Wine - The Shepard’s Dog
Wow, so much of what I said about Jose Gonzalez could be said about this. Only I'd have to add drums for once. You'd think their presence would seem odd on an Iron & Wine album. You'd be wrong. That collaboration with Calexico is starting to bear unexpected but delicious fruit.
20. The Besnard Lakes - The Besnard Lakes are the Dark Horse
It's been a very good year for the Besnard Lakes. They go from being nobodies to being on a lot of top 20 lists for the year. So does this make me a bandwagon jumper. Perhaps. I did enjoy this album quite a bit though, and listened to it a bit more than anything that goes before except maybe the Bloc Party (which dropped early in the year).
19. Blitzen Trapper - Wild Mountain Nation
I'll admit it, this is a late addition to the list. My first listens to Blitzen Trapper (through some dubiously obtained samples) didn't really get me too excited. It was only upon hearing them featured on All Songs Considered recently that I actually sought out this album. I wish I had before then. While it's not my usual taste, it is incredibly "interesting" (in a good way). I don't get all halfway comparisons to the Grateful Dead either (that would be a non-starter in my mind).
18. Feist - The Reminder
Two Feist albums. Two appearances on my end of year lists. And the first one was even before I found out I worked (albeit remotely) with her brother (Hi Ben, if you ever read this!). And you know what? This ranking is even more appropriate than they last. Of course, a little help from Apple never hurt anyone (and in this case, it was deserved), so hopefully she'll make more of these lists this year.
17. The Twilight Sad - Fourteen Autumns & Fifteen Winters
This album caught me totally by surprise. It was the first time I had even heard of The Twilight Sad to be honest (hey, something always slips through the cracks). I especially like how some of their songs seamlessly navigate the space between quiet and loud, and they build in such a way that when they do reach their full sound, it takes you by surprise.
16. Handsome Furs - Plague Park
A side project of one of the dynamic duo from Wolf Parade, Dan Boeckner, Handsome Furs has often been compared to Bruce Springsteen, and I think that comparison is somewhat relevant. The music here is much more direct than that of Wolf Parade, and I like its earnest straightforwardness quite a bit.
15. Great Lake Swimmers - Ongiara
I've know about Great Lake Swimmers for some time. I think I discovered them last year some time (a song here, a song there), and while I enjoyed their music, I would never have thought that they would make a end of year list I was preparing. Even though the band is from Canada, their music has an essentially American feel to it, almost like some alt-country acts, though I would never put them in that category directly. Their MySpace page describes their sound as ambient folk, but I don't think that label applies either--I find my toe tapping or head bobbing to their music way too much for it to be ambient in any way.
14. Sunset Rubdown - Random Spirit Lover
It's been a good year for the members of Wolf Parade (see Handsome Furs above). The other half of that dynamic duo is Spencer Krug, who forms the core of Sunset Rubdown. Unlike Handsome Furs, however, Sunset Rubdown captures the pure energy that inhabits most Wolf Parade tunes, but with a verve and urgency that sometimes gets lost in the pure driving force of Wolf Parade. It doesn't hurt that two of the best live shows I've seen over the last 14 months were Sunset Rubdown shows.
NP: "Skin Deep" - The Stranglers