Now that I've returned from my holiday travels, the list of my favorite albums can continue. In this installment, I'll countdown albums 13 through 9, with the top eight coming in future posts. (Hey, I still have four days yet!)
From this point on, any of these are worthy of that top spot on a given day--there is really that little separating them. It's been a great year for music as these selections will attest.
Now, on with the countdown!
13. The Arcade Fire - Neon Bible
The Arcade Fire's second album may have been one of the most highly anticipated albums of the year, mainly because of the quality of Funeral. Since its release, the critical mood has been all over the map--from disappointment to praise to backlash and back again. I may be a heretic here, but on the whole, I think Neon Bible actually works a bit better as a whole than Funeral. It never truly reaches the highs of their first effort, but there is not a bad song on Neon Bible, maybe the reaction is a bit of familiarity breeding a slight bit of contempt (not that it's that strong mind you). In a lot of years, this could easily have been my top pick (heck, ask me in a month and it may be yet).
12. Animal Collective - Strawberry Jam
This album is just fun. Sometimes those of us who listen to a lot of music and think about it about it even more tend to overthink things and forget to just enjoy it for what it is. I'm not really sure what else draws me to Strawberry Jam, aside from this sense of fun. I could point out the obvious things like how well the music, even with the unconventional arrangements, is made and how everything fits just so, even though you might think it would totally miss, but wouldn't that be overthinking it all over again. I certainly wasn't surprised to see this on a lot of year end lists (including my own).
11. LCD Soundsystem - Sound of Silver
A dance part for adults. I can't recall where I read that (and I don't intend to steal anyone's thunder), but I think that perfectly encapsulates LCD Soundsystem. Adding incredibly infectious sounds and energy to highly articulate and clever lyrics, The Sound of Silver is a recipe for success. Just listening to "North American Scum" or "New York, I Love You, but You're Brining Me Down," is an exercise in itself in leaving preconceptions at the door (since I don't usually like anything that has a whiff of dance music about it).
10. Menomena - Friend and Foe
This year's list is quickly becoming an exercise in seeing how my musical tastes are expanding. Of course, I can't take too much credit for that. Instead, I'll credit the amount of good music that is recommended to me (by reading blogs, by friends, what have you). I doubt anyone who knows me well would have expected to find Menomena on this list, since I usually go for the tighter melodies and more straightforward sounds. Friend and Foe, however, is a great ride from start to finish, mixing moods and expectations more often than James Bond's bartender mixed martinis.
9. Beirut - The Flying Club Cup/Lon Gisland
"A Sunday Smile," the third track on The Flying Club Cup, along would merit this album's inclusion on this list. Even beyond that, this album is one that I could see myself living with for years to come. Add an excellent January EP (Lon Gisland) to Beirut's output this year, and it becomes certainty. I love the inclusions of the Balkan rhythms in Beirut's sounds. The inclusion of these sounds definitely does not make the music seem provincial, or worse, like world music. Instead, they meld seamlessly into an overall aesthetic that has a lot in common with many Elephant 6 acts. At times, the music on The Flying Club Cup eerily reminds me of Neutral Milk Hotel, without ever sounding like it or evoking it directly. It's just a feeling I get.
More of my favorites to come in the coming days. And I promise that this list will be finished by New Year's Eve.
NP: "Line of Best Fit" - Death Cab for Cutie