The semester is finally over, and now that I have some extra time, I thought I'd mention some of my favorite music so far a little over 4 months into 2008. I've divided up the list into three sections: recommended, highly recommended, and favorites so far. Albums in the last category are in the running for my favorite of the year (subject of course to new additions). With the exception of the final category, the albums are listed in no particular order. Also, with the exception of the last category, I'm not gonna take the time to add commentary on each album. I noticed that there are a lot of albums here, and I'm too lazy to talk about each one at length.
Grand Archives – Grand Archives
Throw Me The Statue – Moonbeams
DeVotchka – A Mad and Faithful Telling
Gnarls Barkley – The Odd Couple
Hot Chip – Made In The Dark
Sera Cahoone – Only As The Day Is Long
R.E.M. – Accelerate (given where I live, it would be a crime to leave them off, but the album's nice without the geographical connection)
Elbow – The Seldom Seen Kid
The Kooks – Konk
The Fashion – The Fashion
Foals – Antidote
M83 – Saturdays = Youth
Fleet Foxes – Sun Giant EP
Dodos – Visiter
Vampire Weekend – Vampire Weekend
The Helio Sequence – Keep Your Eyes Ahead
Bon Iver - For Emma, Forever Ago
Headlights – Some Racing, Some Stopping
British Sea Power – Do You Like Rock Music?
The Whigs – Mission Control
Tokyo Police Club – Elephant Shell
Cloud Cult – Feel Good Ghosts
Favorites so far:
1) Frightened Rabbit – The Midnight Organ Fight: This is my favorite album of '08 at this point (despite the appearance of "Good Arms vs. Bad Arms" on Grey's Anatomy this week - it was the one at the end). It's like the potential that a band like Coldplay could reach if they just stopped trying too hard. The song construction and musicianship are just phenomenal, the melodies are infectious, and you can really relate to the ideas that the Hutchison brothers are trying to convey. It's so good that I can't even think of a weak track on the album. Standouts, though, are "The Twist," "Head Rolls Off," "Keep Yourself Warm," and "Good Arms vs. Bad Arms." I cannot recommend this record enough. Here's a video for "Head Rolls Off" to give you an idea of the greatness. Plus, kindergarteners seem to like it...
UPDATE: Charles over at Heartache With Hard Work has reviewed the album, and he agrees with me. He has one of my favorite mp3 blogs, and I often like his recommendations.
2) Cut Copy – In Ghost Colors: This is a close second for me, but the album is quite different than Frightened Rabbit. While they are more britpop-esque (whatever that term really means), Cut Copy is more of a genre traveler of sorts. They weave in and out of French pop, dance, New Wave (think Depeche Mode), and 90s Alternative so effortlessly that often you won't realize they are shifting genres until they've moved onto the next one! It's quite amazing to hear, actually. Plus, everything is just so darn catchy! I mean, all you have to hear is the opening song, "Feel the Love," and you'll be hooked. They have great melody, and it's just a great blend of elements. So many artists try to mix in new things and end up with such failure that it's refreshing to see a group get it right. "So Haunted" and "Lights & Music" are other standouts. Video for "Lights & Music" below.
3) Portishead - Third: How on earth did we get along for over a decade without a new Portishead record? I absolutely adore Dummy; it might qualify as a desert island disc (more on this in a future post). While their self-titled second album was a little bit of a let down, it was still very good. The burning question for all of us fans then was, "What is this album gonna sound like after an eleven year gap?" We all found out, and it is remarkable. They have moved beyond the confines of the trip hop box they helped to craft without losing signature sounds and arrangements. They also showed some new tricks up their sleeves to boot! This record is one I'm still digesting, and I am sure it will take some time for me to really process how I feel. My sense, though, is that the strength of this album comes in the way that all the disparate elements come together so well. I mean, you go directly from the short, ukulele driven, olde-timey sounding "Deep Water" to the pounding industrial sounds of "Machine Gun." As jarring as this transition can be, it works. Neither song feels out of place on the record. That alone is a significant accomplishment. Other standouts include "The Rip" and "We Carry On." Here's the video for "Machine Gun."
That's all I have for now. Thanks for reading. I feel like adding more as the summer progresses. I will probably discuss new music that I come across (I'm looking forward to the new Mates of State and My Morning Jacket for starters) as well as some more specifically themed posts. I may even throw in a political rant or two in...who knows? Until then, keep your feet on the ground and keep reaching for the top shelf of cookies.
UPDATE: I just realized that I forgot a couple more highly recommended albums.
The Mountain Goats - Heretic Pride
The Charlatans UK - You Cross My Path