Monday, December 11, 2006

$150. Well spent.

So here it is, as promised. My "best of" if you can call it that. These lists often get tossed out there with the stench of "cooler than thou" hipster-dom. So, instead of decreeing anything as a "best of," I figured I'd write about money well spent. Why $150? Where'd that figure come from? It breaks down to about 13 albums, give or take. And I figure $150 get's you a decent amount of music without going overboard. So, here's the best $150 I spent on music this year.

13. Sunset Rubdown - Shut Up I Am Dreaming
Spencer Krug delivers another album that, on first pass, could be dismissed as Wolf Parade cast-offs, but after a few listens, you hear why this album needed to be released.









12. Et Ret - Gasworks
Organs, synths, violins, violas, guitar and various other instruments, less vocals, pieced together in beautiful, sometimes haunting arrangements. I'd describe each as a piece or movement, and less "song" in the traditional sense of the word. I'm not quite sure how you classify this stylistically, but I'm glad I took a chance on it. It became and immediate favorite of mine.






11. Girl Talk - Night Ripper
C'mon. Do I really need to explain
this one? Just all out fun. If this album comes on and doesn't put a smile on your face, there's something wrong with you. The mash-up album of the summer.










10. Figurines - Skeleton
Skeleton reminded me how a straight forward rock album could be hook-y, poppy and flat-out fun. Nothing fancy here, and that's why I like it. Straight outta Denmark, these guys put out a great album that, if you weren't reading closely, you may have missed.









9. Keith Fullerton Whitman - Lisbon
One track. 41 minutes, 41 seconds. If you have the time, and can commit to listening straight through, it's a pretty cool ride. Ambient, pulsating tones build to a crescendo, giving way to distortion and noise. If experimental/ambient isn't your bag, this is not the disc to start with. It may not be the easiest listen, but I thoroughly enjoyed it.








8. Helios - Eingya
It's nearly criminal that I didn't put this higher on my list. This thing was on near constant repeat for about a week and a half. Maybe it's one of those albums that just caught me at the right time. Maybe it's how each track just seems to let you drift off, if for just a few minutes. This is a headphone/background album that you must have if you're into that stuff.








7. The Knife - Silent Shout
Dark. Brooding. Strange. Check all three of those boxes. The reclusive, Swedish siblings string together 11 tracks of (sometimes) menacing electronica. I really dig the darker side of electronic music, and this is one of the best examples.










6. Max Richter - Songs From Before
Ever since I heard The Blue Notebooks, I've been a fan. Modern day composer Max Richter returns with another album of somber, beautiful arrangements. Perfect rainy day album.










5. Islands - Return To the Sea
Unicorns dissolve and resurface as Islands. Lucky me...or us. Ornate, meticulous pop songs with a real attention to craft. Listen close; there's a lot going on in this album, and yet it still manages to maintain a very listenable quality to it.









4. Beirut - Gulag Orkestar
It's surprising to not see this at "1" for me. When this album first came out, I was stupid over it. And while I still really dig it, a) I probably reached burn-out levels after listening to it so much and b) it had some really stiff competition come along. Nonetheless, this album still impresses me and it's certainly worthy of this spot.










3. Joanna Newsom - Ys
Alright, here's where it gets tough. In fact, I could have numbered these 1a, 1b, and 1c. But that's a cop out. As such, I'm giving this slot to Ys. I don't even know where to begin with this album. Complex? That would be an understatement. Don't look at the five song track listing and think this is an EP. With the shortest song clocking in at 7:17 and the longest being 16:53, this album is an undertaking. It's scope alone is impressive enough to land it near the top, but luckily, the songs are pretty cool too.





2. TV On The Radio - Return To Cookie Mountain
How cool are TVOTR? They just seem to have all the components. Great music that seems to be influenced by every music genre out there. An apparent lack of the "I'm cooler than you" demeanor. There's nothing they don't have. These cats are alright. This could have easily been my favorite. But, I'm giving it to...










1. Band of Horses - Everything All the Time
It's no secret. I love a good rock album. This is probably a dark horse, and I'm sure the indie hipster elite would scream heresy if they found out I chose this as my fav. Shhh. Don't tell 'em. Simply put, this album just blew me away. I still put it on with great regularity. I picked it up at a time when the city was beautifully sunny and warm, and fortunately/unfortunately I wasn't working, so this was my "explore your new world" soundtrack. Maybe that's what did it. The production is great. The shimmering guitars and reverb-drenched vocals all add to the vibe of the album. The songs themselves are all well crafted. Listen to it from front to back; not a dud on there. And the stretch from "The Great Salt Lake" to the finale "St. Augustine" is one of the greatest five song assemblies I've heard. A great way to close out a great album.


Believe it or not, that's tough...to narrow it down to that few. Half my brain is screaming "but what about Evangelicals?...where's Ghostface?..no Clipse?...you're gonna do Rock Central Plaza like that?" True, there's a lot more that I've bought, devoured, and wanted to mention. And maybe I will sometime. This just as easily could have been the best $300, or the best $500. But really. Who wants to read all that?

Thursday, December 07, 2006

It's about time

Wow. I really do let this thing go, don't I? I'd blame it on my new job, or I'd blame it on being new to New York and wanting to go out and do things other than sit and type in a blog, but that's probably not true. What's more likely is that I'm lazy. And I like xbox.

In the time since I last made an album entry, I've seen Menomena, TV on the Radio, The Long Winters and Grizzly Bear live, and I haven't said a thing about it here. And I've acquired numerous albums that I've made no mention of. I need a swift kick in the ass.

So, I'm climbing back on the horse. I've noticed that one thing that slows me down with this is my propensity to write long-winded entries about albums. I'm changing that. Who needs it anyway? Since I buy so many, it's hard to keep up. So, instead, I'm going to just write quick little blurbs and a number of albums, probably two or three at a time. That's an easier way for me, and probably a bit more digestible in terms of reading.

But before I do that, I'm going to do a list, my list, of favorite albums of the year. I wont' call it "the top..." or "best of..." or anything like that. Just a list of albums that made me think my money was well spent. Maybe I'll title it my "The Best $150 I Spent On Music This Year" list.