It's the year's end and I have a blog. Because of these two facts, I must do one thing: make an end of the year "best of" list.
For the reasons that I am A) shamefully, frighteningly under-read for someone currently applying to MFA writing programs, B) pretty much living under a rock when it comes to going out to see movies or watching TV, and C) too poor to get enough new albums from all the other music genres out there, I've chosen to do it on albums. Rock albums.
I make no claims to having an encyclopedic knowledge, or collection of music. Still, as any self-respecting music fan I have my opinions - opinions, NOT facts. And just like any self-respecting music snob, I feel those opinions are worthy of airing.
Here is my podium and here is my microphone.
One man's list of notables: (Artist, title, rating out of five)
The Top Three:
1. Sufjan Stevens - Illinoise 5
This album contains music with elements of folk, indie rock, orchestral, and classical using as instrumentation everything from banjo, guitar, and piano to flute, strings, and horns. Oh yeah, and did I mention he brings elements of experimental contemporary short fiction and Christianity into it all? Simply put, the most impressively ambitious (and executed) album of the year.
2. Ben Folds - Songs for Silverman 5
A truly heartbreakingly great album. Folds is, in my opinion, truly one of the best (and understated) songwriters of our generation. Maybe the best. A little inspiring while at the same time depressing, like all good music is.
3. M. Ward - Transistor Radio 5
Fantastic album from a fantastic artist. If there were videos made to this music, everything would be in sepia, like an old photograph. I absolutely loved this beautifully subtle album. The songwriting is simple, amazing, simply amazing, amazingly simple.
The Rest of the Top Ten:
4. Fiona Apple - Extraordinary Machine 5
A heartbreakingly great album as well, and a great story of how it finally came out. I didn't think it'd be better than the leaked copy featuring Jon Brion as producer, but it's pretty much equal to it. A little less ambitious than Brion's, but because of that, a little more consistent.
5. Bright Eyes - I'm Wide Awake, It's Morning 5
Many a car drive listening to this album screaming and crying to the lyrics. Oberst's vocals can be a repetitive due to his lack of range; still, the songwriting makes up for it.
6. Stars - Set Yourself on Fire 5
I loved this album. It's everything good indie rock with elements of electronica should be.
7. The Decemberists - Picaresque 4.5
A fantastic album, but i just always feel The Decemberists could do a little more. I get bored at times with their oh-so-standard and somewhat lackluster song structures.
8. Broken Social Scene - Broken Social Scene 4.5
A few average songs keep this from a full out 5. These guys rock hard - refer to my previous post about going to their concert with Feist. This is a band to watch-they are ambitious, idealist, and able to back it up.
9. Coldplay - X&Y 4
Beautiful, soothing, anthemic - but, honestly, aren't these just "Clocks" with different lyrics?
10. Beck - Guero 4
Great album. Essentially the sequel to "odelay". A few not-so-strong songs like the single "E-Pro" keep it from higher. Why was this the release and not "Que Onda Guero" or "Girl"?
Of Montreal- The Sunlandic Twins 4
Great, but with a few weak spots. Read my review here: Amazon .com review
Dangerdoom (MF Doom and Danger Mouse) - The Mouse and The Mask 4
Not rock, but it's new and I own it so I'm reviewing it. Hot beats and funny themes, but a little too ridiculous at times.
Bright eyes - Digital Ash 4
Would be rated higher up if not for the other full-length album he released this year. Only negatives are his voice and the fact some of the songs sound a little similar after a couple listens.
Keren Ann - Nolita 4
She's absolutely great, but for some reason there are points on the album that I feel are just not so strong.
U2 - How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb 3
Bono and lads are solid and rocking and still fresh after all these years. Nothing you absolutely have to hear on the album though.
The New Pornographers - Twin Cinema 3
Good, but not too much depth after initial listen.
Clap Your Hands Say Yeah - Clap Your Hands Say Yeah 2.5
Nothing particularly memorable other than the first song and how they incorporate part of their bandname in it. Overrated and horribly average indie rockers.
Archer Prewitt - Wilderness (somewhere between 3 and 4.5)
Haven't gotten enough listens in to really give it a definite rating - but pretty solid so far.
Jamie Lidell - Multiply 3
A few truly great songs ("Multiply" and "What's the use"), a few truly awful; and a few in between.
The Mars Volta- Frances the Mute 2.5
I've always been lukewarm toward this band, like going to the prom with your best friend. Good songs when they chill the fuck out, but I must say not a fan of the heavy metal, double-bass pedal, technical as hell, band geek drumming.
And finally, in a move most grandoise and pompous:
Stuff I Don't Own in Entirely, But Have Listened to Mostly and Still Want to Give My Two Bits Concerning
Sam Prekop - Who's Your New Professor 3
My Morning Jacket - Z 4
Bloc Party - Silent Alarm 4
Amos Lee - Amos Lee 3.5
Andrew Bird - The Mysterious Production of Eggs 4