in blog world, one hour = one week. those not first are surely last. in sunbear time, time is limitless and knows no deadlines. it’s all relative. with that said i offer no apologies for the extreme late pass on my year end list. for all we know some album could have dropped december 31st at 11:59 pm that would have blown my list out of the water. that didn’t happen of course, but we still have 2012 to look forward to for blowouts. as the self affirmed hype-feeding hipster of the bear collective (foreshadowing!!!) i offer my pitchfork approved lists for your eyes, my dear weworemasks readership. go forth and spread word of the second-coming decade of indie music to come, and the michael cera movies that they will inevitably be in.
15. mumford & sons – little lion man
14. atlas sound – walkabout
13. japandroids – young hearts spark fire
12. delorean – seasun
11. the xx – islands
10. röyksopp – the girl and the robot
9. theophilus london – humdrum town
8.. dirty projectors – stillness is the move
7. washed out – feel it all around
6. clipse – freedom
5. yeah yeah yeahs – heads will roll
4. animal collective – my girls
3. lady gaga – bad romance
2. bat for lashes – daniel
1. phoenix – 1901
25. neon indian – psychic chasms
24. röyksopp – junior
23. lucero – 1732 overton park
22. kid cudi – the man on the moon: end of day
21. antlers – hospice
20. passion pit – manners
19. HEALTH – get color
18. mos def – the ecstatic
17. neko case – middle cyclone
16. discovery – lp
15. mayer hawthorne – strange arrangement
14. lady gaga – the fame monster
13. sunset rubdown – dragonslayer
12. japandroids – post-nothing
11. raekwon – only built for cuban linx II
10. dirty projectors – bitte orca
“atonal skronk” is a term that perfectly details the dirty projectors’ sound. mastermind dave longstreth doesn’t care is the tempos are cut, the guitar aerobics heavy handed or if his voice squelches. he’s go the best goddamn backup singers this side of a doo wop outfit. amber coffman and angel deradoorian’ lead melodies on “stillness is the move” earned it the right as brooklyn’s national anthem (sorry jay). and then there’s this! true, bitte orca is not an easy or always pleasing listen, but its quirky as it is cerebral, playful yet literal. it encapsulates all things that are pushing the boundaries of indie music and leading the pack of the brooklyn explosion.
9. avett brothers – i and love and you
caught in a year of glitchy electronic, overtly 80′s influenced cheese, and sunny side up pop, the greenville, north carolina band known as the avett brothers prove that sometimes down-home americana and bluegrass is just what the doctor ordered. with a newfound emphasis on melody and nuance, as well as piano, the avett brothers produce an earnest, amiable sound deeply rooted in american tradition and rich in its sincerity. the “aww shucks” way that both scott and seth avett croon add a doeful intimacy to such lines as “come january let’s get married” or ” i wanna have friends that i can trust. that love me for the man i’ve become not the man i was”. the added instrumentation, courtesy of rap/rock mogul rick rubin, is spare but lush, queued in at just the perfect time to produce rousing orchestrations that suit the avett brothers’ good-natured songs. devoid of flash or gimmicks, i and love and you is as heartfelt a record as any good old boy can make.
8. atlas sound – logos
bradford cox is a musical chameleon. from his druggy noise rock group deerhunter, to his solo project atlas sound, cox proves adept at drawing from a wide array of influences, be they doo wop, glitchy electronica, or psych pop and making them uniquely atlas sound. his collaboration with animal collective’s panda bear produced one of the sunnier pop confections to be released this year, the twinkly “walkabout”, whereas the jangly “sheila” boasts a bleak chorus of “we’ll die alone, together”. the songs of logos come and go so swiftly, so ambiently, that you’re left with but a fleeting taste of the album as a whole, but rest assured, as insular as a project atlas sound is, its one of the most sympathetic and emotional art records of recent memory.
7. wild beasts – two dancers
wild beasts’ second offering is immediately superior to their debut album, this much is certain. combining a touch of theatrics, influences both tribal and tropical, and sensual lyrics courtesy of hayden thorpe’s shrill falsetto, the wild beasts channel fear of music-era talking heads and certainly have the talent to do so. the opening three songs twist glistening melodies, seamless in their layered, progressive approach, setting the tone for the bulk of the enchanting record. “the fun powder plot” boasts tropical sounds over thorpe’s unmistakable voice, a combination that is equally as inviting as it is invigorating. “hooting and hollering” follows a similar approach but coalesces thorpe’s melody with a snappy guitar line that is instantly unforgettable. bassist tom flemming takes over the reigns for the “all the king’s men”, his brassy baritenor a perfect balance to the earlier tracks and sounding suspiciously like ian curtis. though the influences are palpable, the wild beasts have a sound all their own and have the ambition to boot.
6. the xx – xx
those post-coital musings that most would keep private are anything but for romy madley croft and oliver sim. the immediate intimacy and nocturnal nature of the debut album by the xx is certainly refreshing given the ‘”barely twenty-something” age of the members. the songs found here are so contoured, so sleek, so minimalist that you’ll wonder if four members of a drummer-less band are even necessary. the finicky guitar and bass lines are reminiscent of dream pop, the drum-machine is straight r&b and the vocals are ethereal whispers of sensuality devoid of any kind of sexual subtlety. there’s that particular line in “shelter” when madley croft wistfully sighs “maybe i had said something that was wrong. can i make it better with the lights turned on?” the mere implication that the possibility of a slur can be rectified with full lights-on lovemaking speaks steamy volumes of the young london band.
5. grizzly bear – veckatimest
chamber-pop has never sounded so painstakingly labored over, so intricate in its tailored songwriting and meandering melodies than it has on grizzly bear’s veckatimest. there’s a kind of passive stronghold the album takes over the listener, never bogging one down with a cavalcade of sound, never quite bear bonesing it either. it simply bears repeated listens. what on first listen could be considered boring is upon third or fourth, plaintive; the airy becomes buoyant; the overwrought: complex. there are so many layers to the orchestration of veckatimest that is it best digested over time, but never broken down or deconstructed. this is grizzly bear at their strongest and most noble, when the pastoral meets the complexity of a band so cerebral in their approach that the result is as natural as it is elaborate.
4. bat for lashes – two suns
how do you sell a concept album that can best be described as being gloomy, tense, astral and austere? you tell them it’s the brainchild of brighton’s precious natasha khan, as well as her alter-ego “pearl”, that’d be the conceptual part. from the moment we saw the ghastly video for “what’s a girl to do” we knew that khan had had a dormant alchemy for the metaphysical that couldn’t be expressed without a sense of the theatrical, and on two suns she lets loose. the concepts might be heady and the sounds worldly to otherworldly, but khan crafted a dazzling album reflective of what i imagine would be the constant soundtrack playing through her pixie mind. the propulsive, pummeling beats of “glass” dare to compete with khan as she hits some amazing high notes, the seductive ballad “siren’s song” serves as a gateway between her egos, and then there’s the boundless single “daniel”: so perfectly nostalgic that you’d swear it belonged on a long lost kate bush album. khan’s ambition reaches for the stratosphere on two suns, yet it’s her earthy nature that keeps the album firmly set in reality. a sheer triumph.
3. fun. – aim and ignite
ready my review for god’s sake.
2. phoenix – wolfgang amadeus phoenix
phoenix’s songs are so amiable and lighthearted that they almost distract from the fact that the material itself focuses on disappointment and despair. it’s as if the french foursome’s sleek, refined pop-sensibilities are the ultimate sneak attack to shoehorn singer thomas mars’ bleeding heart lyrics into an otherwise playful 4 minute pop ode. “this love’s for gentlemen only, that’s with the fortunate only. no, i gotta be someone else” mars longingly sings on the lively “lisztomania” whereas the bouncy “lasso” offers up a berating reserved for only the most frivolous of lovers: “forever is a long long time when you’ve lost your way. trying to follow your ideals are sorry, but your ‘so-called life’ is such a waste”. definitely not as innocuous as the carefree melodies entail. phoenix bounce back from it’s never been like that’s strokes-aping (but who wasn’t then?) to embrace the ennui of mars and the glistening euphony of united to create the most refreshing pop album of their career.
1. animal collective – merriweather post pavillion
hype, hype, hype. that’s all you hear when animal collective’s merriweather post pavillion is ever mentioned. but truly: what can you say about a band that has no mass appeal, shtick or gimmick, no real x-factor, and a sound that is altogether indescribable? you simply give into the nebulous, drug-laced world that is merriweather post pavillion. it’s an escapist sound to get lost in, that of animal collective’s. they eschew the rules of songwriting and instrumentation. any shades of it are obfuscated under layers upon layers of ambiance, droning electronica, minimalism, psychedelia, beach boy vocals, or whatever form the music decides to take. “brothersport” ripples, “my girls” pulses, “in the flowers” hypnotizes. the celestial meets the palpable on every last track of this enchanting record that knows no bounds both musically and creativly. it’s not for everyone no, but sonically this is as imaginative as avant-garde music can get.
[TOP GLEE MOMENTS...yes i'm serious]
15. “push it” performance – oh my god! it’s full of innuendo!
14. exchange: sue sylvester – “i told ‘em to go ahead and yank out those tear ducts. wasn’t using ’em.”
13. “maybe this time” performance – kristin motherfuckin’ chenoweth in the house. i urge all of you who just read that and were baffled by the mention of her name to check her out in wicked, you’re a good man charlie brown, and pushing daisies.
12. exchange: sue sylvester – “all I want is just one day a year when I’m not visually assaulted by uglies and fatties.”
11. “don’t rain on my parade” performance – rachel berry blows this out of the water.
10. exchange: sue sylvester – “i empower my cheerios to be champions. do they go to college? i don’t know. i don’t care. should they learn spanish? Sure, if they wanna become dishwashers and gardeners.”
9. “my life would suck without you” performance – was good, then i noticed that the choreography recalls most every musical number the glee club has performed. that made it brilliant and a great season closer.
8. exchange: ken tanaka – presenting engagement ring to emma pillsbury “it’s cubic zirconia. i know how affcted you were by blood diamond”
7. “don’t stop believin” performance – our gateway drug.
6. exchange: sue sylvester – “when you hear your name called, cross over to this side of this black shiny thing.”
will schuester – “that’s called a piano, sue”
sue sylvester – “santana, wheels, gay kid, asian, other asian, aretha and shaft.”
5. “defying gravity” performance – a diva-off for the ages. rachel’s the surefire but kurt sells it like the slapchop.
4. exchange: sue sylvester – “i will go to the animal shelter and get you a kitty cat. I will let you fall in love with that kitty cat. And then on some dark, cold night I will steal away into your home and punch you in the face!”
3. “don’t stand so close to me/young girl” performance – emma pillsbury’s faces ftw.
2. exchange: sue sylvester – “i just blasted my hammies”
will schuester – “oh.”
sue sylvester – “iron tablet? keeps your strength up while you’re menstruating.”
will schuester – “i don’t menstruate.”
sue sylvester – “yeah? neither do i.”
1. “true colors” performance – everyone looked cute and holla! american apparel in the house!