Here, in reverse order, are my top ten albums of the year.
10. Los Campesinos! – Hold On Now, Youngster
The debut record from the British band that is redefining indie rock for the new milennium. Chock full of cheeky pop culture and internet references, this is truly a band of the blog age, and their first album is full of joyous, danceable rock tailor made for today’s youth.
9. Vivian Girls – Vivian Girls
Another debut, this one from the Brooklyn band composed of three rock chicks that seamlessly blend pop, punk, psychedelic, and that girl group sound into a sugary sweet cocktail that has gotten a lot of spin in my CD player, as it will continue to do for a long time.
8. MGMT – Oracular Spectacular
This one was a grower, but once it hooked me, I couldn’t get away. From the dripping-with-irony rock cliches described in “Time To Pretend (Radio Version)” to the Bowie-esque awesomeness of “Weekend Wars” to the slippery funk of “Electric Feel,” these guys are hitting every sweet spot in my back catalogue, and we’re not even halfway through the album yet!
7. The Gaslight Anthem – The ’59 Sound
If The Boss and Joe Strummer were able to conceive children, they would no doubt sound like The Gaslight Anthem. This timeless record feels lighter than air and absolutely effortless, and elements of rock’s past and present come together in an almost flawless album.
6. Pete and the Pirates – Little Death
The Futureheads who? Pete and the Pirates make bubble gum guitar pop with a light punk edge and great harmonies, and I love it. “Come On Feet” is one of the catchiest songs of the year, and “Mr. Understanding” is one of the catchiest songs of the decade.
5. Calexico – Carried To Dust
The veteran desert rock band puts out one of the most balanced and accessible records of their career. Gorgeous string, horn, and vocal arrangements transport the listener to a dusty, lonesome Western landscape so vivid and alive that you will feel the tumbleweeds drifting past your feet.
4. Frightened Rabbit – Midnight Organ Fight
The Scottish band smooths out the rough edges of their debut The Greys, producing this highly polished jewel of expert pop songwriting. “Heads Roll Off” is the uplifting rock song that would make bands like U2 and Coldplay jealous, and if “Good Arms Vs. Bad Arms” doesn’t give you goosebumps, you may have no heart at all. Seriously, go to the doctor and get that checked out.
3. Fleet Foxes – Fleet Foxes
Is it southern rock? AM Radio? Pastoral folk music? No, it’s all of that and a hell of a lot more. Mixing lush vocal harmonies with a blend of sounds that span decades of musical history, Fleet Foxes have crafted a record (and an EP) that will no doubt keep them in the limelight for years to come.
2. Bon Iver – For Emma, Forever Ago
While technically self-released in 2007, Justin Vernon’s debut album as Bon Iver was picked up and given a wide release by Jagjaguwar in February of 2008. The record is a masterwork of pop songwriting that apparently can only come from locking yourself in a cabin for four long winter months. Sad, gorgeous, and thickly layered, this compilation of heart-rending songs touches on the gamut of human emotions and leaves you simultaneously exhausted and exhilarated at the album’s close.
1. TV On The Radio – Dear Science
A masterful record, a true document of a band unquestionably finding that ever fleeting balance between the experimental and the accessible. “Golden Age” is a danceable mixture of 80’s era David Bowie and Prince, while “Dancing Choose” is the track that Bloc Party has been trying so desperately to record for the last four years. The centerpiece of the album is the gorgeous ballad “Family Tree”, the multi-track vocals and echoing piano and strings creating an emotional and hypnotizing experience that truly demonstrates the expertise of a band in their prime.