WTT: Top 100 Albums of 2009 (40-31)
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The soundtrack to a Stuart Murdoch-written film of the same name – which we’re all still waiting to see – could probably be written off by many as an unneeded Belle & Sebastian side-project, especially since two of the tracks are reworkings of B&S songs. But since God Help the Girl certainly sounds a hell of a lot like the Scottish twee group (how could it not?), it fills the hole in our hearts left by the recent absence of new material from them instead of coming across as little more than a name change.
Phoenix is a band that I’ve liked for years without even realizing it. Their track “Too Young” has always been one of my favorites on the Lost in Translation Soundtrack, and it took me months of seeing Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix being hyped to hell and back to put the pieces together and realize I should probably jump on top of this album. That turned out to be one of the best decisions I made all year, because this album is a a great piece of swooning indie pop. There’s a lot of strength in the hit singles we’ve all heard, but there’s also a lot to be said for the album tracks, such as the 7-and-a-half minute “Love Like a Sunset”, which slowly builds momentum on the basis of a thoughtful ambient soundscape. Phoenix isn’t a flavor of the month – they’re the real deal.
Holly Conlan is probably the best thing that the iTunes Single of the Week has ever done for me. Two or three years ago I found her single “You are Goodbye”, and since then I’ve been searching the internet up-and-down for the rest of her music. So how pleasantly surprised was I to find that she had a new album? Conlan is a singer-songwriter who makes poppy folk music that haunts and enamors. She sounds like that really talented singer at the restaurant or bar you frequent, who you hear and wonder “when is this girl going to get discovered?”. By this I mean that Holly comes across as a classy, honest, no-nonsense girl-next-door artist without any delusions of grandeur or stardom. Instead of churning out over-produced, transient garbage to be the next Carrie Underwood (which she could probably do), she’s content to make music that lingers in the minds of a few, rather than breezing in one ear and out the other of many.
34. Weezer – Raditude
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I’d like you to take a moment to look at this album cover. Just look at it. Next, imagine what kind of music should be behind that cover. Think about it for a moment. Now listen to this album – it’s going to be exactly what you expect. From the insanely campy title and album cover, to the advertising campaign wherein you can buy a snuggie adorned with the Weezer logo, to the music itself which features a lot of songs about girls and parties and one about riding escalators at the mall, nothing about Raditude is anything less than totally redonkulous (I went there). Oh, and did I mention there’s a collab with Lil’ Wayne?
Future of the Left is a really, really weird band, which isn’t all that surprising considering they rose from the ashes of Cardiff group Mclusky. With strange, yelping vocals and uneasy, aggressive, jumpy instrumentation, this three-piece keeps the listener on their toes all throughout their second release of noisy, pointed, angry punk rock. When this album ends, you’re left there wondering what just happened – no matter how many times you listen to it, you probably won’t know. I sure as hell don’t.
Have you spent the last decade bemoaning the loss of the Flaming Lips’ earlier, dirtier, more mucked-up psychedelic rock, as opposed to their more recent synth-prog poppiness? You’re in luck, because this Oklahoma City band (which just so happens to include Wayne Coyne’s nephew Dennis) brings back that sound, albeit with more of a dancey, modern edge. Existing in an apparent haze of acid tablets and marijuana smoke, Stardeath and White Dwarfs have created a catchy, druggy, unforgettable debut album that has them embracing the past in their most obvious influences, while at the same time mastering a new sound all their own. This is a band everyone should be keeping an eye on.
Chinese Telephones were a short-lived pop-punk band from Milwaukee, Wisconson that nobody outside of the orgcore/beard punk scene (fucking christ, there really need to be some new terms for gruff pop-punk) ever really knew existed. Democracy, aside from being a mocking reference to Chinese Democracy (an album that doesn’t really need to be mocked – Axl Rose does most of the work for us), is a career retrospective release, made up of the band’s rare tracks that they released on splits and comps throughout their short run, including some alternate versions of tracks on their self-titled full-length release.
This Detroit-based electronic musician makes his music in a basement with children’s toys and synthesizers, and while the mood can seem abstract, don’t overlook the fact that this album is full of catchy melodies and undeniable pop structure. Deastro creates music with a spacey, psychedelic quality, Moondagger causing a feeling not unlike watching a meteor shower, or riding one of those 3D theme park attractions where you fly around in a spaceship and blow shit up (those are trippy as fuck, aren’t they?).
The New York group Yeah Yeah Yeahs took on a more synth-driven approach on It’s Blitz!, with fantastic results. No more are the YYYs a disposable indie rock band, churning out little more than a worthwhile single here or there. Their third album is a synth rock materwork of dark, violent artistry. Their new wave overtones have never been more apparent, and they’ve never sounded more like a band who knows exactly what they’re doing.
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How can you not love a guy who decided to make up his own genre and call it post-punk laptop rap? This Berkeley MC is no newcomer to the nerdcore game, and on his newest album he’s been pulling in even more well-deserved fans. He raps (sorta) about such crucial topics as his failed attempts at being hyphy, his drummer’s messy house, and a kid who gets so tired of being bullied that he builds a giant ska-powered robot to rampage through the city and destroy his enemies (I’m not joking). If you’re not already checking this out, you’re a lost cause.