Here are some more albums which have seen some pretty heavy play around here this year. In case you’ve missed it, check out albums 11 through 15 and 16 through 20 on my list of favorites from the past year.
I had waited and waited and waited for this album to come out, as I had loved American Hearts, and I absolutely wasn’t disappointed. Bondy’s returned here with his own brand of Americana; if it weren’t for his intense live show, you’d hardly know that he got his start in grunge rock band Verbena. I find it easy to get lost into this album. I’ve put it on a bunch of times and just found myself listening to it over and over again. Even better than the album, though, is Bondy’s live show, which is what cemented this album as one of my favorites of the year. While the album at time is gentle, Bondy holds nothing back in performance. If you ever have the chance to see him (and oh, you will; he tours relentlessly), do go see him.
Over the past couple of months, I’ve come to realize that for the most part, I appreciate this album best as a whole, rather than individual songs. When listening on my Not iPod, I find that I skip a lot of songs when they come up on shuffle. As a whole, though, I love the album. John Darnielle really is one of the best songwriters out there today. Reading his lyrics can mess you up, to put it simply. The songs may be named after Bible passages, but I think it’s pretty safe to say that The Mountain Goats aren’t going to be running off and recording hymns any time soon. With lyrics like “And I won’t get better but someday I’ll be free, ’cause I am not this body that imprisons me,” The Life of the World to Come isn’t a happy little album, but it sure is beautiful.
This is the perfect summer pop album which turned into the perfect pop album for the whole year. The lyrics are smart, the songs are catchy, and the band is French. What’s not to love? Phoenix flew under my radar (and under the radar of pretty much everyone else outside of France, I guess) until I saw them on some late-night show earlier this year. Impressed with the performance, I sought out the album and loved it at first listen. It’s one of those feel good albums that you stick back into rotation every so often just to put a smile on your face.
Annie Clark is so, so deceptive. I mean, just look at her. She’s this tiny little lady, all pale skin and cute curly hair. Her voice sounds just as delicate as she looks, but underneath it is something much, much harder, maybe even a little dangerous. “Save me from what I want,” Clark sings, and you get the feeling that you probably should step in to intervene. Things might get a little messy otherwise. Clark is a musician not afraid to play with sound, inserting messy feedback and distortion into songs which could otherwise be seen as cute little pop songs. Her live show is what won me over, if only because the visual of Clark creating her ruckus on stage is just so incredibly striking.
I didn’t want to like The xx. I really didn’t. Every other blogger and hipster kid was going on about how awesome this album was. What can I say, I’ve been burned one too many times by buzz bands that ended up sucking. I finally gave in, though, and man, now I wish I hadn’t ignored them for so long. I don’t know that there’s anything particularly innovative about their brand of electronic pop, but it’s good, catchy material, delivered in a laid-back, almost disinterested manner which is intriguing in its own right. Time will tell whether or not The xx will be able to follow this up with something great, but I’m pretty sure the entire internet will be waiting to see what’s next.