Tag: Andrew Bird
Ban Ki Moon becomes UN Secretary of State (I guess they didn’t like my suggestion of Ozzy Osbourne). The iPhone is launched, creating great excitement among the large swathes of the population who still seem to believe that Apple is cool and different. The Doomsday Clock is advanced to 5 minutes before midnight. This is not as awesome as death metal fans would have you believe. The Orange Revolution occurs in the Ukraine, leading us one step closer to running out of colours for names of revolutions. Nicolas Sarkozy becomes the president of France. In unrelated news, Carla Bruni thinks she can sing. Across the channel, Gordon Brown becomes prime minister but does not marry a sexy former model/occasional singer. It was another weak year in music.
10. Malajube – Trompe l’Oeil
Bizarre French Canadians make bizarre French Canadian music. Nice!
9. Von Sudenfed – Tromatic Reflexxions
I like Mark E Smith and his work with the Fall, but given the one-man Smith-centric nature of the Fall approach (they’ve gone through at least 37 members since the band started, with Smith the only constant), he can get a bit stuck in a rut. His collaboration with Andi Toma and Jan St. Werner of electro group Mouse on Mars presented a fresh take on Smith’s curmudgeonly old-man rants. Bonus points go to the band for releasing a b-side about snooker.
8. Handsome Furs – Plague Park
Formed as a side band to his main band Wolf Parade, Dan Boeckner started Handsome Furs with his wife Alexei Perry. This year’s Face Control was pretty good, but a little too electro-pop in its leanings for my liking. Plague Park was a little more exciting, creating an uneasy electro-drone folk sound to lay under Boeckner’s strangled bray (perhaps the only time saying ‘strangled bray’ is meant as a compliment). This is paranoid and anxious music, cathartic and not always without a bit of light. Some parts feel a bit too Wolf Parade-y (prompting me to wish that Boeckner and Spencer Krug had just made a better second Wolf Parade record), but songs like ‘What We Had’ expanded the boundaries and made something sounding a bit more timeless and a bit less ‘late 00s indie rock’.
7. Tiny Dancers – Free School Milk
Tiny Dancers, in a certain minor way, turned out to be a band ahead of its time, as their folk meets whimsical pop has become increasingly popular in the last few years, with bands and individuals like Noah & The Whale, Laura Marling and Mumford & Sons carrying on what they started. While Handsome Furs expanded the idea of ‘folk’ into more sinister realms, Tiny Dancers took it in a much more sunshine-y direction. ‘Hannah We Know’ and ‘Baby Love’ provided short, sharp and sugary rushes of pop, but more slowly unwinding spacious affairs like ’20 to 9’ and ‘Moon Song #2’ hinted at a depth and maturity I wish the band had been given further chances to explore. Unfortunately, the band has since split.
6. Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova – Once Soundtrack
Once was a charming movie, and the soundtrack is just as endearing. There’s a nice off-the-cuff feeling to most of the songs, and Hansard and Irglova have a real chemistry. Their Swell Season records are good too, but I like the slightly rougher takes on the songs that are offered on the soundtrack
5. M.I.A. – Kala
This was a leaner affair than her 2005 debut, Arular. It got rid of the stupid skits (memo to every hip hop artist – there has NEVER been a funny or worthwhile skit on an album) but kept the catchy world-spanning blend of hip hop and electro that’s so exciting to listen to. Inspired use of bits of songs by Jonathan Richman and the Pixies hinted at a real appreciation of music in all its forms.
4. Andrew Bird – Armchair Apocrypha
Bird makes lush songs that draw on chamber music as much as they draw on indie rock traditions. Plus, he can whistle very well. There’s something oddly courageous about that.
3. Kings of Leon – Because of the Times
Kings of Leon went for the arenas on this album, and it paid off. It’s got a real groove to it, with songs like ‘Knocked Up’ given plenty of room to breathe. 2008’s Only by the Night went a little TOO anthemic, but this one was a great balance between their rough-and-ready roots and their sky-high aspirations.
2. Rilo Kiley – Under the Blacklight
Rilo Kiley were never a band I understood. They always struck me as a little…toothless, which made Under the Blacklight such a wonderful surprise. Jenny Lewis sounds incredibly confident, singing about both the seedy and the sublime. This is 70s FM rock updated for the indie crowd and I don’t want to overanalyse it; I just know I listened to this album nearly constantly for a few months, preferably while on the road, with sun beaming down on me.
1. The National – Boxer
In my humble opinion, this may be the album of the decade, and I definitely feel that the National is the band of the decade. No bands have moved me as much or given me so much to sing along with or hit me in so many disparate ways as the National. They are good musically and lyrically with songs that really run the gamut of emotions, but what raises them above that level is the ineffable quality only explained in pretentious French – that je ne sais quois. It’s the joy and frustration and love and life and beauty associated with music that manages to speak to me on a level deeper than 12 notes played in a certain order has any right to. To each his own, and that joy and frustration and love and life and beauty might not move you on the same level, but I still think you’ll like the National, unknown reader.