Tag: The Decemberists
The first free parliamentary elections in nearly 50 years take place in Iraq, and they vote for Saddam as America’s next top model. Youtube goes online. Videos of stupid fucking kittens are now everywhere. The Kyoto Protocol goes into effect and is ignored by mostly everybody. Pope John Paul II dies, allowing Pope Benedict to bring Tupac to the Vatican. Hurricane Katrina hits New Orleans and the rest of the southeast US, leaving Kanye West to famously proclaim that ‘George Bush doesn’t care about black people’. He forgot that Bush didn’t seem to care about a lot of white people either. Meanwhile, it was another pretty good year in music, with strong albums by Neil Young, Bright Eyes, Matt Mays and El Torpedo and LCD Soundsystem just missing the cut.
10. Gogol Bordello – Gypsy Punks Underdog World Strike
Eugene Hutz brings a manic energy to his Eastern European folk punk that is both fun and rousing. While their studio recordings don’t quite have the energy of their off-the-chart life shows, this CD comes fairly close.
9. Richard Hawley – Coles Corner
I have a soft spot for Richard Hawley, as he’s unabashedly a hometown lad in my current adopted home city of Sheffield. He has a way of making the (sometimes) grim and industrial nature of northern England sound downright romantic at times, without painting a false picture of a make-believe, rose-coloured world. This album is his clear pinnacle, where he best combines his mellow voice with lush production, making a record with one hell of a soul.
8. Low – The Great Destroyer
Low were always known for their incredibly quiet and minimal approach to music. On The Great Destroyer, they turned their amps up to 11 and rocked out, and managed to do so without losing their austere musical presence.
7. Antony & The Johnsons – I am a Bird Now
Like Richard Hawley, Antony Hegarty’s voice exudes heart. Whereas Hawley’s voice is that of a content old man down the pub with a glass of Scotch, as comfortable as an old jumper, Hegarty’s is powerful for its sheer sensitivity and hesitancy. That’s not to say it’s not strong, as he has one of the most distinctive and impressive voices in popular(ish) music at the moment. The Crying Light, his second long player, significantly raised his profile, and deservedly so.
6. The Decemberists – Picaresque
As they proved with this year’s Hazards of Love, the Decemberists can go a bit overboard with the literary bullshit, and I don’t blame a lot of people for writing the band off as a bunch of pretentious geeks. Still, they write some mighty fine songs, and Picaresque managed that without most of the eye-rollingly, self-consciously ‘smart’ lyrics that sometimes detract from their music. 2006’s The Crane Wife was also very good, so here’s hoping they back off the faun rock operas soon and return to (somewhat) more grounded music.
5. Wolf Parade – Apologies to the Queen Mary
While they may not quite be Lennon and McCartney, Spencer Krug and Dan Boeckner are both very solid indie rock songwriters in their own rights (both have side bands – Krug with Sunset Rubdown and Boeckner with the excellent Handsome Furs). Together they’re even stronger, playing off each other’s strengths, with Krug’s leftfield wonk being tempered by Boeckner’s way with a downbeat melody. It’s music that seems well ensconced in indie rock cool, but also packs some surprising and resonant emotional heft in songs like ‘This Heart’s on Fire’.
4. The New Pornographers – Twin Cinema
The New Pornographers are another band that have been consistently good throughout the decade. My personal favourite is Twin Cinema and its mix of melancholy and euphoria, all delivered in nice little power pop nuggets. ‘The Bleeding Heart Show’ is one of the finest pop moments of the year, if not the decade, in my mind.
3. Spoon – Gimme Fiction
2005 presents an incredibly strong top three, as really any of the albums could have been my number one choice. Spoon’s release brings something a tad more experimental to their usual twitchy and rhythmic indie rock. ‘Sister Jack’ keeps the pop side well represented, but songs like ‘The Beast and Dragon, Adored’ are mysterious and a bit labyrinthine but still catchy. This is an excellent release by a consistently excellent band.
2. Constantines – Tournament of Hearts
The Constantines are masters at creating tension, crafting dense songs that seem like they’re about to explode at any second. When they roar, they roar, but they’re equally adept at just keeping things simmering.
1. Eels – Blinking Lights and Other Revelations
Mark ‘E’ Everett’s work can sometimes be a harrowing listen, like 1998’s Electroshock Blues, which chronicles his sister’s suicide and his mother’s cancer. Blinking Lights and Other Revelations doesn’t shy away from this darkness, but it balances it perfectly with an underlying sense of hope. The album is ambitious, basically charting the course of an entire lifetime in emotional and physical terms, with evocative song titles that match the simple but effective folk symphony melodies contained within. Although the songs stand on their own, this is an album that should be consumed as a whole, and then it resonates quite deeply.
New Music News
Here’s a couple of quick musical bits and pieces to keep you amused. First, Lou Reed (of all people) has apparently released an iPhone application. It’s called Lou Zoom, and it is tailor made for cranky, curmudgeonly old men like Lou. Basically, it enlarges the information on your screen, to make for easy reading for old eyes. So, Lou Reed is making his best effort to fight for the title of ‘most eccentric elderly musician’. Your move, Neil Young.
Also, the AV Club did a feature on weirdest band names of the year. It’s pretty funny, and you can find it here.