Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Best Albums of 2008: 11-15

15. MGMT – Oracular Spectacular

Sure, “Electric Feel” was the song of my bachelor party, a raucous and very late night that ended in slapping fights and a very bad hangover. But I never assumed that song or its album would have any other part in my life. How could it? I only knew that one song, and didn’t expect it to work out of the context of being personally chauffeured around to bars around Louisville, getting belligerent, and listening to "Electric Feel" the whole time.

But something changed at about the 10 second mark during the first track, "Time To Pretend" when those keyboards come in. I realized this was an album I was going to adore. And by the time I got to "Kids" I was in, and haven't really let this album go since the mid summer.

Unlike Cut Copy, an album I kind of liked but could never commit to, MGMT sound as good banging from shitting headphones as they do on a loud stereo system. And they've kept their 80's influences in check - aping the synths, but keeping the dream pop and beats pointing towards the modern millenia.

It may be nothing more than a soundtrack to an awesome night, but what's the harm in that?

14. Sigur Ros –Með suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust

I was sure Sigur Ros had magical powers after listening to Ágætis byrjun. How could you not believe? I used to listen to this album before bed during my freshman year in college, and it coaxed things out of my dreams that I never thought possible. I’d never heard anything like it, and the music reorganized my brain to believe in sounds that it would never have tolerated before.

I actually loved their next album ( ) even more, overdosing in the deepness of it all. It sounded like an important band taking a head first dive into the unknown, and I was there to swim along. It also, honestly, sounded really good when drunk. I still don't understand this phenomenon, but believe me, it's scary.

Perhaps I was destined to think of Takk... as something like a retreat even though it had actual melodies and short songs. By that time I had Animal Collective to stretch my imagination, and I was growing tired of the languid rhythms, and how it always felt like I was listening to them at 2 o'clock in the morning.

Enter Sigur Ros Vol. 2, and hey! They make a mighty freak folk band. Who knew they had it in them? Not as defining as the original, but special in its own magical way.

I really thought this was going to be a top ten album, but I never quite delved in far enough. Perhaps I never let them sink in subconsciously, listened to them at night, or while drunk. They can be an isolating band, and with a wife and a dog, there aren't many times when I'm just hanging out with my headphones. But I'm still keeping them around, to see what kind of majesty they can lead me to.

13. Conor Oberst – Conor Oberst

I actually enjoyed the pop inflected tracks that Oberst inserted into last years Cassadega, even if the album as a whole felt a little cold and calculated. Well, the blood, and the acoustic guitars, are back in this one, but not the aggression. Instead of the righteous yelling of I'm Wide Awake It's Morning, we get some cool cruising music with Oberst talking about how easy the living would be on a house boat. That line from "Sausalito" had me wanting to take a long trip down the center of this country until I ended up in the Gulf of Mexico. Hell, during this Chicago winter that still sounds good to me.

Taking a nice year long vacation dipping ones toes into the ocean and not worrying about much else would be a great trip. But that's all this album really meant to me. It just sounds wonderful when it's on, and so I listened to it a lot. Far more than Cassadega, and well enough to appear far up in the top 10. I'm just not sure how much longer I'll want to take a joy ride with this guy, or whether we'll get tired of each other once the problems appear.

12. Little Joy – Little Joy
Jesus, like I needed another reminder of how bad the Strokes have become. This is what they should sound like right now. It could be that the singer sounds like Julian Casablancas, or the simple mono guitar parts that ring throughout, but it’s probably because of Fab lent his immaculate drumming to the recordings. I’m not sure why his simplistic beat is so easy to spot, but this couldn’t be anyone else.

Every single whack of his sticks just digs the knife in further and makes me hate the new turbo-charged Strokes that much more. That’s quite odd coming from an album so sweet and good natured as this one. The cooing of the female vocalist is enough to make you long for sunny Sunday afternoons, and the male vocalist comes on like Julian without as many cigarettes. Toss in a few Bassa Nova chords, a couple Strokes-lite numbers, and you’ve got Little Joy. Like the perfect hug, it's not the most meaningful action, but it can occasionally just feel perfect all over.

11. The Fireman - Electric Arguments

Sometimes you'd like explicitly to tell an artists what they shouldn't do, whether you have any right to do so (probably not). But nothing is worse than watching a loved artists goof around and loose their way, yet there isn't much one can do about it. One can only hope that he/she gets to their senses, or at least puts out an album like this. The project between Paul McCartney and the producer Youth is the strangest of his albums: a complete experiment that takes loads of risks and yet still sounds like the most immediate and impressive work he's done in years.

My affection towards McCartney is well known, and I actually have been impressed by his previous two studio albums. But nothing really prepared me for this. It's huge, immaculately produced, and nearly absent of the pop pandering that McCartney has a hard time leaving behind.

Instead of hoping for a good chorus, these songs build off of little changes, continually adding ideas until the music simple soars off the speakers. "Sing the Changes" starts off in the clouds before ending up in the stratosphere. "Two Magpies", on the other hand, might as well have been a leftover from his very earliest solo recordings. It's also may favorite.

It's wrong to call this a McCartney solo album, because the presence of Youth has made it not sound like one. It stretches and groans in unexpected ways, and yet is also his most coherent work since something like 1982's Tug of War.

Mac loses his way towards the end, somewhat derailing an otherwise brilliant new album. But with him you take what you can get, hopefully he continues this collaboration and turns it into his new full-time band. As it stands, it's the second best band he's been apart of.

1 comment:

medina said...

I knew you were going to get McCartney in! And...I think I actually listen to Takk more than all the other albums.