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Posts Tagged ‘We Were Promised Jetpacks’

Since Sgt Grumbles and shared his more finalised version of the ‘Best Albums of 2009’ I figured it was as good a time as any to revisit my list.  I would have simply updated the original post, but there have been some significant changes to my ‘Best Albums of 2009 (thus far)‘ list due to the release of several amazing records since I left America.  I have therefore removed the following from my previous list:

  • Cass McCombsCatacombs
  • Andrew BirdNoble Beast
  • Sunset RubdownDragonslayer
  • The Pains of Being Pure at HeartThe Pains of Being Pure at Heart

I must say that the four records above are worth buying, but in narrowing my list down to ten with the inclusion of a larger canon of new albums in 2009 (my previous list was posted nearly three months ago) I needed to revise my list.  Therefore I give you my more official and updated ‘Best Albums of 2009‘.

07 - These Four Walls

10.  We Were Promised Jetpacks—These Four Walls
I still stand by the excellence of this record, but it has slipped three slots (from seven to ten).  Enjoy the incredible Glaswegian sincerity and steady flow of energy.

9.  Atlas Sound—Logos
Bradford Cox (of Deerhunter) really did an excellent job on this record (released 19 October in the UK) with a little help from Noah Lennox (aka ‘Panda Bear’) and Lætitia Sadier (of Stereolab).   Cox demonstrates his exceptional and deeply personal writing abilities and leaves room for many more excellent Atlas Sound records to come.

8.  Times New Viking—Born Again Revisited
I first heard Times New Viking last year when they released Rip it Off.  That album proved to be a great surprise (which was enhanced by the energy and precision of their live shows).  This next record (released 21 September in the UK) proves to employ the same techniques – simple pop songs performed by a three piece band (drums, guitar, keys) and production that is intentionally downgraded for an extremely primitive and lo-fi sound.  But the songwriting on this album represents a broader stylistic spectrum than their previous work which makes this record more accessible and even more listenable (for someone who usually enjoys what others have sometimes deemed ‘unlistenable’).

08 - Mythomania

7.  Cryptacize—Mythomania
As I mentioned previously, this album was very surprising, and it has proven more surprising as I’ve listened on, securing it a rank of number seven (previously eight).  At this point one might ask, “Wait, with this subjective switch aren’t your reviews worth the computer screens they are illuminated on?”  Correct, the albums I deem worthy of listen are based upon my dynamic personal preferences.  But in the end, we must wait for NME’s ‘Top Albums of the Decade’ instead of taking their top album from each year of the decade because of developing musical trends and tastes, so I don’t feel so guilty.  This album deserves this spot and maybe even a higher one.  This album possesses a near-perfect amount of creativity, innovation, skills and utter fun!  A great improvement from Chris Cohen’s previous work on Asthmatic Kitty (Curtains).

6.  Girls—Album
I first heard the track “Hellhole Ratrace” back in August.  It was raved about by Pitchfork and Stereogum and I found the track very enjoyable, but not as incredible as the reviews were claiming.  I bought the record soon after its release on 22 September and gave it a listen.  By the second listen I was hooked.  Think of a more nihilistic and energetic Elvis Costello circa 1977, with a hint of Buddy Holly.

04 - My Maudlin Career

5.  Camera Obscura—My Maudlin Career
This record (along with Cursive’s new record) slipped a slot entirely due to the release of my new number three record of the year.  As I’ve mentioned previously, this is probably my favorite release from Camera Obscura.  The more I’ve listened the more I appreciate the record and also the more sure I am that I didn’t simply “love it so much because Belle & Sebastian hasn’t released an LP since 2006.”  Well orchestrated and executed indie-pop, with plenty of Scottish wit.  Even if there is a hint of my love for B & S in this pick, the album (and the band) stands on its own through musical precision and artistic maturity.

03 - Mama

4.  Cursive—Mama, I’m Swollen
Mama, I’m Swollen probably seems to be an odd pick for this number [four] slot, but I will always have a soft spot for Cursive.  This is not to say that this album is undeserving of praise.  Cursive is not interested in being another experimental freak-folk-electro-post-rock-cross-genre-remixed piece of overproduced crap like so many other groups are becoming (namely Dirty Projectors).  They are faithful to their expressive indie roots, this album being far less poppy than Happy Hollow.  It reminds me of Domestica even.  Tim Kasher is still obsessed with refuting a theistic/morally superior worldview, but he does it with so much passion and angst I can’t help but be stirred.  Cursive encourages us to realize the failure of our Enlightenment/modern ideals and to accept our animalistic/primitive nature.  I don’t buy it (but not because it’s not packaged well).  I say we drop the Enlightenment and read more Kierkegaard and Barth.

3.  Converge—Axe to Fall
After all these years Converge is still bringing ‘it.’  What is ‘it?’  ‘It’ is unrelenting energy.  Of all of the bands on this top ten album list, Converge is by far my favorite.  This album (released 20 October) is both extremely heavy and true to Converge’s metal roots while remaining very accessible (like 2001’s Jane Doe).  Axe to Fall has also made its way into my top three all-time Converge records.

02 - Merriweather

2. Animal Collective—Merriweather Post Pavilion
Retaining its number two slot, Merriweather Post Pavilion – though it is more accessible (think Pet Sounds) than their entire repertoire (a bad start in my odd musical sense) – is very unique, big (to the point of breathtaking at times), and yet more cohesive with itself than any other Animal Collective album.  The songs don’t leave you asking, “When is this going to end/how does that even fit?”

01 - Veckatimest

1.  Grizzly BearVeckatimest
I raved about their performance in Glasgow earlier this month and I stand by this pick as the ‘Best Album of 2009.’  My first listen of this record was a positive, but not profound experience.  Only two tracks really stuck out to me: “Two Weeks,” and “While You Wait for the Others.”  I was even a little disappointed with the album version of “While You Wait for the Others,” at first (compared to their incredible live performance I saw on Morning Becomes Eclectic last year).  I sat with the album for another month and at that point it hit me.  This is by far (maybe I’ll get harassed for saying that) Grizzly Bear’s best record.  By best I mean that they demonstrate great maturity and excellence both in writing and execution, two points that have always seemed to miss one another by an ever-so-slight degree.  This record is certain to remain among my favorites unless I fully give myself over to jazz-fusion or something.

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It’s late August and I’ve already got a top ten list for the best albums of the year.  As I pointed out in an entry last year, it isn’t really my thing to jump on “new” music per se.  I am typically balancing myself between “new” music and “old” music that’s “new” to me.  This year I wanted to challenge myself to listen to more “new” music (i.e. music that has been/will be released in 2009).

With the trusty aid of music blogs, Lala, random databases, and Sgt. Grumbles I’ve been able to expose myself to a larger body of “new” music this year and I decided that before I leave to Scotland and my postgraduate occupation with a large number of books, I would compile a list of my top ten albums of the year.  Who knows, maybe this will be my final top ten list for the year (though it has been altered a bit even in the last 24 hours).

10 - Catacombs

10.  Cass McCombs—Catacombs
Cass McCombs reminds me of T Bone Burnett and Neil Young more than ever.  He remains very unpretentious and sincere, perhaps on this album more than his previous records.  Two tracks to reel you in: “You Saved My Life,” & “Lionkiller Got Married.”

09 - Noble Beasts

9.  Andrew Bird—Noble Beast
I really thought I would hate this album.  I’m not much of a fan of Andrew Bird’s music.  I’ve never enjoyed his voice.  Perhaps Noble Beast’s inclusion on this list is a response to how much I tolerated it as opposed to how much I loved it.  But I am leaning more toward its inclusion because I thoroughly enjoy listening to this album.  Two tracks to reel you in: “Masterswarm,” & “Not a Robot, But a Ghost.”

08 - Mythomania

8.  Cryptacize—Mythomania
This album was very surprising.  I hadn’t been very impressed with Chris Cohen’s work with Curtains on Asthmatic Kitty, so I didn’t expect a lot.  I saw Cryptasize for the first time with Danielson last November and they didn’t leave a very strong impression, but this album really brings out their strengths.  It has a great mood—unpredictable but not irritating (like the Dirty Projectors’ new album…).  Two tracks to reel you in: “Blue Tears,” & “Gotta Get Into That Feeling.”

07 - These Four Walls

7.  We Were Promised Jetpacks—These Four Walls
Thanks to Sgt. Grumbles for this suggestion a couple months back.  It reminds me of high school, in the best way possible.  Enjoy the thick Glasweigan accent, the token glockenspiel, and the incredible sincerity—one of the most important qualities I look for in an artist.  Two tracks to reel you in: “It’s Thunder And It’s Lightning,” & “An Almighty Thud.”

06 - Pains

6.  The Pains of Being Pure at Heart—The Pains of Being Pure at Heart
American faux-Brit pop never felt so great!  It’s delightfully reminiscent of The Smiths, Jesus & Mary Chain, and My Bloody Valentine.  Two tracks to reel you in: “Young Adult Friction,” & “A Teenager In Love.”  Note: the album cover bears a ridiculously close resemblance to Belle & Sebastian’s 2006 album, The Life Pursuit:
Compare
05 - Dragonslayer

5.  Sunset Rubdown—Dragonslayer
This album is a great step forward for Sunset Rubdown.  It’s not obnoxiously poppy like Shut Up I Am Dreaming tended to be.  There’s a lot going on musically, yet no component is overpowered by another within a song.  Two tracks to reel you in: “Silver Moons,” & “Idiot Heart.”

04 - My Maudlin Career

4.  Camera Obscura—My Maudlin Career
Let’s face it, I’m a sucker for Scotch indie-pop.  This is probably my favorite release from Camera Obscura.  Maybe I love it so much because Belle & Sebastian hasn’t released an LP since 2006.  Even if there is a hint of my love for B & S in this pick, the album (and the band) stands on its own through musical precision and artistic maturity.  Thank you Tracyanne Campbell for your exceptional wit.  Two tracks to reel you in: “French Navy,” & “My Maudlin Career.”

03 - Mama

3.  Cursive—Mama, I’m Swollen
Mama, I’m Swollen probably seems to be an odd pick for this number three slot, but I will always have a soft spot for Cursive.  This is not to say that this album is undeserving of praise.  Cursive is not interested in being another experimental freak-folk-electro-post-rock-cross-genre-remixed piece of overproduced crap like so many other groups are becoming (namely Dirty Projectors).  They are faithful to their expressive indie roots, this album being far less poppy than Happy Hollow.  It reminds me of Domestica even.  Tim Kasher is still obsessed with refuting a theistic/morally superior worldview, but he does it with so much passion and angst I can’t help but be stirred.  Cursive encourages us to realize the failure of our Enlightenment/modern ideals and to accept our animalistic/primitive nature.  I don’t buy it but not because it’s not packaged well.  Two tracks to reel you in: “From the Hips,” & “Let Me Up.”

02 - Merriweather

2. Animal Collective—Merriweather Post Pavilion
Though it is more accessible (think Pet Sounds) than their entire repertoire (a bad start in my odd musical sense), this album is very unique, big (to the point of breathtaking at times), and yet more cohesive with itself than any other Animal Collective album.  The songs don’t leave you asking, “When is this going to end/how does that even fit?”  Two tracks to reel you in: “My Girls,” & “Summertime Clothes.”

01 - Veckatimest

1.  Grizzly BearVeckatimest
My first listen of this record was a positive, but not profound experience.  Only two tracks really stuck out to me: “Two Weeks,” and “While You Wait for the Others.”  I was even a little disappointed with the album version of “While You Wait for the Others,” at first (compared to their incredible live performance I saw on Morning Becomes Eclectic last year).  I sat with the album for another month and at that point it hit me.  This is by far (maybe I’ll get harassed for saying that) Grizzly Bear’s best record.  By best I mean that they demonstrate great maturity and excellence both in writing and execution, two points that have always seemed to miss one another by an ever-so-slight degree.  This record is certain to remain among my favorites unless I fully give myself over to jazz-fusion or something.  Two tracks to reel you in: “Two Weeks,” & “I Live With You.”

Compilations worth mentioning
Let It Roll: Songs by George Harrison a compilation of George Harrison’s solo music spanning his entire post-Beatle career.
Dark Was the Night – a compilation release benefiting the Red Hot Organization.
Royal City – a Royal City B-side compilation released by Asthmatic Kitty.
God Help the Girl – a music/film project written Stuart Murdoch, the singer of Belle & Sebastian.  Members of Belle & Sebastian with guest vocalists.  CD Booklet features a short story that goes with the music.

Honorable mention
Lou BarlowGoodnight Unknown
David BazanCurse Your Branches
CastanetsTexas Rose, the Beasts, and the Thaw
Dan Deacon—Bromst
The Decemberists (primarily because of Shara Worden’s contribution)—The Hazards of Love
Passion Pit—Manners
St. Vincent—Actor
Wye OakThe Knot

Look out for
Converge—Axe to Fall (20 October)
Atlas SoundLogos (20 October)

Why does anyone like
Dirty ProjectorsBitte Orca – It could’ve been so great, but it’s incredibly obnoxious.

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I’m not sure how this has escaped being a HUGE news item here at Criticism Ass Inspiration, but one of the most fascinating unmarried writers on this site is moving to SCOTLAND (the land of blue-faced warriors, heroin addicts and huge wicker men, if the movies are to be trusted) to pursue a graduate education…namely one Elijah Wade Smith.

I’ve expressed my sadness at his leaving in person, but I thought I would write, as a means of cheering myself up and convincing myself that he won’t be miserable and sad without me, a list of the 10 best indie/alternative bands from Scotland in tribute to his leaving.  I hope that not only is he able to hang out with all of these bands & become best pals and everything, but also that his OWN music takes off (he’s quite a talented singer, songwriter, instrumentalist) while he’s there.  (Full disclosure:  I’m his drummer & will happily go on tour with him in that great northern land should he need me.)

#10:  Glasvegas.  I only have one album from this band, their self-titled debut, & I bought it at Target, which either means Target is getting hip or this is not completely intended for the kind of cool kids I usually like to associate myself with, but it’s got some sweet hooks, particularly in my two favorite songs “Geraldine” and “It’s My Own Cheating Heart That Makes Me Cry.”  The down side (and reason they are number 10 of the 14 bands that made my initial cut) is a lyrical and musical immaturity that rears its pimply-faced head quite a few times on the album.

#9:  Franz Ferdinand.  I’m going to be honest…I haven’t listened to enough of this band to truly rate them.  But my friend Jess REALLY likes them and her opinion carries a great deal of weight.  I do know that “Take Me Out” is an amazing song & “Words So Leisured” reveals a totally different musical dimension of FF than the Interpol-y sound I often think of them having.  But there was some second album which apparently really sucked haggis…

#8:  We Were Promised Jetpacks.  Name alone gets props, huh?  They have the sound to back it up.  Half of their album “These Four Walls” is genius & the other half ain’t that bad neither.  They need to be watched.  By that I mean, listened to.

#7:  The Twilight Sad.  I have pretty much everything that they have released.  And much of it sounds VERY similar.  Fortunately, it’s a sound I am incredibly drawn to–POUNDING drums, punching and raging guitars, and passionate, crackling vocals (with thick Scots accent).  They did an acoustic album which showed they’re not totally a one-trick pony either.

#6:  The Jesus and Mary Chain.  Legends, seminal, gods of indie rock, coolness incarnate, innovative…ok, so I can only think of a few songs I’ve actually ever heard by them, so this is all cowering posture and ignorant sycophancy.  Many would probably put them higher, but this is as high as my grovelling gets.

#5:  Snow Patrol.  In light of the #6 ranking of J & M Chain, I am probably committing an enormous heresy here, but I have to admit that I really love these guys over their 4-5 album career.  Such good melodies, a mixture of brilliant & crap lyrics, but heart & soul for sure, despite what Grey’s Anatomy may have done to their indie cred.  I really love Lightbody’s songwriting on “The Reindeer Section” side projects as well.  He’s really quite good at what he does…and he loves Sufjan a ton.

#4:  Travis.  I’ve followed these guys for so long, based on the strength of two near perfect albums (“The Man Who” and “The Invisible Band”) and many great songs on their two latest releases (not so much the one before,”12 Songs,” which I never even downloaded to iTunes and their first album with its embarrassing New Kids on the Block-ish album cover).  Bless their folking hearts, they still rule.

#3:  Belle & Sebastian.  Elijah may kill me for this, but I love them less than he.  Still, this songwriting, performance, style, album art, etc. is so distinctive, wonderful, lovely, perceptive, original and other adjectives, that they are an essential for anyone checking out Scots music.  One of my all time favorite quotes comes from a B & S song:  “And so I gave myself to God.  There was a pregnant pause before he said…’Ok.'”

#2:  Frightened Rabbit.  With only two full-length studio albums, some would say it’s too soon to put these guys this high on the list.  But I listened to my heart.  Or rather, I listened to their albums and my heart told me that I loved them–frequent explicit language, sexual obsessiveness & melodramaticness and all.  “Midnight Organ Fight” will be on my top 20 albums probably for the rest of my life.

#1:  Teenage Fanclub.  The ones who started it all for me.  Not only Scottish alternative rock, but alt rock itself.  I love Norman Blake’s songs with a depth reserved for the greatest of the greats (Lennon/McFartney, Davies, Strummer, Mozzer/Marr, Yorke, Stevens, et al) .  This whole band sings, plays & writes rock songs like few can.  Which is why they reign.

I love you Elijah.  You’ll be so deeply missed.  Don’t forget about your yank pals, ok?  Say hi to Connor MacLeod if you see him around!

Man with an unidentifiable accent

Man with an unidentifiable accent

(If Vance Williams ever reads this, I apologize that I never got around to listening to The Blue Nile… I’m sure they would have made this list!)

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