Every blogger’s gotta have one so here’s my list for the best of a pretty strong year. Click on the album covers for band websites.
#1 Blitzen Trapper – Furr (Sub Pop)
The finest 6 piece band in Portland delivers an adventurous stunner on their fourth record. There’s so much going in every song I feel like I’ve heard a whole record’s worth of ideas after two or three tracks. Where do I start? It’s the Kinks meets Of Montreal, early Dylan meets Wilco, After The Gold Rush era Neil Young meets Beck. And I’m diggin’ the 80’s hair metal logo! Suffice to say that if my boys sing along to every tune then it’s been in pretty heavy rotation around the NHT house. I do skip “Black River Killer” when the kids are around; hard to explain that one to a nine year old…
That last one is downright chilling live.
CF’s latest sheds the freak folky Americana leanings of their past efforts in favor of a Blitzen Trapper type rock infused with Arcade Fire’s sense of drama (without their tiresome aura of self-importance) and tasteful doses of Latin and Eastern European flavor. Guests include Brian Kotzur (Silver Jews), Tom Hagerman (DeVotchKa) and Neko Case. This may be Eric Bachmann and his shifting brood’s best yet. Unfortunately I can’t bring myself to include the cover art (hey, we’re kid friendly ’round here)
The Crooked Fingers released this one all by their lonesome. Buy it here: http://www.crookedfingers.com/
#3 Firewater – The Golden Hour (Bloodshot)
Original review here. Tod A can still bring it after 10+ years out of Cop Shoot Cop. A brilliant travelogue about Tod’s 3 year sojourn through India, Pakistan, Israel & Turkey, bringing a solid rock foundation to showcase music from halfway around the world.
Leeds me to believe Tod’s happier living out of a suitcase…
Original review here. Finally a magical night of Cuban music sees the light of day. Music that was a revelation in 1998 on the studio record is nothing short of incendiary in this live setting. The sheer joy and exuberance of these incredible musicians, many playing the US for the first time, pours out of the speakers.
#5 Paul Weller – 22 Dreams (Yep Roc)
The Modfather takes a bold, audacious step outside the comfort zone that dulled his last couple of albums and succeeds in spades. Solo record #9 is his most varied yet, touching on Brit folk, blue eyed soul, jazz, crunching rock, driving psychedelia, Middle Earstern grooves and piano ballads. So inspiring to see an artist still able challenge himself after 30+ years. Guests include Robert Wyatt, Noel Gallagher, Graham Coxon (on drums, only Weller could bring together the Hatfield & McCoy of Brit rock), Gem Archer and Ocean Colour Scene’s Steve Cradock is all over this (he also gets a production credit).
#6 The Last Shadow Puppets – The Age Of The Understatement (Domino)
Review of “Standing Next to Me” single here. A collaboration between Arctic Monkeys frontman Alex Turner and Miles Kane (Little Flames, Rascals). It’s early Bowie’s 60’s symphonic-pop meets Love meets The Yardbirds with Enio Morricone and John Barry flourishes. Delicious.
#7 The Dodos – Visiter (FrenchKiss)
One of my favorite local bands I haven’t seen live yet. ‘Course I don’t get out much… Their second album is smile inducing from start to finish. Another guitar-drums duo (I was hoping bands without bass players was a passing fad) fills so much space with so little. Here’s a couple tracks from Visiter live from The Doug Fir Lounge, Portland recorded in October of last year:
And my fave tune from Visiter: Fools
Original review here. If Nonesuch hadn’t reissued their first collaboration My LIfe In The Bush Of Ghosts this new record may never have happened. Getting back in touch for the reissue, Eno mentioned he had a large cache of tracks and Byrnne offered to compose lyrics. Sheer beauty ensued.
Available only on their website it here.
#9 Foals – Antidotes (Trasgressive)
This post-new wave Oxford, UK 5 piece sounds like Gang Of Four for a post Arctic Monkeys world. So catchy, so much fun. Here’s a live version of one of my favorite tracks of their full length debut:
One of the best shows I saw all year. Jack White is a straight up rock star, Brendon Benson is an underrated genius, great songwriting, driving guitars, killer hooks, what’s not to like?.
When they played “Carolina Drama” at Slim’s White stepped to the front of the stage to deliver the last couple of versus without the aid of amplification. You could have heard a pin drop as his voice reached every corner of that room. Gave me the chicken skin…
And the best of the rest, hopefully to be fleshed out in the near future:
#11 Alejandro Escovedo – Real Animal (Back Porch)
#12 The Botticellis – Old Home Movies (Antenna Farm)
#13 Los Campesinos – Hold On Now, Youngster (Arts & Crafts)
#14 Drive-By Truckers – Brighter Than Creation’s Dark (New West)
#15 Antony and the Johnsons – Another World (Secretly Canadian)
#16 The Zydepunks – Finisterre (Nine Mile)
#17 Jesca Hoop – Kismet (Columbia)
#18 Aimee Mann – @#%&*! Smilers (Super Ego)
#19 Calexico – Carried to Dust (Quarterstick)
#20 Lucinda Williams – Little Honey (Lost Highway)