1. Black Lips – Arabia Mountain – My excitement for this album grew steadily once the news came out that they were working on one in early 2010. The original release date set for “when school gets back in” was pushed back once Ronson joined as co-producer. As we all know by now, the band had a delightful time working with him. So it’s no coincidence that Arabia is filled with some of the catchiest songs I’ve heard in a while. The sound production is not as muddy and psychedelic as the band’s previous effort 200 Million Thousand; instead, it’s clean and clear. The songs themselves cross the kind of rock and roll terrain that the Lips have always found themselves in, including but not limited to: clangy, jangly, country, punk. This stuff is addicting (for people with an ear for it like me) and tough to remove from the record player. I guess that’s a quality that the best album of the year should possess.
2. Ty Segall – Goodbye Bread – This is another one that I was counting the days until release. Ty’s last record Melted received an ‘honorable mention’ in my Best of 2010, but would have comfortably cracked the Top 5 if I redid my list a few months later. Goodbye Bread was a quintessential summer listen and still holds the test of time as this part of the country is freezing over. The thing that Ty does so well (and has always done so well) is arranging his songs. There’s optimal fuzz, hard-pounding drums, and a lingering bass line in nearly every song at some point and a lot of it is unexpected and fresh. I love the opening of “You Make the Sun Fry,” and the ever so crunchy chorus in “My Head Explodes,” in particular. Goodbye Bread affirms Ty’s status as one of the most talented song writers in modern rock and roll. At the least, it goes to show that noisy relatively straight-forward garage isn’t all the dude is about.
3. Atlas Sound – Parallax – Last year (as I just said above) I made the folly of overlooking some records. Another one of them was Halcyon Digest. Sure, it was among my Top 10, but I didn’t really appreciate as much in 2010 as I should have. With Parallax, I gave it several listens before reviewing it and over the course of listening the real beauty of it really came out. It’s mainly a light affair with several streaks of brilliance that some could dub ‘experimental’ or ‘odd’, but to me is just as pop as anything typically labeled that. Bradford knows catchy better than most. The by product of this is a mass of songs that are inspirational and healing.
4. The Beets – Let The Poison Out – The Beets are one of those bands that I regret not getting more into earlier on in my KLYAM career. After seeing them open for No Age at Wellesley College back in April 2009, I failed to do significant follow up research. Well, now I’d say I’m fairly well versed on the Beets; all the credit to them for infectious releases and superb live performances. Let The Poison Out works so well because it’s just so hard to not be hooked on the Beets raw rock, pop, n’ roll . It makes me want to start pounding on some drums while blasting it loudly. “Doing As I Do” and “I Think I Might Have Built A Horse” are sing-alongs like none other.
5. Mikal Cronin – Mikal Cronin – You can tell this guy has spent some quality time hanging around Ty Segall. Not to say he hasn’t spent quality time with other musicians. The Moonhearts are nice. Well anyway, this album really captivated me as it fits in perfectly on a scale of Ty and Thee Oh Sees. Like those folks’ records, Mikal Cronin is quite instantaneously hooky (with like two exceptions, but those are still real good). Picking favorites is a challenge. I love “Situation” a great deal, because right from the get-go it is extremely fun. The San Fran rock ‘n roll region had quite a 2011.
Shannon and the Clams – Sleep Talk The Orwells – Remember When Thee Oh Sees – Castlemania Girls – Father, Son, Holy Ghost Natural Child – 1971 Mark Sultan – Whatever I Want The Hussy – Cement Tomb Mind Control Davila 666 – Tan Bajo
1. “The Shakes”- A 2. “Amplifiers” – A
3. “Te Amo” – A 4. “Parallax” – A 5. “Modern Aquatic Nights” – A
6. “Mona Lisa” – A++ 7. “Praying Man” – A
8. “Doldrums” –A
9. “Angel Is Broken” – A+
10. “Terra Incognita” – A
11. “Flagstaff” – A- 12. “Lightworks” – A++
Comments: Bradford Cox shall go down in the musical history books as not only a top shelf musician, but as a trusted source of inspiration, musically and not. When I listen to Bradford (as Atlas Sound, as Deerhunter, as Ghetto Cross), I often can’t quite get a grip on what he is conveying, but I know it’s surely meaningful to him. His music creates distinct settings that bring back childhood memories and perhaps other fictitious and dream-like settings. This is particularly true for Parallax, which to date might by the man’s most grandiose work. There’s simplicity in the guise of complexity. Wait, well let me explain. Every song is layered with instrumentation that you might not realize upon first or twentieth listen. This isn’t too important. What’s important is that Parallax is affectionate. It’s not as heavy or ambient as some of Bradford’s earlier work. It’s right there in the middle. The tracks that really stand out to me on Parallax slant towards heavy. These are some of the finest songs that I’ve heard in the past couple of years. “Walkabout” from Logos was my favorite song of 2009. Naturally, I’m interested in finding an Atlas Sound successor to that sort of brilliance. I’ve found multiple successors on Parallax. The first is “Mona Lisa,” which was previously recorded as part of the Bedroom Databank. The version on this record features Andrew Vanwyngarden of MGMT (piano/vocals). There’s such a cozy vibe to this song. Perfect for autumn. A glass of bourbon and walk through Boston Common/Central Park/equivalent to your area. Next is “Angel Is Broken,” which sounds a bit like The Best of Bradford, if there was such a thing. I am particularly fond of the transitions from the verses to the chorus, the “aahhhh-ahhhhh” and the line “you’ll be a lot like…me!” The final song that I’m going to discuss is the final song. This is “Nightworks”. I love the clangy guitar and the Left-Right percussion. The harmonica. The bass line. The build-up to the finale. The song is way affirming and exudes positiveness. “Everywhere I look there is a light and it will guide the way.” The other nine songs that I’ve neglected to mention each have outstanding attributes and will surely have you coming back for more. I’ve listened to this album several times in the past two days and I’m sure I’ll keep going at a similar pace. Parallax will be remembered as one of the most engaging albums of this year, decade, and whatever else.
When Lotus Plaza came out I was like a mom or something. Keeping up. The way that it went from anticipation anticipation anticipation anticipation…it’s such a sexual thing. You know what I mean it’s like they really wanted to see him with his clothes off. The album leaks like a fucking homemade sex video or something. Once the real album comes out it’s almost like yeah, I fucked her. I fucked him. I fucked that person already. When they first start getting it on they’re like “oh my God Atlas Sound is shit compared to this! Deerhunter is shit! Lotus Plaza is Deerhunter! Lotus Plaza is the essential essence of good music! Lotus Plaza is the transcendental…” The first two weeks it’s always the same. Then a week later they’re is a backlash. I’m tired of hearing about how good this is. The album isn’t even out yet! Think about In Utero: it took a year of 92/93/94 for that cycle to fully happen. There was an important day like Election Day. There’s not that anymore. People have destroyed a format of art. I have too. I’m not being Mr. Highhorse. I’m sorry for the tirade.”
Cool bands (in alphabetical order?) that I discovered for the first time in 2009. Rule: they must not have been formed in 2009/must not have released their first record in 2009. Anything questionable, I didn’t include. And no doubts that I forgot some.
– Atlas Sound
– Black Moth Super Rainbow
– Bloodshot Bill
– Bobby Ubangi
– Box Elders
– Galaxie 500
– Mika Miko
– Portugal. The Man
– Thee Oh Sees