Monday, June 13, 2011

At the Halfway Mark

Hey look! It's a new blog post!! It seems like the combination of getting ready for parenthood plus working on my thesis has made blogging near impossible lately. So to make it up to you below is my list of some of my favorite records for the first half of the year. Oh, and please note, records like Tune Yards' WHOKILL , Destroyer's Kaputt , Deerhoof's Deerhoof vs. Evil are absent here only because they've been talked about extensively elsewhere. Kaputt and WHOKILL in particular have moved me more than most records this year.

First things first, as far as big disappointments this year it seems like Tyler the Creator's Goblin or Radiohead's King of Limbs would be easy candidates for tops. However it's hard to call any Radiohead record at this point in their career a disappointment as my expectations aren't that high to begin with (oh how I miss high school). With regards to Tyler, it's actually kind of a relief that Goblin proved to be a poorly conceived record as I was no longer in need of justifying his racist, misogynistic and violent lyrics anymore. "Yonkers" is still one of my favorite tracks of the year, but after that, the record is pretty bad.

Instead, I have to say my biggest disappointment is Panda Bear's Tomboy record. With records like Person Pitch and Sung Tongs (or even the tragically underrated Young Prayer) already in his back pocket, it seems like PB has hit the cruise control button a bit. It's still an enjoyable record to listen to. But with Panda Bear I expect more than just simply treading water.

Anyways, to the list!

The Luyas - Too Beautiful to Work
With her previous work in Miracle Fortress and SS Cardiacs, and now with The Luyas, Jessie Stein is quickly becoming one of my favorite Canadian songwriters. Too Beautiful to Work is a perfect indie-pop record that flirts with the cacophonous without ever fully falling apart.

Wye Oak - Civilian
See Jonathan's comments regarding this record.

Wye Oak - Fish from Merge Records on Vimeo.

Fucked Up - David Comes to Life
It's a testament to the strength of this record that after only being released for a week, it's already made my short list for record of the year. Easily the most fun I've had with a record not named WHOKILL. Whenever I listen to "A Little Death" I'm brought back 15 years to when I was a skateboarding punk obsessed with Minor Threat and Black Flag. Nostalgia abounds!

Cass McCombs - Wits End
A whisper of an album, Wits End threatens to lull you to sleep, but constantly demands your attention with musical hooks and lyrical turns that show that McCombs is clearly at the top of his game. With PREfection, Catacombs and now Wits End, McCombs is quickly becoming one of the more consistently strong songwriters currently working.

Mark McGuire - A Young Person's Guide to Mark McGuire
Perhaps in need of a little editing, but Emeralds' Mark McGuire latest solo record provides us with a wonderful collection of songs reminiscent of some of the finer moments of the work of Brian Eno and David Byrne.

Joe McPhee and Chris Corsano - Under a Double Moon
Big ups to J-Rod for drawing my attention to this record. Outside of this record, it's really been a quiet year for jazz. Hopefully this changes soon.

Colin Stetson - New History Warfare vol. 2: Judges
2011 could be described as the year the hipster and the saxophone finally saw eye-to-eye. It seems like every great indie-pop record this year has featured a saxophone at some point. As far as really exploring the limits and possibilities the instrument holds, no one holds a light to Colin Stetson, who, with nothing more than himself, a saxophone and the occasional spoken words from Laurie Anderson and Shara Worden, has created an album so haunting, so all-consuming, that it comes close to convincing you that world is actually coming to an end. Just beautiful!

Tim Hecker - Ravedeath 1972
There have been lots of great minimalist records this year. But none seem to hold up quite as well as Hecker's Ravedeath 1972. Recorded in both Iceland and Montreal, the record does well at capturing the beauty found in the cold and isolated areas of our world.

Curren$y and Alchemist - Covert Coup

Ghostpoet - Peanut Butter Blues and Melancholy Jam

It's interesting to me that at a time where hip-hop seems to be obsessed with large and heavy handed production (ie. Big Boi, Kanye, Yelawolf etc ...), the hip-hop records I've fallen for most deeply are two that choose to go a more subtle route. Covert Coup is 'trunk muzik' at its best, recalling the likes of EPMD, while Peanut Butter Blues and Melancholy Jam (despite being the worst named record of the year) contains a beauty so unassuming that it proves to be extremely difficult to properly pin down. Wonderful stuff.

That's all for now. Now it's time to get listening.

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