What sort of music have I been enjoying the most this year? Which albums spent the most time in my stereo over the past twelve months? Why, I’m glad you asked! Let’s do this thing. Sorry, Brian and Heywood, it’s been a pretty metal-free year.
• Morphine, At Your Service
My joy at discovering a new double-album of unreleased tracks, alternate takes, and live recordings compiled by the surviving members of Morphine is the only thing that prevented me from being mad at the entire world for failing to notify me that the damned thing actually came out more than a year ago. What good are you bastards, huh?
But who can be angry when there’s so much good stuff here to enjoy? Ah, Mark Sandman, you’re still missed more than you could possibly have known.
• Nobody, One for All Without Hesitation
Nobody, a.k.a. Elvin Estela, is simply sui generis. Is he electronica? Alternative? Does it really matter? On the negative side, he discovered Auto-Tune for this record. On the positive side, he released it as a double album, one disc being instrumental versions, so I guess that balances things out. It’s not my favorite of his work, but it’s still better than so much else.
Favorite songs: Hip$ters, Face to the Sun, Coming Down (but since none of those are on YouTube, let me link to some of his older stuff: After the Summer Hits, Electro-Acoustic, Siesta con Susana, Spin the Bright Sun Rose, Ignite, All the Shallow Deep. After all, I listened to them obsessively too.)
• Against Me!, White Crosses
Angrier and more substantial than most punk/pop bands you’ll hear on the radio (even their name is pissed off and yelling). Tom Gabel writes some of the most unwieldy and overly-wordy lines I’ve ever heard, but when the songs are so infectiously catchy, it’s easy to forgive.
• The Chemical Brothers, Further
The Brothers gonna work it out, indeed. What can I say? I love pretty much everything they do.
• Scissor Sisters, Night Work
My earliest musical memory is being entranced by Elton John’s falsetto vocals at the end of “Bennie and the Jets.” And I was inundated with the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack when I was but a wee tyke. So bite me, I can’t help but love a campy, disco-y sounding band who were obviously influenced by both Elton and the Bee Gees. Again, not my favorite of theirs overall, but still fun to shake your booty to.
• LCD Soundsystem, This Is Happening
Alternative rock with an electronica beat.
• Danger Mouse & Sparklehorse, Dark Night of the Soul
Another dead musician named Mark that I miss tremendously, but at least Linkous’ suicide in March was offset a little by the long-delayed release of his collaboration with Danger Mouse. Haunting (and haunted) music.
• Broken Bells, Broken Bells
I never was interested in the Shins, but apparently Danger Mouse makes everything better, as this collaboration with James Mercer demonstrates.
• School of Seven Bells, Disconnect from Desire
My Bloody Valentine-style shoegaze combined with perhaps Ladytron-style electronica. Ethereal.
• Best New (To Me) Band of the Year: Alabama 3
Again, how is it that you all let me go the last decade and a half without hearing the first thing about this band? Yes, if I had watched The Sopranos, I would have heard their song “Woke Up This Morning” being used as the theme, but I didn’t, so the onus was once again on you to keep me informed, and once again, you let me down. I won’t stand for much more of this! What other secrets are you keeping from me, huh?
Anyway, who would have thought that country-blues-gospel-acid house would work well together? It’s as if My Life With The Thrill Kill Kult was composed of a bunch of Brits pretending to be from the Deep South. Awesomely bizarre.
Favorite songs: Hypo Full of Love, Sad-Eyed Lady of the Low Life, Mao-Tse Tung Said, Monday Don’t Mean Anything, Holy Blood
• Biggest Disappointment of the Year: Blond Redhead, Penny Sparkle
Damn. After loving 23 with all my heart, this sure did fall flat. Zzzzzzzzzz.