Saturday, July 18, 2009

The Halvesies - Part I

Where in the world did 2009 go? I mean I know it's only half-way gone, but it is GONE!
Maybe it hasn't been the banner year for tunes that some years have been in the past, but we still have 6 months to go. These are my favorites. There are albums looked over and forgotten, so please give me a clue on what you loved that I missed. Not to mention, there are so many albums I wanted to buy and never did (Andrew Bird, M Ward, AC Newman, Lily Allen, Bill Callahan (SMOG), Grizzly Bear, and Wilco and on and on....notice my prejudice against solo artists, bear bands and wilco, apparently....)

In No Particular Order
(except chronological)

Animal Collective - Merriweather Post Pavilion
I've spoken my piece on these weirdos. Can one look past previous sins and transgressions (Prospect Hummer with Vashti Bunyan, I'm looking at you...) to accept their crowning achievement? I guess so. Even with all the hype and backlash/sell-out talk, it's still a great record. "My Girls" is the best song of the year (arguably). "Brother Sport" and "Summertime Clothes" are tons of fun. It is one of those albums that despite your greatest desire to click FFwd on your CD player/iPOD - DON'T. This album is meant to be heard all together and straight on through. It is bizarre but beautiful.

The Pains of Being Pure at Heart - (S/T)
These Brooklyn scenesters were a breath of fresh air back in January. While fresh air, it had an air of familiarity. As I listen to this record, I always feel like I've heard it before. The album opener says it all: this band is a "Contender" for album of the year. It is the record that I has received the most repeat plays. The standout tracks are "Everything With You" and "Young Adult Friction". All the songs sound pretty similar. Their familiarity could place them in the 80's or now or even in 1994/1995 in something as lame as the Empire Records soundtrack. Regardless, you can enjoy it all no matter the year.

Black Lips - 200 Million Thousand
The Black Lips are my quintessential garage rock band. They sound like the house band/soundtrack to some obscure 60's or 70's B-movie or horror movie. Weaving the sounds of surf rock and garage into the Stones via the Troggs, the Kingsmen, the Sonics on down to the Standells. While this album does not reach the greatness of 2007's Good Bad Not Evil, it has grown into my heart. "Short Fuse" is one of their best songs bar-none and one of my favorites of the year. "Drugs" and "Let It Grow" are that B-Movie sound I was referencing. "Starting Over" and "Take My Heart" show they came to rock your sock-hop. After watching Grease last night with Whit and the Bear, I think the Black Lips are what the T-Birds would listen to if they were really as hard as they thought they were....

Yeah Yeah Yeahs - It's Blitz
A blitz indeed! This album comes out of the gate firing (and does trail off/falter towards it's conclusion). Much like the Killers debut years ago, the 1st half is good enough to make this album worth it. "Zero" starts you off with it's Miami Vice drum line harking back to the "Y Control" days of YYYs. Not letting up "Heads Will Roll" keeps it coming with a fury that almost makes you want to dance. No one wants to dance with me, so I'll dance with myself as per usual. They could only get better after the disappointing Show Your Bones years ago. "Skeletons" ironically shows their bones and softer side. With the coolest frontwoman in rock, Karen O, the YYYs just may have some staying power.

Peter Bjorn & John - Living Thing
After making one of the better pop rock albums of the year/decade in 2007, PB&J (isn't that fun to say?) were screaming for a slump. They almost did. With championing crys from the likes of Kanye West et al leading up this release, I couldn't roll my eyes enough. Then it came. Gone was the bright and shiny ideals of Writer's Block and in was the industrial scaryness of Living Thing. I was put off for sure and disappointed. I've given this album time it didn't deserve, and I now appreciate it. "It Don't Move Me" has become one of my favorite songs of the year. I can even tolerate "Nothing to Worry About" with its creepy children choir chant. In the end, this album sounds like an experimental Paul Simon album in the vein of Krautrock (or Kraftwerk). These Young Folks are bizarro but respected.

Crocodiles - Summer of Hate
These San Diegans (thank you Ron Burgundy) have been praised by some and derided by others as rip-off hacks. Some (ahem, Pitchfork) have gone as far as to pick apart every intro, verse, chorus and bridge to discuss which sound/band they were plagiarizing at that moment. Take your pick. Pick your side. I did. I like them. Pick which band you think they're ripping off. It's likely a band you've never heard. Therefore, it's new to you! (how many of you own and worship Jesus & Mary Chain - Psycho Candy? exactly!). "I Wanna Kill" is a fuzzed out song that was meant for summertime. Enjoy.

More to come tomorrow (Part II)
Here are some highlight songs from these albums today.