Fiery Furnaces - EP and Rehearsing My Choir
The Fiery Furnaces this year were saviours. Moments from "Slavin Away" and "Evergreen", where Eleanor is singing about "coming home through the windshield of my car" and the line about "driving down to Cheyenne on my bike" deliver with such poignancy and motion that I couldn't help but feel inert. Not only when they specifically talk about transportation, but with the various locales (Gallowsbird's Bark's and Blueberry Boat's everywheres, EPs nowheres, Rehearsing's Chicago) create in their recitatives the kinds of places I look forward to living to get to. They make me treasure where I am, in the two-word toss-off hosannas and hallelujahs and abstractions of the everyday, but more than that, they look emphatically towards the future. They are the band that most wants me to go somewhere and do something. Me specifically.
Sufjan Stevens - Illinois
His 50 States project, in part two, gives a lot to look forward to. The backing is all kind of rudimentary, yeah, blah blah phase music isn't THAT hard to do, ANYBODY can write in 7/8, banjos? Everybody has those! But its the man that pulls everything together. The way that he (and his waifish, pretty voice) brings everything together, this whole sense of community from the duets to the group vocals to all of the 'interludes' that feel absolutely necessary in the context of the album. I get this impression that he's a great uniter. He writes these really crushing songs about 'cancer of the bone' and then goes on to rhyme alligator and aviator and emancipator in a goofy mean-nothing kids ditty and it all flows together really nicely and you miss it when it ends. It sounds so simple, but it would take anybody else five years to put together. The shortest 70 minute album I've ever heard.
Of Montreal - The Sunlandic Twins
Drum machines and two basslines at once punctuate this album which feels more internal and less band-like (I think Kevin Barnes plays every instrument on this album) but more transcendentally accessible. I feel like well-dressed angels listen to this kind of stuff in Heaven. "Let's pretend we don't exist / Let's pretend we're in Antarctica". The first song sounds like the Cars and there's a song in the middle that sounds like Bowie and the last song sounds like Queen and none of them sound like anything that came before.
Boys You Write Real Good:
The Hold Steady - Seperation Sunday
Gravel voiced Craig Finn lets us have it with all of these brilliant half-rhymes and semi-truths (ER... Jam jar... this ER is like an after-bar, etc...) and talks his way through kareoke night at the Bar At The End of the 1980s.
Art Brut - Bang Bang Rock And Roll
This was the only album this year that I felt triumphant while listening to. "The first time I saw her, I wanted to do more than just to hold her, I wanted to bend her and fold her!" the lead singer tells us. And woah! He gets to! Way to go, buddy! There's a lot of other moments where he puts us in his place (Emily Kane), and moments where he puts us in our place, and a bunch of rollicking guitar moments.
Silver Jews - Tanglewood Numbers
Again, more of the same kind of "hold on, rewind that, 'Christmas in a Submarine!' fucking brilliant!" kind of dialogue that I have with the Silver Jews. This one seemed a lot more triumphant and joyous, (Punks in the Beerlight, How Can I Love You...) Not that I really listened to it very much, or plan on listening to it, but its a really great album.
Not as Good As I Initially Thought They Were:
Lightning Bolt - Hypermagic Mountain
Deerhoof - The Runners Four
Great Albums From Next Year:
The Strokes - First Impressions of Earth
Fiery Furnaces - Bitter Tea
Destroyer - Rubies
Belle And Sebastian - The Life Pursuit