Best albums, huh? Well, after compiling a list of almost 50 I thought worthy of at least consideration, it was pretty apparent that I had really listened to too few, and had no idea what constituted ‘best.’ A much simpler question to answer was simply which CDs saw the most action on my stereo, and which ones drained the most life out of my iPod. In an effort generally avoid additional hard decisions, I also stripped out the local acts and put them into their own category. That may be a disservice to a couple of them, as it was a strong year for Columbus bands and certainly a few would have breached my general Top 10. So here’s what I came up with- a dirty dozen plus a few honorable mentions. The best? I doubt it, but it’s what’s been keeping me busy.
1. Band of Horses, “Everything all the time”
Because I’m pretty sure I won’t be alone in this, picking Band of Horses for my number one seems almost a cop out. It’s like voting Troy Smith for the Heisman. While perhaps not undeniable, the consensus surrounding this record does hint at the quality of the songs. I find myself being drawn back to it’s sweeping highs and lows.
MP3: The Funeral
2. Built to Spill, “You In Reverse”
I’m not above admitting that part of my attachment to this particular album is based on a long love affair with Built to Spill, but I think I have enough objectivity (maybe) to suggest that even a new listener might be enthralled with the weird paring of Doug Martsch’s nasal falsetto with the three-guitar rock attack. Rather than repeat myself, you can find my more complete thoughts here.
Video: Conventional Wisdom
3. Silversun Pickups, “Carnavas”
Considering that their debut EP topped my list last year, and that this years full length is generally more of the same, I’d be remiss not put this one towards the top. While sometimes accused of reworking the 90s era grunge sound, the band is far from a retro ripoff act. While comparisons to Smashing Pumpkins abound in the press (of which there’s been a plethora), to me these songs seemed as fresh and energetic as they did familiar. More of my thoughts here.
Video: Lazy Eye
4. Heartless Bastards, “All This Time”
With all the critical acclaim being generated by The Hold Steady this year, the term “best bar band in world” is being tossed about rather casually. Yeah they’re good, but they’re also from Brooklyn- so when I’m looking for something really blue collar, I’d be happy to put the good ol’ midwestern Heartless Bastards up against just about anyone as a soundtrack to my whiskey drinking. The HBs have really nailed it on this one, with a grit and muscle that implies their rock heritage, but also a quiet intelligence and sincerity that might make one think first of Cat Power. The pace and unpretentiousness of this album very much gives it a bluesy, American river-town feel.
MP3: Into the Open
5. Sonic Youth, “Rather Ripped”
I’m sure a lot of music fans have a long history with Sonic Youth, and while I’ve got a cassette of Daydream Nation somewhere, my interest is far from fanaticism. I think that’s in some part due to my feeling that the music they’ve made has always been interesting, smart, and has the air of importance about it, it hasn’t always been that easy for me to listen to. How many times have I sat down to pay my bills or eat dinner and just simply picked something a bit more pleasant to throw in the player? Perhaps the purists will consider me a dilettante for saying so, but this record combined all that is edgy and visceral about SY with a joyfulness and pop sense that actually made me want to listen to it. Over and over, in fact.