Arcade Fire made the best album of the year and Savages released the top debut I heard. Mikal Cronin recorded pure pop bliss, while the new Deerhunter album reminded me how lucky we are to have Bradford Cox churning out intriguing music. See the full list for the year’s top 10 albums below.
1. Arcade Fire – Reflektor. The latest from Arcade Fire is far more diverse and imaginative than the Grammy-winning album The Suburbs. Produced by James Murphy, Reflektor mixes disco, Caribbean, dub and other styles. There is more than a nod to the Clash’s Sandinista!
2. Savages – Silence Yourself. This is an aggressive debut from a U.K. female quartet that pays homage to earlier post-punk bands. Think of Siouxsie and the Banshees only tougher.
3. Mikal Cronin – MCII. Cronin makes great music, but he really over achieved on this hook-laden record. Irresistible pop from Ty Segall’s collaborator.
4. Deerhunter – Monomania. Even by Deerhunter standards, this album is pretty edgy and raw. It’s one of the more overlooked albums this year.
5. The National – Trouble Will Find Me. The latest from the National doesn’t hit you in the face. But the depth of the songs will pay off after repeated listens.
6. Bill Callahan – Dream River. Callahan more often resembles a poet than a singer, speaking through his songs in his deep, impassive voice.
7. Kurt Vile – Walkin on a Pretty Daze. As meditative as this album sounds at points, Vile lays down some serious guitar licks. An original musician with a distinctive sound, he sometimes reminds me of mid-70s Neil Young.
8. Waxahatchee – Cerulean Salt. This is a personal-sounding album from Katie Crutchfield, who performs as Waxahatchee. The songs and music are reminiscent of the very best parts of Liz Phair’s Exile in Guyville.
9. The Men – New Moon. While New Moon explores a hodgepodge of styles, the new love for country rock stands out. Maybe because the album was recorded in a cabin?
10. Thee Oh Sees – Floating Coffin. Some day, I expect Thee Oh Sees will make the No. 1 album of the year (at least on my list). Frenetic, infectious rock ‘n’ roll. Sheer enjoyment.
Rounding out the top 20:
11. Superchunk – I Hate Music. Elder indie rock statesmen make a record to keep your head nodding and feet moving. A strong offering from a band who has been going for almost a quarter century.
12. Foxygen – We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & Magic. This has to be one of the most fun albums of the year from guys who take a real tongue-in-cheek approach to ’60s and ’70s genres.
13. Cass McCombs – Big Wheel and Others. Here is an excellent collection of songs from a great singer-songwriter. If you pare it down to the very best tracks, this would be a top 10 album.
14. Polvo – Siberia. What a great comeback for these ’90s noise warriors. Essentially, they stick to the same formula but it sounds fresh today.
15. Ty Segall / Fuzz – Sleeper / Fuzz. We again see the two sides of the prolific Bay-area rocker. With its slow to mid-tempo acoustic and electric numbers, Sleeper is similar to Segall’s 2011 release Goodbye Bread, while his new band Fuzz pays tribute to stoner rock from four decades ago.
16. King Khan & the Shrines – Idle No More. If you listen to just the upbeat, soulful music, you’ve got a great dance party. Underneath, Khan wants to make a statement about the wretched world we live in after battling his personal demons.
17. Queens of the Stone Age – Like Clockwork. I really didn’t think Josh Homme had another good album in him (at least not as Queens), but Like Clockwork is a rollicking good time.
18. The Love Language – Ruby Red. Listening to the full sound of Ruby Red, you wouldn’t know the Love Language originally started as a guy making bedroom recordings. Stuart McLamb created a powerful pop album that’s also a blast.
19. Unknown Mortal Orchestra – II. The second album from Unknown Mortal Orchestra is quirky, funky and sometimes breezy like its predecessor but I like the songs better on this one.
20. Wavves – Afraid of Heights. The latest album from Nathan Williams doesn’t stray far from King of the Beach (2011). Afraid of Heights is tighter and rocks harder.
Honorable mention. Here are some other albums you should check out: Majical Cloudz, Impersonator; Swearin’, Surfing Strange; Crocodiles, Crimes of Passion; Iceage, You’re Nothing; Oneohtrix Point Never, R Plus Seven; No Age, An Object; Yo La Tengo, Fade; Fidlar, Fidlar; Suuns, Images Du Futur; and Charles Bradley, Victim of Love.
HEY THERE! All the Young punks has a new home. Read this article and others at alltheyoungpunks.com.
It’s unlikely Superchunk is ever going to record another anthem like Slack Motherfucker. Yet more than two decades after that unforgettable song, the band continues to make anthemic music that really takes off. Try not to like Me & You and Jackie Mittoo off Superchunk’s latest album, I Hate Music. The new release even sports a 75-second, mosh pit-approved number, Staying Home. Superchunk hasn’t really mellowed with age and, for that, I’m thankful. I Hate Music is honestly one of the best rock albums of the year.
Superchunk plays Saturday ahead of the Hold Steady (an unbelievable one-two punch) at the Hideout’s annual block party. The fest gets started Friday night with the Great Neko Case headlining.
The new release schedule is revving up a little early this year with some big indie artists coming out before the heavy fall schedule of albums. For me, this is a super Tuesday with releases from Superchunk, Ty Segall and No Age.
I’ll elaborate on each individual album later but I’d say the common thread is that each of these artists keep a foot in the familiar while stretching a bit. So far, I like and recommend all three. Ty Segall’s album Sleeper matches up closest with the 2011 album Goodbye Bread. No Age taps the brakes on An Object. Going strong for almost a quarter century, Superchunk’s I Hate Music actually is the most adrenaline-fueled release of the three new albums.
Other releases of note out today: Zola Jesus’ Versions and Crocodiles’ Crimes of Passion.
Superchunk releases I Hate Music next month. Hear a song from the new album below. And check out this video of frontman Mac McCaughan and Kelly Hogan covering a Jonathan Richman song atop a double-decker bus driving around Chicago. The video was produced by the A.V. Club.
It would be almost impossible for the Hideout to top last year’s headliner Wilco for its annual Block Party. That said, this year’s lineup is pretty great, too, with the Hold Steady, Superchunk, Neko Case and the Walkmen among the featured acts. The two-day event also will include Chicago soul legend Mavis Staples and the Both (a collaboration between Aimee Mann and Ted Leo). Of course what Hideout celebration would be complete without Jon Langford? He’ll be there.
Two-day tickets for the September 6-7 event are on sale now. It’s not clear who will be playing what day or the order of the acts (although it looks like Neko Case and Young the Giant are headliners). The early bird $50 special for both Friday and Saturday appears to be sold out. A two-day pass can now be bought for $60, though. Get tickets here.
UPDATE: The weak link this year appears to be Young the Giant. I’m not sure how the band got a top slot at the Hideout show but it doesn’t seem to fit in with the rest of the lineup. Otherwise, I’d say it’s still a pretty good variety of acts.
Every summer needs a playlist. I usually make mine a week or so before Memorial day and update throughout the hot months. For me, the perfect playlist is a mix of power pop, punk, rock, alt country and electronic. My top summer song may be an anthem or a dance track.
While it’s not required that the word summer actually appears in a song, album or band name to mark the season, there’s no shortage of references.
Dana Buoy beat almost everyone to the beach this year with the May release of Summer Bodies, a rollicking Caribbean music-inspired album. Dana Buoy is actually Dana Janssen of the band Akron/Family, a group that sounds nothing like Janssen’s side project. The music on Summer Bodies is bouncy and uplifting. It’s definitely feel-good music and makes a nice soundtrack or playlist for summer.
Indie rock veterans Superchunk just put out a single, This Summer, which gets closer to that anthem thing I mentioned. But mostly, it’s just a great rocker and a cool summer song.
I feel like I have to mention Summer Camp, which is following up its awesome debut from last year, Welcome to Condale, with a five-song EP out July 10. The EP is called Always. Check out the title track below.
I love the new album, Correct Behavior, from Eternal Summers, which also comes out next month.
Also, Sweden’s jj just released a free digital EP, High Summer. You can get it here.
New releases by Best Coast and Beach House also get my vote for summer albums. (And not just because they have warm-weather connotations in their names.)
Also see New Music: Best Coast, Beach House
There’s a slew of new albums out today, including notable offerings by Girls, St. Vincent and Wild Flag, a group made up of two Sleater-Kinney members and Helium’s Mary Timony. Wild Flag’s self-titled debut really rocks. Girls offers an impressive and more sonic second album, Father, Son, Holy Ghost, while Annie Clark (aka St. Vincent) also stretches on her third full release, Strange Mercy.
That Meat Puppets album, in particular, is really a standout. The Kirkwood brothers made a huge leap between the band’s debut in 1982 and the much more accessible Meat Puppets II. Up on the Sun further defined the sound of these Southwest punk legends. Up on the Sun is highly recommended.
See more videos after the jump.