Monday, August 16, 2010

Best Music of the First Half of 2010: Pt. II

OK, the next category does not count as "Best Music", because these are some...

Albums That Failed to Meet My Expectations

Laura Marling - I Speak Because I Can: I enjoyed Marling's 2008 debut, Alas I Cannot Swim, immensely. Her follow-up is OK, but not great by any means.

Hot Chip - One Life Stand: An underwhelming effort from a usually fun band.

The Magnetic Fields - Realism: Normally I worship a
t the alter of Stephen Merritt, but this latest effort didn't do much for me. "We Are Having a Hootenanny" is sort of a fun novelty song, but for the most part I expect better from this usually peerless group of musicians.

Spoon - Transference: I heard the the phrase "best Spoon album ever" tossed around by a number of critics, but I was less than impressed. I'll
probably listen to Girls Can Tell or Kill the Moonlight 10 times each before I listen to this again.

Didn't Know Enough to Have Expectations

These are albums I've really been enjoying by either new bands or bands I'd never really listened to before. Broken Bells would have been on this list if I hadn't given them their own post yesterday...

Frightened Rabbit - The Winter of Mixed Drinks: This band's been around for a few years, but this was my introduction to them. As I explained when I wrote about We Were Promised Jet Packs last year, I guess I just like Scottish guys singing rock anthems.

Black Prairie - Feast of the Hunter's Moon: Comprised of 3/5 of The Decemberists (Chris Funk, Jenny Conlee, and, um, the bassist), and a few other Portland musicians, I expected some high quality musicianship, but I didn't really know what form it would take. If you have ever watched the defunct HBO series Deadwood and enjoyed the background music, that's pretty much Black Prairie's music to a note. It defies genre to some extent, but it's kinda old-timey and very much American.

Freelance Whales - Weathervanes: This band has been getting plenty of support from the blogosphere, and as far as I'm concerned, they're just about worthy of the hype. I've been listening to this album a lot.

Let's Wrestle - In the Court of the Wrestling Let's: I can't even remember why I bought this album, other than that it was released by Merge, who I generally trust to release great albums. I can't even really explain why I've been listening to it so much. There are plenty of dirty garage rock bands out there that are borderline ridiculous. I think that maybe since Let's Wrestle saunters across that border and revels in their own ridiculousness, I have embraced them. I'm also a sucker for choruses that fall back on "ba ba ba ba ba....":

Drive-By Truckers - Big To-Do: These guys have been around for nigh on a decade, but this is the first album of theirs I've ever heard. I can't remember exactly why I picked it up, but I'm glad I did.

Fang Island - Fang Island: This bizarre band will not be everyone's cup of tea, but I personally think this is a helluva fun album. If you're at all familiar with Ponytail, this is sort of a toned down version of them. There's less screaming, but you're still not listening to Fang Island for insightful lyrics (if a song has lyrics at all). There's just a joyfulness to the music that one doesn't hear much these days. Sadly, it's kind of rare to listen to a group and think "Hey, they sound like they're having a really good time." This band, on the other hand, is having a blast.

Charlotte Gainsbourg - IRM: I initially picked this up because I knew Beck was involved, and I've honestly enjoyed it more than any of Beck's own recent albums. The trippy video below is for my favorite song off IRM, "Heaven Can Wait", but there are plenty of other excellent tracks that make this whole album worth a listen.

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