Monday, August 30, 2010

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

Albums That Surpassed My Expecations

Admittedly, many of the albums below fell into this category because I had pretty low expectations for them. Nevertheless, these are all pretty high quality and I would recommend any of them.

Clem Snide - The Meat of Life: Clem Snide's last album, Hungry Bird, was a huge let-down for me. But Eef Barzelay followed up with an album I can totally get behind. It may not be as high quality as some of the earlier Clem Snide albums, but the wry humor is still there in tracks like "Walmart Parking Lot"; and the heartbreak is there in tracks like "Denver". Barzelay also tends to name drop other musicians in his songs, and there's a nice nod to Sufjan Stevens (or at least his fans) in "I Got High."

Tunng - ...And Then We Saw Land: Tunng is, in my opinion, and incredibly underrated band. At least in this country...I don't know if they're any more popular in their native UK. I got this album hoping it would be as good as their last effort, Broken Arrows. It's a very different album, but I like it as much, if not more. The opening single, "Hustle", is the song that got me hooked:

Tunng - Hustle from Thrill Jockey Records on Vimeo.

The Bouncing Souls - Ghosts on the Boardwalk: A number of things surprise me about The Bouncing Souls. First and foremost, the fact that they're still around and making new albums. These guys have been kicking around for a good 12 years or so. Their albums may have matured somewhat, but unlike some of their peers (lookin' at Green Day here), they don't aspire to anything too fancy. They just want to make fun music. They also often have a song on each album that borders on novelty, and "Badass" easily fits that bill. It's basically the band reeling off one "badass" thing after another for a few minutes, and it is awesome.

The Black Keys - Brothers : Simply put, the best Black Keys album in ages. I've felt like they were on a bit of a downward spiral the last few years, but this is an amazingly accessible album, but it somehow it still sounds like The Black Keys. I'd be very surprise if this one didn't end up in my top 10 of the year.

The Black Keys "Tighten Up"

The Black Keys | MySpace Music Videos

Black Francis-Nonstoperotik: I don't really care what Charles Thompson wants to call himself these days, but starting with last year's Grand Duchy (a collaboration with his wife), he seems to be in an upward spiral. After several years of stuff that was barely passable, one of my favorite musicians is finally making good albums again.

Ted Leo & The Pharmacists - Brutalist Bricks: I have no idea how these guys started an album with an opener as explosive and energetic as "The Mighty Sparrow" and follow it up with a bunch of songs that are equally as good. Brutalist Bricks is, hands down, my new favorite Ted Leo album.

Vampire Weekend - Contra: I was pretty much convinced that lightning would not strike twice for this band. Their self-titled debut was unfollowuppable, or so I thought. But I'm still playing this album, which came out the second week of the year, on a fairly regular basis, and still finding new things to like about it. Never has a sophomore slump been so utterly and completely avoided.

Cornershop - Judy Sucks A Lemon for Breakfast: It has been 8 years since Cornershop's Handcream for a Generation came out, and I was utterly convinced I would never see another album from Tjinder Singh's band again. And even when I found that they were releasing a new album, I was skeptical. Eight years is a long time...if and when bands come back from a break that long, they...well, they often kind of suck. Cornershop came back with not only a strong album, but one of my favorite albums of the year. Some songs are political, some are nonsensical. There are multiple styles of music, from straight up anthemic rock, to a little calypso, to gospel, to bizarre mixes of many other genres. There are quite a few albums I like this year so far...some that I like a lot. This may be the only one so far that I really love.

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