Best Of 2012
Saturday, December 22, 2012
Mardenhill's Best of 2011 CD Releases
Monday, December 19, 2011
25. Dum Dum Girls – Only In Dreams
22. R.E.M. – Collapse Into Now
21. Vetiver – The Errant Charm
20. Beirut – The Rip Tide
19. Portgual. The Man – In The Mountain In The Cloud
18. The Jayhawks – Mockingbird Time
17. Florence & The Machine - Ceremonials
16. Ryan Adams – Ashes And Rain
14. The Head And The Heart – The Head And The Heart
13. Beady Eye – Different Gear Still Speeding
12. Crooked Fingers – Breaks In The Armor
11. Kasabian – Velicorapter
10. Josh Rouse And The Long Vacations – Josh Rouse And The Long Vacations
9. Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds - Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds
8. Babybird – The Pleasures Of Self Destruction
6. Buffalo Tom – Skins
5. The Civil Wars – Barton Hollow
I will start with Erika told me about this band after seeing them on CMT one day. I fell in love with their sound, the alternating vocals layered over beautiful Country and Americana. There is no Country twang, no beer drinking sing along anthems just simple and gorgeous melodies.
4. The Kills – Blood Pressure
3. J Mascis – Several Shades Of Why
2. The War On Drugs – Slave Ambient
1. Twilight Singers – Dynamite Burns
Mardenhill's Best of 2010 CD Releases
Tuesday, December 07, 2010
25. Josh Ritter – So Runs The World Away
I went back and forth between this and 3 other cds for my last spot but finally settled on Josh. It was a hard decision since I had to stop at 25 and just add the rest as honorable mentions. Anyways, Josh is back with some classic American folk rock full of pianos, strings, organs and stories. The music sways between soft piano melodies to gritty backroom jams with Josh tying it together with his interesting narratives.
24. Grinderman – Grinderman II
Nick Cave returns with a 2nd release from his side project Grinderman. On the surface, this cd sounds like a middle age crisis playing out in front of your eyes. Upon additional listening, you can see where Nick has explored his freedom from the Bad Seeds and created an environment where all social norms, decency and respect are thrown out the window. Yes its sleazy, gritty and offensive at times but it’s Nick Cave and we all know what that means.
23. Tame Impala – Innerspeaker
Another debut release made it into my best of which I found myself listening to quite frequently this past summer. Tame Impala come to us via Australia with a mix of psychedelic guitar rock with hints of the Beatles wrapped around a fuzzed out California sound. The heavy atmosphere sounds fuzzy but not amateur, which is why I was attracted to the release. While most bands may use noise and distortion to hide imperfections, Tame Impala uses it to create beautiful music.
22. Ed Harcourt – Lustre
Splendid orchestral arrangements neatly folded around a simple piano start off “Lustre”. Ed sings softly over the music gradually increasing the tempo backed up by lovely chorus of female vocals. Church organs are a staple in Ed’s world; the ability for him to incorporate elements like this into his world of music is one of his strengths. On “Lustre”, Ed embraces some darker sounds and down tempos. When paired with his voice and brilliant piano melodies, Ed writes some of his best work to date.
21. The Bluetones – A New Athens
The Bluetones exploded onto the Brit Rock scene back in 94 with their Stone Roses/Oasis style of melodic and shoegazing songs. Throughout the years the Bluetones experimented with their sound, borrowing a lot from US bands that angered some. “A New Athens” brings the Bluetones back to that early sound while keeping a sense of originality developed throughout the years.
20. Stereolab – Not Music
This release just came out about a month ago but had been written a couple years ago during the Chemical Chords sessions. The cd runs a wide path across the history of Stereolab with the early drones followed by the introduction of live horns and organic sounds. The music isn’t overly complicated to the point where it cannot be played live. It is arranged in a way that when on stage band members can recreate the sound without having to rely on programmed beats.
19. The Tallest Man On Earth – The Wild One
This was another sleeper release this year. It snuck up on me and kept me interested throughout multiple listening over the months. Stripped down and bare, the Swedish troubadour Kristian Matsson’s unique voice impressed me with his ability to pull of an Americana/Alt Country/folk record. While it was not his debut cd, it was the one that put Kristain on the US Music scene courtesy of Sirius radio.
18. Chromeo – Business Casual
ElectroDiscoHouse infused with 80’s over the top Rhythmic Soul and a dash of Hall n Oats thrown in for good measure. These contagious grooves get you shaking and dancing the nite away. The bass is fat, the beats organic dripping with sweat. This is no cold electronic release; this is the type of electronic music that convinces people its not all that bad. With the heavy borrowing this cd is one that can still sound fresh a couple years down the road. Put this one on at your next house party, you will be surprised how many people start dancing and complimenting you on your music selection.
17. Gogol Bordello – Trans Continential Hustler
Rowdy, filthy, invigorating and entertaining are just a few words that can describe Gogol Bordello. These gypsy punks grab you; rough you up, slap you around yet leave you wanting more. This record is more restrained than previous ones but this is a blessing since it provides a solid song structure that can be listened to over and over.
16. Deadstring Brothers – Sao Paulo
One of the best and underrated bands from Detroit release an amazing cd that will suck you in and take you for a ride down a dusty gravel backwoods road. Mix of Garage and Alt Country, the Deadstring Brothers incorporate the south into a burned out industrial city that loves good old rock n roll. Whiskey drenched slide guitars, female back up vocals and Hammond organs complete the sound.
15. Mumford And Sons – Sigh No More
This one took a few listens to really appreciate. Not really expecting to hear good British folk rock, Mumford And Sons surprise and succeed. The bluegrass style guitars, horns and toe tapping beats create a unique sound and something quite different than the usual British faire.
14. Jenny & Johnny – I’m Having Fun Now
Another side project of Jennifer Lewis, Jenny & Johnny feature her along with Jonathan Rice on a number of summer loving, pop songs. The infectious melodies transport you to a summer of fun, devoid of responsibility and care. Perfect California sunshine pop with duets most people could only dream of.
13. Babybird – Ex Maniac
Stephen Jones returns with a new full length under his band Babybird. Full of dry wit, cynicism, love and desperation Stephen takes you on a journey thru the human experience from a tortured soul’s perspective. Stephen balances the heaviness and whimsical nature by poking fun at the self-loathing and narcissism of some. Beautiful melodies and brit pop are interweaved thru stories only Stephen Jones can pull off.
12. Weekend – Sports
Pulling from the 90s shoegazing scene, Weekend pays homage to JAMC, Ride and My Bloody Valentine with their debut cd. Haunting vocals weave between fuzzed out distortion and blistering wall of sound. Not something you want to listen to on headphones, well unless you are a glutton for punishment, the high-pitched feedback is painful but just like JAMC necessary to set the mood.
11. Warpaint – Warpaint
Dark, hypnotic, intoxicating are just a few words to describe the debut from Warpaint. This female quartet weaves beautiful melodies throughout layers of cloudy and atmospheric rhythms that take shape when listened thru headphones. The brooding and droning guitars warm you and create a cocoon of soothing bliss. Vocals are not pronounced; they lay at the same level as the music as to keep the wall of sound strong and secure. I am still blown away that this is their debut and have only been a band for a few years. Expect great things from them in the future.
10. The Black Angels – Phosphene Dream
2010 had resurgence of psychedelic music but with a modern twist. The Black Angels hit this one out of the park with the heavy drones, fuzzed out guitars and mind stretching sounds. You swear Grace Slick is running around looking for the white rabbit when listening. The mood varies from dark to eccentric taking the listener on a massive acid trip throughout the decades.
9. Isobel Campbell & Mark Lanegan – Hawk
Surprising, this is the 1st Isobel/Mark release to make my best of list. Not that I hated the previous 2, something about them just kept them from my line up. The dusty Americana is served up with a good dose of Alt Country and genuine music not manufactured in some fancy studio by a bunch of hacks. Isobel does shine here, she takes control and doesn’t play 2nd fiddle to the project. She has really come into her own and shown the world that she understands music, history and where she sees herself. This has become more of Isobel’s vision than Mark’s and I hope they continue this unique and talented partnership.
8. James – The Night Before The Morning After
Originally released as 2 separate EPs, the latest James effort combines influences from their back catalog into a well-structured and satisfying cd. Tim Booth doesn’t disappoint, his ability to run the spectrum of styles speaks volumes to his as well as the band’s talent. Wide sweeping crescendos, soft introspective hymns and majestic arrangements are all featured and delivered with precision and grace.
7. Massive Attack – Heligoland
Along with Morcheeba, Massive Attack returned with some groundbreaking Trip Hop for all you junkies. The beats are heavy, full of dark, complex layers and peppered with bits of world music influences. Martina Topley Bird provided vocals on a number of tracks along with Tunde Adebimpe, Horace Andy, Guy Garvey and Hope Sandoval. The songs are well crafted, paying homage to reggae, drum and bass and tortured Bristol sound. Unfortunately we didn’t have a trifecta here, Tricky released a cd but it fell flat yet another disappointment from a talented individual.
6. Badly Drawn Boy - It's What I'm Thinking (Part One Photographing Snowflakes)
I haven’t been too impressed with the last couple cds but Badly Drawn Boy returned to form with this one. The soft spoken, introspective and muted sound compliments Damon Gough’s music vision. Like Beck, Damon lives and thrives in complex, atmospheric music that engages the listener without becoming boring and monotonous.
5. Fran Healy – Wreckorder
I have always been a fan of Travis and was very excited when Fran released his solo. You have some moody songs full of violins followed by some melancholy lullabies. Hidden throughout the somber atmosphere are some uplifting gems that get your toe tapping and remind you why Fran is a master at his craft. While many 1st solos tend to be thin and weak, Fran storms out of the gates with some impressive songs that will only strengthen his future endeavors.
4. Interpol – Interpol
I was very concerned I would have to decide between this and the National for number one but I was somewhat disappointed upon 1st listen. It took a few more for it to settle in when I finally understood what Interpol was going for. The heavy layers with the lack of sing a long chorus turned off many and I have to admit myself at the beginning. I see this as a progression, a transition cd into a new stage and mindset of the band. At times if feels incomplete and deficient but this was what the band wanted.
3. Morcheeba – Blood Like Lemonade
Morcheeba had stumbled the last few releases and it’s easy to figure out why. The absence of Skye Edwards was the problem, now that she is back; new life has been introduced into the band. For fans of the Trip Hop scene, you will not be disappointed. Morcheeba transports you back to the mid 90s with long, hazy beats, layered over soft and soulful voices. By far the most beautiful vox in the world of Trip Hop, Skye delivers and reminds the world why she is the queen and no one can compare.
2. Josh Rouse – El Turista
A departure from his previous work, Josh Rouse took influence from his current home in Valencia, Spain for this release. Underneath the Mediterranean vibe is the classic Americana/singer songwriter who knows how to write some of the best songs of his generation. Shades of Martin Denny set the mood with Josh following up with his best Spanish impression. Josh builds on this atmosphere with continued island influences and classical guitar tones. This is no “Nashville” or “1972” but it shows how Josh is able to take inspiration from his surroundings and incorporate them into an impressive set of songs.
1. The National – High Violet
Dark, brooding, layered intelligent indie rock from one of the best bands out there. The National excelled with “High Violet”, a beautifully written masterpiece that can be enjoyed at home or live on stage. Few bands can pull off such feats but The National did which is why I love this cd. Taking elements from “Alligator” and “Boxer” the band thread the needle and produced a magnificent thirty something soundtrack for life in current times. Some faulted the overproduction but it was necessary and well worth the wait. Matt Berninger’s vocals are strong as ever and weave in and out of the intricate layers of piano, guitar, horns and drums.
Honorable Mentions in no particular order
Goldfrapp – Headfirst
The Pernice Brothers – Goodbye Killer
Brian Jonestown Massacre – Who Shot Sgt. Pepper?
Superchunk – Majestic Shreading
Band of Horses – Infinite Arms
She & Him – Volume 2
Jack Johnson – To The Sea
Martina Topley Bird – Some Place Simple
Pete Yorn – Pete Yorn
The Sights – Most Of What Follows Is True
Good Old War – Good Old War