Happy New Year.
Instead of the usual "Best Of" list, I've decided to do something different this year. And it's mostly because I didn't buy that many albums this year (a total of 14). Last year, I was DJing for most of the year, so I had a steady stream of new musics, but now that I have to buy everything, I certainly haven't heard as much. And I was out of the country for 1/3 of the year, so I haven't been as in-touch with new music coming out in the US and A, nor have I been listening to radio as much. Only 2 releases that I've bought this year have been by groups that I don't own any other releases by; I've mostly bought new stuff from my favorite artists. So I'm just going to recap the releases I've enjoyed this year. The document turned out to be a lot longer than I expected, so it will be published in four parts, roughly by genre. And then there will be a post about the albums I've missed this year. This first post covers "indie rock:"
I've already written a bit about Bitte Orca by the Dirty Projectors, but my opinion of it has changed a lot since the first few listens. It's a dense, bizarre collection of proggy pop songs, each with an identity different from the others. It reminds me of Talking Heads in a lot of ways -- the integration of various genres into a Western pop sensibility, the idiosyncratic vocals of Dave Longstreth, and the prickly guitar playing, among other things. Despite their weirdness, these are still songs that I can't get out of my head (and that's not actually a problem). It's great when an album makes me really want to delve deeper into a band's back catalogue.
In last year's list I wrote this about Black Mountain's album In The Future: "This was a real surprise. At first, it just seemed to be a derivative, 70s rocknroll/psych retread. And it kind of is. But the songs are interesting and memorable." That's about how I feel about Lightning Dust's album Infinite Light (the band features two members of Black Mountain), though the genre here is more like retro folkpop. The songs are really well executed and the performers just have qualities that I find interesting -- the vocalist has I voice that I love. It's not original or mind-blowing, but Infinite Light is so darn enjoyable and pleasant. It covers various different moods and is suitable for various occasions. The songs are simple and catchy, but also honest and heartfelt. I can't get them out of my head, but I don't really want to.
Mission Of Burma is one of my favorite bands. I can't think of a MOB song that I don't at least like. The new album, The Sound, The Speed, The Light, is no exception. It really doesn't stray from the tried-and-true Burma style. It plays well as an album, but the sequencing doesn't add much to the experience. The songs are just, good songs, that happen to have enough similarity that you might group them together. I think production-wise, it hems closer to OnOffOn and even Vs., being that it has more of a gritty edge and chunky bass sound (The Obliterati sounded much cleaner, thinner, and polished). I can't really fault Burma for writing good songs, but I'm a little disappointed because they haven't branched out much. SSL does have a more classic rock (i.e. - the Who, the Rolling Stones, etc.) type of vibe to it, which is a little different from older albums, but not significantly. In a way, though, this is what I expected from the band. Where else can they go? And should they tamper around with their basically perfect formula? Would that still be Mission Of Burma? Tough questions. I'm interested to see where the band will go from here, if they stay together, or just regroup again in another decade or so.