Monday, November 29, 2010

The best of the year part 1

Superchunk - Majesty Shredding
I'm sure people will argue there are better albums this year (I know Kanye West would) but for me, if music is for pure visceral excitement and fun, this is my album of the year. I'm two years shy of my twenty year anniversary with Superchunk - I first heard them at a Livid festival in 1992 and went straight out and bought their albums. Our relationship has had its up's and down's but my Superchunk love is pure. Being their first album in nine years, it delivered a batch of quality tunes far beyond my wildest expectations - it is as the title suggests a record that royally shreds. This album just makes me want to pogo and play air guitar but it also plugs into that feeling of being past any semblance of youth but still wanting to dance. Proving (like Fugazi) that some of your greatest music can be written some twenty years into your career, this album is joyous, raucous and fun and far surpasses any other album I've liked this year.

Arcade Fire - The Suburbs
For a long time, High Violet was the easy winner for album of the year but the Arcade Fire made me re-think this in the past month. Both albums are slow growers that explore different areas of emotion - the National mine the abstract territory of loss and love but the Suburbs explores notions of place, space and time in a way that is simultaneously nostalgic and current. It doesn't matter if in the distant past you were a blonde haired scamp roaming the backstreets with a posse of neighbourhood kids (like myself) or a disaffected indie kid scuffing your checked vans in the 00's - this album explores the notion of belonging, home and escape. I find this album strangely haunting and affecting in ways I don't think I really understand yet but this section from the title track does my head in:

So can you understand
Why I want a daughter while I'm still young
I wanna hold her hand
And show her some beauty
Before this damage is done

The images of buildings from the 70's collapsing hit hard too - not sure why. The other thing I like is that the Suburbs works as a full album that needs to be played in its entirety rather than a bunch of songs with a few I skip. I've always liked the Arcade Fire before but never really loved them. This album makes me love them.

The National - High Violet
I've written pretty extensively why I like this album. I stopped listening to it for a few months but a recent listen made it seem even more powerful - absence makes the heart grow finder I guess. High Violet plugs into a sentiment that is instantly beguiling and affecting. It makes me want to drink wine and talk until 2am about past regrets, the present state of the nation and a future I can barely imagine. It's not for everyone but it's a dark record and a record for adults - and it's waiting for you if you're special enough to listen to it.

Deftones - Diamond Eyes
As I discussed in my last post, I am a bit of a metalhead at heart and I'm unapologetic for this. The Deftones are usually dismissed as a band that came out around the time of Limp Bizkit and are forever tarnished with the Rap-Metal tag. However, any close investigation reveals these allegations to be false. Their sound is equal parts Meshuggah and the Cure and lead singer Chino Moreno has long cited his love of PJ Harvey and Bjork which actually plays out in some of their music. They have at least one classic album to their name (White Pony) and while Diamond Eyes isn't in that league - it is a powerful and brutal record. Rising from a tragedy (their bass player was seriously injured in a car crash), this album has a singular focus that is both aggressive and cathartic. If anything, this band are the heirs to Faith No More - both bands that stretch the limits of the genre while still making you raise your devil horns skyward. If you like heavy music at all and can't appreciate this album, well, go back to listening to Nickelback because this is metal for serious music fans only.

More to come...