Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The January Five


Alright, so clearly I've been neglecting things here....not for lack of actual random ramblings, but more out of sheer laziness and a bad case of being a bit scatterbrained. As in "I forgot to pay my rent because it didn't occur to me that a new month had started"-level-of-scatterbrain. I've got a lot of catching up to do around here. For instance, last week I DJ'ed over at River Gods on a night called "So Very Noughtie: Sounds Of A Decade." And yes, the toughest part of that night was narrowing down ten years of music into 4 hours. Which got me thinking and reflecting over the last decade's worth of music. That said, once said thoughts are collected I'll likely be posting the playlist from that DJ set as well as some picks for my personal favorites that came out of the first 10 years of this (not-so) new millennium. But that's later...for now, my focus is different. 

I remembered putting together my Best of '09 list and how much I agonized over all the music I obsessed over in the last year. So in an effort to cut down on some unnecessary stress, I figured I'd try to come up with my five favorite releases of each month that way it would make coming up with my ten favorite releases at the end of the year a bit easier. How's that for forethought?! 

So here goes: The January Five

1. Beach House: Teen Dream - I won't lie. The fact that I'm this head over heels for this album is a bit of a surprise. Don't get me wrong, I liked Beach House's previous album, Devotion, but this album completely took me off guard. The Maryland duo has always had a knack for hypnotic haziness, but here they they actually live up to the "dream pop" tag by focusing on memorable songs. It helps that singer, Victoria Legrand is blessed with a voice that is downright intoxicating. "Norway" is a favorite thanks to that woozy keyboard sound which reminds me a little of the first time I heard My Bloody Valentine's Loveless and how I thought there was something wrong with the guitars.

2. Spoon: Transference - I won't lie, it took me a while to get on board with Spoon. Sure, I thought Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga was great, but the time I saw them live left me feeling a bit disappointed. Then late last year, I saw them play a radio sponsored show, co-headlining with Phoenix. Spoon had the unenviable task of following those dapper Frenchmen and to my utter surprise, they completely delivered the goods. Scrappy, soulful indie rock. It turns out that time I saw them a couple of years ago was an off night for them. Trasnference may lack the bells and whistles (and the horns) of Ga... but it still has plenty of that character that makes this required listening for any Spoon fan.

3. Four Tet: There Is Love In You - Yet another surprise here. Just when I thought I had outgrown my fascination with blippy laptop electronic music something like this comes out. Four Tet (a.k.a. Kieran Hebden) manages to breathe some actual human life into IDM. And that's what makes this album such a great listening experience. It has a pulse to it. The album's centerpiece is the 9-minute, "Love Cry" which builds with great subtlety as beats pile up on each other and morph into new beats; then at the 5-minute mark, a heavenly female vocal enters the fray cooing along beautifully just as a gurgling synth bubbles up onto the surface before disappearing, reappearing, and dissolving into itself.

4. Surfer Blood: Astrocoast  - West Palm Beach, Florida's Surfer Blood doesn't try to reinvent the wheel on their debut album. Instead, they just concentrate on making some awesomely catchy indie rock with loads of fuzz and reverb at times sounding like Weezer if they still wanted to be good or like Superchunk if they slowed down just a touch. And yes, the fact that lead single, "Swim" is packed with an "oh-oh"-filled chorus makes it an early front-runner for the best single of 2010. 

5. Los Campesinos! : Romance Is Boring - By now, everyone is fully aware that I have a soft spot for Los Campesinos! It could be because of the exclamation point. But really, it's because of the fact that three albums into their young career, they finally sound on edge. There are still hints of snarkiness, but now, their giddy shout-alongs are a little darker and a little angrier. At times, they still sound like they're on the brink of breaking into a fit of laughter, but they balance that out with moments of pure noisy freakouts. 

So there it is. What I fondly refer to as "The January Five." Til next time, when I'll either be looking back at the first decade of the '00s or compiling "The February Five." It's just so hard to tell...or is it? (I like being mysterious.)


  1. mmmm, what about top ten of the last ten????(meaning 10 yrs)

  2. I am so working on that. Narrowing down ten years to a Top 10 is just tough...really tough. :-)