As the holiday season is coming to a close, the last throes of Christmas music are making their way over the airwaves. I heard a whimsical song yesterday called “Merry Christmas Baby, Please Don’t Die” (a joint effort by Crocodile and the Dum Dum Girls) and it put me in a great mood, something good tunes often do. So as you’re ringing in the year, I hope some of these records, and the tunes on them, jangle something in your aorta and make you excited about great world class rock. So here are ten whimsical categories, in no real order, and ten great albums that fit ’em. Ok, enough said. Let’s get started.
10. Peak Pick: Chris Herrmann’s Fav
Album: Wilco (The Album)
Why: Ok, so I haven’t talked to Chris on this one, but as the Peak’s Program director, he deserves a spotlight. He’s said to me that he wants to be remembered as the guy who brought Wilco to the Peak. And Jeff Tweedy & Co. are making it easier and easier for him to do that. They’ve come a long way since some of their rawer albums, broadening their sound and reaching a huge audience. This album’s a great step up from their last Sky, Blue Sky – and definitely one to check out from this year.
Starter Tracks: “You Never Know”, “One Wing” and “Wilco (The Song)”
9. Best Sound
Album: The Satanic Satanist
Band: Portugal. The Man
Why: The first track on the album, “People Say”, has got everything you could want from a solid rock song – a great hook, tight guitar, organ, and it only gets better from there. “Work All Day” sinks into a subterranean world of soul. And later on, “Do You” almost outshines the rest of the album with it’s burning intensity. The drum and guitar tracks and the vocals and well, pretty much everything sounds great on this album.
Starter Tracks: “Work All Day”, “Do You” and “The Sun”
8. Greatest Expectations
Album: Them Crooked Vultures
Band: Them Crooked Vultures
Why: With great names comes great responsibility. And few names hold star power like John Paul Jones, Dave Grohl, and Josh Homme do. That being said almost everyone who was waiting for the release of this record held almost impossibly high hopes. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a great record, but people were going to be disappointed if it fell anywhere short of Led Zeppelin II or Nevermind. But a sick record nonetheless, that finds a great rock ‘n’ roll groove and holds it’s own from start to finish.
Starter Tracks: Three great songs in a row: “Elephants”, “Scumbag Blues” and “Bandoliers”
Album: I Think We’re Gonna Need A Bigger Boat
Band: The Brighton Port Authority (The BPA)
Why: Yes. You, me and everyone knows that “funnest” is not a word (and OK, “You, everyone and I”). But there’s not a better way to describe this Fatboy Slim project. With each song on the album featuring a different artist, this record is fun times from start to finish. Sure some of the songs may not be “good” (see psych pop singer Connan Mockasin’s track “Jumps the Fence” – mostly because he sings the same seven words for a whole minute) but all are poppy and catchy and most importantly fun to listen to.
Starter Tracks: “He’s Frank” (feat. Iggy Pop), “Toe Jam” (feat. David Byrne and Dizzee Rascal) and “Seattle” (feat. Emmy the Great)
6. Smallest Size, Biggest Punch
Album: Our Living Funeral
Band: Zombie Season
Why: The resurgence of Lo-Fi + An inventive take on the Arcade Fire’s sound + zombies = the essence of awesomeness. Zombie Season is a small, nearly unheard of band (compare Zombie Season’s 14,400 views on MySpace to Coldplay’s 34 million, Aimee Mann’s 1.4 Million or even Black Taxi’s 120,000). ZS was created only last year by Ali Jafaar out of the University of Minnesota. But don’t mess with them just because they’re small. They’ve got a powerfully dark sound, and a solid two records out. Our Living Funeral is a great follow-up to their 2008 EP, “Life is Tragic”. So they’re definitely worth a listen.
Starter Tracks: “Evil Heart” off of Our Living Funeral and “Slow Out” and “Heart Attack” off of “Life is Tragic”
5. Most Over-the-Top
Album: The Resistance
Why: For most people who’ve heard this album, this one is pretty self explanatory. For those who haven’t, I think their over-the-topness can be best portrayed by a walkthrough of their song, “I Belong to You (+ Mon cœur s’ouvre à ta voix)”. So, 0:00 to 0:13 – poppy piano and sensuous crooning from Matt Bellamy. 0:14 – cue the full chorus and bell tree. 0:22 – a full showtunes-y glissando on the piano leads into the first verse. 2:08 – the song fades into an aria from the French opera, Samson and Delilah, sung in full voice by Bellamy 3:13 – the drums come back in and an orchestra joins the chorus as Bellamy’s voice spirals upwards. 4:35 – the glissando marks the return to the main song with a bouncy bass clarinet solo. Don’t say I didn’t warn you. The first time I heard that part I laughed out loud. Only Muse could pull it off, and only Muse deserves this category.
Starter Tracks: “I Belong to You (+ Mon cœur s’ouvre à ta voix)”, “Uprising” and “Exogenisis: Symphony, Pts. 1-3”
Album: THREE WAY TIE: Veckatimest, Merriweather Post Pavillion, and xx
Bands: Grizzly Bear, Animal Collective, and The xx respectively
Why: This year, Grizzly Bear and Animal Collective have dominated indie charts and minds. Stereogum ran an article back in January pre-empting Merriweather Post Pavillion as the best album of 2009, and Veckatimest has been hot on the trail ever since its May release. But the sleeper here is the London-based group, The xx, a band so cool that they don’t need to move in their music videos. Their first record, xx, placed above both other bands on Rolling Stone’s 25 Best Albums of 2009, reaching the 8th spot. Take a listen, and you’ll be drawn in by the quiet intensity held in every pause in their lyrics.
Starter Tracks: Grizzly Bear’s “Two Weeks”, Animal Collective’s “My Girls”, and The xx’s “Crystalised”
3. Most Innovative
Album: Agressively Humble
Band: Chll Pll
Why: “I’ve never experienced a man like you.” “That’s because I’m not a man I’m a [blowing noise that sounds like a rainbow]”. This is how Chll Pll (formed by Zac Nelson of Hexlove and Zach Hill of Wavves), starts off their debut album, Aggressively Humble. But there’s not a lot of humility to be found here. The album is subtitled “Ten Rips by Chll Pll”, which is certainly more accurate. The Zac(h)s tear their way through distortion, polyrhythms, and plenty of electronic effects. It’s out there for sure, but that’s no reason to not embrace a band that’s too cool even for vowels.
Starter Tracks: “Dick Moves”, “She Owns”, “Pass Out”
2. NY’s Best Backyard Album
1. Most Likely to Be Compared to a Meteor: 2009’s Record of Records
Album: Wolfgang Amadeus
Why: A few reasons. First: just months after Wolfgang Amadeus was released, a remixes album was put out. Second: artists who contributed this remix album include Animal Collective, Chairlift, and Passion Pit. Third: It is Time Magazine’s 5th best album of the year, Rolling Stone’s 3rd, and it generally placed between 10 and 1 on other charts, usually on the 1 side of the spectrum. Now, I’m not a huge phoenix fan (disclosure: on their track, “1901” I thought the hook was “balling” instead of “falling” but it makes much more sense now) but I can appreciate catchy music when I hear it. And they’re the first French band to click over here in a long time. So when I watch ticket prices for their sold-out shows rising steadily, I can tell you that next year is only going to be better and bigger for this band.
Starter Tracks: “1901”, “Lisztomania” and “Love Like a Sunset Pts. 1 & 2”
So that just about wraps up this decade. As always, check back here for news about bands, records and of course, the station bringing you World Class Rock, 107.1 The Peak. Have a safe and happy new year.
PEAK KEYWORD: 2010