The wait is over, my list is complete. It has taken a bit of time, but I am pretty happy with the way this turned out.
1. Yeah Yeah Yeahs – Show Your Bones
These guys sure do know how to rock. I remember when I first got this album; I immediately sent messages to a lot of my friends telling them that I just heard the best album of the year, by far. Several months later, I was right. From the opening drum beat on the album and Karen O’s powerful voice, you knew that the trio from New York was going to avoid the dreaded sophomore slump.
Key Tracks – Gold Lion, Cheated Hearts, Dudley, Warrior, Turn Into
2. The Decemberists – The Crane Wife
In my opinion, this was the surprise of the year for me. Not because I dislike the Decemberists, but because of how incredible the album is from start to finish. The band has gotten better with each album, but the jump from last album to the Crane Wife goes from good to great. The band also switched from a small label to major label and that is usually the kiss of death for artsy bands, but Colin Meloy and company didn’t let that get in the way from their best work to date. Oh yeah, their live show for this album was by far the best concert I have seen all year.
Key Tracks – The Crane Wife 1 & 2, The Crane Wife 3, O Valencia
3. Sonic Youth – Rather Ripped
These guys have been around forever and in my opinion, they are still getting better. I have always been a fan of Sonic Youth, but I have also found myself not being a fan of their albums as a whole. For me, it was always one good track followed by a lot of noise. Don’t get me wrong, I like noise rock, but after a while, that is what it was, just noise. Rather Ripped is an incredible piece of work for these “old” rockers. The album flows with beautiful melodies and strong rhythms throughout. Definitely one of my favorite albums and I don’t just mean for this year.
Key Tracks – Incinerate, Jams Run Free, Reena
4. The Strokes – First Impressions of Earth
The critics will bash them with every new album they put out, but I think their songwriting continues to get better with each release. Despite the awful title, the album starts off strong and finishes with a nice kick, just like every other strokes album. However, you do hear Julian Casablancas write one of those ever popular “respect me, I’m an artist” songs, “Ask Me Anything,” which is right dead in the middle of the album. Well, that song sucks, skip it. The rest of the album is the rock you are searching for.
Key Tracks – You Only Live Once, Razorblade, Electricityscape, Fear of Sleep
5. Elf Power – Back to the Web
Is Athens, GA the rock capital of the world? It might be if it continues to produce great bands and albums like this one. From the Elephant 6 collective, Elf Power strips down their normal crazy guitar rock sound and provides the world with a gentler form of the Athens Rock scene. Even with a heavier use of the acoustic guitar and violins, you still know it is an Elf Power record by the great hooks and melodies.
Key Tracks – Come Lie Down With Me (and sing my song), Peel Back the Moon, Beware!, All the World is Waiting
6. Beirut – Gulag Orkestar
The Doors had no bass, the Gypsies had no homes and Beirut had no guitars. Despite the heavy collection of string instruments on this album, there are no guitars, which is not a bad thing. A great Middle Eastern sound with a bit of a Neutral Milk Hotel feel to it and you got the latest hot album from a 19 year old from Albuquerque.
Key tracks – Postcards from Italy, Mount Wroclai (Idle Days), After the Curtain
7. South – Adventures in the Underground Journey to the Stars
Despite the awful name, this is a really good album. In fact, this is the best New Order album to be released since Republic. I still can’t find Bernard Sumner or Peter Hook in the album notes, but I’m telling you, they are there somewhere.
Key Tracks – Shallow, You are One, A Place in Displacement
8. Built to Spill – You in Reverse
The boys from Boise do it again by creating another solid rock and roll album for the masses. The songs tend to run a bit long and Doug Martsch does let his guitar run a bit wild, but this is still their best work since 97’s “Keep It Like A Secret.”
Key Tracks – Going Against Your Mind, Conventional Wisdom, The Wait
9. I’m From Barcelona – Let me Introduce My Friends
Swedish pop music at it’s best. Well, some of it’s best. This is the kind of album you put on and all of a sudden you are in a good mood. You may not make it through the whole album because too much happiness might turn you into a Panda bear or something like that, but still a nice surprise for the year.
Key Tracks – Oversleeping, Collection of Stamps, We’re from Barcelona
10. M. Ward – Post-War
Recommended by a friend and NPR, this album caught me by surprise considering how pretentious and overrated his other albums were, but this one is a solid piece of work. Great guitar playing and solid melodies over a melancholy album make this one of the year’s best.
Key Tracks – Poison Cup, To Go Home, Chinese Translation
11. Mojave 3 – Puzzles Like You
Neil Halsted and company continue to create great music, however this album is slightly different then their previous works. Normally when you come across a pop album, one of the last bands you would think of would be Mojave 3. After all, this was the reincarnate of the Reading, England shoegazing band Slowdive, not really a beach boys pop band, but this album is filled with great pop tunes. They are getting older, but the music continues to be great!
Key Tracks – Truck Driving Man, Breaking the Ice, To Hold Your Tiny Toes
12. Graham Coxon – Love Travels at Illegal Speeds
OK, this guy is becoming a really good solo artist. The former guitar player for one of my favorite bands of all time, Blur, Graham Coxon released his 6th studio solo album in May and in my opinion, this is his best work to date. Graham, do me a favor, put the solo act down and get back and tour with Blur, trust me, it will be FANTASTICAL!!
Key Tracks – Standing On My Own Again, You and I, Tell It Like It Is
13. Belle & Sebastian – The Life Pursuit
In all honesty, I want to kick my own ass for liking these Scots. So cheesy, so lame, so trendy, yet so good. The past couple of albums have gotten away from that whole sad bastard genre of music, and this one is no different. Silly lyrics with incredible hooks. I think Jack Black’s character in High Fidelity would reconsider calling this band’s music sad bastard music if he heard this album. However, I do like that sad bastard stuff.
Key Tracks – Another Sunny Day, We Are the Sleepyheads, Funny Little Frog
14. Beck – The Information
I honestly don’t need to write a lot about this album, because what needs to be said about Beck has already been said. Very original and not afraid to challenge his audience is all I have to say. Yeah, I know he is a Scientologist, but if they could all channel their ways into great music, I might not be so critical of space alien spirits being sent down from space into volcanoes, so when the volcanoes erupt, those spirits are spread across the world into all of us. Isn’t that what they believe?
Key Tracks – Strange Apparition, Nausea, No Complaints
15. Peter Bjorn and John – Writer’s Block
If I had heard this album earlier in the year, it would have been much higher on my list. I’m telling you, the Swedes got it! I don’t know what it is, but between these guys and the Barcelona band, they got it. This trio really puts together a full sound for a small group. Their songs range from straight out rock to mellow dance grooves. Think of them as a poppier version of Soundtrack of Our Lives with a hint of Of Montreal, only not as crazy.
Key Tracks – Objects of my affection, Young Folks, Up Against the Wall, Paris 2000
16. Be Your Own Pet – Be Your Own Pet
I will let the band describe themselves with a line from one of their songs, “I’m an independent mother fucker and I’m here to take your money. I’m wicked, rad and I’m here, to steal away your virginity.” Now that is tough and it is coming from a female singer. This band from Nashville is all energy and a lot of fun. Just a pure punk rock album, the way punk rock is supposed to be done.
Key Tracks – Bunk Trunk Skunk, Bicycle Bicycle You Are My Bicycle, Adventure
17. Artic Monkeys – Whatever You Say I Am, That Is What I’m Not
Stupid name for a band and a stupid name for an album, but then again, that is why we listen to the music or never judge a book by its cover. This band swarmed on to the scene with nothing but hype. Being compared to the Clash, well let me tell, the clash they are not. A good modern punk band, yes, they have accomplished that. As a good friend of mine says, “There ain’t no monkeys in the arctic,” he’s right, they are instead from South Yorkshire doing the modern punk movement a good deed by putting this album out.
Key Tracks – A Certain Romance, Dancing Shoes, I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor
18. The Flaming Lips – At War With The Mystics
“With all your power, what would you do?” That’s a great question by a band who continues to make quality experimental rock and roll with an inspirational touch. This is the weakest of the last three albums, but it is still a quality piece of work. I know, everybody can say this, but if you get a chance, listen to this album on your walkman, discman or ipod, basically through your headphones, it’s great!
Key Tracks – The Yeah Yeah Yeah Song, Free Radicals, It Over Takes Me
19. Band of Horses – Everything all of the time
One of the indie rock kids “it” albums of the year. Surprisingly, it is pretty good. Generally when I read about an album on the interweb and in magazines and they all say the same thing “amazing” I tend to go away from it. Well, the hype brought me in and it’s pretty good. Not complete, but it does have its moments.
Key Tracks – The first song, Weed Party, Funeral
20. …And You Will Know Us By The Trail of the Dead – So Divided
This is what happens when you put cocaine, guitars, black t-shirts and two drummers in a band in Austin, TX. ROCK and ROLL!!!
Key Tracks – Stand in Silence, Wasted State of Mind, So Divided