A list of my top 20 albums of the past year. Feel free to share your list or criticize mine.
20. Male Bonding – Nothing Hurts
Sometimes less is more, and that is exactly what works on this album. This three-piece from London writes short catchy rock tunes, in fact the album is under 30 min and has 13 songs on it. They don’t mess around here; they just get down to business and make some quality rock and roll tunes.
Personal Favorites: Year’s Not Long, All Things This Way & Weird Feelings
19. Morning Benders – Big Echo
Do you like the Beatles, the beach boys, the shins & pavement? Well, so do these guys. You can hear elements of all of those bands in these songs. A very good collection of music here that varies from traditional pop songs like “Cold War” to a song that might as well have been written with Brian Wilson like “Excuses.”
Personal Favorites: Excuses, Promises, Cold War & Stitches
18. Land of Talk – Cloak and Cipher
Another addition to the long growing list of female rockers to come out of Canada. It seems like that country keeps spitting out quality music, especially from female songwriters. In America, we get Jewel and Miley Cyrus, while our neighbors from the north give us Elizabeth Powell, Feist, Emily Haines & Amy Milan. This is an album that can be passed along to everyone. It is filled with pretty songs for the ladies to rock songs for the guys, so everybody line up and take a listen.
Personal Favorites: Cloak and Cipher, Quarry Hymns, Swift Coin & Hamburg, Noon
17. Apples in Stereo – Travellers in Space and Time
Here’s another band that just can’t get enough of those Brian Wilson types of tunes. However, over the years they have moved towards a dancier version of those pop songs by including more synths, pitch shifters and effects, but regardless of how they have done it, this band still continues to construct great music. Now this new music may sound a little more Bee Gees than Beach Boys, but either way they are still great tunes.
Personal Favorites: Dream About the Future, Dance Floor & No Vacation
16. Frightened Rabbit – The Winter of Mixed Drinks
This album is not about bartending in the snow; instead it is about heartbreak and wow, what heartbreak it sounds like. Whoever did this guy wrong must have been an awful person, but I can’t be too mad at them because they have helped this band write some great tunes. Think of these guys like a darker version of Travis and just like Travis, they are Scottish.
Personal Favorites: Things, The Wrestle, Skip the Youth & Nothing Like You
15. Dr. Dog – Shame Shame
Philadelphia, you must be very happy right now. You have one of the best pitching staffs ever assembled and you have this band that never seems to disappoint. Another band that loves their harmonies and catchy hooks, Dr. Dog really show how tight they are as a band on this disc and when they perform live.
Personal Favorites: Stranger, Shadow People, Where’d All The Time Go & Later
14. Titus Andronicus – The Monitor
Straightforward rock and roll from New Jersey that was influenced by the Boss, the Replacements and the Pixies. How could you go wrong?
Personal Favorites: A More Perfect Union, Titus Andronicus Forever & Four Score and Seven
13. Wolf Parade – Expo 86
Maybe it’s just me, but these Canadians always seem to put out quality music. A combination of punk rock and synthesizers, they constantly rank up there with their with my favorite albums of the year each time they release new music. Sadly, it looks like they are on hiatus now, so this may be the last album we here from this group.
Personal Favorites: Cloud Shadow on the Mountain, What Did My Lover Say?, Yulia & Cave-O-Sapien
12. Kanye West – My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy
OK, we all know that this guy is an egomaniac and is usually off his rocker on how the world works sometime, but when he wants to, he can make some amazing music. Never a huge fan of his actual rhymes, the music behind the lyrics is incredible. Complex and layered beats with quality samples make this the best Kanye album since his first.
Personal Favorites: Dark Fantasy, Gorgeous, Power, Monster, Hell of a Life & All of the Lights
11. Girl Talk – All Day
You either like it or you don’t. It’s a mash up album that is done very well. From the first track you hear Black Sabbath mashed up with Ludicris then it goes into Jane’s Addiction, pretty awesome. What I really like about this album over his others is that it sounds like he has done less altering with the songs to make them go together. I never thought that General Public and Jay-Z would go so well together.
Personal Favorites – Oh No, Let It Out, This is the Remix & Triple Double
10. Surfer Blood – Astro Coast
One of my favorite finds of the year, which is a surprise considering these guys are from Florida, a state that is not really known for anything other than the sound machine. To me it sounds like these guys really like the Shins and Beulah, which I think is a great thing. A short album, but it is packed with some great catchy tunes, most of which all have a different sound to them. I am sure a lot of fans of Vampire Weekend will like these guys, but I think this band shows more promise because of their ability to create different types of sounds and songs.
Personal Favorites: Floating Vibes, Swim, Take it Easy, Twin Peaks & Fast Jabroni
9. Beach House – Teen Dream
Don’t be fooled by the name of the band or the album, this is some very dark music, but with incredible melodies and harmonies. Too me, it is dark and beautiful. Very pretty songs about dark topics with extremely eclectic sounds. If you are into the Magnetic Fields, Mazzy Star, Blonde Redhead or even Ride, I think you will like this album.
Personal Favorites: Zebra, Silver Soul, Walk in the Park, Used to Be & 10 Mile Stereo
8. The National – High Violet
Another dark and dreary band that makes pretty music, but comes with one major difference than number 9, they can rock when they have too. This album is good, but not as good as their last album. Heavily produced, like their other albums, it will be the perfect gift for the sad bastard music lover in your life. It is also the perfect gift for anyone who likes quality music because that is what this band continues to write. Very layered and dark, this will be a favorite for anyone who liked their previous albums.
Personal Favorites: Terrible Love, Afraid of Everyone, Bloodbuzz Ohio & Lemonworld
7. The Dead Weather – Sea of Cowards
Four words to describe this album: ROCK AND FUCKING ROLL!!!!!! I never drank the Jack White Kool-Aid, but I think he got it right on this album, especially with the guitars because they sound so tough. From the opening riff on the first song, you know you are either going to like this album or not. And if you don’t there is something wrong with you because you probably hate America.
Personal Favorites: Blue Blood Blues, The Difference Between Us, I’m Mad & Die by the Drop
6. The New Pornographers – Together
Another Canadian band has made this list and for good reason, these guys continue to produce great tunes. Fronted by great songwriters like Nico Case and AC Newman, this album sounds more like their Twin Cinema days than the Challengers album, which I think is a good thing. Covered with well-constructed songs with catchy hooks, this album is a must have for anyone who says they like music.
Personal Favorites: Crash Years, Your Hands, Sweet Talk, Sweet Talk, Up in the Dark & A Bite of my Bed
5. Broken Social Scene – Forgiveness Rock Record
I think I should actually just move to Canada, because here is another band and it is not the last on the list. The Indie-Rock Canadian Super Group, Broken Social Scene puts together another great piece of work with the help of the full band, which features Kevin Drew, Brendan Canning, Leslie Feist (Feist), Emily Haines (Metric) & Amy Milan (Stars) just to name a few of the artists. Just like their previous albums, this album is big and filled with many layers of sounds, guitars, vocals and incredible percussions. Like I said, it is big. The band is big, roughly 12 members or so, and the sound is big, but it is not overdone or excessive, which I believe is a very important piece and makes this album an incredible collection of songs.
Personal Favorites: World Sick, Texico Bitches, Forced to Love, All to All, Art House Director & Sentimental X’s
4. Black Keys – Brothers
I am not going to say much about this album with the exception that if you don’t like it, go to the doctor because there is something wrong with you. Who doesn’t like straightforward rock and roll that has been powered by the blues? I am not sure, and I think the marketers think this is true too because these guys are all over the TV. Hard to watch TV without hearing a song of theirs in an ad these days. Sellouts? Maybe the Aragon 3 nights in a row! Not bad for 2 guys from Akron. In fact, these guys might be loved more than the other hometown kid from Akron, LeBron James.
Personal Favorites: Everlasting Light, Next Girl, Tighten Up, Howlin’ For You, The Only One & Never Gonna Give You Up
3. Arcade Fire – The Suburbs
I promise, this is the last Canadian band on my list this year, I swear. I am not sure what I could say about this band that has not already been said. They are good. This album is very good. This band is exceptional live. There, you have it. Just get it if you don’t have it already. I think what makes this album incredible is how well it goes together. Some albums you can pick tracks up here and there, but that doesn’t do this album justice. You need to listen to it from beginning to end. Not because the singles don’t stand out on their own, but just because the album goes so well together and you would not be doing yourself any favors to skip around on this one.
Personal Favorites: All of them, but if you had time to only listen to a couple – The Suburbs, Ready to Start, Modern Man, We Used to Wait & Sprawl II
2. LCD Soundsystem – This is Happening
It's a shame that I didn't have the chance to see this band when they were here this past year, because I really believe they got it right on this album. Their previous efforts were good, but not great and boys and girls, this album is great. Filled with pop, dance and electronic songs, you will find it very difficult to turn it off once you hit play. Like I said, it is a shame, I missed it live because I heard it was amazing.
Personal Favorites: Dance Yrself Clean, Drunk Girls, All I Want, You Wanted a Hit, Pow Pow & Home
1. Gorillaz – Plastic Beach
Damon Albarn is a genius. The founder of Blur has done it again with by far his best effort with this animated band. And to top off writing an amazing record, he brought in ½ of the Clash to work with him on this. Yes, Paul Simonon and Mick Jones helped lay this down for him in the studio and then followed that up by going on tour as the Gorillaz. Amazing! In addition to the Clash, Damon brought in many other talented musicians to truly make this album special. Artists like De La Soul, Snoop Dogg, Mos Def, Bobby Womack, Gruff Rhys & Lou Reed appear on this album playing with the Lebanese National Orchestra and the Hypnotic Brass Ensemble. It is truly an amazing accomplishment to bring all of these styles of music together and to make one incredible album. What is interesting is that Gorillaz started off as a spoof on manufactured bands and has now moved on to something completely different to become a great concept for a musical group. Like I said, Damon Albarn is a genius.
Personal Favorites: Welcome to the World of the Plastic Beach, White Flag, Rhinestone Eyes, Superfast Jellyfish, Empire Ants, Some Kind of Nature, On Melancholy Hill & Sweepstakes.