|In no particular order:
Elton John & Leon Russell “The Union”
Invoking the Civil War, Jimmie Rodgers and Melville (as well as an ethereal guest vocal by Neil Young) “The Union” is heavy on gravitas especially on the profound death march “There’s No Tomorrow.” It also has fun moments and there is pleasure to be had in hearing skilled craftsmen show off.
Kath Bloom “Thin Thin Line”
Kath’s music always sounds a little distant, like the microphone is far away and she is singing in some other decade. “Thin Thin Line” could just as easily have come out in 1973. It’s like a dream. “Is This Called Living” is melodic, has great, meandering backing vocals and Kath soars into falsetto like she means every sharpened note of it.
Bruce Springsteen “The Promise”
Probably the best release of the year and in the top 5 for Bruce overall. Culled from his strongest, hungriest and most ambitious period (the late 1970s) these 21 songs plow through the landscape like a juggernaut at the magic hour.
Broken Social Scene “Forgiveness Rock Record”
Spewing hooks, impenetrable lyrics and a fog of production this album is hard to get sick of and perfect if you find yourself in a fevered state wanting to tap your feet. It’s good to see a buzz band do things on their own terms and make something vividly interesting (as opposed to Spoon, The National and Arcade Fire whose albums didn’t suck, they just provided exactly what was expected of them).
Jonathan Richman “Oh Moon, Queen Of Night On Earth”
Muted, dissonant and heavy on minor chords. This is the album that Nietzsche would have made if he was around, into 50s music and the Velevet Underground and if the syphilis hadn’t swiss-cheesed his brain. Minor Richman but still leagues beyond what most people are doing (sorry Neil Young). “I Was the One She Came For” is a glorious standout.
Following the evolution of Sigur Ros “Go” comes across like some new kind of math. Swirling nonsensical loveliness never sounded so good and un-psychedelic. Makes me want to doodle on my notebook and develop a crush on someone who smells good.
Belle and Sebastian “Write About Love”
Solid, literary and playful B&S are securing their place in the respectable world of new classic rock. Its has its retched lulls (who invited Norah Jones? Seriously, who invited her?) but “I Didn’t See It Coming” makes up for it in spades. Not since Kenny Loggins’ “Danny’s Song” has someone written such a catchy song about not having money.
Wings “Band On The Run (Reissue)”
It feels a little like cheating to put this on the list but come on musicians, a 37 year old albums’ re-release is better than most digital crap being secreted by the anuses of the uninspired. The title track and “Let Me Roll It” are on par with any Beatles record.
Black Keys “Brothers”
The whole album flows together in an easy and groovy way. I like it when you can hear distinct influences filtered through a band’s sound and Black Keys are great at doing just that. I would have preferred some variation to the formula or at least a slightly different vocal sound but its effortlessness and ease are what make it a great driving record.
Grinderman “Grinderman 2”
Unhinged stray notes, degradation and lust. You can feel the grease in Caves’ hair slither its way over the album. Makes me want to grow a moustache, get a jaguar and careen in to the nearest tree. There is nothing gentle about what Cave is doing in the good night. Plus, for like 2 minutes he even managed to make the new Harry Potter movie interesting.
Bob Dylan’s new bootleg series
OMD “History of Modern”
Cockfighter “Universal Field Theory Blues”
Wolf Parade “Expo ’86”
New Pornographers’ “Together”
Upcoming releases to be excited about: The new Paul Simon album (I really like his new Christmas song which is actually quite subversive), The Strokes new album (Julien’s solo album is under-appreciated) , Benji Hughes (his “Country Love” song was easily one of the best things released this year; look it up), RTX “Rad Times Express,” (I like the new direction that they are heading in; less Def Lepard and more Primal Scream), R. Kelly’s new addition to the Trapped in the Closet series (which out wits, out hooks and out crazies Kayne West in every way) and most emphatically: Destroyer “Kaputt” which I have heard and it has managed to sear its way into my brain like salt on a snail—I still feel bubbly and wowed after the 99th listen.