Best CDs for the First Quarter of 2010
1. The Editors
I didn't want to like this CD. I've been burned by a number of recent bands whose sophomore follow-ups were disappointing: The Killers, Franz Ferdinand, Coldplay, and especially Interpol. Maybe those bands just served me more of the same, or took too long to make new music, and during that time I had moved on. So, I expected, the latest by The Editors to be a dull album of guitar-based rock.
And it is. It's just what I thought... if Hamlet said, "Words words words," I would say "Songs songs songs." There is nothing unexpected here. But what great music it is! I am playing this one over and over, and each time, I am newly impressed by the hooks, the musicianship, and the joy of this CD. We'll see if it ends up on my "Best of 2010" year-end list, or if I get sick of it by then!
2. Freedy Johnston "Rain On The City"
That's "Freedy" not "Freddy". He reminds me of my beloved Richard Thompson, just a guy with a guitar who writes amazing songs. For the rest of my life, I'll always by a Richard Thompson CD when it comes out - the guy is amazingly consistent and talented. Likewise, Freedy Johnston delivers a home run every time he plays. This goes beyond singer-songwriter stuff. It *rocks*. There are other guys-with-guitars who can be counted on to bring the songcraft: Todd Snider, Colin Hay, Bob Mould, Martin Zeller, Jason Faulkner, Billy Bragg, or Lindsey Buckingham. But Freedy Johnston creates some of the best.
3. Xiu Xiu "Dear God, I Hate Myself"
What a title! Previous CDs by them have qualified as "difficult listening music". I had to wade through hours of faintly jangling dissonance to reach such beautiful phrases as "Honey boy place my ashes in a vase beneath your workout bench." Jamie Stewart is bisexual, but makes thoughtful music that stinks of desperate sexuality. I love it. And with this CD, he really threw me a bone. It's the most tuneful of anything he has put it out, and the first one that I can listen to at work without wincing.
4. Field Music "Field Music"
OMGosh. It's a great time to be alive, if you are a fan of power pop. I've been enjoying CDs by the Kaiser Chiefs, the Futureheads, Bloc Party, Phoenix, the Strokes, and Kasabian, to name a few. Well, Field Music is among the best of the best. There's nothing tricky about these songs: bass, drums, two guitars, and vocals. Verse, chorus, verse, chorus, bridge, chorus, chorus. But they do it so well. There's a lot of room for flexibility and creativity when you're not trying to invent art-rock. These guys are great at what they do, and they make the simple look simple.
5. Midlake "The Courage of Others"
This one is growing on me. I didn't expect english folk to make a comeback. I am a huge fan of Steeleye Span, and buy as much as I can by Fairport Convention or the Pogues. But I thought the genre went out with the seventies. Or it turned metal like Mastodon. Instead, it's delightful to find fun contemplative "freak folk" by people like Joanna Newsom, Devendra Banhart, Iron & Wine, or Will Oldham. I think having a beard is mandatory for this style of music. But I love it, and though it's a bit "twee", I'm glad it's still around.
Other CDs that might be my favorite by 2011:
Dan Black "((Un))"
Ted Leo And The Pharmacists "The Brutalist Bricks"
Rogue Wave "Permalight"
Los Campesinos! "Romance Is Boring" (also a contender for "Worst Album Art Of The Year")
The Drive-By Truckers "The Big To-Do"
Black Rebel Motorcycle Club "Beat The Devil's Tattoo"
Titus Andronicus "The Monitor"
Hot Chip "One Life Stand"
Whigs "In The Dark"
Goldfrapp "Head First"
The Knife "Tomorrow, In A Year"
Evelyn Evelyn "Evelyn Evelyn"
Blue October "Approaching Normal" (guilty pleasure)
Colin Hay "Company Of Strangers"