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1. M83 - Saturdays = Youth
Nostalgia might be cheap, but Anthony Gonzalez pulled all the right strings with this one. There's something to be said for making you remember the pain and wonder of growing up while avoiding the traps of exageration and whimsey. Instead, through the layers of synths and reverb we get a longing for youth, and a celebration of everything good and bad about it: nothing more, nothing less, and completely earnest.
2. Why? - Alopecia
Few artists can be this honest on a record and get away with it, but Yoni Wolf opens up the darkest, funniest and most bizarre parts of his mind on every track. Like all great pieces of writing, you can take something different away from his lyrics each time you hear them. Little details that might be glossed over in the deluge of speak-singing on first listen become little gems that keep you coming back. Oh, and it also helps that Wolf and company write some catchy tunes to go along with those lyrics.
3. Los Campesinos! - Hold On Now Youngster
I'm pretty sure that Los Campesinos! is probably the bane of many musical tastes, including those of my fellow WXDUers, and part of me completely understands. If you let it get under your skin, this music could definitely be obnoxious. If you dare to let yourself roll with it, it's also a freakin' blast. So these guys a re a bunch of brats, sure, but they're brats with serious amounts of energy, willing each song to a higher level. Give them a chance and maybe you'll be banging your head to "Broken Heartbeats Sound Like Breakbeats" too.
4. The Walkmen - You & Me
This album was subdued, murky and gorgeous. "In The New Year" is near the top of my favorite tracks for this year, and the rest of the album, while never reaching as high of an apex than this, doesn't really have a valley of declined quality to speak of.
5. Marnie Stern - This Is It...
After her debut album, it was a tossup as to whether I actually liked Marnie Stern or whether I was just gripped enough by her curious, quirky style to listen to her a few times. This album made my mind up for me. She may be over-hyped in terms of virtuosic geetar shredding (she can be kind of sloppy at times), but she certainly deserves all of the praise for doing something different and interesting.
6. Born Ruffians - Red, Yellow and Blue
This was a super-strong release from the Toronto three piece, and had a few gem tracks on it. I look forward to hearing more from them, especially if they manage to expand their pallet a little bit more.
7. Martha Wainwright - I Know You're Married But I've Got Feeling Too
Martha Wainwright reminds me of why there are people that sing and then there are singers. Her voice tackles more than the words that she sings, and she turns great songs like "I Wish I Were" in to stellar recordings.
8. Ladytron - Velocifero
Velocifero sticks to the hard, deep syths, and that's where Ladytron shines. Every note pummels the eardrums, and there's a sound to fill every sonic crevice. Bonus: Bulgarian spoken word on "Black Cat" gives this album my #1 "I don't know what they're saying, but I like it" moment of the year.
9. Vampire Weekend - Vampire Weekend
Over-rated? Yes. Still pretty damn good? Yes. Catchy as all hell? Yes. Nuff said.
10. Deerhoof - Offend Maggie
"Ba-sket-ball ba-sket-ball, ready, ok! Ba-sket-ball, ba-sket-ball, ready, ok!" If you can sing those lines on your album and have people grooving to it, I'd say you're doing something right. Another strong effort from Deerhoof.
Honorable Mention: Monotonix - Body Language
I liked this album, sure, but something has to be said for their ridiculous live show. Only a fraction of that energy can be found on this album, but that's still enough to create some fuzzy, riffing awesomeness. But seriously, see them live (they've been in the area three times in the last year, hopefully they'll come again!) Crowd-surfing drum solo, anyone?
Honorable Mention: British Sea Power - Do You Like Rock Music?
I was, perhaps, a bit too enamored with this album when it came out. I think I really wanted to like something the day I reviewed this and I let it wow me on first listen while ignoring some of its more generic aspects. And, hey, parts of it, like "Lights Out for Darker Skies", still hold up in my opinion. It all just doesn't sound as good anymore.
Honorable Mention: Elsiane - Hybrid
Despite a fairly generic backing band (that jazzes it up in a sometimes-boring way), Elsiane's vocalist (Elsieanne Caplette) pulls this album into the realm of great with her astounding voice. To say she sounds like Bjork is a lazy and inaccurate description: It's breathy, articulate, dynamic and wonderful.