Wake up your saints.
The year in music: my heart soared with only the best – so much so that there is hardly room for the rest. 2010 has been such an awesome year, and this is all thanks to the one band that made it all mattered. (See lists for 2007, 2008 and 2009.)
It’s quiet company.
High Violet #
#1, #2, #3, #4, #5, #6, #7, #8
I wish I could just sum it all up and declare The National’s High Violet as the best album of 2010, seeing as the band had already topped my list for 2008, but I cannot – it does not do justice to both the band and album.
You see, at first there were the unsuspecting changes: silent and subtle, cautiously closing in like hunter to prey. It could be another particularly mesmerising guitar riff persistently buzzing in your mind for a week or more, or a temporary tendency to inject certain lyrics to everyday conversation with others.
Then there were the powerful tunes that have you unerringly drumming your fingers to the energetic rhythm, and the deceptively simple yet heartfelt lyrics that have you unabashedly engaging in a passionate singalong session at every other opportunity to rival the arrestingly deep and achingly tender baritones of frontman Matt Berninger.
But later, I realised that this Brooklyn-based band has wreaked havoc to my listening habits (overtaking other bands by a mile in my last.fm charts), messed up my daily routine (buying a mp3/fm modulator for the car because I simply must listen to the band on my daily drive to work) and, above all, made a complete fool out of me (purchasing their CDs from an online retailer despite the killer shipping charges, and abruptly taking off from work just to buy a bloody ticket to their gig out of sheer desperation).
In short, High Violet has completely redefined my life, and I must say that I mind not one bit at all.
The National plays at the Mosaic Music Festival 2011, Esplanade Theatre, Singapore, on 15 March 2011.
Favourite tracks: “Terrible Love”, “Sorrow”, “Little Faith”, “Bloodbuzz Ohio”, “Conversation 16”, “Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks”, “Wake Up Your Saints”
Cover me, comfort me.
Cryptograms (2007), Microcastle (2008), Weird Era Cont (2008), Halcyon Digest (2010)
My introduction to Deerhunter was, ironically, through frontman Bradford Cox’s side project, Atlas Sound (reviewed here). I must say that I was initially perplexed by the ambient-heavy Cryptograms, but after some quick “research” into their later albums and finally arriving at this year’s Halcyon Digest, I have come to find that Deerhunter is truly a gem of a band, having found their niche and possessing a certain inimitable style and sound to their music that is quite unlike any other.
Halcyon Digest is probably the most accessible of the Deerhunter arsenal of albums; try the swirly acoustic wonder that is “Helicopter” and be prepared for the rush of emotions that is bound to overwhelm you courtesy of Cox’s dreamy vocals.
Deerhunter plays at the Laneway Festival, Fort Canning Park, Singapore, on 29 January 2011.
Favourite tracks: “Strange Lights”, “Spring Hall Convert”, “Hazel St” (Cryptograms); “Agoraphobia”, “Calvary Scars” (Microcastle); “Backspace Century”, “Calvary Scars II” (Weird Era Cont); “Helicopter”, “Desire Lines”, “He Would Have Laughed” (Halcyon Digest)
Listen to the sound.
Gorilla Manor (2009) #
Local Natives burst into the music scene late last year, going from being relative unknowns to now having their name being bandied alongside big shots such as Grizzly Bear and Fleet Foxes, thanks to the success of their stunning debut album. In Gorilla Manor, the band’s stirring vocal harmonies complement the intricate arrangements of strings, keys and percussion work so effortlessly; who knows, who cares? We sure do, and very much, too.
Favourite tracks: “Wide Eyes”, “Airplanes”, “Sun Hands”, “Who Knows Who Cares”, “Stranger Things”
We used to be friends.
Album (2009), Broken Dreams Club EP (2010)
#1, #2, #3
Girls’ Album is a very simple but effective package that is well put together and filled with all kinds of pop wonder. Broken Dreams Club, though seemingly conceived with “leftovers” from Album, is a strong EP with potential chart-topping tracks that would further garner them new fans if placed in a second full-length.
Frontman Christopher Owens’ sob story may prove to be a bit of a distraction, but perhaps it is also exactly because of that, that makes his lyrics come about as being bitingly honest and blunt; they can be straight-up easy and yet still provide ample food for thought. The band exudes a sort of serious and calm confidence when it comes to their music, even when they let loose while jamming in certain tracks and go just “no, no, no”, because they know that things are going to be alright.
Favourite tracks: “Laura”, “Lust for Life”, “Hellhole Ratrace”, “Heartache” (Album); “Heartbreaker”, “Alright” (Broken Dreams Club EP)
You Are Here (2003), Let’s Build a Fire (2006), Xs On Your Eyes (2008), Pulled Punches (2010)
My first musical education for the year came in the form of +/- (or Plus/Minus), a band with a name that is definitely not friendly with search engines. But let this not deter you from taking in the magical sounds that the band has to offer. All four albums are brilliantly infused with little quirky personalities of their own, but Let’s Build a Fire stands out from the rest with its interesting mesh of opposites (decidedly loud / broodingly quiet; fond hellos / sad goodbyes), making it a mindblowing and pensive affair from start to finish.
Favourite tracks: “Megalomaniac”, “Every Thing I See Makes It Feel Wrong” (You Are Here); “Steal the Blueprints”, “The Important Thing is to Love”, “Ignoring All the Detours” (Let’s Build a Fire); “Unsung”, “Marina”, “Flight Data Recorder” (Xs On Your Eyes), “Summerlong” (cover) (Pulled Punches)
The Suburbs, Arcade Fire #
Hospice, The Antlers (2009)
Infinite Arms, Band of Horses #
Teen Dream, Beach House #
Broken Bells, Broken Bells
Forgiveness Rock Record, Broken Social Scene #
Turn On the Bright Lights, Interpol (2002) #
Invented, Jimmy Eat World #
Come Around Sundown, Kings of Leon
The Age of Adz, Sufjan Stevens #
All Delighted People EP, Sufjan Stevens
Expo 86, Wolf Parade #
Also listened to:
Merriweather Post Pavilion, Animal Collective (2009)
Write About Love, Belle and Sebastian
My Maudlin Career, Camera Obscura (2009)
Bitte Orca, Dirty Projectors (2009)
Fever Ray, Fever Ray (2009)
Total Live Forever, Foals
Future Breeds, Hot Hot Heat
Antics, Interpol (2004)
Our Love to Admire, Interpol (2007)
To the Sea, Jack Johnson
Fantasies, Metric (2009)
The Moon and Antarctica, Modest Mouse (2000)
The Orchard, Ra Ra Riot
Real Estate, Real Estate (2009)
Ocean Eyes, Owl City
We Are Born, Sia
The Five Ghosts, Stars
Rules, The Whitest Boy Alive (2009)
It’s Blitz!, Yeah Yeah Yeahs (2009)
There are absolutely no prizes for guessing who took the top spot of my music charts this year. This, of course, does not take into account the number of times when I listened to the band on my iPod or on my daily drive to work. So yeah, it could have been worse, ahem.