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Shadow to you.

Okay, so it took me long enough. At one point, I was even wondering if I would be able to come up with anything remotely close to a list – such is the desert of the real that I have been living in – but today, I think I finally have it: the beginnings of the making of a list (yes!) of favourite albums of the year.

Beach House
15 May 2012

Dear Victoria,

I quite adore Bloom. Really, I do.

It has the usual intricate melodies carefully woven with your husky vocals and dreamy sighs, and the synthesizer-heavy tunes beautifully layered with your musical partner-in-crime Alex’s shimmery guitar riffs, all of which when combined creates a pleasant escapade into an ethereal otherworld that often mark the signature sounds of a typical Beach House album.

… then came the chilling howling of the wind blowing across the ocean. I suspect I would have been much happier, though, if there were no hidden tracks annoyingly stretching a song to double that of its length; I see no justice in having the gorgeous album closer “Irene” seemingly punctuated with a prolonged silence at the end, only to have a lacklustre “bonus” song coming up again at the 13th minute.

But of course, I think you would know better. We do live in a strange paradise after all.

Wild Nothing
28 August 2012

Dear Jack,

Very simply: you had me at “Shadow”.

First impressions do matter. I am sure you can relate to that – you hear a song for the very first time, and it gives you the chills as it keeps playing persistently in your mind for days after.

See, at first I knew nothing about you, your solo project Wild Nothing or your 2010 debut Gemini. But Nocturne has changed all that; those soaring strings and heartwarming hooks in “Shadow” are simply irresistible, and serves as a charming enough introduction to someone new to your work.

And then the next morning I caught myself candidly humming the other tracks from the album. They may be made up of mostly dreamy, lo-fi tunes pleasant to the ears, though not as unique or as easily identifiable, lacking the instantaneous appeal factor that “Shadow” already possesses in droves (perhaps having it as the album opener is too brilliant a move – the song had set the bar way too high from the start).

There are, however, a few notable exceptions: the catchy dance vibe beats in “Disappear Always” can always be conveniently foot-tapped along to, and the groovy moves in the graceful “Midnight Song” can surely keep you awake the whole night through, but it is the sweet, hypnotic riffs of the earnestly yearning “Only Heather” that I cannot seem to shake off easily, so much so that I could but only wish that you had written that song for me.

You are my favourite new discovery for the year by far. Only you can make me feel this way… for now at least.

Grizzly Bear
18 September 2012

Dear Chris, Chris, Daniel and Ed,

And so we meet again, three years later today.

Did you know that the masterpiece that was 2009’s Veckatimest still holds a very special place in my heart? Yes, it does; so much so that in the days leading up to the release of Shields, I was anticipating another knockout song in the veins of “Cheerleader” to be unveiled, but that – unfortunately (or not) – never came.

That, I think, was my mistake. But now, having given Shields a few more spins, I have finally come to terms that this fourth album of yours was never meant to be a sequel, a Part 2, or a “Reloaded” – to the relatively more subdued Veckatimest.

Yes, there are still the soaring harmonies and lush instrumentation that you have always been excelling in all this while, omnipresent in older albums such as Horn of Plenty and Yellow House. But I think what amazed me most is being able to bear witness to your music’s subtle yet successful transition – from the wintry brooding and comforting noises that often make the trademark of a Grizzly Bear album, into the wilder, happier and sunnier territories freely explored now in Shields. The persisting, jarring riffs used liberally in first single “Sleeping Ute” and the deliberate cacophony of synthesizers that closes immediate crowd pleaser “Yet Again” nicely complement and set off the “quieter” bits of the album, such as in the wistful delight that is “A Simple Answer” and the fun and bouncy “gun-shy”; all this makes Shields yet another wonderful standout in your already strong catalogue, and the most accessible yet.

At times it does feel more like delicate pop than delicate rock, and perhaps just a tad simpler and less polished this time around, but a rough gem is a gem nevertheless. After all, there is no wrong, or right; just do whatever you like. (And know that you will still have my full support.)

Details of this entry.Friday, September 21, 2012, filed under Reviews.
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