11 songs. Sorry. I couldn’t cut out 1, and hell, why not 11?
“Riot Rhythm” — Sleigh Bells
One of this year’s personal sorrows was being stuck on the damn Hollywood Bowl shuttle bus while Sleigh Bells was rocking the venue miles away, as they opened for LCD Soundsystem. Note to self: you suck, Sherrie. You missed hearing them execute this noisy beat driven stuff that brings to mind M.I.A. and a marching band of white girls colliding into each other. You. Suck. Sherrie.
“10 Mile Stereo” – Beach House
Yes, this will tide me over until the next Grizzly Bear album. Is that a mean thing to say? That some bands can fulfill your desires for other bands? Or is it better to say that I clearly like echo-y, misty albums with shimmering layers of sound that conjure up gray introspective days and the distant rumble of waves breaking on an empty beach? Man. That’s good stuff.
“Giving Up the Gun” – Vampire Weekend
It’s very fashionable to bash this band, but it’s also very fashionable to be a pretentious unlikeable blowhard who wears a knit scarf regardless of the weather, okay. It was a worry of many fans that they would be unable to top their ineffably bouncy smash debut album, but there’s a lot of maturity poking through the sunshine on this second album: “When I was 17, I had wrists like steel, and I felt complete – and now my body fades behind a brass facade, and I’m obsolete.” One’s inevitable aging is a lot easier to acknowledge with a catchy beat, yes?
“Anyone’s Ghost” – The National
Matt Berninger Sings Wikileaks. I would buy that album.
“Looking at the Invisible Man” – The Dead Weather
This smoking, dramatic and over the top bluesy album put together by this super group kind of slipped under the radar, which is RIDICULOUS considering how hard Jack White and Alison Mosshart are screaming and sweating to make you FEEL this stuff. And nothing beats this sardonic little comment on our post-media society – “I’m like a newspaper, YOU CAN’T READ ME.”
“I Want the World to Stop” – Belle & Sebastian
This band is still at it, dropping little poppy sweet gems into our laps, coming up with adorable album names, and making us hold ourselves and sway. Who knew twee Scottish chamber pop was going to have such serious longevity?
“Dancehall Queen” – Robyn
Robyn put out a LOT of music this year. 3 albums worth. That’s a lot of downright-perfectly-crafted dance songs to choose from, but I’m rather fond of this slower number because its chorus has that kind of simple melody that burrows into your head; you will most certainly find yourself whistling it later on in Trader Joes as you peer into the freezer dessert section. Its eye-popping and sexy video is the icing on the cake, especially if you like buttockses.
“hahahaha jk” – Das Racist
Alright, nothing, NOTHING that man could ever produce can top their other word of mouth hit “Combination Pizza Hut and Taco Bell” – that song’s banal lyric, repeated over and over again is probably the greatest anti-corporate anthem of recent times, an ode to how bored to death we should be by our own consumerism. This song off their new mixtape is full of more of their trademark deadpan delivery and humor. Are they joking or not joking or just joking? “Call me Dwight Shrute the way I eat beats – no beet farm, just farmed beats.” And THEN, all those soap operas references? Stop it, you guys, you’re fucking killing me.
“Zef Side” Die Antwoord
I had the pleasure of seeing this South African “zef” hip hop act at the Henry Fonda. The experience was slightly dampened by the world’s most incredulous girlfriend, standing next to me. She kept repeating “Is this for real?” “No way, I can’t believe this.” “OMG this is the most amazing thing I’ve…IS THIS FOR REAL?” Shut the FUCK up sister, yes it’s real, people from South Africa are real and some of them are capable of most excellent flow.
“Goodbye” – Best Coast
Those girl group harmonies. That echoing vintage sound. All that teenage longing + a love of cats? It pairs so well with our Southern California sunshine that I’m convinced the rest of you just don’t know. Yeah, this is probably my 2nd favorite album of the year.
“I Can Change” – LCD Soundsystem
Once again, James Murphy and his gang of merrie music makers have crafted another seemingly effortless album that slid right into that first place spot in my heart – dance music for the heartbroken, the too-drunk, and all the sinners of the world who face all those bleary post-party mornings. This particular song is truly epic in its depiction of a crumbling romance. Notice how it goes from “Never change, never change, never change, this is why I fell in love” to “I can change, I can change, I can change, if it helps you stay in love.” It’s an honest song about how much love can hurt you, and it even lands a few zingers in there: “Love is an open book to a verse of your bad poetry – and this is coming from me.” Here’s to hoping Murphy and company keep these soulful tunes coming (and stop threatening to take a hiatus).