13. God Help The Girl
Belle and Sebastian's Stuart Murdoch has made an album with all female singers, fantastic vocal and string arrangements, and a slight musical theater bent. In addition to some great new songs, this album includes reimaginings of a couple tracks off of The Life Pursuit - a B&S album with fantastic songwriting that was fatally wounded by poor production values (I literally can't listen to TLP anymore because of the way the snare drum sounds). Thanks, Stuart, for saving this song in particular from the rubbish bin:
12. Grizzly Bear - Vecatamist
11. Volcano Choir - Unmap
Bon Iver teamed up with a noise/glitch rock outfit called A Collection of Colonies of Bees. This track is one of the most song-oriented tracks off the album - the rest is often formless and instrumental, but always beautiful and worth listening to while you stare out the window at the snow. Not for nothing, this album also proves to me that To Emma, Forever Ago wasn't a fluke, even if he does sound more and more like Chris Martin every time I hear him.
10. The xx - xx
Super hypnotic, late, late, late-night, indie rock booty call music. Don't laugh until you try it at 3am with your lady.
9. Rick Ross - Deeper Than Rap
My favorite rap album of the year. Solid front to back and smoove RnB hooks aplenty:
8. Them Crooked Vultures - S/T
7. Vetiver - Tight Knit
A more calming record did not exist for me this year. Here's one of the more upbeat tracks:
6. Yo La Tengo - Popular Songs
Yo La Tengo really does get better with age. I like their earlier albums for sure, but on their last two they've hit on a mixtape strategy that really plays to their strengths - every song sounds totally different from the last. It was hard to pick one song that represented the record because, well, NO song represents the entire record. From 15 minute long noise rock epics to motown love anthems, everything you want is here. And it is never redundant.
5. Fruit Bats - The Ruminant Band
4. Dinosaur Jr. - Farm
3. Phoenix - Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix
2. Jim O'Rourke - The Visitor
Get it. Love it. It's all instrumental and a return to a semi-pop direction (even if the album is a single track), recorded in Jim's apartment in Japan with him playing all the instruments. It sounds amazing on vinyl. You should come over and listen to it.
1. Dirty Projectors - Bitte Orca
I don't know what else I can say about this band. They are quite simply the most innovative and exciting rock band making records today. If they remain on the trajectory of their last two albums, I would not be surprised to see them get as big as Radiohead or Wilco. I've always understood that an eccentric vocalist can sink a band for people - and Dirty Projectors certainly has one of those, even if Longstreth has all but eliminated the more divisive elements of his singing on their latest masterpiece. I also understand reticence to bow to the alter of hipster pretension. But go see these guys live while they're still playing rooms small enough for you to see fingers on the fretboards. You'll come away believing that these guys are the real deal, and humble enough to take what they're doing to the next stage. They can play the shit out of their instruments, and the singing must be seen to be believed. Bitte Orca is not perfect, but it comes close enough to be absolutely jaw-dropping. They don't make 'em like this anymore, kids.