||By any measure, the two albums of the year for me have to be Secret Machines - Ten Silver Drops and Neko Case - Fox Confessor Brings the Flood. I'm fairly empirical about these things - Ten Silver Drops is the first album in a long time where I really got to know virtually every song, where I didn't think, "Oh, I want to hear [single x]" and then heard jumped away from the album as soon as another whim took me. On those terms, maybe Fox Confessor wasn't quite as strong, but it's still quite deep.
Leading the rest of the pack, I'd highlight two other strong albums: Cannibal Sea by The Essex Green, which suffers somewhat for being just another indie-pop album amongst thousands, but it's packed full of hooky songs and just suggestive enough of 60s power-pop (think "And Your Bird Can Sing") to give you a warm glow. On the other side of the coin, I'd also highly recommend Scritti Politti's White Bread Black Beer, which sounds like nothing else. I've never been a fan of the band, or even understood why anyone would care about them, until this year, when something freakytigger wrote prompted me to listen to "The Boom Boom Bap." Something about it stuck, and moreover made me wonder what that sound would be like carried over a full album. To a degree it's mood music to me - I don't find myself wanting to hear a particular song, just feeling like putting the album on.
Finally, a bit of a consensus album, such as there is on the internet: Silent Shout. I really like one song ("Silent Shout") and one title ("We Share Our Mother's Health"), but the fact of the matter is that I keep coming back to this album. The Knife is one of the few bands recently that I regret not seeing live.
All together, I guess some 20 albums "rated" for me this year. Here's the rest of the list:
- Lily Allen - Alright, Still - Solid, although I wouldn't miss half the album if it disappeared from my hard drive (in which case it would compare unfavorably to Paris, which had four great songs.
- Beth Orton - Comfort of Strangers - Disappointing. I think it needed a strong(er) single, and I think Beth's movement away electronica touches and/or a full band takes away a lot of her distinctiveness.
- Snow Patrol - Eyes Open - Somehow this album got a lot of play, which bewilders me, given that it's just a retread of Final Straw (and therefore less interesting). I guess it's got hooks, though.
- Justin Timberlake - FutureSex/LoveSounds - It's been a long time since I've heard a good new Marvin Gaye album. I was surprised that I liked this, although after that first week I've found myself hitting "skip" when a song comes up. Maybe it's not a singles album.
- Jarvis Cocker - Jarvis - Yeah, yeah, I love Jarvis, but there are really on three good songs here ("Don't Let Him Waste Your Time," "A to I," and "Running the World") and some real clunkers ("Black Magic").
- Bob Dylan - Modern Times - I am totally NOT a Dylan fan; I guess I was in the mood for some blues? Maybe low expectations are starting to work in his favor.
- Paul Simon - Surprise - Eno's electronics occasionally stick out like a sore thumb, and the presence of a song from an animated movie galls, but somehow the album is pleasantly listenable, which I haven't been able to say about Simon for about 16 years.
- Scissor Sisters - Ta-Dah - One monster single, one okay one. Why isn't the rest of the album that good?
- Belle and Sebastian - The Life Pursuit - Would you believe that I had never listened to Tigermilk or If You're Feeling Sinister before this came out? They're both quite good, although I wonder if this is better. I remember thinking that to myself at the beginning of the year, and then never really returning to the album.
- Cat Power - The Greatest - The trend this year was for albums that were solid but uncharismatic, and here's another one. I put this on all the time, but I raving about it is beyond me. (Release the damn Blondie cover already!)
- The Pipettes - We Are the Pipettes - See Jarvis above.
- Marisa Monte - Universo ao Meu Redor, and
- Marisa Monte - Infinito Particular - Like the Beth album, these were a big disappointment. In fact I would've bought the expensive South American imports were it not for the DRM. Maybe the two albums at once were too much to absorb, but again, I felt no singles and I needed to.
Also-rans and late entries:
(I liked them, more or less, just not much to say about them.)
- Mňága a Žďorp - Dutý, ale free
- Ellen Allien & Apparat - Orchestra of Bubbles
- Yeah Yeah Yeahs - Show Your Bones
- Peter Bjorn and John - Writer's Block
- Танцы Минус - ЭЮЯ