Here are my ten favorite albums (I found this year more memorable for artists who toured, than albums released – but here it goes):
- Field Music – Plumb: Like The Shins, their past is their closest competition for these XTC-inspired UK popsters. Not a weak track in a prog-rock masterpiece.
- Grizzly Bear – Shields: Though you can hear the influences of Jeff Buckley, Radiohead – the record never sounds derivative. Great songs and musicianship.
- Tame Impala – Lonerism: Though not as good as their debut, this record still fills a void left by other bands that Dave Fridmann produces.
- David Byrne/St. Vincent – Love this Giant: She brought out the young man in him; he matured the sometimes too-precious young lady in her. Add horns – sonic fun!
- Beach House – Bloom: For those of us who could not get enough of Teen Dream.
- Dirty Projectors – Swing Lo, Magellan: Not as novelty-filled as Bitte Orca, but every bit as adventurous.
- Richard Hawley – Standing at the Sky’s Edge: Not terribly different from his last couple of records, but still the master of his genre; ennui-tinged crooning from the depths of despair, the seat of a motorcycle.
- Sharon Van Etten – Tramp: This seems like a classic already, partially because it’s been out so long, partially because of solid songcraft.
- The Shins – Port of Morrow: They’re the losers to the competition in their genre – their past catalog…that being said, more solid pop songcraft, with more nods to the 70’s (Steely Dan, Jackson Browne, Wings).
- Frank Ocean – channel Orange: Hands down the best soul/r & b record of the year, will get me by until the next Raphael Saadiq album. Gotta love anything Andre 3000 guests on, for that matter.
Menomena – Moms, Bat for Lashes – The Haunted Man, Brian Jonestown Massacre – Aufheben, Black Moth Super Rainbow – Cobra Juicy, The Tallest Man on Earth – There’s No Leaving Now, Purity Ring – , Swans – The Seer
“Friends in Brooklyn”
Albums that I think benefit a bit too much from hipster cred:
- Scott Walker – love the guy, but this record needs more of him punching meat or something, methinks…
- Liars – record good, live show terrible…
- Lower Dens – umm, ok….
- The Walkmen – I thought that, like the product with their name, they went by the wayside…guess there will always be a home for them across the East River, when they’re called the Walkers…
- Ty Segall – I mean, Magnet magazine has three of his records in their top 10…wow!?
- Sleigh Bells – should be spelled “Slay”…
- Japandroids – robots, in their current incarnation, are really quite boring and predictable…
- Grizzly Bear (October 4th, Keller Auditorium)– someone called them the best band of their generation, might agree – great light show, to boot…
- Glen Campbell – (though I saw him at Hollywood Bowl, he did play Arlene Schnitzer – same night I saw Bruce Springsteen) – show me another septuagenarian that can still do what he does – plus, Dawes opened with guests singing songs that Campbell performed on in his heyday as a studio gun-for-hire (Beach Boys lead vocals provided by Courtney Taylor-Taylor)
- All Things Bruce – (November 27th, Mississippi Studios) – as a precursor to the Boss’ show, local musicians came together to cover him in celebration of local author Peter Ames Carlin’s bio; so many great moments, none better than Corin Tucker’s take on “Because the Night”, or Storm Large’s “Born to Run” with full band (including Steve Berlin – Los Lobos, producer extraordinaire – playing the part of Clarence Clemons). Super fun!
- David Byrne/St. Vincent – (June 15th, Arlene Schnitzer Hall) – never had the money to see the Talking Heads when they did tour, so this was my substitute…and it was brilliant, as the two talents complemented each other so well.
- M. Ward – (September 20th, The Aladdin) – arguably the sweetest guitar player alive returned home (to his expectant wife, in audience) to make sonic wizardry look effortless.
- Brian Jonestown Massacre (May 19th, Wonder Ballroom) – though notorious for legendary naughtiness, Mr. Newcombe and company showed off why so many consider him, and them, to be borderline legends.
- Dirty Projectors (July 25th, Crystal Ballroom) –Dave Longstreth seemed determined to return the energy he borrowed from Portland when he began the DP’s while crashing with his brother, a Reed College student – an amazing show which included, supposedly, the only 3rd encore of their tour
- Destroyer (June 4th, The Aladdin) – Dan Bejar played all the “hits”, seemingly drawing from all over his now burgeoning catalog from just one of his bands.
- First Aid Kit (April 12th, Wonder Ballroom) – The Swedish sister act created some vocal magic for an incredibly enthusiastic crowd, it’s third visit in a year to a place they seem to consider a home away from home.
- Jeff Mangum (April 8th,, Crystal Ballroom) – The reclusive frontman for legendary Neutral Milk Hotel turned on the charm, as well as the tunes, as – armed only with his guitar on the expansive Crystal stage – he zoomed through one fan favorite after another, eventually accompanied by members of Elf Power on a handful of songs that showcased his talent for complex arrangements
- Sharon Van Etten/War on Drugs (March 23rd,, Aladdin Theater) – A great double-bill (something which seems to be rarer and rarer), Van Etten followed up a solid set from Philadelphia’s War on Drugs with a dynamic set of her own, her powerful voice and haunting lyrics framed perfectly by a talented band which included Portland’s Heather Broderick (Horsefeathers).