Here’s 10 through 6:

10.  The National – “High Violet”

The National have given us another record that takes many listens to get in to.  I didn’t get into “Boxer” very much until I was studying for the bar exam every night after work for a month in 2008.  My drive  home was about 25 minutes, which is just enough time to hear about half the record.  And “Boxer” was pretty distinctly 2 halves.  As is “High Violet.”  The National are about your 30s.  20 years ago they might have been about your 20s.  I initially thought that this was a step backwards for their sound, with “Boxer” being the pinnacle of big, rich, warm, driving rock songs and brooding ballads.  High Violet is even more brooding.  More monochrome.  Right, even MORE monochrome.  The solution to a difficult to find sound is to turn it up louder and to listen to it longer.  Then you find it in “Bloodbuzz Ohio,’ which is one of the best songs of the year.  Everything preceeding builds up to ‘Bloodbuzz’ which ends the first side.  Everything AFTER on the second side maintains a similar intensity.  “High Violet” is kind of like a frustrating work day.  Or any frustrating day.

9.  Spoon – “Transference”

“Transference” is a good analog to “High Violet.”  Spoon have always been jagged.  You either get all chorus and no melody or no chorus and all melody.  Evidently “Transference” is a lose collection of demos.  The songs are buried behind vocals at times and the vocals are buried behind songs at others.  This was intentional.  Which was maddening at first.  Very maddening.  I felt let down – disappointed – cheated.  But it didn’t last.  Spoon always have a plan and the plan kicks in with the third song “Mystery Zone” where the jaggedness of the songs and the vocals all see to even out.  From that point on there is constant wavering, but always behind a firm, but almost synthetic, clanging beat.  The talent of the band comes out here because even when it sounds like pots and pans have taken over the room, a thick bass ties it all back together, and a Beatles-esque “la la la” thing helps you out.

8.  BRMC – “Beat the Devil’s Tattoo”

Ah, America’s coolest band.  Not America’s best or favorite.  Just the coolest.  This was one I was also down on when it first came out.  (That’s not a picture of the record up there by the way).  I thought, they hate me so much but know I’m a BRMC homer and I’ll get anything, so they just gave me a bunch of b-sides from “Take them On On Your Own.”  And maybe the did.  But they just do heavy, glittery, black sunglasses thing so so so well.  They just do and I can’t help it.  So it stayed in my CD player for a long time.  Unlike their previous efforts, there’s not much of a plan here.  They just let go and give you different parts of themselves in equal quantities Dillon, VU, Spacemen 3, Jesus and Mary Chain, even a little Ministry.  Sometimes you just love a band, and in the process of getting over the fact that they hate you, you realize that they’re doing it for your own good.  The last song, “Half-State” is a 10 minute epic, replete with repetitive jamming, fuzzy pounding, and anthemic rises and falls – like their live show boiled down to 10 minutes.  Another one of the year’s best.  If you can see white back lighting and fog, you’re in the right place.

7.  Los Campesinos! – “Romance is Boring”

Haha.  Los Campesinos!  I shouldn’t like them but I do.  I love them.  They’re emo-pants and I don’t care.  Snide and Scottish (I think.  They’re Scottish right?)  Funny and nonsensical song titles be dammed.  I think they were in their late teens when their first record came out a couple of years ago, and you could tell they were so full of “wow, we’re going to college and we’re gonna stay up late and listen to punk rock, and be hip.”  Then they got to college later that year with their second record, and they were all like “wow, I’m hungover.”  With “Romance is Boring,” the kids are all growsed up and life is kind of a drag.  I told you it was emo-pants.  Mrs. Kentucky Fried Freedom hates them.  She gets sucked in with the opening jingle on that Budweiser commercial and then realizes who it is and gets angry because they’re so emo-pants.

I have no future in music blogging.

6.  The Soft Pack – “The Soft Pack”

This thing is so fun.  A 10 song collection of Midwestern-infused punk rock with a certain post-punk jaggedness to it.  And they’re from San Diego.  The sound is big, clear, and snotty.  “Answer to Yourself” is one of the year’s best songs.  I’m terribly impatient and it’s getting worse.  The Soft Pack are a good remedy for that.  The songs are quick, loud, pretty fast, jangly, pounding, funny, and carry with them a certain sing-songy quality.

Almost done ….


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