I'm posting this two months too late, but oh well. My personal top ten favorite albums released in the first half of 2009! (January 1st to June 30th) Here's my 7th and 6th favorite albums, see my last post in this blog for number 10 through 8.
7. Sonic Youth - The Eternal
Sonic Youth - Massage The History
Sonic Youth are back yet again, and this return to a smaller label sees them make nudges to the punkish, fast-paced and noisy 80s underground period of their career, in tracks such as "Anti-Orgasm", while still including the sort of slowly building, atmospheric acoustic guitar enhanced tracks that can only be found late in their career, like the album closer "Massage The History". The latter most of all reminds me of the excellent Sonic Nurse's (2004) "I Love You Golden Blue" - which is a very good thing in my book. On a whole, the album continues the constant evolution of Sonic Youth where 2006's Rather Ripped left off, but also shows influence of the band's 2008 tour, which was a nostalgic homage tour to their 1988 masterpiece Daydream Nation. A good mix that makes for a very solid album!
6. Asobi Seksu - Hush
Asobi Seksu - Transparance
The New Yorker shoegaze/dream pop band Asobi Seksu used to be a quintet of four American men and one Japanese woman (and vocalist), but has since been reduced to a duo of just one Japanese and one American for this third LP. Somehow, though, the multi-layered wall of guitars that characterize shoegaze-inspired "dream pop" bands is not gone at all, even with only one man playing all instruments. This perhaps just makes it clear that Asobi Seksu's albums have always been product of heavy studio work, and not a collection of songs that can easily be picked up and played by the band live. While I personally think that this third album has a very weak opening, my initial disappointment was soon completely turned around by a series of very strong tracks, such as the beautiful "Transparence", and the surprisingly upbeat and radio-friendly "Me & Mary".
Like before, the charm of the band lies in their unusual and good melodies, the combination of Japanese and English lyrics sung by the charismatic Yuki Chikudate, and the easily accessible take on the shoegaze genre. The first and self-titled album (2003) saw Chikudate playing with the Japanese female stereotype of cutesy innocence and immaturity, singing with a fragile and girlish voice while at the same time combining it with the band's non-innocent lyrics and band name (Asobi Seksu can roughly be translated as "casual sex", or "sex just for fun"). The follow-up Citrus (2006), on the other hand, saw her trying a more confident and mature style of singing, and in Hush, she truly has moved to the polar opposite of her roots, showing a strutting confidence. She still keeps her voice high, though, and at times somewhat fragile, thankfully. After all, as genre inventors My Bloody Valentine showed the world twenty years ago, what really makes the roaring wall of sound in the shoegaze genre work, is the supplementing high and fragile vocals that work as a contrast to its bombasticness.