September 20, 2009

My favorite albums of the first half of 2009: 2nd & 1st

So, I'm finally done with my list! I hope you'll enjoy the last two mp3s, and I'd love to hear what your favorites have been so far this year. Have a nice remainder of September, folks.

2. Animal Collective - Merriweather Post Pavilion
Animal Collective - In The Flowers
Leaked to the internet in December 2008 as a christmas present for ecstatic music bloggers, this album gained such a positive reputation pre-release that it's easy to forget that it actually officially was released in the year 2009. Animal Collective weren't exactly lacking in critical and popular recognition before this album, but already from the first track you instantly know that you this time are in for something special. The opener "In The Flowers" has the kind of slowly building and highly elevating opening track construction, working so perfectly, that it's easily comparable to openers such as Muse's New Born (Origin of Symmetry). But the parallels to stadium rock stop right there - the rest of Merriweather Post Pavillion sees Animal Collective take a deep dive into vastly layered electronic music, deeper than they've ever been before. I saw them live for their Merriweather Post Pavillion tour, and the show basically consisted of each of the band members standing in front of computers, deeply engrossed and focused. Which kind of made it feel like I was watching a robotic Kraftwerk show - not that there's anything wrong about that, though! It reflects the style of the album, which has a whole different feel to it than Animal Collective's earlier efforts, like the largely acoustic and low-fi Sung Tongs (2004). Merryweather does however show signs of influence from band member Panda Bear's solo effort Person Pitch (2007) in terms of the largely electronic soundscape. It's hard to say anything about such a highly discussed album as Merryweather without repeating what others have already said a hundred times before, so for now I'll leave it at the cliche "listen to it if you haven't already, to see what all the buzz is about, you'll be convinced"!

1. Camera Obscura - My Maudlin Career
Camera Obscura - Honey In The Sun
Scottish Camera Obscura manage something magical: they make music so harmless-sounding and filled of 50s-60s nostalgia in its soundscape that you can play it at your grandma's house with no problem, with sentimental and melancholic lyrics about heartache that would appeal to your old aunt, yet they manage to fill the lyrics with so much smartness, attitude and bitter sarcasm that the cynical, postmodernist ironic-distance hipster 00s youth embrace it unquestionably. What is it that makes hopeless-romantic slash irony-filled cynic Tracyanne Campbell's bittersweet stories about her troubled relationships to men reach out to young MALES all over the world? I'm not sure, but I do know that - apart from the smart lyrics - their excellent songwriting and ridiculously catchy melodies don't exactly go against their favor either. There are of course those who can't stand the whole twee scene (claiming the music's too "sweet", whatever that's supposed to mean!), but it's hard for anyone to deny that My Maudlin Career is a masterpiece in the band's 4-album catalogue, and that they in the eight year of their career are in full force. From the poppy and radio-friendly "French Navy", to the atmospheric "My Maudlin Career", from "Honey In The Sun"'s upbeat horn chorus set to the sentimental and sincere "I wish my heart was as cold as the morning dew, but it's as saxophones and honey in the sun for you", to the bitter sarcasm in the lyrics of Swans ("Oh, you want to be a writer? Fantastic idea!"), the album is filled with supreme writing, chock full of ideas, and gives hope for many more years of beautiful bittersweetness from my Scottish friends.

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