Thursday, December 22, 2011
Bears and Bullets Albums of the Year: Pt. IV
We'll continue today with our top 25 countdown with albums #10 through #6.
#10: Iceage - New Brigade
And all of you said there's no way anyone will talk about Danish punk music. Well, no one said that, but before Iceage's New Brigade, no one was thinking of it either. The messy, cathartic, and often disheartening record has no common pulse, just launching forward with unpolished, grimy sheen. The fact that Iceage are Danish teenagers does little to put New Brigade in a clever niche. It's carefully all over the map, from garage punk to polished underground new wave, in a tinge all its own.
#9: Danny Brown - XXX
Collectively speaking, 2011 was somewhat of a disappointing year for music in general, full of less-than expected album releases and a slew of band breakups. With that in mind, however, hip-hop came through stronger than it has in years with a new class of rappers garnering national attention. Danny Brown, the often overlooked, off-beat Detroit rapper, and his latest XXX comes through as a dirty, close to death last-call. Brown proudly retells his kinda disgusting instincts in porn-riddled tracks like "I Will," but fills you in on his less-than stellar ambitions like how he wants to, "Party like Chris Farley" on "Die Like a Rockstar." XXX, like the title, is indulgence and the underscored after-effects, crushing and killing the soul without resolution.
#8: White Denim - D
Psychedelia has uncomfortably addled itself next to 'boredom' in a music sense. The long-winded emphasis on musicianship strangling anything of the idea of new age virtuosity has, no matter how stereotypical, constantly attached itself to the genre. Enter White Denim, Austin's answer to a generation of music listeners who never try to confide their time in the aging music movement. For every guitar-driven episode on D, the group's fourth studio album in only three years, there's a change of pace to softer, pop sounds. So while "At the Farm" sounds like every other early 70s jam piece, "Street Joy" comes through unlike anything else on the album at that point. Guilty indulgence on all-too long instrumental pieces are fine, but White Denim puts out consistently strong albums because they understand that it isn't the end-all, be-all of music, and for very good reason.
#7: Black Lips - Arabia Mountain
The Black Lips have made a career resting on the laurels of garage punk. Little to no instrumental showmanship has ever showed up on the group's studio releases, and if you ever experience the group live, you'll understand that the instruments are merely a tool to help them wade through and project their collective insanity. Knowing that, the band's previous albums haven't tried too hard for craft, true garage punk by its most modern means. But on Arabia Mountain, arguably the group's best work yet, the band comes to understand that the grime of their early years can still exist, but not necessarily present it in such a meager way. There's a necessary polish on the album that fits the band well, but never hinders the joyful, careless nature of the message. Call it growing up for people who were always cooler when they were kids.
#6: James Blake - James Blake
The dubstep genre has been mangled by misguided, preconceived stereotypes and club aesthetics to the point where artists like James Blake are hardly identifiable in the oft-ridiculed movement. In part, because the construction of Blake's work is hardly aligned with those misgivings - slow, soulful, and delicately moving through the London-natives harping voice. The electronic architecture of Blake's self-titled album are merely means of conveying his deceptively artful songwriting, rather than the distracting centerpiece.
We'll continue our countdown tomorrow with albums #5 - #1 ...