In a flash half of the year has flown by and thoughts are turning to BBQ’s, the beach and the ubiquitous ‘best of the year so far’ lists… In a busy six months there have been standouts, some obvious, some maybe not so…
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Avi Buffalo Avi Buffalo (Sub Pop) – What were you doing when you were 17 years of age? Chances are you were still fretting over skin problems, obsessing about cheerleaders, and trying to cadge school assignments off fellow classmates. I can guarantee what you were not doing, was writing and recording one of the most accomplished indie releases of this year (or any other actually), as young Avi has done. ”What’s In It For” is the proverbial ‘feel good hit of summer’ and it just goes on from there.
Villagers Becoming a Jackal (Domino) – The folk clubs of the world are littered with the bones of average singer songwriters, so it is a reason to rejoice when one emerges from the pack with special talents. And the fresh-faced Conor J. O’Brien’s cupboard is overflowing in that department, as evidenced by his debut solo album. Another youngster showing that the future is very, very bright.
Sally Seltmann Heart That’s Pounding (Arts & Crafts) – “Sally who?” you say? An Australia formerly disguised behind her New Buffalo moniker, the (almost anonymous) writer of Feist’s hit “1-2-3-4″ released an album that is front-to-back choc-full of infectious sing-along pop tunes. The release may have been low key, but the talents within are far from it. Oh, and Sally is married to Darren Seltmann, head honcho of The Avalanches, and It doesnt get much cooler than that.
Hey Marseilles To Travels and Trunks (Onto) – this is cheating as the album had been self-released in ’08, but a spruced up repackage and ‘proper’ release justifies its inclusion here. Including a lot of the great elements of fellow-Northwesterers The Decemberists, but without the tendency for their rather tiresome sea shanty-isms. Some strings, some horns and some handclaps, makes this a thoroughly enjoyable multi-layered album.
Holly Miranda The Magician’s Private Library (XL) – Anyone who saw the young Jeff Buckley play his legendary shows at Sin-E in NYC in the 90′s will wax lyrically about his presence and the sheer majesty of his voice – a captivating spell that enveloped the listener. Miranda, formerly of New Yorkers Jealous Girlfriends, with help from TVOTR’s Dave Sitek, surprised everyone by duplicating that magic on her debut solo album – a record that, considering its beauty, lay around for way too long searching for a home, before XL thankfully picked it up for release.
Surfer Blood Astrocoast (Kanine) – Warranting inclusion, if only for the track “Swim”. They may be, at heart, the new Weezer, but these Florida kids have more than one sing-along indie hit on their debut release. Joining Best Coast, WAVVES and their brethren in the ‘new beach scene’ of 2010.
She & Him Volume 2 (Merge) – Even without Zooey Deschanel’s status as the #1 indie rock heartthrob, this record would still be close to the top as one of the year’s best, and rightfully deserving its smashing opening week chart position. Deschanel brims with 60′s girl group sweetness, and is more effervescent than a vintage soda shop, backed by the solid chops of elder statesman M. Ward. Bonus points for the version of “Gonna Get Along Without You Now”, (which the Lemonheads covered with great results in the 90′s)
Phantogram Eyelid Movies (Barsuk) – Barsuk may not have been the most obvious label to release this slab of throbbing electronica, and Saratoga Springs may not be the most obvious hometown, but that shouldn’t disguise this New York duo’s class. Like early LCD Soundsystem, or acclaimed French group M-83, the album is a hypnotic swirling beat-driven classic, which live they take to another sweaty, grooving level.
Sleigh Bells Treats (Mom & Pop) – Another duo, this time from Brooklyn, who could be the most newsworthy two piece since The White Stripes, or The Kills at least. A chartbusting debut album that could be seen as the dark underbelly to the squishy fuzziness of a band like the Ting Tings. In two year’s time people may not care, but Sleigh Bells have definitely succeeded in capturing the zeitgeist in 2010.
Karen Elson The Ghost Who Walks (XL) – She may be better known as a model, and of course, as Mrs Jack White, but Elson shows on her album that she can make an album combining some classic elements into a cohesive whole – a dose of Tammy Wynette, a splash of Ann Margret, some Nico and a heavy serving of Bobby Gentry.
- Cool Hand Luke