Best of First Quarter 2007, Part. II
Part II of this short "Best of" series showcases three albums that leaked awhile back (late December - mid January) and have all received their fair share of blog hype and critical praise. Coincidentally, all of these album were released this week, so pick them up if you've yet to do so.
James Murphy is much cooler than you or I. He manages to seamlessly blend many of the best elements of rock and dance music with an abundance of wit and humor. Sound of Silver is most compelling in how the music strikes a balance between so many would-be divergent elements-- stupid fun and undeniably strong quality, euphoria and melancholy, indie rock attitude and straight-up dance beats, being "too cool to dance" and shaking your ass off, producing both killer singles and an amazing and cohesive album. Further, Murphy pulls this off without the music coming across self-serious or sounding labored/over-thought. All 8 songs are very strong, but the mid-section (tracks 4 & 5) is the heart of the album and contains two incredibly great tunes. With an addictive techno beat, pretty yet simple vocal melody, and longing lyrical content, "Someone Great" is one of best songs in recent memory. "All My Friends" is right up there with "Someone Great" and even ups the emotional ante. This stunning track (to paraphrase a track review in Cokemachineglow) is like the Baba O'Riley of 21st century indie. I have been listening to this album for 3 solid months and it still sounds ridiculously good. Whether or not you were an LCD convert prior to the release of this album, if you give it half a chance, you'll fall in love with this album.
I never cared much for Panda Bear's Young Prayer until recently and still do not think it quite merited the critical praise it received or stands up to Animal Collective's stronger material. Person Pitch is another story. While Panda's new direction was hardly a surprise given the majority of the material on this album was previously available on singles, this album is markedly different and much more focused on melody than the aforementioned Young Prayer. There are two incredible tunes here: the psych-pop meets campfire chant opener "Comfy in Nautica" and the sprawling 12.5-minute lo-fi pop journey "Bros". The strength and great pop melodies of these two tracks overshadow much the rest of Person Pitch and the album sounds a bit same-y and indulgent in places, i.e. "Good Girl/Carrots" which feels overly long and "Search for Delicious" is a mere ambient distraction. The best stuff here comes across a spacey, lo-fi 21st century Beach Boys and takes the listener to another time and place altogether; it's too bad there's not quite enough of it to sustain its 50-minute run time.
MP3: Panda Bear - "Comfy In Nautica"
MP3: Panda Bear - "Bros" (Edit)
Andrew Bird's 2005 album The Mysterious Production of Eggs ranked among my favorite albums of that year. I'll be damned if dude didn't go and top himself this time around. Unfortunately, this album may get lost in the shuffle with all the high profile releases this week. Showcasing a level of musical virtuosity heads and shoulders above most of his singer-songwriter peers, Bird crafts unique, intelligent, and undeniably catchy pop tunes. It has become increasingly rare to hear this type of depth in pop lyric writing and Bird's varied subject matter never comes across as pretentious or overwrought. The first five tracks jump right out of the speakers and-- while not as strong as the first half-- the latter half of the album also contains a pair of great tunes, "Simple X" and "Scythian Empire". First single "Heretics" is probably his most catchy tune yet besides 2005's excellent "A Nervous Tic Motion of the Head to the Left" and in combination with the following two songs "Dark Matter" and "Plasticities", these tracks highlight some of the strongest work of his career. Bird has set the bar very high for his next album, but I would not be surprised to see him shatter even loftier expectations.
MP3: Andrew Bird - "Heretics"
**Stayed tuned for the third and final part of this series to be posted soon...