When I look back at the month and 12 days worth of albums that have come out so far this year, I realize there have been a ton of great ones. It's kind of crazy really how many albums have blown me away and been totally surprising in their quality.
That led me to encourage my listing nature even more: I'm going to update every month with my five favorite albums from the previous month (based off when I acquired them, not off of release date). So here we go with the inaugural edition of this trite and ridiculous exercise that I love putting upon myself.
1. Owen Pallett - Heartland
Why it's number one: Owen Pallett, previously recorded under the name Final Fantasy and string arranger for Arcade Fire, is a bit of a virtuoso when it comes to instrumental arrangements. He makes some of the most cleverly designed songs in the world today, and his sound ends up being somewhat akin to a marriage of Jens Lekman and Andrew Bird, with perhaps a bit of the instrumental verbosity of Anathallo or Sufjan Stevens. It's a hell of a record that really works in every situation you can put it in, acting as a bit of a musical skeleton key. Can't praise it enough.
2. Vampire Weekend - Contra
Why it's number two: I've talked about this plenty, so I won't go into too many details on this record. It's Vampire Weekend doing what they do best but filling it with a lot more of the electronic influence that they have shown in recent side projects. It's only ten tracks, but 7 of them are complete smashes, one is damn good, and two are decent. If this album was a baseball player, it would have been Barry Bonds circa 2001. Except Bud Selig would have said "no Barry, it's cool if you use steroids."
3. Hot Chip - One Life Stand
Why it's number three: I just reviewed this earlier this week, so my thoughts on it should be fresh. It's the most complete record Hot Chip has made to date with eleven straight damn good tracks drawing the listener in. While it may not have reached the same peaks of their previous records, it's more than made up for by a previously unseen consistency from the band. Plus, you have to love an album that effortlessly makes you want to dance and practically compels you to be happy. One should never underrate such a simple and forgettable trait as that.
4. Charlotte Gainsbourg - IRM
Why it's number four: This album came out of nowhere for me, but I guess it shouldn't given that it's an album featuring the sultry voice Gainsbourg with all tracks written and produced by Beck. In a lot of ways, this album feels like a mix between Feist and St. Vincent. Feist has a tendency to verge on the side of innocence too much, while St. Vincent can be a bit on the darker side. While Gainsbourg touches on both of those polar opposites (particularly on the St. Vincent side with the French language track "Le Chat du Café des Artistes", which is ridden with a flair for the ominous), she provides a good balance that results in one hell of a release.
5. Beach House - Teen Dream
Why it's number five: While I liked their previous release Devotion, it had a tendency to fall too easily into the background. Just because it's dreamy pop does not mean it has to be music lost in the transition of day to day life. This album though has a level of immediacy that is sorely lacking from that previous release. When combined with the innate beauty of the vocals and the arrangements, it's hard not to be swept off to a different place. This album gets bonus points for making me whistle as I walk around the gym listening to it, making me that weird guy who whistles while working out. Thanks for that Beach House!