A Slice of Fried Gold

Top Five Records from February (and part of March!)

Friday, March 19, 2010
I had a period of time where I wasn't really crashing the new record bins. Let's call that period of time "February", which is why you haven't seen a continuation of my ongoing count of my favorite records of 2010. This countdown will be from February 1st until...let's just say today. These five records are the albums I've loved the most over this stretch, along with one record that I wanted to talk about it because it is something I simply don't understand, plus one song that I LOVE.

In other words, this is a post about something besides food. Begin rejoicing!

Note: I forgot Portugal The Man's American Ghetto. It'd probably end up at number five on this list, knocking off Freelance Whales. Still, I'm not taking FW off because I wanted to share that nugget about Pitchfork's review. That's right.

1. Broken Bells - Broken Bells

This selection shouldn't really be a surprise if you really think about it. Take the production and the eclectic and eccentric mind of Danger Mouse and pair it with the thoughtful musings and beauteous vocals of James Mercer, and odds are you'll have a solid album. This album is a lot more than that, progressively growing on me since I started checking it out. When you listen to tracks like "Vaporize" or "The Ghost Inside", you realize you're listening to the mad genius work of two A+ pop songwriters.

It's a delectable fusion that I connected with from the very beginning, and that connection has just grown and grown with each passing listen. Which is a lot because it's basically all I've been listening to for a week.

2. Gorillaz - Plastic Beach

The first Gorillaz record was produced by Dan the Automator, and it was a big funk blast of an album. The second was from Danger Mouse and it was a hodgepodge of eclectica and delicious pop. Now, they're back with Plastic Beach and head Gorilla (or really the only constant member) Damon Albarn is taking a turn producing it. What came out was a whirlwind that features some big names (Snoop Dogg, Paul Simon, Lou Reed) and some of the most diverse pop tracks of the year to date.

Whether it's lead single "Stylo" featuring its creeping synth beats and yin & yang vocals from Mos Def and Bobby Womack, "Some Kind of Nature" with its ambling rhythms and simply cool vocal tracks from Lou Reed, or "On Melancholy Hill" and its oddly beatific melodies and forlorn and loving structure, this album touches on all kinds of different pop milestones and does an exceptional job with each and every one of them. Plus, it's infectious as all get out! I just don't know how you can't love a Gorillaz record.

3. Local Natives - Gorilla Manor

This record, to me, sounds like an interesting blend of the vocal harmonies of Fleet Foxes, the sunny disposition of The Elected, the hyper evident and driving percussion of The National, and the arrangements and southern flair of My Morning Jacket. So if you're scoring at home, to me:

Local Natives = Fleet Foxes + The Elected + The National + My Morning Jacket

I'm not great at math, but I'm pretty sure that means this record is awesome. Interestingly enough, I like, not love those four bands in the equation. Yet this record seems to take my favorite aspects of their sound and create alchemic blend that I absolutely adore. It's one of the more out of left field albums this year for me, but I love it all the same.

4. Four Tet - There is Love in You

For an electronic album, this is a beautifully spare and affecting release. One of the greatest accomplishments found on it is that Four Tet managed to take a track like "Angel Echoes" or "Plastic People" and find power behind the moments of silence as well as he does on the ones where there are gorgeous explosions of sound. It has the sound of someone who has been cultivating their sound for a long time and really has found out what works and what doesn't, as there is a real sense of confidence in it. No schizophrenic loops or cuts, no spastic breakdowns, just driving, hypnotic jams that stay with you for days on end.

Another thing I think is very interesting about this album is the live instrumentation that is used within. While listening to it, it almost feels like it has an ambient, lounge sound. It's inviting and danceable, but the fact that you can source the sound back to instruments you recognize adds a layer of power to it. It's a beautiful piece, and something I was surprised to like as much as I did.

5. Freelance Whales - Weathervanes

While this album is still not technically out in physical release nor has much changed since I originally reviewed it in January, I had to talk about it for one reason.

This is a joyful and well crafted album from a young band who is really putting themselves out there. While I have come down from my previous high esteem of the record a bit and I do agree with the lyrical triteness of the record that Pitchfork referenced, Freelance Whales were pretty much assassinated in their review. Sometimes, I wonder if Pitchfork listens to music to enjoy it or to lick their chops at an opportunity to slap down something with burgeoning hype. To those who tossed the record away, I say pick it up and defy Pitchfork. It's a good record that deserves attention, even if it is "derivative."

Why is this loved?!: Joanna Newsom - Have One On Me

I want to like Joanna Newsom. I really do. I just don't get it. Sprawling, spastically arranged tracks about god knows what that occasionally touch on what I look for in music are what I find, while others listen to it and hear pure gold.

When I listen to tracks like "Easy", the lead track off this album, I see a little of the glimmer that others see. Yet, when I find myself confounded through the three discs worth of other songs as she plays with her harp and sings in her creepy beautiful voice, I find myself eagerly anticipating its culmination. Please, someone tell me what I'm missing.

It seems like every year features one record that I do not like at all that everyone else loses their minds over. Last year was Grizzly Bear's Veckatimest...I think this year it's going to be Joanna Newsom. Coincidentally, she was the winner of this prize in 2006 as well with Ys (which is even creepier).

Best Track: Raaaaaaaandy and Dave Sitek - Aaaaaaaangry (with Eight A's)

Between his Funny or Die stuff, his random roles in movies, his stand up work, and Parks and Recreation, I've somehow become a bit of an Aziz Ansari fanboy. Basically everything this guy touches entertains me to no end.

Now he's working on a mixtape with Dave Sitek from TV on the Radio and I'm loving it as well. This first track finds Raaaaaaaandy (his alter ego from Funny People) calling out all of the rappers who were supposed to contribute to the mixtape but didn't. It makes me laugh every time, like when he calls out Kid Cudi for his ridiculous song titles, shuts down Drake for his Hotmail account, and ESPECIALLY when he calls out Kanye for the inane nature of his blog ("ohh...here's a picture of a dope treehouse in Scandinavia").

Ansari is also a sneaky good MC, and Sitek lays down some awesome beats. Really, this has to be one of my favorite hip hop tracks I've heard this year and I'm not entirely sure it's meant to be serious at all.

Now hurry up and listen to these albums. You're slower than mayonnaise!


Kellie said...

How can you only "LIKE" Fleet Foxes? Who are you? Sheesh. They are, and always will be one of my favorites for all time. That and I am sure "White Winter Hymnal" is about civil war soldiers.

David Harper said...

I like Fleet Foxes because I only like the first half of their album. Also, their style of music just bores me naturally. It's why Grizzly Bear and Bon Iver and I never get along.

But I agree, "White Winter Hymnal" IS about civil war soldiers, it is an amazing song, and it always reminds me of you conducting an imaginary orchestra.

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