Last week I promised to focus on albums that have come out this year and I intend to keep that promise. It's just the kind of guy I am. This list consists of albums that I've gathered over the past several weeks, some have had more time to sink in than others but some frankly needed no sinking in. I'm finding that this year so far is filled with releases that are somewhat more intriguing than they are necessarily mindblowingly good. Usually by this half-way point in the year, I have a wide range of contenders from my best-of list, and though I do have a lot already, I wouldn't have a hard time putting it together had I to do it tomorrow. That said, if the next six months sees a smattering of albums as good as the best of the first six months, I'll be a happy camper. Here's some 2010 tunes for you to consider.
Omar Rodriquez Lopez & John Frusciante: Two of my favorite musicians of the last decade teamed up to release this experimental, instrumental jam session. The two have paired up before many times, mostly on Mars Volta releases or Omar's many solo releases. This falls into that category of intriguing for me. Two talented musicians improvising to create music that is unfiltered and immediate. But honestly, it's a two or three listen kind of thing, good but not lasting. It's available for donation download and all proceeds go to saving music in schools, so points for noble intentions for sure.
The Roots - Dilla Joints: This instrumental album was an obvious intent to hold-over fans until the new album came out this week. You would think if any hip-hop band could pull off an instrumental album, it would be the Roots. And while this is certainly a collection of listenable tracks, it shockingly got quite boring quite fast in my opinion (speaking as a long-time, huge Roots fan). But it was released to be a curiosity and it satisfies that. However, I can't wait to hear the real album.
Wolf Parade - Expo 86: Highly anticipated third album from Dan Boeckner (of Handsome Furs) and Spencer Krug (Sunset Rubdown and Swan Lake). I was very excited to listen to this one, hoping for another masterpiece from Krug who has delivered many in my opinion (and fell flat a few times too). Though not quite a masterpiece, this certainly doesn't fall flat. In many ways, it's very similar to the previous album. What did sort of surprise me was that Boeckner's songs were slightly more enjoyable for me. I've always liked his Springsteen esque sound, but always found his tracks to be slightly weaker. I think they are equal on this album, which is great to see. I have to admit to liking this album more with each listen, and given that it feels more of an autumn sound to me, by Fall, I expect it may have crept onto my list. We'll see.
Angus & Julia Stone - Down the Way: The Australian indie folk duo's follow-up to 2007's fantastic debut A Book Like This. There have been several EPs between and I can honestly say, I enjoy this band more and more every time I hear them. Both albums very much feel like a his & her exchange. Julia's songs are beautiful and intelligent in an sweeter Amiee Mann sort of way. Angus's songs are darker and more haunting. The combination of the two creates a wonderful album. Much recommended for indie folksters.
The Tallest Man on Earth - The Wild Hunt: The Swedish singer songwriter's second album follows one of my favorites of 2008 (Shallow Grave). This collection of songs doesn't stray far from the first album. The obvious americana influence and '60-'70s folk influences continue. This album is good, but for me it lacks some of the heart that Shallow Grave had. Perhaps it's just that it's so similar that the impact is diminished. "Kids on the Run" is a standout track for me. Very solid effort, just wished for slightly more departure from the first album. This feels like Disc 2 or something.
Broken Bells - Broken Bells: James Mercer (of The Shins) teams up with Danger Mouse to make one of the biggest surprises for me this year. I confess to only finding The Shins to be mildly entertaining at best. But Danger Mouse has a way of bringing out a fresh sound that rids James' voice of all the contrivances that I find so irritable when it comes to The Shins. The result is a beautiful indie rock album. I've been digging this quite a bit lately.
Pony the Pirate - This Is Our Psychopedia!: This Norwegian band plays a sort indie rock with garage punk nods. They remind me a lot of the great London based band Dogs. Straight-forward fist pumping songs. Very decent indie rock for those seeking a slightly harder beat. And the cover...well, given my cat likes pretend she be a pirate, I could hardly refuse the temptation.
Citay - Dream Get Together: San Francisco psychedelic folk gets me every time. This is a delightful album for passing away sunny summer days. Very much in the tradition of their contemporaries and one of my favorite bands The Skygreen Leopards. A great record to get lost in. I particularly love the blending of acoustic and electric droning over each other and drowned out by sunshine vocals.
Beach House - Teen Dream: Swirling indie dream pop, from Baltimore no less. I don't have too much to say about this album. It's all very pretty and everything but I find it hard to believe it inspires passion for anyone to love or hate it.
MGMT - Congratulations: After the smash success of their previous album, the band purposefully created an album that is very different than Oracular Spectacular. In a way, I commend them for shunting the easy route of creating the same catchy songs and instead trying to push themselves creatively. On the other hand, I do love those catch songs from the first album. I think the result is very mixed. There are some truly amazing songs on this album, "Siberian Breaks" and "Brian Eno", along with "Flash Delirium" are very good and very interesting musically. But others like the title track just don't work for me. An uneven album to be sure, but with flashes of what might be. The album cover on the other hand...yikes.