Tuesday, December 18, 2007

35. Handsome Furs - Plague Park

Handsome Furs is the "other" Wolf Parade side project. I say other, because after two well received albums in consecutive years, Spencer Krug's Sunset Rubdown is maybe even bigger than Wolf Parade itself. In fact, is it really a side project when they've made more albums than the main band? But that's Sunset Rubdown, and I'll be writing more about them later, so I digress.

Wolf Parade's other (there I go with that word again) front man, Dan Boeckner, is the driving force behind Handsome Furs. While Boeckner's vocals make it difficult to consider this a major departure from the band from which this project spawns, there are some considerable differences. The music is generally more stripped down, but the presence of electronic blips and drum machines make it far from an organic effort. Not as upbeat and powerful as Wolf Parade, nor as drenched in layers as Sunset Rubdown, this is still an impressive debut from a worthwhile side project. Now, I look forward to a proper Wolf Parade album this year.

34. Malcolm Middleton - A Brighter Beat

I was never really a fan of Arab Strap, but only because I was never really exposed to their music, not because I didn't like them. I still can't really say either way, but judging from Malcolm Middleton's solo output, and the fact that I've heard them referred to as Scotland's answer to Walter Becker and Donald Fagen (not just because they're both named after sexual devices), I'm pretty sure I could easily be swayed.

But, the problem is that Middleton is the Becker of Arab Strap, so who knows? Regardless, his solo albums have made me an instant fan, with 2005's Into the Woods cracking my top 20, and this impressive follow-up. You can never get enough songs about life's depressing and darker moments sung by a Scotsman as charming as Middleton. When he sings "when are you coming home...don't want to be alone" on "Fuck it, I Love You", it's hard not to want to venture out to the pub to drink a pint on his behalf. And then there's "Up Late at Night Again", as much this album's highlight as "Choir" was to Into the Woods. I dare you to listen this song without wanting a drink.

33. Radiohead - In Rainbows

I think I remember reading somewhere that this album was in danger of being overlooked musically because of all the hype surrounding it's unorthodox release. Well, so much for that. I already count it atop two critical year end lists and in 12 other top tens. That's out of 16 lists total, all aggregated on Metacritic, which leaves two in which it didn't crack the top ten. Those publications are Paste, my new favorite music magazine, and Slant, which I know little about.

In Rainbows is a good album. It's better than the new Wilco, the band I once referred to as the alt-country Radiohead. It's not OK Computer. It's not even The Bends. It's good, actually very good, with a couple weaker moments. That's all I have to say.

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