Monday, December 31, 2007

5. The National - Boxer

The National's previous album, Alligator, showed a ton of potential, particularly in its best songs, but there were a few throwaways. Still, it garnered much critical acclaim and made its followup a highly anticipated affair. Boxer delivers on that potential, and even improves upon it to the point of being an almost perfect album.

"Fake Empire" is a brilliant opener, and perhaps the album's finest song, but that doesn't mean there's a dropoff in quality after that. There's not a single song here that isn't essential, with "Start a War" being its other major highlight, and the sum total is an intelligent and introspective album that leans towards indie rock's mellower, even more romantic, side.

4. Modest Mouse - We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank

Let's just get this out in the open right away...this is a tremendous album. All of the Modest Mouse loyalists who think their last two albums are disappointing need to just get a grip and accept that the band is evolving, and that doesn't necessarily mean selling out. There are plenty of quality indie rock bands who maintain a sound that is still accessible to more mainstream ears. It's just that Modest Mouse didn't used to be one of those bands, and now they are.

This is a brilliant album, that is strong throughout its entire 60+ minutes. Despite being more accessible than its predecessors, the trademark Modest Mouse quirkyness is still present in full force. Not to mention that the versatility that has always made this band so great is still on display, combining indie radio-friendly tunes like "Dashboard" and "Florida" with thrashing rockers "Fly Trapped in a Jar" and "Spitting Venom", and the pleasantly mid-tempo "Missed the Boat" and "People as Places as People".

3. Of Montreal - Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer?

Of Montreal's sound had shown some potential to my ears for a while, but on Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer? they really deliver. The subject matter here are the difficult times that band leader Kevin Barnes has gone through in the past few years, most importantly the breakup of his marriage and subsequent depression. Despite this, it's an upbeat and infectiously catchy pop album, that still manages to capture the despair of Barnes' recent experiences.

Highlights include album opener "Suffer for Fashion", the pop brilliance of the curiously titled "Heimdalsgate Like a Promethean Curse", and the hilariously bitter "She's a Rejecter", on which Barnes sings "There's the girl that left me bitter, want to pay some other girl to just walk up to her and hit her...but I can't, I can't, I can't!" Pure pop genius.

2. Band of Horses - Cease to Begin

Band of Horses' debut, Everything All the Time, was impressive, but their sophomore effort, Cease to Begin, is outstanding. I don't know of another album that starts as strong as this one, with the first four tracks, "Is There A Ghost", "Ode to LRC", "No One's Gonna Love You" and "Detlef Schrempf" all being certifiable eagles.

Despite the strength of the first half, the remainder still does not disappoint, as every minute of this brief 35-minute affair is absolutely breathtaking, highlighted by Ben Bridwell's soaring falsetto, plenty of reverb, and more shimmering guitar hooks than one could ask for. Positively stunning and goosebump inspiring. If you don't love this album...well, there's nothing I can do for you.

1. Cloud Cult - The Meaning of 8

I won't make the same claim regarding The Meaning of 8 that I did about Cease to Begin. This is not for everyone, but it certainly is, without a doubt, the album of the year for me.

The album's liner notes discuss the album's title in the context of Carl Jung's philosophy regarding the universal meaning of the number 8. However, the album's true meaning is revealed on its seventh track, "Your 8th Birthday", as singer Craig Minowa repeatedly belts out the name Kaidin, his infant son who died of unknown causes in 2002. Kaidin would've turned 8 this year.

The Meaning of 8 isn't the first time Minowa has included his son's death as at least the partial focus of an album, but this loss is never shared so eloquently as it is here. Admittedly, I have a soft spot for such subject matter, but this is my album of the year on the strength of its music as overdose of cerebral, quirky and at times symphonic indie rock that is a pleasure for its entire 64 minutes.


  1. why oh why must you force me to get so much new music? ugh. I actually downloaded the National already... never listened to it.. and deleted it. Gotta get that one back and a few more from your list. Of course, my feedback would be that Cassadaga deserved a higher rank. fo sho'.

    PS: i JUST got "69 Love Songs" by the Magnetic Fields. I know I'm about 9 years late here, but oh my dear god, it's amazing.

  2. nice job, chuck.

    your cd is in the mail. modest mouse didn't make my list.