- Okkervil River - The Stage Names | Read the short story review | buy it at insound! CD, LP, or MP3
Musically expansive, lyrically incredible, and melodically delectable, The Stage Names has to be the best album of the year. As I wrote earlier this year, "the whole album adds up to a very descriptive tale. The imagery and symbolism is clear and tangible. Musically, the album is dense, dynamic, and diverse." There may be some albums released this past year that have better individual songs, but this album is the best cohesive album.
- Brakesbrakesbrakes (aka The Brakes) - The Beatific Visions | Read the short story review | buy the CD at insound!
This album melds punk and country roots into an indie rock sound. The songs are short and witty. The album starts out with one of the best and most diverse 1-2-3 punch with “Hold Me In The River,” “Margarita,” and “If I Should Die Tonight.” The title track is also one of the catchiest tunes of the year.
- Son Volt - The Search | Read the short story review
Since the breakup of Uncle Tupelo, only the occasional Jay Farrar songs have captivated me, but this album wraps itself around me like blanket on a winter night. Farrar expands the band's music adding some feverish horn parts and cloaked effects while still maintaining the alt country sound for which Son Volt is known.
- Richmond Fontaine - Thirteen Cities | Read the short story review
With such descriptive lyrics full of character's choosing how to deal with the unexpected throes of life, it is no surprise that the songwriter Willy Vlautin. also writes prose influenced by Raymond Carver and Denis Johnson and Charles Bukowski (by the way, I highly recommend reading Vlautin's novel The Motel Life). While the lyrics alone are intriguing enough, the music of this album adds to the appeal.
- Gogol Bordello - Super Taranta! | buy it at insound! CD or 2xLP
I have heard some songs by Gogol Bordello before, but never listened to an entire album until this release. The band is a gypsy punk band. They mix Eastern European gypsy music with punk rock mentality. Fronted by energetic and boisterous Eugene Hutz, the album is full of dynamic music and unique views. Most of the songs on this album are great, but “Wonderlust King,” “Supertheory Of Supereverything,” and “American Wedding” are a few of the finest tracks. I've heard their live shows are even better than their albums, but I don’t think they've ever traveled to the greater Cincinnati area.
- Spoon - Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga | Read the short story review | buy it at insound! CD or LP
Whenever Spoon releases an album, there is a spot in my top ten albums of the year waiting for them. It's near impossible to pick the best track on this album with songs like "The Underdog," "Don't You Evah," "You Got Yr Cherry Bomb," "Don't Make Me A Target," "Eddie's Ragga," and...
- Los Campesinos! - Sticking Fingers Into Sockets | buy it at insound! 10" or MP3
This was the best EP of the year. With 6 tracks and 16 minutes the band shows intelligence, wit, diversity, and the indie sloppiness of bands like Pavement. This EP is not enough to satisfy me. I'm looking forward to their full-length release in a few months.
- The Great Depression - The Great Depression
About two years ago, a friend of mine made me some copies of CDs by Jeremy Pinnell. She gave me "the lost" The Light Wires' album and a disc of demos by The Great Depression. Pinnell made a name for himself in Cincinnati with The Light Wires, but it's The Great Depression that is beginning to carry Pinnell and Tim Carr well beyond Cincinnati. They've toured with Rocky Votolato and The New Amsterdams. I've had a chance to see them perform live a number of times in the Cincinnati. Each time, I am floored. They consistently bring the audience standstill. Much like their live shows, this album draws in the listener with their authentic and captivating songs. Good luck finding it, though. I don't think it's for sale anywhere online. You can usually get it at their shows. I went to both of my favorite independent stores in Cincinnati. One didn't have a copy left. The other had one in the back that I was able to purchase once I asked for it.
- Black Lips - Good Bad Not Evil | buy it at insound! CD, LP, or MP3
The band describes itself as "flower punk," but it's garage rock at it's finest. This band plays gritty and edgy punk rock with a retro feel. They're known for their wild live shows and also released a great live album this year, Los Valientos del Mundo Neuvo, recorded in Tijuana, Mexico.
- Arcade Fire - Neon Bible | Read the short story review | buy it at insound! CD, Deluxe CD, or LP
Arcade Fire finally followed up its 2004 album Funeral with an anticipated album. Meeting its expectations, Neon Bible brought the band a fair amount of commercial success. While still an indie band, Arcade Fire appeared on the cover of Time, was named Rolling Stone's fourth best album of the year, and was even nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Alternative Album. Usually the albums I like don't garner as much attention as Neon Bible has, but it is a testament to the quality of the album.
- Southeast Engine - A Wheel Within A Wheel | Read the short story review | buy it at insound! CD or MP3
Self-produced in their hometown of Athens, Ohio, the 13 tracks on this album are full of fastidious layers of pianos, keyboards, organs, glockenspiels, and strings. The dynamic songs simmer with lavish lyrics that focus on personal questions of existence. While the topics may be heavy and significant, but the music and melodies are memorable and enjoyable.
- Julie Doiron - Woke Myself Up | Read the short story review | buy it at insound! CD or MP3
This is one of the rarest of albums. The album actually gets better with each track. It's starts out with crunching full band folk rock sounds of "I Woke Myself Up" and continues to get better as the album gets to the bare acoustic guitar and single vocal of "I Left Town." The second half of the album begins with the slicing rhythm of "No More" and works its way to another strip down but pungent track, "Me And My Friend."
- David Vandervelde - The Moonstation House Band | Read the short story review | buy it at insound! CD, LP, or MP3
This album has some great songs and became a wonderful introduction to a new artist. The entire album is laced with a 70’s T.Rex style glam-rock production and moving string parts to these indie sounds and highlighted the studio prowess of this musician. During the year Vandervelde toured with a 3-piece band that showcased his guitar skills. While this is a good album, when it is absorbed with the power trio live show the announcement of a powerful new musician is understood - great songwriter, great studio musician, great guitarists/live musician.
- Band Of Horses - Cease To Begin | buy it at insound! CD or LP
One of two bands to make my list of Best Albums Of The Year for the second year in a row. While Everything All The Time is a stronger album from start to finish, Cease To Begin is a great follow up. Band Of Horses has solidified itself as one of the best indie rock bands.
- The Fratellis - Costello Music | Read the short story review | buy the CD at insound!
This is a diverse and impressive debut album. A version of this album was originally released in the UK in 2006 and supplied a total of 5 UK singles. One song was traded out for another before the US version was released this past March. The songs are catchy, humorous, and well produced. This trio makes pop based rock tunes with a blithe spirit.
- Ted Leo & The Pharmacists - Living With The Living | buy it at insound! CD, 2xLP, or MP3
Every time I listen to this album it sounds better. Leo is an intelligent and fitting writer. He has the ability to both subtly and directly place his lyrical commentary within the piercing but consolatory punk songs.
- Oakley Hall - I’ll Follow You | Read the short story review | buy it at insound! CD or LP
With matching, harmonizing vocals combined with acoustic and electric guitars, the fiddles, banjos, and banjo-strung electric guitars, this band continues to make some great and original alt country music. Song like “Marina Life” and “Rue The Blues” are chocked with continually captivating guitar riffs. The melodies of songs like “Angela” and “No Dreams” are alluring.
- The Weakerthans - Reunion Tour | Read the short story review | buy the CD at insound!
This album is full of pop based story songs. Character driven and full of specific descriptions, Reunion Tour has an overall feeling of lamenting for loss and trying to move on. The songwriting is masterful and the playing is flawless.
- Loney, Dear - Loney, Noir | Read the short story review | buy it at insound! CD or LP
This album starts out with instantly compelling tones with "Sinister In A State Of Hope." "I Am John" is rollicking second track that sets up the listener for affecting and refreshing folk based album. Emil Svanängen love songs and falsetto vocals combine with the orchestral rock arrangements to create a soothing album.
- Cloud Cult - The Meaning Of 8 | Read the short story review | buy the CD at insound!
Cloud Cult is an environmentally conscious band that is staying independent. The self-release their albums and have even started their own CD manufacturing company. With standout tracks like “Chemicals Collide,” “Pretty Voice,” “Alien Christ,” and “The Deaf Girl’s Song,” t his release combines acoustic and electronic instruments to create 19 songs, including “The Song Of The Deaf Girl,” that clock in a little over an hour in total time.
And a few other damn good albums:
- Apples In Stereo - New Magnetic Wonder | Read the short story review | buy the CD at insound!
- AA Bondy - American Hearts| buy the CD at insound!
- Jarvis Cocker - Jarvis | Read the short story review | buy the CD at insound!
- Dinosaur Jr - Beyond | Read the short story review | buy the CD at insound!
- The Eames Era - Heroes + Sheroes | buy the CD at insound!
- Iron & Wine - The Shepherd’s Dog | buy the it at insound! CD or LP
- Japanther - Skuffed Up My Huffy | buy the CD at insound!
- Jenny Owen Youngs - Batten The Hatches
- The Mooney Suzuki - Have Mercy | buy the CD at insound!
- The National - Boxer | buy the it at insound! CD or LP
- Gruff Rhys - Candylion | Read the short story review | buy the it at insound! CD or LP
- Will Stratton - What The Night Said | buy the CD at insound!
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