Maximo Park – National Health (V2)
This is one of my favorite albums of the year and it just keeps getting better with every listen. I can’t wait to see them in September. I haven’t seen them since 2005 and this album is their best since A Certain Trigger, their now classic debut.
Neneh Cherry and The Thing – Neneh Cherry and The Thing (Smalltown Supersound)
Please see my full review here.
Killer Mike – R.A.P. Music (Williams Street)
Simply put, this is the finest hip-hop album I’ve heard in many years. Throughout lyrical nods to Public Enemy and N.W.A. (and on the title track, much more), his hometown of Atlanta and the Dirty South and his wife, Killer Mike wants you to learn something. Particularly astonishing is not only his wordplay and rhyming skills on this, his 6th overall solo disc, but the political insight of “Reagan”, one of the my favorite songs of the year by anyone.
DIIV – Oshin (Captured Tracks)
After 3 excellent 7” singles and a name change (the band’s name is still pronounced like their original name Dive), we finally have the debut full-length from the best new band on Captured Tracks since their flagship act Wild Nothing. This is dream-pop done seamlessly well with influences stretching from The Cure circa Seventeen Seconds to The Chameleons circa their first two albums. In fact, this often sounds like a blend of those two great acts but with softer-sounding vocals than Mark Burgess‘ soaring voice or Robert Smith‘s wail.
exlovers – Moth (Young and Lost Music)
Similar to DIIV, it took exlovers even longer (it’s been 4 years since their first single “Just a Silhouette”) and it’s a beauty. Some of the songs from those singles like the aforementioned “Just a Silhouette” and last year’s single “Blowing Kisses” are here, but it’s nice to have them together on one album. Plus, there are some new songs here, too.
King Tuff – King Tuff (Sub Pop)
A mesmerizing bland of early ’70s glam and garage punk of recent vintage, this one is deserving of the accolades it has received thus far.
Japandroids – Celebration Rock (Polyvinyl)
A punk-ish guitar and drums duo from Vancouver, they invite comparisons to No Age. However, No Age are usually never this exuberant, anthemic and plainly catchy (though parts of 2008’s Nouns, one of my favorite albums of that year, almost were at least on the catchy front). It’s a shame I missed their recent show here as I’d really like to see this band live. It feels like a party is happening on this record, so I can only imagine what the feel of their shows is like.
The Decemberists – We All Raise Our Voices to the Air (Capitol)
After 6 albums, The Decemberists finally release a live album (a double CD/triple Lp, in fact) to placate fans yearning for new material as they take a well-earned hiatus. Fortunately, though poor live albums are a dime a dozen, this is a great one that will earn repeated listens (though due to its length, it’s a lot to take in one sitting). Every album is represented (though The Hazards of Love is only represented with “The Rake’s Song”) and though something is lost not actually watching them perform, the feel is there, the sound is great and this just cements their status as one of the best bands of the last decade.
Guided by Voices – Class Clown Spots a UFO (Fire)
In anticipation of their show here in a few days, I’ve been spinning this one more. Though it’s not a classic, it’s a solid album and I like it more than Let’s Go Eat the Factory and songs like “Jon the Croc” and “No Transmission” can rank among their best ever.
Neil Halstead – “Full Moon Rising”
The first song released from Halstead’s upcoming Palindrome Hunches (on a 5-song sampler from his label, Brushfire Records) is an absolute beauty that rivals anything on his last solo album, 2008’s excellent and overlooked Oh! Mighty Engine. I just keep playing it over and over again every time I listen to it.