Pop Rocks: Year in Review 2009
1. Animal Collective
3. Grizzly Bear
5. Dirty Projectors
6. The Pains of Being Pure at Heart
7. The XX
8. Flaming Lips
9. Bat For Lashes
10. Handsome Furs
12. Wax Mannequin
13. Future Of The Left
15. Yeah Yeah Yeahs
16. The Thermals
17. Young Galaxy
18. Passion Pit
19. Dinosaur Jr
20. St. Vincent
1. Animal Collective Merriweather Post Pavilion (Domino)
With Strawberry Jam in 2007, it seemed that these outsider darlings had snuck a toe into the doorjamb of (indie) mainstream success. Merriweather Post Pavilion not only proves that the Animal Collective haven't let that mainstream door hit them in the ass on the way back out, but that they've decided to pry it open even wider.
According to Dave Portner (aka Avey Tare), "We stand by and enjoyed making all our records, but with this one the experience was so positive we're definitely glad other people appreciated it." Only hardcore cynics would fail to appreciate these tracks ― they're so suffused with colour and joyful noises they'd make Peter Pan glad to grow up... and form a rock band. Initial listens garner appreciation for the odd constructions of loops and echoes apparently held together by Noah Lennox and Portner's layered vocal harmonies. Further exposure reveals the real step ahead on Merriweather is the band's growing ability to wield loops and samples the way most groups play instruments. Complex melodies are hidden behind every square centimetre of dayglo scenery. On their creative inner workings Portner says, "I heard Paul McCartney interviewed on how to write a song and I thought 'that's really similar [to what we do].' You have a line that gets into your head and the line becomes part of a melody, then the line will change. It just grows."
With greater visibility comes different responsibility to their new audience. "For our sanity's sake we've pretty much maintained how we feel about doing stuff [live]. But I realize there are people coming to see us who are just interested in hearing 'My Girl.'" If this is their concession to success, it's minor and kicks ass.
2. Japandroids Post-Nothing (Unfamiliar)
Given the year they've had, it's hard to believe that 12 months ago, Japandroids were on the verge of calling it quits. Thankfully, the Vancouver-based duo stuck around to release their debut full-length. A blast of sonic energy, it left critics and fans drooling for more and tracks like "Young Hearts Spark Fire" that had everyone worrying about those sunshine girls. With their fuzzy wall of sound could have easily been lumped in with the slew of other lo-fi rockers making the round. But true to the record's title, the band eschewed classification, creating a sound all their own.
3. Grizzly Bear Veckatimest (Warp)
What's impressive about this album is that every instrument and set of vocals has its own place. They are clear, thus have room to explore. Veckatimest is indeed a new venture for the attention spans of this Brooklyn-based band's listeners, but the result is decidedly fitting. Edward Droste and Daniel Rossen's vocal harmonies are perfect together, highlighting each other's textural differences. The slow, soft percussion by Chris Bear is the stem for the long branches of carefully plucked guitars and Chris Taylor's bass. Spiced up with strings, keyboards and more, Veckatimest contains a plethora of charming sounds that together create one everlasting discovery.
4. Phoenix Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix (Glass Note)
It only took them a decade, but these Parisians finally won the popular vote with their fourth and best album. To call this a perfect pop record feels like an injustice. Phoenix went for broke ensuring everything was at the listener's disposal ― childlike hooks, danceable rhythms and two of the year's best singles ― while appeasing their creative appetites with an epic, two-part show-stealer. Thanks to their painstaking attention to detail, Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix provided us with an unforgettable love buzz equivalent to a big, delicious French kiss.
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