LCD Soundsystem, Sound of Silver
With songs running an average of eight minutes and a singing style that closely resembles talking, James Murphy is unconventional in just a few ways. But none of that detracts from the Sound of Silver, a fluid, danceable masterpiece. Murphy inserts witty social commentary about the implications of being North American, while discussing the common emptiness of a broken relationship and tired cycles of friendship. Ending with a bittersweet ballad to his hometown, Sound of Silver establishes itself as a poignant and nearly perfect piece of digital production. With the exception of the last number, this is dance rock in its greatest form.
Radiohead, In Rainbows
Thom Yorke himself claims that this is Radiohead’s “classic album.” All the band’s musical bases are covered on the record, which is more finely tuned and produced than any of their others. Yorke’s reflective attitude (versus the political angst of Hail to the Thief) is decidedly more melodic and moving in the end. From the sparse and beautiful piano-led “Videotape,” to Yorke’s unadulterated vocals on “Jigsaw Falling into Place,” all of the songs have an unprecedented working complexity that Radiohead has mastered. The style is astounding and so is the marketing scheme.
The National, Boxer
Lead singer Matt Berninger gets the award for producing vocal wonders within one octave or less. Berninger’s seemingly apathetic repetition of a single word is more moving than most songs I hear today. His low grunt combined with standard yet prominent drumming makes Boxer this year’s grower, since it resembles many indie rock-pop acts out there. After you recognize the sincerity in his voice and unconsciously memorize the drumbeats, they will rattle around in your head for months.
Panda Bear, Person Pitch
So Panda Bear might owe a little something to the Beach Boys, but who doesn’t? We can’t just listen to Pet Sounds forever, can we? Well, we probably could, but a fresher and more modern take on the Beach Boys’ style found itself in Person Pitch this year. Drenched in reverb, Noah Lennox belts out easily digestible melodies over warm, fuzzy bass and percussion. The lyrics are simple one-liners we all understand and can sing along to, and the ambient noise behind the vocals takes you some place nice and far, far away.
Sunset Rubdown, Random Spirit Lover
Spencer Krug is a lyrical genius. He makes puzzles with his words, and his songs usually build at a steady pace so that your neck is sore from nodding your head before the end. With “The Mending of the Gown” as the most epic rock song of the year, Krug explores his semi-medieval rock formula while giving us some familiar Sunset Rubdown models to enjoy. Often using his voice as an accompanying instrument, Krug demands to be heard in one form or another. While he may pierce your ears at first, the electronic rock melodies are too sweet to be forgotten.