Six months of 2009; six favorite albums
What’s better to post in a mid-July than a list of your favorite albums during the first semester of the year? Apart from whatever might happen to you in these past months, there must be an album or two that always lighten up your mood or helped you through some hard times. And for me, after 60+ albums I’ve listened to since January (it’s true, should be more but I’m tired after counting them up to 60) there are some of this year’s albums that have truly caught my ears. Yes, I’m restricting this to 2009 releases up ’till June only and I’m gonna list only 6 albums. Such disappointment though, because most of my current favorite albums came out at this very July! But oh well, let’s save Mew’s No More Stories… and Owl City’s Ocean Eyes and Jónsi & Alex’s Riceboy Sleeps for the next semester list. Why 6 albums, if you ask me? Because I friggin love that number 6 since who knows when. I round up amounts to 6, not 5. Well, enough with the blabbering and let’s start!
6. The Appleseed Cast – Sagarmatha
The band that originally rocked with their emo-driven style a la Sunny Day Real Estate has now gone to a more post-rock oriented music with lengthy instrumental tracks and non-intrusive approach of the vocals to the songs. Their masterpiece came with their 2001 album Low Level Owl, Vol. 1 but in this newest release they has proven that a band can continue making masterpieces by shifting up the genre. In songs like The Summer Before the reff simply consists of the word “Arizona”, yet the voice blends well with the guitar riffs to make a mesmerizing tune. The closing track Army of the Fireflies and some others have the Explosions in the Sky-ish feel to them, a signature tone of the post-rock genre with roaring guitars covering other instruments. Sagarmatha is what the locals at Nepal call the Mt. Everest, so no wonder if at times the album has the cold and lonesome atmosphere about it.
5. mewithoutYou – It’s All Crazy! It’s All False! It’s All a Dream! It’s Alright
mewithoutYou is previously known with their raw, hard post-hardcore influenced rock music and the religious, shouting lyrics sung with full emotion by their frontman Aaron Weiss. They’re a very spiritual band, you know. Look, the Y in the band name is in caps. But it’s “previously” with a good reason, as in this album they explore the uhmmm… folk-rock genre, arming themselves with acoustic guitars and bells and violins and accordions. Aaron Weiss’ vocal is still roaring in contrast to the acoustic haze on some songs though, and this way their spiritual lyrics could reach out more to the heart of the listener. You’re out playing folk and singing about God, see, it matched. However, the band is now criticized for being too preachy — the last track is even titled Allah, Allah, Allah. But if you’re not into the lyrics, you’ll find this album calms you down in some journeys to the neighboring city, perhaps. Cheers for bands that explore new genres!
4. Gossip – Music for Men
The front cover uses drummer Hannah Blilie instead of the vocalist/frontman Beth Ditto probably because she already contains much controversy in herself. She’s (like very, totally) obese, a lesbian, and very outspoken about those two subjects. I wondered how many “yo mama” jokes she has endured so far. Gossip is Beth Ditto, no doubt about it. But it doesn’t mean their popularity only rise from the eccentric frontman, because their major label debut Music for Men proves that they deserve the praise. The single Heavy Cross which has received many airplays features the queer guitar intro indie-style accompanied with Ditto’s powerful voice. Her singing the words “I checked yoo-o-ou” in the reff will shun you still with the power and that’s just one song. This indie-rock/dance-punk outfit still has a crapload of sweetly good songs you should listen to like Pop Goes the World that will bring you to your feet and dance. Or at least tap your fingers, okay. And don’t miss the intricate guitar in tracks like Men in Love that shows that even without bassist a band can still sound good. They’re a trio and Beth Ditto purely does singing only, well I wonder if there’s any guitar strap long enough to wrap around her body… just kiddin’.
3. Adhitia Sofyan – Quiet Down
This guy has made a really nice album and released it for free to the world — the best move a musician could make. He’s Indonesian, as you can see from the name, and you’ve probably heard and loved his single Adelaide Sky. This whole album revolves around the same mood, the soothing, let’s-just-sleep-through-this-sunny-day mood we all love to plug our ears into. His voice is truly calming, and accompanied with pretty, minimalistic acoustic guitar setting, this album will grow in you. And the lyrics are beautifully simplistic as well with lines like “I don’t mind if time goes too soon,
we’ll stay up all night and make it slower”. Oh, and this album also brings back the good memories of some past months… you should listen nevertheless! See his blog here to download it, it’s legal.
2. Paolo Nutini – Sunny Side Up
This is so far, the loveliest album I’ve ever heard this year. This sophomore effort by the Scotsman Paolo Nutini, lifts the joy of loving up high with his smooth bass voice singing through the acoustic guitars that have a hint of folk in the tracks. Okay, actually I added it to the list because the video of the single, Candy, is too beautiful to be missed. It’s the celebration of love, the merry festive brought by a wedding… that or I’m just missing a love. The whole album is great anyway, songs like Coming Up Easy reminded me of good ol’ country-folk tunes when others like Chamber Music embraces the power of his voice, which truly stands out against today’s male singers: John Mayer, James Morrison, Jason Mraz, and the other Js out there. Hearing his songs is like slouching lazily in the porch with the grass fields outside, on a sunny afternoon. Perrrfekt.
1. The Hint – I Am The Hint EP
Alright, I know an EP is not worth the top spot of a list, but hey, it’s my list of favorite albums, not the best. The quartet hasn’t made a full album yet, but listening to this EP makes me wonder how big will their future studio album be. There’s not much I could find about this band other than the fact that they produce richly sounding powerpop music with the synth dominantly playing along the songs, new-wave style. It’s like if The Killers dumped Brandon Flowers and replaced him with AAR’s Tyson Ritter look-alike only with more bass voice. The vocalist’s voice merged perfectly with the background music in Always With You while on other tracks they goes into more traditional powerpop style, like heard in Something to Hold On to, but the real power of their music lies in Pride and Into the Fire. Here the new wave influence caught the listeners like no other bands, while it’s still soothing the ears at the same time. The album sounds perfect to be listened in a middle of the busy city night, you know, when everyone moves so fast around you but you can still find the peace beneath just by closing your eyes, and feeling the flow of the city that runs in between. The future studio album will be highly anticipated. Thanks for reading this, wait until the end of the year to catch the second half-year list!
And if you’re interested to listen, just tell me which one that you like. Internet is free. 😛
p.s. still insisting I’m doing you wrong huh. and it’s not even me commenting.