Friday, January 7, 2011

Albums Not Making My Favorites (and Why)

I received several comments and emails from people about why I hadn’t included certain albums on My Favorite Albums of 2010 list. Here are some thoughts about why some of the albums that appeared on other “best of” lists did not appear on mine.

Astro Coast by Surfer Blood – Mixed in with the great songs (“Floating Vibes,” “Harmonix”) are songs that sound like experiments gone wrong (e.g. “Neighbour Riffs”).

Brothers by Black Keys – I like this album, but it’s just a bit too derivative.
Treats by Sleigh Bells – This showed up on a number of “best of” lists, often near the top, but I just couldn’t get into it in its entirety. There are some fantastic songs, but too often it sounds like noise for noise’s sake or to sound trendy, rather than to serve the song. And, yes, I realize complaining about “noise” in music is an indication of age…

Together by the New Pornographers – For their first three albums, the New Pornographers managed to sound like a coherent and consistent band, even though they consist of people from other bands. Somehow they lost that thread with 2007’s Challengers and that trend unfortunately continued with Together. There are some good songs on the album (particularly “You Hands (Together),” “Crash Years,” and “My Shepherd”) but there are a number of forgettable songs. The album feels like a bunch of songs thrown into a collection, rather a consistent thoughful album.

Transference by Spoon – I love Spoon, and one song on this album made my favorite songs list, but I feel like each album is about the same as the last. I could play every Spoon song I’ve got in random (i.e. non-album) order, and I wouldn’t be able to tell you which album they’re from. Truly great albums have a quality to them in which the songs are inextricably tied to the album itself.

At Echo Lake by Woods – Some nice songs but I can only handle so much of this slightly sloppy lo-fi music. Very few bands can pull this off for an entire album.


Halcyon Digest by Deerhunter - In retrospect, I would have included this. It’s one of those albums that took awhile to grow on me. (This is something I’ve noticed with a number of albums that are now among my all-time favorites, Funeral by Arcade Fire being a good example.) I listened a couple of times, enjoyed it but it didn’t register enough to stay on my radar screen at year-end. Then I saw it on so many other lists (which I checked after composing my own to ensure I wasn’t influenced by anyone else) so I re-listened 3 times and now wish I’d included it. Great moody music, interesting instrumental choices, and strong songcraft.

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