I was recently asked for my favourites of the year so far. If you're like me, being asked a question like this is easy bait. We're only just past the half-way point and it didn't take long for me to ramble off a smattering of albums I've really been enjoying. Unsurprisingly, I've already written about most of them on this blog.
Balmorhea - Constellations
A strange fusion of familiar sounds, this group of musicians from Texas have produced a stunning album of classically minded instrumental folk-music that is profoundly affective and moving. There's just something about the combination of a banjo, a small orchestra and a kickdrum that ties my stomach up in knots. Constellations may end up being my album of the year. See my review.
Menomena - Mines
I've written of this album extensively. It's not even officially out yet, but already I've listened to and thought about Mines more than anything else released this year. It helps to have a few pals that are as captivated by Menomena's way with composition and melody. It also might have helped that I've been reading Dante's Divine Comedy ("Killemall") and Moby Dick ("BOTE"). See my reviews.
The National - High Violet
The National came alive for me with High Violet. Sure, I was a fan of Boxer and Alligator. But something about Matt Beringer's melancholy seems more realized on the new album. I think it's their best album and you'll be hard-pressed to find a better executed rock record this year (unless it's by Menomena, but, then again, I've got another five months to back up that claim). It probably helped that I had become a huge fan of Mad Men in the mean time. See my review.
Joanna Newsom - Have One On Me
Could this be Newsom's most straight-forward album? It's certainly her most consistent. And when you consider that it's a triple album (!), it's hard not to call it her best. Lyrically, she's still full of wit and an attention to diction that's rarely found in most contemporary songwriters. I love hearing moments borrowed from Joni Mitchell, as well as great accompaniment. Newsom has done something excessive and audacious (arguably moreso than with Ys.) and has once again miraculously avoided falling flat on her face. Lord knows, that's what anyone else would have done.
The above are the cream of the crop, in my opinion. Below is my long list, in no particular order.
Surfer Blood - Astro Coast
These New Puritans - Hidden
Toro Y Moi - Causers of This
Crystal Castles - II
Frog Eyes - Paul's Tomb: A Triumph
Future Islands - In Evening Air
Gorillaz - Plastic Beach
Beach House - Teen Dream
Tara Jane O'Neill - A Ways Away
The Morning Benders - Big Echo
Caribou - Swim
Ariel Pink - Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffitti
Owen Pallett - Heartland
Shearwater - The Golden Archipelago