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Jeremy Goldmeier | Albums

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futureheadsSunderland's favorite sons did what their big brother Franz Ferdinand could not do on album #2: expand and adapt.

 

 

 

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1. Junior Boys | So This Is Goodbye (Domino)

The perfect balance of streamlined danceability and ethereal majesty. This album finds the Boys melted down to their essentials: stuttering beats, gooey bass, and Jeremy Greenspan's porcelain vocals. Given how stupendous they sound live with a human drummer, these guys might consider adding a breathing companion behind the ‘skins for their next release. Because at that point...yeah, they'd basically be unstoppable.

2. Grizzly Bear | Yellow House (Warp)

Campfire folk by way of Mars, a distinctive and moving sonic statement in what proved to be an unfortunately homogenous year in music.

3. Islands | Return to the Sea (Equator)

Nick Diamonds escapes the Unicorns' shadow with a new, more ambitious collection of Bizarro Top 40 numbers. His lyrical fascinations with mortality and impending disaster continue. Now if only he could maintain a steady lineup of musicians around him...

4. Mew | And the Glass Handed Kites (Sony)

The greatest guilty pleasure album you'll hear all year. We're taught that rock bands should never be so overtly epic with their sound. But Mew so fervently believe that they are rock's cosmic avengers, they manage to snatch a terrific album from the jaws of overwrought disaster.

5. The Futureheads | News and Tributes (Star Time Intl./Vagrant)

Sunderland's favorite sons did what their big brother Franz Ferdinand could not do on album #2: expand and adapt. Integrating more classical British pop sounds (and acoustic guitars!) into their sugary post-punk stew, the 'Heads showed us all why they might be the brightest hope among Britain's new wave of hyped-up rock groups. Now it's time for the rest of the sophomore class (Bloc Party, Maximo Park, Kaiser Chiefs) to step up to the plate.

6. TV On the Radio | Return to Cookie Mountain (Interscope/4AD)

Dense, claustrophobic, and artier than anyone whose name you'd care to drop, TV on the Radio fine-tuned their latest release with a live rhythm section and an increasingly desperate outlook on the world at large. This is how you do political music: by forcing listeners to dig for and interpret the message, instead of bashing them over the skull with it.

7. The Decemberists | The Crane Wife (Capitol)

White ‘n' nerdy, Colbert-baiting troubadours allay sell-out concerns with a pseudo-song cycle based on Japanese folklore. The prog jams mark an intriguing new direction for the group, but thankfully they've still got those immaculate pop smarts to back up their pretensions. Oh yes, and Colin Meloy's glasses continue to melt our hearts.

8. Thom Yorke | The Eraser (XL)

Only on this list because of the Radiohead connection, of course. Yorke's pet project feels in many ways like an extension of his main group's last effort. Cryptic Orwellian lyrics, shifting textures, layer upon layer of vocal filters... this might be a sign that Yorke has gone too far down the IDM rabbit hole to return to his former status as rock savior. It's only a matter of time before he drops the guitar permanently in favor of a laptop.

9. Gnarls Barkley | St. Elsewhere (Downtown)

Insert "Crazy" lyrical reference here. Sure, the album is essentially a bloated single for 2006's undisputed mega-hit-every other song here feels like a b-side. But it's the eclectic, restless sense of adventure that makes "St. Elsewhere" an enjoyable listen, again and again. Cee-Lo thoroughly sells every song with his obscenely flexible vocal chords. Now if only the material itself were worthy of its interpreter... There's yet much untapped potential for this collaboration, if Danger Mouse and Cee-Lo ever decide to produce a sequel.

10. Evangelicals | So Gone (Misra)

Stick any musician in an apartment in Norman, Oklahoma for an extended period of time with a guitar and recording equipment, and invariably that individual will produce a twisted, left-field pop album. Something about this small college town inevitably drives its residents out of their minds - see the Flaming Lips, Starlight Mints, and now Evangelicals. While the press inevitably links them to their home base, the latter group has emerged from the Oklahoma flatlands with a uniquely demented musical circus ride. Just like one of their manic compositions, no one can say for sure where this trio is headed next. | Jeremy Goldmeier

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