(As if anyone wanted to know) I am not a music critic.
5. Lykke Li - Wounded Rhymes
I first heard “Little Bit” in the summer of 2008 and fell in love with Youth Novels right away. A lot of that album is somewhat whimsical and vulnerable songs, so I was a little surprised to hear songs off of Wounded Rhymes like “Get Some” which is a sexy satire in its own right. Songs like “Love Out Of Lust”, “I Know Places” or my instant favorite “Unrequited Love”, a 60s-esque ballad, are dripping with angst and heartache. Overall the album, to me, is a sultry and bold compilation with delicate conviction.
4. Feist - Metals
Feist’s last studio album, The Reminder, was released in 2007 (when I first discovered her through her “1234” music video and membership in Broken Social Scene) so needless to say I had been dying for her to release another. Well, four years later, her single “How Come You Never Go There” was released and I was already sold. This album is more reminiscent of her first two albums, Monarch and Let It Die with its enticing strings and melancholic crooning. The intimate, personal feel of it is alluring. Other songs like “The Circle Married The Line” have backing vocals sweeping the listener into an enchantment of strings and piano, while other songs such as “Anti-Pioneer” are evocative of a glum rainy day with its dragging drums and dejected guitar riffs. It’s an overall gorgeous composition and well worth the wait.
3. Still Corners - Creatures of an Hour
This was a delightful find, to say the least. The London-based band, led by ethereal, angel-voiced Tessa Murray, has been around for about four years now (their other stuff is just as amazing if not more) but I had only been introduced to them this year when their song “The Twilight Hour” was featured on an episode of Gossip Girl (which I shamelessly still watch). The show did not do the song justice. It’s poignant, almost lamenting ballad employed with angelic chorus-like oohs and ahhs and overtaking drums. Other noteworthy songs are “Cuckoo” which could resemble a modern 1960s melody. In fact, the album seems to be heavily influenced by the 60s sound, with Simon and Garfunkel-esque singles such as “I Wrote In Blood”, hauntingly dizzying organs in “Circulars”, as well as nostalgic guitar riffs in “Submarine” make for an amazingly well-executed and memorable album.
2. St. Vincent - Strange Mercy
I discovered St. Vincent sometime in 2009 when her sophomore album Actor had just been released. Listening to a few of the songs I realized singer/songwriter Annie Clark had something I love in a musician: spunk and wit. Rather than keep up with the quirky tone of her first two spectacular and instrumentally driven albums Marry Me and Actor, Clark opted for a more biting and bold approach. She keeps the same distorted and wild guitar riffs, along with bittersweet melodies and aching vocals. Her first single “Surgeon” is a synthy and sophisticatedly funky song that goes into a urgent and slightly chaotic flurry. “Chloe In The Afternoon”, undoubtably inspired by Eric Roehmer’s 1972 film Love In The Afternoon, is sickly sweet narrative of a man considering an affair. There are declarative songs like “Cheerleader” and sentimental, pensive ones like “Neutered Fruit”. Strange Mercy is a bold, hot and cold tour de force frenzy.
1. Gardens & Villa - Gardens & Villa
Another delightful find. Their song “Black Hills” was featured in an episode of Gossip Girl (I know) and caught my attention; I needed to know who this band was and where I could find more from them. Their self-titled debut is a hell of a debut. Their islandy and unique sound transcended through every song. “Orange Blossom” suggest a play on traditional Chinese instrumental music, while songs like “Spacetime” and “Cruise Ship” are indicative of the 50s and 60s space age music. Others like my personal favorite “Star Fire Power” are an improved 80s synthetic and bassy sound, somewhat like The Police. “Chemtrails” and “Carrizo Plain” give off the feel of the wee hours of the morning, a contemplative and sentimentality. The dizzy and gloomy song “Sunday Morning” gives a facade of happiness to make an impact. Great debut, great listen, and great band.