David Wax Museum – Everything Is Saved
The Wealthy Orphans – A Little Piece of the Pie
A.A. Bondy – Believers
Bjork – The Crystalline Series – Omar Souleyman Versions
Case Studies – The World Is Just A Shape To Fill The Night
Dawes – Nothing Is Wrong
Fleet Foxes – Helplessness Blues
Gold Leaves – The Ornament
Lauderdale – Moving On
Low – C’mon
Chris Bathgate – Salt Year
Scotty Alan – Wreck and the Mess
The Decemberists – The King Is Dead
The Soft Moon – The Soft Moon
The Deep Dark Woods – The Place I Left Behind
At some point during this year, each of these albums was my favorite. It seems like Dawes’ Nothing Is Wrong and Lauderdale’s Moving On are the two that I keep coming back to the most but I have a sneaking suspicion that I’ll be listening to A.A. Bondy’s Believers for years to come. Chris Bathgate came as a surprise to me and so did Bjork. I had heard Biophillia and played around with her new iPhone app but wasn’t really that moved. Then I heard the Omar Souleyman remixes and was blown away. The crazy instrumentation, percussion and riffs that Souleyman infused into Bjork’s songs instantly re-wired my brain. I had no idea that liked that I liked eastern music until I heard it.
The Deep Dark Woods was another album that snuck up on me. Usually after I review an album, I’ve listened to it enough that I’m kind of through with it. In the case of The Place I Left Behind, it still grew on me for another couple of months.
Michigan did itself well this year with some great releases. However, it was only Chris Bathgate’s Salt Year that got much press (and really, in comparison to how fantastic that album is, it wasn’t much). Scotty Alan and The Wealthy Orphans both released outstanding albums that so far, have stayed under the radar.
I wasn’t sure about David Wax Museum. I saw them at the Winnipeg Folk Festival this past summer and didn’t really know what to think. Everything is Saved, though won me over pretty quickly. From the upbeat “Broken Hearted Boy” to the dirgey “Night Was A Car,” they keep things interesting with great percussion, catchy melodies, and harmonies that melt your socks off. Their song “The Least I Could Do,” still destroys me every time I hear it.
It was sad to see The Dutchess and The Duke break up but Jesse Lortz’s new solo project, The Case Studies, is just as strong as his previous work. The song “Silver Hand” seems like it could be a classic 70’s cut from Glen Campbell.
I’ve been a Low fan for over a decade and a year with a new Low album is always a good one. I’m continually impressed how the band continues to evolve.
If you read my reviews this year, you probably know goth music holds a special place in my dark heart. The Soft Moon is one of the more exciting bands in this genre. Their self-titled LP came out early in the year when the earth was still frozen and everything looked bleak, which was entirely appropriate.
It took me awhile to appreciate Helplessness Blues by the Fleet Foxes. The title track is amazing and sounded like it could have come from their first album but the rest of Helplessness Blues sounded a more pastoral with hints of Fairport Convention. I did end up loving this album but first I had to give up wanting part two of their debut.
The Ornament by Gold Leaves is an excellent album. It’s suave. It’s gentle. It exists beneath a haze of reverb, tremolo, and washes of organ like many “it” indie bands like Girls and Beach House. But that’s where the similarity ends, because at its core, Gold Leaves seems more like country lounge music. If Nancy Sinatra had a little brother who was into indie rock, this might be the kind of music he would make.
One genre of music that’s never made much headway with me is prog rock. Despite loving most Decemberists albums, they lost me for a few years while they exercised their inner Rush and Yes demons. So for me, The King Is Dead was a welcome surprise as they returned to their folk and country roots.