Kiernan Scrima | Music


1. Radiohead | In Rainbows (ATO/Xl)
At first I didn’t like it that much. I actually had the Klaxons as my number one for over a week, until I decided to give this list one last look before submitting. Several listens later, I’ve learned that I appreciate Jonny Greenwood more than I ever thought I would. Instead of featuring his guitars, he haunts you from behind the music, complimenting Thom Yorke’s vocals. The music is bluesy and electronic fused within the basics of rock. The album as a whole is cohesive and Yorke’s vocals are absolutely beautiful. When the album is officially released in print, I’m definitely going to purchase it. Radiohead has been in this game for a long time and, unlike some of their peers, they continue to challenge themselves and strive to make forward-thinking music.

2. Klaxons | Myths of the Near Future (Polydor)
The album came out in February, and it’s December and I still crave the songs from this album. I don’t think I went too far between listens, and it’s one of my most recommended albums to friends. Not saying it’s completely unique, but it was the first of the many "new rave," dance-rock bands that emerged this year, and in my opinion, one of the best. They got guys (yes, guys!) dancing at their show. They topped off their year winning the Mercury Prize over some heavy competition. It’s a must-have for your collection.

3. Arcade Fire | Neon Bible (Merge)
With such lofty expectations on the sophomore album, Arcade Fire not only outdid themselves, they set the bar for which all other albums were to be compared to for another 10 months. What is even more impressive is that most of the standout tracks are the more muted, quieter songs. Unlike their debut album, this album was more cohesive and maintained their signature sound while exploring and expanding and not to mention maturing their depth of work.

4. Travis | The Boy With No Name (Independiente)
Everyone needs some sappy, romantic pop rock in their musical diet. This year, Scottish band Travis fulfilled that. After churning out several outstanding albums, their 2003 release 12 Memories was less than stellar; while it had that Travis formula, it seemed to be missing something. Give them four years, a singles album and parenthood, and Travis righted the ship. If 12 Memories was erased from memory, this album would be a clear follow up to The Invisible Band, clinging to their original rock roots but mature, less dour and even catchier than before. While all you chumps revel in your Keane, Snow Patrol and Coldplay, I’ll take Travis any day.

5. Mando Diao | Ode to Ochrasy (Mute)
Of all the Swedish bands to grace our shores, I often wonder how this gem of a band doesn’t garner more attention than they do. I mean, they’ve got the pair of singers in Gustav Noren and Bjorn Dixgard that are often compared to the Pete Doherty/Carl Barat Libertine’s duo or Oasis’ tandem of brotherly love Liam and Noel Gallagher. They write short, fast-paced, catchy pop songs. They’re all amazingly good looking. The album itself is just song after song of energy. Really, how does this not get much exposure here?

6. M.I.A. | Kala (XL/Interscope)
Another sophomore album that lives up and surpasses the hype. I don’t think anyone else could pull this particular style off, and what’s even more grand about it all is that the lyrics are really potent. You feel like you’re getting a sampling of a woman whose been there and done that and it’s not exclusive to your typical R&B/rap artist pursuits and habits. It’s a little bigger than that, and it’s wonderful. You have to be open to the sound before you can appreciate it but when you do, you’ll be waiting to see what she can pull off next.

7. Andrew Bird | Armchair Apocrypha (Fat Possum)
I’m still wondering how this guy never crossed my radar ’til a chance encounter at Lollapalooza of 2006. Since then I’ve made sure to catch him the few times our paths have crossed. This one-man show (well, really two-man show thanks to Martin Dosh) manages to create harmony and beauty all with mainly his own fingertips, a violin, a guitar and a few whistles. When you put it all together, you’ve got one damn fine record. Of all of Bird’s albums, this one is easily one of his best and definitely one of his most accessible.

8.. !!! | Myth Takes (Warp)
So they cleaned up their language a little bit, but it helped them get a little bit more airplay on the indie rock stations. Well deserved airplay that is. Another dance-y, electronic-fused funk-rock album that came out this year and it knocked my socks off. Clever lyrics, sick bass lines, and a live show that erupts into a sweaty mass orgy of dancing. What’s not to like? I only skip past a few tracks due to length and my short attention span; otherwise you can listen from start to finish with ease.

9. LCD Soundsystem | Sounds of Silver (Capitol)
Everyone loves this album, and with good reason: it’s quite good. On the other hand, when I got to the end of the disc, I felt like I was missing something; it just didn’t seem finished to me. I know I preach quality over quantity, but Sounds of Silver was lacking in both. You’ve got some insanely clever, catchy electronic songs ("North American Scum," "Time to Get Away") and then you get some monotonous songs ("Someone Great," "Get Innocuous") that seem to last a little too long. Had they tightened up some of the tracks sonically, I think the amount of songs wouldn’t bother me. Overall, what it lacked in length, the lyrical quality made up for, but it wasn’t enough to surpass some of the other albums on the list.

10. Of Montreal | Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer? (Polyvinyl)
Somehow, Of Monteal managed to make a great album (The Sunlandic Twins), then follow it up with another that’s just as great…and they make it seem so effortless. This album was not easy to make due to frontman Kevin Barnes’ personal issues, but somehow the fallout and makeup from all that created this gem of an album. It’s like The Sunlandic Twins, but a lot less fantasy and a gigantic shot of reality.

11. Bat for Lashes | Fur and Gold (Caroline)
Multi-instrumentalist Natasha Khan practically plays everything including the kitchen sink on her debut album, Fur and Gold. OK, no kitchen sink, but there are harpsichords, bowed saws, handclaps, chimes, maracas, drum machines, etc., etc., etc. There is no end to what she’ll try. Reminiscent of Bjork and Tori Amos, and as breathy in vocals as Sarah McLachlan, she’s singing very real scenarios but blends them into something like a fairytale that doesn’t quite seem to ever get its happy ending.

12. Robert Plant and Alison Krauss | Raising Sand (Rounder)
Yeah, it’s a little bit country and a little bit rock ‘n’ roll. Basic blues music, but it’s touched up a bit and more radio friendly. It’s got your typical slide guitars and some softly added banjo and fiddle, and it makes for one bluegrass album to not be ashamed to love.

13. Spoon | Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga (Merge)
First single "The Underdog" is like an indie version of a Billy Joel song. And aside from the text-speak song titles, I like it. "Don’t You Evah" is dangerously good, but either I haven’t listened to the album in its entirety properly or I’m just missing the greatness of it all. I’ve been known to do both. Loads of people have highly recommended this album to me, and for some reason I just don’t see the overall gist of it. Singles are great songs, but I think it’s just more of the same from their previous albums, which isn’t at all bad; it’s just not awesome.

14. Kings of Leon | Because the Times (RCA)
I think this might be the only real rock album that I enjoyed this year. Granted, what radio considers real rock is a far cry from the classics, it certainly helps KOL’s cause, because their album really grasps what pure, old-school rock music is. They’ve clearly matured since Aha Shake Heartbreak, touching on adult themes of parenthood, commitment and true love, but they’ve also become a bit more polished and a little less gritty as they once were on their previous two efforts. They’ve still maintained their Southern brashness, however, opening with a seven-minute-long track and then cutting into a song swarming with singer Caleb Followill’s signature wail.

15. Arctic Monkeys | Favourite Worst Nightmare (Domino)
What seemed an odd move — churning out a follow-up to a critically acclaimed debut album — actually paid off. Following the formula from Whatever It Is People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not, they maintain much of the same sound and sharpened up what was already clever, smart lyrics without making an album that was expected to be a collection of out takes or b-sides to the first album. While they didn’t evolve much from their debut, that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Their style of music is a bit more disposable and "band of the moment," so might as well strike while the iron is hot and bother with the experimentation and maturing for when the scene has run its course.

16. Justice | Cross (Downtown/Ed Banger)
They’re a bit overhyped, but at the same time deserving. A bit of a Daft Punk knock off (but then again, how many bloops and bleeps can you incorporate until it starts sounding similar?) but they’re much more grimy than the polished sounds of the elder statesmen. It doesn’t hurt that they’ve had a good lead in to their new album with a extremely popular remix of Simian’s "We Are Your Friends" and an infamous Best Video win at the MTV VMAs in Europe. They stop, they start, they do it over and over ’til you want to hit your music player thinking it’s skipping — but it’s oddly enjoyable.

17. Menomena | Friend and Foe (Barsuk)
Menomena is an experimental, multi instrumental band that works a little bit backward when it comes to creating and refining music…and that’s what makes them interesting. When it comes to the music, however, this album left me wanting a bit more. There are several gems on this album, and that more than makes up for the few songs that are rather lackluster and forgettable. But don’t dismiss this band, because what they’ve done so far is only a foreshadowing of the amazing things they can — and most certainly will — do.

18. Datarock | Datarock Datarock (Nettwerk)
Just like their name would suggest, they are indeed a blend of computers and rock. Exhibit A: Track 03 "Computer Camp Love." When I play their dancetastic track, "Fa Fa Fa," friends and strangers alike just start dancing. It was like Pavlov’s dog everywhere I went, even the Denny’s parking lot. But aside from that track, there was surprisingly more to offer and it wasn’t just more of the same. Hailing from the hotbed of Norwegian music in Bergen (the equivalent of being a rock band in New York City) forced them to do something unique and different to stand out. Mission accomplished.

19. Junior Senior | Hey Hey My My Yo Yo (Ryko)
Have you heard "Can I Get Get Get" or "Itch You Can’t Scratch"? You’d know if you did. They are some of the severely infectious and likeable dance songs from the Danish duo Junior Senior. The only reason it’s not further up in the rankings is based on the fact the album was released in 2005, but finally earned a U.S. release this year by Ryko. So thank them when "Can I Get Get Get" gets stuck in your head.

20. White Rabbits | Fort Nightly (Say Hey)
Well yeah, they do sound like The Walkmen, but it’s not a copycat job. It’s pretty clever music, catchy as hell, and since they’re a native Missouri band (although it’s like pulling teeth to get them to admit it), I can’t help but cheer for them. It’s kind of Western, kind of mariachi, very big band, and very much indie rock. Not a bad start. | Kiernan Scrima

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