We put our brains together in an attempt to come up with one singular top ten list for the year, but, honestly… that ain’t gonna happen. aDeadKids‘ editorial staff is all over the place — in a good way. We got punk kids writing, we have technophiles writing, we have pop heads, we have music elitists (oh wait, we’re all elitists). So, getting a top ten from our 6+ writers would be like (not exaggerating) receiving about 60+ albums, so, we’ll go it alone and argue it out along the way.
Here’s a few of my favorites (I’ll add some more later) and a quick blurb on each…
Crystal Castles – s/t
Crystal Castles wisely side-stepped the potential adoration of scene kids by putting out a sophomore album that is, well, as scary as the original. Moody, 8bit-y, punky as well, but with just enough angry art school edge that Spiderman: The Musical won’t be trying to contact Alice Glass anytime soon — nor could they if they tried. The second self-titled album stretches their sound in both directions — at times abrasive or melodious depending on the track. It’s a great album, and a welcome follow-up for a band that could have potentially cashed in on the fading (but never fucking disappearing) glam/pop/punk/electro hybrid your 14 year old cousin listens to.
Also, I’ve said it before… Crystal Castle videos look like what would happen if goth kids took over the AV club.
Gorillaz – “Plastic Beach”
Early output for The Gorillaz involved Blur’s Damon Albarn cherry-picking disparate artists and then nabbing a superstar producer to pull it together. First, it was Cibo Matto, Buena Vista, and Del roped in and synthesized by Dan “The Automator” Nakamura. The stellar second album Demon Days went old school hip-hop and nabbed Dangermouse to make it happen. But something’s going on here on Plastic Beach. The cameos are there for sure — Snoop and Lou Reed to name just two — but it’s become apparent the Albarn has himself become an excellent producer — there’s no secondary production credit on this one, it’s just a really well-put together mishmash of brit-pop, dance hall, afro, hip-hop, new wave, and… sure, throw in the National Orchestra of Arabian Music too, why not?
See how many “guest stars” you can identify in their tricked-out submarines.
Beach House – “Teen Dream”
As far as the whacky B*more scene goes, Beach House is most certainly the odd(est) band out. Strangely enough, they are probably the least-odd, most-accessible group considered part of the Wham City circle. Alex Scally and Victoria Legrand’s pantient, hypnotic trip through Teen Dream delivers well above the expectations of their beloved sophomore effort Devotion. Beach House is one of the few current bands that apply foggy, echo-heavy dissonance to advance the mood of an album rather than just to disguise otherwise radio-friendly pop sing-alongs.
Washed Out – Life of Leisure EP
Speaking of disguised radio bliss, here sits Washed Out — atop the Chilwave heap of over-exposed Polaroids and music videos of scuba diving. As much as the glo-wave scene has been outright dismissed as the creation of a tag-obsessed HypeMachiners, Life of Leisure truly does evoke a mood, a time, and a place. Obviously, not a specific mood/time/place, but the warm down-tempo thud of drum machines and lax, amorphous vocals make you feel like you’re laying on the sands with some chill-ass friends and maybe a chill-ass salt shaker filled with mescaline.
This isn’t the official video, but I think it’s from Chicago’s Hamptons — Michigan City, IN.
Dirty Projectors & Bjork – Mount Wittenberg Orca EP
David Longstreth’s concept-heavy albums draw an equal amount of scorn or adoration, depending on your patience with dissonant signature-switching pop experiments. Less than a year after D.P.’s incredible Bitte Orca, (which won them tons more fans, among them me and Solange Knowles), no one really expected Longstreth to really surface with anything else so soon. Wrong-o. Mount Wittenberg Orca is an one-off excursion that went so incredibly well, they were compelled to record it — for Smithsonian’s sake, hahaha. In early 2009 Brandon Stosuy of Stereogum successfully connected Dirty Projectors and Bjork to collaborate for a Housing Works benefit show. Needless to say, they hit it off. A year later, the EP was released so those of us not living in Brooklyn / SoHo could hear its genius. The orchestration is sparse, the vocals are sharp and precise, and the twin vocal knockout of The Dirty Projector’s Amber Coffman and Angel Deradoorian, oh yeah, and some lady named Bjork are incredible. The group’s vocal harmonies are goose-bump inducing. Longstreth, always one for vocal and harmonic interplay, puts his female collaborators front and center and they shine. The album is non-profit digital-only download, and you can buy it here for 7$ with all proceeds going to the National Geographic Society to create international marine protected areas.