You thought SME was being all lazy and not working all Christmas break; Unbenknownst to you we have been forging in secret a master list of our top 5 favorites in music and movies. This is part 1 of that list: the music 5-3
5. Album, Girls
Girls' debut LP, "Album" (which happens to mean "Girls" in Latin) was released in 2009 at the outset of the so-called "Surf Rock" genre that gained popularity later in the year, and while admittedly employing many of the key elements of said genre (sunny, feel good guitar vibes; reverb-drenched vocal melodies, etc), the real reason that Album succeeds is because of its diversity and emotional depth. One key thing to understanding the songs contained on this release is having a basic knowledge of songwriter Christopher Owens' personal history of being a member of the Children of God cult, running away, experimenting with a lot of drugs, being adopted by a philanthropic millionaire in California, then jammin out some sweet tunes. The emotional strain that Owens' past has caused him is obvious in the lyrics of almost every song on the album, but he doesn't throw himself a pity party either - many of the songs are about enjoying the small things in life or taking advantage of new opportunities. The other reason this album is so solid is the various musical curveballs that hit you in the face quite often and with repeat listens. "Laura" evolves from a straightforward headbopper to a spacy, reverbed out guitar mountain; "Hellhole Ratface" climbs a musical rollercoaster, stops, then barrels down a giant slope of melody and distortion; "Summertime" explodes into a blissed-out sea of feedback and cymbals around the halfway mark. Basically, if Album and other surf rock records that came out this year were both enrolled in Harvard together, Album would become acquainted with the surf rock, acknowledge it with a polite nod during run-ins in the hallway, then graduate and write a best-selling novel while the surf rock failed out of all its classes.
4. Merryweather Post Pavilion, Animal Collective
Avant garde "folk" act Animal Collective have always been known for the challenging albums, but 2009 was the year of accessibility. Much like Radiohead's In Rainbows, Merryweather is an album that's easy to get into (for a band notoriously difficult). The bright, electronic beats synthesize perfectly with Animal Collective's Beach Boys-esque vocal stylings. The whole album is pure fun. Try to be mad and listen to "Brothersport"--not going to happen. Much of the albums likability is due to its feel-good (but not mushy) lyrical message. The album is bright and youthful, and you can't help but feel the same when you hum along to the tune of "My Girls."
3. Hospice, The Antlers
It's a rare thing to capture intimacy and honesty on a record without coming off as pretentious or melodramatic, but with Hospice, The Antlers took grief, love, and loss and wove it their music with balance and taste. Nothing comes off as forced or fake; the authenticity of Peter Silberman's vocals give the album the unmistakable feel of earnest emotion. The whole album isn't an exercise in depression, however, The Antlers are much too ambitious to play a one note song. From the rising beauty and grandeur of "Kettering" to the sing-a-long catchiness of "Bear," the album covers the full breadth of the human experience. Lovely and endearing, Hospice is an album worth investing in.
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