Narwhal Party

2009: Albums
01/17/2010, 7:45 pm
Filed under: Music | Tags: , , , , ,

This isn’t a “Best Of” list. Most people can agree about the albums release by Animal Collective, Grizzly Bear, Dirty Projectors, and Phoenix. What an amazing year for music. Here are three albums that I loved, that I believe were criminally underrated.

Sunset Rubdown – Dragonslayer

Spencer Krug, whether he toned down the prog tendencies or grew out of them, simplified his songs on the latest Sunset Rubdown release, to a stunning effect. His songs still meander and sprawl, but seem to do so in a more focused manner. In the end, it’s his melodies that shine above the arrangements, and on this album, they last longer than any of his Sunset Rubdown records. Dragonslayer is what would have happened if David Bowie had fell in love with D&D instead of pop music, moved to a cave in Canada’s wilderness, and emerged twenty years later, a champion. At first listen, these songs can seem simplistic, but in reality, the intricacies are just more carefully chosen. And with a new Wolf Parade album slated for 2010, we can only hope that he is just now hitting his stride.

David Bazan – Curse Your Branches

Full disclosure: I would have probably loved this no matter what it sounded like. David Bazan has been a hero of mine since I was a teenager. But honestly, this is a powerful and exciting record from an indispensable songwriter who never seems to get a fair shake. There’s a lyrical richness that more accomplished songwriters often lack. Yes he deals with religion, but he does so in a startlingly frank manner. The record is sonically engaging, too. Bazan has wandered a bit over the years–dabbling in synth pop, Americana, glam rock, and his slow-core roots–but this album emerges as a cohesive statement, crisp and clean.

Why? – Eskimo Snow

There is no band more tragically underrated than Why?. Yoni Wolf’s lyrics could be published in poetry volumes and studied by grad students for decades. This album focuses on the internal struggles with religion, sex, procreation, death, and the artist’s desire to create something lasting. In many ways, Eskimo Snow can be heard as a companion piece to Bazan’s Curse Your Branches. Where Bazan sings “If no heavy breath blew up these lungs/While dirt and wet spit hung a ghost in the air/Well we’re still here/We’re still here,” Yoni Wolf sings, “I’m still here/bearing my watery fruits, if fruits at all/I’m still here/Barely understanding what truth that rarely calls.” Both artists tackle the unknown with such honesty and open fragility, they should not only be heard repeatedly, but I’d consider them required reading as well.


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