To beat a dead horse (don't come after me PETA), this year has been fantastic when it comes to music. If you don't already have at least a top five, then you're either one closed minded listener, or you have way too many choices to weed out.
Depending on which one of the aforementioned you are, here's more music coming at you, compliments to staffer, reviewer and Absolutepunk funny man, Blake Solomon. Haven't heard the rumours?
Well, here's five albums that he thinks flew under the radar for whatever reason.
1.) Alexander The Great – Faces Change --- It’d be petty of me to spit on you for something as small as not knowing a band. And it would be even pettier (that’s a word, so suck it) if said band was on some tiny Bloomington, Indiana label, since let’s face it, even with the Internet and all, nobody thinks about Indiana. But maybe we should. ATG make Manchester Orchestra look like wide-eyed beginners. Faces Change is packed with the emotion of real life, which is more rare than it sounds: songs about divorce, drunken walks home with one-night stands, snow! It’s the sound of Americana’s future.
2.) Years – Years --- I guess Years is my favorite instrumental record of 2009. However, that title feels too constrictive. The way “Are You Unloved” jumps from simple-sounding looped acoustic guitar into stutter stepping electronics can make any self-assured critic run home to their Sigur Ros records, if only to understand something for a second or two. Being that this is the side project of Do Make Say Think’s Ohad Benchetrit, you are right to expect quality. Just don’t expect Years to hang its hat on that powerhouse’s signature whatever-it-is-they-do sound. This is almost a pop record (see the undeniably catchy horn section on “The Major Lift”). And lately it seems that almost-pop records are always the best.
3.) Junius – The Martyrdom of a Catastrophist --- I look good draped in purple. And while that may be irrelevant to anything ever in the history of the world, it’s still the first thought that pops into my brain when Junius start playing. (Writer’s Tip: Always use your first idea.) We had to wait too long for Martyrdom, but if such a lapse in releases is par for the course, at least we’ll have time to learn how to both say and spell Martyrdom. This break is also necessary, though, because the group’s Depeche Mode-on-Godspeed! manifestations require more than a passing thought or two. Eerie found recordings, bellowing vocals, and guitars that have this crazy tendency to rocket upward without leaving the grime behind make Martyrdom incessantly interesting. Each 6-minute song reveals new, exciting nooks for exploration. I’m still not sure what’s actually going on, but I’m starting to think that’s kinda the point.
4.) Why? – Eskimo Snow --- I met Yoni Wolf two days after my 21st birthday. He was sitting alone before a show in some shitty town that you’ll never visit. I’m super straightedge, but it was Flag Day so I took the night off. Looking terrified as I ambled up to him and sat down, Yoni proceeded to patronize me until my slurs of, “When your music comes on, it just speaks to me,” and, “I hope this isn’t weird, but you’re my soul mate,” ceased to vomit from my gin-soaked mouth. All he said was, “Thanks for listening.” And that’s all I needed. I was happy that this man of one million words needed only three to send me on my way. On the standout “This Blackest Purse,” Yoni asks, “Mom am I failing or worse?” And if I had heard that song when I met him last year, I would have simply bear-hugged him. Nobody else makes hip-hop on pop pills like the Wolfs and Co. But really, nobody takes the inner psyche and twists it into something so instantaneously breathtaking like Mr. Wolf. You don’t care and that’s fine. But isn’t it cool that I care so much?
5.) Gray Young – Firmament --- A man who is now a ghost told me about Gray Young. And only after this man disappeared did I find it apt to indulge in the band’s emotional ambience. For songs at a time, the group let benign guitars ring and ring, but before the lull is permanent voices or tricky percussion hit the spotlight switch. It makes for some pretty involved listening. To be honest though, I know very little about that which makes Gray Young tick. But I do know that those old fogeys The Appleseed Cast are bald with jealousy somewhere in the Midwest.