All hearts are strange

“Fireworks” — Animal Collective

“My Girls” — Tears for Fears

The Eight Best Albums of 2008

2008 was a relatively disappointing year in music. My Bloody Valentine played some shows, but didn’t put out that album they promised. Axl Rose put out Chinese Democracy, and, um, yeah. Plenty of our favorite bands put out decent but inessential albums (we’re looking at you, Stephen Malkmus, Lambchop, Stereolab, Deerhoof, Destroyer, Girl Talk, Wolf Parade, Max Tundra, and Magnetic Fields), while other cherished artists hit (what will hopefully be) their nadir (Fiery Furnaces’ interminable live album, Mercury Rev’s atrocity, Silver Jews’ unfun silliness). Chalk it up to heightened expectations and an engorged sense of entitlement derived from a decade of internet piracy. Still, there were some great records that came out this year. These were our favorite. We haven’t spent much time putting them in order, but the top three are pretty concrete.


My Morning Jacket, Evil Urges


People kind of hated this album, but we thought it was a hoot. Sure, in a sense, it wasn’t Z Part II, but it did live up to that 2006 effort’s relentless genre-hopping. From the opening title track’s clumsy soul-singing, to the James Taylor schmaltz of “Sec Walkin,” to the Cameo-isms of “Highly Suspicious” (peanut butter puddin’ surprise, anyone?) the album is all over the place. But we like that. “Smokin’ from Shootin'” is lovely, and album closer “Touch Me I’m Going to Scream pt 2” is funtastic krautrock done right. If Ween had made Evil Urges, we’re sure it would’ve been roundly lauded. I guess there was a general concern that MMJ were serious about these songs. Give it a second (or first!) listen.

Fucked Up, The Chemistry of Modern Life


So Kevin Shields didn’t get a new MBV record out. So what? The Chemistry of Modern Life isn’t a substitution or replacement, but an extension of MBV’s signature shoegaze sound, only brought up to date for the angry aughties via vocalist Pink Eye’s hardcore vocals. Fucked Up’s record is sorta like putting all those great SST records you grew up on (early Dinosaur, Black Flag, the Minutemen, Sister) in a blender. Great result.

Gang Gang Dance, Saint Dymphna


Speaking of blending influences, Gang Gang Dance’s Saint Dymphna does a great job of mixing genres and cultures without ever seeming calculated or cynical or hackneyed. Tracks like “First Communion” and “House Jam” are fun and serious psychedelic dance music, and “Princes,” guest-starring rapper Tinchy Stryder sorta creates a new genre all together. We like.

Fennesz, Black Sea

fenneszBlack Sea might be a strange counterpart to Fucked Up’s Chemistry. It’s harsher than Endless Summer, and lacks the warmth of Venice, but Christian Fennesz’s new album–like Fucked Up’s–orchestrates beauty from (cognitive) dissonance and distills some of the grim anger that’s characterized world politics for the latter part of this decade into a thick, sometimes lovely-sometimes frightening haze. A record that the listener is asked to feel.

Animal Collective, Water Curses


Sure, it’s an EP, but Animal Collective’s Water Curses was on repeat around Biblioklept World Headquarters for most of the year. The jovial title track has a pop immediacy that doesn’t wear out its welcome even after the hundredth listen, but it’s Avey Tare’s “Street Flash,” weird and beautiful and slow, that really steals the show. Water Curses is that rare gem, a series of outtakes that actually outshines the album from which they were excised (Strawberry Jam). Animal Collective have proven to be one of the best new bands of this rapidly aging decade, and the recently-leaked “Brother Sport” from their upcoming LP indicates that they will only get better with age.

TV On The Radio, Dear Science


Chock full of hooks, horn blasts, and hand claps, Dear Science should sound cluttered and overstuffed. Instead, TV On The Radio have followed up 2006’s outstanding effort Return to Cookie Mountain with a fantastic pop rock record, where all the bells and whistles (including the horn section from Antibalas) simply add to the listening experience. Where Cookie Mountain‘s songs seemed constructed out of gorgeous textures layered around Tunde Adebimpe’s sonorous voice, Dear Science comes across as a more focused album comprised of radio-ready songs. Opener “Halfway Home” builds to epic speed, “Crying” is death-disco done perfect, “Dancing Choose” channels “Subterranean Homesick Blues” in both its anger and its humor, while songs like “Family Tree” and “Love Dog” showcase Adebimpe’s cathartic voice. What many of the bands detractors might not get is that funky tracks like “Golden Age” and “Red Dress” should be pop radio staples right now–TV On The Radio aren’t experimental art rock, they’re an alternate future-now for pop music.

Bonnie “Prince” Billy, Lie Down in the Light


We are pretty old. In fact, we’re old enough to have thought it was weird when the Palace Brothers became Palace Music (this didn’t get in the way of loving Viva Last Blues (which we listened to on audiocassette, on our Walkman!)). So by the time Palace had become Will Oldham had become Bonnie “Prince” Billy, there were so many 7″s and Spanish import EPs and live bootlegs (oh the live bootlegs!) that it all became a bit too much to keep track of. Not to say that we didn’t enjoy Ease on Down the Road or the strange strings on The Letting Go, but Will seems to put out a new record every Tuesday. So we were slow to respond to Lie Down in the Light. Which is a shame. Because it is probably his best record. We imagine that many people interested in Oldham might be daunted by his vast back catalog. If you, dear reader, are such a person, take heed: Lie Down in the Light is a fantastic place to start. The songs on Lie Down are about family and friends, singing, sex, closeness, and a good, good God. The death, weirdness, incest, loss, and stark pain that’s permeated many of Oldham’s previous recordings might seem absent here, but that darkness is here–in Oldham’s voice. How else could he sound so convincing on the title track when he sings: “Who’s gonna hold my heart / Who’s gonna be my own own own? / Who’s gonna know when all is dark that she is not alone?”

The Walkmen, You & Me


A night album, a moon album, a growler, a grower. We listened to it once, and then put it on again. And then again. And then again. Let’s start with the music: the main instrument is Hamilton Leithauser’s world-weary voice, and the rest of the band works around it, with meticulous percussion and bass lines that carry the musicality of each song. The guitars, organs, and extra touches like horns and strings are used to grand effect, but never crowd the track. And the music is really, really great. Adding another layer of complexity to You & Me, Leithauser’s lyrics seem to tell an impressionistic story over the course of the album’s fifty minutes. The opener, “Dónde Está la Playa,” seems to tell the story of a soured affair with a married woman the narrator has while on vacation. The same narrator seems to move, quite literally, through the songs, lamenting about a life on the road while also recognizing the small joys and adventures that come with such a lifestyle. On “Seven Years of Holidays,” Leithauser cries “Well, I’ve traveled so far and I’m worn / And I’ve lived in a suitcase for too long” before conceding that “The whole world around us is too small.” On the gorgeous and lilting “Red Moon,” he pines: “Tomorrow morning / I hope to be home / By your side,” but he has to admit that “The riptide is pulling me under / I’m drifting, drifting away.” Tracks like “New Country” and “Canadian Girl” take a more positive outlook, but it’s the stellar build of “In the New Year” that best captures the feel of the album. “Oh, I’m just like you, I never hear the bad news / And I never will” Leithauser growls over a triumphant organ riff. “We won by a landslide / Our troubles are over” he continues, before taking the dream to a hyperbole beyond reality: “My sisters are married to all of my friends.” But as the song builds, the organ becomes dissonant, breaking into the sweetness of the fantasy. By the end of the album, the fantasy is totally punctured, as evidenced in the wistful closer “If Only It Were True.” And that’s when the listener hits repeat. You & Me is an album-album, not simply a collection of great songs, and we’d love to hear more works like this next year. Great stuff.

Hey, Look at This


Sorry for the long delays between posts lately. I’ve been really, really busy, and I’m trying to resist the “hey, look at this cool shit” type of posting so common in Blogworld. I promise to come back soon with regular updates with (hopefully) meaningful content. In the meantime: Hey, look at this cool shit–


The new Man Man album, Rabbit Habits is set to drop next week. Raucous and ramshackle, yet paradoxically tight as a snare, Rabbit Habits works in the same post-Beefheart idiom as their last album, Six Demon Bag, refining some of the rough edges without losing the rawness. Good for some occasions.

Pirates with good taste probably know by now that Animal Collective’s Water Curses has leaked. The EP is as delicious and warped as fans might expect, and has been on repeat around Biblioklept Central Headquarters for the past two weeks. Great for most occasions.


Incidentally, according to AC’s Wikipedia page: “It has been said that the Animal Collective album Strawberry Jam can be synchronized with the Disney animated clasic [sic] Alice in Wonderland [sic].” See folks, this is why we discourage writing in the passive voice. Who has said that Strawberry Jam syncs with Alice in Wonderland? When was this said? Where, and in what context? Sophomores getting stoned somewhere in Wisconsin? Oh, Wikipedia! See, this is why so many people regard you as the ugly stepchild of legitimate encyclopedias…Anyway…has anyone tried this?


On a visual tip, I’m in love with Paul Slater’s collection at the Medici Gallery. Fun, smart, and very British. Tastefully irreverent for assorted occasions.

And, in the grand tradition of lazy blogging, I refer you to the very awesome blog, Crystalpunk.

Go in peace.

Leaking Most Interesting Colors


We here at Biblioklept, Inc. couldn’t be more stoked for Strawberry Jam. We all know that strawberry jam is delicious on crumpets (and if you don’t know the tasty delights of jam-on-crumpets, I suggest you indulge yourself posthaste) and Animal Collective’s new record Strawberry Jam, set to drop sometime in September on their new label Domino, will no doubt prove delicious to the ears–the perfect aural jelly for beach blanket parties and midsummer night campfires. Animal Collective’s Sung Tongs and Feels were instant classics of the oughties, and Panda Bear’s sumptuous solo album Person Pitch has provided the sing-along soundtrack for both spring and summer around the Biblioklept offices. Seriously, I’ve never heard an album as sing-allongable as Person Pitch. We love it love it love it &c.

Anyway, studio versions of Strawberry Jam‘s first three tracks (I’m basing the idea that these are the first three tracks on the album based on this track list) have been popping up here and there in the last week. These new tracks preserve the psycho-circus-carnival feel that defines the Animal Collective sound, with the creepy darkness and noise of previous albums like Here Comes the Indian seemingly absent (despite lyrics about Jack the Ripper in “Unsolved Mysteries”). We like “Chores” the best so far–but what do you think? Mp3s below–


“Unsolved Mysteries”