Just before we take our brief summer break, we’re making a checklist of our favorite albums and tracks of the last couple of months just to make sure we have everything we need for our trip in the sun.
Arctic Monkeys’ fourth album features some of their most melodic songs to date. The band’s effort to rediscover its sound continues with “Suck It And See” and this time the end result is more satisfying than before as they finally get the balance between their early supercharged, angsty sound and the more melodic, classic rock-leaning influences of “Humbug” just right. With “Suck It And See” Arctic Monkeys enter maturity without becoming boring or losing the freshness of their sound.
tUnE-yArDs first album was as lo-fi and D.I.Y. as you can get, being entirely recorded by its maker, Merrill Garbus, on a handheld voice recorder and mixed with a freeware program. The fidelity of that recording might have been low, but it left no room for doubting the talents of Garbus and her impressive vocal skills. With the help of a professional studio and a band of musicians to back her up and enrich the sound of tUnE-yArDs, Garbus is really shining with “whokill”, one of the most inventive recordings of 2011 so far, where African rhythms collide with hip hop beats, folk melodies work amazingly well with soulful R&B crooning and ukulele jams are boosted by saxophone riffs. You’ve got to hear it to believe it!
At the start of the summer we also got to hear two of the best debuts of the year so far, EMA’s “Past Life Martyred Saints” and Cults’ self-titled effort.
EMA, aka Erika M Anderson of the recently defunct drone-folk act Gowns, is making a remarkable new start with her first solo effort, a passionate, confessional recording that draws inspiration from the lo-fi folk of Cat Power, the guitar noise of '90s riot grrrls and the explicit narrative of “Exile in Guyville”-era Liz Phair. “Milkman”, the album’s pop diamond in the rough, brings to mind Sonic Youth’s experiments with Madonna’s music as Ciccone Youth. A highly addictive record that sounds better and better every time I listen to it - something I’ve been doing a lot lately.
Cults have made the perfect record for the summer. Madeline Follin’s voice is ideal for the sugar sweet, love struck, girl-group sound of the band while Brian Oblivion’s guitar adds just the right amount of distortion to avoid making the recipe too sweet. The brevity of the record and the highly addictive nature of its sunny, steeped in ‘60s pop aesthetic melodies guarantee the repetitive listening of “Cults” all summer long. It remains to be seen if the record will sound just as perfect for the winter days ahead as well.
The Top 5 of June-July ’11 is rounded up with the most surprising and successful comeback of the year. Highly influential '80s indie rockers The Feelies return with their first recording in twenty years, the aptly titled “Here Before”, and pick up exactly where they left off last time they were around. The band’s sound, a unique mix of Velvet Underground, ’60s folk rock και late '70s post-punk, is untouched by the passage of time and remains today as essential and fresh as the first time they made their “crazy rhythms” in the early '80s. A classic sounding guitar-rock album in a year that desperately needs more quality in the guitar-rock department.
Top 16 Albums
1. Suck It And See - ARCTIC MONKEYS
2. Whokill - TUNE-YARDS
3. Past Life Martyred Saints - EMA
4. Cults - CULTS
5. Here Before - THE FEELIES
6. Eye Contact - GANG GANG DANCE
7. Kaputt - DESTROYER
8. Hot Sauce Committee Part Two - BEASTIE BOYS
9. In Love With Oblivion - CRYSTAL STILTS
10. Codes And Keys - DEATH CAB FOR CUTIE
11. Smoke Ring For My Halo - KURT VILE
12. Apocalypse - BILL CALLAHAN
13. Lollipop - MEAT PUPPETS
14. Demolished Thoughts - THURSTON MOORE
15. C'mon - LOW
16. Passive Me Aggressive You - THE NAKED AND FAMOUS
Top 20 Tracks
1. Gangsta - TUNE-YARDS
2. Desire - ANNA CALVI
3. Future Starts Slow - THE KILLS
4. Mindkilla - GANG GANG DANCE
5. Abducted - CULTS
6. You Are A Tourist - DEATH CAB FOR CUTIE
7. Don't Sit Down 'Cause I've Moved Your Chair - ARCTIC MONKEYS
8. Two Against One (feat. Jack White) - DANGER MOUSE & DANIELE LUPPI
9. Anteroom - EMA
10. Again Today - THE FEELIES
11. Vile - MEAT PUPPETS
12. Shake The Shackles - CRYSTAL STILTS
13. Chinatown - DESTROYER
14. Make Some Noise - BEASTIE BOYS
15. Circulation - THURSTON MOORE
16. Society Is My Friend - KURT VILE
17. America! - BILL CALLAHAN
18. Try To Sleep - LOW
19. Face In The Crowd - CAT'S EYES
20. Frayed - THE NAKED AND FAMOUS
(mp3s via pitchfork, the fader, kexp and matador records)