This is the top of the heap in the albums of the year list. These records all probably gave me goosebumps when I listened to them for the first time and some still do. These are the ones that have made me go back to the artists’ back catalogs in an attempt to get more of the same musical fix that these albums offer. Nobody’s perfect here but a few come awfully close.
The Replacements – For Sale: Live at Maxwell’s
This 1986 set is pretty much the perfect snapshot of the Replacements. Their legacy as a live act is already storied. Drunken sets, gigs full of jokey covers and other gigs that were life-changing. This album captures a bit of all of them and is the perfect live encapsulation of their career. Seems to be before the time Tommy and Paul were doing speedballs and also before Bob got the boot.
LCD Soundsystem – American Dream
I did not expect this to be the album that it is. I had the pleasure of listening to it for the first time on the way home from family vacation at a significant rate of speed through an arid, almost desert, landscape. The whole family was conked out while I drove and flirted above the speed limit. It’s a really, really good LCD album and one of the best albums I have on vinyl. There’s been a lot of kvetching about the band being back. I, for one, am glad they are.
Kasabian – For Crying Out Loud
Saw this band live with my wife, kids and friends on one of the first days of summer. A typically great show in support of one of their best albums. I’d put it somewhere around the number 3 spot of their whole catalog. Just enough bluster and shake your booty songsmanship to satisfy and no “blast off” cringe moments. There is a lot of talk about food, though. Have a snack ready.
Spoon – Hot Thoughts
Down a notch from “They Want My Soul” but still an excellent album from a consistent band. You get the sense on this one, though, that Britt Daniel and Co. know that they’ve made it. That’s fine. They’re trying some things live and on the album that they would have never dared before. Some work and some don’t. But most do work and while it may not be in their top five albums, that’s a tight race and “Hot Thoughts” still towers over many other records from this year.
The Afghan Whigs – In Spades
I should have paid more attention to this band when I was younger. I dabbled in “1965” but never took the plunge into their other albums. That changed when I saw them at Prague’s Lucerna Music Bar this summer. I was blown away by the show from start to finish. Repeat visits to this album and the rest of their catalog have only deepened my appreciation. Some days, this is number one on my list.
Roger Waters – Is This the Life We Really Want?
Roger Waters and Nigel Godrich? It seemed like an unlikely concept but it worked. It’s political, preachy but much less mean spirited than some of his other offerings – save for his hatred of Israel. But musically, it hits all of the right spots, has the dynamism of classic Floyd and is a fairly coherent statement. You don’t get more “legacy act” than this but in Roger’s case, it works. His disdain for the state of the world has inspired him and it’s hard not to appreciate what he’s done here even if you don’t agree completely with every part of the case he’s making.
Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds – Who Built the Moon?
I’m still working through this one but I love what I hear. From the first single, I could tell this was going to be different and worlds away from an Oasis rehash. It’s a buoyant, technicolor, stomper of an album.
Iggy Pop – Post Pop Depression – Live At The Royal Albert Hall
It does not get better than this in the land of live albums. The last of the “unholy trinity” Iggy is finally getting his due. Albums like this as well as last year’s “Post Pop Depression” tell us why. Try to listen this album without cracking several grins. Not humanly possible. Absolutely incredible.
U2 – Songs of Experience
I have to keep myself from putting U2 at the top of the list. Anything I say about this band you can take as something coming from a die hard fan. But this album gave me the requisite goosebumps upon first listen. And second listen. It hasn’t fully sunk in so I won’ t make bold proclamations but I didn’t expect this album to be this satisfying. It’s a really solid effort. Time will tell where it ranks in the list of their 13 other albums.
Beck – Colors
This album is second only to Kasabian for “family party albums” this year. (No, in the NH household, profanity is not a disqualifier.) It sounds exactly how the cover looks. Beck trying on his “pop” clothes and doing a pretty good job of compiling an album full of potential top 25 material. Not an album to think to critically about. Just the opposite, in fact. Turn it up, sing along and do the robot.