The Medium Fries Top 10 Album List

29 Dec

Author’s Note: This list is by no means definitive, as there were dozens of albums that are in all likelihood deserving of inclusion but I haven’t even heard them yet. Such is the difficulty of linear time. There were many excellent albums from last year (2008) that I have only discovered recently- ‘The Airing of Greivances’ by Titus Andronicus springs immediately to mind. Next year I will do a ‘albums I missed’ list, in some vague effort to be comprehensive.

Honourable Mentions.

No More Stories Are Told Today, I’m Sorry, They Washed Away– Mew

Pains of Being Pure At Heart– Pains of Being Pure At Heart

Sigh No More– Mumford and Sons

Why There Are Mountains– Cymbals Eat Guitars

Bitte Orca– Dirty Projectors

The List

10. Sun Gangs– The Veils

Lead singer Finn Andrews is the son of the XTC Keyboardist and grew up in New Zealand, but don’t hold either of those things against him. Sun Gangs is the third album from a band that sounds like they’ve toured for a decade.  What’s most impressive about The Veils is their incredible live presence , which I would compare to John Darnielle in terms of pure intensity and a single-minded dedication to really perform as best as humanly possible.

Begin Again.

9. Album– Girls

Of all the bands on this list Girls probably has the strangest backstory- singer Christopher Owen grew up in the Children of God cult where he was not allowed to listen to pop music, hearing only parts of songs from movies. The Album Album sounds like a manic-depressive’s cover of the ultra cheerful pop of the early 1960’s combined with an almost shoegaze approach to distortion.

“Lust for Life” (Note: This is a much more explicit version of this available but I couldn’t get it to embed here. If you want to see the same video again but with a few more genitals in it some googling should satisfy you)

8. The Crying Light– Antony and the Johnsons

Antony’s previous album I Am A Bird Now remains one of the few albums that makes me tear up like a dying virgin every time I hear it,  and in terms of emotive power I would rank him alongside Diamanda Galas, Nina Simone and on a good day maybe even an adjacent field to Billie Holiday. The Crying Light is no different, and with less reliance on guest vocalists the album is more thematically cohesive and just as beautiful.

7. Actor– St Vincent

St. Vincent lead Annie Clark used to be a member of both The Polyphonic Spree and Sufjan Stevens’ band, so she’s well equipped to write cheerful, catchy pop songs. With her first record Marry Me (named after an Arrested Development quote) there were hints of something under the surface of a fairly breezy album,  but with Actor there is no mistaking the eerie darkness under the rhythm.

Actor Out Of Work

6. Dark Night of the Soul– Dangermouse, Sparklehorse and David Lynch

This album is the odd one of the list because, officially, it doesn’t exist.  After a legal dispute with EMI the album was never (and may not ever be) officially released.  Two packages are available off their website- the deluxe version I purchased came with a huge poster, a book of David Lynch’s photography and a CD-R with the following message: “Due to a legal dispute, this album contains no music. Do with it what you will.” Despite this handicap it has appeared on a number of best-of lists because of the intriguing mix of guest vocalists (Wayne Coyne, Iggy Pop, Julian Casablancas) and a very Lynchian feeling of unease and confusion. No official music videos exist, but I like this one.

Dark Night of the Soul

5. Embryonic – The Flaming Lips

Let’s say you’re Wayne Coyne. You’ve been the lead singer of a successful band for 15 years, and you’ve released two albums this decade- one a trippy concept album, the other a more radio-friendly sometimes political pop record. What do you do? Release a double album of weird, noisy, inaccessible music! Embryonic is possibly the strangest record they’ve made since the simultaneous -four-album-mindfuck Zaireeka. It also happens to be really, really good.

Watching The Planets (Warning: Suddenly, Genitals! Everywhere!)

http://www.nme.com/video?bcpid=26429438001&bctid=49582897001

4. Life of the World to Come– The Mountain Goats

Since the release of The Sunset Tree The Mountain Goats have undergone some changes. Later albums have sounded bigger, with the inclusion of drums turning the music into something almost resembling rock music. Life of the World To Come is closest thematically to Get Lonely, an almost universally underrated entry in Goats’ canon. Each song is named after a bible verse, and he describes the album as the lessons he has learned with the bible as inspiration. What this amounts to is a collection of songs about birth, death and loss that deserves a place in the list of Darnielle’s best work. As always, time will tell.

Ezekiel 7 And The Permanent Efficiency of Grace

3. Sometimes I Wish I Were An Eagle – Bill Callahan

In leaving the Smog moniker behind Bill Callahan had to reestablish his perception as a musician, and it only took him two albums to do it. Sometimes I Wish I Were An Eagle is an album of simple, exquisitly crafted indie/country/folk/whatever. Just listen and let it envelop you like a velvet fog.

2. Hospice– The Antlers

I first heard about The Antlers in March on a message board I won’t name, and there were hundreds of people ranting and raving about how amazing this band nobody had heard of before had released an extraordinary, once-in-a-decade level album. Mostly, they were right. Hospice was written by Peter Silbermann who ran off to isolation and came back with an album about a man having to watch a loved one die slowly. Rather than being some emo monument to self-pity it reaches that mythical status of ‘uplifting’. Hospice is an album that demands to be listened to start to finish, and if by the end you don’t want to start right back at the beginning you’ve a stronger will than me.

1. Dragonslayer– Sunset Rubdown

Protocol dictates that you have to consider many albums for inclusion in your personal list, but I must admit here that the second I heard this album I knew it would end up as number one. It is, in a word, epic.  This is probably the turning point for workaholic Spencer Krug, where Sunset Rubdown becomes his ‘main band’ and Wolf Parade becomes a footnote to this eventual triumph. Favouring a live sound over the careful layering of Shut Up I Am Dreaming and Random Spirit Lover, Dragonslayer is full of his trademark riffs, literary and mythological references and a dedication to the bizzare overarching universe that Sunset Rubdown lives inside. Pour a drink, turn your cd player to maximum volume, and enjoy.

Black Swan

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2 Responses to “The Medium Fries Top 10 Album List”

  1. wonderchowsen December 29, 2009 at 5:32 pm #

    WOLF PARADE AS FOOT NOTE? U REALLY HAVE NO IDEA WHAT YOU ARE TALKING ABOUT. THERE IS NO TRIUMPH CAUSE THERE IS NO BATTLE, JUST TWO REALLY GREAT BANDS. GROW UP.

    • liamjordan December 30, 2009 at 7:12 am #

      I’ll ignore your use of cruise control, maybe I was being unfair. ‘Apologies to the Queen Mary’ is an excellent album (‘At Mount Zoomer’, not so much) but I honestly feel that ‘Dragonslayer’ surpasses both those albums, and Spencer Krug will be remembered for Sunset Rubdown, having first been in Wolf Parade.

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