15. Ted Leo & The Pharmacists – Living With The Living
Touch & Go
Ted Leo can sometimes come off as very slick and I will admit that the only reasons I stuck with this album is because of Clell Tickle, but it was worth it. There’s a really patent bluntness and lack of pretence about Living With The Living that is sometimes hard to come across in indie music. Of course, Ted Leo’s not really an indie musician, so that’s not really surprising. I think some of the reason why I grew to like this album so much is the punk approach, the sort of punk aesthetic. There are loud guitars on every single song, and there is no question of holding off on certain topics in the lyrics for fear of sounding pretentious or ill-informed. Possibly the majority of the album is about bombings, the CIA, the Army and the whole climate in America at the moment. It’s as potent as anything The Clash made about Thatcher’s England, and about ten times as literate. Bomb.Repeat.Bomb is breakneck stuff, and I think I found a Sopranos reference in A Bottle of Buckie. Twenty points for anyone who gets it too. The Unwanted Things is my favourite, even though it doesn’t have loud guitars and it’s not about geopolitics. It’s dub reggae in falsetto. Fantastic.
A couple of good songs on MySpace, and a website with a news section that is actually just a blog. Ted Leo’s a funny guy.
14. Jens Lekman – Night Falls Over Kortedala
Jens Lekman uses samples he must have found on the same 70s compilation CDs my mother listens to, but he comes out with something a lot more impressive than the poor plundered original artists. Every song is in the first person, every song is a story in the history of Jens Lekman. Some of them are so left-field it’s hard not to laugh when you reach that breakthrough moment of actually hearing the words and not just their sounds. Pretending to be your lesbian friend’s boyfriend to her Catholic father, but screwing up. Some are just everyday life though. Equally good. Sound-wise, there are guitars, glockenspiels, strings, percussion sitting on those samples, and the general mood is a sort of cruise band that doesn’t make a lot of money. The combination is world-beating however. Some songs on Night Falls… are almost too perfect. The Opposite of Hallelujah, for example, is tearfully pretty. So is Shirin. So is A Postcard To Nina. You get the point.
Brookyn Vegan chat with Jens, and he blogs on his website.
13. Beirut – The Flying Club Cup
Zach Condon is only about a year older than I am, and he has released three excellent records of memorable songs with ambitious arrangements. One is an EP, one is very nice to listen to and one is nothing short of genius. Unfortunately for Zach’s place is this list, Gulag Orkestar is the work of genius, but that doesn’t detract from the charms of The Flying Club Cup. Transporting Beirut wholesale from Romania to France could have sounded a little contrived, and Beirut do sound a little contrived, but these are beautiful songs sung effortlessly over noble and considered music. Nantes is a particular stand-out for me, but there aren’t weak songs and as a whole the record laughs to scorn the shadow of the difficult second album.
MySpace replete with incorrectly spelled name, and the real city, twinned with no less than four places in France. Coincidence?
The Apples In Stereo – New Magnetic Wonder
In stark contrast to Zach Condon who is only a year older than me, Robert Schneider could easily be my father, or more likely, my cool uncle. My first impressions of New Magnetic Wonder left me dismissing it as a sort of simplistic pop-rock album, but that idea faded quickly away. Lo-fi has been abandoned altogether, but there are some songs on this album that hit the same nerves and emotions as the most earnest bedroom tapes. Sun Is Out celebrates the sun, appeals to my heliophile tendencies, Open Eyes is shoegaze guitars introduced to Elephant 6 and the various Non-Pythagorean Compositions are… nerdy. What I like most of all about the Apples In Stereo isn’t something that I can use to back up a placement on this list though. When I hear it I’ll think of 2007. I don’t know why. The start of this year, no specific moment, just that sort of stage in my life. That will guarantee it more return airplay than a lot of the other albums, I think.
Some album tracks and a nice sell-out to Target on MySpace and an AV Club interview.
LCD Soundsystem – Sound of Silver
It’s easy to talk of LCD Soundsystem in terms of the bands and sounds they reference, but there’s no point to that really. Sound of Silver takes it even further than the first album, and even seems to reference some of the tracks on the debut, but nobody listens to an album to trainspot the influences, so I won’t talk about them. The semi-existentialist dance music is still present on Sound of Silver, but it occasionally transcends that. All My Friends sits on a piano loop and a Peter Hook-esque bassline (sorry! comparison!), and tells a quite poignant story. James Murphy said he was disappointed with the debut album because he held back and did things safely. If he’s fixed that on this album it’s because of the lyrics. Where other “ageing” musicians tend to recede into cliches and self-parody, James Murphy seems more like a novelist. The same, but wiser. On top of that, Someone Great is probably the best song released in 2008 and the best song about death ever written. No lyricist evokes like that. The rest of the album is good, but if you do nothing else because of this blog, get that song.
Website and MySpace.