20. Port O’Brien – Threadbare [US]
In 2008, Port O’Brien made an album that started with a thunderous, celebratory rumpus. This one starts with solemn humming. Why? Well, if you need some biography to help your music go down, it’s because Cambria Goodwin’s younger brother died in the interim. The album is indelibly imprinted with the mark of that death, devoid of the joie de vivre of All We Could Do Was Sing, but full of frail vulnerability. It meanders along, like a solitary walk on a funeral weekend, flitting in and out of immediate consciousness. Hard to see how they will follow this, but it’s a captivating document.
Interviewed Cambria Goodwin and Van Pierszalowski in Analogue in 2008.
19. BATS – Red In Tooth and Claw [IRL]
Eventually, in music, technology gets subsumed into the general pool of things you can sing about. While we may still be disappointingly waiting for a body of work about loitering on Facebook 14 hours a day, we have reached the point where the Large Hadron Collider has entered currency. So we get BATS, writing precision post-hardcore about girls looking beautiful in the “ray light”, and having to meet and greet to get further funding for research projects. Maybe you’d prefer not to invite them to dinner parties, then, but this is progressive, danceable in a Blood Brothers kind of way, and unfailingly novel.
18. Jay Reatard – Watch Me Fall [US]
You have to presume that Jay Reatard probably just knocks out short, melodic punk songs without regard for reception or legacy. If not, then this is the successor to Blood Visions, an all-time great, and should be judged as such. The best fast songs (e.g. It Ain’t Gonna Save Me) would easily stand up on the predecessor, but as a whole, Watch Me Fall follows on from the 2008 Matador singles, with keyboards, acoustic guitars and non-breakneck tempos setting up permanent camp. If “I’m watching you and all the things you do” is Jay’s idea of slowing it down, however, there’s no need to worry about him going soft.
17. The XX – xx [ENG]
Not so much a tundra as a frosty cityscape. While it’s sometimes hard to tell how even members of the XX know which song they’re playing at a given time, the overall effect of the album’s whispered minimality means that it doesn’t matter. This is an album for being melancholy to. Not drenched in reverb, a la J+MC, but iced in it, this is what you resort to when you couldn’t walk it off, and you couldn’t pretend like you didn’t care. It also boasts probably the best song called “Intro” since people began thinking structurally about albums. Teenage simplicity is sometimes required to express things that are teenage in their simplicity.
16. Future of the Left – Travels With Myself and Another [WAL]
Hey, guess what? It’s Falco, so it’s fucking loud and uniquely sardonic. With energy and aggression at levels that Fight Like Apes would probably sacrifice their parents to be able to mine, Future of the Left carry on the Mclusky legacy of cruiseship-sized guitars playing furious, melodic punk while Andy Falkous bemoans and/or satirises a wide variety topics. Like what? Well, “if we arm Eritrea, then we wouldn’t have to pay her, and everyone can go home”, on the geopolitical protest level. Or, on a more zoomed-in scale, “hidden in the mess of letters lies the awful truth, that Emma’s mom and dad use plastic forks”. A pressure-cooker of self-aware ire at the state of the species.