I’m kind of defining this as notsodark notsofolk rock music, which I think makes for a really good list. If these ten albums are any indication, Indie is alive and well and these types of artists deserve more recognition for keeping the American suburban dream alive of moving to cities and going to concerts with a bunch of other people who went to college for at least a little while.
10> Whitney - Light Upon the Lake
The best moments on this album are the most innocent ones. Having a sort of naiveté that doesn’t overwhelm your music and turn it twee or emo or simply lesser art is a rarity, and I think Whitney pull it off almost all the time. That, and they just write really sweet songs.
9> Amber Arcades - Fading Lines
Annelotte puts together an indie supergroup to record her debut album and it works out great. Taking band members from Real Estate, Quilt, The Men, her vision is exemplified in modern Indie fashion. The touchstones of dream pop and occasional kraut are great choices for her sugary voice and slightly melancholy melodies.
8> Chook Race - Around the House
I had too look it up, a chook is a chicken. Silly Aussies. This is a really smart record full of jangle pop tunes with a few heavier riffs thrown in for good measure. I’ve just found it over the last few weeks and i’ve had a very wonderful 29 minutes to spend in the middle of the day.
7> Nice as Fuck - Nice as Fuck
This is still the most fun I’ve had listening to and singing along with an album this year. I’m a sucker for short, sweet, catchy, and Jenny Lewis, so I’m really happy that she’s gotten so darn nice all of a sudden.
6> Young Rival - Strange Light EP
16 minutes is short, even for this list, which I think has an average running time of less than my garage album list. I’ve only listened to Young Rival’s EPs, eight years apart, but I think I should go back and check out what they’ve done in between. They know their way around power pop jams, jangles, garage riffs, and pop punk, which they roll together into their own infectious blend.
5> The Shivas - Better off Dead
Languid surf pop? Yes please. Infinitely playable in direct sunlight, indoors or out. Preferably out. This is dreamy daytime music that sparks the right kind of brain chemistry in certain people.
4> Cool Ghouls - Animal Races
My favorite lyric of the year to mishear is “Animal Racists, the Animals Racists.” That’s the beginning, but far from the end, of my enjoyment of this album. The 60s are a huge reference point here, with sunny melodies mixing with Americana, psych and garage pop. Everything stays really fresh and easygoing, which makes me think about the effect that Real Estate has had on down-the-middle Indie in the past few years. I think it works out really well.
3> Wilco - Schmilco
Yeah, I still like Wilco! Proud of it. My memory isn’t the best, but I don’t remember enjoying a Wilco album this much since A Ghost Is Born. And then again, that album wasn’t necessarily the most digestible thing ever. Schmilco goes down easy with some of Tweedy’s best pop songs in Wilco history.
2> Parquet Courts - Human Performance
his is the only record I bought on vinyl this year and I’m happy about the format print of it. The middle songs need to be broken up a bit, with Austin Brown dragon the middle of the album down a bit and Andrew Savage needing to pick up his game even more to make a great record (which he does). I feel like we might see Savage break out on his own someday. Oh did you know that Jeff Tweedy played guitar on a couple tracks on the album?! I didn’t. Tweedy isn’t really noted for his guitar work but I bet he’s a cool guy.
1> Car Seat Headrest - Teens of Denial
I'm still bitter about the Car Seat Headrest show. Does he want everyone to sing along so loud so as to drown him out? Listening back, I think he invites it. I blame my high expectations, I blame the fans. But: this is music for young people by young people, and they're the ones for whom these are generational anthems. I don't know how different it is from me and how much of an issue of gig mores it is. I'm getting grumpy in my moderate age. I'm still going to see Will when he comes to Paris. This is still the best.