Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Vol. CLIV, Issue 10
Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Hall Music: Best of 2008

Six records that I failed to cover in 500 words or less:

Beach House –– Devotion (Carpark)

I didn’t much care for Beach House’s self-titled debut. I couldn’t find anything worth digging into in their songs, and I couldn’t find something that made them more compelling than oft-compared-to Mazzy Star and Galaxie 500. “Devotion,” however, won me over completely. Both Victoria Legrand’s organ and Alex Scally’s guitar work are vastly improved, and they’ve grown as songwriters, turning girl group music into ghostly dirges that sound as haunted as I never knew they always needed to be.

Why? –– Alopecia (Anticon)

Yoni Wolf’s bad-year write-up as not-really-an-indie-rap record is brilliantly detailed, dark, dense and often quite funny, proving both his versatility as a writer and a singer. It’s arguably the best record to emerge from the often-difficult Anticon collective, if not the most pop-oriented. Self-filmed fake deaths, the sound of pocket change pulsing, hearts as big as Texas and whatever else rolled into sprawling autobiography as pop music never sounded quite like this.

Los Campesinos! –– Hold On Now, Youngster…/We Are Beautiful, We Are Doomed (Wichita/Arts & Crafts)

This Welsh septet baffles me for several reasons, since by all logic I shouldn’t like them. Their records are mixed too loud, they write songs about being music nerds and their narratives are utterly angst-ridden. But it turns out that their songs are relentlessly catchy, so well-arranged and so consistently clever that both excellent records they released this year won me over completely. The growth they showed in the eight months they took to ready a follow-up is astounding, and their sound is so joyous that I couldn’t help but give in. When frontman Gareth shouts that “Four sweaty boys with guitars tell me nothing about my life!” on “Youngster”‘s “And We Exhale and Roll Our Eyes In Unison,” I know exactly what he means, and I thank him for being part of the solution.

Okkervil River –– The Stand Ins (Jagjaguwar)

What makes this companion to last year’s “The Stage Names” so fascinating is the fact that frontman Will Sheff transformed his conceptual second part of a double album into a rebuttal of everything that preceded it. “The Stage Names” presented the touring band’s world as one of conquests, albeit melancholic ones; “The Stand Ins” takes its characters and inverts them, revealing their hopes as foolish at best and self-destructive at worst. The biggest chorus is about the falseness of choruses, the narratives can’t end happily no matter what melody carries them and the guitar solos are utterly sincere. The skeleton grasping at the liquor bottle on the cover says everything else.

Max Tundra –– Parallax Error Beheads You (Domino)

This is a polarizing record. Despite the fact that these are at heart songs about having friends and breaking up with girls, two things everyone loves songs about, Ben Jacobs’ pop music is absurd, hyperactive and something that one either falls for entirely or can’t stand. Chaotic yet undeniable melodies abound, often simultaneously and in rapid succession, and the record as a whole is either a brilliant, explosive parody of dance-pop or the best Dan Deacon songs I’ve ever heard. Absolutely essential.

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