year-end mix 2013

Although I took a year off in 2010, doing a year-end mix has been a habit of mine for roughly 15 years now (prior to doing reviews, they arrived to friends in the form of a CDR). Although I’m busier than ever, I still try to make time in my life to listen to as much new music as possible.

That said, 2013 was an outstanding year. Whereas past years have been dominated by one genre or another, this one was truly crazy in terms of the things that got the most play, and my mix reflects that. This isn’t a true “best of” mix in that it includes a song from every single one of my favorite albums, but these are a lot of my favorite cuts. Click on the artwork or download the mix here.

Mix 2013 artwork

Deafheaven – The Pecan Tree
Iceage – Coalition
Danny Brown – Side A (Old)
Fuck Buttons – Sentients
The Asphodells – Late Flowering Lust
Vampire weekend – Finger Back
Born Ruffians – Rage Flows
Darkside – Paper Trails
Daniel Avery – New Energy
Holden – Renata
tm404 – 202/202/303/303/606
Machinedrum – Don’t 1 2 Lose You
Ben Lukas Boysen – Nocturne 1
Lubomyr Melnyk – A Warmer Place
Tim Hecker – Live Room
The Field – 20 Seconds of Affection
Sam Amidon – My Old Friend

As with other years, some songs run for their entirety, while others include the sweet spots. I couldn’t really cram 17 songs into just under 70 minutes otherwise. I’ll plan on doing a year-end list sometime in the next couple weeks or so, but hopefully you find something interesting and/or new in listening to this.

Bonus points for those who recognize the song sung by my 2-year old daughter that makes its way into the mix. :)

Just can’t get enough

Just in case you’re one of those people who’s wondering what I’m up to during the part of the year that I’m not making mixes or lists, I’ve been on Twitter now for a couple years letting my thoughts fly.

I post a lot of music-related links there, as well as things about movies, gardening, men’s style, and other random stuff that makes me laugh and / or mad. I promise that you’ll discover some entertaining stuff if you follow me, so why not?

Favorite albums of 2012

I didn’t do a list last year, and while I thought about not doing one this year, a friend of mine mentioned that if nothing else, a list will provide a good snapshot in time. As with past years, I’m sure it will change as I discover other albums that I’ve missed (feel free to offer suggestions in the comments).

As with my mix (previously posted), this year was very, very heavy in terms of electronic music. In fact, it was probably the best year for electronic music (and all related-genres) in as long as I can remember. Maybe rock will make a comeback next year.

Having said all of the above, I’m not going to list things out in top-down chronological order, as it’s really a fruitless exercise. Looking back over past years, true order breaks down pretty quickly based on what I’ve discovered subsequently and even the whims of what I’m feeling that particular day / week / month / year.

yearend

There were five releases that were the cream this year, and I’m going to put these just a bit higher due to the sheer amount of spins they’ve gotten.
Blondes – Blondes (CD | MP3)
John Talabot – Fin (CD | MP3 | LP)
Andy Stott – Luxury Problems (CD | MP3 | LP)
Kendrick Lamar – good kid, m.A.A.d city (CD | MP3 | LP)
Japandroids – Celebration Rock (CD | MP3 | LP)

The rest of these aren’t far behind, but haven’t gotten quite the sheer number of reps. There’s some absolutely killer stuff in here, though, and I would heartily recommend any and all of them.
Cloud Nothings – Attack On Memory (CD | MP3 | LP)
Ricardo Villalobos – Dependent and Happy (CD)
Ricardo Donoso – Assimilating The Shadow (MP3)
Raime – Quarter Turns Over A Living Line (CD | MP3 | LP)
Scott Walker – Bish Bosch (CD | MP3 | LP)
Mortiz Von Oswalt Trio – Fetch (CD | MP3 | LP)
Holy Other – Held (CD | MP3)
Twin Shadow – Confess (CD | MP3 | LP)
Four Tet – Pink (CD | MP3)
Dirty Projectors – Swing Lo Magellan (CD | MP3 | LP)
Death Grips – The Money Store (CD | MP3 | LP)
Cristian Vogel – The Inertials (CD | MP3)
Patrice & Friends – Champagne Sauna (MP3)
Burial – Street Halo / Kindred EP (CD | MP3 | LP)
Beat Connection – The Palace Garden (CD)
Larry Gus – Silent Congas (MP3)
Grimes – Visions (CD | MP3 | LP)
Julia Holter – Ekstasis (CD | MP3 | LP)

I’m sure there’s some stuff I missed (and some things I heard that didn’t make the list), but feel free to let me know in the comments either way.

Year-End Mix 2012

I don’t update this site too often anymore, but I found myself motivated enough to put together another mix for 2012. I’ve also cobbled together the start of a list and plan on posting that soon (for real). For now, though, let’s get to the mix.

mix2012

As with the mix from last year, this one isn’t quite as crazy as some of the ones I’ve done in the past, but I think it turned out pretty well, and some of the transitions are killer (check that Villalobos – Burial glide). Artwork is to the right and you can save the mix by doing a right-click and save as on the image itself or on this link right here.

It’s pretty obvious from the mix (and will be even more so from my upcoming list), but electronic music almost completely dominated my ears in 2012. It was one of the best years for the genre (and related ones) for as long as I could remember. These are by no means my favorite songs, nor the definitive list of favorite albums, but it’s a good inclusion, and hopefully you’ll like it and maybe even hear something new.

  • 00.00.00 – 00.05.30 | Raime – Your Cast Will Tire
  • 00.05.00 – 00.11.03 | Andy Stott – Numb
  • 00.10.32 – 00.15.35 | Ricardo Villalobos – Grumax
  • 00.14.50 – 00.21.53 | Burial – Loner
  • 00.20.42 – 00.25.12 | Death Grips – Hacker
  • 00.25.12 – 00.27.43 | Larry Gus – Jaw Throb
  • 00.27.34 – 00.32.10 | Twin Shadow – Run My Heart
  • 00.31.41 – 00.38.04 | Julia Holter – Goddess Eyes II
  • 00.37.58 – 00.45.05 | Blondes – Hater
  • 00.44.55 – 00.49.14 | Grimes – Be A Body
  • 00.49.10 – 00.52.34 | Beat Connection – Palace Garden, 4AM
  • 00.52.27 – 00.56.28 | John Talabot – Journeys (Feat. Ekhi)
  • 00.56.27 – 01.00.52 | Japandroids – Adrenaline Nightshift

I hope that you’ve had a great 2012 and have an excellent 2013. I’ll be back with a little more new content in early 2013. See you soon.

Year-end mix 2011

Well, you probably thought I was never coming back, eh?

For awhile, I thought maybe I wouldn’t have the time to either, but then I told myself I’d set a hard limit on the amount of time I could spend working on a mix and end up finishing it in half that time. Working through the transitions in my head prior to sitting down at the computer helped a bit, and while it isn’t nearly as involved as the 2009 mix that I did, I feel pretty happy with how it turned out.

The artwork is at right, and you can download it by clicking on the artwork or this link right here.

Names of artists involved is on the artwork itself, but here’s the full tracklisting. It runs just over an hour, for those keeping track at home.

  • 00:00 | Colin Stetson – “A Dream Of Water” (from New History of Warfare Vol. 2: Judges)
  • 03:04 | Bill Callahan – “America!” (from Apocalypse)
  • 08:28 | The Drums – “Days” (from Portamento)
  • 12:53 | Panda Bear – “You Can Count On Me” (from Tomboy)
  • 15:20 | Sandro Perri – “Love & Light” (from Impossible Spaces)
  • 18:55 | Rustie – “Surph” (from Glass Swords)
  • 22:55 | Battles – “Wall Street” (from Gloss Drop)
  • 27:35 | Sepalcure – “Eternally Yrs” (from Sepalcure)
  • 32:20 | The Weeknd – “Initiation” (from Echoes of Silence)
  • 36:24 | Machinedrum – “U Don’t Survive” (from Room(s))
  • 41:00 | Robag Wruhme – “Pnom Gobal” (from Thora Vukk)
  • 46:15 | Andy Stott – “Posers” (from We Stay Together)
  • 50:52 | Tim Hecker – “In The Fog III” (from Ravedeath, 1972)
  • 54:52 | Leyland Kirby – “They Are All Dead, There Are No Skip At All” (from Eager to Tear Apart The Stars)

Now, I just need to get motivated to post some sort of year-end list in the next couple weeks. All of the artists featured above are on it (as well as some others). There’s a hint, I guess.

Year-end list 2010

I had really good intentions when I started this site, and I kept it up for quite awhile, but this post will likely be my last for at least a little while. I’ve been writing about music since my freshman year of college (a long time), but it’s time to be honest with myself and admit that I’m just not feeling it anymore.

That’s not to say that I’m no longer interested in music; In fact, it’s quite the opposite. 2010 was an awesome year for releases and I found myself flat-out surprised by a great deal of albums, with a load of things that I kept going back to and many hours spent cranking the stereo and singing along.

Alas, I just don’t find the enjoyment that I once did in writing the reviews themselves. It’s probably kind of obvious given the tailing-of in regular updates over the course of the past half-year or so. I’ll still post here, but it will probably be less about music and less often. We’ll see…

Anyway, enough explanation; Let’s roll with my favorite albums of 2010! If I had to pick a theme for the year, it would probably be “pop.” There’s a little bit from just about every genre on the list, but a solid majority of it has some sort of major pop trappings that are undeniable.

1. LCD Soundsystem – This Is Happening (DFA/Virgin)
For my money, this is the best LCD Soundsystem album from front to back that’s ever been made. It’s also my favorite album from front to back of 2010. Solid cuts with massive beats and lyrics that veer between self-loathing and celebratory. If this is indeed the final LCD Soundsystem album, at least they went out with a bang (or at least a pow, pow, pow, pow, pow).

2. Kanye West – My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy (Def Jam)
One of several albums on this list that arrived to my ears in the last quarter of the year and didn’t receive a review on the site, this one was probably the most surprising. While I’d enjoyed some of West’s previous albums, I had never been on board fully with his work until I heard this one. Usually I don’t care for albums that are over-the-top all the way, but this one swaggers like a beast and delivers the goods over and over again.

3. Francis And The Lights – It’ll Be Better (Cantora)
I mentioned it in my review, and I’ll say it again here; I cannot understand why this album hasn’t gotten more love from people this year. The short release is bursting at the seams with insanely catchy hooks and it’s varied enough to go from white-boy funk to soft ballads without so much as a hitch. Maybe it’s too poppy for the indie lovers yet too indie for the mainstream pop lovers. Too bad; I guess it will be both of their losses.

4. The Drums – The Drums (Downtown)
One of those releases that felt like a slight let-down upon release (mainly due to a majority of the songs being available elsewhere already), this debut album from The Drums is still one of the most insanely hummable albums of the year. Loads of different reference points / influences / land grabs going on here, but it’s still fresh with a capital F. Can’t wait for a follow-up.

5. Owen Pallett – Heartland (Domino)
This one might surprise you as much as it does me, but I can’t deny that this little chamber pop release hit me early this year and hasn’t let go since. Some of the songs (“Lewis Takes Off His Shirt”) are more obvious, but everything else just keeps on wiggling until it’s stuck in your head.

6. Caribou – Swim (Merge)
Dan Snaith reinvents himself yet again, and the result is another solid album of warped-ass dance music. This is club music for the sea floor, music for swimming in your sheets, and sunny-side up songs for welcoming warmer days. Needless to say, it’s been on rotation for a good portion of the year.

7. Born Ruffians – Say It (Warp)
This album got harshed-on by more than one review site that I read, but I can’t understand the dislike for it, honestly. Sure, it’s herky-jerky and about as willfully disjointed as it gets for a follow-up from a group that was this close to breaking through with their debut, but that’s how it goes sometimes. If you haven’t already, give it another chance.

8. The Books – The Way Out (Temporary Residence)
Many years in the making, this is the longest album from the duo of The Books, and also the most layered, inventive, and downright infectious. There are moments where it doesn’t sound like you’re even listening to The Books, then you remember that nobody else is making this kind of music and yes, all is right with the world. If that weren’t enough, Nick wrote a blog post about the creation of every single song on the album. They’re great reads, and you’ll feel even more enlightened about the creative process in general.

9. Mark McGuire – Living With Yourself (Editions Mego)
I guess it’s officially the year of Emeralds, as not only did the duo break into my list with their Does It Look Like I’m Here? release, but Mark McGuire’s solo effort Living With Yourself had me spellbound as well. Field recordings, layers of hazy drones, and looping, reverberating guitar work that reminds me slightly of an updated and amplified Michael Brook. Beautiful stuff full of potency and a bit of longing.

10. Sam Amidon – I See The Sign (Bedroom Community)
Sam Amidon has been quietly been creating some of the more heartbreaking and beautiful music that I’ve heard on his past two albums. His previous All Is Well had a couple downright stunners, but this newest release is even more consistent, with a trio of cuts that just melt me every time near the end. Oh, and for good measure, he teamed up with Nico Muhly on the best triptych of Mothertongue.

11. Emeralds – Does It Look Like I’m Here? (Editions Mego)
I’ve been following Emeralds for a couple years now, but none of their albums had completely resonated with me until I heard Does It Look Like I’m Here? The group has certainly shown flashes of brilliance before, but this is their masterpiece (so far). Beautiful, dense, dark, pulsating, and many other adjectives can’t quite do it justice. Outstanding.

12. Echospace – Limuin (Modern Love)
I honestly can’t say that I’ve ever heard an album with these guys’ fingerprints that I’ve thought was a dud. This one is no different, and just in case you thought they’d worn their post-dub minimal techno thing into a nub, these nine tracks blur and bob and weave and generally melt time in all the good ways that music can. It sounded good in the summer and it sounds just as awesome with a dusting of snow on the ground.

13. Girl Talk – All Day (Illegal Art)
Yeah, it’s mashup, but Girl Talk is the damn master at this stuff. If a dude taking chunks of songs and throwing them together in a way that creates something new can create a masterpiece, then this is the best thing running from Gregg Gillis so far. There’s still 300 some odd samples that blast through in just over an hour, but the transitions are more smooth and everything just flows like nobody’s business. Endlessly re playable.

14. Zola Jesus – Stridulum II (101 Distribution)
Easily one of my favorite new artists that I heard this year, Zola Jesus hit the ground running with a series of EPs (including the stunning Valusia EP). If you add everything together, you have about ten gorgeous songs from a young singer who sounds like she’s just beginning to hit her stride and absolutely dropping my jaw in the process. Chills.

15. Jaga Jazzist – One-Armed Bandit (Ninja Tune)
It’s been awhile since I’d heard from this group, and they didn’t disappoint in coming back from their hiatus. The perfect blend of their augmented orchestra sounds, One-Armed Bandit zooms off in many different directions and manages to hit the mark just about every time.

16. Grinderman – 2 (Anti)
If this is how Nick Cave is going to play in Grinderman, then I don’t care if he ever goes back to the Bad Seeds. Way more varied than the first album from the group, this one is deranged in all the right ways, with just enough pervert and pussycat to keep me grinning like a bandit.

17. Swans – My Father Will Guide Me Up A Rope To The Sky (Young God)
I’ve been following Michael Gira’s work for some time now on a rather intermittent basis and have enjoyed a lot of what I’ve heard (while also being repelled by a great deal). To my ears, this newest release strikes an almost perfect balance, with the vitriol and sheer power on one side, with a real gleeful deviousness on the other. In the eyes of some, those two things probably aren’t that far apart, but it works in spades here.

18a & b. Elephant9 – Walk The Nile (Rune Grammofon) & Bushman’s Revenge – Jitterbug (Rune Grammofon)
Yes, I realize that these are two separate albums from two separate “supergroups” on the Rune Grammofon label, but they are so linked up in my head that I find it hard to peel them apart. Two amazing doses of proto progressive jazz metal kraut something or other, these two albums were both huge steps up from the first releases from each respective group that I’ve found them lodged in my rotation a ton.

19. Vampire Weekend – Contra (XL)
Something about this group made me not want to like them, but screw it, they’re fun. This is another sophomore album that’s even better than the debut, and while a lot of people think they’ve worn out their welcome, I don’t think they will until the infectious songs stop pouring out.

20. Sufjan Stevens – The Age Of Adz (Asthmatic Kitty)
It’s not perfect all the way through, but this is exactly the direction I was hoping that Stevens would go after his long hiatus. It’s full of blurps and whirs and certainly more challenging than his past work (reading comments at the NPR “first listen” site for it was downright hilarious because of this), but proves that whatever genre he’s working in, he’s a force to be reckoned with.

Reissues (no order here, but they’re all amazing)
Walter Gibbons – Jungle Music (Strut)
This double-disc set of remixes from Gibbons has gotten so many repeat listens that I’d have deepened the grooves if it were vinyl. Absolutely slaying remixes of Gladys Knight, Arthur Russell, Double Exposure, and many more. It’s disco, but not straight disco. So damn groovy, in a great way.

Peter Gordon – Love Of Life Orchestra (DFA)
Another set of futuro-disco cuts, this one has long been a favorite of James Murphy of LCD Soundsystem (two cuts opened and closed his Fabric Mix). It’s easy to see why, too, as this saxed-up set of songs is full of love and life and isn’t at all afraid to get down.

Thomas Koner – Nunatak, Teimo, Permafrost (Type)
Like a lot of ambient music from the same era, this triple-disc set hasn’t aged perfectly, but if you’re into the bleak, desolate nordic-style drone ambient music, this is one of the forerunners and still quite solid. It’s incredibly stark, but it felt just about perfect when the last snowstorm arrived and dumped almost a foot on the ground here.

Charanjit Singh – Ten Ragas to a Disco Beat (Bombay Connection)
I guarantee you haven’t heard anything else like this in 2010. On first take it sounds like maybe Luke Vibert decided to take his acid experiments to some sort of middle-eastern trip-out realm, but this is the real deal. Almost 30 years old and still crazy enough to make you wonder what’s going on.

Bruce Springsteen – The Promise / Darkness on the Edge of Town (Columbia)
I’ve always had a weakness for the early Springsteen stuff, and this certainly scratches the itch. The album that should have been released after Born To Run (plus some bonus sessions), this is a damn solid batch of music spread out over two discs. BRUCE!

Various Artists – Shangaan Electro (Honest John’s)
Another album of music that you might not honestly believe until you hear it, this one marries insanely fast tinny electro beats and somewhat traditional-sounding African vocal styles (mostly sung in English) for one of the most unique and insanely catchy albums I’ve heard in the past couple years. Hard to describe and hard to get out of your head.

As always, I thank you for reading, whether you followed me over from my other site or discovered this one from somewhere else. It was a good run. Maybe we’ll run into each other on some other corner of the web in the future.

Zola Jesus – Stridulum II and Valusia EP (album and EP review)

Although I’d seen the name Zola Jesus cropping up in different places over the course of the past six months or so, I hadn’t actually listened to her music until about the Stridulum II hit the street nearly two months ago. In that time, it’s certainly become an album that will contend highly in a list of my year-end favorites. As if that weren’t enough, the prolific artist just released the four-song Valusia EP about a week ago, and it’s another great set of songs from a young artist who seems to really be hitting her stride.

A swirling mix of gothic melodies, icy electronics and synths, and some incredibly, almost Siouxsie-style vocals, Zola Jesus probably isn’t too far off from artists like Xx and others mixing emotive vocals with dark electronic pop music. Nika Roza Danilova is the real deal, too, with powerful pipes that take what are sometimes fairly basic synth cuts and push them into nearly otherworldly territory.

With 9 songs running 34 minutes, there really isn’t any filler on Stridulum II, and there are a handful of tracks that are downright stunners. In addition to the aformentioned “Night,” “I Can’t Stand” is a sweeping piece that moves between soaring and haunting, while “Trust Me” hints at her noisier past. “Manifest Destiny” is one track that stands as a culmination of her songwriting power, though, as simple, repetitive synth patterns pulse along quietly before rippling with a hazy sheen of noise as the vocals of Danilova crest.

“Manifest Destiny” – Zola Jesus

While the Valusia EP isn’t a great deal different as a whole in terms of style, it’s the opening track of “Poor Animal” that hints at slightly new directions, with even a bit more polish than previous songs, and a solid and steady beat that pushes it into even more pop territory. That’s certainly not a bad thing, though, and the song is easily one of her most beautiful and potent to date.

“Poor Animal” – Zola Jesus

Needless to say, I’m hooked. Beguiled might be the better word for it, and after a tour opening for Fever Ray and the strength of these two releases in 2010, I really doubt I’m the only one.

(buy Stridulum II from amazon.com)

(buy Valusia EP from amazon.com)

Thomas Koner – Nunatak Teimo Permafrost (album review)

Without fail, the first time the freeze lands on the group each year, I find myself looking toward the music in my collection that’s droning and ambient and a bit austere. I’ve already spent some quality time with Stars Of The Lid and Brian Eno, but with very little warning, I realized a couple weeks back that the excellent Type Records had gone and re-released 3 of Thomas Köner’s very out-of-print albums in one specially-priced box set.

Originally released roughly two decades ago (Nunatak is the oldest, coming out in 1990), the three albums by Köner are glacial and incredibly deep sounding, and in this newest editions, they’ve even been remastered. Nunatak, Teimo, Permafrost brings the three albums together on a 3CD set, clocking in at just about 2 hours worth of chill-inducing sound.

Of the three, Nunatak is easily the most frosty and haunting. Most of the sounds on the 11 untitled tracks of the release were created by gongs (in various environments, including underwater), and home made wind instruments. In places (such as “Untitled 5″), it’s almost completely extended drones, with slowly reverberating tones that just sort of melt away, while on other tracks (like the downright creepy “Untitled 3″), one can hear disembodied voices (mumbling through the wind instruments), shrieks, and fitful clattering. The short punctuations are made even more powerful by the longer, more steady tonal pieces, but it all adds up to a nearly 50-minute album that sounds like it could have easily been pulled from the mind of an early David Lynch film.

“Untitled 3″ – Thomas Köner

Teimo and Permafrost (released in 1992 and 1993, respectively) aren’t quite as bleak, but that’s sort of like saying that the South Pole is less bleak than the North Pole. There’s a little more melody in each album, but nothing even close to a hummable melody. Instead, it’s all about barren landscapes, mixing spectral washes and incredible sub-bass in equal parts.

“Teimo” – Thomas Köner

Sure, there have been a hundred artists who have done similar things since these albums came out, but they still manage to stand the test of time and definitely were the forefathers to artists like Xela, Deaf Center, and others that currently reside on the Type Records label. In that case, it’s a perfect fit for this remastered boxset, and the reasonable price (especially considering what copies were selling for) makes it even more of a deal.

(buy Nunatak, Teimo, Permafrost on amazon.com)

Grinderman – 2 (album review)

The first album from Grinderman was a bit of a sordid affair, with Nick Cave going a bit more primal than usual, even for him, and ragged, rough-around-the-edges music that ended up as a perfect match for the lyrics. When Cave released another album (Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!!) with the Bad Seeds (which then in turn seemed somewhat influenced by Grinderman), I figured it was a one-off project and that would be that.

Fortunately for everyone, the group is back with another lascivious (both in sound and word) album simply titled 2, and it builds in leaps and bounds from the first release from the group.

In fact, I have no problem in saying that it’s my favorite Cave-related work since pieces of the two-part Abattoir Blues/The Lyre Of Orpheus (and much earlier if you include single albums). It still has a lot in common with the first release from the group, but it’s much more fleshed-out and rich. There’s a real detail to sonics on the release that pushes it far beyond the scope of the first release from the group, and little interesting details pop out all over the place.

“Mickey Mouse And The Goodbye Man” kicks things off in fairly standard fare, as the group stomps through a blast of swaggering rock, but “Worm Tamer” follows and it’s there that other elements start seeping in around the edges. While the chugging guitars are still a main element, backing choirs, backwards guitars, swirling electronics, and some atonal drones push the song into an entirely new and dynamic territory, even without the track ever really blistering.

Even the lulling “What I Know,” which arrives about halfway through the album, crackles with grit, and has some antique-aged background drones that sound like the distant howl of wolves over the quiet campfire strums, but it’s during the latter half of the release where things really come alive. “Evil” is a personal favorite, a heaving mass of squalling guitars, chanted background vocals, and furious builds that just keep taking things higher and higher.

“Evil” – Grinderman

“Palaces Of Montezuma” flips over to the other side and mellows out considerably, but the lush track is no less interesting, taking what could be fairly standard output by most bands and turning it into an insanely twisted love sonnet, with some of the best lyrical couplings from Cave in ages.

“Palaces Of Montezuma” – Grinderman

In equal parts more massive, daring, and varied than the first album by Grinderman, this is one of the most entertaining albums I’ve heard this year. It’s another outstanding release from some guys who aren’t taking themselves too seriously, and certainly haven’t forgotten how to rock either.

The Drums – The Drums (album review)

It seems like ages since I’ve been listening to some of the songs on this debut album by The Drums, and really, that’s probably true. The group dropped a variation on the same EP sometime in 2009 and their self-titled full-length arrived in most of the world earlier this year. Nearly half the songs on the full-length had already been released elsewhere, and yet it’s nice to finally have them all in one place (along with some more standouts).

I held out on buying the release earlier this year, as I hoped it would have a few bonus tracks. My hopes were piqued a bit a couple months ago, when it was stated that such would be the case, but the tracklisting is out and it’s the same as it’s ever been (sadly, “I’m Felt Stupid” still isn’t included).

C’est la vie, though. This 12-song, 43 minute album is still one of my favorites from the past 12 months or so. The group has drawn a load of hype, and in doing so has inevitably drawn many comparisons (Franz Ferdinand! Joy Division gone happy! etc!). While there are certainly echoes of a lot of different groups in their songs, the true charm of the album is the way that it brings them all together into something just different enough that it feels fresh.

Because just about every song on the release is laser-sighted on pop goodness, it’s hard to pick favorites, but if my arm was being twisted behind my back, I’d probably put “Me And The Moon” near the top. With repetitive, muffled drums banging out an incessant beat, a dry, repeated guitar melody soars over a gurgling synth bass, it sounds like it could have plopped down in the 80s sometimes, and Jonathan Pierce’s high, crooning vocals certainly don’t take it out of the era.

“Me And The Moon” – The Drums

A lot of cuts on the release have the same building blocks, and “It’ll All End In Tears” is another perfect example, mixing some tinny bass guitar, synth, and more chiming guitars with low-fi drums and filtered vocals by Pierce. It sounds a little new wave and a little post punk, but like the best work of the group it refracts their sound just enough to set it apart.

“It Will All End In Tears” – The Drums

Supposedly a large portion of this album was recorded in a bedroom on a less-than-optimal setup, and that shows in the recording. Considering the music itself, it almost seems logical that the release be an over-produced, glossed-up number full of overcompressed mastering and razor-sharp modern production, but that’s about the furthest thing from the truth. It’s a bit rough around the edges, and that’s honestly part of the charm. The summer rays might be dying away even as I type these words, but if you didn’t check it out in the spring, don’t sleep on this album.

(buy The Drums from amazon.com)