It's December 1 as I start this, the date that marks the end of my musical year. I sat down to do my musical accounting for the past year, and here is how it broke down for me. Not a bad year, better than 2005, I think, which is funny because it's rather poppy in places, which usually means they have a short shelf life for me. However, I think I will still be listening to of lot of this list a year from now. Here are the first five of my favorites for this past year.
10. Peter, Bjorn, and John--Writer's Block
This is one of the poppy ones, but it has a quirky Scandinavian sensibility, and I'm getting this feeling now that there are all kinds of Swedish and other Nordic kinds of bands out there that are really good. Is "Nordic" the same thing as "Scandinavian"? I always lose track of what all countries are up there. Anyway, it feels like a new musical frontier for me or something. I think the Concretes are one of these bands that I would like if I heard them, for example. I have a sense for these things. And I have an even better sense for what bands I like when I actually hear their music. This is one of those, kind of rousing introvert-anthem kinds of things.
9. Rose Melberg--Cast Away the Clouds
I feel like such a wimp for liking Rose, but I can't help it. I mean, this is the most fey kind of "I'm so sad" girly singer songwriter stuff . . . but it feels so right. It helps that she plays most of her songs with chords I can figure out. She writes these songs with melodies that sound so obvious that you can't figure out why you haven't ever thought of them yourself even though you never think about writing music though you always think it would be nice to be able to say that you have written a song--but how do you know if it is any good? You don't. You're filled with doubt. Maybe it's your parents' fault. Maybe they should have encouraged you more, but it's too late for that; you're of the age when you are supposed to be able to encourage yourself, and you do, but it's for little things like getting out of bed and flossing and not wasting time on the internets.
8. Belle and Sebastian--The Life Pursuit
Any year they produce, the album pretty much has to go on the list somewheres. Liking this album so much bothers me a little though because even though it's so good, great even, and restores a faith in B&B that had started to wane, it at the same time is not the same Belle that put out those first two records or so. They're too confident and slick and capable to make that record now, which is a little sad. But still, what an awesome bunch of songs this is.
7. J Dilla--Donuts
This is the only record of it's kind that I've ever even heard, though I think it's its own little genre: samples with beats. So, I really should try to find more discs like this out there because it just rocks, if that's the right term. Too bad he died. Cancer, I think.
6. Bonnie "Prince" Billy--The Letting Go
Like Belle, this had to be on here somewhere, but what's surprising is that it's not in the top five. This might be his nicest set of songs since I See a Darkness . . . have I told you I met Will Oldham . . Twice!! Yeah, I probably I have. I always tell that story (those two stories!!). Will always finds some great obscure (to me) chick back up singer on all his records, and the woman on this one is one of my favorites. She has an ancient, ballad-like sound to her voice. It's wonderful.