This week we will spend each day counting down a category or two of BoB 09 as voted by you, leading up to the editors top ten songs of the year.
The best album of the year is probably the most argued about, contested, subjective distinction ANYONE could hope to approximate. Democratic vote, although favoring popular over critically acclaimed, can sometimes get the right mix of both. The best album in my opinion should be something that caused a panicked commotion, shifted an already popular band into the national spotlight, and was solid from start to finish. Music is hard!
Many albums could fit this category. Animal Collective had an arguable best year for perfecting their noise pop and struck early with the stunning Merriweather Post Pavillion
. Although they cracked the iTunes top ten, they still haven't really breached the mainstream in a way that their popularity doubled or tripled with this record. Passion Pit made headlines everywhere with their sudden rise to fame, but they suffered from an imperfect debut; more polished than their underground hit EP, and less concentrated with hits. The Dirty Projectors are definitely a critical success, but not quite as accessible for fans of the simple and straightforward nature of pop. And Grizzly Bear crafted a near-perfect gem in Veckatimest
; even Jay-Z and Beyonce were paying attention by late summer, flushing them into the national spotlight. But the artful constructions failed to really capture a larger audience for the music, merely elevating GB's status as a band-to-watch by proxy, not necessarily making lots more money from the casual consumer. So we've talked about the top four, and one is missing, and I bet you're smart enough to know EXACTLY what it is... the year of the Phoenix.
Album Of The Year: Phoenix Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix
I remember not feeling guilty AT ALL about the bootleg copy of WAP
I got from a friend after getting the "1901" single, because I could not wait until May to hear what else Phoenix cooked up for this record. I'm glad I got it, because "Love Like A Sunset" was still one song back then, and that is the way I prefer it. And other than that, I gotta say, this album is solid for millions of reasons. It is one-hundred-percent listenable from start to finish. It contains great, simple songwriting that not only embodies the electro-pop fetish of 2009, but also has infinite crossover potential for radio play, commercialization, fans of all ages. They are proof that rock music isn't dead yet.
So it is with great pleasure that I reproduce the original review, as conducted by yours truly, with a near perfect score:
The first words that come to mind with a title like Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix might be something like haughty, lofty, or far-fetched; after all, why would a pop rock band from Paris channel the forefather of Austrian classicism? Why not March To The Phoenix, channeling great French composer Hector Berlioz? Maybe it's because they sing in English, or write songs worthy of the popularity comparison to Mozart, or maybe they just don't give a damn. Regardless of allusion musing, Phoenix really nailed a record here, and audiophiles would do well to pay close attention as they rise from the ashes of albums past and burst into mainstream glory. If Phoenix were in fact the white wig wearing note smith of the eighteenth century, this might very well be their 40th Symphony.
The actual words that come to mind after WAP are dance-y, catchy, and cohesive. Phoenix manages to not only craft a killer single in "1901," but emulate the subtle nuances that make it so sticky over and over, track after track. Take "Lisztomania," or ender "Armistice," or anything in between, even the slow stuff; they all have this unnamed quality in common. A hook here or a well-placed drum drop could seem formulaic but Phoenix manages to make it sound fresh, and demonstrate an impressive, but difficult to understand command of the English language (who can decipher anything that Jack White or Julian Casablancas says on first listen?). Slurring is part of being a rockstar. Part of the success here: Thomas Mars creates a really distinct voice in his mash-up falsetto stylizing. Each song is tied together by similar instrumental lineups as well as Mars delivery of "ooos" and "ahhs," all melting together.
The best part about WAP is the potential for crossover; not only "1901" getting club play, but its serious mainstream pop momentum here in America. And an achievement like this is great for a band who, like many foreign acts who choose to sing in English, often get the cold shoulder from their own domestic radio outlets. It's a calculated risk singing in English, but finally, after consistently catchy records, and sounding great on SNL (a feat in itself, mind you) they are getting the attention they deserve.
Breaking from the hits, seven minute two-part opus "Love Like A Sunset" splits the record. It should have been one track (and it was originally, I believe), because it's an electro-compositional masterpiece worthy of the album's namesake. It's split between the instrumental layering of "I" and the vocal section of "II," words which seems perfectly timed after the swooping bleeps of guitars and synths, a macrocosm that seems to extrapolate the records impeccable balance. And leave it to Frenchmen to think of analogies that are so simple, yet so beautiful. - joe puglisi
The rest of the best albums, with links to their respective reviews:
RUNNER UP:Animal Collective, Merriweather Post Pavillion
THIRD PLACE:Passion Pit, Manners
FOURTH PLACE:Grizzly Bear, Veckitimest
Lots of good music today! Thanks for stopping by. See you tomorrow for the exciting conclusion of BoB '09 as voted by you, our loyal fans. Who will win? Who will take home the title? Who will be Top Concert
? GET PUMPED!
TOMORROW: Top Concert and Guest Apartment!
FRIDAY: The top ten songs of the year!
SATURDAY: Probably alcohol!
SUNDAY: Day of rest! And drinking!
Love like a sunset, y'all. -joe puglisi