If The National have ever met a melody that they couldn’t make eerie and off-putting, I’ve never heard it. Boxer, their second LP, sees The National easing into the style they created for themselves on Alligator. There’s percussion so robotic and precise; melodies so haunting and oddly matched; vocal work so monotonous and naked. Boxer sees a critical meeting point of semblance and dissonance that The National exploit to their advantage at every turn. There is a flow on Boxer that proves to show more control and fluidity than a number of albums that I’ve ranked higher on the list even. It seems to give you this sinister gaze that doesn’t so much look through you as it does into you, entering your blood stream.
09. Person Pitch, Panda Bear
I’m not an Animal Collective fan. There, I said it. It is hard to explain this fact when I go ahead and champion a band like Deerhoof…but such is life. They are exhausting (in a bad way), and damn near impenetrable for me. I am not smart enough to enjoy it, I guess. I went into Panda Bear’s Person Pitch with this attitude and was pleasantly surprised to find out that I was wrong. Person Pitch is a down to earth, inviting flirtation with sensory meanderings that is both bloated and sparing with its ideas and fragments of dreamy opuses. While the machinations get increasingly overbearing somewhere in the third act, Panda Bear proves to be a master at turning marginal rope-a-dopes into genuine majesty.
08. Curses, Future of the Left
Future of the Left is not in the business of making friends. They assault you, insult you and catapult you into their shaky world of tonal disparity. But that’s all kind of expected, given their history as Mclusky. What makes Curses such a tortured delight is its arguable sense of humor and unforced honesty. Future of the Left take a sparse skeleton of a sound and amplify it to a screeching car wreck of an album. What you will find is that, as simultaneously self-satisfying and self-defeating as it may be, Curses is damned proud of it all. Future of the Left easily blend post-punk and noise-core into a cripplingly caustic Molotov cocktail of loudness and introspection. This album makes me want to punch you.
07. Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer?, Of Montreal
Years ago, a relationship of mine ended abruptly. With no hesitation I fell into a steady regiment of binge drinking, eating and self-loathing that would put Artie Lange to shame. However, never in those savage months after the break-up, did I feel the need to create something as diabolically satisfying or eerily pitch perfect as Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer? Given a strange sense of after thought since the couple’s reconciliation, Kevin Barnes’ seething creation takes on yet an even separate layer of irony and discomfort. Of Montreal turn out some of their best work here, with blurred melodies and disjointed rhythms that surprisingly add up to more than the sum of their parts. Perfectly pop and wonderfully woeful, Hissing Fauna…simply bleeds real life.
06. Sound of Silver, LCD Soundsystem
With Sound of Silver, LCD Soundsystem’s excellent second LP, James Murphy is able to tone down his lingering proclivities with a fine tooth comb. The aftermath leaves a special, humanistic semblance of songs that form into a shockingly classic album. Here, his sound is simply more refined while still holding on to the slightly elegant grime that makes the DFA sound seem so signature. With brilliant songs like “All My Friends” and "When Someone Great is Gone” Murphy drips those silver droplets of crisp sonic structure that repeat and repeat until they tattoo themselves onto your brain. More importantly, Sound of Silver shows such an obvious reflective side to Murphy that it would all seem immensely silly if not for the purity of the poetry.