Music on trial

With the end of 2012 fast approaching, I thought it appropriate to compile a shortlist of my favorite albums released in the past year. I could not include all of the wonderfully memorable music I heard throughout the past 12 months; however, the following five records are the albums you can’t live without.

Love this Giant, David Byrne and St. Vincent

This album was created through the collaboration of two very prolific musicians who each have very individual voices. Their project, however, is a fine representation of both Byrne and Annie Clark, with its clear undercurrent of classic Byrne along with the fresh sound of St. Vincent. A 12-piece brass band accompanies them throughout the work, acting as the driving and uniting force between the two. To get a taste of this release, check out the single “Who,” an irresistibly catchy duet that makes heavy use of the baritone saxophone.

Django Django, Django Django

Scottish band Django Django released its debut, self-titled album this past summer to a strong reception here in the United States. Its songs are constructed with an unexpected blend of acoustic guitars and chirping electronics – a combination that creates a very dynamic album. Django Django’s former single, “Default,” features chanted lyrics and a percussive guitar line, producing a vivacity that is carried throughout the album.

Love at the Bottom of the Sea, the Magnetic Fields

This work is exactly what you would come to expect from The Magnetic Fields, had you listened to any of their previous albums. Invented characters present humorous, imaginary anecdotes set to the group’s characteristically whimsical music, drawing on styles ranging from bubblegum pop to house. For a sampling of the band’s hilarious lyrics and catchy hooks, check out “Andrew in Drag,” sung by frontman Stephen Merritt, confessing his love for the only girl he’s ever loved, Andrew in drag.

151a, Kishi Bashi

Making his solo debut this year, Kishi Bashi wildly impressed NPR’s All Songs Considered hosts Bob Boilen and Robin Hilton with 151a. A renowned violinist and touring member of Athens, Georgia band Of Montreal, Kishi Bashi’s release features lush soundscapes of strings, bouncy electronics and bright voices. His single “Bright Whites” became a staple of summer 2012 with its upbeat tone and shining texture. For a more seasonally-oriented taste of his music, check out the NPR Music webpage for his recently-released Christmas song written for a Florida friend, “It’s Christmas, But it’s Not White Here in Our Town.”

Sushi, James Ferraro

Experimental artist James Ferraro very recently released his third and arguably most accessible album. The works on it are playful – featuring electronic instruments, often silly, cartoonish, and curious noises. These sounds are certainly not unfamiliar to Ferraro as his previous album featured songs constructed out of Skype alerts and cell phone tones. At times, the album may be a bit of an aural overload; however, if you invest the time it deserves, it will become a more enjoyable experience for you. I recommend listening to “Jet Skis & Sushi,” the warmest song on the album.

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