Top Albums of 2009: #2 of The Hanukkah List

12/21/2009

Eve Marcellus: #2

Dirty Projectors: Bitte Orca

As you may have noticed, it takes a truly exceptional artist or group of artists to push the boundaries of their career and continue to put out exceptional music. David Longstreth, the founding member of Dirty Projectors, has been making gorgeous, if slightly strange, albums with a string of extremely talented co-members since 2002. In 2005, The Getty Address, was a concept album about Don Henley (for real), while 2007’s Rise Above was a collection of Black Flag songs that Longstreth put together from memory (for real). Bitte Orca is the Projector’s most self-contained, accessible work to date. As a whole, the album focuses on beautiful vocal harmonies and intricate guitar accompaniments for which the band has become known. The songs themselves are like independent expressions of the pure talents of each member of the group. The album’s first single, “Temecula Sunrise” is perhaps the best expression of both the complexity of its instrumentals and the power of its non-traditional vocals. On the stripped-down “Two Doves,” one of my favorite songs of the year, vocalist Angel Deradoorian is featured, accompanied only by a simply picked guitar and string quartet. It is a beautiful testament to the album’s range, particularly when put up against the minimalist percussion-based “Stillness is the Move” and synthy “Useful Chamber.” The Dirty Projectors have, and continue, to add new and exciting things to the wider community of music as well. Former members include Rostam Batmanglij and Ezra Koenig (Vampire Weekend) and Adam Forkner (White Rainbow). This year the Projector’s current lineup collaborated with David Byrne, a sort of torch-passing from the O.G. of experimental rock. Bitte Orca is proof of how great Longstreth and company can be.

David Johnson-Igra: #2

Grizzly Bear: Veckatimest

“Oh this is just another emo, indie rock band,” my friend said to me while I cooed to the sound of Grizzly Bear’s Veckatimest. She’s wrong. With the vocals of a male siren, Ed Droste’s is hauntingly captivating on tracks like “Cheerleader,” and “Ready, Able.” The album is carefully calculated, perfected, and yet, not contrived. While the tempos remain a consistent bob, the orchestrated indie-psych-pop ranges from the sweeping bounces of “Two Weeks,” reminiscing marches of “Cheerleader,” and anxiously gruff strumming of “Ready, Able.” Sonic contrasts underscore lush melodies which sweep and pull like water crashing and settling to the shore. Veckatimest explores sonic emotions that explore dark pitfalls on “Dory” or wander through a muffled limbo on “About Face.” The album is not about what could be, but what is. All you have to do is listen to Droste sing, “While you wait for the others to make it all worthwhile / All your useless pretensions are weighing on my time,” and with that this is not another emo, indie album, this is SO much more.