BEST ALBUMS OF 2010: 15-6

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Stay tuned for the conclusion in the next few days.  Thanks again for reading my blog, and feel free to comment about how great or terrible this list or site may be!

15. Les Chemins de verre by Karkwa

Put simply, this was the second best Arcade Fire record this year.  That seems to lessen the output of one of the bands, but really doesn’t on further inspection.  Karkwa have endearing vocals, layered instrumentation and a strong presence on record.  They’re a bit lighter than the more popular Canadian band, but this is an amazing album to fall into.  Just remember it’s in French.

14. Teen Dream by Beach House

It took me a long time to warm up to Beach House.  The singles didn’t really catch me.  But finally with one Amazon deal later, I decided to jump right in.  It was a great choice – this is a very complete release that deserves a full listen and plenty of attention.  With enough time, the sweeping sounds and captivating lead singer will win you over.  Another victory for pure pretty music.

13. The Archandroid by Janelle Monae

Ms. Monae has been bumping all over my list.  Ask me in another month, and it might be in the top five.  This record is immensely rewarding – it features many styles of music yet holds strong album-wide cohesiveness.  Combine this with an ambitious concept and near-flawless execution and you realize you’re listening to a star rise.  Oh, and “Tightrope.”  2010 was an awesome year if this was so low.  I cannot wait to see what she does next.

12. Brothers by The Black Keys

There is a certain amount of live show bias in this pick: I saw The Black Keys open for The Flaming Lips last year.  I was blown away – they had a stage presence unlike any opener, and they acted like the real draw.  On record, they are they real deal too.  Swagger something crazy combines with tons of musical and compositional skill to back it up.  They’re getting lots of attention these days and quickly becoming the best thing out of Akron (including King James).  Join them.

11. Personal Life by The Thermals

The Thermals don’t get much respect from critics, and I think it’s a shame.  All they do is put out some of the best punk rock in current music.  They’re complicated enough to keep your attention and have the raw grit necessary to meet genre specifications.  But I guess you can get looked over when your previous output (The Body the Blood the Machine) was so amazing. … Wait, what?  Please don’t forget these guys – they’re only doing what they always have and that is awesome.

10. My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy by Kanye West

I would be better to direct you to the other drooling reviews of this bloated ego-boosting monster of a release.  But sometimes the discussion of Kanye forgets the record itself.  It turns out that Mr. West is actually still a brilliant pop master.  He pulls in great sounds and constructs excellent rhythms.  Then West manages to lay down some career-best rapping and bring in a litany of talented guests.  Every song is exciting and the record is really worth owning.  Yay hype!

09. Write About Love by Belle & Sebastian

Yet again, it’s another band I’ve missed before and feel ashamed for not seeing.  2010 was a stunning year for twee/indie pop, and these folks stand at the top.  Each track is a shimmering composition backed up by exceptional musicians.  There is real ambition here, and every bit of it is met.  Tight melodies, lovely voices, a balance of ballads and upbeat tracks, fun guitars, strong drumming, great keyboards… this album has it all.  A pop masterpiece.

08. Transference by Spoon

With the first listen, I was disappointed.  This was the first clunker in the Spoon catalog.  But like so many other great records, time brought new understanding.  Unlike the effortless wonder of Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga, Spoon was challenging us with Transference.  The songs were difficult in their sparseness, and ended in strange places.  Instrumentals were unnerving and seemed moments from falling apart.  But that’s the beauty – it all manages to work and leave you with more timeless songs.  I guess they still don’t have a bad record.

07. Epic by Sharon Van Etten

I’ve already gushed about “Don’t Do It,” but what about the rest of the record?  Thankfully, that also stands tall.  Van Etten’s voice is always one of the main draws but there are no weak points here.  The lyrical and emotional value of each track is stellar.  The guitar work is appropriate and evocative.  Epic may have the wrong title from a rock fan’s perspective, but the album is exceptional rewarding repeated listens and impressing on the first.  Quiet, emotional and brilliant.

06. Contra by Vampire Weekend

I thought that Vampire Weekend would never be able to match the pop greatness of their self-titled debut.  It turns out I was wrong and too short-sighted.  The band didn’t go back to pop only, and have expanded to more artistic and rhythmic fare.  The shift is a full success, offering more rewarding compositions, better singing, and a much deeper record.  It’s quite shocking how much the band have improved – even without a true A+ song a la “A-Punk.”  It turns out you don’t need that when everything else is so much better.

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BEST SONGS OF 2010: 20-6

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20. “Go Do” by Jonsi

Much like the best Sigur Ros songs, this track just fills the brain with a sense of wonder.  It simply feels like flying above a landscape and viewing the whole beautiful world.  The song is both pretty and epic – those thudding drums are amazing, and the voice combines perfectly with flutes and strings to push forward and into the mind.

19. “Compliments” by Band of Horses

When I first heard this, I didn’t realize it was Band of Horses – the voices and guitars were slightly different.  But after 20 listens, it was clear that this was a new height for the band.  Strong, exploratory lyrics and a slightly swung meter make this song stick.  Of course, without those great guitars, this wouldn’t be on the list.  This song stands with even “The Funeral” in their catalog.

18. “F*** You” by Cee Lo Green

Delightful profanity is always fun, but this time it’s universal.  “F*** You” was everywhere last year, and with good reason.  The song itself is a pitch-perfect blend of 1960s style and modern production.  It’s a great cousin to “Hey Ya” and seems to have just as much air time.  What puts it over the edge is Cee Lo Green, with excellent singing and playful wit (“Just thought you should know n*****”).

17. “Everlasting Light” by The Black Keys

This is tight.  Blues rock was supposed to be dead unless it was done by Jack White.  Instead, these guys out of Akron lay down some of the most muscular, passionate music in years.  The song is very simple, but it just works.  A very focused guitar, a straightforward drum and a great singer make this one of the best songs of the year.  Be sure to see these guys live too – they rock.

16. “Cousins” by Vampire Weekend

It’s unlikely that the band will ever capture the pop perfection of “A-Punk” but this song certainly taps a similar vein of brilliance.  Psychotic guitars drive the song, and it always feels just on the edge of collapse.  Instead, they push the pace forward, making this wild track one of the most satisfying in their short career.  It certainly helps that the final-lap close is an exceptional release.

15. “Let it Sway” by Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin

This is pure pop near its best.  Light jangling guitars, catchy melodies, easy-to-hear lyrics and a reasonable song structure are all crucial.  But the most important parts are the intro and outro.  That opening guitar salvo is very welcoming and danceable, and the closing breakdown has some excellent handclaps.  Fabulous track.

14. “Something Good Can Work” by Two Door Cinema Club

These Irish guys can summon up some infectious music.  Focused and consistent drumming help push the piece forward while the vocalist enthusiastically explores a potential relationship start.  Of course, the content doesn’t really matter so much here.  Those brilliant gutiars and synths make this one of the most upbeat tracks all year and works great on repeat.

13. “Lemonworld” by The National

One of the most complex and emotionally weighty songs on this list.  It’s certainly The National, but it’s better than most of their works.  Lyrically, this is a powerful reflection on the sorrows of modern life and escapism, and it blends perfectly with Matt Berninger’s baritone.  The straining strings and monolithic drums only help to give the song a distinctive and touching feel.

12. “Written in Reverse” by Spoon

Spoon is at their best when stripped down and rocking out.  “Written in Reverse” is just that type of song, and the true best off the underrated Transference.  Britt Daniels works the vocals with his typically confident style, the piano keys get beaten to lovely effect, and the guitar is simply attacked.  This has quickly joined the status of classic Spoon songs, and rightfully so.

11. “All of the Lights” by Kanye West

The most exciting (and exhausting) song on My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy is also the best.  Rihanna doesn’t suck, Kanye is sharp, and the horns are awesome.  Of course, it’s the speed and percussion that matter here.  It feels like going downhill, especially in that chorus.  And, oh that chorus.  Almost makes you want to buy some new light bulbs.

10. “Tightrope” by Janelle Monae

Janelle Monae had one of the most successful breakouts in music this year.  She managed to juggle an appearance of part-diva, part-artist, and all-round entertainer.  “Tightrope” is her brightest point in what is practically a supernova of a debut.  She sings like Aretha, has artistic integrity, and had a phenomenal backing band.  If you can somehow avoid the power of “Tightrope” you’re not human.  This is what happens when R&B is truly great.

09. “I Don’t Believe You” by The Thermals

There isn’t a particularly strong reason for why this song is so good.  It might be the pop-punk precision.  In only three minutes, The Thermals display great presence and personality.  Maybe it’s the guitar.  They’re exceptionally tight, offering a relentless melodic background.  Or maybe it’s those vocals, slightly strained and generally angry.  Or maybe it’s all of it at once.  Punk is fun, but when it’s refined it is great.

08. “All I Want” by LCD Soundsystem

This is the most emotional song on This is Happening, and also the best.  James Murphy sounds at the brink of pure breakdown throughout the song, and you can’t help but share his pain when he describes a breakup, noting “It’s too late to make it [the relationship] strong.”  Yes, the musicianship is all there, but the sad, pathetic cries push this to a different plane of song.  Murphy is human, and you cry with him as he wails “Take me home.”

07. “Chase Scene” by Broken Social Scene

Right from the start, it’s clear you’re in for something wild.  That strange guitar strum is pretty cool, and it quickly develops into an interesting multi-vocalist effort.  Of course, it hits hardest when heavier drums start to pick up.  And from there, it sounds like beautiful chaos.  Massive, unrelenting horns and strings just build, growing to a point of explosion.  Thankfully, the band gives us that release, with one final epic chord.  It’s tiring to listen to, but insanely awesome.

06. “I Want the World to Stop” by Belle & Sebastian

Such a beautiful, delicate song.  It exists in real fragility for so much of its first few half, feeling very dependent on itself.  Without those vocals, the keyboards or lightly plucking guitars, it would just fall apart into nothingness.  But then, strings and horns pick up and give the structure real meat.  Everything picks up, and the gorgeously catchy piece becomes powerful and infectious.  But the one constant, and the clincher, is the drumming.  Everything feels so unified, and this is the center point.  It’s a shame it took me so long to find this band – they’re amazing.

BEST ALBUMS OF THE DECADE: 40-31

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Here starts my rundown of the best albums of this decade.  I hope you enjoy, and check back tomorrow for more of this list!

40. Ageatis Byrjun by Sigur Ros

It is simple to fall into this music.  You need only turn it on and let the multitude of sounds envelop you.  Oh yeah – that voice is also important.  It’s hard to overstate how original this album is.

39. Return to Cookie Mountain by TV on the Radio

There are many ideas and instruments here, but I always come back to those production values.  Each song sounds disturbed and claustrophobic, creating a great atmosphere.  Of course, having individually brilliant songs helps out, too.

38. White Blood Cells by The White Stripes

Wouldn’t it be great if all garage rock sounded like this?  You know, with the brilliant guitar playing, and the real personality and the insane hooks?  But I guess these traits are what keep us coming back to Jack and Meg White.  The first four songs are more than enough for any guitar fan to own this album.

37. Yankee Hotel Foxtrot by Wilco

I personally find Summerteeth to be a better product, but it’s hard to deny the fearless-experimenting-traditionalism of this album.  Everything seems like classic rock, but it’s tough to keep playing.  Sharp lyrics, some well-placed strings, and at least two super songs make this a great.

36. Farm by Dinosaur Jr.

Dinosaur Jr. seem straightforward, but they never sound predictable.  Scorching guitar lines and a strong sense of melody help their cause.  Perhaps being a middle-age white guy can’t stop innate talent from coming out.

35. Vampire Weekend by Vampire Weekend

So they’re kind of prissy and elitist or something.  Who cares?  Their music is pop gold, offering more charming moments than most people have throughout their whole high school life.  And guess what: they also manage to do so in the realm of minimalist construction.  Universally aimed (catchy pop), yet able to be digested through music criticism.  Nice combo.

34. Mr. Beast by Mogwai

I am not always quick to accept mostly non-singing (not including jazz) music in my life.  But here are this Scottish guys exploding with instrumental emotion, leaving me to pump my fist in support.  Dynamics are king here, as the band works with a wide range of sonic power.

33. Discovery by Daft Punk

The essential techno album of ever.  For those who find it difficult to latch onto cold electronics, please see “Digital Love.”  For those who like to dance, see “One More Time.”  For the rest of us, just break out “Harder Better Faster Stronger.”  And now you have the remainder of the album of beat-heavy, danceable music to go.  You’re welcome, and now addicted.

32. Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer? by Of Montreal

At heart a disco album.  However, Hissing Fauna moves through that label and onto this list because of the psychotic examination/breakdown that flows through the album.  The centerpiece, “The Past is a Grotesque Animal,” is an unexpected game-changer that radically alters all future plays of the entire album.

31. Maladroit by Weezer

Current-Weezer is just terrible.  We are talking about the makers of the three worst albums of this decade.  The “artists” who have spewed such junk as “Beverly Hills,” “The Greatest Man Who Ever Lived,” and “Can’t Stop Partying.”

But here lies Maladroit, a rightful heir to the legacy of 1990s Weezer.  Nerdy lyrics, big guitars, and catchy songs all fit the original Weezer mold.  But this album manages self-identity through a grungy style and a harder edge.  It’s too bad they never came back toward this…

BEST SONGS OF THE DECADE: 20-1

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Here concludes my look at the best songs of the decade.  For this edition, I will also have a link to each track on YouTube.  Just click on the last part of each write-up.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this version of favoritism.  Please leave some comments about what you view as the best songs.  Also, check in tomorrow to see the first part of my Decade’s Best Albums list.  Thanks for reading!

20. “Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger” by Daft Punk

Techno is a tough thing for me to get behind.  I appreciate all the rhythm and neat computer-ish music.  But the whole thing just seems so fake and cold to me.  But then there’s Daft Punk.  I can’t help but like them.  They know how to conjure a beat and get your body to move.  “Harder, Better” is the highest point of their work.  Thanks to an amazing vocoder breakdown and a real swagger, even just hearing the song causes heads to bop and feet to tap.  I like to believe that, were I a break dancer I would freak out to this song.

19. “Staralfur” by Sigur Ros

Soundscapes can tend to be a bit boring, generally left for those relaxation mixes to be heard before sleep.  Sigur Ros manages to pull the soundscape into a new land, thanks to innovative instrumentation.  The powerful strings blend with light piano notes and production noises.  Things take off when the voice comes in.  Sigur Ros has a real give in their lead singer: he transforms songs from otherworldly to angelic.  You needn’t know what he’s saying, you just feel it.

18. “Energy” by Apples in Stereo

It’s a pretty instant attraction when this song turns on.  The mood can be completely somber, but then “Energy” turns everything bright.  The bright chords, bright voices, optimistic lyrics and fun tempo all add up to something great.  Where Sigur Ros could bring you to another planet, Apples in Stereo carry you to a better place – a state of personal satisfaction.  “And the world is made of energy / And there’s a lot inside of you, and there’s a lot inside of me.”

17. “Pyramid Song” by Radiohead

It bothers me to leave Radiohead so low on my list.  But such was the nature of song content this decade.  “Pyramid Song” has the distinctive nature of being a decidedly unique song in the Radiohead canon.  Everything feels eerie, right from the start.  Syncopated piano rhythms ride above strange electronic sounds and strings.  Soon enough, the drums kick in, slowly dragging their way in, adding to the strangely swung feel.  The whole thing feels like it’s carrying you off to heaven, or maybe hell.  But then Yorke’s last clear claim rings out in your mind: nothing to fear and nothing to doubt.  Believe in this song.

16. “Lisztomania” by Phoenix

One of the best songs from this year, “Lisztomania” is a pop masterpiece.  Catchy lyrics and bright music carry this song along.  Great guitars and solid bopping music are complimented by a touch of electronica, giving the song an interesting touch.  Really, you could pick “1901” here, too.  Both are great songs, proving Phoenix one of the best from 2009.

15. “Blind” by Hercules & Love Affair (feat. Antony)

Disco tends to seem cheesy to me.  Maybe it’s the stereotyped guy-in-white-suit thing.  Whatever the case, “Blind” is strangely freed from any sort of bad disco feeling.  Maybe it has to do with Antony’s vocals.  They really steal the show here, transforming the careful emotional classical singer into a dominant power.  I can’t help but feel like dancing through this song and yet feel terrible for doing do.  Perhaps that is where Hercules & Love Affair really succeed.  They get complex emotions to work in music.

14. “Reena” by Sonic Youth

“Reena” is so wonderfully constructed, making it one of my all-time favorite Sonic Youth songs.  First, it grabs you with those ringing guitars.  Then Kim Gordon manages to sing without sounding annoying.  But after all of the introductory “pop song” stuff, they decide to go all Sonic Youth on us.  For my money, it’s one of their best breakdowns since Daydream Nation.  Everything just goes crazy, drums pounding, guitars thrashing, and then Steve Shelley pulls it back together.  Very circular, very awesome.

13. “The Funeral” by Band of Horses

Songs can have some powerful effects, but it’s rare for me to be actually bothered by music.  Band of Horses succeeds here with those haunting, lightly plucked notes that open the song.  Instantly, you realize that this is something very weighty and somber.  Of course, the careful vocals only add to this effect.  “The Funeral” is so powerful that even the loud rocking sections manage to add to the mood.  Repeated listens diminish some of this song’s power, but never leave you feeling comfortable.  Maybe it’s better that way.

12. “Maps” by Yeah Yeah Yeahs

For all of the loud rock and crazy moments on Fever to Tell, it is the one ballad-like song that we all remember.  Everything about this song gives shivers down the spine.  Those crashing drums, that intro guitar, even the loud rock guitar.  But, of course, it’s Karen O that we all adore here.  Instead of yelling and stalking the stage, she lightly explains her love.  It’s powerful, tragic, and stunning.  This is an impact song.

11. “I’ll Believe in Anything” by Wolf Parade

This song and “Shine a Light” stand tall as the highlights from Wolf Parade’s debut album.  But for some reason, “I’ll Believe in Anything” always seems a step ahead.  I think it has to do with the unashamed emotion that flows in this song.  Seemingly a tale of longing for a lost lover, the whole thing is a bit difficult to dissect.  But it is clear that there is a distinct pain in Spencer Krug’s voice.  The loud crashing music only adds to the raw strength of this song.  By the end of the song, you are also willing to believe, if only for your own happiness.

10. “Clocks” by Coldplay

Coldplay is a very overrated (yes, really) band that garners popular attention because of their refined combination of Radiohead and U2.  They’re big, don’t really have a distinct message, and can generally be described as dull.

So why are they in my top 10?  Because this song is so good.  Perhaps Coldplay was just meant to play this one song and get on with their lives.  I’m a sucker for a good piano song, and this thing is just fantastic.  Chris Martin sings without getting overly annoying, and the looping piano phrase is just brilliant.  And I can’t help but feel taken away when that last phrase hits: “Home, home, where I wanted to go.”

9. “Mothers, Sisters, Daughters & Wives” by Voxtrot

This may be the most low-key song included on my list.  But the whole thing is wonderful rock.  A great, clear voice works well with the instantly appealing guitars and tight drums.  It’s a shame that this band hasn’t really caught on.  With the EP named for this song, they unleashed a set of five amazing tracks.  Every one of them features memorable music, but this is the best of the bunch.

8. “While You Wait for the Others” by Grizzly Bear

Grizzly Bear made a huge leap from enjoyable folk to super songwriters.  The key track off this year’s Veckatimest is a real highlight.  Its atmosphere is powerful and evocative, bringing forth real emotional responses.  Those voices, that guitar… it’s musical brilliance, with just enough muscle to keep it around your brain for months.  This song clearly eclipses all others from this year, constantly echoing in my head.  This is one to remember.

7. “3rd Planet” by Modest Mouse

It starts so simply.  Lightly plucked, quietly entered.  And then the self-admissions happen.  And then the world starts to open up with giant faith statements, and comments about the nature of the earth.  Oh, yeah, the guitars kick it up too.  This song is a great way to enter the land of The Moon & Antarctica, it’s familiar and disarming all at the same time.  Of course, this was the one song where we all wondered, “Is this really Modest Mouse?”  It’s unfortunate they haven’t reached a height like this again.

6. “White Winter Hymnal” by Fleet Foxes

If you don’t like the singing, then I don’t know what you’re doing.  I mean, first there is the lead voice, strong, right on pitch, beats the pants off any American Idol-type pop artist today.  Then there are the backing voices.  Each of these singers could take the lead spot and this song would still be in the top ten.  Instead, they blend and create a harmonious point of glory.  This only functions to add to the amazing musical arrangement, thus creating a powerful, memorable song.

5. “Nothing Ever Happened” by Deerhunter

In an album full of abstract ideas, “Nothing Every Happened” stands out as a beautiful culmination of all the strange noise-rock, but with a very accessible mindset.  Of course, it helps to have one of the best outros of the decade working for you.  Big bold drums give up the limelight for the stunning guitar work.  From the noisy breakdown comes the huge finish: clear, powerful, singular notes.

4. “My Mathematical Mind” by Spoon

It’s sometimes hard to point out what makes Spoon so great.  I guess it’s that they break down their songs into the most minimal of ideas, removing the unimportant fuss.  They kind of make you work for it – fill in the gaps almost.  Here, there’s a sort of self-assured power on display.  I don’t really know why exactly this song strikes so much more than any other Spoon song though.  I think it has to do with the pianos, the ideas (“I’m gonna stop riding the brakes”), and Britt Daniels’ smooth voice.  Or maybe it’s just that this song is really one of the four best of the decade.

3. “A-Punk” by Vampire Weekend

The best song of last year is certainly the best pure pop on from the decade.  It’s extremely bright, and from the moment you hear that chord structure, you’re hooked.  For the next two minutes, you have no choice: you bop your head, and you let the music get at you.  Or you watch the video and enjoy even more.

2. “Rebellion (Lies)” by Arcade Fire

Arcade Fire are all about big song and big emotions.  While some may argue that a few of the “Neighborhood” songs are better, I don’t think you can go wrong with “Rebellion (Lies)”  It stands out as such a strong song.  Call-and-response ending in yells of “Lies,” and a string part that acts as primary instrumental melody.  The guitar flourishes and an enraged lead voice closing out the song.  Each of these moments mean so much to those who have heard the song.  If you’re not amongst the believers, let this song prove the might of the Arcade Fire.

1. “All My Friends” by LCD Soundsystem

So Pitchfork nearly got it right, placing “All My Friends” at second in their decade-list.  But I view them as wrong.

There are so many great songs focusing on emotion, devastating tragedy, and difficult choices.  But it’s rare for a song to confront the idea of growing up like this.  Yeah, many have taken the general “I hope I die before I get old” path, but how many have really taken the idea of age and turned it into a 7-minute opus?

The whole song grapples with life and this transitional idea.  It’s really strange at first, but by the third minute you’re left wondering where else this guy will go.  It’s an intelligent analysis of the self, and James Murphy has some of the best lyrics in recent memory strewn together to make “All My Friends” work.

Of course, without the backing track, his words are just a poetic reflection.  Instead, the base layer of piano kicks the whole thing along, allowing a gradual build across the entire song.  More guitars are added, louder drums, and even more piano.  Everything almost becomes overwhelming, finally ending in the stunning, maybe empowering reflection, “If I could see all my friends tonight.”

James Murphy has penned the greatest song of this decade.  Its musical, lyrical, emotional, and human elements are all greater than any other single track from another source.  His mastery of his craft and an understanding of himself have resulted in a brilliant song that is forever echoing for me.  It is like no other.

Best Songs 2008: 1 – A-Punk

Ladies and gentlemen, the best song of 2008:

Simple and brilliant, “A-Punk” is the best track off Vampire Weekend’s self-titled debut. It starts with the best jangly guitars in many years. The bright sounds jump out alongside a bouncy bass line and a tight drum part. The whole thing goes down very fast (only slightly over two minutes), but it’s jam-packed with excellence.

In reality, this is the song that saved pop for me. Coming into 2008, my favorite “pop” band was Weezer, and I had been witnessing their fall. Make Believe was a flat-out terrible album and I was without hope for the exuberant pop-music that I once loved. Really the only “happy” pop that I managed to see was in 2007 was “tweeny” pop in its sugary, disgusting glory. No artistic benefit was to be seen with terrible lyrics, obnoxious “music” and legions of screaming fans.

Vampire Weekend is like CPR for the ears. It’s so fresh, so tight, and so brilliant. This is how pop music should be. This is how the single should exist. This is far and away the greatest song of 2008. Enjoy.

Best Albums 2008: 2 – Vampire Weekend

The critical reaction has been fairly positive, but the reaction from the blogosphere has been lukewarm. There was an extreme buildup, quite a bit of backlash and various other reactions. Some people think it’s too preppy, that some snot-nosed Ivy-Leaguers really don’t know a thing about making music. Even more, the apparent use of African-rhythms and ideas seems (to many observers) as a false way of being sophisticated.

Well I’ll be damned if I care about any of the buildup on either side. Quite simply, the guys of Vampire Weekend have made the catchiest, quirkiest album in recent memory. The word here is “pop.” Everything presented is catchy and fun, full of vibrant, ringing guitars. The production and songwriting is tight and clean, offering a shiny example of the way pop should be.

Every song has great ideas that stay with you for weeks to come. Opener “Mansard Roof” has an excellently delightful keyboard part that bounces along through the good beats. “Oxford Comma” asks about lies and has fairly goofy lyrics. “A-Punk” is simply the best song of the year with perfect jangling guitars and keyboards. “Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa” has interlaid guitar parts with bongos. “M79” features bright strings and harpsichord-sounding keys. “Campus” is a thoughtful song about romance and college life. “Bryn” has an amazing guitar line that follows throughout. There is a bit of nonsensical fun on “One (Blake’s Got a New Face).” The drums are stronger and more meaningful at the end of “I Stand Corrected.” The pianos are great and uplifting on “Walcott.” There is brilliance in the minimalism and string parts on “The Kids Don’t Stand a Chance” and it provides a great closer to the album.

Yeah – I just listed a small bit about every song on the album. But the amazing thing is that with even a preliminary play, you’ll notice these parts just jump out. The roadmap listed above is fairly representative of what will stick with you.

Vampire Weekend is a great album, from start to end. The musicality (yes, it’s really quite impressive) and the infectious tunes are simply amazing. This is deservedly the second greatest album of 2008.