- Arcade Fire, Neon Bible
Holy smokes, I love this album. It did take me some time and many listens to form that opinion, though. I am a huge fan of Arcade Fire’s first album Funeral, so at first, the dark, brooding quality of their 2007 release freaked me out. I was especially worried, during the first initial listens, when the organ-heavy track “Intervention” came on. I wondered what had happened to my Arcade Fire, whom I was so attached to in Funeral’s much lighter tracks, which could almost be called “fun” in comparison to Neon Bible. But I didn’t give up on this album, thankfully. I listened to it over and over again, and then, finally, I think I “got it.” I realized how beautifully it is produced, and how extremely ambitious it is with its spiritual themes. Now “Intervention” is one of my favorite tracks on the album. “Keep the Car Running” and “No Cars Go” are also standout tracks to me, because both have intense, concentrated energy and very full sound. Whereas I consider Funeral more of a group album, Neon Bible is a personal one. I’m pretty obsessed with Arcade Fire, and can’t wait to see what they’ll do next.
- Paul McCartney, Memory Almost Full
While knowing full well that this is not McCartney’s best, I can’t help but be biased towards a former Beatle. I’ve got a soft spot for pop, and an even softer spot for the Beatles. Plus, have you heard the opener “Dance Tonight”? Sure, it is very simplistic, but it’s also wonderfully catchy, and always makes me smile. Memory Almost Full is nostalgic to the extreme, and the lyrics might be borderline cheesy in places, but Paul clearly hasn’t lost his melodic touch.
- the Educated Guess, Beautiful Strangers
This independent release from Missouri-based group the Educated Guess is quite astonishing in its completeness and production. This piano-driven, 60s influenced rock album gets better with multiple listens, and I always hear something new each time. Beautiful Strangers was released as a double-album with the gospel-tinted EP Daunted Soul, and both are highly recommended.
4. The Polyphonic Spree, The Fragile Army
To me, there’s nothing like a band with a full sound, and with twenty-plus members, The Polyphonic Spree can achieve this pretty easily. I think The Fragile Army is this group’s most sophisticated release yet. It is unreservedly enthusiastic and massive-feeling, which I appreciate.
- Spoon, Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga
The infamously minimalistic Spoon spices things up on this album. There are still some very bare tracks, especially “The Ghost of You Lingers,” but I love the songs that include brass instruments, like “The Underdog.” Spoon sounds effortlessly cool, as usual.
- Among Wolves, Among Wolves
This self-titled release manages to fit into the alt-country genre, while also sounding experimental, creating a very original sound. It’s inventive and accessible at the same time.
- Of Montreal, Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer?
I have good memories of listening to this one with my roommate last year in our dorm room. We frequently played this album when friends came over, and it somehow always satisfied everyone’s music tastes.
- Streetlight Manifesto, Somewhere in the Between
I have loved Streetlight Manifesto for years, so I was naturally excited when Somewhere in the Between was finally released. I realize that punk-ska may not be for everyone but I appreciate this album’s intricate guitar and brass riffs that require much technical skill. This album never loses momentum and shows the band’s maturity.
- Arctic Monkeys, Favourite Worst Nightmare
Who doesn’t love these young British boys? With this sophomore effort, the Arctic Monkeys prove that Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not wasn’t just a fluke.
- Marc with a C, Normal Bias
This independent release epitomizes do-it-yourself pop. Normal Bias is frequently funny, often very personal, and always enjoyable.