Because I’m perpetually behind on CDs, I only get done with a previous year’s music in February.
10. Fort Orange — After the Fall. Basically, this is what I want all punk albums to sound like: furious, aggressive, short diatribes that make use of melody, rhythm and rage.
9. We’ve Built Up to NOTHING — 500 Miles to Memphis. Takes country-punk and pushes its boundaries out in all directions.
8. This Cage Has No Bottom — The Ascetic Junkies. Folk and indie-pop get mashed up in the most delightful way.
7. Ithica — Ithica. This genreless amazement is the second-most emotionally powerful album of the year and the best concept album.
6. Faithful Fools — The Damn Choir. Best lovelorn acoustic tunes of the year; it’s hard to beat a broken heart, an acoustic guitar and a cello.
5. Best of the Bees — Mansions. A jawdropping set of cast-off tunes that set up Mansions as the next Bright Eyes in terms of prolific nature and brilliant tunes.
4. Lost and Found — The Fools. Stark, beautiful acoustic tunes from two girls.
3. New Home — La Strada. Takes folk and bends it all around through world music and indie rock, producing jubilant, complex tracks that never bore.
2. Our New Life Above the Ground — Avalanche City. These are the acoustic-laden pop songs I wish I could write. Stomping, clapping, mandolin, melodies, harmonies, toms, just everything good is in these songs.
1. Sever Your Roots — The Felix Culpa. Hands down the best album of the year; nothing else even came close to approaching its masterful take on post-hardcore. The brilliant lyrics pushed it over the top.
I maintain a playlist on my iTunes called “Songs I Wish I’d Written.” This list is composed of beautiful, powerful songs so deeply ingrained in my brain that I cannot remember ever not knowing them. They’re mostly acoustic songs, as those resonate most with me. There are only three bands that have two tracks on the roughly thirty-song list: quirky chart-toppers Fountains of Wayne, indie mainstay Sufjan Stevens and unsigned acoustic duo The Fools.
“Open Door” and “For My Mother” are the tracks that made it to the list; both come off the Fools’ Lost and Found. It should be noted that Lost and Found consists of eight songs that run barely over twenty minutes. The Fools wrote two near-perfect songs in a fraction of the time it took artists like Damien Jurado and the Mountain Goats (two of my favorite bands) to write one.
Near-perfect tracks “Open Door” and “For My Mother” fuse genuine emotion with incredible melodies, uncluttered arrangements, an intimate recording style, a hopeful musical tone, thoughtful lyrics and a refreshing lack of needless repetition. “Open Door” is over in 1:34; “For My Mother” is over in 2:54. The band states its points passionately and lets them stand. If that’s not a sign of mature, assured songwriting, I’m not sure what is.
And they are great songwriters and musicians. Their mellow, gentle acoustic songs are simple and executed beautifully. “Open Door” features a warm keyboard in the background, accompanying the insistent acoustic guitar and lithe bass notes. The calm but passionate female vocals seal the deal; they’re not high, but they’re not low, either. Her alto range fits the music perfectly, giving the already easy-going tunes an air of uncomplicated ease. It honestly feels like The Fools sat down and just tossed off these recordings; they’re not overproduced, overthought, or overwrought. At the same time, they don’t feel rushed or hurriedly made. It feels like The Fools are playing a live show for me.
There are six other tunes on this all-too-short LP; five of them are nearly as good as the two I’ve been lauding for three hundred words now. The sixth, “A Good Day,” would still be a standout anywhere else, but the percussion makes it feel slightly gimmicky compared to the passionate, intimate feel of the rest of the tracks. The alarm clock at the beginning of the song doesn’t help out either.
“The Dream” has just the right amount of reverb attached to the vocals to create a gorgeous, dreamy mood without becoming a strange psychedelic piece. “The Great Whale” has a great bass line to accompany a unique vocal line. “Cosmic Love” features a bit darker tone, but it’s still gentle and lovely. The wistful “Always Tomorrow” has the power to sway my mood to the melancholy. I could go on.
Lost and Found is easily in my top three releases of the year thus far. Their songwriting is immaculate, the recordings are gorgeous, and the finished product is astounding. I can’t say enough good things about this album; it’s beautiful and it’s not going to leave my heavy rotation for a long, long time. I just hope there’s more where this came from. You need this album if you like mellow music.