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.
There are many reasons that people love Neutral Milk Hotel: great songs, brilliant lyrics, perfected moods, indie mainstay, etc. But one thing that people don’t think about as often is how many ideas are jam-packed into its songs. Every moment bursts with riffs, melodies, rhythm and instruments. It’s just entirely unexpected the first (and 40th) time you hear their work.
The Ascetic Junkies‘ This Cage Has No Bottom is much the same way. These twelve songs jam more ideas into 40 minutes than some bands have in a discography. Instruments appear and disappear unexpectedly. Tempos suddenly drop, then raise just as quickly. Songs lead you in one direction, only to jerk you in another. This album is an experience, and it only helps its case (at least, here at Independent Clauses) that This Cage Has No Bottom is a post-folk indie-rock album much in the same way that In the Aeroplane Over the Sea is.
It also reminds me of O Fidelis, as the vocal duties are shared between Matt Harmon and Kali Giaritta. They both have voices strong enough to carry a band, so having both of them only makes the album that much stronger. The wildly varied instrumentation only backs up their solid voices, not just including but often pairing banjos, synthesizers, bell kits and mandolin in addition to bass, guitar and drums. It’s an enthusiastic party inside a hip music store.
How hip? “(Don’t) Panic” is a folk/funk song, as they create a supremely get-down dance-floor groove with nothing but acoustic instruments and a clean electric guitar. I mean, there’s a ukulele in it. It doesn’t get cooler than that.
“Get What You Want, Get What You Need” opens as an old-timey bluegrass tune, which sounds great with the guy/girl harmonies. But that’s not enough to be an Ascetic Junkies song. They throw in some celebratory horns, bombastic drums, a laughing section (!) and bluegrass fiddle for good measure. “Crybaby” is a straightforward country-rock stomper that was apparently recorded totally live. You’d never be able to tell – it’s that tight. This band must kill it live.
“God/Devil/Gov’t” is amazing as well. It’s the most intricately constructed tune here, lyrically and musically. The lyrics sing of looking for help wherever it will come from, and rejecting those sources of help if they fail. The satirical tune punctuates the proceedings with a refrain of “Hallelujah!”, which making various points about the organizations mentioned through different instrument and mood choices in the particular verses. I’m telling you, it’s amazing.
I could go on for much longer about this album, but it would be overkill. If you like indie-rock with acoustic guitars and horns featured prominently in the mix, you’re gonna love the Ascetic Junkies’ This Cage Has No Bottom. It’s one of my top ten of 2010, for sure. There’s just nothing as well written, performed and produced in indie-folk this year. Brilliant, brilliant, brilliant.