Rated | Alphabetical
| Highest Rated 2006
Ten Albums Worth
Mentioning From the First Half of 2004
Best of 2000-2004 |
| 2003 | 2002
Posted: July 7,
it's July once again, a time of year synonymous with celebrating our
independence, summer vacations (or, if you're like us, summer school) and
Shaking Through's annual look back at some of the worthy releases of the
first part of the year. Once again, the redoubtable Laurence Station and
yours truly have picked through our reviews of the last six months and come
up with some sturdy selections you might have missed or just not gotten
around to buying yet. As always, this isn't a Top 10 list as such; we'll
save that for the end of the year. Instead, think of this as extra credit: a
sampler platter of discs we think are worth your time and attention (and, yes,
money). There won't be a quiz, but we welcome your essays: So check out one
or two (or all of 'em) and let us know what you think.
Kevin Moreau, Permanent Substitute
Banhart: Rejoicing in the Hands (Young God)
Armed with an
acoustic guitar and a free-associative take on the world, Devendra
Banhart approaches music in a fashion similar to Jeff Mangum: The
surrealism never feels forced or contrived, but rather a natural
instinct to which the listener is privileged to be privy.
Decemberists: The Tain [EP] (Acuarela)
Rapidly gaining in the
Flaming Lips' rearview mirror on the highway of bold pop
experimentation, Portland's Decemberists up the ante for their next
full-length with this single-track, near twenty-minute slant on
Hiss: Panic Movement (Sanctuary)
This Atlanta foursome was
emphatically embraced by the U.K., which could be off-putting, given
the mother country's penchant for substance-free hype. But The Hiss
rocks with a lean, no-frills precision. Panic Movement
meanders a bit toward the end, but there's enough controlled brawn
and bombast here to reward rock fans and forever put so-called
back-to-basics bands like The Strokes in proper perspective.
Hood: Killers and Stars (New West)
The head of the Drive-By
Trucker convoy digs deep into a dark period for this arresting solo
album. Recorded D.I.Y.-style over a couple of days during a period of
band turmoil and romantic upheaval in 2001 (before
Southern Rock Opera made him semi-famous), its direct breakup songs,
pointed commentary, self-reflection and character snapshots and offer an
unvarnished look at a talented songwriter grappling his demons without
schmaltz or self-absorption.
& Wine: Our Endless Numbered Days (Sub Pop)
Sam Beam refuses
to beat listeners over the head with his music. Rather, his
carefully strummed, delicately delivered songs insinuate themselves
in your head, persistent but benign, a rare case of a whisper truly
conveying more power than the most decibel-shredding scream.
Savy Fav: Inches (Frenchkiss)
Punk can be inflammatory. It can
be political. More than anything, however, it should inspire people
to have fun and blow off steam. Les Savy Fav has perfected this
approach to the point that it should bottle it and sell it as an
Eau de parfum for the fashion-conscious underground set.
Madvillainy (Stones Throw)
Goofy. Radical. Hyperactive.
Inspired. Throw these adjectives into a blender and the resulting
mix still doesn't do justice to the sound and production wizardry of
Madvillainy. MF Doom and Madlib know every great hero requires a
worthy villain; here's one primed with bong-loaded raps and
ridiculously infectious beats. Hopefully, the duo will find the time
to serve up a heroically slanted complement.
It's Overhead: Fall Back Open (Saddle Creek)
Studio maven Andy
LeMaster crafts a buoyant and affecting song cycle on the second
album from his recording project Now It's Overhead (which includes
Orenda Fink and Maria Taylor of Azure Ray). Recurring themes of
longing -- for love, growth, spirituality -- are played out over
uncluttered dream-pop arrangements given added texture by LeMaster's
questing, everyman delivery.
Patrol: Final Straw (Universal)
Gary Lightbody makes his bid
for Coldplay-sized success, and thanks to this platter of accessible
Britpop, he seems to be succeeding. Melodic hooks and simple,
effective arrangements make tracks like "Spitting Games," "Wow,"
"Gleaming Auction" and the lighter-waving ballad "Run" into
memorable pop-rock showcases.
Sitting Around Keeping Score (Star Trak/Arista)
album from the band responsible for the sinewy grooves on N.E.R.D.'s
Of... synthesizes some unlikely '70s influences (Todd Rundgren,
Steely Dan) into lively and intelligent power-pop. Spymob's wit and
melodic exuberance fit somewhere between the New Pornographers,
Guster and The Pursuit of Happiness.
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