Mutual Benefit, Love’s Crushing Diamond
Really not sure why more people aren’t hip to this Boston quartet’s debut; it’s one of the most beautiful things we’ve heard in some time. Though the sound relies heavily on Jordan Lee’s sensibilities, the production is some of the year’s best. A gauzy, dreamy listen full of orchestral flourishes, unexpected instrumentation and relaxing lightness, Diamond holds childlike innocence and joy reminiscent of Animal Collective’s earlier work, but not without a very adult-like bend a la Belle & Sebastian. Call it the year’s best background music.
HAIM, Days Are Gone
These sisters know how to craft a catchy one, don’t they? “Falling” and “The Wire” are their wily tools to pull you into a full, robust record dense with hooks and harmonies. There’s absolutely an ‘80s element here—the trio are avowed fans of our beloved Hall & Oates—but there’s nothing schmaltzy or retro about this record. The very musical sisters have been evolving and perfecting their chemistry for some time now (The Valli Girls, two-thirds of the band, had a hit on the 2005 soundtrack of The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants). All eyes are on these girls for a follow-up because they’re the next big thing.
Vampire Weekend, Modern Vampires of the City
The critical praise has been pretty deafening; they absolutely destroyed the NPR voter’s poll. And with good reason: This is a damn good record. Running from style to style while never losing sight of their reputation for smart sophistication, these Columbia boys have proven themselves deeper than lots of folks thought them capable of being. “Obvious Bicyle” starts you on the ride, and “Ya Hey” gets your arms in the air and heart pumping for a grand climax. It’s a wonderful piece of art.
Bill Callahan, Dream River
The 47-year-old Smog alum’s fourth as himself is a breathtaking ride. It actually does kind of feel like a ride down a river in the mountains like its cover art implies; the captain of our boat is Callahan in all his spirit-guide, nature-loving hippie enlightenment. It’s a jazzy trip littered with campers who toss care packages of spaghetti western, gypsy folk and psychedelic rock into the brisk current. What a great batch of songs to fill your ears while the sun beats down on you.