Matador, 2010

The first time I heard Interpol, back in 2002, I absolutely loathed them. I think it was around the time The Killers came out and I just hated what I thought was an 80's new wave resurrection. To be fair, I only heard one song (I don't even remember which one), but I thought they were a total Joy Division rip off. It wasn't until I heard Antics that I realized these guys were for real. I then went back and listened to Turn on the Bright Lights in full which absolutely floored me, and have been a big fan ever since. I still don't think I would like these guys if I met them, but I do recognize that they really are an amazing band.
So I was disappointed when I bought Our Love to Admire back in 2007. With the exception of the f***ing stellar opener (Interpol's opening tracks are always the sickest), "Pioneer to the Falls", I felt it was a big let down.
That's how I felt about this record at first. I thought it was old hat and actually pretty boring. But I was wrong. This is a very subtle record. The melodies are there but they don't backhand you to get your attention. Not that Interpol has ever written like that. I feel their albums always take time to grow into. But this one in particular requires repeated listens. It's also very dark and somber. Even by Interpol's standards. But that's one of the reasons I like these guys.
This is definitely not their best, but not their worst either. That would go to OLTA. If you're an Interpol fan, chances are you won't be disappointed. If not, then go buy Turn on the Bright Lights to decide how you really feel about this band. We'll see how they're gonna deal without Carlos D. though..


The Black Angels

The Black Angels
Phosphene Dream
Blue Horizon, 2010

The thing about a lot of these neo-psychedelic bands is that they're f***ing boring. There's a reason that this genre of music died out. Every once in a while you'll get a decent one, like Dead Meadow or BJTM, but even they begin to sound the same.
Enter The Black Angels. This is a breath of fresh air when compared with the stale, second hand THC haze of The Warlocks and the like. There's enough rock to keep me happy and just enough trippiness to make me think that hippies may be on to something. For like a nanosecond. Don't get me wrong, The Black Angels are not a jam band. Phosphene Dream is a rock album. Mostly, this record is just good riffs, good rock, good lyrics. Good times.


First Aid Kit

First Aid Kit
The Big Black & The Blue
Wichita, 2010

Finally, after being thoroughly disappointed by The Tallest Man on Earth, my mother country of Sweden has redeemed herself and produced genuinely great folk music. First Aid Kit, aka teenage sisters Johanna and Klara Söderberg, bring harmonies upon harmonies and, well, really good songs. After gaining attention on You Tube for their cover of Fleet Foxes' "Tiger Mountain Peasant Song", they released an outstanding EP on The Knife's Rabid Records and now The Big Black & The Blue. I promise I don't like them just because they're Swedish, tempting as that may be. This is what folk music should sound like. Just give "I Met Up With The King" a listen and you'll see what I mean. Thank you Scandinavia.


Raised By Swans

Raised By Swans
No Ghostless Place
1101, 2010

Man, I'm torn on this one. I'm on the verge of really liking these guys, but this music really does only fit certain situations or moods. Most of this record is really pretty and quiet and haunting. It's good for.. uh, walking in the woods at dusk? Or if you want to get laid. Or background music for when you're drinking tea by yourself in the early morning light and doing something really creative. It's good stuff, and with a lot of help from Atom Egoyan these guys are getting the exposure they deserve. It's just not a record that I can listen to all the time. It's too mellow. But that's just me. I still like it though.


Ra Ra Riot

Ra Ra Riot
The Orchard
Barsuk, 2010

I could have taken the seven dollars I spent on this MP3 album and spent it on a bottle of Tylenol PM and cheeseburger Hot Pockets instead. I would have felt the same afterwards: half-asleep, nauseous, disgusted, yet unfulfilled. Download "Boy" and skip the rest of this. Buh Buh Boring.


Big Boi

Big Boi
Sir Lucious Left Foot: The Son of Chico Dusty
Def Jam, 2010

I ran into the same problem listening to this record as I did with Speakerboxxx. Inevitably, I end up comparing anything Big Boi does with Outkast. It's the same as Wyclef and The Fugees. Although Wyclef is a complete hack and The Fugees were by far the best thing that ever happened to him. Big Boi certainly is no hack, but like Wyclef, I have the sneaking suspicion that nothing he does on his own will ever be as good as what he did with Outkast.
But this isn't ATLiens or Aquemini or even Stankonia. This is Big Boi solo, and this is good. The beats are original for the most part, and as always, Big Boi is a more than competent MC. And with appearances by Yelawolf, Too Short, Janelle Monáe and George Clinton, it's funky as s**t. Even Jamie Foxx can't sink this record. The song he's on is even one of the better tracks.
All in all, as far as mainstream hip hop goes, this is about as good as it gets.