There has been enough written about DeerhunterAriel Pink, and The National this year to fill your hard drive. This is not surprising, as all three released their best albums to date.  I have always found Ariel Pink impenetrable and The National a bit insufferable.  Deerhunter was always a guilty pleasure, if only for the fact that listening to them always made me feel like a huge pussy.  Not that their newest and best album does anything to dispel that notion with lyrical cuplets like “no one cares for me / i keep no company” from their best and catchiest song, Helicopter. Ariel Pink’s “Before Today” is a hazy, psychedelic, pop gem of an album.  Ariel Pink is a warped genius: Lindsey Buckingham ingesting barbiturates on an acid trip.  The National released a set of pulsating tunes that featured their best ever song, Bloodbuzz Ohio (if it was called Bloodbuzz New York and Chris Martin was singing this song, it would have sold 10 million copies and been used on every World Cup highlight reel).   Their songs stick in your head: intense, catchy songs with confounding lyrics that get better with age.

“I first heard Tame Impala sitting in the front seat of my boy Kone Dog’s Nissan Maxima on a hot summer night in Kansas City.”

Somehow Spoon keeps getting better.  It’s hard to believe that a band can keep raising the bar like they have, but they do, and each release somehow makes me forget the last one even exists.  I was surprised not to see this album on more best of lists.  Me thinks people take them for granted.  The album contains the filthiest groove put on record all year, Who Makes Your Money.”

“Despite modest success in the early 90s and endorsements from Kurt Cobain (who regularly referred to them as the “best band in the world” before that incident with the shotgun), the Gallagher brothers and Ben Gibbard,  Teenage Fanclub has remained relatively unheralded stateside.”

Marco Benevento released the best album that no one heard this year.  Because the Brooklyn artist’s music is instrumental, and he is often categorized as a “jamband” his music flies under the radar and does not get the audience it deserves.  Between The Needles & Nightfall is ethereal, pulsating, catchy, psychedelic and completely original. Any fan of Four Tet or the Flaming Lips would feel at home with this bleeding out of their ear buds.
Swedish band Radio Dept.turned in a collection of catchy, shoegazey tunes reminding me of the best music of The Cure and Pernice Brothers.  By comparison, the much hyped Pains of Being Pure of Heart mine a similar vein and are bush league by comparison.

I first heard Tame Impala sitting in the front seat of my boy Kone Dog’s Nissan Maxima on a hot summer night in Kansas City.  I went home that night and bought their record. Produced by Dave Fridmann (Flaming Lips, MGMT), it is a psychedelic music at its best, and one of the best headphone records of the decade.
Phosphorescent was recommended by one of my most trusted advisors.  I had heard their collection of Willie Nelson covers and thought it was a nice homage, but Here’s To Taking It Easy blew my mind.  It is a laid back country rock record in the spirit of the quieter moments of My Morning Jacket’s “It Still Moves.”  It somehow seems completely loose and ramshackle, yet calculated and precise.
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“Somehow Spoon keeps getting better.  It’s hard to believe that a band can keep raising the bar like they have, but they do, and each release somehow makes me forget the last one even exists. “

Despite modest success in the early 90s and endorsements from Kurt Cobain (who regularly referred to them as the “best band in the world” before that incident with the shotgun), the Gallagher brothers and Ben Gibbard, Teenage Fanclub has remained relatively unheralded stateside.  Now that they are on Merge Records they seem to be experiencing a bit of a renaissance that I hope continues for years to come. “Shadows” is the best, most complete album they have ever released.
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“Ariel Pink is a warped genius: Lindsey Buckingham ingesting barbiturates on an acid trip.”


Best Video


Best Albums
(In no particular order…)
Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti-Before Today
Broken Social Scene-Forgiveness Rock Record
Marco Benevento-Between The Needles and Nightfall
Teenage Fanclub-Shadows
Deerhunter-Halcyon Digest
The National-High Violet
Phosphorescent-Here’s To Taking It Easy
Spoon-Transference
Tame Impala-InnerSpeaker
Radio Dept.-Clinging To A Scheme
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Best Songs
(I have put most of these into a continuous Youtube playlist.  Disregard the videos.  Enjoy the tunes.)
Radio Dept.-David
The National-Bloodbuzz Ohio
Ariel Pink, Can’t Hear My Eyes
War on Drugs-Comin’ Through
The Hold Steady-Hurricane J
Drive By Truckers-Birthday Boy
Jenny & Johnny-Scissor Runner
Love Language-Heart To Tell
Band of Horses-Way Back Home
Mavis Staples-You Are Not Alone
My Morning Jacket-All The Best
Marco Benevento-Ila Frost
John Grant-It’s Easier
Surfer Blood-Take It Easy
Yeasayer-ONE
Deerhunter-Helicopter
Rogue Wave-Solitary Gun
Arcade Fire-Modern Man
Hot Chip-One Life Stand
LCD Soundsystem-Dance Yourself Clean
Girls-Heartbreaker
Broken Bells-Citizen
Spoon-Trouble
Tame Impala-It Is Not Meant To Be
Land of Talk-Quarry Hymns
Teenage Fanclub-Sometimes I Don’t Need To Believe In Anything
The ACBs-Sure Looked Dark and Cold
Broken Social Scene-World Sick
Ruby Suns-Cinco
Four Tet-This Unfolds
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Tony lives, works, and (occasionally) writes in San Francisco. You can follow him at twitter.com/tonyvontz.

I Loved New York insists you listen to his Youtube playlist. Or refresh your memory with some TV 2009-10 archives. Me & Bruce PlaylistKowloon at Dusk,  RIP Alex Chilton, Winter Beard Playlist and Best Music of 2009 List.

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