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Tuesday, January 16, 2007
Jim Connelly's Favorite Recordings Of 2006

Monday, January 15, 2007
Jesse Steichen's Favorite Recordings Of 2006

Friday, January 12, 2007
Bill Bentley's Favorite Recordings Of 2006

Wednesday, January 10, 2007
Tom Ridge's Favorite Recordings Of 2006

Thursday, January 4, 2007
Lee Templeton's Favorite Recordings Of 2006

Tuesday, January 2, 2007
Anthony Carew's 13 Fave Albums Of 2006

Monday, March 27, 2006
SXSW 2006: Finding Some Hope In Austin

Tuesday, February 28, 2006
Letter From New Orleans

Saturday, February 18, 2006
Jennifer Przybylski's Fave Albums of 2005

Tuesday, January 31, 2006
Music For Dwindling Days: Max Schaefer's Fave Recordings Of 2005

Wednesday, January 18, 2006
Sean Fennessey's 'Best-Of' 2005

Thursday, January 12, 2006
Lori Miller Barrett's Fave Albums Of 2005

Wednesday, January 11, 2006
Lee Templeton's Favorite Recordings of 2005

Thursday, January 5, 2006
Michael Lach - Old Soul Songs For A New World Order

Wednesday, January 4, 2006
Found In Translation Emme Stone's Year In Music 2005

Tuesday, January 3, 2006
Dave Allen's 'Best-Of' 2005

Monday, January 2, 2006
Steve Gozdecki's Favorite Albums Of 2005

Tuesday, December 20, 2005
Johnny Walker Black's Top 10 Of 2005

Monday, December 19, 2005
Neal Block's Favorite Recordings Of 2005

Thursday, December 15, 2005
Jenny Tatone's Year In Review

Tuesday, December 13, 2005
Dave Renard's Fave Recordings Of 2005

Monday, December 12, 2005
Jennifer Kelly's Fave Recordings Of 2005

Thursday, December 8, 2005
Tom Ridge's Favorite Recordings Of 2005

Tuesday, December 6, 2005
Ben Gook's Beloved Albums Of 2005

Monday, December 5, 2005
Anthony Carew's Fave Albums Of 2005

Thursday, November 10, 2005
Prince, Spoon And The Magic Of The Dead Stop

Monday, September 12, 2005
The Truth About America

Monday, September 5, 2005
Tryin' To Wash Us Away

Monday, August 1, 2005
A Psyche-Folk Heat Wave In Western Massachusetts

Monday, July 18, 2005
Soggy But Happy At Glastonbury 2005

Monday, April 4, 2005
The SXSW Experience, Part 3: All Together Now

Friday, April 1, 2005
The SXSW Experience, Part 2: Dr. Dog's Happy Chords

Thursday, March 31, 2005
The SXSW Experience, Part 1: Waiting, Waiting And More Waiting

Friday, March 25, 2005
Final Day At SXSW's Charnel House

Monday, March 21, 2005
Day Three At SXSW

Saturday, March 19, 2005
Day Two In SXSW's Hall Of Mirrors

Thursday, March 17, 2005
Report #1: SXSW 2005 And Its Hall Of Mirrors

Monday, February 14, 2005
Matt Landry's Fave Recordings Of 2004

Wednesday, February 2, 2005
David Howie's 'Moments' From The Year 2004

Thursday, January 27, 2005
Lori Miller Barrett's Fave Recordings Of 2004

Thursday, January 20, 2005
Noah Bonaparte's Fave Recordings Of 2004

Tuesday, January 18, 2005
Kevin John's Fave Albums Of 2004

Friday, January 14, 2005
Music For Those Nights: Max Schaefer's Fave Recordings Of 2004

Thursday, January 13, 2005
Dave Renard's Fave Recordings Of 2004

Wednesday, January 12, 2005
Neal Block's Top Ten Of 2004

Tuesday, January 11, 2005
Jenny Tatone's Fave Albums Of 2004

Monday, January 10, 2005
Wayne Robins' Top Ten Of 2004

Friday, January 7, 2005
Brian Orloff's Fave Albums Of 2004

Thursday, January 6, 2005
Johnny Walker (Black)'s Top 10 Of 2004

Wednesday, January 5, 2005
Jennifer Przybylski's Fave Albums (And Book) Of 2004

Tuesday, January 4, 2005
Mark Mordue's Fave Albums Of 2004

Monday, January 3, 2005
Lee Templeton's Fave Recordings Of 2004

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Saturday, February 18, 2006

Jennifer Przybylski's Fave Albums of 2005

Neumu's Michael Goldberg writes: Well, we have come to the end of the line. A month and a half after 2005 became history, we publish the final "best-of" list. Unless, that is, I get around to writing up my own faves for last year. Which I might do, or maybe not. Today, dig on Neumu Contributing Editor Jennifer Przybylski's faves for the year.

Death Cab for Cutie, Plans (Atlantic): I just watched Death Cab for Cutie perform on "Saturday Night Live." Talk about the sublimity of distance. Transatlanticism, the band's ownership palpable with (sometimes) rock songs and deliberative lyrics, told anyone who was listening what would happen next. A lot has gone on in between that album and the release of major-label Plans, a circumspect inventory that turns on revenant-sounding keyboards and songs about responsibility being inherent in every connection worth having. Here Death Cab's instincts remain solidly affecting: waiting-room set pieces, spare acoustics and upper-register vulnerability. At Comedy Central's year-end thing, Patton Oswalt riffed on the band's name by way of introduction (big love). And couples wearing glasses bounced their heads to "Soul Meets Body" and its hand-washing lyrics as if ablution was the next pop hit.

De Novo Dahl, Cats & Kittens (Theory 8): De Novo Dahl, a Nashville six-piece given to wearing bright costumes and marrying a live performance to a particular theme, join not only the short list of double-record debuts but the even shorter one where that second record — a remix here — was actually necessary. Cats, the first disc, irrepressibly bounds from song to song, drawing on some familiar influences — the Beach Boys, Roxy Music and The Cars among them — without simply lifting from what we already know. Instead De Novo Dahl drop in glam-glam organ and finger-shakes like "Look but don't touch" before quieting to reveal the Stars-like tempo of "Cowboy and the Frenchman." Then Kittens flips everything with its remixes. Echoing laughter adds an unsettling "Carnival of Souls" feel to "I Broke a Plate" ("I Woke Up Late" on Cats), while the Cristina-like vocal on "Piggy's Misadventure" ("Piggy's Adventure" on Cats) sounds even more New Wave, with drum-machine splashes and breaking glass. Inventive and so much fun — both discs remain in steady rotation on my iPod.

John Vanderslice, Pixel Revolt (Barsuk): Pixel Revolt inhabits what would be elsewhere the most ungainly of song lists, the personal and the political. But with the writing, and then the rewriting — a collaboration with friend John Darnielle — Pixel Revolt reaches this wholly interior place, partly fiction but willing to let you believe otherwise, with varied instrumentation as emotive conduit. Joan Crawford, the actress manque, becomes a delicate measure for a story about your beginning with someone, and what it was like at the end, in "Letter to the East Coast." "Peacocks in the Video Rain" enters with somewhat sullen piano chords — sounds like "Chopsticks" — as a signifier, then a photograph of a little boy dressed as a cowboy, now wrapped up in a pop star who will never know about him. How can it sound beautiful instead of just plaintive? Everything about this is brilliant.

Feist, Let It Die (Cherrytree /Interscope): Collected along with Emiliana and Keren Ann as a modern chanteuse, Leslie Feist is the one most indie. Membership in the Broken Social Scene as well as vocal appearances on the Kings of Convenience record displayed a natural pop style. Second album Let It Die enfolds that warmth, slipping easily from the Astrud-like lover's concession of "Gatekeeper" into the sprightly piano and clap of "Mushaboom." Turntable horns cut into a sleek Bee Gees makeover ("Inside and Out") while original "Let It Die" burnishes the hurt and church of Dusty Springfield: "After all it won't take long to fall/ Now I know what I don't want/ I learned that with you." Bossa nova, disco and handed-down folk, Let It Die captures everything consonant with where it was recorded (Paris) and Feist's backlit intent.

David Fridlund, Amaterasu (Hidden Agenda): My knowledge of Swedish pop is very limited, but the guys from Parasol — more specifically Michael and now the equally affable Jim — have done everything in their power to change that. Amaterasu is the solo debut from David Fridlund, frontman for Swedish band David & the Citizens. Fridlund crafts an intimate intensity with vocalist/longtime partner Sara Culler, setting upon unanswered questions and carefully choosing the right words. "April & May" bounds in with Cossack-like piano chords, while "Insomnia" is hesitant to feel this whole: "The beauty of that plan/ Was always so much bigger when in your hands/ Under the falling sky/ I wish my body had the scent of yours tonight." Exceptional and unlike anything I've heard before.

Meredith Bragg and the Terminals, Vol. I (Kora): Meredith Bragg's debut has drawn several comparisons to Elliott Smith, singing softly about regret and not knowing how to begin again without shaking the ending. "Work and Winter" is the easiest example, the guitar almost jaunty and a pretty melody shadowing the slipping-down. But Bragg's wistfulness is not consuming; his agile songs and acoustic arrangements show expectancy and considerable light. Not that his cover art doesn't already hint at such inwardness, with its handset appearance and idiosyncratic spelling inside. The chipboard sleeve resembles a handmade gift from someone who trusts you'll like it, rather than some idle record-store purchase. Corresponding to Bragg's intimate design are "My Only Enemy," where a cello and vibraphones interpret its close night, and "Carolina," a song that feels hopeful, like the sun.

Belle & Sebastian, Push Barman to Open Old Wounds (Matador): The first time I heard "The State That I Am In" I was standing on a kitchen stool, attempting to patch a hole in my employer's wall. That I had turned on the radio in time to hear it at all was another hint at constellation, proof I wasn't supposed to be anywhere else but New York City. Heady with so much different and suddenly available, I recognized Belle & Sebastian as a secret, with arcane influences nonetheless familiar to me at the time, like Vic Godard, Postcard Recordings and Felt. That one song introduced me to indie pop and, in turn, some now-favorite labels, including Matinee, Shelflife and March. Push Barman to Open Old Wounds, a compilation of the Matador and Jeepster EPs recorded between 1997 and 2001, is an excellent store of Belle & Sebastian's masterly bed-sit pop, sharp with romantic constraint and bookish chiding. Still the best indie-pop band.

Mazarin, We're Already There (I and Ear): Inexplicably, I didn't know anything about Quentin Stoltzfus' band except that they were opening for Rogue Wave. Something came between me and the show, but not before I called up some online reviews/song files and bought the band's third album. We're Already There is that rarity, adventurous even within the ambit of indie pop. Glorious, altered songs one after another: guitar delay, three-and five-based time signatures, bells and distorted drums. Stoltzfus winds inner periphery ("Kissing your skin your skeleton pierces my daydreams") around the universal ("Life is hard some times"), layering the form with analog synths, autoharp, ocean waves, pedal steel and, I read, two smaller amps for one big guitar sound. A more concrete short list: Lily's, Can, My Bloody Valentine, Tobin Sprout and The Pixies.

Snow & Voices S/T (Bird Song): The ever-revolving collective Snow & Voices is a beautifully insinuating other for Lauri Kranz, a singer/songwriter whose previous solo efforts revealed a compelling intimacy as well as a perceptive selection of back-up musicians, among them Idaho's Jeff Martin and pop luminary Ric Menck. This self-titled debut heightens an already originative space, adding the shimmer of Greg Leisz's pedal steel ("A Dream of Happiness") and starburst electronics to infirm emotions ("Carry Us Home"). Mike Weihs renders the light and underlying dark here supernally with his album design, shading Kranz's hair with a wallpaper of bluebells (only if you look close enough) and dappling the lyric sheet with golden leaves. Reminds me of Ida, Mascott's Dreamer's Book and the playfulness of Juana Molina (especially Tres Cosas).

Paul Duncan, Be Careful What You Call Home (Hometapes): Beginning with an urge to explore other music for his second album, Paul Duncan instead connects with who he is, seeding these inlying narratives with complementary, lambent sounds. Be Careful What You Call Home is as capturing as it is ephemeral, imbued with an inventive gentleness that earns comparisons to Sufjan Stevens, the Sea and Cake, and the dream places of Tape. While electronic influences can sometimes make for a specious argument when it comes to songcraft, you'll find no pretense here. Duncan takes you to many places with a room full of instruments, playing most of them himself (his friends play the rest). But none of it sounds unnecessary or inarticulate, with the spaces accentuated as much as the sound. "Toy Piano," with its cascade of keys and pretty strings, still startles me in its otherworldliness.

Plus 10 I Couldn't Leave Out

Fruit Bats, Spelled in Bones (Sub Pop)
Stars, Set Yourself on Fire (Arts & Crafts)
Rogue Wave, Descended Like Vultures (Sub Pop)
Nada Surf, The Weight Is a Gift (Barsuk)
Laura Veirs, Year of Meteors (Nonesuch)
The Lucksmiths, Warmer Corners (Matinee)
Chad Vangaalen, Infiniheart (Sub Pop)
Pernice Brothers, Discover a Lovelier You (Ashmont)
Amestory, S/T (Portia Records/Status Recordings)
Architecture in Helsinki, In Case We Die (Bar/None)

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