3. Wye Oak - Civilian
I don't need another friend
When most of them, I can barely keep up with them
Perfectly able to hold my own hand
But I still can't kiss my own neck
Civilian is the sort of album that slowly creeps up on you. After being blown away by the simple yet expansive title track before the album's release, I must admit I was rather disappointed upon first listen to find that the songs surrounding it seemingly failed to reach its stunning heights. However, upon further listening, deeper layers unearthed themselves and noise transformed into discernible melodies. Though less immediate and direct than its centerpiece, the rest of Civilian packs just as much of a punch. It is a raw, visceral album and, at times, difficult and disconcerting but the tension ultimately finds release and these sudden explosions, these unrestrained moments of power, are what turn the album from merely enjoyable to revelatory.
2. Fleet Foxes - Helplessness Blues
In the morning, waking up to terrible sunlight
All diffuse like skin abused, the sun is half its size
When you talk, you hardly even look in my eyes
In the morning, in the morning
In the doorway, holding every letter that I wrote
In the driveway, pulling away, putting on your coat
In the ocean, washing off my name from your throat
In the morning, in the morning
While everyone seemed to be going crazy over Fleet Foxes a few years ago, I never really got them. Then I decided to give them another chance with Helplessness Blues and I was immediately blown away. Though their first album still has yet to do much for me overall, this is easily a masterpiece to my ears. There's nothing overly complex about it - most of the instrumentation is acoustic and the melodies, for the most part, are simple and direct - but it is passionate and pure, unfiltered emotion, in a way that, to me, remains unrivaled by most other releases this year. Most people seem to be citing the title track as the album's pinnacle; while brilliant, perfectly encapsulating the twenty-something experience of coming into one's own and defining the world for oneself, it doesn't represent the best of what the album has to offer for me. Instead, what I keep coming back to is, first of all, "Someone You'd Admire," a minimalistic acoustic track that leaves a massive impact in just over two minutes. (God, these lyrics: "I walk with others in me, yearning to get out/Claw at my skin and gnash their teeth and shout/One of them wants only to be someone you'd admire/One would as soon just throw you on the fire/After all is said and after all is done/God only knows which of them I'll become.") The second unparalleled highlight for me is "The Shrine / An Argument," a rich, multi-layered epic that cannot really be done justice by any rambling descriptions. Just know that it is seven glorious minutes of Fleet Foxes at their very best.
1. The Rosebuds - Loud Planes Fly Low
And I tried to be myself (and I'm waiting for you)
And I tried to build my home (and I'm waiting for you)
And I tried not to come undone (and I'm waiting for you)
And in the middle of night, I don't know who I am
When you turn off the lights, I don't know where I am
Sometimes at night I just drive around
Loud Planes Fly Low may not be the most musically or lyrically-accomplished album on this list but it's certainly the one that had the most immediate impact on me. This album hits me right in the gut. On the surface, it's a spectacular pop album, which is almost enough in its own right. But the deeper you delve, the more layers there are, both musically and emotionally, and you realize how entirely devastating it truly is. The melodies get stuck in your brain and the lyrics break your heart in two. It's a bit of a double-edged sword, really: you can't stop listening but, at the same time, it hurts to listen. But it hurts so fucking good. And I wrote about it all far more eloquently here.
Alright, now I'm probably going to disappear again for... awhile. The foreseeable future. You can keep up with me here or on Tumblr, where I need more friends!