Music News

Westword's favorite national albums of the year

Page 5 of 5

Sparks, Exotic Creatures of the Deep (Lil' Beethoven Records). My love for this record makes absolutely no sense. How do falsetto vocals, utterly silly songs and chintzy-sounding, synth-laden arrangements somehow combine into compulsive listening? Maybe any album with songs called "Lighten Up, Morrissey" and "I Can't Believe You Would Fall for All the Crap in This Song" is destined for greatness. — Casciato

Marnie Stern, This Is It and I Am It and You Are It and So Is That and He Is It and She Is It and It Is It and That Is That (Kill Rock Stars). "I can make it make sense," Marnie Stern declares at the outset of This Is It, and she manages to do just that using the most rudimentary of tools: unadorned vocalizing, primitive rhythms, skewed hooks and expressionistic guitar playing that's more about nailing emotions than hitting that perfect note. Oh, what a glorious noise. — Roberts

Frank Turner, Love, Ire & Song (Xtra Mile Records). Though ex-punk Turner stumbles into the occasional cliche of working-class folk rock, most of his songs hit the righteously indignant, hopelessly idealistic and downright-pissed-off nail on the head. Comparisons to Billy Bragg aren't far off, though a British Dashboard Confessional might hit closer to the mark. The songwriter's second full-length is insightful, incendiary and occasionally very funny. — Eyl

TV on the Radio, Dear Science (DGC/Interscope). An underlying theme lurks in the impressive kaleidoscope of sounds on Dear Science. Amid the percussive bouts of hand claps, evocative synth lines, crisp bursts of rhythm guitar and vocals that alternate between insistence and vulnerability, there's an eerie feeling of foreboding. It's a cohesion that's at once unsettling and impressive. — Goldstein

Various Artists, Of Great and Mortal Men (Standard Recording). No denying that this collection of 43 original songs about each U.S. president through George W. Bush is gimmicky. But it's also elegiac, funny, rich and strange, thanks to contributions from a sprawling cast of notable undergrounders (members of Low, Red House Painters et al.) and compositions by Christian Kiefer and Jefferson Pitcher that take the crazy concept seriously. — Roberts

Vampire Weekend, Vampire Weekend (XL Recordings). Like everyone else, I was over this band by the time the album came out, but then a funny thing happened: Every time I heard any part of it, I found myself smiling, humming along and digging the tunes despite myself. Set aside the backlash and you've got a pleasant, polished and fresh debut. — Casciato

Ween, At the Cat's Cradle, 1992 (Chocodog). Ween's output during the past decade has shown a marked evolution and maturation in terms of sound, so it's a treat to revisit the duo's absurdist, minimalist roots. This stripped-down show from 1992 features the group's progenitors, Gene and Dean Ween (aka Aaron Freeman and Mickey Melchiondo), performing early classics solo, backed only by a DAT machine. — Goldstein

Jim White, A Funny Little Cross to Bear (Luaka Bop). Following up his brilliant Transnormal Skiperoo, Southern Gothic alt-country shaman White unleashes a tasty EP of live gems. A couple tracks from Skiperoo get a reprise, but unreleased nuggets like "Jim 3:16" — with its refrain of "a bar is just a church where they serve beer" — provide unmistakable proof of White's erudite, folksy charm. — Eyl

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