In absolutely no order:
CSS - "Donkey"Cansei de Ser Sexy (literally 'I got tired of being sexy') is dance rock perfection from Brazil. The show at First Ave was a physical dance endurance test for me, shaking my money-maker to The Go Team for an hour and then doing all over again for CSS. (Probably kind of a sad sight, but I enjoyed myself.) Infectious music good for any party.
M83 - "Saturdays = Youth"I spent over a month listening to this album and this album alone. Saturdays = Youth is as atmospheric as any other M83 album, but is infused with irresistible melodic 80s pop sound that is soooo dreamy.
Santogold – "Santogold" and "Top Ranking"Where is Santogold! When will she come to Minneapolis? Santogold just came out of nowhere with Radio K playing "L.E.S. Artists" and "Unstoppable" months before the actual full length came out. And with good reason. Santogold's image might scream underground New York artist, but her music is pure glorious pop. The fact that Diplo released a Santogold remix album, "Top Ranking," meant that I could hear all these songs that I loved (and more) in a new version.
Nomo - "Ghost Rock"This nine piece from Michigan is one part Fela Kuti and one part Aphex Twin, sometimes leaning toward a horn heavy sound and sometimes leaning toward a effervescent electronic sound.
Be Your Own Pet - "Get Awkward"This band just keeps getting louder and rowdier. "Super Soaked" never fails to super-charge my jog into an all out run. "Get Awkward" is Be Your Own Pet's second album - owning both means twice the fun. Punk lives in this loud, fun music. Zombie Graveyard Party!
Black Mountain - "In The Future"The Black Mountain show was the most purple haze I have seen for some time. Of course half of that was the City Pages pumping them up as stoner music with a glorious Sabbath sound, and although that is true, "In the Future" has so much more to offer than that. First there is Amber Webber's warbling ethereally vocals, nicely contrasting with Stephen McBean's growling Damon Alban-like voice. And second, it may sound like the 70s, but it is 2008 (or at this point 2009, but you know what I'm saying.) The beauty of Black Mountain is that they are making this big riff, super-sonic rock-n-roll now.
Fleet Foxes - "Fleet Foxes"I challenge anyone to find four guys that can harmonize better than Fleet Foxes. These songs are so achingly beautiful, that the lyrics are simply an added bonus of earthy sweetness. If that weren't enough, these guys are really funny and smart. Look, they even have a Bruegel painting for their cover art.
High Places - "High Places"Two people standing behind a couple laptops making music may be passe, but High Places is livelier than most in this genre. Their bubbly mechanical pop is lifted by lead singer Mary Pearson's high, child-like voice. It's pretty enchanting music that will have kids and adults bouncing in their chairs.
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 That Is That"I'm not kidding around about that title. And if that isn't enough to convince you that Marnie Stern is no ordinary woman, you should hear her guitar playing. She does more fret tapping than, well, any of those guys who are more famous for fret tapping. Marnie Stern's music is seriously quirky, which is totally why I love it so much: not metal, not punk, and certainly not pop.
Ponytail - "Ice Cream Spiritual"Ponytail produces solid experimental rock lightened by Molly Siegel's unexplainable vocals. Is she speaking English? Or a foreign language? Or her own personal language? Does it really matter? Not really. It only matters that I want to trill and scream and 'wooop!' along with her. Ponytail rips through songs much like Deerhoof, only Deerhoof turned in one of the most tired sounding albums of the year and Ponytail turned in one of the freshest.
Portishead - "Third"One might think that a ten year hiatus might water down Portihead's sound. Quite the contrary, Portishead seems to have honed their melancholic electro-drone to some sort of perfection that is something more subversive than just sounding creepy.
Elbow – "The Seldom Seen Kid"Elbow is Brit pop wonderment that seems like it could explode onto the popular scene at any second. (Or maybe they have, but my head is so buried, I didn't notice.)
U.S. Christmas – "Eat the Low Dogs"What shall I compare "Eat the Low Dogs" to? Monster Magnet? Mudhoney? Pink Floyd? Or some combination of the three and some other stuff? It's a loud, hard hitting album that is equally spacey and psychedelic. There are so many fuzzy layers to these songs, you feel like you could just dive in. Hailing from the mountains of North Carolina, its the perfect music for that setting. In the modern day Deliverance, these dudes will be standing on the bridge howling at you. The ten minute elegy "Silent Tongue" is a force to be reckoned with.
UNKLE – "End Titles…Stories for Film" and "End Titles…Redux"I'm content to have James Lavelle remix Vivaldi or remix his remix on Vivaldi. I love both of these releases.
Tricky - "Knowle West Boy"
Terry Lynn - "Kingstonlogic 2.0"
Abe Vigoda – "Skeleton"
TV on the Radio - "Dear Science"
Dengue Fever - "Venus On Earth"
Hot Chip - "Made in the Dark"
Sian Alice Group – "59.59"
Ocrilim - "Annwn"