Afraid the days are past where i could do a definitive top-10 of all the year's music, but here are a few new ones i've really liked:
Beach House is a dream-pop duo from baltimore, sort of a chick-led version of Galaxie 500, a less strung out Mazzy Star or a non-Japanese Sugar Plant. I've played this one, the aptly named "Devotion," incessantly; it is perfect hangover music and gets you to a really otherworldly place without drugs. get high on life! My favorite song is the shattered "Gila," which you can see them playing here at a record store in Dallas. and here's a more polished performance of "Master of None." this just in: beach house play LA's henry fonda, with the killer band The Walkmen, on Jan. 20.
i think we're beyond the point of being surprised by anything Lucinda Williams turns out -- the outlines of her records are pretty familiar, the mix of you-done-me-wrong with country traditionalism, alt-rock attitude and literary smarts. but "little honey" is my favorite record of hers in a while -- it's not entirely unified but it's not all gloomy. i cant deny that "tears of joy" for instance recalls earlier LW songs, but it's one of about half a dozen great tunes on the new one, with a kickass band. and while it's hard to imagine elvis costello spending a night in jail, enjoyed his hammy duet with lucinda on "jailhouse tears." my friend david letterman agrees.
my favorite non-rock music over the last decade or so has been downtempto, neo-dub, whatever you call it. one of the finest is Nightmares on Wax, a sound system from Bristol, UK (home of the trip-hop scene) who mix soul with jamaican with very shadowy, abstract beats... i love everything they put out, but was very happy to discover "though so..." at amoeba the other day. here's my favorite from the record, "195 lbs." (and the track "da feelin'," which is less mellow than the rest.)
and in case anyone is wondering about my pov on vampire weekend, i think they are better than the backlash allows.....
Photo credit: Flickr user 5