I’m not sure how this happened so soon — maybe it was the lousy spring across much of the country — but as of Tuesday, 2009 is half done. Time for a highly subjective review of what I think are some of the best albums of the year — so far, anyway — listed in the order in which they were released.
The Panics/Cruel Guards: Technically, this album isn’t new at all. It was released at home in Australia in the fall of 2007, but it’s only recently been released internationally. The music is soulful, dipping into Motown territory while moderating it with Coldplay’s earnestness while adding just a dash of Bono. Everyone I’ve played the CD for has loved it. Key track: Don’t Fight It.
White Lies/To Lose My Life: I found last summer’s demos intriguing enough to mark Jan. 19, 2009, on my calendar as the album’s official release date. When I finally heard it, I was gobsmacked at how three 20 year-olds could sound so world-weary. To say that this is a work displaying talent and a worldview beyond their years is an understatement. Key tracks: To Lose My Life, Death.
Fight Like Apes / Fight Like Apes and the Mystery of the Golden Medallion: Released at home in Ireland last fall but not issued elsewhere until January 2009, this awkwardly titled album has been on “repeat” in my iPod ever since. MayKay, the singer, sounds like she’s teetering on the edge of insanity — and I mean that with all the love in the world. By the way, FLA calls their music “karate rock.” Listen and you’ll see why. Key track: Tie Me Up with Jackets.
Mastodon/Crack the Skye: A metal concept album released in March that encompasses everything from czarist mystics to wormholes to Stephen Hawking. What’s not to like? It was especially good at rebutting a pool party last weekend where they played nothing but BeeGees for two-and-a-half hours. Six minutes of Oblivion fixed them. Key tracks: Oblivion, The Last Baron.
Spinnerette/Spinnerette: I’ll admit it: I have a thing for Brody Dalle who fills that gap between Courtney Love and Karen O of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. A pre-Christmas release of an EP called Ghetto Love hinted at some cool things and a full self-titled album — which was released just ten days ago — has me hooked. Key tracks: Baptized by Fire.