Thursday, December 27, 2012

Favorite Albums of 2012

1. Japandroids-Celebration Rock
There's nothing about this record I should like. It's ugly, it's loud, there aren't any orchestrations (there must always be orchestrations!), and there are about a dozen other bands that sound exactly like Japandroids. Not to mention, most of the lyrics are incredibly trite. But I fell in love with this record anyway, most likely due to "The House That Heaven Built." I really can't explain why I like this album so much but along with Bloom and Break It Yourself, it was the one I listened to the most this year.

Favorite Tracks: The House That Heaven Built, Fire's Highway, Younger Us

2. Grizzly Bear-Shields
(I was prepared to list this as #1 until I saw Japandroids live. Just know that Shields was the most perfect record released in 2012, it just didn't mean as much to me as Celebration Rock.)

It took me a long time to acknowledge Veckatimist as a good record. I still don't love it as much as a lot of people do. I wasn't expecting much from Shields but decided to give it a chance anyway. Well, once I heard "Speak in Rounds," I was in love.  This record is perfect. The orchestrations are brilliant (the guitar in "Sleeping Ute," the piano on "A Simple Answer," and the cello on "Half Gate," the percussion on "What's Wrong"  just to name a few examples), the songwriting is on point, and Edward Droste and Daniel Rossen have never sounded better. In fact, I absolutely fell in love with Rossen's voice this year. Every track on this record is superb. Every little bit of sound that comprises these ten songs is beautifully composed and presented.

Favorite Tracks: Speak in Rounds, A Simple Answer, What's Wrong

3 Beach House-Bloom
What is left to say about Beach House, really? Bloom, like Teen Dream, is a perfect record. Beach House just write and record perfect pop songs. In 2012, they presented us with ten more.

Favorite Tracks: Myth, Wishes, Troublemaker

4. Fiona Apple-The Idle Wheel is Wiser Than the Driver of the Screw...
This is the first Fiona Apple record I enjoyed (and I sadly can't say I've gotten into her other records yet, although I do respect them) and I think it's because it happened to be released around the same time I was going through some crazy relationship emotions. What I needed at that time was a woman singing songs like "Daredevil" and "Werewolf" and "Anything We Want." I was using Fiona's voice and lyrics to reflect my own feelings so of course I would fall in love with this record. I mean, find me a record with better lyrics that was released this year. You can't, right?

Favorite Tracks: Anything We Want, Daredevil, Werewolf

5. Andrew Bird -Break It Yourself/Hands of Glory
I know, you're shocked this is listed so low, and honestly, I was prepared for this record to be my album of the year. Well, sometime around June, I put this record aside and really only revisited it after I saw Bird live in December. It's a strong record, don't get me wrong, and I adore it. He wrote some incredibly strong melodies for it, it's just well, it's not Noble Beast. I know, I did have a whole post about not comparing records but it is going to be tough for anything by anyone to top Noble Beast. It is my favorite record of all time, and it was a life changer. If I had never heard Noble Beast, I would probably love Break It Yourself more. There are a lot of standout tracks but to be honest, I am not fond of Bird's new-found desire to include his band in everything he does. I can find a dozen or so alt-country dudes who play the guitar and play boring songs. Andrew is better than that, and we all listen to him because of his brilliant violin-playing. Less guitars, more loops next time, Birdman.

Favorite Tracks: Orpheo Looks Back, Danse Caribe, Desperation Breeds...

6. Animal Collective-Centipede Hz
For real, let's stop the backlash against this record. It's a good record. It plays even better live.

Favorite Tracks: Today's Supernatural, Moonjock, Anamita

7. Calexico-Algiers
Sometimes a band can just put out a strong collection of tracks, no frills, no bells and whistles, just pure well-done songwriting. That is what Algiers is. An incredibly enjoyable, addicting, compelling record. And how could you not love this band?

Favorite Tracks: Splitter, Sinner in the Sea, Hush

8. Dirty Projectors-Swing Lo Magellan
Do you remember the 2:09 mark of "Useful Chamber" on Bitte Orca? It was the moment when I knew that record was special. It took me a long, long time to come around to that release but eventually it was clear that the hype was absolutely correct. Well, I didn't have to wait too long to realize Swing Lo Magellan was a great record; the moment hit me around 2:25 of "Offspring Are Blank," the first track of the album.
I mean, we all need to agree that not only is Dave Longstreth a great songwriter and guitarist but that he has a great, great singing voice and he is one of the best frontmen around. Longstreth's brilliance is really what makes this record so special.

Favorite Tracks: About To Die, Gun Has No Trigger, Offspring Are Blank

9. Chairlift-Something
It's a fun record that you can dance to, and Caroline Polachek has a wonderful voice. It's just really well done pop music.

Favorite Tracks: Take It Out on Me, Cool As a Fire, Sidewalk Safari

10. Mumford and Sons-Babel
Yes, Babel. Judge and mock all you want. I know Mumford and Sons are basically a terrible band. I know they've written one song twenty times, I get that. I still really enjoyed this record, and I found myself listening to songs ten times in a row before I moved onto the next one. (I admit, my enjoyment of this record may have stemmed from the fact it made a really good soundtrack to the A Song of Ice and Fire series.)

Favorite Tracks: Hopeless Wanderer, Ghosts That We Knew, Below My Feet

Honorable Mentions:
Titus Andronicus-Local Business
Bat for Lashes-The Haunted Man
Maps & Atlases-Beware and Be Grateful
David Byrne and St. Vincent-Love This Giant
Dan Deacon-America
First Aid Kit-The Lion's Roar
Father John Misty-Fear Fun

Most Disappointing Records:
Yeasayer-Fragrant World
The Walkmen-Heaven (I was disappointed at how much I didn't like this one after loving Lisbon.)
Sharon Van Etten-Tramps (I just don't get the hype.)

Overall, 2012 was a disappointing year for records. Compared to 2011 and 2010 where there were so many fantastic releases, I had to scrounge up ten albums I really, really liked. Oh, well, 2013 is gonna be all about The National anyway.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Favorite Concerts of 2012

I must begin this post by telling you that I saw a ridiculous amount of great shows this year, so this was a tough list to put together. Again, this is really in no particular order (also, I was going for a top five but a few boys from Vancouver screwed that up).

1. Glen Hansard + Lisa Hannigan//The Beacon Theatre//06.29.12
Some of my fondest concert-going memories are courtesy of Glen Hansard, and seeing him this past summer was like revisiting an old friend. He is without a doubt one of, if not the, best performers I've had the privilege of seeing live, so I expect him to blow me away. But there he was, with the rest of The Frames as his backing band, tearing up the stage for about two and a half hours. It was magnificent to have my favorite band back together, if only for one night. One of the highlights of the night was definitely hearing "Fitzcarraldo" again. It was almost like a reward for all of The Frames fans in the crowd, as though they were saying, "hey, even though we're not around much anymore, thanks for still sticking around." (And just so you know, Colm Mac Con Iomaire's violin is still one of my favorite sounds in the world.) The real highlight, however, was Glen singing "Falling Slowly" with only his guitar, with the whole audience singing along to every word. It was magical, and one of those moments where even in the thick of it, you realize it is very, very special. Sitting among roughly 3000 people singing in unison with so much joy and love and just this feeling of, "this is our song, our show" was incredible.

2. Calexico + The Dodos//Webster Hall//10.13.12
I had been anticipating this show for over three years. I saw Calexico open for Andrew Bird at Radio City back in 2009 and they blew me away, and I vowed that the next time they headlined in NYC, I was going to be there, no questions asked. Well, Calexico did not disappoint. Their level of musicianship is outstanding, and it is always a pleasure to watch a band have fun on stage. The fun translates to the crowd and it just becomes a huge party. Not to mention, I always love this idea of collectivity at shows. That we're all there because we love this music, and we're going to enjoy ourselves together.  That was the vibe of this show. I've  always been in Calexico's corner, and I always will. They are a perfect band.

3. Andrew Bird//The Bell House//02.25.12 & The Riverside Church//12.10.12
It's difficult to be objective about this man and his music. But it would be incredibly disingenuous to not include him on my lists because it's hard to deny just what an incredible experience he is live. Although I saw him three times this year, these two shows were too special to pick one over the other. The Bell House show was probably my favorite concert experience ever; being about oh, three feet away from my favorite human being in the universe, in a venue that holds about 500 people, hearing his new album live in its entirety. It certainly was surreal. And I remember hearing "Orpheo Looks Back" for the first time ever, being absolutely blown away. There was also a strong feeling of collectivity in this show; 500 people sharing a love of really beautiful fucking music. It was a secret show, and it truly felt exclusive.

The Riverside Church show definitely had a feeling of collectivity as well. It was truly an experience, and this may seem cheesy but it was all so beautiful. I had been waiting for three years to go to a Gazelligheid show, and I was so glad to finally be a part of one. For as difficult as it is to be objective about Andrew Bird, it is also pretty difficult to describe just how good he is. You just have to trust me on this one.

4. DeVotchka+Clare and the Reasons//The Bowery Ballroom//09.14.12
Like Calexico, DeVotchka was a band I was dying to see live, and they did not disappoint. They are an incredible live band. And as an added note, Nick Urata's voice is absolutely stunning.

5. David Byrne and St. Vincent//Williamsburg Park//09.29.12
I don't really believe in idols and heroes, most likely because I don't have any. But if I did have to name one, it would be Annie Clark. Girl is a brilliant and beautiful talent, and has collaborated with basically every musician I respect. Put her together with David Byrne, who is a god, and you have an incredible, and an incredibly fun, night. "Marrow" absolutely killed, and yes, "Burning Down the House" was as awesome as it seemed on YouTube. This show was a party-like atmosphere, and I didn't want it to end. Also, David Byrne danced.

6. Japandroids+DIIV//Webster Hall//12.04.12
Webster Hall holds about 1400 people, but there was this moment, at the beginning of "The House That Heaven Built" that made this feel like an arena show. The energy was outstanding, from both the band and the crowd. Mayhem it was, but it was also a blast.

And, to the most surprising, unexpected, holy fuck show of the year...

Animal Collective+Highlife//Terminal 5//12.05.12
Nothing prepared me for how good this show was going to be. Check Animal Collective out on YouTube, or television, and you'll think, "eh, whatever, fine." I went into the show with some reservations, expecting it to be a ho-hum affair. Wrong. This band is ridiculous live. And the new stuff? Outstanding live. Stop writing off Centipede Hz because it's a great fucking album. I knew this show was going to be special when they did "Wide Eyed." That song is such a dud on the record (well, until you see it live, of course) but that night, it was insanely good. But the real highlight of the night was being in a crowd that knew they were about to play "Brother Sport," and the anticipation as it continued to build until it broke into a wave of...movement. This show was all about movement. You just kept moving, you went with the flow and the sound, until you realized you had been listening to the same song for like ten minutes (and you also realized "Pulleys" is a good fucking song. "Amanita" too.)


Saturday, December 1, 2012

Favorite Songs of 2012

2012 was an awesome year for singles. There were a lot of standout tracks on subpar records as well. Here are some of my favorites (in no particular order, for the most part):

1. Japandroids-The House That Heaven Build
when they love you, and they will
tell them all they'll love in my shadow
and if they try to slow you down
tell them all to go to Hell

2. fun.-Some Nights

the other night, you wouldn't believe the dream I just had about you and me
I called you up, but we'd both agree
it's for the best you didn't listen 
it's for the best we get our distance

3. Beach House-Myth
can't keeping hanging on to what is dead and gone
if you built yourself a myth
know just what to give
materialize or let the ashes fly

4.  Bat for Lashes-Laura
you'll be famous for longer than them
your name is tattooed on every boy's skin
oh, Laura, you're more than a superstar

5. Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros-Man On Fire

6. Patrick Watson-Into Giants
 we carried our love in cups to go

7. Andrew Bird-Orpheo Looks Back
and if it drives you mad, it'll probably pass

8.  Grizzly Bear-Speak in Rounds

step down, just once
learn how to be alone

9. Dirty Projectors-Gun Has No Trigger
you hold the gun to your head 
but the gun has no trigger

10. Lana Del Rey-Born to Die
don't make me sad, don't make me cry
sometimes love's not enough and the road gets tough
I don't know why
keep making me laugh,
let's go get high
road's long, we carry on
try to have fun in the meantime

11.Tegan and Sara-Closer
all you think of lately is getting underneath me
all I dream of lately is how to get you underneath me

12. Maps & Atlases-Fever
we'll be extravagant hosts instead of imposing guests

13. Dan Deacon-True Thrush
hey there, old lady, sing me a song
sing of days gone by before it went wrong

14. Mika-The Origin of Love
you are the sun and light 
you are the freedom I fight
God will do nothing to stop it
the origin is you

15. Glen Hansard-High Hope  
maybe when we're both old and wise
maybe when our hearts have had some time
I'm gonna see you there

16.First Aid Kit-The Lion's Roar
and I'm a goddamn coward but then again so are you
17. Sigur Ros-Varuo

18. David Byrne and St. Vincent-Who

19. The Xx-Chained
we used to be closer than this

20. Calexico-Sinner In the Sea
there's a wall in the ocean between you and me
21.  Yeasayer-Reagan's Skeleton

22. Lost in the Trees-Red
unsitched on my porch
when did I stop learning

23. Titus Andronicus-In a Big City 
who would fardels bear to grunt and sweat
'neath a life that was so mundane? 

24. Animal Collective-Today's Supernatural

25. Dirty Projectors-About to Die
you're already dead

26. Father John Misty-Only Son of the Ladies Man

they tied down his casket with the garter belt
each troubled heart was beating in a sequin dress
someone must console these lonesome daughters
no written word or ballad will appease them

27. Fiona Apple-Anything We Want
and I kept touching my neck 
to guide your eye to where I wanted you to kiss me when we find some time alone

You'll notice I did not include any Mumford and Sons songs because well, as much as I love Babel (there, I said it, so shoot me), it's tough to pick one standout track on the record. Two-thirds of the album is filled with tracks that I can listen to ten times in a row without growing bored. I almost didn't include anything from Break It Yourself either because of how much I enjoy that record as a whole but I love "Orpheo..." too much to not include it.

Also, I tried to keep it to one track per artist or else I would've included most of Bloom, The Idler Wheel..., Celebration Rock, and Shields but those two Dirty Projectors' tracks are too good to ignore. 

One of my favorite, favorite, favorite most listened to tracks of 2012 was AC Newman's "Strings." Unfortunately, it is not on Youtube but you can listen to it here.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

I heard you took it to another level.

What's all this talk about records not being as good as their predecessors? This nonsense about, "well, it's good but it's not as good as their last record?" Or, "it's not good enough?"

I constantly talk about the pros and cons of the internet when it comes to music. Pro: well, bands who would never, ever be heard can be heard because of the internet. Con: some bands who shouldn't be heard can be heard too. But I think the internet is also responsible for this recent phenomenon of perfect (or really fucking good) debut albums. I'm talking about Fleet Foxes, Bon Iver, Arcade Fire, etc. Bands are being hyped right out of the gate, which is fine, but over all detrimental. They have to follow up those perfect records eventually. And they're only setting themselves up for ridiculously high expectations and disappointed fans. As I sit here, I am trying to think of a second album that was as good as a hyped debut (or better) and I think I can only come up with Bon Iver, Bon Iver.

But what about following up the record that propelled you into public consciousness? (By "public," I mean indie music blogs and website, but you knew that, right?) I'm pretty sure that's not a particularly easy task, and sometimes artists can improve on those records (i.e St. Vincent, Sufjan Stevens) but more often that not, I hear fans says, "Well, it's good but it's not as good as their last record." Which leads me to wonder if it is possible to ever judge a record objectively. Is musical discourse always about comparisons? I mean, we constantly compare artists to one another but have we gotten to this point where we are actually comparing bands to themselves?

So many of the reviews of Titus Andronicus' Local Business have begun with something along the lines of, "Well, it's good but it's not as good as The Monitor." The Monitor was a once-in-a-career record and a true masterpiece. It's mind-blowing that a band that young could put out such a perfect record that clicked on all cylinders. It was one of, if not my favorite record of 2010.  (I go back and forth between it and LCD Soundsystem's This Is Happening. Talk about two killer opening tracks.) It was momentous, but also a concept record. Would I have been really, really happy if Titus Andronicus put out a record just like The Monitor? Of course. But did I expect it? Of course not. And if anyone did, they're just silly. (Boy, this is like my Centipede Hz argument all over again.)  But that didn't mean I was going to accept a shitty record. Putting out a perfect record doesn't excuse a terrible one. Well, the first time I heard "In a Big City," I wasn't impressed (save the Hamlet reference). I didn't really care for "Still Life With Hot Deuce on a Silver Platter" either (but I've since learned to really like those tracks) so it didn't bode well for the rest of the record. I was prepared to be let down by one of my favorite new bands. I couldn't even get past the first two tracks when I streamed the whole record on NPR. But eventually I came around to Local Business. It is a good, solid record. No, it isn't The Monitor. But you know, if it was a similar record, people would say they are one-note. If they attempted another record like The Monitor, and failed, they would get called out for that too. The Monitor is ambitious and instead of trying to top it, they were ambitious yet again for putting out a different type of record. Patrick Stickles is still a very strong songwriter, and an even stronger lyricist, and that makes it clear that this record's sound deliberate and not, as many people think, a step down from The Monitor.  Different doesn't mean bad, especially since Local Business is a solid record. Titus Andronicus does something very few bands do: they make straight-up rock and roll that doesn't need any excuses. I love Japandroids' Celebration Rock (one of my favorite releases of the year so far) but I've heard too many people say, "it doesn't need to have strong lyrics because that's not the point of the record." If you like solid rock, check out Local Business.

I think Local Business teaches us that it's probably better to have no expectations, which is why the best records, for me at least, tend to be the ones by bands I never gave a second thought to (I didn't like Post-Nothing when it was released and still don't love it but I love Celebration Rock, for example). If we just expect solid records from our favorite bands, maybe there won't be anymore records that aren't "good enough."

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Know you think you could do this without me but I know I could do without you.

Am I the only Yeasayer fan in denial about Fragrant World?

I got pretty high on Yeasayer pretty quickly. I think All Hour Cymbals is magnificent and beautiful. It worked on so many levels and is practically a perfect record. I'll admit, I was kind of disappointed by Odd Blood, only because it was such a departure from All Hour Cymbals. If it wasn't a Yeasayer record, I would have absolutely no problem with it and love it but the truth was, there wasn't really anything on Odd Blood, save "I Remember" (which was the song that made me go from "eh, this record" to "hey, this record deserves a chance after all!" and it remains my favorite song by the group) that excites me the way "Forgiveness" or "2080" or "Wait For the Summer" does. I admit that if I was never able to listen to Odd Blood again, I'd shrug and be okay with that. But I wasn't ready to let go of a band I thought was great and talented because I knew they had the ability to be great and talented. (Not to mention, I eventually bought Odd Blood on vinyl. And saw the band live on the last leg of that tour.) Please don't get me wrong. I don't hate Odd Blood, it just wasn't the Yeasayer I fell in love with, and it was devoid of everything that made me fall in love with the band.

And then Fragrant World came out and suddenly, I was forced to make peace with Odd Blood. Truth be told, compared to Fragrant World, Odd Blood is a great record. Sure, if you ask anyone I've talked to about the band's latest release, they'd tell you I did sing Fragrant World's praises early on. And yes, I do really like about four or five cuts from it. They are legitimately good tracks, up there with "O.N.E." or "Madder Red," for sure. I find myself listening to "Reagan's Skeleton" over and over again, and I don't agree with reviews that say there's nothing catchy on this record because "Devil and the Deed" and "Fingers Never Bleed" stay in my head for hours after I hear them. But there's something...angry about this record. I don't necessarily believe in "fuck you" records (hear that, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah? although that is a topic for another post) but this feels like a "fuck you" record. It's as though Yeasayer was tired of the Animal Collective and MGMT and Passion Pit comparisons (as I type this I can't believe I just mentioned AnCo in the same sentence as MGMT but it is what it is) and thought, "fuck it, we are going to make a record you're all going to hate." It reeks of defensiveness, if a record could be considered such. Even reading the interviews with the band before the release and shortly after it made me feel like they knew they were putting out a record nobody was going to like but they were going to piss on anyone who didn't anyway. There is something ugly about the record (like The Age of Adz, for example) and Yeasayer didn't and couldn't do ugly with as much subtly as Animal Collective. It feels very deliberate.

Now, I tend to hate when indie acts come out and shit on all of our towels (metaphorically speaking), no matter how much I adore their music (looking at you, Justin Vernon) but for some reason, no matter how big of an asshat Chris Keating made himself out to be in the media, I turned a blind eye. "BUT I LOVE THEM AND THEY ARE TALENTED!" I thought to myself.  And I was still defending a record I didn't even particularly like (I haven't listened to it since it streamed on NPR.) If I had a problem with the Centipede Hz reviews, imagine how I felt about the Fragrant World ones (actually, there comes a point where you are no longer annoyed with bad reviews, simply amused). And the kicker? Last weekend, I bought the damn thing on vinyl. Is it the completest in me? Or the fact that it was a double record with colored vinyl for only $15? Or because I still feel this desire to claim Yeasayer as one of my favorite bands, regardless of this bad record? Or because I  am not ready to admit that yes, I liked that one record of theirs but hey, surprise, I actually don't care for them overall? Regardless, I bought it and think of it as though it is some ugly drawing done by my own kid (I have no kids, I'm just imagining this would be case). Yes, it's ugly, no, I have no fucking clue what it's supposed to be but my kid is proud of it, and he or she worked hard on it,  and so I am going to put it on the fridge for all to see. So, I guess what I'm trying to say is that I accept Fragrant World and I'm going to just deny the bad stuff.

But...when do you give up on an artist/band? I feel like if there are two records in a row that make you say, "no, no, thank you, take this away," it's probably time to give up. If Sufjan Stevens puts out another disgrace like The Age of Adz the next time around, I'll still sit in my room cradling my copies of Illinois and Greetings From Michigan and Seven Swans and remember the good times. But no matter how much I realize I dislike records by artists I listened to about five years ago, I still come back to them, as though Ray LaMontagne is suddenly going to put out a record as good as Trouble. I force myself to find something likeable about something like Lupercalia or Bloodless Coup even though I know the joy I felt over The Magic Position and Flock is gone and over and they will just live in my memory as good records and good times. Sometimes you grow and your favorite artists don't. Or it's the opposite, and you're not ready to say good-bye. We may take bad reviews personally, but why do we take simply bad records even more personally? (Again, it's about that super personal connection people make to music.) My point is that I need to learn to accept that my bands and my artists aren't always going to put out good records, and eventually, they won't be mine anymore. Who knows what Yeasayer has in store for the future, but I suppose I'll still support them for the time being. (They are still a great live band after all, and Anand Wilder looks like an angel from Heaven, lest you forget.) And if the future includes a record I don't like, well, then so be it.

(Funny, as I typed this, I decided to listen to Fragrant World, and let's admit that we cannot deny how fucking good "Fingers Never Bleed" is, and how awesome Christ Keatings' vocals are.)

Monday, September 10, 2012

Today feels so supernatural.

2009 was a formative year for me. It was the year I discovered Andrew Bird, whose music created a desire in me to absorb as much music, music news, music journalism (whatever that is), and musical discussion as possible. In that year, while I was listening to Noble Beast (and I still stand by my opinion that that was the best album to be released that year), the rest of the world was listening to Animal Collective's Merriweather Post Pavilion. 

I am incredibly torn on both Animal Collective and MPP (and really all of the artists that put out the "top" records that year...Grizzly Bear, The xx, Dirty Projectors, etc.). Don't get me wrong, "Brother Sport" and "Summertime Clothes" are fantastic tracks but on a whole, I have never considered MPP the masterpiece that many consider it to be. I acknowledge that it is a strong record but it just never bowled me over. I also acknowledge that Animal Collective is truly one of the most creative bands around, and I admire their ability to always change their sound from album to album. When they announced their latest record, Centipede Hz, I thought, "Well, I'll give it a whirl." (Frankly, I'll listen to anything.) I expected to be lukewarm and for everyone else to rave about it. I couldn't wait to be incredibly aggravated at all of the hype and accolades and glowing reviews and wank. But I listened to the stream on NPR and immediately liked it (especially "Today's Supernatural," which I admit, I thought was a mess upon initial listens). I liked it enough to actually buy tickets to see Animal Collective. Animal Collective! I was going to see a band I ripped on for three years!

And then the reviews came out.

I knew something was amiss when Pitchfork didn't label it "Best New Music." But it just got worse from there. And instead of basking in the glow of negative Animal Collective reviews, I thought, "this is bizarre. Animal Collective doesn't make bad records!" I'm not going to review Centipede Hz myself. I just know I really, really enjoy it. Is it busy? Sure is. Is it as accessible as MPP? Of course not. And it seems like AnCo knew exactly what they were doing when they made it. Anyone expecting another "My Girls" was seriously mistaken (even though I never really liked that track anyway). I mean, was anyone really expecting another record as poppy as MPP? But Centipede Hz is busy and loud and ugly and I think it all works perfectly as a total package. Don't get me wrong, I love beautiful music (this blog is named after an Andrew Bird lyric after all, right?) but there's something as equally rewarding about listening to loud and ugly and messy music (Patrick Stickles' voice and guitar, the Dirty Projectors' harmonies, etc.) and I think Animal Collective got it.

So, why am I so disappointed by the reviews? AnCo is far from my favorite band. I enjoy the record, I have been listening to it daily, and I am going to see the group in October. But finally I felt, "Yes! I am listening to the same music as the cool kids! I get one of those records" only to find that I was wrong. And it shouldn't effect how I feel about it. And yet, I, as well as many other music fans, often act as though the critics determine what I listen to. But why do we do this? To me, music is the most personal and intimate art form. I've always believed good music can hurt (don't believe me? Listen to Sufjan Stevens' "The Predatory Wasp of the Palisades Is Out to Get Us") and there is nothing better than hearing one of your favorite songs live in concert. Or the desire to put a song on repeat and listen to it over and over again. When "Today's Supernatural" clicked for me, all I wanted to do was listen and dance to it. So why do I feel guilty for enjoying Centipede Hz? Why can't I just say, "nope, this is my Animal Collective record and I don't give a shit what you say?" Why even get defensive and angry at the weak reviews? Perhaps because music is so incredibly personal. It's the same way we get when our friends don't agree that that one particular song you forced them to listen to is the greatest song ever written.

So, ignore the critics, right? Or, don't put too much into what they say. Just read the reviews for fun when you're bored at your desk at work. Also, go listen to Centipede Hz and dance to it and you too can fall in love with Avey Tare, all while contemplating if he's actually singing about fruit in "Applesauce" (it is a great track, you know.)