The Best of 2011: Part Four

True Panther Sounds

Girls – Father, Son, Holy Ghost

San Francisco indie pop outfit Girls has a gift for balancing old with new, progression with rumination, and order with chaos. Their first release, simply titled Album, proved this to the world and has become one of the most beloved rock releases of the ADD generation; which is odd, considering it’s full of tunes that require at least a little amount of patience. There’s just something about the songwriting talents of Christopher Owens and the production abilities of Chet Jr. White that make for a truly golden partnership, and though each Girls release is different from the next, their path still remains linear. This is because they create music for no one but themselves, and perhaps out of sheer luck, EVERYONE loves it. Though much of Father, Son, Holy Ghost seems like an ominous echo of last year’s Broken Dreams Club EP – as if those tracks were being ghetto-blasted into a deep, dark cave – the new album continues the band’s impressive streak of consistency. “Alex”, the second track on FSHG, ranks among Girls’ best, combining desperate jangle-pop with short outbursts of anxious punk. The melodic wash of “Just a Song”, with its repetitive “Hey Jude” style outro, marries desperate but hopeful lyrics with lush, beautiful balladry. There are some shadows of doubt that loom over FSHG – for instance, album opener “Honey Bunny” finds Girls trying to recapture the hyper essence of one of their most revered songs, “Lust for Life” (the first track on their debut). Though it’s a good song, Girls sound better when they choose to focus on the current moment, or what lies ahead of them. Thank goodness there’s plenty of that here.

Matador Records

Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks – Mirror Traffic

It seems 2001’s eponymous debut solo album from the former Pavement front man set the bar very high. Since then, his subsequent ventures have not even come close to the brilliant, tactical rowdiness of that album – until now. Fresh off the hugely successful Pavement reunion tour, Malkmus’ enigmatic jargon and natural sense of melody are newly re-aligned, and this perfect marriage of his sensibilities keeps Mirror Traffic’s near-double-album length from seeming bloated. Although some of the tracks are harmless and nothing more, most of the record is spot-on – and timely. Both “Senator” and “Brain Gallop” cleverly hit on relevant topics like political sex scandals and obscene gas prices, respectively, and in a way that rings true to the Malkmus style. “Tigers” is the perfect single for Malkmus fans, as it carries that “Range Life” whimsy with the closet-mixed country-folk in which the rest of Mirror Traffic dabbles. And by the way, say what you want about Beck Hansen – sure, many people believe he is a no-talent ass-clown – but his production on Mirror Traffic is brilliantly subdued, with subtle touches of color in all the right places. Considering how wildly produced most of the Beck albums are, it seems Hansen came into this project prepared to self-edit – the charm of Malkmus, after all, has always been his spontaneity.

Jagjaguwar Records

Bon Iver – Bon Iver

I’m not going to write much about this album because every other publication has already sploodged over it to the point where I almost want to puke blood. Nevertheless, it’s still a sweet record, and I’ve enjoyed it greatly this season. I will say that, especially in my hometown on Lawrence, KS, there is a growing contingent of people that are starting to hate on Bon Iver, in my opinion simply because so many people are starting to like him. Around here, sometimes it’s just as cool to loathe something as it is to like it. I stand up for Bon Iver because he reminds me of a younger Mark Kozelek sometimes – not really in the voice, but the guitar playing and songwriting sensibilities – and in that way, his songs make a certain kind of sense to me. Also, in this day and age, it takes some guts to record a song like “Beth / Rest”, which sounds like a combination of late eighties Stevie Wonder and early nineties Peter Gabriel yet somehow still works wonders.

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One Response to “The Best of 2011: Part Four”

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