This is a good example of how something can get by on purely the vibe of the music. My Spanish is embarrassing, at best. And yet, I can feel what Carla Morrison is singing about. I've been a passing fan the last couple years, but Déjenme Llorar seems like the perfect jumping in point. There's a dream poppy, yet organic quality to her music that just resonates with me these days. Songs like 'Duele' and the title track ("let me cry") have a happily mournful aspect to them that just shines. Not to mention that, musically speaking, I can't really draw any immediate comparisons. The presentation is very sparse (a full drum kit is only used on a handful of the songs) and semi-reverby, yet throw in Carla's sporadic spaghetti western electric guitar riffs, occasional group harmonies and a deliciously winning jangly undertone and things just turn into one of the best albums of the year. And that voice! — quickly becoming one of my favorites. Wonderful to see such a deserving and amazing talent get a bigger recognition for what is her (so far) best work.
Benjamin Gibbard — Former Lives (2012)
I balked on this one, much the same way I did with Codes and Keys. And considering that album has just gotten better with age, I should have known better. Ben has been with me for most of my mature life, so I can't reasonably see him letting me down this far into the game. And, well, as the second guy from Death Cab to go formally solo, he's got Chris Walla beat after the first proper song. Make no mistakes, slow strummy thoughtful tunes that explore characters like 'Dream Song' dominate here, but the song is just that: slow strummy and thoughtful. Gloriously so, as it may be. I dunno. I'm a big fan and all, but even so, this feels like an album that was very meaningful to its creator. As the listener, I can't not feel that. There is a definite Americana/Roots Rock slant to the material, so tunes like the folk rocky 'Lily' or the Neil Young-aping 'Broken Yolk in Western Sky' only seem to up the intimate ante. The one curve ball arrives in the faux-mariachi sendup 'Something's Rattling' and it's darn good. It all ends with one of his by now predictably stunning acoustic ballads. This one is called 'I'm Building A Fire' and it belongs right there with 'A Lack of Color' and 'I Will Follow You Into the Dark' in the man's cannon of heartbreakingly beautiful love songs. None too shabby. For the most part, it's excellent guitar pop from one of the style's best contemporary interpreters. Not ever going to second guess him again. I promise.
Which, after wrapping all that up, brings us to the fact that it's the end of another year. And it's time for me to be a nerd again. Not going to babble on and on. So, just like last year, I've made a mix. This year was about great musicians doing as much as possible, so there are some repeats of names on this one. Still pretty much a wonderland of good stuff. Again, a good chunk of it is proudly sourced from vinyl, it was done in one take and I've really put some thought into the sequencing. Please enjoy.
01) Sigur Rós — Rembihnútur
02) Tonality*Star — Heart + Soul
03) The Sea + Cake — Harps
04) Poor Moon — People In Her Mind
05) Carla Morrison — Eres Tú
06) King Krule — Rock Bottom
07) Ben Gibbard — Bigger Than Love
08) WU LYF — Triumph
09) Andrew Bird — Desperation Breeds. . . Polynation
10) Tonality*Star — I Fell in Love
11) The Sea and Cake — Harbor Bridges
12) Robin Pecknold — Olivia, In a Separate Bed
13) Carla Morrison — Maleza
14) Poor Moon — Come Home
15) King Krule — Octopus
16) Fiona Apple — Anything We Want
17) Andrew Bird — Orpheo
18) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .