Maceo - Top 5

5 - Cloud Nothings
Cloud Nothings' debut "Turning On" Makes a late, but convincing bid for the year's lists. At it's heart, "Turning On" is an open-faced pop record. And its hooks dig deep. I could listen to the 'Ca-Ca-Ca-Ca-Call Me Over' chorus for "Cant Stay Awake" endlessly. I want more. Bridgetown Records has only printed 100 cds and 100 cassettes so go get yours while you can.

Mp3: Cloud Nothings - Can't Stay Awake
Mp3: Cloud Nothings - Hey Cool Kid

4 - Dan Deacon
I'm not a drug user, but when Dan Deacon's "Bromst" kicks in, I feel more than intoxicated. Deacon has been an underground club favorite for years, and he's played tons of live shows- touring to the point of exhaustion. However, he's never recorded anything as epic as this.

Mp3: Dan Deacon - Snookered

3 - Thee Oh Sees
Thee Oh Sees' blues-infected, multi-referential garage rock is what passes for easy listening around here. I played the shit out of "Help". If you're into post-punk, power pop, new wave, garage rock, or their combinations/derivations, you probably did too.

Mp3: Thee Oh Sees - Destroyed Forest Reappears
Mp3: Thee Oh Sees - Tidal Wave

Michigan's Salem released three EPs this year, scoring a trilogy of imaginary horror movies. Their music videos thoroughly freak people out (see "Dirt" below). Salem's dark beat drags heavily- it's almost exhausting to listen to. In both their songs and their videos, it's really amazing how much they can do with so little. The beats are always dark, but the vocals alternate between Heather's angelic falsetto and John's slowed down demonic growl. It's unsettling. In an unbelievably candid interview with gay magazine: Butt, Beat-maker/vocalist John Holland makes it clear that he is influenced equally by Mariah Carey, Juke, Three 6 Mafia, and his past life as a speedballing teenage prostitute.

[Video Not safe for work, and the music starts after one minute]
SALEM - DIRT from ACEPHALE on Vimeo.

MP3: Salem - Whenusleep

1 - Ganglians
Critics of Lo-Fi music point out that it's a "genre" defined by its style rather than its substance. The sad truth is that, in many cases, the genre's style is its substance. If I could somehow get paid for every time "Sun-drenched", "Tropical", and "Beach Boys" were used to describe a new lo-fi outfit, I'd quit my job. The style is easy to copy, but nobody this year had the musical chops that Ganglians have to back it up. Ganglians put out a ton of content this year, and it's all quality, but the album "Monster Head Room" is amazing in its feeling of completeness. It's the album I kept coming back to all year. It's got everything from low-lying mood tracks like "The Void" to the lazy saccharine boardwalk pop of "Candy Girl" and they all fit perfectly together. The distorted and compressed lo-fi treatment is a light haze of smoke hotboxing "Monster Head Room", but it isn't enough to obscure the band's songwriting. It's the simple harmonies in "Lost Words" that really put the cherry on the top of this year's Lo-Fi Beach-pop revival. Hear more Ganglians tunes on their Myspace and buy their latest 7". It's worth it.

Mp3: Ganglians - Lost Words

Top Songs

1: Cold Cave - The Trees Grew Emotions And Died
according to my iTunes, I listened to this song more than any other song this year. FYI: The mp3 I linked above is from the earlier 7" single, not the LP "Love Comes Close". If you nerd out like I do you might notice the production on this version is more subtly sinister.

2: Sleigh Bells - Beach Girls
I actually prefer this tune to the highly-touted "Crown on the Ground".

3: Crocodiles - Hollow Hollow Eyes
From the recent Crocodiles/Graffiti Island/Pens/Dum Dum Girls 4 way split EP. You should find it on iTunes, but skip the Pens song.

4: Basement Jaxx - Raindrops
It's got steamroller subtlety.

5: Former Ghosts - The Bull And The Ram
This is a collaboration between Xiu Xiu and Zola Jesus. Both bands are polarizing, so this song isn't for everyone. But I think they compliment each other very well. Zola Jesus' production is usually really sub par, but in this track, Nika Roza Danilova brings a lot of emotion to the table.