1. Los Campesinos! - Hold On Now, Youngster
People like to throw around the term "navel gazing" as a catch-all for angst-ridden lyrics and youthful sentiment. Yeah, when you're in your early twenties, it seems like your life is the whole world. But is that so bad? That's what this album made me wonder; there's something so vital and immediate in this over caffeinated band's first over caffeinated album. The lyrics go beyond conversational; they are conversations between the band members, and they sound like they could erupt into fistfights. Meanwhile, laser beam synths fight for prominence with sharp dueling guitars and really mean violin solos (who knew?). To summarize this band and its debut record in one word, I'd have to say "energy"; and that shouldn't be surprising, given this is an album with lots of exclamation points (in addition to the one in the band's name, there's song names like "You! Me! Dancing!" and just about every line within the songs also sounds like it warrants one or seven). There are too many great lines to get into quoting them here, but suffice it to say that if you want the fun back in your rock records, this is a record well worth the $10 or whatever albums cost these days.
1. Al Green-Lay It Down
Don't call it a comeback. He never left. He just needed what every great and legendary artist needs in this time of musical darkness: the permission to just be. No dance beats. No shitty and awkward duets with American Idol contestants. No Rolodex of hot shot producers. Just ?uestlove, James Poyser, the Dap-Kings and a few special friends (Spanky Alford, Anthony Hamilton, John Legend, Jaguar Wright and Corinne Bailey Rae, to be specific). This is perhaps the greatest American soul record to come out in almost a decade. And it's little wonder, because it was almost five years in the making, and like, twenty years over due. Completely organic, wonderfully engineered, gorgeously produced and simply beautiful.