So here's the full list. Beyond the first two or three or four, don't take the ranking too seriously. 9 could be 5, 6 and 7 could swap, and 8 could be 9. And 10 is like a ninja; it could spring into action at any moment, wreaking havoc on the list.
1. Fleet Foxes, s/t
2. The Ruby Suns, Sea Lion
3. Vampire Weekend, s/t
Last time I wrote about Vampire Weekend—not counting my Gilmore Girls fan fiction—I advised that everyone stop reading about Vampire Weekend, stop writing about Vampire Weekend, and just listen to Vampire Weekend. Many months removed, it's sort of amusing to think about how riled everyone got about this record. Inflated issues of privilege or colonialism aside, Vampire Weekend is just a really fun album to sing along to, to dance to, to smile with. It's a pleasure from beginning to end. I do wonder if the boys will be able to find a subject matter for their next record that isn't New England coeds, but for the time being this is remains a wonderful, light, fun album.
- Vampire Weekend: The Kids Don't Stand A Chance
4. Little Joy, s/t
This is a late addition to the list—I've only had it for about three weeks. When the album came out it went right over my radar since it was marketed as a "Strokes side project"—three words that don't really generate much enthusiasm over here. Happily my wife took the time to listen. Now Little Joy has made itself nice and comfy around the house. We put it on while we cook, while we drive, while we read the paper, whatever. It's a relaxing, lighthearted record clearly made by a relaxed, lighthearted band. This short album is eleven simple songs that don't overstay their welcome—in the case of many, you wish they'd stay longer! These are pop songs made by friends looking for nothing more than the pleasure of each others' company.
- Little Joy: No One's Better Sake
5. Dr. Dog, Fate
Like Little Joy, Fate required someone intervening in my life and telling me I had to listen to it (in this case a good friend—one without a blog! crazy!—rather than my brilliant wife). It's such a rock record, so straightforward, so classic, so Beatlesy, so Bandy, so easily digestible indie-y. But six months since buying it, Fate has continued to grow on me. I originally thought it had two or three really fantastic songs and the rest good but not great. I'd go a month without listening to it, then I'd put it on again. I'd reconsider: like, four or five really fantastic songs and the rest good but not great. By now I'm up to about nine or ten really fantastic songs and the other three pretty good. By March this ought to be a masterpiece.
- Dr. Dog: Uncovering The Old
6. Beach House, Devotion
Devotion turned out to have more longevity than I originally expected it to. The same caveat still applies: you have to like the song this duo does, because they keep doing it over and over again. Maybe it just suited my mood this year, but I kept coming back. Victoria Legrand's voice is one of the best in indie rock at the moment, and Alex Scally does an exceptional job of adding just enough guitar to each track—coloring the song in without overtaking it. The whole of Devotion is like walking through a dense fog, with just enough light to lead you further in.
- Beach House: Home Again
7. Okkervil River, The Stand Ins
The Stand Ins was the third of three Okkervil albums I purchased this year, which really was a kind of overdose. If I could rank The Stage Names in this list, it would probably be number one—but that was 2007. This year's album is still really terrific, thanks mostly to three or four songs as good as anything Sheff has ever done—among them "Singer Songwriter," and "Pop Lie." It took a little distance from my Okkervil Obsession, however, to notice that the rest of The Stand Ins is solid, but not consistently top-notch. A more than worthy album, though I'll still take The Stage Names for the best and most cohesive album Sheff's done so far.
- Okkervil River: Pop Lie
8. Shearwater, Rook
I feel about Shearwater the way I feel about mushrooms: they are both delectable and detestable, awesome and awful, simultaneously. When I listen to Rook I hold my nose with one hand and make dramatic, swooping, Ronnie James Dio-like arm movements with the other. Yes, Rook can be overwrought at times, but it can also be captivating and powerful.
- Shearwater: Century Eyes
9. The Walkmen, You & Me
The nice thing about doing your end-of-year list in December is you get to read up on all the giddier bloggers' premature lists. I've had You & Me for about six days now, thanks to seeing it on a few different lists and checking out an mp3. Hearing "In the New Year" reminded me that I like the Walkmen. I dug Bows + Arrows when it came out a few years back but was scared off by all the tepid reviews for A Hundred Miles Off in 2006. After all, Bows + Arrows did demonstrate that the Walkmen had a specific sound they were going for; it could, conceivably, get old. That sound—a total absence of low end; the way the drummer seems to be hanging on by a thread; Hamilton Leithauser's disassociative lounge act—is still in place here, but that's okay. You & Me is far superior to Bows + Arrows. It's a more cohesive album, a more emotionally resonant album.
- The Walkmen: In The New Year
10. To Be Announced
Within days of posting my list last year, I discovered at least two albums that in retrospect belonged on the list. So, rather than toss on MGMT (which has four outstanding tracks—you've heard all of them—and a lot of okay songs) or some other album I'm lukewarm on just so I can round the list out, I'm going to leave this space open for now. I'll let you know if and when I fill it.