Vinyl love: Of Monsters And Men “My head is an animal”

(Vinyl Love is a series of posts that quite simply lists, describes, and displays the pieces in my growing vinyl collection. You can bet that each record was given a spin during the drafting of each corresponding post.)

Artist: Of Monsters And Men
Album Title: My head is an animal
Year released: 2011 (2012 in North America)
Details: Pink vinyl, 2 x LP, Gatefold

The skinny: The Icelandic indie pop/indie folk sextet scored a smash hit with this, their debut album, mostly on the back of the monstrous single, “Little talks” (see below). Their big sound, based on grand instrumentation and gang vocals, is infectious stuff and album is sold from side to side to side to side.

Standout track: “Little talks”

Best albums of 2017: #4 Waxahatchee “Out in the storm”

I ran into a friend of mine at the O-Train station leaving work back in July, right around the time “Out in the storm” was released. We don’t see each other as often as we used to but when we do, we often share thoughts on the music to which we’ve been listening. I had been on quite an Allison Crutchfield kick at the time so I raved about her debut album, “Tourist in this town” (see album #8 in my “Honourable mentions” post). He then countered, asking what I thought about the new Waxahatchee album, and given that I had only superficially listened to it, boldly proclaimed that I might actually prefer the other sister’s work this time around. Mike being Mike, he just levelled me a withering sneer and told me to listen to it again.

Well, I did. And he was right. Though I still find “Tourist in this town” an excellent debut, “Out in the storm” is a phenomenal album, leaping well ahead of anything else Katie Crutchfield has done under her Waxahatchee moniker.

I got into her music first with her last record, her third, “Ivy Tripp”, which was a poppier affair, happily glorying in her hurt and aimlessness, like it was a badge to be proudly worn. “Out in the storm” is a louder affair than its predecessor. It’s even more emotional, honest, and no holds barred, like she realized she wasn’t as okay with her breakup as she thought she was. So like Allison’s, Katie’s is a breakup album but she’s had more time to stew in it and ruminate on it and her lyrics are incredibly pointed and poignant. There’s a lot of hurt on the ten songs but it’s a powerful hurt, not self-pitying or loathing, taking as much of the responsibility for everything that happened as the other party. Her storm is one that we’ve all encountered and found ourselves in at one point in our lives.

And it’s a lot to take in on one listen, which is likely why it didn’t grab me as quickly as her other work. (It’s not an excuse, Mike, you were right.) And it’s also why I recommend listening to it a few times before passing your own judgement. You can start with my three picks for you below.

“Sparks fly”: A heavy wash of synths and an acoustic guitar strum at the outset suggest something dainty and delicate but Crutchfield comes in with her vocals, wiping all that away and you realize that ‘dainty’ is not what you wanted anyway. “See myself clearly for the first time since I met you on a foggy night. A disaster, dignified.”

“Recite remorse”: Feels like a song that Sinéad O’Connor might have sung on her first or second albums, vocals at the forefront of music hiding behind a curtain of stars in the sky. “Felt the sun on my face. It just felt like a rerun holding everything in place.”

“Silver”: Yes, I like the rockers on the album too. This one, from which the album draws its name, stops short of droning but certainly has that edge. “The kiss on my lips starts to feel unfamiliar. A part of me rots. My skin all turns silver.” Beautifully rendered.

For the rest of the albums in this list, check out my Best Albums page here.

Best tunes of 2010: #11 Beach House “Used to be”

<< #12    |    #10 >>

Okay. So I know that Beach House’s “Used to be” was originally released as a single in 2008, something brand new after the Baltimore-based dream pop duo had just spent months on the road touring their last album, and they were aching to get back to the studio. But the album version, placed midway through the track listing of 2010’s incredible “Teen dream”, is the version I heard first and am more familiar with, so I had no issues including it as number eleven on my Best of 2010 list.

I had been loosely following Beach House since the release of their self-titled debut back in 2006 and saw them open for The Clientele the following year. I say ‘loosely’ because while I had both of their first two albums and thought they were pleasant to listen to, I only ever really considered them fodder for background music. The worlds created by Victoria Legrand and Alex Scally were light and airy but also grim and plodding up to that point. It all changed for me with the third album and “Used to be” really anchored the shift. It is all very dreamy still, synth washes abound and Legrand’s breathy delivery is just lovely, but it was like the sun came out and they found something to be cheerful about.

Interesting, then, that the song that spearheaded their move towards upbeat rhythms was written as an examination of the passing of time, of aging, and seeing things change. Beach House shakes a little fairy dust, sings a lullaby, the rhythmic snare counts off the seconds like years, and you’re off to your dream world, seeing things as you remembered them. Even the piano chimes, echoing the vocal melody, are nostalgic, sounding every bit like that toy piano you wanted for Christmas when you were six. It’s a happy place, this song, all innocence and pure joy.

For the rest of the Best tunes of 2010 list, click here.