1) Arcade Fire- The Suburbs
Key Track: Sprawl 2- Mountains Beyond Mountains. This songs makes me think of first kisses and driving the country roads of Rocky Mount, NC in the early morning hours with nowhere to go but everywhere to see.
- Sookie Says: Try Half Light I for my favorite off this album. Yes, my summer jams are more like suicide notes than sun-sunsoaked melodies, but this is beautiful song.
2) The National- High Violet
Key track: Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks. This song tears me up every time: “All the very best of us string ourselves up for love.”
- Sookie Says: How could you not pick Lemon World??!!!???!? Lemon World is clearly the standout track here and there is no other song like it. I was only vaguely sort of ok with The National before I heard High Violet, and High Violet is still the only album of theirs I really want to hear – and yes, I have heard every track they have ever given to the public, both in and out of context (Johnny is quite the fan) – but High Violet is the only ‘National for me.
3) Deerhunter- Halcyon Digest
Key tracks: Helicopter I heard this song for the first time when Bradford Cox played it solo at the Hopscotch Festival in September. I was blown away and was really pleased that the studio version retained the haunting intimacy of his live solo performance. Do yourself a favor and buy a copy of this album so you can read the short story that inspired this song. I dare you not to be moved.
- Sookie Says: It’s no Bite Marks, but it will do. (And yes, I know Bite Marks is Atlas Sound and not Deer Hunter, but the man behind the curtain is the same)
4) Woods- At Echo Lake
Key track: Suffering Season Gotta love those sun-soaked melodies. Woods put on the best show I saw in 2010. “Who knows what tomorrow will bring?”
- Sookie Says: Ok, that concert Johnny was just talking about was an insufferable, incomprehensible, homogenous jam session that would not end. Unfortunately, I was not in a place where I could simply get in my car and go home. It was awful, really. I mean, this album is alright, but the show…just shoot me before you take me to another show like that…
5) Joanna Newsom- Have One on Me
Key track: In California. This gorgeous centerpiece track also provides the melody for ‘Does Not Suffice’, one of the all-time best album closers.
- Sookie Says: I do not wish to contradict this one, but I would like to add Baby Birch as an equal to any other “key track” from this album. It has a sort of calm, resolute violence about it.
6) The Walkmen- Lisbon
Key track: Lisbon The title track of this album resonates with me so strongly because I was traveling in Lisbon while my romantic relationship at the time was disintegrating: “A change of heart, tore us apart. Oh, what a ride.”
7) Phosphorescent- Here’s to Taking it Easy
Key tracks: Mermaid Peraid I can listen to this song over and over and over. The imagery and sentiment is perfectly conveyed: “And I know all about your new man… Your new older, old man and I heard that he’s married, Ah you be careful Amanda. And yeah I found a new friend too, And yeah she’s pretty and small, But god damn it Amanda, oh god damn it all”
8 Beach House- Teen Dream
Key track: Walk in the Park I was in Raleigh, NC this past weekend, and it was gently snowing. This track was playing in the car, and I’m pretty sure I was in heaven.
9) Spoon- Transference
Key track: Out Go the Lights This album has a killer groove to it, and this song perfectly captures that feeling.
10) Sufjan Stevens- Age of Adz
Key track: I walked This year, Sufjan released an album that left a lot of fans scratching their heads. I admire his ability to do what feels right to HIM. He puts all his heart into his emotional expression rather than catering to long-time fans who expect only one type of song from him.
11) Titus Andronicus- The Monitor
Key track: A More Perfect Union. A concept album about the Civil War filtered through music that sounds like Bruce Springsteen if the Boss was a bit more punk. Works for me!
12) The Hold Steady- Heaven is Whenever
Key track: We Can Get Together. “Heaven is whenever we can get together, sit down on our floor and listen to your records.” Nuff said.
- Sookie Says: I do not understand why people listen to The Hold Steady. I replace Johnny’s selection with Gorillaz – Plastic Beach.
- Key Track: Rhinestone Eyes
13) Sun Kil Moon- Admiral Fell Promises
Key track: Admiral Fell Promises What a gorgeous song with a beautiful line about the power/ obsesiveness of love: “You watch over me, and I’ll watch over you. And if you go tomorrow, choke me till I’m blue.”
14) Avey Tare- Down There
Key track: Laughing Hieroglyhics This song haunts me and contains one of the most killer lyrics of the year: “And when I get fucked up I do my best to make myself not fucked up again, and my heart and my lungs do. Why can’t I do the same for everyone I love too?”
15) Sharon Van Etten- Epic
Key track: One Day. This song feels like fall to me. It should be required “mix-CD material” for everyone.
- Sookie Says: Ok, Johnny talked so much crap about this album, I don’t know how it ended up here. Apparently it ended up being good “late night listening.” Whatevs. Let’s replace this listing with Blitzen Trapper – Destroyer of the Void. The album works better as a whole, but here’s a track for you to enjoy:
- Key Track: The Man Who Would Speak True