PRINT December 2006


Wendy Fonarow

1 Peter, Bjorn, and John, Writer’s Block (Wichita Recordings) “Young Folks” is the feel-good hit of the year. Listening to it brings the same thrill as dancing with your friends without a care in the world. Their sweet style recalls Belle & Sebastian at their very best.

2 Arctic Monkeys, Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not (Domino Records) Every ten years or so, England produces a band that unites the nation. Arctic Monkeys articulately portray the gritty underbelly of a city center with the manic energy of a piss-up. On “Fake Tales of San Francisco,” Alex Turner sings in a vernacular dialect with such a love of language that you want to feel the words in your mouth. Chant along with the rest of us.

3 The Blood Arm, Lie Lover Lie (City Rockers) One of my friends described this album as the Blonde on Blonde of contemporary alternative pop music, and I agree. Nathaniel Fregoso’s lyrics are detailed personal snapshots of small moments and hidden desires. The Blood Arm’s bold garage sound demands your attention. This album captures the real Los Angeles sound—dark soul and unbridled energy.

4 Mogwai, Mr. Beast (Matador Records) I’ll always love this band for kicking a member out for talking during an Arab Strap show. That attitude lies deep within Mr. Beast. Uncompromising nerve is met with the nuanced expressions that come from hard-earned experience. You find Mogwai’s signature use of progressively rising white noise cut with moments of near silence, and then, on a song like “Acid Food,” you are suddenly embedded in an electronica-tinged country landscape that sounds the way only guys from Glasgow can make it.

5 Rodrigo y Gabriela, Rodrigo y Gabriela (ATO Records) Classical acoustic guitar meets a thrash-metal sensibility, from two maestros whose talents are staggering.

6 Eagles of Death Metal, Death by Sexy (Downtown) This album is infused with libidinal tension and electricity. It viscerally recalls those moments when you need sex so bad that you can’t breathe. In “I Gotta Feeling (Just Nineteen)” the singer taunts his lover about the guy she’s been seeing by saying, “You know I’m everything that he’s just not.” If I could choose my death, it would be by sexy, but these guys would make you beg for it.

7 Mojave 3, Puzzles Like You (4AD) Joyous renditions of Mojave’s alt-country sound. Neil Halstead channels nature in his fingertips. Perfect for Sunday mornings of any season.

8 Youth Group, Casino Twilight Dogs (Epitaph) Bright and lush, Youth Group update the shoe-gazing sound. This album is packed full of immediately catchy songs.

9 Larrikin Love, The Freedom Spark (Wea/Infectious) Imagine an Irish Ron Weasley singing Smiths lyrics over reggae beats, and you’ll have new rave favorites Larrikin Love. At the Reading Festival the singer’s mom came onstage to play the spoons while teenagers threw glow sticks at one another. The album has that same youthful exuberance.

10 Cold War Kids, Robbers and Cowards (Downtown) Intoxicating songs that feel like they were recorded in an abandoned warehouse. Cold War Kids try to fill the emptiness with a series of elegant instrumentations, raw lyrics, and unpredictable sounds that inspire both dread and anticipation.

Wendy Fonarow is a Los Angeles–based anthropologist specializing in live music performance. She is the author of Empire of Dirt: the Aesthetics and Rituals of British Indie Music (Wesleyan University Press, 2006).