Key Track:"Right Side of My Brain"
It’s been a few years since fuzzy indie-pop was all the Brooklyn rage. But while most of our local purveyors spent the year growing up, moving on, or washing out in various ways, London’s Veronica Falls compensated by dropping this perfectly styled debut. The secret to their vitality was preemptively escaping the reverbed-to-Saturn trap, instead starting at slick, brisk, and bookish. Late-period Velvet Underground as posh perfectionists with poor romantic luck? Yes, ma’am.
Key track: "The Way Things Go”
Cronin digs into the same vat of influences as his garage-rock buddy Ty Segall, but pulls out something that is much more melodic, at least at face value. His debut solo record (he’s spent time in Charlie & the Moonhearts and has collaborated with Segall for years) fleshes it out with funny little oddities: a flute here (played by Thee Oh See’s John Dwyer), a sax there, some whistling at the end. A reminder that even with psych-leaning rock being done a million times before, there are ways to make it sound better.
All Eternals Deck
Key Track: "Estate Sale Sign"
It feels strange to say that one of the year's most overlooked albums came from established indie rock veteran John Darnielle and the Mountain Goats, but it's absolutely true. After 2009's somewhat sleepy The Life of the World to Come, All Eternals Deck sees Darnielle sounding reinvigorated, full of ideas both musically and lyrically. All Mountain Goats records reward close listening, and this one does too—but it's also a relative blast even on first pass.
Key Track: "Green Aisles”
It was a good year for fans of jangle pop. R.E.M. splitting up reminded everyone to listen to Murmur again, while the Feelies released their first album in 20 years, which sounded every bit as hypnotic as they did pre-hiatus. But it was New Jersey’s Real Estate, with their sophomore album Days, who overshadowed the old guard with the year’s most effortlessly gorgeous release, one that combined surf-rock with shimmering riffs.. And it’s only going to sound that much better next summer.
Key Track: “Broken Bone”
The coldest fjords conceal the sweatiest basements. The mix of car-chase pace, car-crash noise, and drunk-tank slurring has been around awhile, but these Copenhagen teens made hurtling, white-knuckle post punk sound new again by virtue of it sounding new to them. You can’t fake the youthful energy it takes to boldly re-make these mistakes. (Or the pop sense it takes to give noise-punk such sly melody.) Beautifully corroded like a docked battleship. Jagged and heart-aching like a new toy, already broken.