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Top Albums of 2009: #6 of The Hanukkah List

Eve Marcellus: #6

Antlers: Hospice

Brooklyn-based Peter Silberman shut himself away from family and friends to work on music. That is where much of what we know about the story of Hospice, the first full-length release from his band The Antlers, starts, and certainaly not where it ends. The Antlers, which he formed with Michael Lerner and Darby Cicci in 2008, released Hospice independently in March, and officially in August. The album is a musical journey through the process of losing a lover to cancer and both the lyrics and instrumentals contribute to the beautiful and painful expression of such an inexpressible experience. There are moments of remembered happiness, like on "Bear" one of the album's brighter singles, with its roaring chorus and subtly comforting verses. The album's other single, "Two" is one of the album's most emotionally expressive both lyrically and with the plaintively wailing vocals. Both are catchy and raw enough to listen to over and over again on their own. Like a bridge between them there is the haunting, dream-like track "Thirteen" which features vocals from Sharon Van Etten. By contrast, intensely static-y, almost dissonant tracks like the nearly eight minute long "Atrophy," add to the sensory experience which The Antlers have created for the listener. Obviously, Silberman's songwriting and the band's ability to compose a complete musical picture from these interestingly varied pieces is a testament to their outstanding abilities. It is hard to imagine comparing this album to other works, even by the same artist. And while the reception of their debut full-length was, according to many sources, a bit unexpected by the band, I hope we get to experience more of their honest and quietly beautiful sound in the future.

David Johnson-Igra: #6

Animal Collective: Merriweather Post Pavillion

Animal Collective's fan base seemingly grows with fanatic supporters paralleled by equaling detractors. Over the years, the group’s avant-garde sound has kept them an underground name. While critics will declare Merriweather Post Pavillion their “pop hit,” it’s far from pop as we know it. Each song is heavily textured with irritating repetitions, balanced by soothing melodies, breaking for bright hooks, and pulsating rhythms. Animal Collective’s music is so uniquely Animal Collective that it must, and can be appreciated as its own entity. On past albums like Strawberry Jam or Sung Tongs, the band has been faulted for their experimentalism, considered overwhelming for their confused concoction of tweets, chants, claps, styles and effects. It’s undermining to say the group has found a simplistic peace, but rather, it appears they’ve created a symbiotic balance. While in the past vocalist Avey Tare would let loose, chanting or echoing trails of tribal noises, on Merriweather Post Pavillion his minimalist restraint opens songs with punctuating hooks, and choruses. His vocals compliment perfectly the dissonant and disconnected Panda Bears lyrics on tracks like “Guys Eye,” or “Taste.” Meanwhile on songs like “Summertime Clothes,” the group’s experimentalism blends with a Beach Boy-esque pop, with crawling, crass synthesized effects dissipating into swinging rhythms that sway with harmonic progressions. With such varying effects and sounds, fans will debate favorites (“My Girls,” “Brothersport” or my personal “Guys Eye”), but no one can disregard the success of Merriweather Post Pavillion establishing a new “pop.”

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