Friday, December 16, 2011

Frank's Favorite Albums 2011: Vacation Away Edition

It's that time of the year again where critics line up to show you how much more they know about art than you and then end up picking Arcade Fire as their #1 album. This was a pretty shitty year for music but there were a few bright shiny parts as well. I will be making these post periodically without rhyme or reason (well maybe some rhyme) until the end of the year or until I have ran out of stuff I liked. Each post will be grouped together by some sort of banal theme.

This first post's theme is...Time for a Vacation! All three of these albums I put on frequently when I needed to escape into their musical getaways as the pressure of non-vacation world became too much. So allow me to be your guide through a tropical retro paradise, a fictional California town suspended in the 80's and finally a peaceful resort of indie soft pop delight.

Kid Creole and the Coconuts 
September 27 Strut Records

Even though this album's release landed at the begging of an already nasty winter season, this disc will instantly transport you poolside at some 80's rooftop coke party in New York. After a ten year absence, and a closer to twenty year quality absence, the Kid comes back hard with a hip and talented producer (Andrew Butler of Hercules and the Love Affair) to help smooth out those wrinkles time has left.

While it may be more subdued than his previous work, none of the fun or rhythm has escaped. Butler's work is more prevalent on some tracks than others like on the stand out track "I Do Believe" which would have fit perfectly on the last Hercules' release. August Darnell's equally humorous and lecherous song-writing remains in tact and shines most on the tracks like I Wake Up Screaming (In the Tropics), the story of a man who takes a young lady to the tropics only to have her brush off his advances. "Why you don't want to suck my toe?" Darnell ask the free loading temptress with all the conviction of a Zoot-suited man done wrong.

Summer Camp - Welcome to Condale
November 8 Moshi Moshi Records

The fictional California town of Condale is the setting for this magnum homage to the excess of 80's pop music. Elizabeth Sankey and Jeremy Warmsley serve as counselors for this retreat filled with big meaty synths, love lorn lyrics and a grab bag of hooks that wouldn't sound out of place on a Go-Go's or Human League album. I'll admit this album isn't re-inventing the wheel, but the solid song writing, great voices and unabashed fun this album exudes makes up for the lack of imagination.

Along with Kid Creole, one of the albums I had the most fun with this year, just wish they both would have come in the summer time instead of dreary autumn when I busy listening to sweater pop. This album got  flak for not being as "weird" the debut E.P. I can understand this criticism but I say bravo to Summer Camp for taking the risk and creating an album that progress the musical vision as opposed to most current buzz bands that regurgitate the same safe sound over and over. Production by Pulp guitarist Steve Mackey certainly didn't hurt either. I think these guys are making it in their homeland of the UK, don't know why that isn't translating over here.

The High Llamas - Talahomi Way
April 19 Drag City

Godbless you Sean O'Hagan and your beautiful consistency. I gave props to Summer Camp for changing up the formula between releases and I will give High Llamas props for doing the exact opposite. O'Hagan and company have cornered a very specific musical niche, easily described as Beach Boys by way of Stereolab, which was flirted with by many during the nineties. Fortunately O'Hagen's love of baroque pop escapism was not a fashionable one and he has been churning out quality work every 3 to 4 years for the past couple decades.

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