5. SHOUT OUT LOUDS — "Our Ill Wills"
Like many cool records coming out of Sweden these days, Shout Out Louds' second album, "Our Ill Wills," was produced by Bjorn Yttling of Peter Bjorn and John. It's a lush, highly expansive sounding, extremely orchestral record full of emotion and beauty. Lead singer Adam Olenius sounds a lot more like Robert Smith of the Cure than he did on the band's debut. The nice orchestration recalls gentler indie-rock bands like Camera Obscura and Belle & Sebastian, while at the same time there seems to be a hint of Spector-esque "Wall of Sound" influence. The string sections can be monumental. This makes tracks like "Tonight I Have to Leave It" seem huge. It also makes for an appealing record, jam-packed with hooky melodies and heartbreak. Quite simply, it's a beautiful, nostalgic, romantically driven record.
"Tonight I Have to Leave It"
6. THE GO! TEAM — "Proof of Youth"
The Go! Team is very hard to classify. Old-school hip-hop MCs and solid break-beats collide with washes of rock guitar, cheerleader chants and fuzzy sounding music that recalls both "School House Rock" and the campiest of Vince Guaraldi's score work for "Peanuts." "Proof of Youth" is their second album, and it continues and betters the formula used on their debut "Thunder, Lightening, Strike" It is much more confident than that record was, and its bold eclecticism creates a striking concoction destined to be the soundtrack to many hip parties. They must be doing something right. They got Chuck D from Public Enemy to guest on "Flashlight Fight." Try to track down the edition with the bonus disc so you can hear the song "Milk Crisis."
"Grip Like a Vice"
"Doing It Right"
"The Wrath of Marcie"
"Patricia's Moving Picture"
7. LAURA VEIRS — "Saltbreakers"
Laura Veirs is a mild mannered singer-songwriter with a fascination with geological elements and "Saltbreakers" is the career triumph she's been long due. Sure, not many people have heard it, but many people should. "Pink Light" will catch your ear with its main guitar riff, and haunt you all day. In fact Veirs' songs often rely on haunting, sparse backdrops, while she delivers her lyrics in a gloriously deadpan way. There are moments of levity, like the upbeat title track, but mostly these are sweet, lovelorn odes of self-reflection.
Favorite Tracks: "Pink Light"
"Don't Lose Yourself"
"Cast A Hook In Me"
8. LILY ALLEN ? "Alright Still"
Released in the United States in January, Lily Allen's "Alright Still" is proof that there are pop albums that hipsters can like. With producer Mark Ronson by her side, Allen sings reggae and R&B infused songs packed with attitude. Her level of sass and use of humor are very distinctive, whether she's singing about an upset ex-boyfriend ("Smile"), describing a London street scene ( "LDN") or singing about her underachieving brother ("Alfie"), the wit and delivery are all her own. You want to hear what she has to say, and yet at the same time, you know that you'd never want to cross her. Her voice is often sweet, but her lyrics are often pointed and unforgiving. She seems like she might be a troublemaker, but that's part of the fun. Her intelligence and her attitude make her stand out in the field of vacant pop-stars, which makes her seem all the more authentic.