12. Spoon, “Hot Thoughts”
Curious how I really like exactly every other album this most consistent indie-rock combo has put out since Girls Can Tell—the rest aren’t shabby either, but, as with Gimme Fiction and Transference, this one’s just a little more solid than its predecessor. Chalk it up to leader Britt Daniels (Christgau once said of him, “Boy – what a tight-ass”) to exhibiting some newfound looseness and warmth while his songwriting instincts remain ever so snug. Not for nothing was the INXS-like title track their biggest radio hit ever, but it don’t let it overshadow the likes of the ultra-melodic, piano-pounding “Tear It Down”, hypnotic groove piece “Pink Up” or airy, sax-drenched (maybe they really do want to be INXS?) instrumental closer “Us”.
“Tear It Down”:
11. The Dream Syndicate, “How Did I Find Myself Here?”
The mere notion of Steve Wynn reviving his old band nearly thirty years after their last album seems unnecessary on paper (especially without long retired original guitarist Karl Precoda), but consider this—not only did it turn out his best album in well over a decade, it’s also… pretty vital. Go past expected barnburners “80 West” and “Glide” and you’ll find stuff that sounds like nothing Wynn or the band has done before, such as the title track, an eleven-minute jazz-rock opus that miraculously never wears out its welcome, or stirring, mid-tempo sigh “Like Mary”. And fellow long-lost band member Kendra Smith’s unexpected return on “Kendra’s Dream” is just icing on what turns out to be a very sturdy confection.
10. Goldfrapp, “Silver Eye”
Celebrated for never making the same album twice, Goldfrapp at first seems to be reliving their Supernature-era electro-glam glory days on opener and three-chord-wonder “Anymore”. However, all bets are off after that as Silver Eye gradually slithers off in another direction. Unlike the elegant, predominantly acoustic settings of Tales of Us, this opts for an equally atmospheric but darker, overtly synthetic tone. Apart from the occasional pick-me-up like “Everything Is Never Enough”, these songs mostly blur together, forming a distinct sonic whole—and this is not a bad thing. Rarely have Alison and Will stitched together such a consistent set of songs that seem to echo off each other, barreling towards a truly exciting finish on the tremendous “Ocean”.