The year is more than half over with the big push of fall releases to come. But before we get mired down in year-end lists, have you heard all the vital 2011 releases? Some worthy albums did not make our list (Decemberists, Nicolas Jaar, Tim Hecker, Julianna Barwick) but our list does include what the Spectrum Culture staff feels is the best of 2011 (so far). So what the fuck are you waiting for? Get listening!

demdikestare.jpgDemdike Stare – Tryptych [Modern Love] Released months ago – months which I’ve spent reviewing and consuming lots of music – the Tryptych release via England’s Demdike Stare still haunts me in July. The three-disc spooktacular opus, conjured by the hours of crate-digging and piecing-together of sound sources by Finders Keepers’ Sean Canty and DJ/producer Miles Whittaker, was initially intended as a soundtrack to a horror movie produced entirely in their imaginations. Using synthesizers and a seemingly endless well of forgotten, non-Western, indigenous music compilations, Demdike Stare (named for a 17th century accused practitioner of witchcraft) paint a sonic landscape where Lovecraftian savages summon their nameless ancient gods and stalking supernatural manifestations wait for you behind a barn door lit only by a full moon. While Tryptych’s three discs are too intimidating and disorienting to listen to front to back, taking a dose of its darkness one piece at a time is a consistently rewarding listen.

Besides, which of us really would be best served by hearing another goddamn reverby girl group-throwback record, a shimmering, nostalgic synth wankathon or a well-scrubbed, mustachioed trot down the imagined Good Ol’ Days of Pastoral Americana? Tryptych could be the Ouija board you need to unlock the sinister forces of the beastly within yourself. Or just open your ears up to something other than same ol,’ same ol.’ – Chris Middleman

Wild Beasts – Smother [Domino] Usually by the midway point of the year you can get a clear sense for what albums you were merely lusting over during first impressions and which were true love. Wild Beasts’ Smother may be one of the lustier albums of the year in terms of content but I’ve been in love with it since we were introduced. An ambitious, artful work that never loses sight of accessibility, Smother is the sound of an immensely talented band finally getting completely comfortable in their sonic skin.

Full of beautifully strong moments like the bare bones “Lion’s Share” and the cool, gentle “Albatross,” Smother is a rare work that functions as well in song form as it does as an entire album. The group’s proggier moments, like the twinkling “Loop the Loop,” serve either as delicate comedown points or post-apocalyptic lullabies depending on the circumstances. 2011 may see more accessible albums or more adventurous ones but it’s doubtful that there will be any other works that combine those two worlds as well as Smother, let alone in a way that is so beautiful and mesmerizing. – Nick Hanover

Waka Flocka Flame – Duflocka-Rant V.1[Brick Squad Mixtapes] Few rap artists today receive as much unwarranted hate as Waka Flocka Flame. I can hear the collective eye-rolls of the “Real Hip-Hop” contingent as I type that, but let’s be real for a second – there is very little difference between Flocka and beloved Boom-Bap bastions M.O.P.: both have an unorthodox beastly style, bellowing brutal lyrics over bass-heavy beats that cave-in all skulls that they haven’t already stomped with their charisma. Now that you’ve unquestionably accepted the reality that Flocka is every bit as “Real Hip-Hop” as his peers, let’s discuss why Duflocka-Rant V.1 is so great.

Excluding the inexplicable pun in the title, everything about the mixtape works. Flocka’s make-you-start-throwing-chairs-around-the-room style lends itself to the medium perfectly. The spin-backs fit and the DJ-drops become so overpowered by Flocka’s raw energy that it becomes almost a competition as to which can have the most visceral effect on the listener. While his releases are the most galvanizing to drop in the mixtape format since We Got It 4 Cheap-era Clipse, it’s for more than just Duflocka‘s aesthetics. Beginning with “Stereo Type,” Flocka breaks down why he sounds the way he does, allowing the rest of Duflocka to go from playground-melody threats to irresistible calls-and-responses, giving us everything that makes rap great. – Chaz Kangas

Tyler, the Creator- Goblin, [XL] Enough has been said about Odd Future in the media – are they homophobes? Are they insane? Is Tyler really as disturbed as he lets on? What exactly is an Earl Sweatshirt, and where can I find one? You’ll notice one thing these opinions and inquiries have in common: a distinct lack of discussion about the music. Say what you will about Odd Future, especially outspoken leader Tyler, the Creator, but it cannot be denied that there is something in their work that has kept them afloat this entire time, something that has eclipsed their work. But we’re here to talk about the work, and why is that?

Frankly, it’s because it’s fucking great. Goblin, Tyler’s long-awaited commercial release, is a deeply personal and perhaps unintentionally revelatory look into the mind of a troubled yet energetic creative mind. Tyler, dark, ominous production recalls the RZA (a comparison he would heartily condemn,) and his lyricism and subject matter betray his love of Marshall Mathers-era Eminem more than even his public persona could. “She,” perhaps the most talked about song on the album, features a electronic-tinged, bouncy beat that cleverly masks the possibly repulsive action of the words if one doesn’t pay attention. “Golden” has a stark, grim beat that only gets interrupted by violent synth stings that echo both the Shower Scene From That One Movie as well as giallo soundtracks and the doldrums of a fucked-up individual.

Goblin admittedly feels a bit long, but not a second feels out of place or misdirected- it’s a therapy session on wax, whether Tyler meant it or not, and whose therapy sessions are ever so linear? It’s by no means perfect, but it is a unique and macabre vision of where music has gone to, and possibly a look at where it’s going to go. Much can be said for stuff that comforts and familiarizes, but the stuff that shakes you up… that’s the shit that sticks with you, and Goblin digs its claws deep. – Rafael Gaitan

Cut Copy – Zonoscope [Modular] From the first synthesizer swell of “Need You Now,” the opening track of Cut Copy’s Zonoscope, the album begins to tickle your eardrums with a wistful sense of positivity. Driving but unobtrusive beats, bouncy guitar melodies and Dan Whitford’s voice, which seems to float around the music, all give the album a character that’s difficult to resist. Zonoscope will take a good run at cracking your most dour mood; lighten your existential crisis; make your hangover easier to bear. The best part is that it never basks in its own sunlight. Cut Copy takes joy from the sensation itself, bringing a sound heavily reliant on synth into the context of a rock band, while maintaining the danciness and visceral energy of both.

Zonoscope also represents the band at its most focused. Textures are cleverly built, and they grow and mutate as each song progresses, and while being underlain with catchy grooves. In this sense, the album-ending 15-minute long “Sun God” is worth the price of admission alone. Zonoscope is just an excellent album that sounds like a dance party in your ears. And it’s physically impossible to be unhappy while dancing. An album that sounds like happiness? I’ll dig that. – Jordan Ardanaz

Destroyer- Kaputt [Merge] By the time the malleable and downright molten Kaputt reaches track four, “Suicide Demo for Kara Walker,” the reasons for including it in this list are apparent enough. The long-legged gait of “Savage Night at the Opera,” the listing, unsteady lilt of “Chinatown” construct tangled edifices upon Dan Bejar’s disinterested vocal turns. But through the fog of flute hooks, “Suicide Demo” truly burns. Invoking, in a single stanza, “Brown paper bag, don’t stop me now/ I’m on a roll/ Plain brown wrapper in your pocket/ Is it still the invisible man you’re consorting with/ Woman?,” Bejar adds to it, almost blithely later, “Fool child, you’re never gonna make it/ New York City just wants to see you naked/ And they will.” It’s at once an ode, a requiem, a celebration and a screed. What’s (infinitely) more, the collaboration between Bejar and visual artist Walker is as mean musically as it is lean in verbiage. All of which says nothing of the remaining 55% of the album that lies beyond “Suicide Demo,” and the endless repetitions of it plaguing my speakers every time I try to get as far as “Downtown” or the title track. Kaputt‘s a hard road to traverse, but Bejar makes it worth it. – Joe Clinkenbeard

Vivian Girls – Share the Joy [Polyvinyl] In which the drone becomes dulcet tones. Cassie Ramone’s voice still out-monotones Jonathan Richman’s any day of the week, but Share The Joy drives the lovely Vivian Girls to places that are new but hardly unfamiliar. For example, would it shock you that the Vivs repertoire now includes several excellent surf-rocky guitar solos? No, it wouldn’t one bit – but, come to think of it, they’ve never done that before, have they?

Most of the punk snarl is gone, replaced in equal measure with lunatic schoolgirl harmonies and throwback girl group sounds. These elements were always there before, but they’re squarely front and center on Share The Joy. If “Death” didn’t have such dark subject matter, the Crystals could have recorded it. (Wait…they’re the ones who recorded “He Hit Me (And It Felt Like A Kiss).” Scratch that. Girl group records have always been fucked up.)

Sure, the title Share The Joy isn’t meant in a totally sarcasm-free manner, but there are lots of sweet moments here that don’t feel cynical at all. If making a song called “Dance (If You Wanna)” is wrong, I don’t wanna be right. – Ashley Thiry

If By Yes – Salt On Sea Glass [Chimera Music] If By Yes appeared almost out of nowhere, delivering a debut as electrifying as anything in the multitude of genres they effortlessly dabble with. One of 2011’s more colorful albums, Salt On Sea Glass is a distinctly sugar-coated piece of pop sans the simplicity and pretensions of Top 40. Rarely does R&B, rock, electronica and jazz weave so intricately together and with such finesse.

Songs like “You Feel Right” and “Still Breathing” drift on a myriad of seemingly stray instrument and vocal shards and raining speckles of synths that bounce and mingle together into such accessible gems. Petra Haden’s velvety vocals seductively command each track – not a weak link among the twelve – into ethereal whispers (the psychedelical breeze “In My Dreams”) and exhilarating climaxes (the soaring, enigmatic “Three as Four”). Each song offers a unique experience, from exotic world music (“Eliza”) to busy-bassline R&B (“Shadow Blind”) to Sonic Youth noise rock (“Adrift”), and never does the band try to plagiarize itself. In totality, Salt On Sea Glass acts the organic lifeblood for the band itself. And when the quartet consistently executes such offbeat luxury without resorting to straightforward chords, that’s just chemistry. – Jory Spadea

Lykke Li – Wounded Rhymes [Atlantic/ LL] Lykke Li was the beneficiary of a whole lot of buzz when she released her debut album, Youth Novels, in 2008. Nice as that probably was, it can be horribly daunting as well, with the same music aficionados who once offered celebration surely poised to summarily dismiss a follow-up that fails to meet newly inflated expectations. So she employed the only foolproof method for avoiding a backlash: she made an even better record her second time out. Wounded Rhymes has all the same arch, icy, pop cool of its predecessor, but adds a fierce earthiness. Comparatively sparse, open songs like “Unrequited Love” and “Silent My Song” almost sound like they could turn up on an especially steely Neko Case album. Most of all, it’s the eclecticism of the album that makes it special. There’s a very strong sense it can go anywhere with the turn of a track number, from undulating charge of “Youth Knows No Pain” to the spacey, girl group swoon of “Sadness is a Blessing” to the pouncing tribal beats of “Get Some.” Li approaches each song with a sense of exuberant adventure, bringing the fulsome best out of each track. It’s an album that strikes out with uncommon, enlivening confidence. – Dan Seeger

Noveller – Glacial Glow [Weird Forest / Saffron] We’ve seen a lot from Sarah Lipstate in the past three years. After releasing a 51-track, 29-minute album with Parts & Labor, taking on guitar duties for a Cold Cave tour, and performing in Glenn Branca’s 100-guitar ensemble, Lipstate focused on her guitar project, Noveller. In the midst of Toro Y Moi and Washed Out’s chillwave kingdom, Salem’s witch house sensation and Iceage’s post-punk amelioration, comes Glacial Glow an album without synthesizers, vocals or percussion.

Like Jimmy Page or Jónsi Birgisson of Sigur Ros have done in past, Lipstate drags a bow across her guitar, but not upright, laying it on an operating table of sorts and having her way with it. With countless pedals serving as Lipstate’s scalpel and bone saw, she shapes daring guitar architectures, finding devastation in singularity and beauty in negative spaces. The haunting spindles of warm discordance on Glacial Glow bare the purely introspective side of Grouper while drawing on the additive principles that Phillip Glass used in his Einstein on the Beach opera.

Hard to ignore too is the story of how Lipstate developed some of these effect-heavy compositions while in bed, exploring her instrument unamplified. Play this before you take a nap or when you want to get up slowly with the sun. Something magical could happen. – Sky Madden

The Weeknd- House of Balloons [The Weeknd] The man behind Toronto’s mysterious the Weeknd, Abel Tesfaye, obviously knows how to build hype. He released his debut for free via the Weeknd’s website then promoted the hell out of it using social media, all while hammering home that this was a new R&B act bubbling up out of nowhere. But when a whole generation of music consumers treats recordings like a free product, it takes a bit more than free downloads to make an album worth noticing. What makes The Weeknd’s House of Balloons more than just a forgettable mixtape is that like Lil’ Wayne’s Da Drought series, it’s also really, really sharp and wildly addictive.

Not that House of Balloons falls in the hip-hop camp. Instead, it’s alien R&B that emerges from some of the same slimy territory — weird, indie-set samples (Siouxsie and the Banshees, Beach House); hazy depictions of drugs, sex and lecherous combinations of the two; an atmosphere that finds the common ground between Portishead’s intensity and a failing ecstasy high. This is Top 40 gone good, writhing bangers done with woozy musicality and Ryan Leslie meets Michael Jackson vocals. House of Balloons is an optimal replacement for Chris Brown over the loudspeakers, preferably on a hot summer night, with lyrics that bounce between witty couplets (“From the morning ’til the evening, complaints from the tenants/ Got the walls kicking like they six months pregnant“) and unnerving outlines of a truly sketchy party (“Trust me girl/ You want to be high for this“). – Michael Merline

R.E.M.- Collapse Into Now [Warner Bros] Let’s not start by apologizing for what it isn’t. The post-millennial R.E.M. releases are inevitably, unfairly, perhaps unjustly assessed in terms of accomplishment only as related to the merits of their canonical and illustrious siblings. There will never be a New and Improved New Adventures in Hi-Fi: nor should there be, and nor should we want for that. What we do have from Stipe and company in 2011 is Collapse Into Now, an offering that surpasses the tendency towards middling praise. Better than “decent,” more gratifying than “satisfactory,” this is an album that at long last scratches the itch.

“Walk It Back” makes it beautiful; a subdued vocal performance from Stipe, a slow-stepping throaty vibrato but not without the treat of visiting briefly that emotive upper register. It’s a plain song, simply constructed; whole steps and long notes that play rather than plod; indeed it is a “walking back” of sorts to the reals and the elementals. From finding old ground to “flying on a star into a meteor tonight” in the half-melancholy, half-inspirational “Überlin” to the heartbreaking Katrina waltz that floods up in “Oh My Heart,” there’s a sweet, somber balladry on Collapse Into Now that glows and glows. “Discoverer” is a victorious opener, Eddie Vedder lends a loose, masculine verve to the joyful community harmonies and hums of “It Happened Today,” even the free-for-all toss-off of the album, “Alligator_Aviator_Autopilot_Antimatter,” delights, thanks to the unlikely partnership between Stipe and Peaches. Collapse Into Now is an album that can, will and does; if only you let it. – Stacey Pavlick

Washed Out – Within and Without [Sup Pop] Two years after releasing a set of EPs that helped to add the term “chillwave” to our musical vocabulary, Ernest Greene, a.k.a. Washed Out, returns with an album that pushes the boundaries of that very genre. The release of Within and Without shows that Greene is responding to his emergence from obscurity by recording music that seems intended for summer festival crowds rather than for the headphones of the similarly isolated, internet-surfing music bloggers that discovered him. On Within and Without, Washed Out broadens his approaches to making songs beyond the standard hip-hop producer style of his first two EPs. While that approach is still evident, Within and Without demonstrates that his skills as a composer go far beyond the tools and approaches of hip-hop production as strings, xylophones and piano often take the place of samples as textural elements. Of all his skillfully employed approaches and newly evident influences, none is more exciting that the fine line Greene walks between hazy electronica and full-blown pop catchiness, as exemplified on the standout track “Amor Fati.” Like other artists with isolated beginnings, Ernest Greene’s response to his newfound fame as Washed Out has been fascinating. Greene’s deft expansion of his sound on Within and Without is both impressive and unique, and shows a shocking amount of ambition for someone who began by making chilled-out electronica from a bedroom in his parents’ house. – Frank Matt

TV on the Radio – Nine Types of Light [Interscope] Nine Types of Light confirms something that was already obvious: TV on the Radio is the best funk band around right now. In the same way that groups like James Brown’s Famous Flames radicalized soul into aggressive, staccato party music, they’ve flipped the equation, twisting a steady base of sharp horns and falsetto vocals into a decidedly experimental framework, with their brass section acting as a pillar of stability amid dense, often bizarrely structured songs. Nine Types of Light furthers this experiment, a stripped-down, contemplative effort that’s just as piquantly oblique and imaginative.

Opener “Second Song” uses the warm trumpets at the center of the track as a magnet, pulling together the loose snatches of instrumentation it picks up along the way. Like many of the tracks here, “Keep Your Heart” functions as a deconstruction of how the band’s songs work, anchoring heaps of fuzz and noise to the soothing repetition of certain elements, in this case via strings and synths. In one of the band’s many dualities, guitars represent chaos, pushing tracks up toward madness, while horns modulate and relax. It’s another way they signify a progression from classic funk bands, employing brass not to punch through the genteel trappings of traditional structures, but to ground songs that have devolved into sonic chaos. – Jesse Cataldo

Shabazz Palaces- Black Up [Sub Pop] From the very moment that the jittery synth of album opener “free press and curl” kicks in, you know that Ishmael Butler, formerly of Digable Planets, has brought a totally unique vision to hip-hop in 2011. In the form of Black Up, Butler takes the jazz leanings and poetic, political rhetoric of his ’90s group and transplants it into a world of heady sonics and deep bass grooves coupled with shades of psychedelia. Maybe it’s because Butler hasn’t done much musically post-Planets, but Black Up, his debut LP under the Shabazz Palaces marker, comes across as a bold statement against creative complacency. Instead of rehashing his old tricks, he sets out to redefine the hip-hop genre and take it to all sorts of new, fascinating places. His usual thematic crux is there; Black Up devotes a lot of its lyric sheet to the African-American experience, a predominant theme in his earlier work. This record seeks to rip open the genre and reveal the hypocrisy that comes with it; how can a genre that rose from the ghetto have become so glamorized, so centered on consumerism? Lucky for us, Butler is unrelenting in his provocation and in his delivery. Black Up is a major statement by a major talent and one of the most unique and compelling albums of 2011. – Kyle Fowle

tUnE-yArDs – w h o k i l l [4AD] At first listen, w h o k i l l is an auditory sucker punch, its horns and ukulele downright punishing beneath Merrill Garbus’ bone-rattling voice. Driving her own brand of tribal funk, Garbus confronts questions of identity, seeking ways to become self-actualized when one’s actions are inextricably linked to the actions of others. “What’s a boy to do if he’ll never be a gangsta,” she asks on the album’s best track. Loaded with sirens and distortion, “Gangsta” captures much of the anger and frustration linked to class immobility; Garbus then turns this on its head with “Doorstep,” a heart-wrenching love song to the victim of a police shooting. Her voice, too, is transcendent, growing from the soothing trill of her lullaby “Wooly Wolly Gong” to the rolling boil of “Bizness,” a song she wrote about the recent earthquake in Haiti. One hears echoes of Aretha demanding r-e-s-p-e-c-t when Garbus howls, “What’s the business, yeah?/ Don’t take my life away, don’t take my life away!” Humanity and sincerity permeate her songs, such that cries to “Throw your money on the ground and leave it there–you, yes you!” sound like a rally slogan and not the usual bullshit. Loud, asymmetrical and aggressive, Garbus’s masterpiece challenges listeners to make it through the first track let alone all 10. Those who do are rewarded with some of the smartest, most unique songs released this year. – Katie Bolton

City and Colour- Little Hell [Vagrant] Despite the years-long love affair my ears have been having with Dallas Green’s voice, I can confidently say that my affinity for the man’s pipes is not the only reason why Little Hell is my choice for the best record of 2011 so far. Over the course of his solo career, Dallas has successfully upped the ante with each record, starting out with the entirely acoustic Sometimes in 2005, then adding drum and harmonica flourishes in 2008’s Bring Me Your Love to lead into the full band effect that is heard on Little Hell. While the record maintains the soulful union of folk and blues Green has always provided, it also introduces a funky, darker sound and presents them both with a live-show feeling provided by Green’s choice to make Little Hell an analog recording. Little Hell stands out to me not only for it’s proof of the music’s progression but also for the way it displays Green’s growth as a person and the role he has stepped into as a solo artist. Little Hell shows City and Colour as a musical entity standing out on its own, pushing it beyond the point of being called a side-project. – Sam Gordon

PJ Harvey- Let England Shake [Vagrant/Island Def Jam] In a year where boys are praised for playing with their iPads and laptops, leave it to an old-school rocker to produce the best album of 2011 (so far). PJ Harvey’s Let England Shake is a darkly rich collection of songs obsessed with Blighty, its bloody history and the true nature of patriotism. Working with Mick Harvey, Flood and John Parish, Harvey weaves together some of the best songs of her career that has spanned nearly two decades. War and death inform many of the album’s songs, from the World War I massacre at Gallipoli to England’s involvement in the War on Terror as the blood of the thousands slain soak into Harvey’s music. Songs such as “The Glorious Land” and “The Words That Maketh Murder” serve double duty as both paeans and protest songs alike while on “England” she complains, “You leave a taste/ A bitter one.” For those looking for another Rid of Me, you should look elsewhere. Harvey continues the vocal explorations she began on 2007’s White Chalk, singing in a haunting higher register, making the record an indirect homage to other English musicians such as Kate Bush. Evocative and chilling, Let England Shake, may be a place-specific album but one needs not be English to identify the currents running throughout Harvey’s songs, invisible wires that connect us as humans, providing those electric tingles of familiarity that touch us all. – David Harris

Let’s Wrestle – Nursing Home [Merge]The best albums of a given year don’t have to be revelatory or hot shit when it comes to establishing the newest musical trends. Sometimes consistency and a couple guitars are all you need. Let’s Wrestle’s first album, In the Court of Wrestling Let’s, was a fun dose of unpretentious British indie rock full of wit and scrappy production value. Their 2011 follow-up, Nursing Home, is more of the same. In a good way.

Frontman Wesley Patrick Gonzalez nails perfectly the experience of being a regular dude who doesn’t brood 24/7. Most of us aren’t thinking about the collapse of everything – most of us are describing our stupid dreams to our friends, wishing porn stars and rock stars alike would pop in for a visit and quietly looking back on the bliss of having few concerns living in the suburbs, except family dinner and video games.

That shit speaks to me the most – not epic lyrical tales of loves lost and whales or oblique indie noise. That’s all well and good, but sometimes you just want a bunch of dudes punching their guitars and shouting about having to move away at the end of the summer. As ambitious as we get, there’s nothing wrong with music that speaks to the quotidian. – Danny Djeljosevic

Fleet Foxes – Helplessness Blues [Sub Pop]Indie music fans tend to have high expectations of their heroes, but Fleet Foxes had it worst than most in 2011. After their rapturously received eponymous debut album in 2008, the Northwest folk enthusiasts had largely been silent, with only rumors of scrapped recording sessions and romantic woes to tide their audience over. But three long years later, sophomore effort Helplessness Blues was finally released, and miracle of miracles, was worth the wait.

What makes Helplessness Blues a great album (and a fascinating follow up to a career defining debut) is that singer/songwriter Robin Pecknold and company seem unwilling to simply replicate a formula. While elements of their vaunted choral harmonies, Pecknold’s distinctively piercing voice and their lush yet rustic arrangements remain, it’s a much looser and challenging album. Where they barely broke the five-minute mark before, the centerpiece of Helplessness Blues, “The Shrine/An Argument,” is a complex, tangled eight minutes-plus; similarly, where the band once kept to a strict tone of rural American romanticism, the new album adds elements of introspective self-consciousness and Middle Eastern tonalities.

Helplessness Blues is not the album fans may have been clamoring for, which is to say it’s not Fleet Foxes, One More Time. But it’s the sound of an ambitious band expanding beyond a sound that could have pigeonholed them for their entire career. It’s the sound of musicians growing past what was expected of them, and it’s a great album for that. – Nathan Kamal

Fucked Up – David Comes To Life [Matador] It’s gonna take something pretty fuckin’ incredible in the latter half of 2011 to knock off David Comes To Life as album of the year. More musically focused and conceptually ambitious than anything that’s been classified as post-punk or hardcore – save for, maybe, Zen Arcade – this concept album will be remembered years from now as one of indie’s defining guitar/bass/drums rock records. When a batch of songs is this good, prophecy is easy.

The songcraft throughout is masterful: layers of guitar act as the songs’ building blocks and are the album’s defining trait – aside from Damian Abraham’s screaming – while rhythm guitar, drums and occasional backing vocals and harmonies give the songs additional depth. It’s impossible to cite specific songs as the best here, but after, perhaps unhealthily, listening to David on a daily basis for months now, I’m settling on “Queen of Hearts,” “The Other Shoe” and “Running on Nothing.” Or maybe “Ship of Fools” or “A Slanted Tone.” You get the point.

This is to say nothing of the album’s poetic and philosophical lyrics, the likes of which we’ve never quite seen in the post-punk/hardcore genres. Those scrooges who complain that modern indie is too artificial or can’t compete with its ancestors need only hear David Comes To Life to quickly reconsider that position. David will rightly be near the top of this year’s best-of lists, and I’m betting it will still be there when this decade’s musical history is eventually written. – Eric Dennis

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