#1- Dntel- Life is Full of Possibilities

This album was very important in my impressionable teen years. While I was bent on exclusively listening to music with two guitars, a bass, and drums, LiFoP called to me from a different direction. The digital down tempo album was scattered and calming. Built on subtle drones, soft glitches, and guest singers, Jimmy Tamborello created one of the most intimate albums I have ever heard.

The album opens with a quiet and distorted voice over rain, giving a sense of tranquil disassociation. Building with a simple organ and a digital shuffle of a snare and kick, the song blossoms into a 21st century glitchy LA nights anthem.

"Anywhere Anyone" is the next track, sung by Los Angeles' very own Mia Doi Todd. Her voice is classic and soothing and pairs perfectly with the slow tempo of the song. The simple lyrics seem to hit home with anybody that has ever been in a failing relationship, "How can you love me if you don't love yourself? How can I love you if I don't love myself?" Simple as they are, they speak volumes coming out of her mouth over Tamborello's music.

The next few songs are very subtle and almost vacant even. "Suddenly is Sooner Than You Think" was the song that first proved to me that a good song did not have to have a cluttered pop song structure. A slow few whimsical bass notes hold together scattered train sounds, distant voices, and samples reminiscent of sirens. Meridith Figurine's soft-spoken narrating vocals are more like intimate pillow-whispers than a sung song. The song moves into a swell of distortion that sounds like an ocean, glitches of soft boops and beeps, and a calming mechanical beat as Meredith continues to whisper her melody. This song is what taught me "Less is More."

The single off the album is one of the greatest songs ever. "(This is) The Dream of Evan and Chan" features the vocals of Death Cab For Cutie's Ben Gibbard. Generally, I don't like Death Cab, however, on "Evan and Chan", Gibbard's vocals and nostalgic lyrics strike a chord in my heart when laid next to Tamborello's soft static and samples. The song resonated so well in the indie music community that not only did numerous remixes surface, a top Billboard band did as well. Gibbard and Tamborello decided to further collaborate and created The Postal Service.

I obsessed over this album in high school and in college. I started emailing Tamborello as a weird 14 year old fan would, but surprisingly, he would respond. This developed a loyalty to a musician that I had never really experienced before. One of my teenage musical heroes was making good music AND was willing to discuss it with me. When I studied in France, his new album wasn't selling in France, so he mailed it and stuffed the envelope with stickers and a burned CD that had a weird b-side. I even asked him for advice when I had my little heart broken once (which sort of sucked because his advice was just about as hopeful as his music...). I even ran into him a couple of times at LA Dublab events. He makes great music and is a REAL person living on the Eastside.

I could really geek out over this album for a week, but I'll save myself the humiliation. Most of you have probably come across this album before. It might take a patient listen, but give it a shot. Put the album on when you are getting ready for bed- better yet- fall asleep to it. Drive in the rain to it. Cuddle to it. Whatever you choose, make this album yours somehow. It's truly sentimental, intimate, and groundbreaking. This album is the most important to me in my formative years because it steered my musical tastes into a whole new direction.


#2- The Good Life- Album of the Year

Tim Kasher is awesome. I knew that he would make it onto this list either in Cursive or The Good Life. Though I am a bigger Cursive fan, I felt that Album of the Year was his masterpiece. AotY is one of the best concept albums I've ever heard. It's a simple yet very relatable concept.

The album spans over the time of a year in a relationship, rise and fall of, with each of the twelve songs standing for a month of the year. Beginning in April, the protagonist (Kasher probs) meets his girl, who happens to be a bartender. The story progresses as the two fall into a comfortable and codependent relationship until suspicions of adultery arise ("Notes in His Pocket"). The girl confronts him and asks "Are you cheating on me?" at the end of "October Leaves". Kasher defends himself in "Lovers need Lawyers". She gets fed up and leaves him declaring that she "won't be [his] prisoner" ("Inmates"). The story wraps up in the aftermath of the relationship after she has found "A New Friend" and moved on, while Kasher is probably still boozing at home.

The album has folk influences and rings out that Saddle Creek sound. This can be credited to being produced by Saddle Creek Records' heavy-hitting producer, Mike Mogis. The songs blend perfectly into the next as far as theme and sound goes. A nice ensemble of acoustic guitars, mandolins, and percussive instruments hints at an appalachian folk album early on, but then stirs into dreamy accordion waltz numbers like "Night and Day". Some songs develop a wily and cluttered sound (not bad at all) and then blend back into quiet more moody numbers. "You're Not You" taps into a feeling we've all felt before. The song deals with the harsh realization that a loved one changes over time to suit his or her company. The sweet cadence and soft strummed guitars really pave the road for the point to get across here.

"Inmates" is one of the most epic songs I have ever heard in my life.The song is around 9 minutes long and somehow manages to never get boring. With female guest singer Jiha Lee taking the vocal helm, the song expresses the girlfriend's frustrations and boiling point when deciding to leave Kasher. Starting with just a softly picked acoustic guitar, the song develops into a duet with soft-spoken Lee and harsh-sounding Kasher over an ensemble of instruments. The end of the song reaches an incredibly cathartic climax of violins, guitars, drums, mandolins, and vocalists (including Jenny Lewis) crying out "I won't be your prisoner". This song has had the hairs on my neck on point for years now.

While many Saddle Creek records have been a big part of my younger years, AotY is the best piece of work to come out of Omaha. Listen to it from start to finish. Truly an inspiring album musically and lyrically.