The infectious rhythmic strum of “Two” hit the blogosphere like a wildfire earlier this year, and, fittingly, the rest of the album wandered into the stratosphere just as quickly. We’re hugely aware that Hospice is on nearly every major year-end list, and our inclusion isn’t obligatory. The album is simply that good. The soft underbelly of this album is, to me, the ease with which tracks impact the listener. Nearly orchestral arrangements cleanse tension and force contemplation. The lullaby beauty of “Bear” is fairly impossible to beat this year, and no matter which track listeners choose to chew on, an incredibly mature, complex, yet acessible album is what is left. It was a great year for music, folks, but Hospice sets the bar pretty high for everything else. To me, it stands pretty strongly with Veckatimest in lofty musicianship. It’s about as pristine as they come, weaving everything into its mix. Psychedelia, strings, synths, huge percussion elements, and the gorgeous harmonies are big enough to fill a stadium. Or, perhaps more listeners hit this record like I do, alone, with headphones and and undivided attention.
I don’t have a lengthy list of attributes that I’ll attach to this album today. That’s already been done, and everything’s been said about how great Hospice is. Instead, to me, what’s important is how this album manages to isolate me. When I’m listening to “Wake” or “Atrophy” I essentially leave everything else behind. Perhaps one marker for a great album is how much attention it requires, and if I’m accurate, this requires more direct contact than nearly any album released all year. Songs like “Kettering” somehow wire directly into my brain, the soft vocals sending me somewhere that can only be described as internal. For many of the tracks, the hypnotic rhythm is what snags me most, particularly in “Sylvia” and the off-kilter fuzzy bounce pulls me in every time.
I’ve spent a great part of the year with a careful eye on hype, trying my best not to fall prey to it; I suppose I like to think that I’ll stay ahead of the game that way. Nonetheless, many albums get hyped for a reason. I’ll concede this one with ease. Hospice deserves a top shelf housing in any modern music collection. Its swirling anthems will remain with me long after the ball drops tonight. If for some reason, this album passed you by, make it your first important purchase in 2010.
Check out the rest of our building “Best Albums of 2009″ list.