Apparently this is the year for film inspirations...
I first heard Porcelain Raft in the trailer for Celeste and Jesse Forever, with their album opener, "Drifting in and Out." The dreamlike rhythm that did, indeed, drift in and out, carried me along, and I'm pretty sure I watched the trailer for that film more than once just for the song. Then, of course, I remembered that these were the internets, and not only could I find out WHAT song it was, but I could also buy the damn thing--which I promptly did.
The band reminded me quite a bit of Beach House, who also put out a pretty solid album this year, but something about "Strange Weekend" simply lulled me back time and time again, as this album ended up with some pretty heavy rotation. And I'm fairly sure that the few folks I made a mix for this year have, at least, one track from this album.
The one thing that I will give the naysayers is that the lyrics are, often, less than stellar. Most of the time, the songs tend to repeat their short chorus/verses, but it's one of those instances where the singer and his melodies grow into the songs themselves, the rhythm and beats and vocals all blending into one mesh of earhole goodness. Basically, I'm saying the lyrics don't really matter with music like this. Yes, it would be a plus if there was something profound in each song--though I do quite like the lyrics for "Backwords" and "Unless You Speak From Your Heart"--but the whole is much greater here than when you break it into the individual pieces.
What really made this album work for me is the fact that almost every track has become one that I've played, then replayed, then replayed again before moving on. Tracks like "Put Me to Sleep," "Is It Too Deep For You?" and "Shapeless & Gone" leave you hanging, wanting more, and the only way to get that is to press that double-arrowed button on your iPod to hear that song again.
And even though the album works as a cohesive dreamspace, each unit has its own feel and distinct emotion. The aforementioned "Unless You Speak From Your Heart" has an alternating circus/celestial feel. Bizarre as that sounds, it creates a melancholy that fits the lyrics perfectly. Same for "Backwords," as right from the humming intro to the slow building beat, it sucks you into this calm space that grows and grows until it makes you feel as if you'll explode with emotion and the only way to quell it, is to re-listen to the track.
While the whole album is worthwhile, any of the specifically mentioned tracks are more than worth your time--especially if your a fan of Beach House, possibly Radiohead, Washed Out, or any other dream-ballad from the 80s.
I think this is definitely an example of how much my music tastes have "chilled out," but if artists keep making music like this, I'm more than okay with finally growing into another sound.
BONUS BAND: Bombay Bicycle Club
I happened upon this band through an Amazon recommendation, and it was a mighty fine recommendation at that, too. After devouring their 2011 album, "A Different Kind of Fix," listening to the final track, "Still," more times than I'm willing to admit, I picked up their earlier albums and all three have been chosen frequently since I acquired them. Excellent stuff if you're into Radiohead, Sunny Day Real Estate, or Death Cab for Cutie.