Friday, December 31, 2010

The Best Records of 2010

#20 volebeats | volebeats

Matthew Smith, Jeff Oakes & gang fuse their usual blend of psych-rock & country pop with sometimes mixed results.

#19  marah | life is a problem
I consider myself a big fan of the band, devouring each new record, hoping anyone who'd listen would know how great they are. Life Is a Problem, their first without guitarist brother Serge, is an exalted, ramshackle, mess of a record that has grown on me over the year. I didn't like it much at first and found it rather disappointing, but the ensuing months revealed a few truths. It has a lot in common with The Basement Tapes, brother Serge needs to get his ass back in the band, and Within The Spirit Sagging is one of the best tracks of the year.   

#18   smoke fairies - through the light and trees
Debut record from British female duo Katherine Blamire and Jessica Davies. Haunting,  downbeat, sparse, folk/vocal harmonies that weave through filtered folk traditions and blues riffery. 
RIYL : Sandy Denny, PJ Harvey & Espers.   

#17  the len price 3 | pictures
Complaining that this is 60's derivative guitar based pop is impertinent. The LP3 are writing catchy, cockney, upbeat songs that every beat combo has done since the days of The Kinks & The Beatles. What’s not to like?

#16  teenage fanclub | shadows

Shadows, the Fannies eighth proper release in twenty years is a worthy addition to the legacy of a group that deserves a spot in the RnR hall of endurance. The dependable quality with which they have created music the last twenty years is astonishing. Yes, the days of loud guitars (Songs From Northern Britain) and sing-alongs (Sparky's Dream) are gone, only to be replaced by a more comfy landing-place, one still tied to their classicist pop leanings.

#15  the national | high violet
Given the fact that I had issues with their other records, I consider this my first "real" exposure to the band.  Bloodbuzz Ohio was the track that hooked me, and I still think of it as one of the best songs of the year. As for the rest of the record, cunning, cohesive, punchy and unwavering. Makes we wonder what they'd sound like without their drummer, cos he IS the straw that stirs the drink.. Vocalist, Matt Berninger seems comfortable staying within a particular vocal scale delivering his baritone melodies, and combined with his abstract lyrics, it seems to work.

#14   pernice brothers | goodbye, killer
At first, this short and very stripped down record felt like a lost Scud Mountain Boys record and a bit half baked when compared to older and lusher sounding affairs. The thing is, Joe writes brilliant songs with biting lyrics and after an initial ho-hum response I found myself playing the thing constantly. It might not be my favorite PB record, but it is yet another gem of a pop record by a guy that has yet to let me down.

#13  mary gauthier | the foundling

My first exposure to this was a couple of weeks ago, but in that time, it's left a big impression.
Drawing upon her life, this autobiographical concept record is at times, painful to listen to. Rooted in her abandonment as a child, Mary delivers a musical tour de force that's both affecting and convincing. I'm sure this would have placed higher with more spins. Wow. 

#12  bobby bare jr  |  a storm, a tree, a mother's head
How can you go wrong with My Morning Jacket as your backing band and your father co-writing a few of the tracks? This, Bobby's sixth release, finds him playful & profound, releasing his most personal to date, and, accordingly, one of his best, second only to the Young Criminals Starvation League.

#11  sunrise highway  | s/t 

Upbeat and lush, this 70's take on a classic pop format would have been right at home on AM radio sandwiched between The Beach Boys and The Raspberries. Great melodies, hooks and production.

#10  duncan maitland  |  lullabies for the 21st Century
On this, his debut, Lullabies for The 21st Century, Dublin native Duncan Maitland is joined by Colin Moulding (XTC) on the opening track and Barry O'Brien of Slumberjet/Pugwash on a few others. Intricate and complex, these arrangements are far more than ear candy, but a study in pop smarts. Every track is crammed with details that will have you going back for more. 
RIYL : Later day XTC, Beatles, Power Pop

#09   title tracks  |  it was easy

Power pop with all the typical influence, John Davis (Q and not U) has crafted an enthusiastic compact record full of friendly songs and good melodies that stays true to the album title

#08  the sadies | darker circles
Best absorbed and appraised as a whole. Darker Circles, the veteran roots rockers ninth official release is all about tone, atmosphere and vibe. If a Tele, B-bender, dread, sadness and something ominous is your bag, look no further.
RIYL: Clarence White era BYRDS.

#07  elvyn | the decline
Canadian pop never sounded so good. Imagine a slightly countrified Teenage Fanclub with stacked harmonies and songs.

#06  twin shadow | forget
I could not have imagined a record of this ilk charting this high, but these songs continue to surprise with every listen. I'm hearing a subtle nod to post-glitter Roxy Music, Power, Corruption & Lies era New Order and a big salty salute to Japanese icons, Yellow Magic Orchestra. While other similar music is "style" focused, George Lewis Jr. puts the spotlight on song structure. This is one of those records where the listener is rewarded with repeated listens. 

#05  free energy | stuck on nothing
Infectious, cocksure, irony free, derivative, enthusiastic, lighthearted, corny, 70's style, charming, commonplace, fun,fun,fun, stadium rock. Nuff said. As an aside, I can't think of a record cover that stays truer to the music.

#04  robert pollard | we all got out of the army
My love for the avuncular one from Dayton, OH, continues with this glam-pop, not too-rough around the edges, record. This was one of four released by Bob in 2010, and by far his most consistent. There is a part of me, actually a big part that wishes he would parse down all his releases to perhaps one or two a year. I guess part of the fun is weeding through all the muck to hit that Pollard sweet spot. Silk Rotor/I Can See = the best one/two punch to launch a record in Twentyten.

#03  mike stinson | the jukebox of my heart
Hands down, country rock, whatever you want to call it, record of the year.

#02  spoon | transference
I simply don't understand the hate levied against this record. The melodies are challenging, but rewarding. The instrumentation still shows off a sparse, strong versatility. While their experimental side is practically a no-show, the band regulates its rock vs rock-lite side with songs such as Got Nuffin and Goodnight Laura.  You might as well go ahead and add The Mystery Zone & Written in Reverse to those future best of Spoon Mixes, cos they're as good as anything they've ever done. Spoon continues their upward trajectory as a colossal band with considerable talent.

#01  the silver seas | chateau revenge
Harmony and Melody leads the way with this lavish, power pop, country rock, soft r&b (gulp) recording. Each track gives you something a little different held together by the musings of the most underrated songwriter on the planet, Daniel Tashian. Thinking it must be a fluke, I picked up 2007's High Society only to find, yep, no fluke. After an email exchange, I learned keyboardist/producer Jason Lehning is a major factor in the group, arranging most of the material. An indispensable record.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

The Best of Damien Jurado

Honey Baby
Big Deal
Air Show Disaster
Simple Hello
Gillian Was a Horse
Zombies Of The Sea
I Can't Get Over You
Cloudy Shoes
Rachel & Cali
Eyes For Windows
Letters & Drawings