Luke's Best of 2010

Six months into the year isn't normally a time in which best of year posts happen, but such is the way things happen on Tuesday's on the Phone. That said, I humbly present my favoriate ten albums of 2010 (note that there has been a change to the 2009 list, as Darwin Deez has moved from 2009 to 2010 due to his album being 'officially' released in 2010 after signing a record deal.  Wild Beasts have taken his previous place in the 2009 list).

P.S. Blogger, your formatting and list of features is atrocious.

10.) Laura Marling – I Speak Because I Can
View my album review here

9.) Spoon – Transference
View my album review here

8.) Field Music - Measure
View my album review here

7.) Vampire Weekend – Contra

Not much to say here… just quirky, catchy, incredible tunes.

6.) Radio Dept. – Clinging to a Scheme
Radio Dept. are the unlikeliest of top ten albums when it comes to my list: a band once at the top of my ten best who were completely left off after a sub-par release. Most of these bands never make it back on to my list (see South, Doves, Mellowdrone, Hope of the States, etc.), so the fact that Radio Dept. were able to make my list (especially at such a high number) speaks volumes about the quality of the record they produced.

Finding a happy medium between the noise-rock and shoegazey goodness of their debut and the annoyingly 80s inspired followup, Clinging to a Scheme finds Radio Dept. at their depressing best with catchy choruses swathed in luscious reverb.

5.) Darwin Deez – S/T

This abum was actually the 10th on my list for 2009, however, it saw an official release with absolutely no changes to its tracklisting or its recordings, so I have moved it to 2010 not only to properly categorize it because both this album and the Wild Beasts album from 2009 which took its place on last year’s list have grown on me in a huge way.

This is among the most unique and eccentric albums I’ve ever listened to and been a fan of… songs about corporate suicide, absolute hatred of another individual, nuclear war, and heartbreak are all present, with enough emotional luster and charm behind each to make them completely believable and absolutely lovable.

Forget the fact that the only drums present are electronic snare and bass (in that order, over and over), or that he sounds somewhat like Julian Casablancas and Jonathan Bates (Mellowdrone) and focus on the brilliant simplicity of the songs, their clever lyrics, and the pure joy of listening to this music.

4.) Broadcast 2000 – S/T
Folk music, or at least a modernized version of it, has made an impact on over the last year-and-a-half with Avett Brothers and Mumford and Sons (Top Ten also ran in 2009) making significant popular inroads. However, the best modern folk album over the course of this time belongs to a single man operating under the recording name of Broadcast 2000.

Every second of vocals on the Self-Title debut is double tracked with a harmony and accompanied by a sparse menagerie of plucked guitars, violins, cellos, and almost entirely created percussion. A bass drum can be heard for effect on occasion, but each song’s percussion is essentially hand-crafted from finger snaps, hand clips, string slaps, and guitar body tapping. The fact that this is almost completely unnoticeable within the beauty of the songs is remarkable and speaks to the fact that the songs present on this album are truly infectious, heartfelt, and gorgeous.

It’s an album which serves as a perfect soundtrack to the first warm day of spring.

3.) Stornoway – Beachcomber’s Windowsill
An album of truly literary proportions, Beachcomber’s Windowsill is a remarkable feat. Sounding somewhere between the space occupied by traditional irish drinking songs and straight 1971 folk rock, Stornoway unfold their songs like three-part, epic novels, layering lyrical themes upon each other on each track until they each reach their culmination. Rarely are lyrics treated with as much importance as the music, particularly in a genre in which songs can sound like retreads.

2.) Mystery Jets – Serotonin
I’ve listened to no album more than Serotonin in the last 12 months, which not only hints at my weakness for well-produced and executed indie-rockpop, but also highlights my transformation from someone really only interested in the Jameson Czech and Jordan Biniker trademarked “Sad Bastard Music” to someone much more at home with an album built around surprising and fresh songcraft, top-notch musicianship, and stuck-in-your-head-for-a-month melodies.

My top ten lists over the previous few years has shown a major shift from “Sad Bastard Music” to less intense, more melodic fare, but the culmination of that movement is, quite obviously, 2010. Serotonin, along with 4 other albums on my top ten, is pure pop mixed with a heavy dose of vintage rock-hat tipping, and it is easily the best example from 2010 of my predilection for this type of infectious and completely addicting pop-rock.

Serotonin, in contrast with High Violet, does not require multiple listens to fully grasp, but it does become more spirit-raising with each additional listen, until it is nearly imperative for the listener to sing along at the top of their lungs.
It is a completely joyous, raucous, and lovable album full of 1970s choruses, blatant melodic rip-offs, and pure fun.

1.) The National – High Violet
There are few nearly perfect albums; those albums which upon first listen immediately grab the listener in a unique and new way, which grow in complexity upon repeated listens, which have absolutely no throw-away or inconsistent tracks.

High Violet is not a perfect album, but it is quite close. I previously thought that The National had peaked with Alligator and would follow a path similar to bands such as Doves, South, and Hope of the States in terms of their relevancy to my progressing listening moods, but High Violet reaffirms not only their formidable standing in current music, but propels them beyond what I thought they were: a heavily underappreciated, but ultimately somewhat flawed indie rock band.

High Violet proves The National to be among the most significant and continually pertinent musical acts operating today. It’s only downfall (in my eyes), the rather lackluster “Runaway”, which feels like an afterthought, does not weigh it’s brilliance down as songs with the resonance and import of “Sorrow” and “England” perfectly partner with the noisiness of “Terrible Love” and “Bloodbuzz Ohio”.
High Violet is, quite simply, substantial and significant.


Read Users' Comments ( 0 )

2010 Songs of the Year (Jameson)

I have not done a true year-end songs list for a couple of years, so I figured I would give it a shot. One song per artist. Due to my general lack of time to pore over these write-ups like I used to (and hoping not to run out of gas prior to year-end), I am going to keep these brief. Also, if I think about this too long, I will probably move the list around a bunch. That being said, my top ten songs of 2010.

10. "Linus Spacehead" - Wavves: I love songs with a tight little rhythm section. The penultimate track from Wavves' pretty solid (and much more paletable) third album, King of the Beach, has just that. Throw in Nathan Williams' intermingling of beach pop and grunge, and "Linus Spacehead" is three minutes of what I imagine the underbelly of Southern California to be like.

9. "Dance Yrself Clean" - LCD Soundsystem: The first time I listened to the opening track of LCD Soundsystem's third (and final?) LP, This Is Happening, I was bewildered as to why the volume was so low. I turned up the volume on my receiver, assuming that it was just a glitch in the website from which I was streaming the album. At about the three minute mark, I was subsequently blown away by drums and a fuzzy bass line. I never turned the receiver back down. Mission accomplished, James Murphy.

8. "Infinity Guitars" - Sleigh Bells: The first one minute and fifty seconds of this song sounds like a cheerleading squad chanting about cowboys and indians over a Kinks sample. The last forty seconds will rip the guts out of your speakers.

7. "Monster" - Kanye West: When I read that Justin Vernon (of Bon Iver, Volcano Choir, and Gayngs fame) worked on about ten (!) songs for the new Kanye West album, I had no idea what to expect. Then Mr. West released "Monster" as part of his G.O.O.D. Fridays project, and I saw that Vernon and Jay-Z both guested on the track. I was more than intrigued by that kind of firepower backing Kanye. After hearing "Monster" for the first time though, all I could say was, "How do you spell Nicki Minaj?"

6. "The Weekenders" - The Hold Steady: I will cut the suspense right now. The Hold Steady's fifth album, Heaven is Whenever, did not make my 2010 albums of the year list. If you are reading this blog, it has to come as a bit of a shock. A combination of a patchy album and what was a great year for music kept one of my favorite bands making music today out of the running. There were still a few tracks on the album that make it worth your time though. "The Weekenders" is one of them.

5. "The Diamond Church Street Choir" - The Gaslight Anthem: Some people have described the Gaslight Anthem as sounding like "a Bruce Springsteen led pop punk band". After hearing the soul and jazz rock and roll of "The Diamond Church Street Choir", I think we can drop the pop punk piece of that description.

4. "Bloodbuzz Ohio" - The National: "Bloodbuzz Ohio" is pretty much textbook National; the drums drive the song while everything else swirls around on top of them. Of course, Matt Berninger (who, like the rest of the band, is from Ohio) adds the teeth by singing about the buzz one feels when returning home. Like any good drunk, there are highs and lows, but for better or worse your home is who you are. In other words, its in your blood.

3. "Cousins" - Vampire Weekend: There were a myriad of sounds on Vampire Weekend's sophomore album, Contra. Most of them polished. However, the raucous, screwball rock of "Cousins" was my most played track of 2010. Sandwiched between two (spectacular) songs that rely on some form of inorganic synth or beat ("Run" and "Giving Up the Gun"), "Cousins" was a welcome, angsty response to the VW haters.

2. "Younger Us" - Japandroids: From a blog post earlier this year: "If you read this blog, then you know I am a big fan of the Japandroids (#2 album of 2009). If up until this point, you have disregarded the Japandroids...well, every day is another chance to turn it all around. The formula has not changed here on "Younger Us" (single they released a while back as part 7" series they are doing this summer), and I don't think anyone is complaining. Fast, fuzzed-out guitars. Drums that are about ready to bust through the floorboards. Two guys singing their assess off. HUGE hooks that will make you nostalgic for a time you don't even remember."

1. "All Delighted People" - Sufjan Stevens


Read Users' Comments ( 0 )

Allo Darlin - "Kiss Your Lips"

Only because I have a soft spot for twee and Weezer references....


Read Users' Comments ( 0 )

Songs to run by

A fellow runner recently told me that they had never run with music, and then asked me if I had any suggested listening. Honestly, I was a little disgusted by the whole “running without music” thing. I mean, I know this person has run a lot...and all without music? I guess it makes their running achievements all that more impressive. I mean, a whole marathon with nothing but your inner-monologue? That’d be bad business for me.

It got me thinking though. What makes certain music better to run to than other music? Like any music categorization, it is all very personal. I mean, I think most would agree that something upbeat traditionally trumps something slow, but I would argue that is not even always the case (especially on longer runs). Personally, the songs do not have to be great, but they have to be working towards something, or have something that gives me that extra push when I may be dragging a bit. In fact, every song that I can think of when I try to think of songs that I love running to has something about it that lights a little fire in me.

As I have been a (somewhat) regular runner since I graduated from college (2006), I figured I would go back through the archives and look at what songs I have run to the most over the past few years. These are not in order of greatness (rather, alphabetical), but for better or worse, the 15 songs that I have run to the most over the last four years (ends up being about an hour of music). Also, below that list, I have included the five songs I have been running to the most over the past few months (just to keep things current).

Arcade Fire - “Neighborhood #3 (Power Out)” - Ironically enough, “Neighbordhood #3 (Power Out)” is one of Arcade Fire’s most energetic songs. The drums drive the song, and Win Butler and Company’s vocals carry the perfect level of desperation to keep me moving along. Pick-Me Up Moment: The verse right before the bridge (3:00 - 3:30ish) that ends with the line “you ain’t fooling nobody, with the lights out!”

Bloc Party - “Positive Tension” - Bloc Party are a great band to run to because their rhythm section is so tight (listen to the drums fill out that bass line) and Kele Okereke’s vocals are so earnest they will exhaust you just sitting there listening. Pick-Me-Up Moment: Breakdown leading up to the line “so fucking useless” (2:35 - 3:25).

Frightened Rabbit - “The Modern Leper” - Frightened Rabbit write bleeding heart lyrics and sing them at the top of their lungs (in thick Scottish accents) over rollicking rock and roll. Sign me up. Pick-Me-Up Moment: Entire song from 1:50 on (starts with the line: “So I cut out all the good stuff, yeah, I cut off my foot to spite my leg”).

The Gaslight Anthem - “1930” - The Gaslight Anthem are at their most pop-punk here. Drums going a mile a minute (just trying to keep up with the guitar I guess). I always exhale right with the music at 1:55 (and then finish it off with a nice little air drum). Pick-Me-Up Moment: The end of the song where it gets all slow (2:50) and then the drums drive right into that awesome close with the two singers singing over each other.

Girl Talk - “Smash Your Head” - If you are not familiar with Girl Talk’s intricate brand of mash-up’s, then “Smash Your Head” may catch you off guard (the first 10 seconds brings together Fall Out Boy, Clipse and SWV). Pick-Me-Up Moment: The moment of clarity when Chris Wallace spits “Juicy” over “Tiny Dancer” (1:30 - 2:30).

Japandroids - “Young Hearts Spark Fire” - I talk about this song on here all the time. If you have not checked it out by now, you never will. Your loss. Pick-Me-Up Moment: Drums/vocals throughout, but that whole part at the end where the music drops out a few times and they are singing just the “Ohhhh’s” (4:25-4:45) is pretty badass.

Kelly Clarkson - “Since U Been Gone” - If you don’t know why this song is on here, then you have not been in the vicinity of a radio since 2004. Upbeat, scream it out, rock and roll pop music. Pick-Me-Up Moment: The Yeah Yeah Yeah’s-esque guitar on that bridge into the final round of choruses (specifically the inflection in her voice when she sings “I get what I want” at about 2:35ish....if we are getting specific).

The Killers - “When You Were Young” - In 2006, the Killers tried to be a modern day version of Bruce Springsteen, and with “When You Were Young”, they kind of pulled it off. From its first crunch (about 3 seconds in), this song is just huge open-road rock and roll. Pick-Me-Up Moment: Brandon Flowers’ vocal performance on the whole damn song.

MGMT - “Kids” - I remember seeing that NME named “Kids” its song of the year in 2008 and thinking it was such bullshit (because I had never even heard it at the time). Now I can see how NME would make that call (though I still disagree with the placement) . Purposeful, slightly off-kilter electronic music with melody. I can run to that. Pick-Me-Up Moment: Like any warm-blooded person, I like the part where the music drops out, the kid screams, and then all the music kicks back in with the chorus (3:50).

The New Pornographers - “The Bleeding Heart Show” - This one starts out a little slow, but builds into an indie-pop flurry of drum rolls, jangly guitars, and harmonies. Pick-Me-Up Moment: A.C. Newman singing the line “the phantom taste, drinking wine from your heels” (2:02)...mainly because I know what is coming after.

Radiohead - “Idioteque” - I enjoy running to electronic music because it always gets me into a groove. This is likely due to the repetitive nature of most electronic music. However, “Idioteque” has more than that because outside of the driving bass, blips, and beeps, it has Thom Yorke singing about panic and apocalypse. Pick-Me-Up Moment: The way the entire second verse (starts with “Ice age coming” at about 1:50) feels more and more urgent even though Yorke barely changes anything about his vocal delivery throughout (sidenote: live versions - which are great to run to as well - you can hear the crowd go wild after the second is because Yorke is going nuts on-stage for basically the last minute of the song).

Red Hot Chili Peppers - “Can’t Stop” - I know this song has been all over the radio. However, I remember the first time I heard it (or at least noticed it) was actually at a house in Bowling Green. A buddy of mine (Nick) had stopped over at one of Lindsay’s friends’ places. It was not a huge group hanging out or anything, but it was a good group of folks having beers. Well, Nick got a hold of the ipod and made a playlist (no surprise). I remember there was a quiet when he started the playlist. Then this song played first. I remember thinking the intro was so epic (that was the word...epic). Five years later, and I have probably run to this song over two hundred times. Pick-Me-Up Moment: Aforementioned intro.

Stars - “Your Ex-Lover Is Dead” - This song starts with the line “When there is nothing left to burn, you have to set yourself on fire”. This song is about moving on..well, about re-hashing some stuff, and then moving on. This song is a dramatic mess of strings, heartbreak, and speaking your peace. This song is over the top. This song is great to run to. Pick-Me-Up Moment: When it feels like the song is ready to die, but fills back up again (2:55), and then Amy Milan starts with the line, “there’s one thing I want to say, so I’ll be brave.”

The Strokes - “Reptilia” - It is hard to pick something out of a Strokes song that makes it stand out because everything is so simple, but works so well together. Whether it is the way the rhythm section never misses a beat, or Albert Hammond Jr’s little guitar fills...the band always sounds on (at least on those first two albums). I am always a little partial to the grit of Casablanca’s vocals though. Pick-Me-Up Moment: That awesome line “the room is on fire as she’s fixing her hair” (2:27). Not just because Casablancas captured the electricity of sitting in a room on a Friday night with a beer while watching your girlfriend (wife) prepare herself for a night out with friends (and you), but also because Casablancas delivers it with the necessary zeal to really convey that feeling.

Vampire Weekend - “A-Punk” - Just a bouncy little pop rock number about a girl, a ring, and turquoise harmonicas. I love Vampire Weekend. Pick-Me-Up Moment: The rhythm section leading right into the “ey ey ey ey - ey ey ey” parts, of course.

Current Top 5 Songs to run by (as of 8.28.10):
LCD Soundsystem - “Losing My Edge”
The Killers - “Mr Brightside” (Jacques Lucont's Thin White Duke Remix)
Sleigh Bells - “Infinity Guitars”
Japandroids - “Younger Us”
The Gaslight Anthem - “Orphans”


Read Users' Comments ( 5 )

Wavves - "Linus Spacehead"

Everything you read about Wavves is sure to mention what an asshole Nathan Williams is. However, most everything you read will also mention how his music is pretty great every once and a while. "Linus Spacehead" is a pretty good example of this. At first listen, "Linus Spacehead" sounds in-line with the whole lo-fi beach pop thing that has been sweeping through indie rock these past couple of years. The repetitive cooing throughout has Noah Lennox written all over it (sidenote: is it ok to stop citing the Beach Boys on this stuff and start giving credit to the guy who really ushered in this sound over the past couple of years? Not saying Lennox wasn't inspired by Wilson and Co. Just saying Nathan Williams and Bradford Cox are on Panda Bear's jock, not Brian Wilson's.) However, what I love most about this song is the rhythm section. The way those quick drums fill in that groove of a bass line just has me bobbing my head throughout. Check it out...


Read Users' Comments ( 1 )

Japandroids - "Younger Us"

If you read this blog, then you know I am a big fan of the Japandroids (#2 album of 2009). If up until this point, you have disregarded the Japandroids...well, every day is another chance to turn it all around. The formula has not changed here on "Younger Us" (single they released a while back as part 7" series they are doing this summer), and I don't think anyone is complaining. Fast, fuzzed-out guitars. Drums that are about ready to bust through the floorboards. Two guys singing their assess off. HUGE hooks that will make you nostalgic for a time you don't even remember. Check it out...



Read Users' Comments ( 0 )

The National - Runaway (Live)

Lose our shirts in the fire tonight...


Read Users' Comments ( 3 )