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


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Allo Darlin - "Kiss Your Lips"

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


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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 chorus...it 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”


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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...


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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...



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The National - Runaway (Live)

Lose our shirts in the fire tonight...


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Song of the Moment: Late of the Pier - Blueberry

This post was begun almost a month ago, so it will very shortly be followed by several other song of the moment posts... however, this song is too good to pass up.

Irresistably creative in it's unoriginality, Late of the Pier have created a Beatles/Summer of '68 retread that is a perfect summer anthem filled with moments of nearly Animal Collective-like musical blemishes.  It only very rarely repeats itself note for note and word for word, which is almost entirely unheard of today, making for a song listen that sounds more like an album than a singular track.

Listen to the last minute and a half and tell me you don't think of Revolver... but also simultaneously tell me you think it's a ripoff... just try... it's very difficult.


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Laura Marling - I Speak Because I Can

This is the woman that crushed the heart of Noah and the Whale front man Charlie Fink, as was so obviously displayed on their 2009 album The First Day of Spring.

It's easy to see why he was so affected by the breakup... she is not only phenomenally gifted in voice, but she has a true talent for tapping into the classical songwriter vein that morphs this album from being simply another modern retread of vintage sounds and themes to sound like it was recorded long ago and been a lost classic, lusted after by collectors of obscure vinyl and remembered by modern listeners with an air of awe and reverence.

It has it's slower points that drag at times, but these can be easily forgiven due to the effect the entire album has upon the listener.  Marling will hopefully continue to grow into her status as a modern day songwriting heroine on future albums, but for now, I Speak Because I Can, has already cemented a place of acclaim in the current scene.


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2010 Tip - Chapel Club

So I banged on here a few months back about Chapel Club and the passage of time has only caused me to salivate more over their musical output thus far.  Embedded here are their first single, "O Maybe I", and its associated b-side, "Machine Music"... both are insanely catchy and addicting.

"All the Eastern Girls", "Surfacing", and forthcoming single "Five Trees" are also phenomenal and I cannot wait until the rumored September release of their first album... this is a band that will be huge in GB by the end of the year.


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2010 Tip - Warpaint

I am head-over-heels...

Somewhere between the vocals of Karen O and Kazu Makino (of Blonde Redhead), the guitars of Boxer Rebellion and Hope of the States, and the sensibilities of Slowdive and My Bloody Valentine, reside three very talented and beautiful women and a drummer with the percussive tendencies of Loz from Ride.

It couldn't get much better.

Elephants, Billie Holiday, Burgundy, Krimson, Stars, and Beetles all are phenomenal and all can be heard at their mypsace page here: http://www.myspace.com/worldwartour


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Upcoming Release: The Hold Steady - Heaven Is Whenever

If you read this blog, then you know I am a HUGE fan of the Hold Steady. If you have ever listened to the Hold Steady, then you know why; ultra literate rock and roll anthems. Well, they have a new album coming out, Heaven Is Whenever. Of course, all of the press release stuff has the band talking about how its a "more mature" sound and how "this album is really less anthemic than the last two". However, the three tracks we have been able to hear are pretty classic Hold Steady. The band cannot help but make high-climbing summer jams. Check out the links below to hear the three tracks that are out there. Looks like it will be another constructive summer.


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Jameson's Top 10 Albums of 2009

Seeing as it is almost the end of Q1 2010 (I operate on a calendar year here), it is probably appropriate that I officially close the books on 2009 by posting my top ten albums of the year. In short, 2009 was the first year in a long time where I did not have a clearcut "album of the year". Primarily, this can be attributed to what a solid year it was for music. There were great albums from so many bands that it was difficult for one band to really separate itself from the rest. 2009 will also go down as the year that the music elitists gave us (and the bands we love) clearance to let our hair down a little. A number of historically "dense" bands released what will probably be considered their "pop" albums in 2009. Enough of the prologue though. Let's get to the list.

10. Jj - JJ N° 2
First of all, I have not even included the actual album art for this mysterious Swedish band's debut album because I feel like it would unfairly cause people to pass judgment on them without even giving it a shot. Frankly, it looks like something that would have come out of Death Row records in the mid-90's, and I don't know if these guys could sound any further from Snoop or Dre. JJ N° 2 falls into the whole balearic beat genre that tends to move in and out of the good graces of the music gods from time to time. When done poorly, it can serve as the background music at a cruiseliner all-you-eat buffet. When done well, it sounds like this. This album is like nothing else I listen to, but something about it has drawn me in from the first time I caught wind of the band, Jj (sidenote: no one knows ANYTHING about these guys. No pictures. No bio. Nothing.) The whole album is less than 30 minutes of ambient pop music, melodic female vocals, and traces of acoustic guitar/dub beats laced throughout. The album radiates summer, or at least some place warm and sunny. Pretty tough to out-relax that.

Link to download "From Africa to Málaga": http://www.sincerelyyours.se/yours0113.php

9. Phoenix - Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix
In a time when lo-fi has become synonymous with indie rock, Phoenix are making it pretty clear they have nothing to hide from. I mean, everything on Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix is right in the foreground. With songwriting as good as this, it is understandable why. I am not sure that any other band had as strong of a one-two punch as "Lisztomania" and "1901" to start an album in 2009. I have even argued that these songs are so good that it hurts the album's flow to sit them both so far up in the batting order (i.e. it is hard to get through the entire album when you keep starting it over to hear the first two tracks again). Sequencing aside, the rest of Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix is a spectacular mix of slick-produced pop rock music that drifts in and out of the realm of electronic/dance that has always lifted the band's sound off the ground a little bit. Who would have thought the most rock and roll thing you could do in the 21st centry would be going hi-fi?

Link to download selected live versions of songs from Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix: http://wearephoenix.com/observer/

8. Dirty Projectors - Bitte Orca
The first minute of Bitte Orca pretty much primes you for the entire album. There is the off-kilter rhythm. The jangily unconventional guitar bouncing on top of the bubbling bass. Dave Longstreth's acrobatic voice ranging all over the place, reeled in (and beautifully juxtaposed) by the female harmonies of Amber Coffman and Angel Deradoorian. If you can't make it through those sixty seconds, then you should probably move on (as many do), and save the Dirty Projectors for someone a little more ambitious because once you get to the album's second track, "Temecula Sunrise", all of that idiosyncratic stuff I just mentioned is out in full force. Freak flags are flying high. In the middle of all of this off-beat rock music are two tracks ("Stillness Is the Move" and "Two Doves") that showcase just how talented Coffman and Deradoorian are on their own. The former (which features Coffman on vocals) is an R&B genre exercise, and the latter (which features Deradoorian on vocals) a sparse folk/strings number. Both are beautiful and serve as a nice breather amidst all of the guitar pop definition stretching. What's really crazy is that all of this is a reigned in version of the Projectors. I mean, the band's last album, Rise Above, was Longstreth's reinterpretation of the hardcore punk band, Black Flag's, first album, Damaged (sidenote: Longstreth claimed to have not heard Damaged for fifteen years leading up to the project, and, of course, chose not to listen the album prior to, during, or after embarking on the project). Genius has its qwerks, I guess.

7. Blue Roses - Blue Roses
Anytime a female musician comes in and knocks are socks off, we are immediately presented with comparisons to the same three female rock stars: Joni Mitchell, Stevie Nicks, and/or Kate Bush. To be perfectly honest, I rarely listen to any of those ladies' records. We compare artists to other artists because it makes our lives easier. Why think of something original to say when I can just say, "It sounds like Stevie Nicks cerca Tusk." Well, I am sure that Laura Groves (aka Blue Roses) sounds like some other female artist that has come before her, but I don't care. Primarily because this this album sounds better than any other female folk/singer-songwriter I have ever been lucky enough to hear. While only 21 years old, Groves never plays the novice here. Nevermind the spectacular self-harmonization (wonder how she pulls that off live), the infectious melodies, or the perfectly composed strings...this girl can play an acoustic guitar as well as any of her male counterparts. Probably the most immediately beautiful album on this entire list. No surprise it comes from a female.

6. Justin Vernon's 2009 Output: Bon Iver - Blood Bank EP, Bon Iver - "Brackett, WI" & Volcano Choir - Unmap
A bit of a copout here, but just look at it as a "two-for-one" moment. Vernon is certainly indie rock and roll's golden boy these days, but it is for good reason. "Blood Bank" may be my favorite (for sure my "most listened to") song of 2009. Vernon's ability to envoke emotion in his listeners is unbelievable. I think everything this guy records (under any moniker) has me on the verge of breakdown, and I have no clue why. The songs manage to become my memories (even though I have never been trapped inside a car, in a snowstorm, with a girl, and a Snickers...after listening to "Blood Bank" a hundred times, I vaguely remember this happening to me). Let's be honest, it is that voice. No one else is singing/has sung/or can sing like Justin Vernon. That haunting falsetto just blows a sepia toned emotion over whatever this guy is recording. The songs are all there to hold everything up though. If you are still on the outside looking in on the Justin Vernon stuff, it is time to come in from the cold.

5. Wooden Sky - If I Don't Come Home You'll Know I'm Gone
If it were not for this album, Justin Townes Earle's Midnight At The Movies and/or the Avett Brothers' I And Love And You would have been on this list. However, a group of Canadians managed to make the best alt-country album of the year, knocking off the aforementioned "southern boys" from the list. This record takes the great parts of country music (slide guitar, banjo, self-reflective guilt), earnest songwriting, and a perfect mix of honky tonk/unchecked emotion, throws them all together to create what is probably the best late night, whiskey in hand, soul searching record of 2009.

4. Antlers - Hospice
A concept album about a man meeting, falling in love with, and ultimately losing a bone cancer patient. Hospice is about as exhausting as it sounds, but that does not mean it should be avoided. The album is as epic as its premise. Antlers' mastermind, Peter Silberman's, falsetto soars through the mix of ambient rock noise, never rising above the chaos, but always situated right in the middle of the mix. All the while the music hits all the highs and lows that one would expect from a soundtrack to such an affair. Furthermore, the album's entire running has a fuzzy fog draped over the production that makes every track feel like a rainy day in late October. I realize none of this (especially as we are entering spring) sounds all that enticing, but Hospice (as you can see by my ranking) was one of the most cohesive albums to come out not just in 2009, but in the past few years. It can't all be fun and games.

3. Animal Collective - Merriweather Post Pavillion
It is truly a testament to Animal Collective's ingenuity that Merriweather Post Pavilion is identified as their most accesible album. The album is drenched in the trademark Animal Collective sound. Repetitive in every sense of the word. Driving rhythm derived from anywhere between the everlasting gobstopper machine and a group of wired teens stomping on a soggy gym floor during a carnival. Vocals/harmonies that sound so far above the clouds that it is no surprise that you are more likely to find the name Brian Wilson in a Merriweather Post Pavilion review than Noah Lennox or Dave Portner. In other words, this album is unmistakably Animal Collective. So when did that become pop music?

I guess the short answer is 2009. At the end of a decade that opened with a popular rock band changing the game by "going electronic", it seems appropriate that Animal Collective would close out the 00's by amping up their underwater junkyard sound, as well. However, where Radiohead used electronic music to dive deeper into a cold, dark paranoia, Animal Collective used it to brighten up their sonic pallette. The result was an album that had critics swooning, moved units, and felt warm and sunny even upon its release in January.

Ultimately though, an album is measured by its high points, and Merriweather Post Pavilion is brimming with them. The point (approx. 2:30) in "Guys Eyes" when someone rights the stylus. The clearout (approx. 3:00) of "Brother Sport" when the repetitive yelps are broken by another "Matt!", leading into that throat opening outro. The drum roll into the "Oh!" during the chorus in "My Girls". All fantastic moments that will have even the least open-minded music listeners singing and dancing. I can't think of a better benchmark for pop music.

2. Japandroids - Post Nothing
Two (Canadian) guys with an electric guitar and a drum kit are responsible for Post Nothing. So how does it sound so huge? The short answer is heart. Honestly, this album is fists in the air, scream at the top of your lungs, pounding out the drums on the steering wheel with the windows down, massive. The album essentially starts off like a few shots of cheap booze, rages for thirty minutes straight, and then brings you down with a (pretty badass) fuzzed out ballad about swearing off girls. The lyrics are minimal, repetitive, and great to yell along to, resulting in some of the best hooks of the year (see: "She had wet hair, say what you will, I don't care, I couldn't resist it" or "You can keep tomorrow, after tonight we're not gonna need it"). This is one of those albums that makes me wish I were in college again because I feel like my life is far too domesticated to truly enjoy an album this fucking wild.

1. Grizzly Bear - Veckatimest
Not a whole lot to say that has not already been said around here for this album. If the Japandroid's album is underappreciated due to my presumed maturity, then Veckatimest, Grizzly Bear's third LP, is benefiting from my current life situation. I am not sure the twenty year old version of myself would ever have even taken the time to appreciate the subtleties of Veckatimest. The intricate, slow building chamber pop would (understandably) have been cast aside for something I could (try to) play at a party we were having. If you think about it though, this is not some grand revelation. What we listen to is usually somehow linked to what is going on in our life. Music is basically another form of self-medication that enhances, or helps us cope with, whatever we are going through. That being said, I must be getting old.


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2010 Tip - Stornoway

Bringing together elements of Mumford and Sons and their Oxford brethren Whispering Bob (pre-Goldrush era Goldrush) along with a penchant for catchy harmonizing, there's not much not to like about Stornoway.

This particulary track, "Zorbing", has been in my head constantly for the better part of two weeks and I'm not sure it's going to go anywhere anytime time.

I've heard most of their soon to be released album, and it's a doozy.  Definitely worth more than a few spins on the table.


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Luke's Favorite Songs of the Decade 70 - 61

70: The National - Mr. November

This is nothing like it was in my room... in my best clothes... trying to think of you.

69: Radio Dept. – Where Damage Isn’t Already Done

The Radio Dept.’s first album absolutely has to rank among my favorites of this decade. It’s breezy, yet manages to be poignant and this song is a perfect example of how they manage to pull off that balance.

68: Richard Hawley – Open Up Your Door

I posted this video just a few months back, so I apologize for the reiteration, but it really is a great song… takes one back to a smoke-filled dive bar in early 1960s New York listening to Chet Baker sing and play his head off while high as all hell. It barely beat out Hawley’s “Motorcyle Song” for this particular spot, so if you’re sick of hearing this particular tune, go check out t’other.

67: Rebelski – Magic Calculator

There isn’t a better song for driving home late on a frigid winter’s night.

66: The Black Keys – Stack Shot Billy

There could be any number of Black Keys songs on this list, but I still can’t get over just how phenomenally fun the percussion is on this track.

65: The Shins – New Slang

Barely beating out “Girl Inform Me” and “Your Algebra”, “New Slang” might be the most generic choice thanks to its mass-media-zation by Garden State, but it is still an incredible track with a beautiful simplicity that is rarely matched.

64: South – Threadbare

It’s somewhat odd to pick a track for a band that I was once very much obsessed with that in no way indicates the type of band that they are, or were at the time, or why I find them to be a phenomenal band, but tastes are tastes and I am still mesmerized by how much noise, back-beats, and utter thickness they managed to cram into this rather short song. Really great stuff.

63: Doves – Pounding

Doves at their anthemic best; creating a song with significance and beauty that requires stomping of feet, clapping of hands, and top-of-the-lungs singing.

62: Nada Surf – Hi-Speed Soul

I never thought I would like anything created by the purveyors of the 90s alt-rock turd “popular”, but Nada Surf have evolved into one of the better pop-rock acts of the 2000s and Let Go is a true gem. “Hi-Speed Soul” is the best of the album, though “Blonde on Blonde” and “Blizzard of ‘77” are both also phenomenal.

61: Franz Ferdinand – Outsiders

“Take Me Out” could probably have made this list, but I cannot exclude the brilliant groove and drums of “Outsiders”.


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Album Review: Two Door Cinema Club - Tourist History

The level of charm on display on Two Door Cinema Club’s debut album demands attention. It takes guile and skill to successfully sustain the amount of youthful exuberance found in this record while not falling into the traps that would take their music from serious to semi-laughable popular drivel. So, while Two Door Cinema Club are indeed quite young and proudly wear this badge on their sleeves in their music, they have managed to create an album that synthesizes their quirky, fun, and poppy side with songs that represent a very real piece of popular art.

Perhaps this is overstating what is really just a great pop-rock album, but it represents one of the first truly great albums of 2010, so it deserves some accolades. It’s an album with the same sort of gloss and precision as Woflgang Amadeus Phoenix (not inconsequently, it was recorded in the same studio with the same producer/mixer, Phillipe Zdar), but it ends up sounding more like a fusion of Vampire Weekend and We Are Scientists than Phoenix. This sounds rather weird, but it works incredibly well as the dance hall tendencies add a slight edge to the somewhat cherubic vocals and musical idiosyncrasies.

The liveliness and joi de vivre of the album makes it instantly memorable and incredibly addictive. It is, simply, a nearly perfect first step for a band that will almost certainly demand attention for years to come.

Buy the Single "Something Good Can Work" Here: Two Door Cinema Club - Something Good Can Work - Single
Buy the Album on UK Itunes Here: Two Door Cinema Club - Tourist History


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Album Review: Spoon - Transference

You wander down the beaten concrete path of a dimly lit, brick-lined alley; intently following the vibrations of a fuzzy bass that is barely audible, but which still manages to roll around heavily in your chest cavity.

Drops of dirty rainwater slip off of the side of a sheet-metal roof onto your head as you reach a corroding dumpster with a small window hovering above. The music is louder: muffled, raspy vocals can be distinctly heard between the sounds of the cars passing by the entrance to the alley.

You hoist yourself up onto the dumpster, staining your palms orange with damp rust. Steadying yourself against the brick wall, you come up to your full height and gaze through the window into the poorly lit room below. Several lamps giving off slightly different shades of cream silhouette the steel columns holding up the empty warehouse and cast harsh shadows on the faces of the band who are gathered in the middle of the room.

You push the window open and the sound rushes out; it’s still not quite clear thanks to the lack of a proper PA or sound system, but it has such immediacy that you don’t even seem to notice. Despite the precarious foundation upon which you are currently standing, you begin to move your body with the beat and smack your hand against the side of your thigh in rhythm.

The music feels like something you’ve heard before, which helps you to forget about the occasional gusts of wind that prick up the hairs on your arms. The consistency with which the band propels itself forward is slowed only by the occasional break between songs; time filled with the lighting of cigarettes and deep swallows of brown-bottled beer.

Before you know it, the band stops playing for good and the lights go down to black. You jump down onto the buckling pavement and walk home. You have a hard time picking out one track from another as the music plays over in your mind, but despite this, you can’t help but feel that you’ve heard something special.

You only wish you could hear it again.


Turn the record back over to side one, start the turntable, and put the needle on the soon to be well worn grooves.

Buy the album at itunes here: Spoon - Transference


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In case you were not aware, 2010 is shaping up to be a pretty great year for music. We have already seen a number of great records released in the first two and a half months of this new decade (i.e. Beach House - Teen Dream, Vampire Weekend - Contra, Surfer Blood - Astro Coast, Local Natives - Gorilla Manor...to name a few), and we are expecting records from many more bands that I have been known to rep in these parts in the past (i.e. the Hold Steady, LCD Soundsystem, Broken Social Scene). Another band that has most certainly seen some "press" around this blog in the past, the National, is set to release a follow-up to their most recent album, Boxer. The new album, High Violet (see artwork above), is slated for a May 11 release. If this clip (their performance of new track, "Terrible Love", last night on Fallon) is any indication, we are in for yet another great album from one of the best bands currently making music in the States. Enjoy.


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Album Review: Field Music - Measure

Field Music have always been an act that has kept its audience on their toes; whether it be releasing a huge catalog of albums, b-sides, and one-off singles in rapid succession, a rather abrupt announcement of the need for the band to take an indefinite “break”, or the announcement and quick release of a double album with almost no hint that anything was in the Field Music pipeline.

Measure, the aforementioned double album, maintains the Brewis brothers ability to keep their fans guessing with an absolute wealth of music. Although the announcement of the double album brought initial elation on my part, it was quickly followed up by a sneaking suspicion that Field Music’s style might not translate well to a longer playing album. Their knack for constructing pop-rock gems with more moving parts than a Thomas Pynchon novel works beautifully in a normal length album because they are really packing in a double-album’s worth of music and ideas into a single album, but a double-album could very well have been the aural equivalent of attempting to jam fourteen people into a compact car for a karaoke night.

In the end, Measure does indeed fall victim to the excess of its creators, but not because the music is not up to their usual, exceptionally high standards. Instead, Measure simply becomes an album that is quite difficult to properly listen to in one sitting due to its nearly overwhelming trove of melodies and musical flourishes.

That said, David and Peter Brewis have still managed to create a work of beauty with enough moments of clarity and genius to firmly put Measure in contention for album of the year consideration and the musical ‘curve’ associated with the album should in no way dissuade anyone from buying a copy of the album and enjoying it for what it really is: a work of musical art that shows Field Music stretching themselves to the breaking point on genre-bending works of metered precision.


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Luke's Favorite Songs of the Decade: 80-71

80: Grizzly Bear - Two Weeks

If you read this blog and haven't heard this yet, then you aren't reading very well.

79: Hope of the States - Nehimiah

Sam Herlihy has one of the weirdest voices ever, but you can't argue with HOTS ability to craft one hell of an epic.

78: The Kooks - Jackie Big Tits

A phenomenal song for winding down a party, this song is impossible not to start singing along to even during one's first listen... it just sounds so damned familiar.

77: The Natural History - Watch This House

The Natural History are a secret fetish of mine... short and simple, but incredibly fun little tunes.  This is their best, in my humble opinion.

76: The Strokes - Under Control

Bold choice, I know, but the groove in this song speaks to me... it has such a cool vibe that it wasn't even close for me when choosing a favorite Strokes song.

75: Vampire Weekend - Mansard Roof

How can anyone deny the brilliance of a song that mentions eaves?

74: Kings of Leon - King of the Rodeo

Long before their breakout success, Kings of Leon were the soundtrack to many a drunken night with King of the Rodeo... nobody is better for creating soundalike lyrics than Kings of Leon.

"You taco roller!  You taco roller!"

73: The Bees - Chicken Payback

I still wish I had made my brother dance to this at my wedding rather than John Denver during the hog trough dance... ah well.

72: The Soundtrack of Our Lives - Sister Surround

The true kings of Swedish garage rock are TSOOL, not The Hives.  This song is so good live it is scary.

71: Ikara Colt - At the Lodge

Dirty as hell and with more attitude than should really be legally allowed, it's too bad Ikara Colt didn't last long enough to make more of an impact.


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Near Misses of 2009

This year's 2009 best of list was easily the most difficult for me to come up with in quite awhile due to two main factors:

1.) The absolute clear cut upper echelon albums that simply could not be ignored.  Unlike previous years, the top 6 albums were never in any doubt.  The only debate I went through with myself was the ordering.  This really forced my hand this year.

2.) A large amount of very good, very different albums.  There is no doubt that Darwin Deez, Wild Beasts, Mellowdrone, La Roux, Little Boots, The Longcut, etc. are all very good albums, but it is quite difficult to judge them against each other thanks to uniqueness of each act.  In the past, rounding out the top ten was much easier due to the fact that many of the albums were in the same genre.

Because of my difficulty in creating this year's list, I humbly present the near misses of 2009:

Wild Beasts - Two Dancers

In looking forward, I think I may very well come to regret not including Wild Beasts in my top ten as this album continues to grow on me.  It's not easy to get into; there is a steep curve when it comes to getting used to the vocals, but once you are in, the package is undeniably sparkling.

Mellowdrone - Angry Bear

I've been a Mellowdrone fanatic for years now and it really goes against my better instincts to not have included them in my top ten.  Hard to argue with their ability to melt faces.

Little Boots - Hands

I'm a sucker for an english accent... and I'm really a sucker for an english accent and something I can dance to.

The Longcut - Open Hearts

Another aquired taste, The Longcut have managed to shake off the label of "the next big thing" quite nicely by focusing on making badass, groove-based music and putting all the hype to the side.

Mumford and Sons - Sigh No More

Closely intertwined with Noah and the Whale in their lineup, Mumford and Sons constructed an extremely solid album with a few absolute gems like "The Cave" that are infinitely listenable.

Watch for more to come.  It was a year that necessitates more posting.


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2010 Tip - Two Door Cinema Club

As part of an ongoing series of new bands that this blog is 'tipping' as acts to watch in the current year, I humbly present the Irish lads of Two Door Cinema Club.  Props goes to Danny Brown for this tip.  Can't imagine them not finding success with tunes like this:


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Luke's Tips for 2010


Equal parts Friendly Fires and La Roux, Delphic is already hotly tipped by the British music press and they've delivered up to this point with tracks "Doubt", "This Momentary", and "Counterpoint". The real question will be if they are able to put together a cohesive, nuanced album like Friendly Fires.

Chapel Club


Embedding is disabled for this particular video, but please, for the love of all things holy, have a listen because if there is one new band I'm currently really excited about it is Chapel Club. "O Maybe I" (the video linked to above) is an instant classic and their other tracks "All the Eastern Girls" and "Surfacing" are epic, combining a bit each of Glasvegas, BRMC, and Echo and the Bunnymen.

It also helps that there are turtlenecks being worn in earnest in this video. This makes them a hot tip automatically.

Is Tropical

The music speaks for itself here... Is Tropical are your typical indie rock kids who formed a band and attempt to do as many different things in the space of a few minutes as possible. Luckily, unlike many of the bands who throw the kitchen sink in and end up with trash, they seem to know when to pull back and make sure that their song has a secure framework upon which to hang all of their silky, glittering linens.


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Luke's Top Ten of 2009

10 – Darwin Deez – S/T

Darwin Deez’ first official album comes out in 2010 and yet they have managed to land on this top ten list due to this self released album, much of which, I’m sure, will make up their forthcoming label debut. Despite this fact, though, I felt it absolutely necessary to include this album on this list.

The album has such joy and charm that it is nearly impossible for me to listen to it without smiling and looking around for four square feet within which I can dance.

It might be derivative of other acts (such as The Strokes) in places, but it is one hell of a fun record.

9 - Girls – Album

Vocals can oftentimes spell doom for bands when it comes down to my own personal taste, but the somewhat off-kilter and, what can only be described as, dirty vocals of Girls debut album are backed up by enough surf-and-sun merriment that it is impossible to deny the simple brilliance of Album.

Structurally sparse songs like “Laura” are stuffed with reverberating guitar strings clanging greedily against 1950s and 60s doo-wop melodies until, no matter how much one may wish to resist, a listener is left with nothing to do but smile, nod the head slightly, and hum along.

8 - Camera Obscura – My Maudlin Career

Recreations of the 60s R&B Pop sound have been flying around popular music more and more in the last few years with varying degrees of success, but Camera Obscura are the nearly unchallenged masters of the art form and My Maudlin Career is their best album to date.

Taking pure bliss pop songs and layering in a Phil Spektor-esque wall of sound, Camera Osbcura raise their orchestral compositions to a new level and, coupled with the ever-sharp lyrics, have put together an album that is as solid an album front to back as one is likely to ever hear. It might not have one or two songs that stand out above all others in the such as many great albums, but this is really a tribute to the strength and charm present on every song on the tracklisting, and it is far from a criticism.

7 - Richard Hawley – True Love’s Gutter

Richard Hawley keeps plugging along in his quest to become the coolest man in existence and he is getting closer and closer to this finality with each of his album releases. To the uninitiated listener, Hawley might sound like a cheesy retread of some of the albums that are mothballing inside your grandparents’ old record cabinets, but to the trained ear, he is astonishing, taking tried and true themes and arrangements and putting his stamp of trademarked delay and throaty vocals to each.

There might be nothing better than putting on a Richard Hawley album, sitting in front of a roaring fire while the snow engulfs the walls around you, and allowing the songs to seep deeply into your consciousness.

6 - Phoenix – Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix

Crisp. Clean. Spotless. Gleaming. Pristine. Unblemished. Sparkling. Fresh.


5 - White Rabbits – It’s Frightening

There is a band to which White Rabbits have drawn and will continue to draw comparisons to, partly because of who produced their latest album It’s Frightening, but while this comparison seems to make sense on a quick listen to It’s Frightening, deeper consideration clearly indicates the dramatic differences in both aim and style and reveals that White Rabbits owes much more to The Bends-era Radiohead than the darlings of soul-pop, Spoon.

While Spoon frontman Britt Daniels production gives It’s Frightening the same minimalist, groove-based feel of a Spoon album, White Rabbits prove themselves to be a deeper band, crafting unique percussive arrangements and dropping in liquid-cool guitar lines that take from the best moments of Johnny Greenwood.

It may be difficult to imagine what a band created from equal parts Spoon and Radiohead truly sounds like without listening to White Rabbits, but the product is sparkling and infinitely listenable, which is the mark of any truly great album .

4 - Animal Collective – Merriweather Post Pavilion

What is there left for any reviewer to say about Merriweather Post Pavilion? It’s a sonic boom slap to the brain that somehow manages to be both entirely unique and filled with genius despite staying relatively free of pretension.

It’s an album that, as I found out personally, almost exactly mirrors, in a good way, the effects of being drunk on wine.

3 - Noah and the Whale – The First Day of Spring

There is nothing that will split a listening audience more than a breakup album because it not only forces the listener to put themselves into a certain emotional state, but it oftentimes requires work and time to fully realize the intended effect.

Perhaps this is why so few breakup albums appear in my collection of music and why even fewer ever appear on my Top Ten Lists, but regardless of the reasoning, the fact that The First Day of Spring made it onto my list (and with such a high ranking no less) should speak volumes about the music present on this album

Ranging from Sigur Ros orchestrations to The Edge-like guitar lines, complete with crisp reverb, The First Day of Spring manages to present a wide assortment of styles and sounds, but never comes even close to losing its narrative thread thanks to the jittery and sincere vocals of Charlie Fink, who, despite threading together a story of complete misery, never loses sight of the hopefulness of the horizon.

The album as a whole is a beautiful piece of musicianship that should be truly appreciated for its earnestness.

2 - Grizzly Bear – Veckatemist

There might not be a more interesting band that Grizzly Bear at the moment. Not even Animal Collective.

Grizzly Bear are the rare act that not only creates incredible songs, but is so technically sound and skilled that it’s almost unfair that they should also be able to write such diverse and hook-laden songs.

To be fair, it shouldn’t work. Harmonies and chamber vocals aren’t supposed to be as hip as Grizzly Bear makes them, yet somehow, on every single composition they put together, they manage to string numerous lyrical and melodic threads together to create incredibly unique and mind-blowingly addictive songs.

Veckatimist is the rare album that gets better on every listen, even nearly a year down the line.

1 - The Cribs – Ignore the Ignorant

Johnny Marr must have ADD. The man can’t seem to keep himself occupied with playing in a band or even a genre for more than a few years at a time. After his name-making go-round with The Smiths, he’s bounced around from The The to Electronic to his own disappointingly generic Johnny Marr and the Healers and most recently to Modest Mouse, all while providing bands like Oasis and Pet Shop Boys with part-time work on the side.

Marr has now joined as a full-time member of English band The Cribs; they of the no-nonsense, recorded-is-live-is-recorded approach to what could easily be categorized as full-tempo neo-brit rock, if such a classification actually existed.

Marr says his work with The Cribs is his best in 25 years… and he’s right. Not only are his guitar lines as crisp and creative as they have been in years, but they provide a crucial underscore to the ruggedness of the Jarman brothers’ quick pace.

While his addition to the band doesn’t change what The Cribs are or have been, it does help to accentuate their already fully formed identity, bolding in the sometimes-hazy lines of structure and brightening areas that before were pastel.

But while Marr’s influence takes The Cribs to a higher plateau musically, it is twins Gary and Ryan’s songwriting that allows this album to peak so high. Their songs are tightly packed balls of energy and unadulterated hooks, which lead any listener to a definitive and clichéd, but ultimately true, finality: this album rocks.


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Luke's 100 Favorite Songs of the Decade - 90-81

Be sure to read Jaymo's Vampire Weekend review below as I feel it is not only pretty much spot on, but posts usually get a bit more time in the 'most recent post' slot than just a few days and I feel slightly bad about unseating it so quickly.

That said, here's the continuation of my 100 favorite songs of 2000-2009:

90: Sufjan Stevens - Casimir Pulaski Day

Just a stunningly simple song.

89: I Am Kloot - Untitled #1

A shining example of the power of laid-back, still-lying-in-bed vocals juxtaposed with shuffling drums.

88: The Decemberists - Here I Dreamt I Was an Architect

This was the first Decemberists song I ever heard, having stumbled across their website on one of my many late night/early morning scourings of t'internet. I told a friend at the time that the vocals reminded me of I Am Kloot (number 89) and I still stick by that.

87: Hope of the States - The Red, The White, The Black, The Blue

The forcefulness of this song is staggering... and, as with all Hope of the States songs (or at least the good ones) it gives one full reign to use as many synonyms for 'epic' as one could possibly ever want.

86: The Stills - Lola Stars and Stripes

A glossy exercise in noise-pop that resulted in many drunken nights with my hands in the air and no voice in the morning.

85: Interpol - NYC

I never fully jumped on the Interpol bandwagon when "Turn on the Bright Lights" came out, but it's impossible to deny that NYC is simply a fantastic song.

84: Band of Horses - The General Specific

Honestly, what's more fun than harmonizing while clapping your hands and stomping your feet?

83: Ambershades - Clap, Clap, Clap

The amount of fun that it sounds like Ambershades are having on this song is almost unfair. Makes me want to harmonize in a high-pitched Super Furry Animals-like voice too.

82: Coldplay - Brothers and Sister

I know what you're thinking... "Really? Brothers and Sisters? You're full of it."

For reasons that I cannot even begin to comprehend myself I simply love this song. I sang it accapella on the way to school senior year of high school every day (literally every damn day) because our family computer didn't have a CD burner.

81: Helio Sequence - Hallelujah

I've posted this video before, during my top ten of 2008(which was posted quite a ways into 2009, much like, it seems, my forthcoming 2009 list), so if anyone reading this didn't check it out previously, feel free to bask in the space-guitar stomp.


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