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 clich├ęd, 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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New Music: Vampire Weekend - Contra

I had actually started writing one of my old school music reviews where I take it really seriously, and treat it like I am an actual music writer of sorts with significant readership. Honestly, the intro alone name-checked both Kid A and Merrieweather Post Pavillion. You can probably imagine the themes; winter albums vs. albums that come out in the winter. The word "thaw" was used liberally. At the end of the day though, I have insignificant readership (in quantity, not quality), and anyone potentially reading this is probably just looking for a way to kill time at work, or fill some down time after dinner and before prime time television starts.

All that being said, the new Vampire Weekend album is really good. Seriously. The whole east coast affluence meets west african pop sensibility thing is still there (I still feel like a fraud even typing as if I know anything about west-african pop music. It is how all the people more cultured than me - including the band - describe the sound though, so I will stick with it for now). The guitars and production are still about as clean as anything I have heard. The flourishes of strings and keys just pop up all over the place after repeated listens. Ultimately, if you liked the first Vampire Weekend album (which, after all the hype/backlash dust settled, you should), then you will like this.

I should say that the band does jump the tracks a little on Contra from straightforward guitar rock though. You will find a little wider sonic reach here (read: some limited electronic tones, a track with autotune, and even a track that samples an M.I.A. song) but I think it ultimately makes for a more interesting/diverse listen, and shows the band is capable of really taking their sound a lot further than the standard four piece pop rock and roll thing they did so well on the self-titled record. Like I said though, aesthically speaking, this is still clearly a Vampire Weekend record.

As is now customary, I have included a couple of clips below. The first one is "Cousins", which shows them loosening the strings a little, and turning up the quirks. The second one is "Horchata", which I posted a link to previously, but is pretty unapollegtically Vampire Weekend doing what they do...and doing it very well. Enjoy.


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