Left of the Dial Radio Playlist - 3/8/13
Last night my band Circle Circle played a local basement show and I took the opportunity to ‘pregame’ for it via my radio broadcast that directly preceded it. If for some reason you ever wanted to know what I listen to in order to get psyched up for a live performance, this playlist should give you some kind of indication. For my solo shows, I usually just listen to early Bright Eyes records on repeat… I hope that everyone who tuned in enjoyed the show, and I appreciate those of you who sent in requests. Stream the playlist via a Spotify link at the bottom and be sure to tune in next Friday from 6 to 8 for another live broadcast.
- 1. The Magnetic Fields - “Absolutely Cuckoo”
- 2. The Love Language - “Two Rabbits”
- 3. 10,000 Blades - “I Disagree With Randy Newman”
- 4. Slow Warm Death - “Sunburn”
- 5. Sleater-Kinney - “Modern Girl” (Requested by odd-spirit)
- 6. Liz Phair - “Stratford-On-Guy”
- 7. Jenny and Johnny - “Animal”
- 8. The National - “Start A War”
- 9. Miracle Legion - “The Ladies From Town”
- 10. Sun Kil Moon - “The Winery”
- 11. Devendra Banhart - “Daniel”
- 12. Broken Social Scene - “Stars and Sons”
- 13. Dum Dum Girls - “I Got Nothing”
- 14. David Bowie - “Valentine’s Day”
- 15. Stevie Wonder - “Summer Soft”
- 16. Milo - “Monologion”
- 17. Bright Eyes - “Approximate Sunlight”
- 18. Ólafur Arnalds - “For Now I Am Winder” (Feat. Arnor Dan)
- 19. Shlomo - “Don’t Say No” (Feat. How To Dress Well)
- 20. Baths - “Miasma Sky”
- 21. Giraffage - “Thinking About You”
- 22. The Cranberries - “Dreams”
- 23. Rilo Kiley - “With Arms Outstretched”
- 24. Slow Warm Death - “Blood 2”
- 25. Yo La Tengo - “Before We Run”
- 26. Sharon Van Etten - “All I Can”
- 27. Lou Reed - “Berlin” (Request)
- 28. Waxahatchee - “Swan Dive”
Stream via Spotify:
Left of the Dial Radio Playlist - 2/15/13
Thanks to everyone who tuned in and the people who made requests during my radio show last night on WNHU. Check out the full playlist below, and stream the available tracks via Spotify through the embedded link at the bottom. Tune in again next Friday from 6 to 8 PM for another live broadcast.
- 1. The Thermals - “I Might Need You To Kill”
- 2. David Bowie - “A New Career In A New Town”
- 3. Broken Social Scene - “Fire Eye’d Boy”
- 4. By Surprise - “Criteria”
- 5. My Heart To Joy - “Giving My Hands Away”
- 6. Sondre Lerche - “Modern Nature” (Requested by anonymous)
- 7. LVL UP - “Graveyard”
- 8. Elvis Costello - “No Dancing”
- 9. Cymbals Eat Guitars - “…And The Hazy Sea”
- 10. Yo La Tengo - “Paddle Forward”
- 11. My Bloody Valentine - “Who Sees You”
- 12. Ducktails - “Sedan Magic”
- 13. Foxygen - “Shuggie”
- 14. Serge Gainsbourg - “Ballade De Melody Nelson”
- 15. Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds - “Push the Sky Away”
- 16. Cat Power - “Metal Heart”
- 17. Beat Happening - “I Love You” (Requested by dbldblwhmmy)
- 18. LVL UP - “Nightshade”
- 19. Infinity Crush - “Sleeping In On A Snow Day (In 2011)”
- 20. Julia Brown - “Virginia”
- 21. Teen suicide - “Falling In Love”
- 22. Perfume Genius - “Normal Song”
- 23. Giraffage - “All That Matters”
- 24. Elvis Depressedly - “Cry Babies”
- 25. The Tallest Man On Earth - “Wind and Walls”
- 26. The Decemberists - “Odalisque”
- 27. The Comsat Angels - “Independence Day”
- 28. Crystal Castles - “Suffocation”
- 29. Destroyer - “Downtown”
- 30. LCD Soundsystem - “Great Release”
Stream via Spotify:
Left of the Dial Radio Playlist - 1/25/13
Thanks to those of you who tuned in to last night’s broadcast of Left of the Dial. It honestly felt like one of the best shows I’ve had in a long time in terms of playlist quality; maybe this whole ‘losing all the music on my harddrive and rebuilding from scratch’ thing is paying off. Check out the full playlist below and stream the available tracks via Spotify at the embedded link at the bottom. As always, be sure to tune in again next Friday from 6 to 8 PM.
- 1. Hymie’s Basement - “21st Century Pop Song”
- 2. The Dismemberment Plan - “The City”
- 3. Broken Social Scene - “Almost Crimes” (Radio Kills remix)
- 4. Bleeding Rainbow - “Pink Ruff”
- 5. Television - “Venus”
- 6. Hallelujah The Hills - “Get Me In A Room”
- 7. Unknown Mortal Orchestra - “So Good At Being In Trouble”
- 8. Sidewalk Dave - “Cayenne”
- 9. Titus Andronicus - “Upon Viewing Oregon’s Landscape With The Flood of Detritus”
- 10. Suns - “Be Good Boy”
- 11. Iceage - “Coalition”
- 12. X - “We’re Desperate”
- 13. Pylon - “Crazy”
- 14. Rilo Kiley - “Portions For Foxes”
- 15. Screaming Females - “Poison Arrow”
- 16. Ducktails - “Ivy Covered House”
- 17. Marti Jones - “The Element Within Her” (Elvis Costello cover)
- 18. My Bloody Valentine - “When You Sleep”
- 19. Purity Ring - “Grandloves”
- 20. Eskmo - “We Are All Terrestrial”
- 21. Nosaj Thing - “Home”
- 22. Small Black - “Photojournalist”
- 23. Waxahatchee - “Peace and Quiet”
- 24. Wye Oak - “Civilian”
- 25. Comadre - “Hack”
- 26. Black Moth Super Rainbow - “Windshield Smasher”
- 27. The Magnetic Fields - “Strange Powers”
- 28. Grouper - “Living Room”
Stream via Spotify:
Left of the Dial Radio Playlist - 1/13/12
Last night’s show provided a sad, contemplative mix of songs for your Friday evening. I hope those of you who tuned in enjoyed what you heard. The playlist is below, with links to stream each track when available.
- 1. Joie de Vivre - “Summer In New London”
- 2. Joie de Vivre - “Salt”
- 3. Death Cab For Cutie - “Title Track”
- 4. The Microphones - “I Want Wind To Blow”
- 5. The Mountain Goats - “Wild Sage”
- 6. Owen - “The Sad Waltzes of Pietro Crespi”
- 7. Into It. Over It. - “Midnight: Carroll Street”
- 8. Suns - “Casual”
- 9. Football, etc. - “Sudden Death”
- 10. Joan of Arc - “Gin & Platonic”
- 11. My Heart to Joy - “Seasons in Verse”
- 12. The Antlers - “Atrophy”
- 13. Beck - “It’s All In Your Mind”
- 14. Bright Eyes - “A Line Allows Progress, A Circle Does Not”
- 15. Carissa’s Wierd - “Drunk With The Only Saints I Know”
- 16. Red House Painters - “Katy Song”
- 17. Andrew Jackson Jihad - “Back Pack”
- 18. Bon Iver - “For Emma”
- 19. Broken Social Scene - “Lover’s Spit”
- 20. LCD Soundsystem - “All My Friends”
- 21. Dirty Beaches - “Lord Knows Best”
- 22. Midi & The Modern Dance - “Where Do You Think I Belong?”
- 23. Modest Mouse - “Bankrupt on Selling”
- 24. John Galm - “Be My Baby” (The Ronettes cover)
- 25. Weezer - “Butterfly”
- 26. Owen - “Nobody’s Nothing”
- 27. The Replacements - “Unsatisfied”
- 28. William Basinski - “Untitled” (#1)
Nostalgia Mix: Fall 2010
(Taken some time in October by Duncan.)
This time last year was an important time in my life for a number of reasons. I think I developed more as a person over a month long stretch last Fall than I ever had up to that point, and probably more than I ever will again in such a short time period. Through all of those changes, some of which I can look on more fondly than others, I was listening to music that I would continue to associate with that time until now, and probably will continue to forever. Today, a year later, I’ve compiled an 8tracks mix of eleven songs that instantly take me back to Fall 2010, most of which fill me with warm feelings of nostalgia and recall bittersweet memories of mine. Some of these songs were brand new then, and others were much older, but all of them were relevant to me at this point in time.
In short, this was the soundtrack to my life almost exactly one year ago, in a condensed digital form. I hope you enjoy it. If this goes well, I might start making seasonal nostalgia mixes a regular thing on this blog. Stream the mix below. You’ll have to actually view this post by itself in order for the player to work. Just click HERE.
- 1. Bedroom Eyes - “Dancing Under Influence”
In late August of last year I had a girlfriend and we used to swap mix CDs very regularly. I think I must have made her five mix CDs in the span of about a month. At some point in September I made her a mix called Embrace In Stereo, which was a dorky lyrical phrase that appears in this song. Bedroom Eyes is a swedish indie pop band with adorable, incredibly endearing (if corny) lyrics and an upbeat and joyful musical backing to most of their songs. ”Dancing Under Influence” is no exception to either rule. It’s light-hearted and warm sounding, and makes me feel really happy even a year after hearing it for the first time. I still have her mixes. I wonder if she kept mine.
- 2. Defiance, Ohio - “Condition 11:11”
In early September I found out that Defiance, Ohio was playing a show in my town later in the month, and although I had never listened to them at that point, I had heard a lot about them from some friends of mine who were into folk punk. I downloaded their 2006 record The Great Depression and procrastinated listening to it until the week before the show, which was on September 14th — a decision I immediately regretted after hearing it in full. It was some of the most sincere folk music I had ever heard, and it spoke to me personally in a way that few other records have to date. One of the songs that hit me the hardest was the closer “Condition 11:11”, which continues to be one of my favorite songs. They played it at the show and I loved it.
- 3. Sufjan Stevens - “Enchanting Ghost”
In 2010, Sufjan Stevens returned to traditional music-making with his first record since 2005, a 60 minute “EP” called All Delighted People. I remember being amazed when it came out because I was such a big Sufjan Stevens fan and hearing new music from him was something that I never expected to happen any time soon, much less new music like this. Sure, the long songs were amazing, but there was a lot more to this record than 12 minute guitar solos and massive orchestral arrangements.
Sandwiched between the monolithic opuses “All Delighted People (Original Version)” and “Djohariah” were a collection of shorter, much gentler folk songs, some of which were so beautiful in their minimalist style that they could have easily fit on a record like Sufjan’s 2004 album Seven Swans. The more I listened to the EP, the more I began to appreciate these more subdued moments. One of the tracks that has resonated with me the most is “Enchanting Ghost”, a rather melancholic ode to a loved one that appears to have been lost at some point. Although The Age Of Adz would go on to be Sufjan Stevens’ most notable 2010 work, the subtlety of All Delighted People is what hooked me last fall, and what keeps me coming back to it.
- 4. Jenny & Johnny - “Big Wave”
In the summer of 2010 I was interning at WNHU, the radio station where I now have a weekly radio show. One of my jobs was to listen to the promo CDs that were sent to the station by record labels and independent bands, and to choose what was worth adding to the automatic rotation. Seeing that big stack of new CDs every day was pretty daunting, so I would come up with different ways to choose what to listen to first. In early September, I remember seeing Jenny & Johnny’s I’m Having Fun Now 3-song promo sampler (which was sent to radio stations well before the full album came out) and choosing to listen to it solely based on the fact that there were a cute girl’s legs on the cover. As it turned out, the duo is comprised of Jenny Lewis (from Rilo Kiley, who I still haven’t actually listened to) and her boyfriend Jonathan Rice, who is a singer/songwriter. The two were introduced by Conor Oberst. Isn’t that cute? I don’t think I’ve given the full album more than two or three listens, but I’ve always loved this song.
- 5. The Tallest Man On Earth - “The Dreamer”
“The Dreamer” was Kristian Mattson (aka The Tallest Man On Earth)’s brief foray into electric music, appearing on his 2010 EP Sometimes The Blues Is Just A Passing Bird, which came out in early September. I remember thinking that although it was initially jarring to hear to the Swedish folk singer play an electric guitar, this style really worked for him. In a way, “The Dreamer” served as a bridge between the gentler sounds of the summer and the colder, distant sounding atmosphere of the fall. The EP went on to become one of my favorite albums of last year.
- 6. Built To Spill - “Reasons”
Sometimes I go through periods of time where I’ll listen to one band so much that their music ends up being the definitive soundtrack to those days/weeks/months. A few months ago it was The Mountain Goats. From March to May it was Low. Last summer/fall, it was Built To Spill. I devoured their catalog so voraciously back then that I just didn’t even have time to listen to anything else. When I found out that they were playing a show in New Haven early in September, I knew I had to go. I can’t remember if they played “Reasons” or not but this was one of my favorite BTS songs at the time regardless. Back then, I tried to trick myself into thinking that I liked Perfect From Now On more, but now I recognize that There’s Nothing Wrong With Love is the superior record.
- 7. Jeff Mangum - “I Love How You Love Me” (Phil Spector cover)
Last fall, my girlfriend at the time put this Jeff Mangum cover of Phil Spector’s “I Love How You Love Me”, which appears on Mangum’s Live At Jittery Joe’s album, on a mix CD for me that I still have and listen to from time to time. I had loved Neutral Milk Hotel for a while, but I was just floored by Mangum’s interpretation of this beautiful old song. Since then I’ve only heard one cover that has moved me as much — John Galm’s cover of The Ronettes’ “Be My Baby”.
- 8. The Decemberists - “Grace Cathedral Hill”
I’ve never really liked The Decemberists that much, but I listened to Castaways and Cutouts a decent amount in the Summer of 2010, and some of that carried over into the fall. I made my mom a mix CD for her and my dad’s anniversary or something an I put this song on it. She would always listen to it in the car and I grew annoyed of it pretty quickly, but coming back to it now makes me feel safe and good. Maybe it isn’t so bad after all.
“I paid twenty-five cents to light a little white candle.”
- 9. Broken Social Scene - “Lover’s Spit”
The other big show that I saw in September was Broken Social Scene at Toad’s place, which was actually a little better than the Built to Spill show in retrospect. I had been listening to their then-new album Forgiveness Rock Record a lot around the time of the show, so I was pretty excited for it. The best moment of the show came towards the end, when frontman Kevin Drew came onstage by himself and began to play You Forgot It In People’s “Lover’s Spit” alone on a small keyboard in the dark. As the song progressed, the other members of the massive band returned to the stage one by one, adding their respective instruments to the collective sound until the song reached a beautiful, heart-melting climax. Whenever I hear “Lover’s Spit” now, I’m brought back to that show. The song strikes an odd balance between sexy and sad, which is actually pretty representative of how I was feeling around this time last year. The whole You Forgot It In People album brings me back to this time.
- 10. The Strokes - “I’ll Try Anything Once” (“You Only Live Once” demo)
It’s too beautiful for words, so I won’t try to describe it here. This demo was used in Sophia Coppola’s Somewhere last September, and it was my favorite use of music in any film since she used My Bloody Valentine’s “Sometimes” against shots of Tokyo in Lost In Translation. A girl also put this on a mix CD for me once and I’ll forever appreciate that because I’ve listened to the song itself more times than is probably healthy.
- 11. Cap’n Jazz - “Little League”
The first time I listened to Cap’n Jazz was last fall. Hearing “Little League” for the first time after downloading Analphabetapolothology blew the lid off the container that was holding in all the suppressed anger and frustration that I had accumulated over the past fifteen years. This was all of that, encapsulated in a four minute punk song. Listening to this might have been the most important thing that happened to me that fall. Cap’n Jazz might be the most important band I ever listened to. I got to meet Tim Kinsella at a Joan of Arc show in February, and I thanked him for it. He said he was going to smoke a cigarette and make a phone call.
Left of the Dial Radio Playlist - 7/29/11
Here’s the playlist from last night’s Left of the Dial radio show on WNHU, complete with a youtube link to each song.
- 1. Sufjan Stevens - “Age of Adz”
- 2. Broken Social Scene - “Forced To Love”
- 3. The Format - “I’m Actual”
- 4. Arcade Fire - “Culture War”
- 5. Cymbals Eat Guitars - “Rifle Eyesight (Proper Name)”
- 6. Make Wave - “Love Song”
- 7. Bomb the Music Industry! - “Hurricane Waves”
- 8. Beach Fossils - “Out In The Way (feat. Wild Nothing)”
- 9. Real Estate - “Barely Legal” (The Strokes cover)
- 10. Jonny Wanser - “Question 5 - My Departure From Burlington”
- 11. The Mountain Goats - “New Monster Avenue”
- 12. Girls - “Vomit”
- 13. Amy Winehouse - “Back To Black”
- 14. Bomb the Music Industry! - “Vocal Coach”
- 15. High Pop - “drip from the sea”
- 16. Fucked Up - “Under My Nose”
- 17. Titus Andronicus - “Upon Viewing Brueghel’s “Landscape With The Fall of Icarus”“
- 18. Sufjan Stevens - “Heirloom”
- 19. Elliott Smith - “Bled White”
- 20. American Football - “Honestly”
- 21. The Antlers - “The Universe Is Going To Catch You”
- 22. The Mountain Goats - “Up The Wolves” (Come, Come To The Sunset Tree version)
- 23. Nana Grizol - “Voices Echo Down Thee Halls”
- 24. The Antlers - “Corsicana”
- 25. Washed Out - “A Dedication”
Tune in next Friday at 6 PM Eastern time for another broadcast!
Left of the Dial Radio Playlist - 5/20/11
I had so much fun during last nights Left of the Dial radio show on WNHU! I played a lot of music from bands who are playing B.O.M.B. Fest in Hartford next weekend, along with some old (and not so old) favorites of mine. The full playlist is below, complete with youtube links to each song (when available). Remember to tune in next Friday, where I’ll be getting everyone psyched up for B.O.M.B. Fest the next day!
- 1. Low - “Sandinista” (Daytrotter Session Version)
- 2. Broken Social Scene - “Meet Me In the Basement”
- 3. Anamanaguchi - “Dawn Metropolis”
- 4. Dan Deacon - “Red F”
- 5. Man Man - “Dark Arts”
- 6. Beck - “Peaches and Cream”
- 7. The Postal Service - “Recycled Air”
- 8. Best Coast - “Bratty B”
- 9. Real Estate - “Fake Blues”
- 10. High Pop - “Concrete Surfer”
- 11. The Guru - “Aloha Hawaii”
- 12. James Blake - “Lindisfarne” (Single Version)
- 13. LCD Soundsystem - “Home”
- 14. Dirty Beaches - “True Blue”
- 15. The World Is a Beautiful Place & I Am No Longer Afraid To Die - “To Miss Catherine (A Birthday Gift. Sorry I Can’t Do Better, But Still…)” (Live in New Haven 3.4.11 Bootleg)
- 16. My Heart to Joy - “Can You Feel It, Captain Compost?!”
- 17. Midi & The Modern Dance - “Out the Room Pt. 2”
- 18. Bon Iver - “Holocene”
- 19. Bright Eyes - “Arienette”
- 20. Man Man - “Black Mission Goggles”
- 21. Tom Waits - “The Heart of Saturday Night”
- 22. R.E.M. - “Hyena”
- 23. Sebadoh - “Give Up”
- 24. Cap’n Jazz - “Little League”
- 25. The Antlers - “Putting The Dog To Sleep”
- 26. Primal Scream - “Damaged”
- 27. Big Star - “Watch the Sunrise”
I hope you enjoyed the show!
2010 Albums of the Year, part 1 (#50-21)
50. The Books - The Way Out
Folk, Electronic, Sample-based
The Books return after a painful five year break with a record that finds their folk/electronic formula beginning to grow stale. Unlike their cold and disorienting masterpiece Thought for Food, The Way Out is warm and soulful, and features samples from motown and pop records in addition to their traditional offbeat vocal samples. The resulting album is frustratingly familiar yet characteristically well made. It is clear that with The Way Out, The Books have retained their meticulous ability to create collages of sound, but may have lost some of their creativity along the way.
49. Defiance, Ohio - Midwestern Minutes
Folk Punk, Indie Rock
After 2006’s The Great Depression, which I regard as one of the very best folk punk albums, and the worthy 2007 follow up The Fear, The Fear, The Fear, folk punkers Defiance, Ohio seem to have lost some of their edge. It is a rare moment on Midwestern Minutes that I am filled with that great feeling of youthful heart-fluttering that envelops me every time I listen to “Oh, Susquehanna!” While rare on this album, those moments are great. “The White Shore” is an angry yet uplifting punk song, and the subsequent track “A Lot to Do” is a great singalong anthem. Unfortunately, Midwestern Minutes lacks the consistency and immediacy needed to make music of this kind great.
48. Suckers - Wild Smile
Psychedelic Pop, Indie Pop
Despite coming directly from the overcrowded and increasingly boring Brooklyn indie rock scene, Wild Smile by Suckers is a refreshingly original sounding album. From the opening line of “Save Your Love For Me”, desperately sincere yet bordering on sounding pathetic, the listener is brought to attention. “Save Your Love For Me” is a monstrous track which builds and builds upon itself to create an undeniably great psychedelic pop anthem. Unfortunately, the band fails to maintain this level of brilliance throughout the remaining ten tracks, and the album suffers from its length and lack of consistency.
47. Girl Talk - All Day
Hip-hop, Electronic, Mashup
Girl Talk is admirably good at what he does. Using hip-hop vocal tracks and idiosyncratic beats, he creates fun and hip mashups to play at parties. Unfortunately, that’s it; All Day is, by nature, void of any depth whatsoever. At its best, it is clever and well-made, and at its worst, it is only slightly above a novelty.
46. Ray Lamontagne and the Pariah Dogs - God Willin’ & the Creek Don’t Rise
Contemporary Folk, Folk Rock, Country
Improving upon his last two albums Till the Sun Turns Back and Gossip in the Grain, Lewiston, Maine singer/songwriter Ray Lamontagne harnesses a fuller new sound on God Willin’ & the Creek Don’t Rise. This change can largely be attributed to the Pariah Dogs, a remarkably capable folk rock band that adds a degree of thickness and push to the overall sound. The dirty roots rock instrumentation compliments Lamontagne’s gravelly voice, but the best moment on the album occurs when the band decides to tone it down a bit on “Beg, Steal, or Borrow”
45. Foxy Shazam - Foxy Shazam
Glam Rock, Pop/Rock
Queen’s iconic frontman Freddie Mercury has been reincarnated as an equally flamboyant hipster who currently sings for the band Foxy Shazam. Foxy Shazam makes music that sounds a lot like Queen’s Jazz, but without all the cringeworthy “experiments”. Very obvious Queen comparisons aside, Foxy Shazam have truly crafted an album as wonderfully anthemic and soaring as nearly any of Queen’s greatest hits. This album blatantly and unashamedly rips off the aforementioned band, but it does a damn good job at it.
44. Deerhunter - Halcyon Digest
Dream Pop, Psychedelic Pop
Deerhunter disappointingly continue on the logical path from Microcastle with Halcyon Digest, a dream pop album that lacks much of what made Deerhunter cool in the first place. Instead of the noisy passive aggression of Cryptograms or the dense shoegazing sound of Microcastle, they have delivered a fairly ordinary sounding dream pop album. While songs like the lead single “Revival” are catchy and quite good, they lack that unmistakable Deerhunter sound. On Halcyon Digest, that sound is only truly displayed on the epic closing track “He Would Have Laughed”, which is fantastic. Nevertheless, this album is pretty good if only because it’s a Deerhunter record.
43. Weekend - Sports
Shoegaze, Noise Rock
With Sports, Needle Drop favorites Weekend face the opposite of Deerhunter’s problem. Sports is an undeniable landmark in the ability of a record to shred one’s ears and somehow maintain an interesting 90s slacker vibe while doing so, but lacks almost any melodic sensibilities whatsoever. If My Bloody Valentine’s Loveless was the perfect balance of beauty and noise, Sports is a very imperfect balance of, well, ugliness and noise. Thankfully, these imperfections tend to fade away when being blasted through your ears at full volume.
42. Girls - Broken Dreams Club
Power Pop, Indie Pop, Alt-Country
Girls’ new EP Broken Dreams Club is an exercise in self exploration. With a little extra money and some more experience, Girls have made a record that sounds far removed from the lo-fi bedroom pop stylings of Album. Though it retains some of that charm, Broken Dreams Club is comparatively hi-fi. With horns, pedal steel guitar, and other unique instruments, it certainly sounds fantastic. Often it feels like such instrumental and production embellishments are being used to cover up mediocre songwriting, such as on the title track and the forgettable “Substance”. However, on “Thee Oh So Protective One” and the magnificent “Carolina”, the complex instrumentation and high production values only corroborate the simple brilliance of the songs.
41. Broken Social Scene - Forgiveness Rock Record
Forgiveness Rock Record, the newest release from ‘aughts indie supergroup Broken Social Scene lacks both the frenetic immediacy of You Forgot it In People, and the epic grandeur of 2005’s Broken Social Scene. On the first few listens, it feels both like a tired cash-in and a back-to-basics do over. And yet in the five years since this Canadian band released an album, the indie scene has changed dramatically. Neither of the sounds that those two records captured and helped to create would be welcome in 2010, and it is admirable that Broken Social Scene have evolved. This straight up indie rock style may seem played out, but when was the last time you heard such an album? 2007? 2006? Not in 2010, and not like this. If all of these songs had been as good as “World Sick”, this would be a top ten album for sure.
40. Beach House - Teen Dream
Dream Pop, Indie Pop
Beach House’s Teen Dream is probably destined to be a modern indie classic, but all the press that it gets will never make it more than just summer record. Sure, it’s a damn good summer record, and maybe among the best of its kind, but it lacks the versatility needed to sustain my interest well into the fall and now the winter. These days, Victoria Legrand’s unbelievably sexy voice can still warm me up, but the music never seems to make sense.
Sidenote: I have like 10 2k10 bands with “Beach” in their name…chillwaves.
39. Flying Lotus - Cosmogramma
Instrumental Hip-Hop, IDM, Electronic
Flying Lotus’ album Cosmogramma is one of the most sonically impressive electronic albums in years. Cosmogramma whirs, beeps, and reverberates through one’s skull with pulsing beats and odd samples, the most interesting of which comes from a life support machine used by FlyLo’s aunt Alice Coltrane and recorded while she was in the hospital. It has hip hop tracks, Aphex Twin-like IDM experiments, and even a guest vocal performance from Radiohead’s Thom Yorke, but with all this ambition, the resulting album needs to be brilliant to work. Cosmogramma is an example of style over substance; FlyLo tries to do so much with it, but rarely does he follow through with a brilliant piece of music.
38. The New Pornographers - Together
Power Pop, Indie Pop
Vancouver indie poppers The New Pornographers return with their best album since 2005’s Twin Cinema. Lacking the charming fuzziness of that album, Together sounds more like their previous album Challengers, but it has better tunes and catchier melodies. The vocals of Neko Case and Carl Newman are placed front and center, and ring clearly over the lush instrumentation. Together also features guest appearances from Beirut’s Zach Condon, Annie Clark, and Okkervil River’s Will Sheff. Together proves that The New Pornographers are still better than many of the countless Canadian pop bands they inspired, but at times, Together’s excess seems less like a triumphant confirmation of legendary status and more like a grasp for fleeting relevance.
37. Menomena - Mines
Indie Rock, Art Rock
Mines is the Portland trio Menomena’s most straightforward album to date. Although it doesn’t have the experimental instrumental squalls and entertainingly harsh dissonance of The Fun Blame Monster, their debut, it makes up for that lack with great songs. Menomena have clearly gotten much better at writing songs and jamming less, as displayed on the restrained “Taos” and “Tithe”, and Mines is an admirable and impressive forward step in their evolution, hopefully not into ‘just another indie band’.
36. The World is a Beautiful Place & I Am No Longer Afraid to Die - Formlessness
Emo, Indie Rock, Math Rock
Willimantic, CT band (take a breath) The World is a Beautiful Place & I Am No Longer Afraid To Die released one of the most surprisingly brilliant EPs of the year. I downloaded it in anticipation for their upcoming December 30th show with Castevet and Snowing, and was struck by how good it was. Formlessness is beautiful but aggressive, and atmospheric but grounded. It initially seems like a familiar sounding album, yet it’s also unique. Synthesizing the atmospheric qualities of American Football with an original and nostalgic tone, Formlessness is a wonderful record. I only wish it were longer.
35. The Tallest Man on Earth - Sometimes the Blues is Just a Passing Bird
Contemporary Folk, Indie Folk
2010 was a great year for EPs, and Swedish folk singer The Tallest Man on Earth’s Sometimes the Blues is Just a Passing Bird is no exception. Riding on the success of his LP The Wild Hunt, which was also released this year, Sometimes the Blues… feels like both an experiment and also an affirmation of Kristian Matsson’s great talents. On the experimental side, it features a sharp electric guitar on one track. This song, “The Dreamer” is a midtempo lo-fi ballad, the chorus of which contains the EP’s title. In addition, the EP features more of Matsson’s signature folk music, which is nearly as good as anything on The Wild Hunt or 2008’s Shallow Grave.
34. sadnes - Fill My Head
Chiptune, Indie Rock, Shoegaze
Three EPs in a row? I must be crazy. Regardless, the debut EP from solo artist sadnes, aka OxygenStar, aka Carl Peczynski, is the highest ranking record from a local Connecticut artist on this list. Improving on his OxygenStar project, which I wrote a little about here, Peczynski adds vocals and guitars to his 8-bit beats and rhythms. The result sounds like a brilliant mix of Smashing Pumpkins and Anamanaguchi, owing more to the aforementioned 90s shoegazers than the chiptune-influenced power pop band. The vocals are amazing, and the self-deprecating and ironic lyrics fit the icy tone of the music perfectly. sadnes may seem as dark as his stagename suggests, but maybe he just wants a hug.
33. The Morning Benders - Big Echo
Lo-fi Indie Pop, Surf Pop
Accuse The Morning Benders of being trend hoppers as much as you want, but that doesn’t take away from their ability to craft fun, stimulating California pop songs. With surprisingly intellectual lyrics, instrumentation derived from 1960s sunshine pop, and some of the most playful harmonies this side of Merriweather Post Pavilion, nearly every song on Big Echo manages to stick in the listener’s head for weeks. Like Beach House’s Teen Dream, Big Echo will probably never transcend “summer album” status, but if this was the postcard from the summer of 2010, I’d be entirely okay with that.
32. Beach Fossils - Beach Fossils
Lo-fi Indie Rock, Surf Pop, Dream Pop
Beach Fossils’ self-titled debut album sounds exactly like you would expect an album from a Brooklyn band called “Beach Fossils” to sound like. It’s lo-fi, jangly, reverb’ed, and uniformly white-washed, just like the wall on the album cover. All of these attributes are well and good in moderation, but the scene has already been saturated with music like that for years. Beach Fossils’ saving grace is their overwhelming laziness, manifested as some sort of hazy 90s slacker sound. This general “I-don’t-give-a-shit” attitude sets them apart. Beach Fossils are the punkest chillwavers around.
31. Jaill - That’s How We Burn
Garage Rock, Indie Rock, Power Pop
I saw Jaill play at a bar in Milford CT in October, but nobody else did. Yes, you read that correctly. Nobody else came to see them. These Wisconsin garage rockers have come a long way from home since their album That’s How We Burn was released on Sub Pop earlier this year, and frankly it is just plain unfair that they have not gotten the widespread recognition they deserve. This band plays some of the smartest and sharpest indie rock I’ve heard all year. Reminiscent of the punkish early stylings of Elvis Costello, and despite the ludicrous album cover of a girl with a dolphin hat hanging out at the beach, this album is void of all irony and filled to the brim with catchy and self-aware garage rock. That’s How We Burn is one of the great overlooked albums of 2010.
30. The Black Keys - Brothers
Blues Rock, Garage Rock, Soul
As if the no-bullshit album cover didn’t make it clear enough, The Black Keys play it straight. They don’t give a shit about relevance, hipness, or culture, and their new album Brothers is a great example of why this is a great thing. Just because the cool kids don’t like Led Zeppelin anymore doesn’t mean they don’t still rock. Taking influence from those guys and more, Brothers is soulful and tender, but never loses the edge that The Black Keys became underground famous for. It may seem odd that Brothers was the album that brought them into pseudo-mainstream territory, but in a lot of ways it makes sense. Though it’s not actually anything new, it realy feels like it. In this way, Brothers is refreshing.
29. Baths - Cerulean
Chillwave, Electronic, Glitch Pop
2010 saw the absurdly-titled and loosely-defined “chillwave” movement rise to mainstream popularity and then slowly fizzle out as hipsters moved away from the entry-level and on to the equally bizarre and then-underground genre “witch house”. ‘09 chillwavers like Neon Indian and Washed Out played shows and gained acceptance in 2010, but while they were partying, Baths was hard at work meticulously constructing Cerulean, which is to be known from here on as the best chillwave album ever. Trading in the stereotypically lazy production value and samples of chillwave for glitchy beats and gorgeous vocal harmonies, Baths created a record that was incredibly intricate and engaging, but at the same time remarkably chill. Yes, Cerulean is the best chillwave album ever, and one of the best electronic albums of 2010.
28. of Montreal - False Priest
Soul, Indie Pop, R&B, Funk
In response to a negative Pitchfork review of False Priest, the new album by of Montreal, frontman Kevin Barnes wondered -
Why does pitchfork always assign my albums to flaccid puritanical sex hating half humans?
Why indeed. As he himself goes on to confirm, Kevin Barnes is not tired of sex. Unfortunately for him, it seems like a lot of people are. In the context of the band’s past few albums, it would seem that False Priest offers nothing new thematically. However once one removes the album from that harsh context, you find a wonderful album filled with too-bizarre-to-make-up (yet somehow relatable) sexual anecdotes set to a funky beat and sung by a crazy bisexual dude who wears a lot of make up and sometimes decides not to wear clothes on stage. In addition, False Priest features Janelle Monae and Solange Knowles, two of indie R&B’s greatest upstarts (the former of which I hope will take on mainstream R&B with the speed and precision that she has taken over the blogs in 2011). From beginning to end, this album is fun. Pure, ridiculous, intelligent, self-deprecating fun. What’s wrong with that?
27. Los Campesinos! - Romance is Boring
Indie Pop, Twee Pop
“Let’s talk about you for a minute”
These were not words I ever expected the self-obsessed Gareth Campesinos! to utter, and yet so begins “In Medias Res”, the opening track from the new Los Campesinos! album Romance is Boring. As the frontman for the Welsh indie band Los Campesinos!, Gareth has spent the past two years either bemoaning or praising himself, but never focusing on anyone else. He’s acknowledged that he has screwed people over and that people have screwed him over, but we’ll never know anything else about them.
Romance is Boring is different. The entire album, a noisy and loud 48 minutes composed almost entirely of fist pumping twee-punk anthems, reads like the transcript of a breakup written by Gareth himself. This formula is very interesting, but causes Romance is Boring to feel like a bit of a transition album. If this is the direction in which the band is headed, I’m incredibly excited to hear what they do next.
“Is this something that would interest you? Would this interest you at all?”
26. Ted Leo and the Pharmacists - The Brutalist Bricks
Pop/Punk, Punk Rock, Indie Rock
Over the past ten years or so, Ted Leo’s output has been incredibly consistent. On The Brutalist Bricks, the latest installment in his already storied career, he and his band rock out harder than ever. Leo, now 40, has managed to maintain that Rivers Cuomo-like appearance of eternal youth and tracks like “The Mighty Sparrow” and “Gimme the Wire” show that it is not only a facade. These are energetic and youthful punk rock songs that never sound try-hard or fake. Despite a couple songs that seem to misfire, and a production style that verges on sounding overdone, the straight up great songs on The Brutalist Bricks make it just too good to pass up.
And just as a reminder, Ted Leo’s playing a solo show at The Space in January! More info here! (via Manic Productions)
25. The National - High Violet
Indie Rock, Chamber Pop
Coming in at number 25 is one of the most critically acclaimed albums of 2010. The National’s High Violet builds on the band’s previous two albums, and features everything one might expect from a National album: sad songs, deep vocals, and heavy drums. Still, High Violet feels a lot more subdued than Alligator and Boxer. Suffice to say that there are no songs as aggressive and angular as Boxer’s ”Mistaken For Strangers” on this album. However, The National have clearly gotten better at writing slower songs, as evidenced by the gorgeous High Violet opener “Terrible Love”. There is not much else to be said about this album that hasn’t already been said. While it may not live up to all the hype it gets, High Violet is a very good record by a very accomplished band.
24. Castevet - The Echo & The Light
Emo, Post-Rock, Post-Hardcore
Though largely flawed, Castevet’s 2009 album Summer Fences helped revitalize the emo scene which had stagnated over a period of roughly seven years with remarkable new energy and post-rock sensibilities. While fascinating and refreshing, Summer Fences always felt to me like there was something missing. After a hard year of touring, Castevet have come back with plenty of experience. Their new album The Echo and the Light improves on their original formula. The post-rock is still present, but the crescendoing interludes don’t feel like they come out of nowhere anymore. On The Echo & the Light, everything feels organic. The clean math rock guitars contrast with the relatively low screamed vocals, but the drums make it all come together. These drums sound fantastic, and wouldn’t feel out of place on an Explosions in the Sky record. The drums, which occasionally give way to ear-blasting walls of sound and noise, add that post-rock element to Castevet’s mix, and make The Echo & the Light much more than just another emo album.
23. Belle and Sebastian - Belle and Sebastian Write About Love
Indie Pop, Chamber Pop, Twee Pop
Belle and Sebastian’s new album Belle and Sebastian Write About Love features a despondent looking girl gazing out her window on the cover. Combined with the overly self-aware album title (which from me will always provoke the response “duh”), this almost seems like a play on the band itself. Though I’m sure Stuart Murdoch has long been aware of the fact that Belle and Sebastian has always primarily been a band for somewhat disaffected indie girls, it seems that he has finally accepted it. Belle and Sebastian Write About Love,and that’s okay. Perhaps it was coming to terms with this that allowed Stuart to write the songs contained on this album. Stuart comes off as more open and more accessible than he has ever seemed. He’s not the fragile boy who mused about whether he could ever be loved on Tigermilk and If You’re Feeling Sinister, but instead he is a grown man teaching the future Stuarts of the world the truth. Girls think it’s okay for a boy to be sensitive. Being sad is good sometimes. Being happy can be a choice. Everyone take notes.
22. The Love Language - Libraries
Indie Pop, Chamber Pop
If there was ever a band that Write About Love was written for, it’s The Love Language. Stuart (!!) McLamb, a young, black haired upstart and the chief songwriter for The Love Language may even be Stuart Murdoch’s protege. Having studied Dear Catastrophe Waitress and The Life Pursuit, McLamb and his band have it in their power to craft indelibly catchy and life affirming pop songs so perfect that they will make you want to sing, dance, and write songs of your own. McLamb draws lyrical motifs straight from the aforementioned Belle and Sebastian albums, but crafts them in his own very personal style. If you are sad, see this band live, they will make you want to live.
21. Surfer Blood - Astro Coast
Indie Rock, Power Pop, Surf Rock
Surfer Blood’s Astro Coast can be described thusly: if your favorite Weezer song ever is “Surf Wax America” from their self titled 1995 debut record, you will love this album. Actually, if you love any of the other tracks on Weezer, you will also love this album. Astro Coast is filled with that same glorious, harmonious power pop that was so brilliantly perfected by Weezer that it almost feels like they created it. In the fifteen years since that record was released, nobody has managed to get that sound or that feeling of lively and youthful energy down without feeling cheap or unoriginal. Surfer Blood have done it, and Astro Coast is the gleaming, surf-inflected product that all people who were ever in a Weezer cover band should aspire to.
Check back here tomorrow for my official top 20 albums of 2010! I hope you enjoyed this list. Let me know if you want a link to any of these albums.