Lewis and his Blog August 2012 Mix
(Photo by Tom Wolff)
August is on its way out, and with it, Summer 2012 is effectively coming to an end for me. This summer was a pretty intense and rich experience in both a musical and personal sense, and August was perhaps its apex. Here are ten new tracks that I loved this month. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do.
Feel free to stream this month’s mix at the embedded 8tracks link below, and check out all of the previous monthly mixes for this year HERE.
1. I Kill Giants - “Life Instead Of Sleep”
The Massachusetts group I Kill Giants doesn’t like to waste anybody’s time, which might explain why almost all of their songs are under the 1-minute mark. At only 44 seconds, “Life Instead Of Sleep” is no exception to that trend, but it is exceptionally great. After a brief intro, the band launches into just over 20 seconds of cathartic emo-informed math rock, and just like that it’s all over. But hey, there’s a replay button for a reason. I Kill Giants latest EP We Can Live In The Exact Same Place is up now on bandcamp.
2. White Lung - “Take The Mirror”
Vancouver’s White Lung have one of the freshest takes on punk rock that I’ve heard this year. On “Take The Mirror,” the opening track of their excellent new album Sorry, the group pays homage to The Replacements and riot grrrl in equal measure with their lucid riffs, hardcore two-step beat, and singer Mish Way’s emotive punk howl. Sorry is out now on Deranged Records.
3. Desaparecidos - “Backsell”
Conor Oberst’s politically motivated punk band Desaparecidos caused a big stir this summer by reuniting after ten years, just in time for a very important election year. Earlier this month they released a double a-side single featuring two stellar new tracks, one of which was “Backsell,” a barnstorming, brutally sarcastic indictment of commercial radio and the music industry with which Oberst has certainly had some negative experiences. The lyrics are pretty clever, if forced, and the punk bite of Oberst’s earlier years clearly hasn’t lost its venom. The “MariKKKopa” / “Backsell” 7” is available for purchase from Desa’s website.
4. Dum Dum Girls - “Lord Knows”
Dum Dum Girls’ ringleader Dee Dee displays her impressive, maturing songwriting ability on this new single from the California noise pop group’s new EP End Of Daze. It’s a somber mid-tempo stunner with gorgeous guitars, vocals, and a soaring chorus that will have you simply sighing at its relatable, desperate lyrical message. “Lord Knows” is a rare mix of refined lyricism and pop perfection. End Of Daze is out September 25th on Sub Pop.
5. Spider Bags - “Friday Night”
Dan McGee’s Spider Bags turn down the twang and up the garage rock grit on their new full length Shake My Head, and no song exemplifies this revving up of energy more than the lead single “Friday Night.” This is a classic indie rock anthem that harks back to the alcohol-powered fervor of reckless 80s groups like The Replacements, while still retaining some of the band’s country rock roots. The ‘Mats connections run especially deep in the chorus, which sounds like it could have been written and sung by Paul Westerberg himself: “Baby it’s tough / Falling out of love.” It’s the kind of statement that’s been said before, but means a whole lot more when delivered with the conviction that McGee has. Shake My Head is out now on Odessa Records.
6. Dan Deacon - “True Thrush”
Dan Deacon’s latest LP America is an ambitious record with a huge, trans-national scope, and yet it also bears some moments that are deeply affecting on a much more personal, relatively microscopic level. The single “True Thrush” is one such moment, a homespun electronic jumble of very real, very relatable emotions that are delivered with relative subtlety. It’s a bit of a gentler direction for the typically zany composer, and one that he might want to explore more in the future. America is out now on Domino.
7. Liars - “No.1 Against The Rush”
“No.1 Against The Rush” is the centerpiece of Liars’ latest experimental odyssey WIXIW, a chilly electronic record that disturbs with unexpected minimalism rather than abrasion. “No.1 Against The Rush” is as moody and dark as anything else on the record, and yet it still operates as the album’s pop song — the lone moment where an earworm hook transcends the self-imposed darkness and almost threatens to shine. WIXIW is out now on Mute Records.
8. Purity Ring - “Fineshrine”
I’ll be damned if this isn’t one of the very best songs I’ve heard all year just in terms of sheer pop stunning power. Delightfully creepy lyrics and beat elements aside, “Fineshrine” simply has one of the best hooks I’ve heard in a long time. I can tell that this will be stuck in my head right up to and during list-making season. Purity Ring’s Shrines is out now on 4AD. Read my full review of the album HERE.
9. Jens Lekman - “I Know What Love Isn’t”
The title track to Jens Lekman’s new album I Know What Love Isn’t is an expectedly excellent piece of indie pop brilliance; it’s as perfect a song as any that the Swedish singer/songwriter has written to date. Some tracks on the new album are more sweeping, more ambitious, or more affecting, but nothing can match the simple genius of Jens’ storytelling, his full-bodied croon, or his gentle guitar playing on this track. Listening to “I Know What Love Isn’t” is always a thoroughly wonderful experience. The new album is out September 4th on Secretly Canadian.
10. Defiance, Ohio - “Horizon Lines, Volume and Infinity”
The folk punk legends Defiance, Ohio celebrated their 10th anniversary this month by releasing 6 new songs on their bandcamp page, which have since been compiled into an EP named The Calling. “Horizon Lines, Volume and Infinity” was among the first of the new tracks to drop, and remains easily the best. Theo Hilton’s songwriting is in top form, and the no-fuss acoustic guitar arrangement is breezy, nostalgic, and slightly sad — a fitting end to a remarkable summer. Pick up The Calling on bandcamp HERE.
Be sure to check out all of the previous monthly mixes HERE.
Defiance, Ohio Announce Tour, Debut New Songs
For the past three weeks, the veteran folk punk act Defiance, Ohio has been dropping pairs of new tracks in celebration of their 10 year anniversary as a band. I posted about the gorgeous “Horizon Lines, Volume And Infinity” when that dropped, but now there are five more new tracks to listen to on their bandcamp page. You can stream the latest track, a misanthropic anthem called “I’m Just Gonna Leave Now” above, and hear all the other new tracks on bandcamp. “I’m Just Gonna Leave Now” was actually the first song that the band ever wrote together 10 years ago, but they thought it would be a fun experiment to re-record it this year in honor of the anniversary.
Defiance, Ohio have also added new tour dates in the coming weeks on the East Coast, which are listed below. I can attest that this band puts on a great live show, so come on out and see them if they’re coming to your area!
Defiance, Ohio 2012 Tour dates:
- Aug 29th - Cincinnati, OH @the drinkery w/ TBA
- Aug 30th – Detroit, MI @the trumbellplex w/ TBA
- Aug 31st – Cleveland, OH @Tba w/ Saint Seneca
- Sept 1st – Boston, MA @Democracy Center
- Sept 2nd – NYC @ Europa w/ TBA
- Sept 3rd – Philadelphia, PA @The Barbary w/ NONA
- Sept 4th – Asbury, NJ @ asbury lanes w/ Spoonboy, Tiny Teeth
- Sept 5th – Washington DC @TBA w/ Spoonboy
- Sept 6th – Richmond, VA @strange matter w/ Spoonboy
- Sept 7th – Huntington, WV @funkytowne w/ TBA
Left of the Dial Radio Playlist - 8/10/12
Thanks for tuning in to my radio show Left of the Dial last night on WNHU. I hope everyone who listened liked the show.Here’s the full playlist below. If you’d like, you can stream the Spotify version of the playlist at the embedded link below that.
- 1. Destroyer - “Streethawk I”
- 2. Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy - “I See A Darkness” (Now Here’s My Plan version)
- 3. Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti - “Mature Themes”
- 4. The Mountain Goats - “Cry For Judas”
- 5. Defiance, Ohio - “Horizon Lines, Volume and Infinity”
- 6. Yo La Tengo - “Autumn Sweater”
- 7. JEFF The Brotherhood - “Country Life”
- 8. Now, Now - “Thread”
- 9. Dum Dum Girls - “Lord Knows”
- 10. Hop Along - “Tibetan Pop Stars”
- 11. Liars - “No.1 Against The Rush”
- 12. Ethan Uhl - “self help books”
- 13. Crystal Castles - “Plague”
- 14. Animal Collective - “Today’s Supernatural”
- 15. The Antlers - “Drift Dive”
- 16. Mount Eerie - “Waves”
- 17. Desaparecidos - “MariKKKopa”
- 18. Desaparecidos - “Backsell”
- 19. Wavves - “Hippies Is Punks”
- 20. I Kill Giants - “Life Instead of Sleep”
- 21. Punch - “Time Apart”
- 22. White Lung - “Thick Lip”
- 23. Grizzly Bear - “Yet Again” (requested by sea-fence)
- 24. Jens Lekman - “I Know What Love Isn’t”
- 25. Ty Segall - “Goodbye Bread”
- 26. Slow Warm Death - “Kill You”
- 27. Modest Mouse - “Paper Thin Walls” (Requested by anonymous)
- 28. Jaill - “Horrible Things (Make Pretty Songs)”
- 29. Perfume Genius - “Dark Parts”
- 30. TNGHT - “Bugg’n”
Stream via Spotify:
Defiance, Ohio - “Horizon Lines, Volume and Infinity”
Midwest folk punk mainstays Defiance, Ohio dropped their first new music since 2010’s Midwestern Minutes this week, in the form of two new tracks on their bandcamp page. “Horizon Lines, Volume and Infinity” is the highlight of the two — a breezily chugging folk rock number that seems to take a very large influence from band member Theo Hilton’s other project Nana Grizol.
Very little of their punk roots comes through on this track, but that’s probably for the better. Hilton’s songwriting contributions have always been on the gentler side of Defiance’s output, and this track is quickly standing out to me as one of his best yet. In both Defiance, Ohio and Nana Grizol, Hilton’s lyrics consistently manage to conjure up wonderful dream-like thoughts in my head. Even the title of this song alone makes me think of a beautiful, perfect summer day. The rest of the lyrics, along with the perfectly mixed acoustic and electric guitars, only serve to clarify that image.
“Horizon Lines…” and the other new song, “Bad Ideas,” comprise the first pair of new tracks to be released in honor of Defiance, Ohio’s 10th anniversary as a band. The band will release two more pairs of songs (making for 6 new songs total) on the next two Fridays.
EDIT: This just reminded me that The Great Depression is one of my favorite albums ever. I’m going to listen to that now and get nostalgic for two years ago.
Left of the Dial Radio Playlist - 6/15/12
As always, thanks to everyone who tuned in last night. I got a lot of requests, and although I couldn’t entertain all of them, I really appreciate the active support of this blog and my radio show. Check out the full playlist below, and stream all the songs that were available on Spotify at the embedded link below that.
- 1. King Tuff - “Keep On Movin’”
- 2. Andrew W.K. - “Girls Own Love”
- 3. Torche - “Kicking”
- 4. Ceremony - “Citizen”
- 5. Two Humans - “Lonely Tunez”
- 6. Thee Oh Sees - “Carrion Crawler”
- 7. Ted Leo and the Pharmacists - “Biomusicology”
- 8. Be Your Own Pet - “Bicycle, Bicycle, You Are My Bicycle” (Requested by Threecreation)
- 9. The Unicorns - “Les Os” (Requested by atbudokan)
- 10. The Olivia Tremor Control - “A Peculiar Noise Called “Train Director”“
- 11. of Montreal - “The Miniature Philosopher”
- 12. Defiance, Ohio - “Petty Problems”
- 13. Elison Jackson - “Man From Lowell”
- 14. Plume Giant - “Fool Hall”
- 15. Belle and Sebastian - “If You’re Feeling Sinister”
- 16. Vashti Bunyan - “Lately” (Requested by antichr0matic)
- 17. You Blew It! - “There’s Nothing I Love More Than Baseball”
- 18. The Helveticas - “I Wish Love Was This Easy”
- 19. Blue Sky Black Death - “Farewell To The Former World”
- 20. Porter Ricks - “Nautical Dub”
- 21. How To Dress Well - “Ocean Floor For Everything”
- 22. Panda Bear - “Take Pills”
- 23. Kavinsky & Lovefoxxx - “Nightcall”
- 24. Perfume Genius - “Take Me Home”
- 25. Suns - “Machine Stream”
- 26. Sinforiano Diaz - “Congregation”
- 27. Owen - “I’m Not Going Anywhere Tonight”
- 28. The Tallest Man On Earth - “Bright Lanterns”
- 29. Nana Grizol - “For Things That Haven’t Come Yet”
Stream via Spotify:
Left of the Dial Radio Playlist - 4/13/12
Apologies for not posting this yesterday. I got caught up in writing the review of that excellent new LP from The Act Of Estimating As Worthless and then had to go to band practice. Anyway, I hope those of you who tuned in to my show on Friday (the thirteenth!) had a good time. Here’s the playlist below, along with a link to stream each song.
- 1. The Get Up Kids - “Holiday”
- 2. Elvis Costello - “(The Angels Wanna Wear My) Red Shoes”
- 3. Into It. Over It. - “Discretion & Depressing People”
- 4. Beach House - “Myth”
- 5. Destroyer - “Suicide Demo For Kara Walker”
- 6. Grandaddy - “The Go In The Go-For-It”
- 7. fun. - “All Alone”
- 8. Suns - “I Could’ve Made Time”
- 9. Iceage - “White Rune”
- 10. Refused - “The Deadly Rhythm”
- 11. Titus Andronicus - “Upon Viewing Breughel’s “Landscape With The Fall of Icarus”
- 12. The Arrogant Sons Of Bitches - “Disappointment At The Taco Bell”
- 13. Defiance, Ohio - “Oh, Susquehanna!”
- 14. Laura Stevenson and the Cans - “The Healthy One”
- 15. By Surprise - “Realometer”
- 16. Dikembe - “Scottie Spliffen”
- 17. Jimmy Eat World - “A Praise Chorus”
- 18. Pavement - “The Killing Moon” (Echo & The Bunnymen cover)
- 19. Cloud Nothings - “Stay Useless”
- 20. The Act Of Estimating As Worthless - “My Left Thumb”
- 21. Margot & The Nuclear So and So’s - “Skeleton Key”
- 22. Elliott Smith - “Bled White”
- 23. Local Natives - “Who Knows Who Cares”
- 24. First Aid Kit - “Emmylou”
- 25. Bright Eyes - “On My Way To Work”
- 26. Andrew Jackson Jihad - “Love In The Time Of Human Papilloma Virus”
- 27. Low - “Done”
- 28. The Mountain Goats - “The Mess Inside”
I won’t be doing my show next week because I’ll be going to WQAQ’s Festapalooza (with Titus Andronicus, Bomb The Music Industry!, The Front Bottoms and more!). Find more information about that day long Connecticut festival HERE.
Left of the Dial Radio Playlist - 3/23/12
Last night’s show went really well. Thanks to everybody who tuned in and enjoyed the programming. Next Friday I will probably not be able to do my show because I’ll be performing in New Haven, but if that ends up not happening for whatever reason, I’ll probably be back in the studio doing another broadcast of Left of the Dial. As always, here’s the playlist from the show last night with links to stream each song. A number of these tracks were culled from the records I listened to while I was in Paris this past week, which I wrote about yesterday HERE. I also devoted the final segment of the show to Mitch Dubey, who was murdered a year ago today here in New Haven, Connecticut.
- 1. Ben Kweller - “Wasted & Ready”
- 2. Weezer - “The World Has Turned And Left Me Here”
- 3. Pavement - “Elevate Me Later”
- 4. Titus Andronicus - “Upon Viewing Oregon’s Landscape With The Flood Of Detritus”
- 5. Okkervil River - “Unless It’s Kicks”
- 6. Japandroids - “Darkness On The Edge Of Gastown”
- 7. The Unicorns - “Jellybones”
- 8. Street Smart Cyclist - “Hoods Up!”
- 9. Wingnut Dishwashers Union - “Never Trust A Man (Who Plays Guitar)”
- 10. Defiance, Ohio - “The List”
- 11. The Cure - “In Between Days”
- 12. The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart - “Falling Over”
- 13. Belle and Sebastian - “If She Wants Me”
- 14. Beach House - “Lazuli”
- 15. Polica - “Dark Star”
- 16. Passion Pit - “To Kingdom Come”
- 17. College - “A Real Hero (Feat. Electric Youth)”
- 18. Venetian Snares - “Öngyilkos Vasárnap”
- 19. Knife City - “Just Trash”
- 20. s / s / s - “Beyond Any Doubt”
- 21. People Who Love People - “Obligatory Sad Song”
- 22. Titus Andronicus - “My Time Outside The Womb” (acoustic demo)
- 23. Swear Jar - “Charles Bronson (The Man, Not The Band)”
- 24. Rites of Spring - “Deeper Than Inside”
- 25. Snowing - “Pump Fake”
- 26. Into It. Over It. - “Wicker Park”
- 27. Trash Talk - “Blind Evolution”
- 28. Connecticut - “Clean Streak”
- 29. My Heart To Joy - “All Of Life Is Coming Home”
Defiance, Ohio - “Calling Old Friends”
I can’t handle listening to any of the songs I put on her mixes anymore. This is especially unfortunate because I made her a lot of mixes with a lot of great music on them so a lot of my favorite songs are effectively off limits right now. Even thinking about them makes me kind of upset. I could write more about the whole mixtape thing but I won’t. Anyway, this is one song I put on a mix of hers a while ago. We sang along to it in the car once. I sang Theo Hilton’s part and she sang the girl’s part. Ugh.
Left of the Dial Radio Playlist - 9/30/11
Here’s the playlist from last night’s live broadcast of my radio show Left of the Dial on WNHU. This was a fun show with a lot of great new stuff. Thanks to everyone who suggested new music for me to listen to over this past week! Check out the playlist below, with links to each song when I could find them.
- 1. The Feelies - “The High Road”
- 2. R.E.M. - “Pretty Persuasion”
- 3. Real Estate - “It’s Real”
- 4. By Surprise - “Mostly Harmless”
- 5. The World Is A Beautiful Place & I Am No Longer Afraid To Die - “Bread For Brett”
- 6. YRRS - “Stain”
- 7. Wavves - “Nodding Off” (feat. Best Coast)
- 8. Year In Review - “Same Sad Song”
- 9. Digging Up Virgins - “Annelise”
- 10. Weezer - “I Just Threw Out The Love Of My Dreams”
- 11. Bright Eyes - “Touch”
- 12. Snowing - “Methuselah Rookie Card”
- 13. The Helveticas - “Wish Love Was This Easy”
- 14. Astronautalis - “Skeleton (Everybody’s Favorite)”
- 15. WHY? - “Crushed Bones”
- 16. Radiohead - “Little By Little”
- 17. Settler - “You’re Harpin’ On It!”
- 18. Powder! Go Away - “13.125 Miles Exploded By Hundred Oscillators”
- 19. Into It. Over It. - “Where Your Nights Often End”
- 20. Hostage Calm - “Where The Waters Call Home”
- 21. House of Wolves - “50’s”
- 22. Man Man - “Van Helsing Boombox”
- 23. Defiance, Ohio - “Bikes and Bridges”
- 24. The Middle East - “Jesus Came To My Birthday Party”
- 25. Sufjan Stevens - “All The Trees Of The Field Will Clap Their Hands”
- 26. Sinforiano Diaz - “06331”
- 27. The Mountain Goats -“Onions”
- 28. Giles Corey - “Grave Filled With Books”
- 29. Perfume Genius - “Lookout, Lookout”
- 30. Erik Satie - “Gymnopédie No. 2”
Tune into WNHU again next Friday from 6 to 8 PM Eastern time for another live broadcast!
Left of the Dial Radio Playlist - 9/23/11
Last night’s Left of the Dial radio show on WNHU was tons of fun. I kicked things off with a couple tracks from my recent Fall 2010 Nostalgia Mix, which can be streamed in full HERE, and tacked on the new single from Diarrhea Planet’s forthcoming debut LP Loose Jewels for good measure. I also played music from three of the bands that are playing at Hostage Calm’s LP anniversary show at The Space tonight, including tracks from the new Suns EP Be Good Boy and the new The World Is… split 12” Are Here To Help You.
Afterwards, I played some of my favorite Andrew Jackson Jihad songs and then aired my interview with the band, which I recorded on Tuesday at the Heirloom Arts Theater in Danbury. That interview can be read/streamed in full HERE for those of you who didn’t get to tune in last night.
The rest of the night’s set included new stuff from Girls and The Rapture, as well as a cut from the new Into It. Over It. LP Proper, which I reviewed HERE. Finally, I closed the show with two tracks from the recently disbanded R.E.M., including one cut from their latest album Collapse Into Now. It was a busy week, and last night was a busy show. Here’s the playlist below, with links to stream each song, when available.
- 1. Bedroom Eyes - “Dancing Under Influence”
- 2. Jenny and Johnny - “Big Wave”
- 3. Diarrhea Planet - “Warm Ridin’”
- 4. Suns - “Be Good Boy”
- 5. The World Is A Beautiful Place & I Am No Longer Afraid To Die - “I Will Be Okay. Everything”
- 6. Hostage Calm - “A Mistrust Earned”
- 7. Andrew Jackson Jihad - “Heartilation”
- 8. Andrew Jackson Jihad - “Zombie By The Cranberries By Andrew Jackson Jihad”
- 9. Andrew Jackson Jihad - “Darkest Heart”
- 10. Andrew Jackson Jihad - “People”
- 11. Andrew Jackson Jihad - “Truckers Are The Blood”
- 12. Lewis and his Blog Interview with Andrew Jackson Jihad (9/20/11)
- 13. Defiance, Ohio - “Condition 11:11”
- 14. Girls - “Alex”
- 15. Cymbals Eat Guitars - “Definite Darkness”
- 16. Into It. Over It. - “Connecticut Steps”
- 17. Desaparecidos - “Man and Wife, The Former (Financial Planning)”
- 18. The Fall - “No Xmas for John Quays”
- 19. Violent Femmes - “Kiss Off”
- 20. Bomb The Music Industry! - “Why, Oh Why, Oh Why (Oh Oh Oh Oh)”
- 21. Vacation - “Big Scary Dudes”
- 22. The Rapture - “Children”
- 23. R.E.M. - “Fall On Me”
- 24. R.E.M. - “ÜBerlin”
Anyway, I’m off to see that Hostage Calm show with The World Is…, Suns, and Heavy Breath. Tune in to WNHU next Friday at 6 PM to listen to another live broadcast of Left of the Dial!
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 - 6/24/11
I forgot to post this playlist from last friday’s Left of the Dial college radio show this weekend, so here it is a few days late. A youtube link to each song is provided when available. As always, this show’s playlist was comprised mostly of music that I had been listening to a lot in the past week, new and old alike. Remember to tune in this Friday from 6 to 8 PM on WNHU to hear the next Left of the Dial broadcast!
- 1. Okkervil River - “We Need A Myth”
- 2. Low - “Dinosaur Act”
- 3. R.E.M. - “E-Bow The Letter”
- 4. Sinforiano Diaz - “Congregation”
- 5. Real Estate - “Beach Comber”
- 6. Bon Iver - “Minnesota, WI”
- 7. WHY? - “Gnashville”
- 8. Madvillain - “Accordian”
- 9. Aesop Rock - “No Jumper Cables”
- 10. Crystal Castles - “Suffocation”
- 11. Weezer - “Blast Off!
- 12. Weezer - “Who You Callin’ Bitch?”
- 13. Pavement - “Date With IKEA”
- 14. By Surprise - “Mostly Harmless”
- 15. Defiance, Ohio - “Condition 11:11”
- 16. John Galm - “Kids in Catholic School”
- 17. Ramshackle Glory - “Your Heart Is A Muscle The Size Of Your Fist”
- 18. The Flaming Lips - “Feeling Yourself Disintegrate” (Demastered)
- 19. The Antlers - “Rolled Together”
- 20. Joan of Arc - “A Party Able Model Of”
- 21. David Bowie - “What In The World”
- 22. The Flaming Lips - “Fight Test” (*Request*)
- 23. The Mountain Goats - “No Children” (*Request*)
- 24. Weezer - “Butterfly”
- 25. Beck - “The Golden Age”
- 26. Pavement - “Transport Is Arranged”
- 27. Man Man - “Life Fantastic”
- 28. The Beach Boys - “I Know There’s An Answer” (*Request*)
- 29. Modest Mouse - “Cowboy Dan”
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.