My favorite music of 2010

It is that time of year again to review the music of the year. Now, I’ll remind you of my usual disclaimer: I make no claim to know what is good music, but I know what I like, so you’ll have to live with that.

So, without much further ado, here is 2010 in Review (curious what 2008 or 2009 looked like?)

Some honorable mentions that just missed: Kanye West’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy; Typhoon’s Hunger and Thrist; Caribou’s Swim; Vampire Weekend’s Contra and Robyn’s Body Talk. Kanye always impresses me at first but I’ve been burned by the staying power of his stuff. Caribou released what I had hoped that Hot Chip’s One Life Stand was while Robyn’s inclusion is highly weighted by what might be my single of the year “Dancing on my Own“.

20. Dealing in Antiques by Cats on Fire – Sure, might be rarities/demos but I love this band.
19. Surf Noir EP by Beat Connection
18. Magic Chairs by Efterklang – More Scandinavians. Sorry.
17. Fur Dich Immer Noch Fanta Sie by Die Fantastichen Vier – Quickly, they’re becoming, in my mind, the most important non-English-speaking act out there.
16. Fight Softly by the Ruby Suns
15. II by Crystal Castles – Shouting and synths. I still follow that siren song.
14. Halycon Digest by Deerhunter – Many people will gasp, but dang it if Deerhunter is still uneven.
13. High Violet by the National – In a sense, the opposite of Deerhunter: too even.
12. Trans-Continental Hustle by Gogol Bordello
11. Man on the Moon II: The Legend of Mr. Rager by Kid Cudi – After Lupe Fiasco, probably the most daring mainstream rapper out there (Sorry, Kanye and Jay-Z)

10. Hidden by These New Puritans – Like the Horrors in 2009, These New Puritans’ sophomore album annihilates their so-so debut.

9. Transference by Spoon – This might be the first time Spoon has ever made one of my “best of” lists. I have honestly no idea what this Spoon album clicked with me while every other one hasn’t.

8. Memphis by Magic Kids – Sorry, it is sticky sweet, like XTC 2.0, but better and much much younger than they should be.

7. All Day by Girl Talk – I still can’t shake the feeling that Girl Talk doesn’t deserve to be this high, but you have to acknowledge the fact that I can’t stop listening. I still feel dirty in a postmodern way.

Check out the mashup deconstruction of All Day.

6. Grinderman II by Grinderman – I know some like the mellower side of Nick Cave, but I do appreciate the badass side, too.

5. My Best Friend is You by Kate Nash – Honestly, she should be one of the Doctor’s companions, right? Right?! (Steven Moffatt, I hope you’re listening).

4. The Suburbs by the Arcade Fire – They’re R.E.M. or something now. You might have heard of them.

3. Lisbon by the Walkmen – Sometimes I think the Walkmen are the best true rock band in existence. Maybe that is why I would have been a poor music director at a radio station and a much better petrologist.

2. Treats by Sleigh Bells – Back in the mid ’90s, I proclaimed that Atari Teenage Riot was ahead of its time. I think time has caught up.

1. This is Happening by LCD Soundsystem – I’m not 100% sure, but I think James Murphy’s albums topped my lists every year he released one. Bastard. Honestly, “Dance Yrself Clean” is absolutely monumental, like the Colossus of Rhodes but extant.

There you go … now have it.

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The Best of the ’00s Part 2: #90-81

Well, I meant to post 90-81 earlier this week, but hey, I was busy … but here it is now. Enjoy!

90 The Anniversary – Your Majesty (2001) – In the same group as Papas Fritas, the Anniversary’s followup to Designing a Nervous Breakdown was much more in the 70s power pop spectrum than the post-punk emo of their debut. It also happened to be their swansong, but for half of 2001, it was all I listened to.

89 Girl Talk – Feed the Animals (2008) – Much like my best of 2008 list, I feel a little ambivalence towards putting something like Girl Talk on a list of best albums – it is more of a collage of sound that anything. However, that is postmodernism for you, where patische is just as legitimate as anything – and boy, Girl Talk is a blast.

88 Andrew WK – I Get Wet (2002) – Speaking of album that are merely fun, Andrew WK exists in that netherworld where it is hard to tell if its the album or the concept you like. There isn’t really anything that serious on I Get Wet but the amount of energy released by Andrew WK during the course of the album is enough to grab and keep your attention.

87 Beck – Sea Change (2002) – On the flipside, Sea Change was about as subtle an album that Beck has ever recorded – almost like Beck-meets-Nick Drake in its balladry. You might be concerned that such of metamorphosis might not work out, but somehow Beck’s voice works out beautiful in the stripped-down setting.

86 Vampire Weekend – Vampire Weekend (2008) – Sure, they’re another hype band, but kind of like Jens Lekman’s Paul Simon revival, Vampire Weekend borrowed heavily from that Graceland sound – and it ended up working out just fine. The band lived up to a lot of the hype.

85 Jose Gonzalez – Veneer (2005) – You have to love the scandatino, part-Argentine, part-Swedish, Jose Gonzalez channeled his inner Nick Drake to record a heartbreaking set of guitar ballads. Of course, the high points were his genius covers of the Knife’s “Heartbeats” and Joy Division’s “Love Will Tear Us Apart” (and a little less impressive cover of Kylie).

84 The Walkmen – You & Me (2008) – Sure, it didn’t have a standout like “The Rat” (see #99), but the overall experience of You & Me was much more solid – it was both accessible and interesting. It had that dusty, echoing sound that is a signature of the Walkmen (and the predecessor Jonathan Fire Eater) but didn’t get bogged down with Dylanesque meanderings.

83 Yeah Yeah Yeah – Its Blitz (2009) – Like a lot of bands, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs had a lot to live up to after their debut Fever to Tell and they sounded like they were crushed by the weight with their ponderous sophomore album. Luckily, after that misfire, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs were able to cut loose and have some fun. Its Blitz was more new wave than punk rock, but somehow Karen O just seems like a natural for it – sadly, few others like the album as much as I did.

82 Sigur Ros – ( ) (2002) – I got this album out of a free CD bin in my days at KBVR … I’m still at a loss why they didn’t think it was good enough for use on the station. I actually had no idea what to make of it when I popped it in my CD player (it was 2002), but the near-ambient Radiohead-on-tranquilizers sound combined with the bizarre made-up language was mesmerizing. Of course, I’m still amused when I shocked a friend of mine in 2007 when I informed him that the lead singer was, in fact, a guy.

81 M.I.A. – Arular (2005) – There is definitely something undeniably charming about a Sri Lankan female singer/rapper mixing it up with thick synth beats. Sometimes it was hard to follow M.I.A. and her rambunctious nature, but you had to admit that once you did, it was too much fun to avoid.

Here is the iTunes iMix for #90-81.

And check out #100-91 of my favorite albums of the ’00s.

Best Albums of 2008 – #10-1

Here is the rest of my best albums of 2008!

#10 Deerhunter: Microcastle – Another late entry in the top 20, this one landed all the way into the top 10. I, like many people, just didn’t get Cryptograms, Deerhunter’s previous album, but Microcastle is packed with pop gems – almost like Sebadoh for the 21st century.

#9 Hot Chip: Made in the Dark – The odd thing about Made in the Dark is how uneven it is. When it is great, it is great. When it is not, it is downright boring. However, the mass balance of greatness versus boredom leans heavily towards the greatness side of the equation, so Made in the Dark is at home at #9.

#8 Vampire Weekend: Vampire Weekend – Although this album was released all the way back in January, I found myself returning to it throughout the year. That is usually a good sign for a band and even though most of the cool kids think they are way too cool for Vampire Weekend, it is worth your while not to be.

#7 Fleet Foxes: Fleet Foxes – Another self-titled debut on the top 20, the Fleet Foxes are #1 on many folks’ “best of” lists. I love the harmonies, the production and the “familiar-yet-exotic” feel of the album. If anything, the Fleet Foxes will age the best of any album of the list.

#6 Girl Talk: Feed the Animals – You know, when it comes down to it, putting a Girl Talk album this high is a real testament to how weak 2008 was for music. Heck, Girl Talk is really just a ‘oos version of Jive Bunny & the Mastermixers, but its OK because Girl Talk uses graphic hip-hop rather than ’50s pop songs. That all being said, I listened to this album probably more than any other in 2008, but some of that might just have been the “music nerd” factor of identifying all the snippets.

#5 TV on the Radio: Dear Science. – This album helped revive my interest in music for the year. It might be the most straightforward and accessible TV on the Radio album thus far.

#4 Hercules & Love Affair: Hercules & Love Affair – Another debut … that might be the legacy of 2008: so many great new bands. I suppose Hercules & Love Affair isn’t totally news, but they are yet another piece of the DFA “Midas Touch” and the fact that Antony (of Antony & the Johnsons) should be a dance diva.

#3 Los Campesinos!: We are Beautiful, We are Doomed; Hold On Now, Youngster … – Los Campesinos! were by far the most prolific excellent band of the year. Two wonderful albums within the space of 12 months leaves us with more than enough sloppy pop songs to digest. I agree with the general listening public that We are Beautiful, We are Doomed is better than Hold On Now, Youngster, which means that Los Campesinos! might have skipped over the sophomore slump by recording until their fingers bled.

#2 Portishead: Third – Well worth the wait. Dark, sinister and surprisingly refreshing for the band that only took a decade to record a new disc.

and now …

#1 The Walkmen: You & Me – Surprise! You know, this one snuck up on me. When I first listened to You & Me, I knew it was much better than the last few by the Walkmen, but little did I know how much it would grow on me. How it did! The album is dark and dusty, yet not melodramatic. The production matches the mood to a tee, weaving the songs into haunting and echoing tales. Yet, it has this overarching good-feeling that is easy to miss unless you really sit down with the album. Most people likely missed this album altogether, the Walkmen, to an extent, are a post-hype band, but You & Me  shows that the band is hitting their stride head on.

 

Try it out: “In the New Year”

See #20-11

The return of … music?

So, the election is over.

Baseball season is over.

And suddenly, Erik is feeling music again.

What happened? Well, I think that should be pretty obvious. A lot of tension was lifted from my mind after Barack Obama won the presidency (can you dig it?!) I’ll have more to say about this, but right now I’m a little too busy trying to get ready for a weekend field trip and an interview, so instead I’ll post my first iPod top 10 in months. Enjoy!

  1. “Like This” by Girl Talk
  2. “The Menace” by Mongrel
  3. “Viva La Vida” by Coldplay
  4. “Shame on a Nigga” by Wu Tang Clan
  5. “Blind” by Hercules & Love Affair
  6. “Freiwild” by K.I.Z.
  7. “Flux” by Bloc Party
  8. “Dance Wiv Me” by Dizzee Rascal with Calvin Harris
  9. “Mumtaz Khan” by Ratatat
  10. “I Lost You” by the Walkmen

Oh yeah, music and such

I haven’t written much about music in ages. Not entirely sure why beyond the fact that it seems that 2008 has been a pretty uninspiring year for me, new music-wise. Yes, there have been a few great albums – Portishead, Fleet Foxes, Shearwater, Vampire Weekend – but nothing has really grabbed my attention and kept it. Ah well.

On that note, I will post my latest Top 10 from my iPod, for your amusement. Maybe visiting Amoeba in Berkeley this weekend will help alleviate my malaise.

  1. “Rubicon” by the Blistering Suns
  2. “Like This” by Girl Talk
  3. “Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa” by Vampire Weekend
  4. “Holle” by K.I.Z.
  5. “Werewolves of London” by Warren Zevon
  6. “Viva La Vida” by Coldplay
  7. “Ready for the Floor” by Hot Chip
  8. “Strange Victory, Strange Defeat” by the Silver Jews
  9. “Mumtaz Khan” by Ratatat
  10. “Friday Night at the Drive-In Bingo” by Jens Lekman
And for the fun of it, a song that might make the top 10 soon … and it is in German!
“Du Much Auch” by Die Fantastischen Vier

Getting back on track

Back on Track

So, I’ve been in a bit of a music funk lately. Not sure why, but nothing caught my attention and I couldn’t really get in the mood to write any new reviews. I suppose this happens to everyone, but I’ve slowly been attempting to reboot and get back on track.

I was going to post a new top 10 from my iPod, but it is a mess right now. I mean, of the Top 20 songs right now, 8 are from the new Girl Talk album, Feed the Animals, which I recommend to everyone, everywhere (heck, you can download for a price of your choosing). I’ve also been quite fond of the new Fleet Foxes album, but it doesn’t even register on my iPod playcount because I listened to the physical CD while working in the lab (a real CD? Go figure). My other recent acquisition that has gotten a lot of playing is the Silver Jews Lookout Mountain, Lookout Sea.

Oddly, the late spring releases, on the whole, have sort of disappointed me. I was really looking forward to the new Islands record, Arm’s Way but it fell flat. Death Cab for Cutie’s Narrow Stairs just hasn’t stuck, but then again both Transatlanticism and Plans took a few months to sink in. El Perro Del Mar’s From the Valley to the Stars was just a little too laid back to the point of narcolepsy and the Long Blondes’ “Couples” was a disaster compared to the treat that was their first album. Maybe this has been why I’ve been unable to stay focussed on music lately: too much disappointment.