see how lazy relic is in this picture? that's how lazy i have been when it comes to reviewing music this year. two thirds of the way through 2010, and i have yet to write anything significant about any new albums that came out this year. i am about to remedy this near-tragedy right now.
first let me say, in my defense, that there have been several mitigating factors.
i have actually not been very lazy at all this year, but in fact quite busy. this left me less time than i would like to listen to music, and virtually know time to reflect upon it critically, and commit those reflections to the internet, as i am usually so wont to do.
also, by and large, 2010 has been relatively scarce on great music releases (as compared with 2007 through 2009, in which there was a glut of great albums released; i think this happens approximately every ten years, and then everything goes generic again). this is not to say that there are not any good 2010 albums. it's just that there aren't as many of them (in my not-so-humble opinion) as last year, or the year before, or the year before that.
but anyway... without further ado, here are a bunch of album reviews i have been meaning to write up. hopefully this will lead you to listen to some awesome music. or else just argue with me about music; i like that too...
first i want to start with an honourable mention of a couple of 2009 albums that should have made my best of... list, except i didn't get to listen to them in time. idlewild's post electric blues
and blockhead's the music scene
so, obviously i have a bias; i love scottish music. idlewild is a great scottish band, and post electric blues
is their most challenging and evocative album yet. even for a band known for ripping up their genre with each new album, this great gem goes that extra mile. it's unapologetically rife with autobiographical-esque moments, driving home a real story, daring you to pay attention more. the overall effect - when the album is listened to start to finish - is a truly realized concept, with the "title track" plaintively and self-referentially explaining, "we've gone post-electric / i've written down the concept / it's casual to deny / along sentimental lines..."
and this is no mea culpa ballad. no. rather, it builds from an angular guitar riff into a five minute driving anthem explosion, taking you back to the days when songs like stone roses' "love spreads" and stone temple pilots' "interstate love song" ruled the radio airwaves. the rest of the album gratifyingly compliments "post-electric" with numerous catchy hooks, nods to '90s grunge, and even a steinbeck reference. for roddy woomble and company, getting it done with class... after so many years and albums, they've still got it.the music scene
- for those who don't know blockhead, this is his fourth album, following uncle tony's coloring book
(2007), downtown science
(2005), and music by cavelight
(2004). they are all amazing albums. notably, they all lack vocals/lyrics (excepting samples). blockhead is an instrumental soundscaper, and a very good one at that. though you may not be familiar with his solo material, you have likely heard his beats and samples. he has produced many well known tracks for rapper aesop rock. as with idlewild's latest, blockhead's the music scene
is his best collection to date. it is groovealicious. a little more upbeat than the eastern-inspired uncle tony's...
; a little funkier, a little booty-shakier. the sample use and beat flow are superb, especially on the title track. one of the things i like about blockhead's production is the relative ease with which he flows from one sample to the next, interspersing synthy sounds throughout. his pieces are very chill, moody tunes, while at the same time catchy and head-nodding. you could easily dance, or chillax, or make out, or drive, sit on the bus, whatever... it's always right for the mood. i highly recommend this album. there is very little music i purchase these days, but i purchased blockhead's last cd, and i would very much like to purchase this one on vinyl. totally worth it.
ok, phew. on to 2010! gonna do it in alphabetical order by band, just for the sake of simplicity:
band of horses, infinite arms
- i think everyone expected a lot from this album, as a majorly-backed follow-up to two very successful and critically-acclaimed "indie" releases. and with good reason; everything all the time
and cease to begin
were amazing albums, both worthy of vinyl purchase. as noted on wikipedia, bridwell's vocals are compared to jim james and neil young. i concur with this sentiment, and it's a big plus in band of horses' favour. add to that their ability to make catchy, alt-countryesque / pop songs, and it's pretty much a winning combination. but i think in terms of the production of infinite arms
, something got lost in the translation. it is true, "laredo" is a great track, instantly catchy, a good lead-off single. but it's annoyingly similar to "weed party" off their first album, everything all the time
. "weed party" wasn't even a single, but it highlights a characteristic of band of horses; they have a particular sound that is immediately theirs, and that can work to their benefit or their detriment. and in the case of "laredo" - coupled with extreme over-production of bridwell's vox (and if anyone's vox don't need over-production, it's his!) - and you've got a recipe for an infectious song that quickly loses its potency after three or four listens. i saw them play the track on letterman - boy did bridwell's vox sound so much different when he actually had to project them! lo and behold... emotion! sadly, this is exactly what is missing from infinite arms
. my advice is give this album a fair full listen or two, but then go back to everything all the time
for the classics.
black rebel motorcycle club - beat the devil's tattoo
. this seems to be a day of title tracks. because again, in this case, the title track is the best part about this album. i've always been on and off with BRMC. i like some of their stuff; other stuff i'm like "meh". in this case, that's how i felt about much of the new album. the lead off title-track however, immediately made me remenisce fondly of primal scream. it's a great rawk guttural track, wet-hook-laden, full of great licks. my hunch is that if you are already a BRMC fan, you may take a few listens to like this album, but then you will love it. if you're not already a fan, i don't think this one is gonna win you over.
broken bells - s/t
. everyone's like "ooh, aah, omg, it's danger mouse and that shins singer together at last!!!" i listened. i tried. i even like the shins, and love danger mouse. but this didn't do it for me. "the high road", "vaporize", "trap doors"; all good songs. but not wow. i expected more i guess? and like, why is this not just the new shins album? wasn't there supposed to be one of those this year? a danger mouse - produced shins album would probably be pretty righteous.
broken social scene - forgiveness rock record
. oh bss, you are boring me now. nothing remotely remarkable about this new offering. please bring back the awesomeness of the s/t album.
cocorosie - grey oceans
. i know it's a copout, but i won't even attempt an articulate deconstruction of this excellent concept piece. it's been done many times over now, much better than i could have written. go seek out some of the excellent critique on this album, and listen to it! listen to the album! personally i don't find it as musically appealing as the adventures of ghosthorse and stillborn
, but it is every bit as innovative and challenging, musically and culturally.
eels - end times
. mr. e writes way too much music. end times
may be his most dark and broody work since electro-shock blues
. again, the title track sticks out. which isn't to say the rest is filler. from start to finish, this is a great composition for eels. "a line in the dirt" has some great plodding piano moments, and lyrics like "she locked herself in the bathroom again / so i am pissing in the yard..."
sung, of course, in his ever-warbly, about-to-cry falsetto... this call-and-answer ballad is mr. e at his almost-best.
frightened rabbit - the winter of mixed drinks
. this is probably my favourite album of 2010. i know, i'm biased towards scottish music, but really people, this album takes the cake. it's a perfect mix of angry self-reflection, defiance, denial, realization, and actualization. from the lead-off track "things", you know this is going to be a doozy of a ride: "...like a new skin made from old skin that had barely been lived in / i didn't need these things..."
especially when singer scott hutchison later on the same track, bemoans suffering in the company of christian men! and indeed, things ARE only things, scott. indeed. the album just builds perfectly from there, ebbing and flowing like a tide (the album seem thematic to this point), it just carries the listener along. single "swim until you can't see land" is a great little ditty, totally sing-along-able. "footshooter" is probably my personal fav, musically and lyrically. if you haven't checked out frightened rabbit yet, do yourself a favour and do so. some critics have said of this album (their third) that it is too over-produced. i believe i read somewhere that even hutchison felt that way about the recording process. apparently they recorded their second album, the midnight organ fight
, in only three weeks. that said, there's something to be said for a third-party view, and i personally think this album is their best.
i'm gonna stop now. that's nine albums reviewed! more to come before the end of the year, i promise!
what are you listening to lately?