Monday, February 14, 2011

Best of 2010: Song Mixes

Rather than making an ordered list, these are two mixes I made of various favorites from the year. However, they are structured in the way that each track flows pretty well from one to the next and genre similar songs are grouped together. Surprisingly though, The Tallest Man on Earth transitions quite well into Kanye. It’s been a while since I actually made mixes for this blog, so I hope you enjoy them!

Mix #1:

1. LCD Soundsystem - Dance Yrself Clean
2. Crystal Castles ft. Robert Smith - Not in Love
3. Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti - Round and Round
4. Girls - Heartbreaker
5. Dum Dum Girls - Jail La La
6. Robyn - Dancing On My Own
7. Janelle Monae ft. Big Boi - Tightrope
8. Deerhunter - Desire Lines
9. The National - Bloodbuzz Ohio
10. The Walkmen - Stranded
11. Beach House - Zebra
12. Joanna Newsom - In California
13. The Tallest Man on Earth - Love is All
14. Kanye West - Runaway
15. Sleigh Bells - Crown on the Ground

Mix #2:

1. Arcade Fire - We Used to Wait
2. Sufjan Stevens - I Walked
3. Joanna Newsom - Good Intentions Paving Company
4. Belle & Sebastian - I Didn’t See It Coming
5. Yaesayer - Ambling Amp
6. Deerhunter - Revival
7. Caribou - Odessa
8. Sleigh Bells - Rill Rill
9. LCD Soundsystem - I Can Change
10. Gorillaz - On Melancholy Hill
11. The Drums - Let’s Go Surfing
12. Surfer Blood - Catholic Pagans
13. Dom - Jesus
14. Harlem - Someday Soon
15. Menomena - TAOS
16. Titus Andronicus - A More Perfect Union
17. Beach House - 10 Mile Stereo
18. Joanna Newsom - On a Good Day
19. Perfume Genius - Learning

Best of 2010: Concerts

10. The Feelies @ The Middle East (3-19-10)
9. The Buzzcocks @ Paradise (5-17-10)
8. Sufjan Stevens @ Orpheum Theater (11-12-10)
7. LCD Soundsystem w. Sleigh Bells @ Orpheum Theater (9-28-10)
6. Iggy & the Stooges @ House of Blues (8-31-10)
5. Belle & Sebastian w. Dean Wareham @ Orpheum Theater(10-15-10)
4. Weezer @ Orpheum (12-14, 12-15)
3. Joanna Newsom @ Sanders Theater (3-17-10)
2. Pavement @ Agganis Arena (9-18-10)
1. Guided by Voices w. Blitzen Trapper @ Paradise (11-5-10)

I'm so on board with the 90's reunion trend that is going on lately. In 2010, Pavement and Guided by Voices reunited, Weezer played Blue + Pinkerton shows. In 2011, The Dismemberment Plan, Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Pulp, Jeff Mangum, Sebadoh, and Archers of Loaf are all touring. And it's only February. Sure reunion shows can be an easy cash-in, and I've seen a few disappointing ones (recently Echo & the Bunnymen), but when they're on, they can be one of the greatest live experiences you can have. The thrill of seeing something live that you never expected to see is truly wonderful, and I can easily say that for the Guided by Voices, Pavement, and Weezer shows that I attended this year. However out of the three, GBV took the cake.

I never expected to see GBV live, much less in their classic (1992-1996) lineup. Plus seeing them in a club, the exact same venue when they played Boston in 1996 was surreal. The setlist was impeccable - nearly 40 songs, with the majority from Propeller, Bee Thousand, and Alien Lanes.
It was also the first 21+ show I've attended, and for good reason. Robert Pollard passed beer and his bottle of Tequila around the audience, and by the end of the night, the stage resembled an ashtray. We were transported back in a time before indoor smoking was banned in 2004, the same year GBV disbanded. Legality be damned! Though by the end of the evening, all the alcohol clearly has some impact on the band's playing, this hardly mattered as this was never what Guided by Voices were all about. This show was such an experience, a celebration where you could truly feel the power of the music and love from both the crowd and the band. I swear each band member high-fived me ten times.

Best of 2010: Films

40. Babies
Jackass 3D
38. Unstoppable
37. Rabbit Hole
36. Shutter Island
35. Best Worst Movie
34. Splice
33. I Love You, Phillip Morris
32. The Runaways
31. True Grit
30. Strange Powers: Stephin Merritt & the Magnetic Fields
29. The Town
28. Let Me In
27. 127 Hours
26. Kick Ass
25. Hot Tub Time Machine
24. Another Year
23. Get Him to The Greek
22. The Kids are Alright
21. Temple Grandin
20. Catfish
19. Buried
18. The White Stripes: Under Great White Northern Lights
17. The Fighter
16. How to Train Your Dragon
15. Never Let Me Go
14. The King’s Speech
13. Inception
12. Scott Pilgrim vs. the World
11. Somewhere
10. Last Train Home
9. Who Is Harry Nilsson? (And Why Is Everybody Talkin’ About Him)
7. The Social Network
6. Exit Through the Gift Shop
5. Fish Tank
4. Greenberg
3. Blue Valentine
2. Black Swan
1. Toy Story 3

If I write a blurb about Toy Story 3, I'll start thinking about the ending, and then I might start sobbing. Oh my GOD. I can't think of a more emotionally loaded ending scene in any film. I swear, all the tears in the theater eliminated years of spilled soda stickiness from the floor. That's kind of a gross image... But really, this is one of the greatest animated films ever, and easily my favorite film of the year.

I actually caught some of Toy Story 2 on TV today, and it suddenly was much sadder than I remembered. I also saw an ad on the bus for Toy Story 3 ON ICE. I just don't know about that. Though I'm pretty sure if you collect all the tears shed from the movie going public, you could fill the rink. Ice tea-r. Ouch.

Best of 2010: Top 60 Albums

Well, I’m a bit late to the party this year when it comes to year end lists. I’ve been making this sort of list for several years now, and have noticed that publications are beginning to post their lists earlier and earlier. This year it seems most lists were already complete and ready by late November. That’s just too early! December isn’t entirely a dead month for media releases. For instance Ghostface Killah released a really solid record this year on December 21st. But did it make any lists? No, it couldn’t! Then Gorillaz put out a surprise album on Christmas day! Sure it wasn’t very good, but it was still a significant December release.

Anyways, I’m probably just trying to justify my laziness for finalizing this list so late. I mean, I’m posting this thing AFTER the Grammy’s even. Shit. Well, these are my top sixty albums of 2010. Even though I listened to more than sixty albums this year, if I make the list longer than that I’ll have to start listing records I found to be mostly forgettable, and what’s the point of that? Well after much listening and re-listening, then reading lists and some more listening, here’s where it stands as of today. As always a single listen can throw off an album’s placement, though the top ten is nearly set in stone.

60. ceo - White Magic
59. Dirty Projectors + Bjork - Mount Wittenberg Orca
58. Perfume Genius - Learning
57. Rose Elinor Dougall - Without Why
56. Grinderman - Grinderman 2
55. Clinic - Bubblegum
54. The Vaselines - Sex with an X
53. Tame Impala - Innerspeaker
52. Glasser - Ring
51. Liars – Sisterworld
50. Wild Nothing - Gemini
49. Twin Shadow - Forget
48. Robyn - Body Talk
47. Das Racist - Shut Up, Dude
46. Charlotte Gainsbourg – IRM
45. Arcade Fire - The Suburbs
44. Antony & the Johnsons - Swanlights
43. The Black Keys - Brothers
42. Das Racist - Sit Down, Man
41. Daughters - Daughters
40. MGMT - Congratulations
39. Ghostface Killah - Apollo Kids
38. Harlem - Hippies
37. Holy Fuck - Latin
36. The Fall - Your Future Our Clutter
35. Wolf Parade - Expo 86
34. Four Tet - There is Love in You
33. Best Coast - Crazy For You
32. Avey Tare - Down There
31. Girl Talk - All Day
30. Surfer Blood - Astro Coast
29. No Age - Everything in Between
28. Crystal Castles - Crystal Castles II
27. Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings - I Learned the Hard Way
26. Owen Pallett - Heartland
25. Laura Marling - I Speak Because I Can
24. Beach Fossils - Beach Fossils
23. Belle & Sebastian - Belle & Sebastian Write About Love
22. Dom - Sun Bronzed Greek Gods
21. Girls - Broken Dreams Club
20. The Tallest Man on Earth – The Wild Hunt
19. Jonsi – Go
18. Caribou - Swim
17. The Drums - The Drums
16. Yeasayer – Odd Blood
15. Dum Dum Girls - I Will Be
14. Titus Andronicus – The Monitor
13. Menomena - Mines
12. Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti - Before Today
The National - High Violet

Janelle Monae - The Archandroid
9. The Walkmen - Lisbon
8. Gorillaz – Plastic Beach
7. Sleigh Bells – Treats
6. Sufjan Stevens - The Age of Adz
5. Deerhunter - Halcyon Digest
4. LCD Soundsystem – This Is Happening
3. Kanye West - My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy
2. Beach House – Teen Dream
1. Joanna Newsom – Have One on Me

My number #1 album is no surprise, as even from the day it leaked, nearly a year ago, I was certain that it would be my top of the year. This fall will mark five years of my Joanna obsession, and it certainly won’t be ceasing any time soon. There’s simply no one else out there writing on her level. Her songwriting, lyrics, and musicianship are all just of the highest quality. There’s no female singer-songwriter out there today who comes even close. That is an objective statement. Joanna Newsom is the best female singer-songwriter working today.

Taking a step backwards, despite my obvious infatuation, this album took me a long time to digest. Though not as musically dense as her previous album Ys (my favorite record of the last decade), its length is rather daunting. Though Ys was a double record with five songs, Have One on Me is a triple record, totaling eighteen songs, six on each record. There really haven’t been many triple albums in history- the most notable that come to mind are George Harrison’s All Things Must Pass, The Clash’s Sardanista!, and The Magnetic Fields’ 69 Love Songs. I enjoy all of these records (Sardanista to a lesser extent), and even consider 69 Love Songs to be my all-time favorite record. Yet all these records have their share of considerably lesser songs, and even filler. Have One on Me on the other hand has no filler of any sort. Each of the three records make their own concise statement. They each have a wonderful opening song that both feels like an album opener and sets the record’s momentum, and an particularly emotional closer that wraps up each record nicely. However, when you listen to all three in a row, like Voltron they form something even greater than the sum of their parts.

I was finally able to see the album as Voltron around the 6th listen, yet with every repeat listen I get more and more out of the record. This is truly a record for the long run. Songs that seemed almost unmelodic, meandering, and frankly, boring, with initial listens became highlights. Examples of this would include “Kingfisher,” “Go Long”, and especially the title track. I look back at myself listening to these songs with a hesitant ear and almost think “how I could have been so naive?”

With modern technology constantly changing the way we listen to music, I also find the timeless nature of this album to be incredibly refreshing. The internet gives us the ability to download practically any album we want, in minutes, for free. Nearly every new release leaks at least a week in advance, and there is always a rush to consume the record, and sprout your “definitive” opinion as quickly as possible. You grab a record on mediafire, unzip it, and listen to it through your shitty computer speakers. While you’re listening you might revel in the hype of another upcoming record, or contribute to the backlash against a recently acclaimed record that’s getting just a little too much attention (though in the scope of things isn’t really at all.) Everything becomes overrated. It’s like fast food. This is not what music listening should be.

Still, I can be just as much of a victim to this practice as anyone. If I wasn’t there’s no way I’d ever be able to make a ridiculous year end list like this. Albums like Have One On Me though bring you back to the ideal of music listening. Like all of Joanna’s albums it is beautifully packaged, with a gatefold box housing the three vinyl records, each with a custom dust jacket, and a huge elegant lyric booklet. It’s just made to be sprawled out on a bed, booklet poured through while the record plays over your stereo. Just listening to a record can really be one of the most exhilarating experiences you can have.

10 Least Favorite Albums of the Year

10. Salem - King Night
9. The Hold Steady - Heaven is Whenever
8. Magnetic Fields – Realism
7. Broken Social Scene - Forgiveness Rock Record
6. She & Him - Volume 2
5. Vampire Weekend - Contra
4. Wavves - King of the Beach
3. Broken Bells - Broken Bells
2. Chromeo - Business Casual
1. Mumford & Sons - Sigh No More

This list would have a different #1 if I could physically finish Lil Wayne’s rock album. It hasn’t been a bad year though, as I don’t actually hate a lot of these albums, but just find them rather boring. Some more than others. Others I find annoying and a bit irksome. Only one truly makes me want to barf. Why Dylan, why?