Wednesday, December 22, 2010

2010: The 20 Best Albums I Heard

As I alluded to yesterday, I hesitate to create a list that is lacking what I hope to be one of my favorite albums, Ryan Adams' III/IV.  But of the 70+ albums I bought, these are the best albums I heard that were released in 2010.

Honorable Mentions:
Mountain Man - Made the Harbor
MGMT - Congratulations
The Walkmen - Lisbon
Warpaint - The Fool
The Acorn - No Ghost

The Top 20:

20.  Suckers - Wild Smile

This one took me a while, but if you can take the weirdness and the occasional falsetto, it's well worth your time.

19.  Kanye West - My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy

Everyone else's #1, I thought there were a number of great songs, some good ones, and one that ended with 3-4 minutes of Chris Rock standup. 

18.  Sufjan Stevens - The Age of Adz

I'm still torn on whether I love or just want to be friends with this album.  I kind of liked sweet, quiet Sufjan more than neon-electro Sufjan.

17.  The Love Language - Libraries

My favorite NC band of the moment, I have a feeling these guys will be a lot bigger when album #3 is released.

16.  The Black Keys - Brothers

One of the most consistently great bands delivers another consistently great LP.

15.  Arcade Fire - The Suburbs

I'm still partial to Funeral, but years from now I wonder how this LP will compare.

14.  Belle & Sebastian - Write About Love

Six years of waiting for this LP was pretty much worth it - not as eclectic as The Life Pursuit, but still a great record.

13.  Broken Social Scene - Forgiveness Rock Record

Broken Social Scene probably delivers fewer hooks than any band, but the more I listen to this LP, the more I like it...even with a song titled "Texico Bitches."

12.  Jenny & Johnny - I'm Having Fun Now

After Johnny's work on Jenny's Acid Tongue, I had a feeling this record would be good.  These two just sound great together.

11.  Janelle Monae - The ArchAndroid

Obviously one perfect single, and the album was as good a "concept album" as I've heard in a while.

The top 10 after the jump...

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

2010: The 30 Best Songs I Heard

I hate doing these lists before the end of the year because I haven't fully absorbed everything I've listened to nor heard everything I want to hear - most notably, the new Ryan Adams LP is sitting in the post office waiting for my return to LA.  But 'tis the season of lists, and I felt like one putting one together despite my convictions.  These are the thirty best songs I heard that were released in 2010, most of which I blogged about already - just click the link to read the original post.

30.  CocoRosie - Lemonade

29.  Broken Social Scene - Texico Bitches

Probably the worst song title on this list, I'll be damned if the chorus of "I wanna be fair" doesn't have me singing along every time.

28.  Best Coast - Boyfriend

27.  Suckers - King of Snakes

26.  Tame Impala - Desire Be Desire Go

25.  of Montreal - Coquet Coquette

I found False Priest to be a bit of a disappointment, but this first single from the LP was perfect.

24.  Hot Chip - Hand Me Down Your Love

Hot Chip is incapable of releasing an album without a few great singles - this was my favorite from One Life Stand.

23.  Chief - Your Direction

22.  Joanna Newsom - Easy

Have One on Me had me from this opening track, showcasing Newsom's voice evolving, with a little less squeak and a lot more Joni Mitchell.

21. The Acorn - Restoration

Another excellent track from a vastly underrated band, fans of Fleet Foxes and Grizzly Bear should dig this.

The top 20 after the jump...

Monday, December 20, 2010

2010: The Best Concerts I Attended

By my count I went to 32 concerts in 2010, not including variety shows like Conan's tour.  But these were the best, either musically, aesthetically, or comically.  Let's start with some honorable mentions:

Morning Benders at the Music Box - they look like they're 15, but they play like they've been doing it for decades.  Highlight: a cover of Fleetwood Mac's "Dreams"

Lissie at the Troubadour - one of my favorite voices was a joy to see live; Highlight: anything from her Why You Runnin' EP

Pavement, Sonic Youth and No Age at the Hollywood Bowl - the big Pavement reunion was the raison d'etre, and our seats were great...but I've seen all these bands in smaller venues.  Still, it was fun for a trip down memory lane. Highlight: Pavement's "Summer Babe"

The Top Ten:

10. Local Natives at the Music Box - hipster central - moustaches, skinny jeans, trendy haircuts - and that was just on stage.  Still, these guys can play. Highlight: "Sun Hands"

9. Sufjan Stevens at the Wiltern - Still not sure how I feel about the new album, and this was by far the goofiest show I've been to, but it was a lot of fun.  Highlight: his story about the artist that inspired the artwork and much of his new LP

8. Faith No More at the Palladium - I'd been waiting almost 20 years for this, and it was pretty much worth it. Mike Patton is an amazing frontman. Highlight: opening the show with a faithful cover of Peaches & Herb's "Reunited"

7. Foreign Born at the Echo - I must not have purchased their Person to Person LP in time to make my favorite records of 2009 list, but it would be on there now. Highlight: "Vacationing People"

6. Greg Dulli at the Troubadour - this was my second time seeing Dulli at the Troub in the last couple years (the first was with Mark Lanegan), but this was surprisingly the better show.  Not only did Lanegan come out for a song, but Afghan Whigs' bassist John Curley played on a few of their band's songs.  Highlight: any of the Whigs' songs

5. Erykah Badu at the El Rey - I already blogged about this show, and it ended up as one of my favorites of 2010. Highlight: Erykah walking around the crowd before the show taking pics with her extremely adoring fans

4. Dirty Projectors at the Walt Disney Concert Hall - this was my fourth DP show in about a year and a half, and it was the biggest. Not only did the LA Phil open the show, but the band played their entire Getty Address LP with an orchestra (not the LA Phil). Highlight: I wasn't very familiar with this album at the time, so the entire show was a surprise

3. Joanna Newsom at the Orpheum - This was probably my most anticipated show of the year, and it was phenomenal. Perfect venue and I could have listened to her for hours. As a bonus, Robin Pecknold of Fleet Foxes opened.  Highlight: "Have One on Me"

2. Belle & Sebastian at the Palladium - this is high on the list not only because Belle & Sebastian were phenomenal as always, but Jenny & Johnny opened the show. Highlight: when the band brought up about 8 attendees to dance on stage

1. Jon Brion at Largo - I can't figure out whether I saw him 3 or 4 times, but Jon Brion always delivers. By far the most interesting show you'll ever see, and the quality varies from really good to mind-blowing - you can't leave disappointed. Highlight: Greg Behrendt opened one show with about 10 minutes of standup, a big portion of which was about meeting Van Halen. Brion then came out and started playing "Jump" or "Panama" (can't remember which) on the keyboards

Friday, December 17, 2010

Song of the Day: Whiskeytown - Lo-Fi Tennessee Mountain Angel

I'll end NC week with one of my favorites - Whiskeytown.  While I have plenty more NC bands for a future installment, I can never feature enough Ryan Adams songs on my blog.

Picking a Whiskeytown song is next to impossible - do I go with something more on the Country side of the spectrum, or more Rock?  Or do I go straight to the Pop stuff?  I'm tempted to go Rock, as the more Rock-oriented songs are what got me into Whiskeytown in the first place.  However, this song, from their debut LP Faithless Street, epitomizes what the band is about - namely, the vocal interplay between Ryan and Caitlin Cary.  Her harmonizing completely makes this song, and I would give anything to hear them on stage together.  Curses to me for missing it the first time around.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Song of the Day: Hobex - Rollin'

Hobex was an offshoot of Dillon Fence, a band my friends and I revered in our high school and early college days. We were pretty disappointed during our junior year to find they had broken up, and perhaps even more so to find that the lead singer, Greg Humphreys, had decide to form a funk/R&B trio.

Things changed, however, when we heard the Payback EP, their first release.  Gone was the Connells-like pop of Dillon Fence, replaced by funk bass and Greg breaking out his soul voice.  After starting as a trio, they later gained a horn section and background singers, then dropped back to a trio.  Greg's releasing solo albums now, though Hobex always seems to be playing around NC.

In fact, the most recent time I saw them, they were playing my wedding.  I was responsible for only one thing during our wedding planning, and it was the music.  I emailed the band, not knowing if they would play a wedding, but I was extremely psyched when we got the contract signed.  The band was fantastic and were really nice guys, and we got a lot of compliments about the music from a wide spectrum of guests.  Hobex, and Dillon Fence for that matter, were a band that should have been bigger.  But hopefully we'll always have them in NC.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Song of the Day: Archers of Loaf - Wrong

Archers of Loaf are one of my favorite '90s bands, and hearing their songs instantly takes me back to my college days.  They were a Chapel Hill band, and I was at UNC around the time they were at their peak.  Not only that, I interned for their management company for about a year - licking envelopes, keeping up the mailing list, that kind of stuff.  I wish I had better stories from that experience, but I never got to meet the band or have crazy adventures.  But the guys I worked for were cool, I got a bunch of free CDs (unfortunately I wasn't into vinyl at the time - I bet I missed out on some good schwag) and I got to see the band a few times. 

It's really difficult to pick a favorite song, so I'll go with the first Archers song I heard - "Wrong."  This song has everything that makes the band great - Sonic Youth-like guitars and feedback, great melody and Eric Bachmann's singular voice. 

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Song of the Day: The Veldt - High

The Veldt were a great '90s rock band out of Chapel Hill, but their sound is a little more Britpop than other American "indie" acts of that time.  Making them even more outside the mainstream - the group members were mostly black (and as I noted in my Fishbone post, it sadly seems that black rock n' rollers are becoming few and far between). 

Their self-released Universe Boat LP was played to no end on my dorm-room stereo, and I got the chance to see them tour for this record at the Cat's Cradle.  On this track, the singer breaks out some falsetto and some great "woohoos."  I'd highly recommend buying this album, but it's probably long out of print - another band that should have made it big.  Luckily, you can listen to the entire album on Grooveshark - click here.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Song of the Day: The Rosebuds - Hold Hands and Fight

Kicking off another week of NC bands is one of my favorite all-time Raleigh bands, The Rosebuds.  My first exposure to the band was a long out-of-print split single with a band called Utah!.  It features two songs which would eventually turn up, with different mixes, on their debut LP.

But it's their second LP, Birds Make Good Neighbors, which turned me into a hardcore fan - the album even made by top 21 of the 2000s list.  It kicks off with what I consider the best song in their catalog, "Hold Hands and Fight."  Ivan Howard has a great voice, the backing vocals are tremendous, and I really like how the song builds in intensity.  As I've mentioned many times before to anyone who will listen, I had the opportunity to guest DJ at Indie 103.1 a few years ago, and I was extremely excited to play this song.  I thought for sure anyone who heard this song would go out and buy the album - it's just impossible for me to describe how good it is.  I don't know if that happened, but hopefully anyone reading this will take a chance on one of the best bands playing right now.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Song of the Day: The Damned - New Rose

Admission - I've been focusing on my upcoming NC trip and trying to compile my EOY lists (oh, and my job), but I really wanted to talk about one of my favorite bands.  Alas, it will have to come at a later date.

Instead, we'll head into the weekend on The Damned's "New Rose," a song I first heard on Guns N' Roses covers album, The Spaghetti Incident?

Next week: More NC bands!

This summer I had a week-long North Carolina band extravaganza, and next week I'll be showcasing even more NC bands.  Stay tuned...

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Song of the Day: Simon & Garfunkel - At the Zoo

I bought Bookends after seeing it prominently featured in Almost Famous, one of my favorite movies of all time (it's seen and heard when the mom played by Frances McDormand points to the album cover and notes they look stoned, the song "America" playing in the background)

I really only knew the most popular Simon & Garfunkel songs, so it was exciting to hear songs as good as "Save the Life of My Child," "Old Friends" and this, now one of my favorite S&G songs.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Song of the Day: The Dandy Warhols - You Were the Last High

I noted in my Brian Jonestown Massacre post that Dig! is a fantastic documentary, but I didn't even mention that The Dandy Warhols are a big part of the reason why.  Sure, Anton of BJM has some of the best scenes, and the Dandies come off a bit pretentious, but the dichotomy between the two bands makes for a really interesting story.

I'm not a huge Dandy Warhols fan, but I do think Welcome to the Monkeyhouse is one of the better records of the 2000s (not good enough to make my top 21 list, however).  I especially don't understand why today's song of the day wasn't a bigger hit - catchy chorus, trippy sound effects, breathy's just a great song.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Song of the Day: Lou Reed - Satellite of Love

I've shared a song from the Velvet Underground, and I've featured a song from the Velvet Goldmine soundtrack, but now it's time to feature a Lou Reed (of the Velvet Underground) song (from the Velvet Goldmine soundtrack)*.  This is probably one of the prettiest songs in Reed's catalog, and it has a great backing vocal by David Bowie.  For a guy who wrote a ton of great songs with VU, I'd still have to put this in his top ten.

* I should note I've also shared a song by Velvet Crush, who have nothing to do with anything. Except to show that velvet is a popular rock material, apparently.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Song of the Day: Best Coast - Boyfriend

It took some time, but I finally learned to stop worrying and like Best Coast. I think the fact that they were so heavily hyped was an initial turnoff, but after repeated listens, I've really come to like the LP, and especially the lead track, "Boyfriend."  The background "ahhs" are especially genius.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Song of the Day: Dead Man's Bones - My Body's a Zombie for You

While I was initially suspicious of positive reviews of Dead Man's Bones, given the involvement of Ryan Gosling (who I like as an actor, but let's face it - the list of actor's in decent bands is a short one), I really enjoyed their debut album.  In fact, this track was one of my favorite songs of 2009, in part because seeing them play it live at the Echo with the Silverlake Conservatory of Music (about 20 kids, ranging in age from about 5 to 16) was an amazing experience.  The kids were so into this song and the chanting chorus, it was a real pleasure to see first-hand in such a small venue.

Click below for the song or read the following rant.  Apparently Grooveshark doesn't actually test new software before bringing it to the masses, and right now the song embedding isn't working.  Not only that, but my entire "now playing" queue of 170 songs was deleted with the new version.  And not only that, but now every time I go to the page, my queue is gone again.  Oh, and the site has frozen up numerous times in the hour I've been using it this morning.  But other than that, it works great!

The link:

The embed, which at the time of this posting isn't working, but maybe later it will?

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Song of the Day: Mahavishnu Orchestra - Birds of Fire

If there's one genre I know less about than rap, it's jazz.  My first exposure to it was Miles Davis's Bitches Brew, an album I still enjoy (and a beer I very much enjoy).  And while a Miles post may be forthcoming, today I wanted to spotlight a less familiar artist.

As with Who's Next, my dad had an album by Mahavishnu Orchestra on tape for his reel-to-reel; however, he wasn't sure which album it was.  The opening track stuck with me for years, and it was probably 15 years after the fact that I saw a cheap used copy of Birds of Fire on vinyl and decided to see if it was the album I remember.  From the opening gong (yup, gong) it was pretty clear that I had found it.  The guitar playing, by Bitches Brew sideman John McLaughlin, is nothing short of amazing.  The track is probably more rock than jazz, and you certainly don't have to give two shits about jazz to realize this guy can tear it up.

Playlist: November 2010 songs

Or listen on Grooveshark here

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Song of the Day: The Soft Pack - More or Less

I bought tickets to see Kurt Vile, not knowing that the headliner of the show was actually going to be The Soft Pack.  I listened to their eponymous album a few times, and seeing them live made me realize they sound a lot like The Feelies (which is a very good thing).  Now that I've listened to the LP quite a few more times, I'm having trouble picking a song - it's a consistently good album with no filler.  But "More or Less" is my favorite today, so let's hear it.