My favorites of 2010 – Albums/EPs/Songs/Gigs!

2010 was a banner year for me. I started this damn blog, listened to more music than I probably ever have in my entire life, saw some amazing gigs, went through some fucking insanity, and moved to the big bad New York City area. Needless to say, I’m a bit tired.

That said, 2010 was a fantastic year musically. I discovered some artists that are easily near the top of my favorites lists and had a grand ole time in the 2nd half. I’m thrilled to end 2010 with this list and get myself amped for 2011.

Albums….

1. The Love Language – Libraries: I remember the day I first heard this record. June 5th, to be exact. It was the day that Merge Records made it available to stream and it just so happened to be the day I saw them live for the first time when they opened for an all-time favorite, the lush and beautiful, Camera Obscura. The album hit me in the chest like a wrecking ball taking out old Giants Stadium. Stuart McLamb and company’s vocals, lyrics, and musicianship rings with me to this day since first hearing it (I’m listening to it as I type this). It was almost fate that it achieved this spot. A truly personal album from McLamb and an album I related with immediately. Thank you guys. I am eager to hear what’s next and to see you again.

2. Rose Elinor Dougall – Without Why: An album of pop confection that only a beautifully talented English girl could produce. Fantastic lyricism, a voice that sticks with you, and the SONGS, such excellently crafted songs that you can listen to over and over. Rose sounds like Morrissey’s long-lost daughter. Tracks like “Come Away With Me” and “Carry On” have a personal tinge to them that anyone over the age of 15 can relate to. Formerly, Rosay Pipette, Rose Elinor Dougall steps out into the forefront in a major way. Tantalizingly, she’s already teased some of her upcoming material and it’s only getting better.

3. The National – High Violet: One of my favorite bands both on record and live produce arguably their most accessible record to date, but also an album of depth and poetic nuance that is in my humble opinion, the best and most complete record they’ve ever created. Matt Berninger possesses a baritone vocal that is both awesome and enviable. Songs like “Little Faith” blur the line between religion and love. This is a record that the band will be judged against going forward. It’s a testament to their already strong catalog and a fine addition to anyone’s collection. A record to be proud of.

Since my list is long, I’ve kept the write-ups minimal. Here’s the rest of my favorite albums, EPs, songs, and gigs that I attended list.

4. Laura Marling – I Speak Because I Can

5. The Black Keys – Brothers

6. The Walkmen – Lisbon

7. Philip Glass- The American Four Seasons

8. Kanye West – My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy

9. The Black Angels – Phosphene Dream

10. The Coral – Butterfly House

 

11. Agent Ribbons – Chateau Crone

12. Swans – My Father Will Guide Me Up A Rope To The Sky

13. School of Seven Bells – Disconnect From Desire

14. The Radio Dept. – Clinging To A Scheme

15. Moon Duo – Escape

16. Foals – Total Life Forever

17. Best Coast – Crazy For You

18. Tame Impala – Innerspeaker

19. Holy Fuck – Latin

20. The Blue Angel Lounge – Narcotica

 

21. The Dig – Electric Toys

22. Avi Buffalo – Avi Buffalo

23. Bombay Bicycle Club – Flaws

24. Grinderman – Grinderman 2

25. Clinic – Bubblegum

26. Women – Public Strain

27. Christian Bland & The Revelators – The Lost Album

28. Versus – On The Ones And Threes

29. Erykah Badu – New Amerykah Part Two (Return of the Ankh)

30. LCD Soundsystem – This Is Happening

 

31. The Morning Benders – Big Echo

32. Black Rebel Motorcycle Club – Beat The Devil’s Tattoo

33. Beach House – Teen Dream

34. Sharon Van Etten – Epic

35. Titus Andronicus – The Monitor

36. I Am Kloot – Sky At Night

37. Arcade Fire – The Suburbs

38. Janelle Monae – The Archandroid

39. Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti – Before Today

40. Big Boi – Sir Lucious Left Foot: The Son of Chico Dusty

 

41. Marnie Stern – Marnie Stern

42. Wavves – King of The Beach

43. DJ Shadow – The DJ Shadow Remix Project

44. Jonsi – Go

45. Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings – I Learned The Hard Way

46. The Roots – How I Got Over

47. Exit Calm – Exit Calm

48. Mark Ronson & The Businesss Int’l – Record Collection

49. Ryan Adams & The Cardinals – III/IV

50. Jenny & Johnny – I’m Having Fun Now

 

EPs

1. Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. – Horse Power

2. Richard Hawley – False Lights From The Land

3. Justin Jones – The Little Fox EP

4. Tennis – Baltimore

5. hilly eye – Fireworks

 

Tracks

1. Best Coast – Our Deal

2. Rose Elinor Dougall – Come Away With Me

3. The Love Language – This Blood Is Our Own

4. The Radio Dept. – Never Follow Suit

5. Asobi Seksu – Trails

6. The National – Little Faith

7. The Black Keys – Too Afraid To Love You

8. Mark Ronson & The Business Int’l feat. Rose Elinor Dougall – The Night Last Night

9. Kanye West – Monster

10. Foals – Blue Blood

 

Gigs

1. Kanye West – Bowery Ballroom 11/23

2. The National – The National (Theater), Richmond, VA 4/22

3. Explosions In the Sky – ATP, Monticello, NY 9/2010

4. The Love Language – The National, Richmond, VA 6/5

5. DJ Shadow – Irving Plaza, NYC 11/15

6. The Walkmen – Terminal 5, NYC 12/2

7. The National – Brooklyn Academy of Music,  Brooklyn, NY 5/15

8. Camera Obscura – The National, Richmond, VA 6/5

9. Hope Sandoval & The Warm Inventions – ATP Festival, Monticello, NY 9/2010

10. Grinderman – Best Buy Theatre, NYC 11/14

 

Goodbye, 2010. Thank fuck you’re (just about) over.

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Gig review: When the openers outshine the headliners – Young Buffalo, The Dig, Chief – 12/7/2010 – Bowery Ballroom, NYC

A really shitty picture of Chief from the balcony at the B. Ballroom

There are a few times I can recall an opener outshining a headliner, rarely can I say that the two openers outshined the headliner and did so in a big way.

This is the case with what happened at the Bowery Ballroom on Tuesday night. Los Angeles/NYC band Chief was headlining a gig in support of their 2010 debut, Modern Rituals. I first heard the album a few months ago and while not particularly moved one way or another, they were good enough to give an evening to, as the tunes are definitely pleasant.

This review will be in reverse order because of the quality of performance.

The night started late (natural at this venue) so when Chief finally took the stage, the only thing we could think of was, “It’s about damn time”. Chief, while very capable seemed to lack any fire in what they were doing and even their strong tunes, such as set closer “Night & Day” came off very weak and extremely M.O.R. (middle of the road).  I almost wanted to leave in the middle of their set I was so damn bored. They (namely the wack-ass drummer) tried to get the place going with cliched calls from his kit, but the attempts were laughable. Positively, Chief excels in bringing back the mid-70s big arena sound combined with Fleet Foxes-esque harmonies. The bassist (who’s name I am having trouble locating due to the band name) was quite good and seemed to really get into the gig. Needless to say, I was quite unimpressed with this band who have come across a lot better in sessions that I’ve viewed and listened to online. The songs fell flat on this night.

Prior to Chief was NYC’s “The Dig“. I had never heard this band before and I was very impressed with their tunes and live chops, especially bassist and lead singer Emile Mosseri’s vocals.  Songs like “Penitentiary”  and “You’re Already Gone” were impressive with Mosseri driving the tunes and really getting into it. I liked the hand off of the lead vocals to guitarist David Baldwin on some tunes, however, unlike Mosseri, Baldwin’s voice seemed to lack any real power behind it. I would suggest Mr. Baldwin get a vocal coach because his vocals are not unpleasant and are quite fitting backing, but comprise a very weak lead, especially when he’s following a Mosseri led song. The Dig set the table nicely for Chief who promptly delivered a Shit Sandwich to the table.

Prior to The Dig was a band I had never even heard the name of before and had no idea what I was in for when they took the stage. Oxford, Mississippis, “Young Buffalo“.  Prior to them taking the stage, I noticed a guy meandering about the very empty at the time venue floor, turns out this was one of the bandmembers who did not look like a bandmember. In fact, if you saw any of these guys on the street, you’d never guess they were in a band. Well, lets just say they started the night and set the fucking building on fire with their short, but completely awesome set. In fact, I would go as far as to say that Young Buffalo were the best opener I have witnessed this year for any band.  Upon returning home, I looked to find as much as I could on them, but aside from some Bandcamp demos (most of which are on their Myspace), there is not much out there.  I did learn that they have a record coming out on Fat Possum in “early 2011”. I am definitely excited to hear what they can do in the studio because these kids rock.

One of the most interesting aspects of Young Buffalo was the constant shuffle of personnel (hence no names are used since I have no clue who is who). One would play drums one song, the next song that same guy would be on guitar. It was really refreshing to see this kind of musicianship, especially w/ a band that is pretty much unknown and so young. I was disappointed their set had to come to an end and I’m eager to see them again in the future. Kudos to their fantastic cover of Fleetwood Mac’s “The Chain” to close the set and pitch perfect three-part harmonies. Think Fleet Foxes with a harder edge and less “ethereal” (I love the Foxes btw) and you’ll get an idea of Young Buffalo’s sound.

Here’s a great video of Young Buffalo tune, “New Beat”, which absolutely soared live.

Ratings:

Chief: 2/10

The Dig: 7/10

Young Buffalo 9/10

The true definition of a show that started immensely and went downhill and hit a big ass boulder at the bottom of the ravine.

Gig review: The Walkmen/School of Seven Bells/Tennis – Terminal 5 – New York, NY 12/2/2010

Thursday night’s triple header in New York City was a show which saw the main act put on one of the best headline performances I’ve seen this year. Held at New York’s Terminal 5, all three acts aimed to impress, but only one came away with more respect than I had for them going in.

The night was led off by Denver’s Tennis, an indie-pop band who I’d heard of, but not heard much of. They recently sold out NYC’s Mercury Lounge, which is one of my favorite venues, so I had high hopes going in. To describe Tennis’ music, the only word I can think of is “sunny”. They play a mix of surf and standard pop-fare. I was a bit annoyed with their set to be honest. I felt that the tunes were there, but the performance was a bit slack and the songs did not suit the mood, at least mine, this night. Lead singer Alaina Moore has a very pleasant voice, but the mix was terrible thanks to the cavernous Terminal 5. The lack of any power behind the volume prevented people, probably majority newbies to this band, from appreciating the ability they do have. I was left unimpressed and was glad when their set was over, which I feel bad about because I wanted to enjoy the set, but things beyond that prevented it. It’s not entirely the venue’s fault, as I do feel the band could’ve put a bit more effort into it, but the mix did leave a lot to be desired. I was able to mic up 40 year old high school auditoriums at 16 and get better sound than the opening acts received.

School of Seven Bells

Up next was a band I’ve become familiar with over the last two years. NYC’s “School of Seven Bells“. SVIIB is another two-piece led by the stunning Alejandra Deheza and Secret Machines’ (are they still together?) Benjamin Curtis.

Similarly to Tennis’ set, the band suffered from the “opening act mix”. Alejandra has a voice that I am very familiar with having seen the band before as well as enjoying their records. However, barely any lyrics were audible because of the muddy sound. Thusly, I don’t think a proper review of their set is possible. Benjamin Curtis was very energetic on the guitar and Alejandra’s clear “shy” attitude was surprisingly refreshing. Her beauty can be overshadowed by her voice, but sadly I was unable to appreciate that to its full potential tonight, but she did look gorgeous.

This night, was all about The Walkmen though.

The Walkmen

I’ve been a fan of this band for a bit now and they are another act that I’ve seen live before. However, I can safely say that no band I’ve ever seen more than once has gotten so much better from one show to the next. The headliner’s set was very heavy on tracks from the fantastic and newest of their records, “Lisbon”, which after and before last night, will be ranked fairly high on my end-of-year list.

One thing I’ve been harping on in this review about this night was the difference on the technical side of things. I completely understand and “get” the idea of opening acts not having the same support technically as headliners get. However, the difference between the two at this particular venue was literally night and day. The Walkmen sounded absolutely amazing. What this says to me, is that maybe I should skip openers next time theres a gig at T5 I want to go to. I doubt that I’ll go that route, but it was such a contrast that it deserves mention. I heard every word and instrument clearly once the headliner took the stage.

The Walkmen deftly tore through a set with singer Hamilton Leithauser playing up the frontman role to a tee. His voice was absolutely fantastic and there are few vocal performances that I’ve seen in recent memory that had me as captivated. Songs like “Canadian Girl” and Lisbon cut “While I Shovel The Snow” were exquisite, and the set closing crowd favorite “The Rat” was very powerful. This was a set I did not want to end, but I can’t say I was angry when it ended before midnight thanks to it being a weeknight. I would go see them again tonight if I could.

Another aspect of the band’s performance this night was how tight the band were musically. Drummer Matt Barrick (who I stated to my friend multiple times looks like Arsenal player Andrey Arshavin) is arguably the best drummer in rock and roll right now, at least on the “indie” side of things. His fills were booming, powerful, and very creative. His facial expressions reminded me of the great Keith Moon, and I’d watch him bang on the drums for an hour and not get bored. I don’t think I’ve ever dedicated a paragraph to a drummer before, so that was a first. Well done, Matt. The horn section the band brought out for more than a few songs was also fantastic. “Best looking horn section ever?” I think you’re right, Hamilton.

The Walkmen have gotten light years better since the last time I saw them. That’s not to say their last performance I caught was bad at all, but they’ve clearly stepped up the quality of not only performance but craftsmanship.

Ratings:

Tennis 5/10

School of Seven Bells 6/10

The Walkmen 9/10

These ratings do take technical affects into them, had Tennis and SVIIB had the same quality behind them as The Walkmen did, both ratings would be markedly higher.

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