Tag Archives: I learned the hard way

Top 100 Tracks of 2010 (75-51)

 

75. “Doubt”

The Corin Tucker Band

I always thought Carrie Brownstein was the more punk rock of the ladies in Sleater Kinney. I always thought she had the fire, the anger, and the edge that counteracted Corrin Tucker’s more feminine approach. I was wrong. So wrong.

 

74. “Stranded”

The Walkmen

I’m a sucker for trumpets, especially when they sound this damn dreamy.

73. “Theme From ‘Cheers””

Titus Andronicus

Looking back on my year, one memory that stands out the most is when me and BDWPS contributer PtheStudP visited Cheers in downtown Boston.  After a two-hour marathon at a beer festival, our tour guide Steph led us to Cheers where her friend Justin was bartending.  What I thought was going to a quick tourist visit turned into hours of drunken splendor. Soon the variety of beers and shots somehow turned into a night of boisterous chanting of  “U-S-A!”, “Lord-By-ron!”, and “Tom Arn-old!”  This song brings me back to that night, not necessarily because of the reference to Cheers in the title, but the chorus that could have easily been one of our chants that night: “So let’s get fucked up, and let’s pretend we’re all okay, and if you’ve got something you can’t live with, save it for another day. Save it for another day.”

72. “Bloodbuzz Ohio”

The National

After carrying The National’s Matt Berninger to Ohio, I’d like that same swarm of bees to visit Jim Tressel’s house.

71. “Tame On the Prowl”

The Medications

In most cases, my adoration of The Medications stems from trying to untangle the vine of intertwined guitar licks in each song.  “Tame On the Prowl” continues this tradition, but also features a melody that will quickly wrap around your Hippocampus.

70. “Whores; The Movie”

El-P

Not only is “Whores; The Movie” a stellar song, but it would also make a great movie (preferably in 3-D).

69. “Leave You Forever”

Cloud Nothings

I could never leave this song forever.

68. “Apartment Wrestling”

Maximum Balloon (featuring David Byrne)

If you’ve ever wondered what TV On the Radio would sound like if they joined forces with The Talking Heads, it’s as amazing as you expected.

67. “Grief Point”

Destroyer

This is not really a song, rather an audio-short-film, or an audio-psycho analysis, or maybe just the ramblings of a confused artist. Whatever the case, this eight minute insight into the mind of Dan Bejar and his view of music at this point in his career is fascinating.  Earlier this year, Bejar discussed ending his recording career altogether (fortunately he didn’t with a new album coming out soon), and this B-side to his “Archer on the Beach” EP captures him in the midst of this confusion of what role his music plays in both his life and his listeners.  Plus, I just like the imagery of “picnic baskets filled with blood”.  Call me a hopeless romantic!

66. “Fresh Hex”

Tobacco (featuring Beck)

“Maniac Meat” is such a fun fucking album and on “Fresh Hex” Beck joins the party, giving the album his own fresh take on their energetic sound.

65. “Pop Culture (revisited)”

The Ponys

The Ponys originally formed in Chicago back in 2001, and one of their earliest songs was “Pop Culture”.  For whatever reason, this song never made it onto a major record, only being heard during live performance.  I can still remember them playing this song when I first saw them live four years ago.  But in 2010, with the release of their song EP “Deathbed Plus 4”, “Pop Culture (revisited)” was finally released from captivity, and it sounds as lively as ever.

64. “Swim Until You Can’t See Land”

Frightened Rabbit

Water has always represented rebirth, and on “Swim Until You Can’t See Land” singer Scott Hutchison swims not only for a renewal, but also to feel alive again.

 

63. “You Must Be Out of Your Mind”

The Magnetic Fields

This past year I’ve had to learn how to forgive others, and also tried to gain forgiveness for those I’ve hurt.  In both cases this isn’t the easiest of tasks.  As the person who was wronged, there is some agitation with the idea that by simply saying “I’m sorry” that everything goes back to the way they were. They don’t and they never will. But as the person asking for forgiveness, you can’t “simply press rewind” and things will be they way they once were no matter how bad you would like them to.  Stephin Merritt’s snarky lyrics take on the persona of the one burned, and his stance can be either an anthem for moving on or a eulogy for a relationship (depending one what side of the forgiveness fault-line you stand).

 

62. “Waterfall”

Fresh & Onlys

The Fresh & Onlys are time travelers, but instead of going to the past, they’ve come to us from the 60s, bringing with them a sound that has been long forgotten. Amazingly, a song like “Waterfall” grows out of the oldies, yet sounds like nothing else on the radio.  This is the type of song that would lead Marty McFly to say, “I guess you guys aren’t ready for that yet, but your grandparents loved it.”

 

61. “Below the Hurricane”

Blitzen Trapper

At first this seems like a beautiful little folk song, but halfway through the band kicks it up a notch with Doobie Brother’s persona that is sweetened with a couple drops of harmonica.

60. “I Learned the Hard Way”

Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings

The only thing I don’t like about this song is the fact that she never defines exactly what this guy did to turn her into such a bitter old maid.

 

59. “Mr. Peterson”

Perfume Genius

This eerie song tells the story of a teacher, Mr. Peterson, leaving a note on a student’s paper telling them to meet him at a certain time and place. For some reason, the narrator meets up with the teacher, smokes weed with him, and possibly has sex with him (although this event is only inferred).  When the teacher goes on to kill himself, the narrator doesn’t necessarily hold a grudge toward him. Instead, the speaker hopes that Mr. Peterson can find a place where he’s wanted, even if that place be hell.

So yeah, this songs kinda depressing.

 

58. “Moves”

The New Pornographers

After their lackluster 2007 release “Challengers”, I’d kinda written The New Pornographers off.  It just seemed like their sound had run its course and had no where else to go.  But on their latest release, “Together”, the band has found new ways to eek a little more life out of their collective, especially on a song like “Moves” that amps up their classic sound with a driving orchestral addition.

57.  “Suffering Season”

Woods

I made the mistake this summer of defining Woods as the next Neil Young. The falsetto vocals do conjure up images of Sir Neil, but a song like “Suffering Season” shows the band is influenced by many other voices of the past (possibly the Mamas and the Papas?).

56. “Girlfriend”

Ty Segall

In just two minutes, Ty Segall will have you singing along.  That has to be some type of record.

55. “Favourite Food”

Tokyo Police Club

Getting old stinks, a point this song pounds into the ground.  Not only have I had to face the facts that I’m no longer young, but my parent’s aging has become apparent, a notion that scares me.  When the lyrics say “cause it’s sweet getting old” followed by “Let the hospital be your home”, I can’t help but feel that Tokyo Police Club are being morbidly ironic. I would like to believe that there is some hope hidden within the metaphors of this riveting song, but I can’t seem to find them.

54. “Written in Reverse”

Spoon

With all that screaming and punching of piano keys, something must have really pissed Britt Daniels off. But unlike the Incredible Hulk, you’ll like Britt when he’s angry.

53. “Relief”

Sam Amidon

I really should start listening to some R Kelly.  A couple of years ago I couldn’t quit listening to Bonnie “Prince” Billy’s cover of R. Kelly’s “The Word’s Greatest”.   This year Sam Amidon, who is known for his modern interpretations of classic folk songs, switched his routine by taking R. Kelly’s “Relief” and giving it a more classic ambience. On second thought, I’ll just stick to people covering R. Kelly.

52. “POWER”

Kanye West

Even though it’s the third track on “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy”, “POWER” is the introduction to the Shakespearan tale found on this album.  In it, Kanye portrays a man dealing with the struggles of being in power. At times he seems arrogant and aloof, but near the end of the song the listener begins hearing a man realizing that the one thing he doesn’t have power over is himself.  By the time the outro arrives, the speaker is standing on a ledge envisioning himself jumping, saying, “This would be a beautiful death”.

Oh, and did I mention it samples King Crimson’s “21st Century Schizoid Man”?

51. “He Would Have Laughed”

Deerhunter

A lot of great musicians died in 2010 (Captain Beefheart, Ronnie James Dio, Mark Linkous), but the most devastating loss in my view was the death of Jay Reatard simply because Jay had so much left to create, so must potential.  Being friends with Jay, Deerhunter’s Bradford Cox wrote “He Would Have Laughed” in dedication to the lost genius.  I’m not sure if the song is necessarily about Jay with its abstract lyrics, although there is something there within the lyrics “Where do all my friends go?” and “What did you want to be?”.  I think the connection to Jay’s life is found within the music its self, with the slow progression that eventually goes into a euphoric swell, but then, just like Jay’s life, the song just suddenly stops. Fuck.

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Best Summer Albums of 2010 (10-1)



10. The Soft Pack
“s/t”
[Kemado]

The Soft Pack’s music is a lot like the infamous tight-roper Phillipe Pettit: it teeters between the ram shackled reverb of the garage and the slick, streetwise attitude of the West Coast, yet they somehow balance their alter-egos with ease.  Never has garage rock sounded so smooth.  Their 2010 self-titled release rolls out before you without hesitation, one song after another picking up where the prior left off, continuing this Army-brat band’s direct assault of surfer guitar solos and matter-of-fact vocals.  There isn’t one song that stands out as the “hit”, yet there isn’t a song you can bring yourself to skip past.  Like Pettit, who conquered city skyscrapers one step after another, Soft Pack methodically satisfy, one great song at a time.

This video for “Answer to Yourself” reminds me of all the dumb stunts my friends and I used to pull while working at the swimming pool:

9. Kings go Forth
“The Outsiders are Back”
[Luaka Bop Records]

Have you ever wondered what Sly and the Family Stone would sound like with bongos? What about a James Brown with a higher register and a jazzier backing band? Enough with the rhetorical questions; I’ll get right to the point: Kings Go Forth may be a call-back to classic 70s funk, but as their name suggests, the sound goes forth, diverging in new directions while still yielding that retro-vibe of the soul kings that came before.  Singer Black Wolf gives the album that classic 70s vocal display while the production of Andy Noble provides a modern edge. Summers of the past have been labeled a variety of “explosions” (ska, latin, british), and this year looks to be the explosion of soul.

Overall, a pretty lame video for the song “One Day”, although the cut scenes of records being made is like watching “How It’s Made”:

8. Free Energy
“Stuck On Nothing”
[Astralwerks/DFA]

I’m embarrassed that I like this album. The cover to “Stuck On Nothing” is hokey and easily a contender for our year end “Worst Album Cover” list. The production is polished and conventional. The music is nothing new: joyous melodies reminiscent of Thin Lizzy (this is the first time I’ve mentioned Thin Lizzy in an album review without bringing up the two-guitar-lead; kudos to me!). But despite all these setbacks, I can’t lie to myself; there are some great fucking songs here. In fact, “Stuck On Nothing” has the potential of being one of those albums where 80% of the songs end up becoming Top 40 Hits.  But I doubt it will happen. You won’t see any Disney shows called “Free Energy” nor will you witness the band flipping off the New York Mets for publicity.  They are simply a rock band from Philadelphia who happen to write kick-ass melodies. Remember the days when that’s all it took to make it big in music?

The downfall of the MTV that actually played music?  High School themed music videos:

7. Woods
“At Echo Lake”
[Woodsist]

I understand this list is flawed. Summer music isn’t simply restricted to albums released within that year.  It goes without saying that each July a moment will arise where I’ll dig up some old Neil Young for those long drives back to Iowa.  I guess my goal here is to introduce some new music that you can check out this summer or possibly pull out in future years when in need of some cheer.  But if you need a replacement for that “Tonight is the Night” album that you’ve played to death, the Wood’s “At Echo Lake” might be that modern Neil Young stand-in.  I know, I know, that’s a huge statement and I wouldn’t dare to suggest that Woods are even in the stratosphere of Sir Neil Young, but you’ve got to give these kids credit.  With innocent, falsetto vocals, and natural, weeping guitar solos, this lo-fi outfit seems to be on the right path toward someday being able to sing, “Neil Young take a look at my life I’m a lot like you.”

The ultimate sign of a cool band? Not having one music video on YouTube:

6. Tanlines
“Settings”
[True Panther]

I used to love getting tanlines when I was a kid.  There is just something so strange about that distinct line that forms between the sun burnt red skin, the bronzed tan, and the pasty white flesh, resulting in the appearance of a human neapolitan.  “Settings”, the six song EP from Tanlines, follows that same neapolitan form with several distinct auras bouncing off each other but never crossing that line toward unity.  While the album relies heavily on the tribal rhythms of the djembe and steel drum, a pounding dance bass line throbs throughout each song as well, springing off of the more natural, earthy tones.  The final layer of 80s pop sensibility will be burned into your memory way before you apply to sun block.

Seattle’s KEXP undoubtedly does the best job of in studio performances:

5. Morning Benders
“Big Echo”
[Rough Trade]

The cover to “Big Echo” says it all: a swimmer stands knee-deep in the forefront wearing a full body swimsuit and  a swim cap, staring out into the vast expanse before him where other swimmers are already enjoying the ocean’s swell.  He seems tentative, yet intrigued, just like the Morning Bender’s sound on this album.  Like the flowing of the tide, the music moves fluidly between several genres. It begins planted in the simple, serene 1950s-style confines of the shore, and then before you know it, you are caught up in the gushing experimental expanse of the ocean, taking the listener off into uncharted territory.  Their more mainstream side leans towards a laid back Phoenix, while the experimental splashes remind me of the Ruby Sun’s 2008 offering “Sea Lion”.  As much as I enjoy The Morning Bender’s sandy beach love songs, I always find myself awaiting that next big wave of sound to whisk me back away to the enchanting sea of sound and hope that it won’t return me to the shoreline.

Who needs a video for “Excuses” when you’ve got an album cover like this:

4. Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings
“I Learned the Hard Way”
[Daptone]

A few years ago while visiting my friend Sewer in Lake Havasu, Arizona, we spent our afternoons lounging in the swimming pool, drinking margaritas, and listening to Hepcat, the SoCal ska band that we saw perform while still in high school.  In our drunken reverie we’d sing along to the sweet melodies and dance amid the lukewarm water as the blaring horn section blew out their minds.  Why am I bringing this up?  No, Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings aren’t a ska group, and my friend and I have never sang along to their music. The reason I bring up this up is because every time I listen to Sharon Jone’s latest release “I Learned the Hard Way” I can’t help but be brought back to my memories of Hepcat over the years.  There isn’t even a hint of ska in Sharon Jones sound, in fact her sound is straight up funk/soul of the 60s and 70s.  I guess the connection is due simply to the combination of upbeat harmonies set next to a jovial horn section.  Then again, I don’t remember Hepcat ever having such a soulful, passionate voice or writing such fiery love songs.

Sharon Jones is a musical Jackie Brown:

3. Surfer Blood
“Astrocoast”
[Kanine]
Don’t let the youth of Surfer Blood fool you; these kids understand the power held within their six-strings.  The guitars of Thomas Fekete and John Paul Pitts complement each other in the same way I imagine it may sound like if Doug Marsh and Dick Dale joined forces.  The band succeeds at blending the surfer guitar licks of old with distorted riffs reminiscent of Pavement.  Back in March, I’d been listening to “Astrocoast” two weeks leading up to SXSW, but when I actually saw them perform, all thoughts of it simply being a happy rock album were erased.  Watching the guitar work of these Florida youths had me in awe.  At first glance, “Astrocoast” is simply fun, but if you delve deeper there is a darker beast brooding beneath the surface; a creature that craves to devour your pop sensibilities and digest them whole.

I like how in this performance of “Take It Easy” half of the band is filmed on surveillance camera in what resembles a panic room:

2. The Amazing
“s/t”
[Subliminal Sounds]

It’s that time of year again when a company airs a commercial laced with happy summer imagery, all set to the music of the late great folk hero Nick Drake.  This season’s offering is an AT&T commercial set to Drake’s “From the Morning”, because really, what says “better coverage” than Nick Drake?  But I get what they are going for: Nick Drake’s soft serenades fit perfectly with the calming spirit of the summer, which leads me to the Swedish side-project The Amazing (two members of The Amazing are from Dungen).  On this project, Gustav Ejstes moves away from the psychedelic and focuses in on the same warm approach that Nick Drake mastered decades ago; it is pulled off brilliantly on the self-titled LP.  Every song swells with emotion, all bottled up in Ejstes soft, tranquil voice, warbling on command, guided by the docile strumming of acoustic guitars.  The fact that this album actually came out in December of 2009 may make this entire 2010 list a bust, but the idea of this warm album not getting the chance to see the sunlight is a thought that sends shivers down my spine.

The only thing missing from this video are images of people talking on their AT&T phones:

1. Fang Island
“s/t”
[Sargent House]
The opening track to Fang Island’s self-titled album features the sound of fireworks popping, reminding me of when my dad used to take us out on the 4th of July in his fishing boat to watch the display over Spirit Lake. “Dream of Dreams” multi-layered, Queen-like chant brings me back to the year “Wayne’s World” came out and how whenever the song “Bohemian Rhapsody” came on the radio my brothers and I felt compelled to re-enact the famous car scene. “Davey Crockett” has a swirling synth/guitar line that conjures up memories of watching “Reading Rainbow” with my brother Alex and laughing our asses off at the strange synth outro, and then commencing to imitate it the remainder of the day.  “Careful Crossers” punk rock anthem reminds me of the summers my friends and I would make trips up to Sioux Falls, South Dakota to see punk bands sweat it out at the now closed Pomp Room.  “Daisy” and its organ heavy backing track transports me to the summer I worked the late shift at a gas station and listened to Bob Dylan’s organ-heavy “Blonde On Blonde” while selling cigarettes to meth addicts. “The Illinois” is filled with guitar solos that almost seem stolen straight from classic video games, pulling my conciousness back to the days when, after a long day at the swimming pool, my friends and I would ride our bikes to the video store to rent the latest Nintendo game.  Simply put: Fang Island makes me feel like a kid again. And isn’t that what summer is all about?

You may want to be annoyed by this video for “Daisy” and it’s cast of characters, but by the song’s end, I dare you to not enjoy their antics within the confined space:

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