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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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Cloud Nothings “Turning On” / “Leave You Forever”


Cloud Nothings
“Turning On”/ “Leave You Forever”
[Car Park/ True Panther 2010]

RATING: 7.5/8.5

This is such a hectic time of year: last minute purchases, making a list and checking it twice (or two dozen times), and late, sleepless nights while visions of Superchunk dance in my head.  Yes my friends, it’s time to come up with my year-end best albums list.  I always look forward to this annual process, although every year or so, an album arises that throws a wrench into my system.  Back in 2008 it was Jay Reatard’s “Matador Singles 08”, a collection of songs that had been released on Matador Records as singles over the course of the year.  There is not a mediocre song in the bunch, and of all the albums from that year, it’s one of the few that I still revisit frequently.

An album like “Matador Singles 08” raises some difficult questions because it was arguably the best collection of songs released in 2008, yet I didn’t place it on my best albums list that year based on principle.  I convinced myself that it wasn’t truly an album, rather a collection of songs in the same sense that a book of short stories isn’t deemed a novel.  I decided that to be categorized as a pure album it should have a backbone holding all the songs together: whether it be based on the overlying theme or the production keeping each song within the same unique world.

Since that 2008 omission, I still have regrets. When Jay Reatard died earlier this year, my guilt was heightened, although I can proudly say his 2009 album “Watch Me Fall”, ignored by most writers, made my top ten.  And I think “Watch Me Fall” proves my point – it had a definite theme of depression and self hate while the songs on “Matador Singles 08” cover a wide range of  unrelated topics.  A song like “I’m Watching You”, featured on both albums, even furthers my point. On the 2009 version the song seems to be a part of the “Watch Me Fall” universe, while the version on “Matador Singles 08” seems more like a loner, thriving on it’s own merit.

But just when I think I’ve got my opinion set in stone on the whole compilation thing, along come Cloud Nothings with the 2010 release “Turning On”.  Cloud Nothings began as simply Dylan Baldi, an 18-year-old college student from Cleveland, recording songs in his parent’s basement.  Over the months leading all the way back to the fall of 2009, Baldi posted his songs on the internet and quickly gained a buzz due to his knack for addictive lo-fi pop melodies. By the end of the year he had dropped out of college and found himself opening for bands like Real Estate and Woods.

“Turning On” is a compilation of all the songs Baldi released over the past year and a half, resulting in a treasury of pop-punk magic that shows a young man honing his powers like Luke Skywalker in Dagobah.  His natural talent for producing enchanting melodies is undeniable and gushes out of each muddle of fuzz and echo.

“My Little Raygun” actually reminds me a little of the late, great Jay Reatard:


Baldi is wise beyond his years in the art of writing songs that are simple yet compelling at the same time.  Despite this perspicacity, his songs still feel juvenile and effortless which results in 14-straight tracks that not only cause nostalgia, but transport you back to the early days of pimples and pubes. He sings of the concerns of a teen, yet they are filled with a gravity that shouldn’t be taken lightly.

A live acoustic performance of “Cool Kids” that is, well, pretty damn cool:

So does “Turning On” deserve a place on my best albums of 2010 list? Do I dare go against my notion of what a true album should be comprised of?

No, but not because of my position on compilations – I still hold my beliefs true that an album is more than a collection of songs.  As startling and exciting as Baldi’s album may be, it can also get a bit messy.  The drums sound amateurish throughout and the lo-fi production value gets in the way.  I understand that the errant crack of drumsticks and the unpredictable bass drum can add to the quirky nature of the Cloud Nothing’s music, but it can also dampen an otherwise fiery pop track.

“Can’t Stay Awake” is a great song interrupted by a strange drum melt-down near the end:

Since escaping his parent’s basement, Baldi has acquired a full-piece band and a few months ago they released “Leave You Forever” a four song EP that takes the pulp of “Turning On” and squeezes out its poppy-juiciness, creating exceptionally fresh results. I’m hard-pressed to find another album in 2010 that has four songs that are as good in combination as “Leave You Forever” has to offer.

Which raises another question: can an EP be considered an album when it’s only four songs?

Oh crap…it looks like I have more sleepless nights ahead me.

“Leave You Forever” – one of the Fantastic Four on the EP:

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