Tag Archives: take it easy

Top 100 Tracks of 2010 (25-1)

25. “Tuning Out”

Eddy Current Suppression Ring

On face value, this is just another punk rock song, but if you listen a little longer you’ll hear exactly what makes Eddy Current Suppression Ring different than others within the genre.  While most bands would wrap this song up at the two minute mark, ECSR have just begun.  The next four and a half minutes of “Tuning Out” Eddy Current takes front stage, manipulating his Stratocaster to its limit, making a gluttonous amount of squeaks and howls, showing exactly why this is his band.

24. “Crank Resolutions”

Meursault

Back in Septemeber, I wrote of Meursault and this song: “While most bands are forced to rely on a more polished production value to push the sense of urgency to a higher level, Meursault rely solely on a strange mixture of popping beats and crunching piano riffs that are reminiscent of a CB radio broadcast.Crank Resolutions’ features a beat that is beyond description (which is a good thing).”

23. “Don’t Look Back”

Kylesa

Usually, Kylesa are pretty damn scary, but on “Don’t Look Back” they sound strangely inspirational. Tony Robbins better watch his back (on second thought Tony, heed Kylesa’s advice and don’t look back).

22. “Like the Ocean, Like the Innocent Pt. 2: Innocent”

Besnard Lakes

I saw Besnard Lakes perform this song at SXSW this past year, and since then, I haven’t been able to remove the soothing chorus of “Ooh, you’re like the ocean” out of my head.  You can put your ear up to my cranium like it’s a seashell and hear the sounds of “Like the Ocean” softly echoing inside.

21. “Hey Cool Kid”

Cloud Nothings

“Hey Cool Kid” is a story of an outsider, realizing that his idol is nothing but an asshole who will “beat me back into the ground”.  Despite this, his insecurity pushes him to still keep asking for the cool kid “to come around”.

20. “Suburban War”

Arcade Fire

When I first heard this song I liked it because the guitar lick reminded me of The Rolling Stone’s “Gimme Shelter”.  Then of course I made the mistake of listening to the lyrics, and this once upbeat song spawned sorrow for those friends I’ve lost in their pursuit of adulthood:

My old friends
I can remember when
You cut your hair
We never saw you again
Now the cities we live in
Could be distant stars
And I search for you
In every passing car

19. “Sleepless in Silver Lake”

Les Savy Fav

As far as I’m concerned, there are way too many songs about Los Angeles. Where are the songs about Bozeman, Montana for Christ’s sake!? Despite the saturation of “I Love L.A.”s and “Under the Bridge”s, Les Savy Fav present a fresh take on the City of Angels with “Sleepless in Silver Lake”:

The walking wounded wrap their face in gauze.
These kids’ll kill ya just because they can.
Their teeth are bleached and their tits are tan.

18. “Black Bubblegum”

Title Tracks

I’m 86% sure that this song is about Sherry Becker who chewed Black Jack bubblegum, wore an orange dress, and witnessed Jerry Seinfeld returning Tropic of Cancer to the library in 1972 (or was it Dentyne?).

17. “The Tree”

Blitzen Trapper (featuring Alela Diane)

Another highlight of 2010 for me was my last minute trip to Portland with my brother. The two of us rented a little Vibe and drove around the area, hiking whatever peaks we could fit in within our three-day stay.  While hiking along the Cascade Ridge, we came upon 300-year-old Sitka trees – an army of menacing patriarchs, standing judicious and strong, looking down upon all that pass by.  Whenever I listen to the 2010 release from Portland’s own Blitzen Trapper I can’t help but think back to that trip, more specifically this song with its lyrics of a tree that “grows never-ending”.   Upon each listen, I’m brought back to that day, standing with my brother and looking up at the majestic beasts that surrounded us.  The addition of Portland’s first lady Alela Diane to the song only sweetens the song’s enchantment.

16. “Take It Easy”

Surfer Blood

Starts off with a tropical feel, moves into an early 90s alternative chorus, and ends with an 80s U2 outro: this is what we call a song quilt.

15. “The Boys are Out”

Hanoi Janes

Whenever I play this song I feel guilty. I bought the Hanoi Janes latest release, and after listening to it all the way through a couple times, I found myself continually going back to this song (ignoring the rest).  There is just something about the little freak out that arrives at the 30 second mark- maybe it’s the drumstick cracks, or it could possibly the call-and-response guitars that reverberate from one speaker to the other- whatever it is, “The Boys are Out” is the most fun you’ll have in under a minute thirty.

14. “The Winner”

Kris Kristofferson

“Twistable, Turnable Man” was an album of Shel Silverstien covers that came out this past year, and despite an impressive list of bands featured on it (My Morning Jacket, Andrew Bird, Lucinda Williams) the best cover is performed by old reliable, Kris Kristofferson.  His raspy baritone naturally works with Silverstein’s narrative songwriting. When I listen to this song, I imagine the narrator is LeBron James and Tiger Man the Cool is Michael Jordan.  It just seems fitting after finding out this past summer that James doesn’t understand what it takes to be a winner.

13. “My Gap Feels Weird”

Superchunk

I would prefer if this song were about having a pain in your taint, but it ends up ol’ Mack wrote it about going to a show and realizing you’re the oldest one there. I hate to admit that I can relate.  At least I can take comfort in knowing old folks are always welcome at a Superchunk show.

12. “Night, Night”

Big Boi (featuring B.o.B. and Joi)

“Night, Night” is one of the finest rap call-outs you’ll ever hear, not pointing out one specific MC, rather annihilating all the fools that can’t hold themselves up to Big Boi’s standard.  To back up his flow built on intelligence rather than empty threats, Big Boi blends a funky bass with a spunky female choir that is completely devoid of auto-tune.  It truly is “something new.”

11. “Marimba and Shit Drums”

Moonface

Earlier this year, I wrote of this song/album: “There is only one 20-minute song on Moonface’s EP “Dreamland” and it is called “marimba and shit-drums”.  The title is straight to the point because, in fact, the song is comprised of just that: a marimba and shit-drums.  Of course, you also hear Spencer Krug’s voice, but otherwise it is simply a marimba and shit-drums; nothing more, nothing less. The constant pulse of the marimba gives the song imminence; a feeling that the echo of the wooden bars being struck by a mallet is building towards something, racing toward a culmination.  Then, of course, the shit-drums kick in and it’s on.  The crackling of the harsh rhythm plays as the perfect antithesis to the happy-go-lucky marimba.   Krug has taken the joyful sounds of the African instrument and somehow given it tension, made it angrier, made it sound more, dare I say, hardcore.  With only two simple instruments Krug creates music that is just as dramatic and heartfelt as anything by Explosions in the Sky.  Creating explosions with only two instruments?  In essence, Krug is the MacGyver of the music world.”

10. “Glitter”

No Age

When Dean Spunt sings “I want you bad underneath my skin”, he’s encapsulating addiction. It could be a dependence to drugs, alcohol, food, sex, or maybe even an abusive relationship; whatever it is, the speaker knows it will cause harm yet craves it.   For me, the addiction is to the screeching distortion that lurks in the background of this song.  To many, I’m sure this sounds like simply noise, but I keep coming back. Not because I enjoy pain, but because I’ve found beauty within that dissonance. I can’t get enough of that needling noise underneath my skin.

9. “Dance Yrself Clean”

LCD Soundsystem

I present to you an auditory cleansing. The first three minutes will help you relax, help raise your spirits. And then, well, then it’s time. James Murphy’s pumping beats and throbbing bass line burst through the speakers and spray you with an energy you didn’t have moments ago.  Suddenly, without warning, you’re on your feet moving; washing away your worries; shaking away your negative energy; dancing yourself clean.

8. “Desire Lines”

Deerhunter

If you asked me a year ago to name the top ten songs of the past decade, Deerhunter’s “Nothing Ever Happened” would have easily made the list.  Its fluid movements from one riff to the next continues to leave me in awe.  I didn’t think the band could ever top the song. Then along comes “Haclyon Digest” with the song “Desire Lines”, and I’m thrown for a loop.  Not only does this song follow the same transformational model (three minutes in the madness is unleashed), but it also features an even catchier chorus to start things off.  “Nothing Ever Happened” probably remains the quintessential Deerhunter song for me, but they are sure making things difficult.

7. “Post Acid”

Wavves

Only a year ago, everyone hated Nathan Williams for his meltdown in Barcelona, even his drummer. But now it’s officially time to exonerate him of his past mistakes.  Not only are his songs more instantaneously satisfying, but he’s also apologizing in “Post Acid” when he sings “I was just having fun with you.” Ah shucks Nathan; we forgive you.

6. “Wide Eyes”

Local Natives

The harmonizing voices, the machine gun drums, the twinkling guitar riffs: “Wide Eyes” is an example of a band finding their true potential. While much of “Gorilla Manor” is milk-toast mediocrity, this song proves that when all the pieces are put in the right place, Local Natives are capable of making extraordinary music.

5. “Round and Round”

Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti

All of the parts of “Round and Round” work together like a merry-go-round of melody, moving round and round, up and down, creating an experience that will have you begging for another ride through simpler times.

4. “Snakes for the Divine”

High On Fire

The metal anthem is not dead, despite what sports arenas around the country would suggest. They’d like you to believe that fist pumping and head banging died with AC/DC, Guns N’ Roses, and Metallica.  Wrong. Imagine if you will, your favorite sports team running onto the court/field/ice as the opening to “Snakes for the Divine” rumbles through the stadium, building a frothing mass of furious, energized fans, filled with bloodlust for a win, shaking, twitching, standing on the verge of a completely chaotic riot…. actually, it’s probably a good idea to keep High On Fire out of the stadiums (especially Detroit).

3. “Monster”

Kanye West (featuring Jay-Z, Rick Ross, Nikki Manaj, and Bon Iver)

When Kanye West sang his song “Runaway” at the VMA’s, most thought it was an admission of guilt to Taylor Swift. Not so fast my friend. Soon after “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy” came out and all thoughts of apologies disappeared.  On “Monster” Kanye erases any suggestions of humility or guilt When he spouts, “I’m living in the future so my presence is my past. My presence is a present kiss my ass.” This is the musical version of Hulk Hogan joining the NWO; Kanye takes pride in his villainous portrayal.  The scariest part of “Monster” is not the flows of Rick Ross, Kanye, Jay-Z, or even the soothing vocals of Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon. That honor goes to Nicki Minaj’s venomous verse that electrifies and brings this monster of a song to life.

2. “A Cold Freezin’ Night”

The Books

Set to what resembles the theme music to “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off”, “A Cold Freezin’ Night” features samples of a little boy ranting about how he will kill you with a rifle, a shotgun, and cut your toes off.  In response, a little girl admits that boys are better than girls, even going so far as to wish she was a boy.  And somehow, all these chauvinist, psychotic threats are joyful due simply to a great dance beat (and a short harmonica solo never hurts). If only it was this easy to make little kids tolerable in real life.

1. “Caesar”

Ty Segall

Earlier this year I bought a record player and soon after found myself with a vinyl obsession.  Most of my records were used purchases, but I also dabbled in buying the vinyl of new releases. With many labels including a free download code with a purchase, it just seems to make more sense to get the larger than life packaging/artwork. One of my earliest purchases was Ty Segall’s “Melted”, and it quickly became a mainstay on my turntable.  Every time I listened to the album, I would get up and push the arm back to the beginning of “Caesar” to hear it one, two, maybe even three times in a row.  A month ago as I was compiling this list I put “Melted” on again only to find that during “Caesar” my record now skips.  While the loss of this song saddened me to no end, the scratch also symbolized my undying affection for this pop-punk gem. Fortunately for you, you can listen to the clip above as many times as you like without fear of a scratch (but you won’t get the full effect without it  crackling out of a record player).

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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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