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Faves 2010, Thanksgiving, Cutout Bin   Printer-friendly page   Send this story to someone
Thursday, November 25, 2010 - 08:00 AM
Posted by: Karl


THE HOLIDAY WEEKEND STARTS HERE... with FAVES 2010!  I occasionally hear from folks who want to know what music -- from among all of the posts I do here -- I recommend.  To some degree, I recommend all of it, unless I expressly write otherwise (e.g., it's not my thing, but it might be yours).  With the holiday shopping season upon us, I have tried to make a list of reasonable size.  It's an unordered list. I likely will have overlooked something that I really dig.  And some of these are grouped together, because that's the way they occurred to me at the moment.  And note these are my faves; I'm not purporting to list the "Best" albums of the year.

BEST COAST: Regular Pate visitors -- and anyone who has known me since high school -- knows I'm a sucker for the reverb-laden 60s pop produced by Phil Spector and Brian Wilson.  Best Coast's Crazy for you is not nearly so orchestrated as either of those two, but grafts the insular mood of Spector onto the early surf idiom pioneered by Wilson, with indie fuzz added for spice.  Of course, the songs have to pop also -- and these do, esp. the wistful "Boyfriend."  FRANKIE ROSE & THE OUTS are also working this space well, with a dash more of garage rock on tracks like "Candy."

THE LOVE LANGUAGE: The Libraries album taps into the more orchestrated, more romantic sides of the Spector/Wilson vein, but Stuart McLamb will also let the guitar squawk when it needs to (as on "Heart To Tell"). A charming little gem overlooked by many critics.

WAVVES: King of the Beach finds Nathan Williams (like Stuart McLamb) moving away from the lo-fi aesthetic, but the twist on the Cali vibe here is more modern than the bands I've already mentioned.  It's as much or more about the skateboard as the surfboard.

ARCADE FIRE and THE NATIONAL both saw their careers continue to ascend this year, even if the Billboard chart ain't what it used to be.  I've gotten too old to hold a modicum of success against an indie abnd -- whatever that is these days.  Although Arcade Fire's The Suburbs seems more extroverted musically than The National's High Violet, I cannot help but think both bands were exploring the same emotional landscape to a degree and tapped into a zeitgeist, if not the zeitgeist.

TITUS ANDRONICUS was the band that probably impressed me most at this year's Pitchfork Music Festival, and not just for doing an energetic set in stifling heat and humidity.  The Monitor is certainly not the first semi-conceptual LP put out by a hardcore-ish band (Husker Du's Zen Arcade obviously springs to mind).  But there aren't many such LPs, and the historicism, romanticism, and musical ambition evident on The Monitor suggest that Patrick Stickles & Co not only listened to, but also learned from, their share of Springsteen while germinating in Jersey.

LOCAL NATIVES, otoh, is the band I miss having missed at Pitchfest.  They marry the harmonies of the classic Laurel Canyon folk-rockers with world beat influences that put a nifty twist on songs like Talking Heads' "Warning Sign." A warm, West Coast compliment to bands like Grizzly Bear (East Coast) and Fleet Foxes (whom I consider more Pacific Northwest).

DAWES: This is on the verge of cheating, as their North Hills LP actually came out in August or September of 2009 -- but it didn't fully sink its claws into me until this year.  These guys really are from Laurel Canyon and also have great harmonies (and strong songwriting, e.g., "When My Time Comes").  However, what gets me about Dawes is that I think I would have to classify them as Americana, even though they rarely resort to the obvious artisitic flourishes that would go with that genre.

MORNING BENDERS: Do I like West Coast bands with albums full of catchy, harmony-laden tunes?  It appears I do, as Morning Benders is another of them (though they've moved from Berkeley to Brooklyn).  Big Echo is no sophomore slump.  The Everlys-at-the-Ocean sound of "Excuses" is a highlight in my book, though the more modern-sounding tracks are also a treat.

SHE & HIM: I'm on a roll in this sub-genre, so why not?  Vol. 2 was just as charming as Vol 1.  She's still a talented songwriter, has untapped-on-record potential as a singer and is still indies "It" girl.  He's still a great arranger, whose understated guitar work supports her beautifully.  SONNY & THE SUNSETS don't have the same star power, but much of the same vintage charm on songs like "Too Young to Burn."

TALLEST MAN ON EARTH: Swedish Kristian Matsson gets his share of Bob Dylan comparisons, which are always an unfair burden to carry.  But this year's LP, The Wild Hunt, and EP, Sometimes the Blues Is Just a Passing Bird, suggest he's good enough to move past them eventually.

BLACK KEYS never fully grabbed me until this year (they likely suffered from an unfair, involuntary association with the White Stripes).  Brothers broadens the band's sonic pallette and veers a bit from the pure rootsy blues influences of their past stuff into vintage R & B -- including a cover of Jerry Butler's "Never Gonna Give You Up" -- which may have been what turned the bulb on over my head this time.

BROKEN SOCIAL SCENE re-collectivized after a semi-hiatus with Forgiveness Rock Record, and it was worth the wait.  "Forced to Love" is a monster and may be one of my Top 5 songs of the year.

MUMFORD & SONS: Brit-folk rock was "hot" this year, led by this quartet (though Noah & the Whale has been around a bit longer, iirc).  Their Sigh No More came out in late 2009 in the UK, but dropped here in 2010. LAURA MARLING, a truly talented 20-year-old who was once part of Noah's lineup, is wise beyond her years on I Speak Because I Can. STORNOWAY doesn't wear trad folk influences as heavily, but deserve mention here, too.

ARIEL PINK'S HAUNTED GRAFFITI: Pink, like Wavves above, moves beyond the lo-fi home recordings on Before Today and makes the most of it.  Ostensibly influenced by bands like The Cure, Sisters of Mercy and Bauhaus, I hear a fair amount of more mainstream 80s Brit-rock in the mix, with enough psychedelic and near-proggy accents to keep it from sounding derivative of anything.

DALE EARNHARDT, JR.,JR. may be a duo from Detroit with only an EP (Horse Power) and some remixes to its name, but if they keep cranking out McCartney-eque gens like "Simple Girl," this won't be their last appearance on my Faves list.

KINGS GO FORTH: It really wouldn't be my Faves list without some classic R & B revivalism, and this year it comes from... Milwaukee.  However, SHARON JONES & THE DAP-KINGS get an honorable mention for another solid effort on I Learned the Hard Way.

THE MYNABIRDS: Laura Burhenn, formerly of Georgie James, long imagined a band that sounded like Neil Young playing Motown.  What We Lose in the Fire We Gain in the Flood doesn't truly sound like that, but has enough of a Dusty (Springfield) vibe on songs like "Number's Don't Lie" to land right in my wheelhouse.

A CHARLIE BROWN THANKSGIVING:  It's always somewhere on the net.

NOW SHOWING: The long weekend's wide releases include Tangled, which is currently scoring 89 percent on the ol' Tomatometer; Burlesque, which is currently scoring 31 percent; Love and Other Drugs, which is scoring 42 percent; and Faster, scoring 43 percent.

THANKSGIVING has a lot of myths, both traditional and the new "Pilgrims were evil" o­nes taught in some public schools. Not to mention the fights over kindergarteners dressing as Native Americans.  However, if you read the journal of William Bradford -- who served some 35 years as governor of the Pilgims' colony -- you quickly discover that the Pilgrims' relationship with the natives was complex.  Ultimately, Bradford quieted internal discontent by doing away with the collectivism of a company town and granting property rights.

CUTOUT BIN: From Ray Davies to the Jesus & Mary Chain, from Big Star to Billy Joel, from Sly & the Family Stone to King Crimson, plus Cheap Trick, the Feelies, the Ides of March, ELO, the Plimsouls and more -- this weekend's fortuitous finds are streaming from the Pate page at the ol' HM.

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