2010: Faves and Duds

The swirling drain owned 2010: Chilton, RS Howard. None is the number. And yet, Swans & Three Mile Pilot came back from the beyond, so, hey.

(not proofread. Like you care.)

Troublesome Houses” – Bonnie Prince Billy and the Cairo Gang (off Wonder Show of the World)
Oldham will never top this. So have sympathy for this album’s other songs; while nice, none approach the melodic fountainhead of this heartbreaking paen to compulsive behavior’s sad and inevitable destruction of relationships. “I once had a house / and my family knew/ where to find me / if ever they needed” changes to “but now they can’t find me / they don’t have my number.” Thank God my two year old doesn’t understand the lyrics, because it’s the only song she wants me to sing to her at bedtime, and because it hits so close to home personally for her father.

As soon as a I heard it, I thought ‘fuck, I’m gonna have to listen to this a gazillion times and get tired of it.’ As gorgeous pop melodies go, total winner, and the eurodisco synth arrangement belongs equally in a Stockholm disco as it should pump from the lousy dashboard speakers of some 17-year-old girl’s beat-up Honda in suburban Ohio. While the lyrics catch that universal dilemma of stagging it to a dance situation and watching your object of desire grind someone else, the triangle’s gender makeup seems certain (there’s “Stilettos and broken bottles” “I’m in the corner, watching you kiss her”) until Robyn sings “I’m not the guy to take you home.”

The bloopy bleepy, & it sounds exactly as the title advertises.

Like it before you hear it in a Levis commercial (or am I too late?). Also: Close your eyes, and it’s 1993, and you’re listening to Scrawl.

“Cloudbusting” — Neil Halstead
Halstead (viva Slowdive!) does everything wrong here, from whisper-singing to attempting to cover the un-coverable Kate Bush, and yet his banjo, like Wilde’s one comma, makes all the difference. Maybe one of only two Kate Bush covers I’ve heard in 30 years that succeeds (see the Futureheads’ Big Country-esque take on “Hounds of Love”). From a children’s album (Sing me to Sleep: Indie Lullabies) but so transcendent of that usual trash-bin.

Mark Ronson and the Business Intl
One of maybe four highlights on an otherwise swing-and-miss album. Lebon sings the silly chorus with his now weathered pipes (I only want to be in your … etc) which we wouldn’t believe and believe even less after Ronson’s chuckle-some, Brit-accented, faux hip-hop boasting: “I ride around town in a chariot/I get preferential treatment at the Marriot.” And the beat kicks well.

The Soft Pack – S/t
The best straight-ahead guitar album I’ve heard in a long time. Lots of healthy fuckyouness. They won’t make bad records anytime soon, either, because the Soft Pack don’t have a stylist, don’t live in Brooklyn, and look like they surf and get stoned. They’re funny and hate posers. Not a single track fails. Probably my favorite album of 2010 overall.

Gayngs – Relayted
They had me at their mutant cover of Godley & Creme’s underrated “Cry,” the best country song of the new wave 80s (that’s how I always heard it), but the remainder of Gayngs’s odd, auto-tuned-down and perverted r&b comes across like Tears for Fears giving electronically voice-modified testimony, in the dark, under a hood (thus it sounds like Peter Gabriel II&III) And then some cheesy brass cuts through the murk, and it kills anyway.

Capstan Shafts – Revelation Skirts
Relentless indie-pop, possibly overlong by five tracks, but there’s no heir to GBV other than this one-man-gang. Improved studio skills have only hardened the punch.

Gareth Liddiard – Strange Tourist.
Perth’s Liddiard is as good as Bob Dylan. Really? Yeah, really, and he might be better than Dylan because he hasn’t made an album like “Down in the Groove.” I don’t care for lyrics; if something worked on the page without music, [Dylan, et al] would have put it on the page, wouldn’t they? Liddiard routinely drops stuff like this in his haunted growl; here singing via a mail carrier in south Australia: “There are more things that you can know / than there are bodies in the snow / you don’t have to be dead to walk the netherworld.” With the Drones, Liddiard dropped similarly hard-wrought narratives (“She Had an Abortion and Made Me Pay for It”) few other songwriters could earn, even without the Drones’ rockist squall and gothic guitar noodlery. Here, Liddiard sets his guitar virtuosity (yeah, he’s that too) to the background of slightly electrified acoustic picking, achieving a hybrid of John Fahey and Townes Van Zant if TVZ was angry as shit and sounded like Mick Jagger with an Aussie accent. Yeah. Sign on or ignore at peril.

Sadies – Darker Circles
Dark Canadian psych-country. What the Grateful Dead could have been if the trust fund kids hadn’t taken over around 1976.

Aloha – Home Acres
There’s absolutely nothing wrong with Gabriel-era Genesis, and these guys know it. They don’t always ape the prog-kings, but the influence is there in the marimbas and keys. Aside from Deerhoof’s Greg Saunier, Cale Parks is the best drummer currently playing.

Foals – Total Life Forever
They remind me of the Police, that rhythm-lock thing, and although Foals fortunately avoid being fronted by someone like Stink, 65% of what they do is intolerable, just like the Police. But I didn’t stop listening to almost every other track.

Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti – Before Today
Fucked up stuff. Truly. Billy Ocean on shrooms. “Round and Round” might be a Ratt cover, but only the bassline.

Caribou – Swim
Most electro noodlers sing, and most go back to pumping gas. Only Aphex Twin got away with it, and what he does can’t really be called singing (because it’s better than that).

Deerhunter – Halcyon Digest
I’m back on the wagon, Deerhunter. Keep it spacey.

Broken Social Scene – Forgiveness Rock Record
Didn’t think it possible, but this never slacks. Proof BSS is just making records they love rather than towing the line so Springsteen can jump onstage.

Tracey Thorn
Love and It’s Opposites
Which is indifference. I didn’t feel that for this album, nor hate it, so it’s love – because I’m an adult now. Thorn’s insistence on writing about the life of a middle-aged mother of a teenage daughter while luckily hailing from England rather than Nashville is instantly endearing. “Oh the Divorces,” if you’re my age (this year it gets Bad), hits bullseye.

Richard Youngs – Beyond the Valley of Ultrahits
As if John Cale made an album with Brian Eno, and it really sounded great (wait a second …). Youngs’s eerie baritone-tenor floats above electro pops and whirrs until an undistorted electric guitar tears off a straightforward rockist solo, and then the whole thing spins out into spaceagain. Scottish funeral acapella set to 70s space soundtracks.

Hon Mentions: Wavves, Three Mile Pilot, Walkmen, Matthew Dear, Brian Eno’s “Small Craft”

dissapointments & duds:
Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings – I Learned The Hard Way
See title.

Here We Go Magic – Pigeons
They’re onto something, but I miss the space-i-ness of their debut. Here, MWGM forgoes Luke Temple’s melody-ready pipes for a chugging jamrock that never really leaves the atmosphere.

Ra Ra Riot – The Orchard
Holy moly. The less said the better, and I love The Rhumb Line.

Sleigh Bells – Treats
And where do you go from here? Because someone does this every once in a while, this comes to mind.

The National – High Violet
Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz. Mediocrity wins the day. And I think someone in this band must have stolen Nick Dawidoff’s girlfriend, because his fawning, hyperbolic NY Times Magazine piece did more damage to the National’s street cred than working on their next album with Diddy ever would.

Perfume Genius – Learning
in 2021, this’ll embarrass someone who’s 23 right now.

Teenage Fanclub – Shadows
It pains me. It … pains me. I promise to try again soon.

Menomena – Mines
Did this even come out?

Gonjasufi – A Killer and a Sufi
There are hundreds of dub records from the 70s twice as good as this, and they all cost a dollar.

Working For a NFC – Jojo Burger Tempest
What the fuck happened? Are they trying to get out of a contract, or did the band dissolve during recording? At least they didn’t buy matching cars and speed around town first.

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