Monday, May 17, 2010

2010 Quarter 1 Mixtape

Alright folks! I was going to post this much earlier in the month, but with such a hefty collection of solid releases in May I really wanted to hold a little bit. That, and I wasn't too floored by anything that came out before this month (sure there were albums I liked, but nothing hit me on the level of say, High Violet or This Is Happening). SO. Take these 13 tracks (whittled from about 30) and see how we compare on a year that I believe still has plenty of tricks up its sleeve.

01. Crystal Castles - Doe Deer
I love how every CC review begins, "Holy shit we wanted to hate this album, but..." BUT this song is just manic as all get-out. The fuzz and wail; the way the electronics seem to evolve into an uncontrollable force the more the song progresses. This baby's raw energy.

02. Yeasayer - Ambling Alp
I've heard a fair amount of beef about the Yeasayer record. Perhaps it's justified. I've kind of grown a tendency of immediate eyeroll at the mention of an 80s-pop influenced record. I think this song is a commendable way to approach it; have your own sound, let the influence bleed through in choice aspects of the recording (in this case, those massive stadium drums). And I just like the hook a lot. "Wear your wounds with pride." And also that sick organ solo at the end.

03. Surfer Blood - Fast Jabroni
On the whole, the Surfer Blood record seemed a bit derivative. I'm contradicting myself already. Because this song is essentially one of those trendy 80s throwback tracks. I guess I love the melody enough to excuse the things I don't like about it? I also like how it takes the pop-punk-ish turn at the "Just think it over" part. It didn't have to, but maybe that's what makes it good. It's kind of a breezy, fun song that I can see having a lot of replay, especially during summer.

04. Woods - Suffering Season
Oh, Woods. Woods is so bizarre. Because they seem like they've got this schizophrenic are-we-psychedelic-or-are-we-a-folk-band thing going. But with this song they just subvert expectations and say, "let's just write an incredible pop song in our own way." "Who knows what tomorrow will bring?" Amen. This seems more like a mission statement for them as a band than just a song lyric. I love the drum double-time change-up, which I know can be a source of contention for some. It just does it for me.

05. Nada Surf - Electrocution
Nada Surf? What the hell. This is a cover of someone called Bill Fox, with whom I am unfamiliar. This is just a solid pop rock song with great harmonies and a fantastic progression. You know, sometimes that's all it really takes.

06. Sonny & The Sunsets - She Plays Yo-Yo With My Mind
Sonny & the Sunsets' record Tomorrow is Alright is great, with a lot of great tracks. But for some reason, this song, which was done for the second (fantastic) Raven Sings the Blues compilation is the best I've heard from them. I love the pace, the way it builds, the smoothness in instrumentation. Overall, just a cool ass song.

07. Adam Green - What Makes Him Act So Bad?
So Adam Green, one half of one of my most reviled groups of all time, The Moldy Peaches, wrote a fucking gem of a song here. Like the Sonny song, it's just a mellow, well-paced rock song. And as a person who has been questioning why I am the way I am, I can surely agree with the sentiment.

08. Joanna Newsom - On A Good Day
Have One On Me is still pretty hard for me to get into. I love certain tracks, but listening front to back is like knocking off The Fountainhead in an afternoon. This song just shows that she doesn't need to write ambling narratives to write great songs. "Hey hey hey the end is near. On a good day you can see the end from here." That might be my favorite line of the year so far.

09. The National - Conversation 16
High Violet is the only album so far this year that I can legit put up there with my favorites of the past few years (to decade). And honestly, I'm not even sure if "Conversation 16" is my favorite or the best track on it. I love them all in their own way. I think I chose this as the one because, well, not a lot of songs have a "surprise zombie chorus" that mysteriously arrives halfway through the song (listen to the drums on the "I'm evil" chorus; brilliant). And it might showcase some of Matt Berninger's best lyrical work on the album. "You'd never believe the shitty thoughts I think." Sounds like something I can connect with.

(Note: Due to artist request, "Bloodbuzz, Ohio" has been inserted into the list as a replacement. Like I said, with an album so full of amazing tracks, this is no big deal.)

10. Titus Andronicus - No Future Part Three: Escape From No Future
I have proclaimed this as my favorite track of the year, but I'm not so sure anymore. It's way up there ("Suffering Season" may have the honor right now). I have been starting to feel a disconnect from the more electronic side of the indie spectrum. I think that there's going to be a backlash to the Beach Houses and Yeasayers out there in favor of more angry rock music. I love this song's emotion and honesty, and it's such a refreshing change from songs that don't really seem to be about anything.

11. Harlem - Friendly Ghost
This was the best show I saw of the first quarter so far, far and away, hands down. Harlem has potential to do a lot of great things. It's always a close call between this song and "Gay Human Bones." I chose this one because it's more concise. And I love the melody.

12. Sleigh Bells - Rill Rill
I have a lot of conflicting views on Sleigh Bells. On one hand, they write some good pop songs. On the other hand, they feel like a band created by some hipster-capitalization machine. Treats completely feels like Brooklyn bait, but so be it. How can an album be so loud and abrasive and yet so gay at the same time? They have this weird dichotomy of wanting to be hard and wanting to be super poppy, and I'm not sure if it's successful. Having said all that, I think the album would be a wash without "Rill Rill," which stands out in that it isn't their super-loud formula. This song is going to soundtrack summers; and I don't see that as a bad thing.

13. LCD Soundsystem - All I Want
I've been watching a fair amount of interviews with James Murphy recently; and jeez that guy's smart. That intelligence in range of influence is felt in the music, and his intelligence of the human condition is reflected in his lyrics. I'm excited for This is Happening to grow on me more and more, because I feel it's only going to start making more and more sense the older I get. I think there hasn't been a straight LCD backlash yet because Murphy has never dumbed shit down to his listeners. He assumes that the people he's writing for are in, or have been in, the same places he is/was; which might not necessarily the case. But he puts himself out there. There's a bizarre reverse psychology in his music; where most artists do their best to write something relatable, Murphy is opening his door up and asking you to walk in, not meeting you on the front lawn. And that's brave, and the payoff is great.

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1 comment:

    Who You Gonna Call
    Tel 44-(0)208-323 8013
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    Hi Erik,

    On behalf of Beggars, 4AD and The National, we would kindly ask you not to post copies of "High Violet" on your site (or any non-preview tracks from the newly released album by The National).

    We do appreciate that you are fans of / are promoting The National, but the labels and artist would greatly appreciate your co-operation in removing your links to the pirate files in question.

    Thank you for respecting the artist's wishes and, if you / your readers want good quality, non-pirated, preview tracks, then a full length, high quality version of "BloodBuzz Ohio" is available for fans and bloggers to link to / post / host etc from and “Afraid of Everyone” is now also available from ... .. for further details of the new album, on-line promotions, videos and 2010 shows, check-out the official site, as well as the band's MySpace at and YouTube channel at ... .. and keep an eye on these official sources for details of further news, preview material and on-line promotions.

    Also and as a goodwill gesture to fans and bloggers, an exclusive preview stream of the full album is currently available via KCRW “On Demand” at ... .. this is for hyper-linking only and so that fans can stream directly off KCRW, so please reciprocate this goodwill gesture by NOT ripping and re-hosting these files. Last, but not least, keep an eye on for the “Castle Rock Sessions” featuring live versions of tracks off “High Violet”.

    With Thanks & Regards,