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Best Albums of 2010 So far…

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1. LCD Soundsystem: This Is Happening
2. Sleigh Bells: Treats
3. The New Pornographers: Together
4. Harlem: Hippies
5. Yeasayer: Odd Blood
6. The Black Keys: Brothers
7. The National: High Violet
8. Surfer Blood: Astrocoast
9. Avi Buffalo: S/T
10. Flying Lotus: Cosmogramma

The Black Keys: Brothers

I have loved The Black Keys since I first heard a cut from Thickfreakness on a MOJO compilation album and then saw them at Bonnaroo a year later. Since that time they have continued to produce a string of excellent records and their sixth album Brothers is no exception. Dan Auerbach (vocals and guitar) and Patrick Carney (drums) grew up together in Akron, OH and formed a band because they could both play instruments. Despite their white northern upbringing, their first few albums had an authentic southern juke-joint blues-rock sound that lacked any of the common problems found in “white blues.” However, their formula changed on 2008’s Attach & Release, produced by Danger Mouse, which showed a more laid back psychedelic band. Brothers retains some of the elements from Attach & Release including the occasional addition of a bass line, keyboard or whistle; however, for the most part this is still a two piece band with vocals, guitar and drums. There are three major points to make about this record in comparison to previous releases. First, this is by far the funkiest record they have made. The first two singles “Tighten Up” and “Next Girl” have a coolness and swagger that would impress Curtis Mayfield or George Clinton. Second, Aurebach is singing in a new falsetto voice on a few tracks (i.e. “Everlasting Light” and “The Only One”) and it works. Third, this album is too long. A few tracks could have been cut to make it a bit more cohesive. Basically, if you like The Black Keys you are going to like Brothers.

Sleigh Bells: Treats

First of all Treats is a loud, raucous, messy and somewhat annoying record. But it is incredibly fun, original and exhilarating. Sleigh Bells is a Brooklyn duo comprised of guitarist Derek Miller (member of Poison the Well) and vocalist Alexis Krauss (formerly of the girlgroup Rubyblue). This band got a lot of blog buzz beginning with demos released last year, and their first official album is now being released on M.I.A.’s label N.E.E.T. From start to finish the eleven tracks on Treats are an auditory assault that occasionally test the listener’s threshold for repetitive vocals (“A/B Machines”), heavy drum machine beats (“Tell ‘Em”), and shredding guitar licks (“Riot Rhythm”). Imagine The Go! Team with Eddie Van Halen as the lead guitarist covering a Beyonce song. The only exception is “Rill Rill” which is a ridiculously catchy and near perfect pop tune based around a Funkadelic sample. It is hard to pin this band down and really there is no reason to. Most likely you will either love or hate this group. I don’t see any room for an in-between option.
Essential Tracks: “Tell ‘Em,” “Crown on the Ground,” “Rill Rill”

The New Pornographers: Together

The New Pornographers are Together again. Over the last decade A.C. Newman has assembled the Pornographers every few years to record an album and tour. The lineup has changed some since their debut (2000’s Mass Romantic), but their energetic power pop sound hasn’t changed much at all. Together is their fifth release and many are arguing that this is a return to form since the quiet and slightly disappointing Challengers from 2007 failed to really excite anyone. Regardless of your opinion of the last album, Together is a good record with several great songs. Newman’s lyrics are still perplexing (“Valkyrie in the Roller Disco”), the tunes are still catchy (“Your Hands (Together)”), and the harmonies are still strong (“Moves”). Beginning with the opening cello riff, the strings on this album are superb throughout. By far the best track on this album and definitely one of the best Pornographers’ tunes ever is “Crash Years.” Neko Case absolutely nailed this track and I get chill bumps every time I listen to it. Like always Destroyer’s Dan Bejar provides the listener with a much needed departure from the sometimes overwhelming intensity of the Newman arrangements with “Silver Jenny Dollar,” “If You Can’t See My Mirrors,” and “Daughters of Sorrow.” This is a strong collection of pop songs from a great band. Is this their best album? No. But it is fluid, fun and has some quite phenomenal moments.

LCD Soundsystem: This Is Happening

As the creative force behind LCD Soundsystem and the DFA record label, James Murphy makes cool music. And on his third full length LCD record, This Is Happening, Murphy hasn’t lost his edge. He is still incorporating elements of Krautrock, Berlin-era Bowie and post-punk into danceable indie pop. If you have never listened to an entire LCD Soundsytem record you may have heard one of his catchy singles like “Daft Punk is Playing at My House” or “North American Scum,” and while I love these songs they don’t do justice to the brilliance of his other music. Like the singles just mentioned Happening has a slightly goofy pop single, “Drunk Girls,” that is already a viral hit due in part to the Spike Jonze directed video. But the rest of the album does not contain three minute pop songs in fact on “You Wanted a Hit” Murphy proclaims “you wanted a hit, well, this is how we do hits.” This Is Happening contains lengthy, intricate, layered and brilliant tracks (excluding “One Touch” which is kind of obnoxious). Beginning with the slow building “Dance Yrself Clean” and ending with the hypnotic beats of “Home” this album is nearly perfect throughout. Thank Mr. Murphy and keep up the good work. P.S. you can stream the album at lcdsoundsytem.com

Harlem: Hippies

The only thing I know about Harlem is that they are three guys from Texas who have made a garage rock masterpiece. Hippies is one of the best albums I have heard in a long time. The sixteen tracks on this album are an eclectic and energetic mix of everything that is great about rock and roll. The band consists of Michael Coomers and Curtis O'Mara who trade off on vocals, guitars, and drums while Jose Boyer plays bass. This is their sophomore effort but it is their debut on Matador so they will most likely reach a much wider audience with this release. Most of these songs could easily fit anywhere on the Nuggets box-set. The lyrics are fun and sometimes goofy like the chorus of “Gay Human Bones” (“My basketball team’s name is Gay Human Bones”) but they fit perfectly with the sloppy and rambunctious music. With its crashing drum beat, thumping bass, giddy guitars and urgent vocals “Friendly Ghost” is by far the best pop song so far this year. There isn’t a throw away track anywhere on this record. To borrow the Jim DeRogatis and Greg Kot rating scale of “Burn It, Buy It or Trash It,” this is by far a Buy It record.
Essential Tracks: “Friendly Ghost,” “Someday Soon,” “Be Your Baby,” “Gay Human Bones”

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She & Him: Volume Two

I have been in love with Zooey Deschanel since the first time I saw Almost Famous. And I fell deeper in love with her in 2008 when she collaborated with M. Ward to make a brilliant album of self-penned pop music. However, on their second effort Volume Two the cutesiness and sugary pop of She & Him is beginning to wear out its welcome. The overproduction and multi-track harmonies on this record are reminiscent of subpar Carpenter’s songs. Furthermore, most of the lyrics alternate between the obnoxious (“I had some brand new shoes, they were all red, but they gave me the blues”), the ridiculous (“Orpheus melted the heart of Persephone, but I never had yours”) or the just plain stupid (“Running away from you is just like running a business”). There aren’t any particularly terrible songs on this album but there are certainly several boring or just unnecessary tracks. Despite the irritating nature of this album there are a few good numbers like “Thieves,” “In the Sun” and “Lingering Still.”

Broken Bells: Broken Bells

Broken Bells is the combination of James Mercer (frontman of The Shins) and Brian Burton (a.k.a. Danger Mouse and one half of Gnarls Barkley). Despite the massive critical acclaim to the contrary, Broken Bells sounds exactly like what you would expect from Mercer and Burton, indie-pop made with a variety of weird instruments. This album could not have been made fifty years ago. Everything seems to be multi-tracked including Mercer’s schizophrenic vocals which include a strange falsetto. Danger Mouse provides a vast soundscape composed of an orchestra of keyboards, organs, pianos, strings, horns and handclaps. About half of this album works. “The High Road,” “October,” “Vaporize” and “The Ghost Inside” are great catchy tunes but everything else seems half-cocked or unfinished. There are parts of songs that grab your attention but quickly dissipate into a wash of new uninteresting sounds.

Top 100 Best Films of the Decade 2000-2009

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  1. The Royal Tenenbaums
  2. High Fidelity
  3. Shaun of the Dead
  4. Knocked Up
  5. The Dark Knight
  6. The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou
  7. The Departed
  8. No Country For Old Men
  9. Best in Show
  10. Lost In Translation
  11. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
  12. The Darjeeling Limited
  13. Almost Famous
  14. Little Miss Sunshine
  15. Juno
  16. Inglourious Basterds
  17. Superbad
  18. Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy
  19. Squid and the Whale
  20. Brick
  21. Mystic River
  22. Oldboy
  23. Snatch
  24. The Lord of the Rings trilogy
  25. Junebug
  26. Unbreakable
  27. Ocean’s Eleven
  28. Memento
  29. Adaptation
  30. Pieces of April
  31. Constantine
  32. Austin Powers in Goldmember
  33. In Bruges
  34. A History of Violence
  35. Up
  36. There Will Be Blood
  37. Kill Bill
  38. Hot Fuzz
  39. Apocalypto
  40. Munich
  41. Million Dollar Baby
  42. Batman Begins
  43. The Incredibles
  44. Coffee and Cigarettes
  45. Casino Royale
  46. The Bourne trilogy
  47. The Devil’s Rejects
  48. Borat
  49. Donnie Darko
  50. Napoleon Dynamite
  51. Grindhouse
  52. O Brother, Where Art Thou?
  53. Garden State
  54. Ghost World
  55. Pineapple Express
  56. Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby
  57. WALL-E
  58. Broken Flowers
  59. Punch-Drunk Love
  60. The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford
  61. A Mighty Wind
  62. Catch Me If You Can
  63. In the Bedroom
  64. Billy Elliot
  65. Hustle & Flow
  66. Letters from Iwo Jima
  67. Training Day
  68. Monster’s Ball
  69. Road to Perdition
  70. Crash
  71. Gladiator
  72. Cold Mountain
  73. Black Snake Moan
  74. City of God
  75. Gran Torino
  76. 25th Hour
  77. Ghost Dog
  78. About Schmidt
  79. The Wrestler
  80. Eastern Promises
  81. Pan’s Labyrinth
  82. American Gangster
  83. Sin City
  84. Confessions of a Dangerous Mind
  85. Bad Santa
  86. Burn After Reading
  87. Team America: World Police
  88. Children of Men
  89. Around the Bend
  90. Vanilla Sky
  91. Dawn of the Dead
  92. Slither
  93. The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy
  94. Bubba Ho-Tep
  95. Friends with Money
  96. Wedding Crashers
  97. Mulholland Drive
  98. Good Night, Good Luck
  99. Traffic
  100. Black Hawk Down

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BEST MUSIC OF 2009: Top 25 Albums

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The Top 25 Best Records of 2009

  1. Animal Collective- Merriweather Post Pavillion
  2. Mastodon- Crack the Skye
  3. Neko Case- Middle Cyclone
  4. Phoenix- Lisztomania
  5. Deer Tick- Born On Flag Day
  6. Wilco- Wilco (The Album)
  7. Dead Man’s Bones- Dead Man’s Bones
  8. Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros- Up from Below
  9. Various Artists- Dark Was the Night
  10. St. Vincent- Actor
  11. Bob Dylan- Together Through Life
  12. Antony and the Johnsons- Crying Light
  13. The Decemberists- Hazards of Love
  14. The Demon Beat- Shit, We’re 23
  15. Sonic Youth- The Eternal
  16. Jay-Z- The Blueprint III
  17. The Dirty Projectors- Bitte Orca
  18. The Handsome Family- Honey Moon
  19. M. Ward- Hold Time
  20. Kid Cudi- Man On The Mood: The End Of Day
  21. YACHT- See Mystery Lights
  22. Sun O)))- Monoliths and Dimensions
  23. Yeah Yeah Yeahs- It’s Blitz
  24. The Flaming Lips- Embryonic
  25. The Avett Brothers- I and Love and You