Sunday, January 23, 2011

2010 Honourable Mentions: Part 2

As promised per Part 1, here is Part Deux of some of the rest of 2010's best tunes.

return of the indie mavericks

It’s fitting that the frantic looping of the lyrical motif in this claustrophobic pop ditty is “I’ve got a mild fascination” – and that’s exactly what you’ll have once you let its jerky guitars and pocket symphony arrangement into your ears.

The return of Canada’s other pre-eminent art-rock collective, and after a couple of spin-off solo albums; this opening was a welcome return to the classic BSS sound. It’s spacious build-up to a deliciously grand chorus built on their talent with melody and drama.
Frontman Jonathan Meiburg left Okkervil River to concentrate full-time on his own band, and it seems he’s made the right call. His rounded alto and marching piano lead a proudly robust brand of alt-rock, a trilogy of environmentally conscious albums that culminated in the fine The Golden Archipelago.
As a matter of fact,  Steven Wilson (of Porcupine Tree) named it his album of the year. He mustn’t have minded then, that the title nearly cribs his own band’s Blackest Eyes.
I didn’t find much in Foals debut, Antidotes seemed like an obvious sort of record in a post-Bloc Party kind of way; but the five-piece took their sophomore into more interesting territory. Take This Orient’s cut-up vocals, plinkity plonk keys and searing guitar lines all co-ercing a lyric that could be a partly inspired by Jameson’s Orientalism theory. High-brow conceits to be sure, but they hail from Oxford after all.
It's the ladies' choice
With a cast of folk-rock darlings behind her (including Jim James of My Morning Jacket and members of The Decemberists), Veirs’ third album was at once wide-eyed in its scope and yet plaintive and wistful in its delivery. The title track, with its slow-burn build of looped guitar and a vocal round, acting as a microcosm for the album’s triumphant mood and texture.
Three discs. Two Hours. Eighteen tracks. Big doesn't even begin to descirbe Newsoms' third LP Have One On Me. There was no real obvious entry point, but it's a record so rich and detailed that it instantly confirms Newsom's artistry even if it'll take years to appreciate its intricacies. In California, starting from Newsom alone with her harp, to its swelling orchestral flourishes reminds of peak-period Joni Mitchell. And that, my friends is the highest compliment you can pay a female artist.
Speaking of Ms. Mitchell, with its tribal drumming and yawning synth Apply reminds distinctly of The Jungle Line. Glasser is the working name for one Cameron Mesirow who recorded the bulk of her debut on GarageBand. Backed by Foreign Born members Ariel Rechtshaid and Ray Garret, as well as production from Fever Ray associates Van Rivers and The subliminal kid. The result is a collage of electronic textures and Mesirow’s haunting voice, a little bit on Bat For Lashes’ darker side and Bjork’s vocal layering.
A potential breakthrough hit for local Melbourne lass – Jessica Venables. A 22 yr old former cellist, she’s all for the visuals (check out the controversy-baiting video and her ‘lightsaber’ bow) and moreso for the dramatic soundtrack to back it up – inspired in equal parts Kate Bush and contemporary electro-flirting artists. The next Bertie Blackman anyone?
For the prog-leaning, thoughtful and heavy fan
Having undergone a drastic change with their last album (2008’s Amor Vincit Omnia) from Pink Floyd enthusiasts to dancefloor baiting prog-tronica. Their third album Hammer & Anvil merely solidified their new direction, without ever resting on its laurels. Blitzkrieg continues the military aesthetic and morphs from a sample-based rave that a gallic nightclub would be proud of to a dramatic piano-led coda.
Ringleader Jem Godfrey dedicated his prog-rock supergroup to writing a brand new track as a tribute to the tenth anniversary of the prog-based internet radio station of the same name. The result was a three-part suite, sixteen-minute epic. A polished labour of love that melds glam-rock bounce with scintillating guitar work, bonkers speaking parts and Godfrey’s impossible nimble fingers and arranging genius. Oh, look, everything and the kitchen sink.
Intronaut are not your average metal band. If the pastel artwork didn’t tip you off, the winding extended song structures and dense polyrhythms that mark their music certainly should. And if all else fails a bass duel featuring Tool’s Justin Chancellor, on this – the title track, will cement it for you. Powerful and thought-provoking.
Taken from Spiral Shadow. Don’t Look Back condenses the dual-drummer toting Kylesa’s focus to a powerful anthemic burst. So metal for people who don’t like metal? Not quite, it still takes an appreciation of sludge metal aesthetics and barking, muscular vocals to get the most out of the band’s crunching riffs. But this is nonetheless a powerful and uplifting buzz.
tune like mirrors, full of reflection
Transference managed to take the usual Spoon dogmatics of raw production and stripped back arrangement; and wed them with a more lush sound. Who Makes Your Money rides a simple four four beat and chugging bass to woozy synth effects and perhaps Britt Daniel’s most intimate vocal performance yet. Charmingly simple
Arriving from seemingly nowhere, Mike Hadreas delivered a rough, almost half-sketched record of homespun vulnerability whose music shimmered from its bruises. At times, its enough to make your skin crawl, especially Mr. Peterson with its love story between a high-school boy and his teacher, but Hadreas renders it with such humanity as to render it portraiture. Damaged in the most beautiful way.
The very definition of a criminally underrated songwriter. Ritter has spent close to two decades crafting excellent, story-driven, music to middling fanfare. The Curse, taken from his sixth studio effort, may well be his best yet. A watershed track that takes three-minutes to tell a globe-hopping, time-spanning, delightfully offbeat tale of star-crossed lovers: a mummified corpse and his museum curator. Oh yes.
Clearly smitten with the same shimmering haze that My Bloody Valentine and Jesus & Mary Chian cultivated, Crocodiles provide an equally euphoric miasma of fuzz-rock. Hearts of Love is indebted to Phil Spector’s wall-of-noise textures, as well as his keening pop sensibility, a triumphant cut that belies their leather-and-shades attitude.  
Epic is as epic does
It seemed album number seven was business as usual for Phoenix, Arizona’s finest exporters of emo-pop. That is until you encounter two or three career-best numbers, Stop chief among them, featuring their usual brand of arena-worthy emotion and heart-on-sleeve polemic. Proof that even lovesick guitar-throbs can age gracefully.
Recreating Edward Grieg’s classical hallmark may not scream ‘creative highpoint’ but this stunning interpretation blends the Nine Inch Nails crew’s penchant for rich production and stunning atmospherics; but more importantly it was the first taster for the Golden Globe winning Social Network soundtrack. Reznor and Ross may well win the Oscar, and already slated to score Fincher's next project, The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo.
Saddled with that overly-trite catch-all label ‘post-rock’, the Sheffield noise-niks spend most of their fourth album exploding that genre label to smithereens, craftily titled We Were Exploding Anyway. Incorporating electronics worthy of a gleaming sci-fi soundtrack, while relying on their trademark intense build-ups – Debutante proves there’s more to the genre than imitating Mogwai and Godspeed You Black Emperor.
Its nearly all too clear now that Stevens’ original intention to soundtrack all fifty American states was a pipe dream, and perhaps even moreso that we’d get an Illionoise Pt 2. But The Age Of Adz (and its accompanying All Delighted People EP) contained enough links to Sufjan Stevens’ musical past while pushing into intriguing new directions. Namely squelchy electronica and ridiculously indulgent moments. None morseo than the nearly-half-hour closing track. It's not without its flaws, but it what it lacks in dazzling cohesion it makes up for in grand ambition –further cementing Stevens position as an utterly unique talent.
oh yeah, and Girl Talk's All Day. That did some pretty good stuff for free.

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