Morning DJ, freelance journalist, and great friend
Beach House – Teen Dream
Beach House’s Sub Pop sophomore release arrived at my office the last working day before Christmas. I took it home, gave it a spin while wrapping presents, gave it another spin while driving over to a family dinner and promptly declared it my favorite album of 2010. Sure, we still had a good week left of 2009, but my premature evaluation stands strong as we head towards 2011. The reason: this Baltimore duo builds on a good thing established on their debut Gila, fleshing out the dramatic, moody vibe to include downright danceable hits. Mostly, Victoria LeGrand’s voice just totally rules.
Archie Bronson Outfit – Coconut
Two words: Magnetic Warrior. Just buy this already.
Giant Sand – Blurry Blue Mountain
When it comes to art I’m drawn to self-loathing and/or tortured hopeless romantics with basement-level voices. Tom Waits, Mark Lanegan … Howe Gelb. The latter musician fronts longtime greats Giant Sand which spawned Calexico when former members Joey Burns and John Convertino left Gelb to strike out on their own. Then Gelb married a Dane and recruited four of her countrymen as his backing band. His latest venture with this formation is spooky, dusty and heartbreakingly gorgeous. Like Gelb’s characters, you’ll “find the diamond in this old lump of coal.”
Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings – I Learned the Hard Way
Sharon “Bad-Ass” Jones finally started making big waves this year, landing an appearance on The Colbert Report and headlining Salt Lake City’s Twilight Concert Series. The former Rikers Island corrections officer/wedding singer is part of the Daptone Records powerhouse responsible for much of today’s welcome soul revival. Her latest is another collection of timeless ballads and toe-tapping hits that fit nicely alongside your Sam Cooke and Aretha Franklin LPs. Put on “I Learned the Hard Way” when that special someone does you wrong.
Elvis Costello – National Ransom
Elvis recently appeared on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon to promote this album and treated one special audience member to an impromptu ballad written for her. “That should be me!” I shouted at Hulu and sulked through the rest of the show until Elvis pulled out all the stops with an epic rendition of “Stations of the Cross.” Produced by T. Bone Burnett and featuring contributions from both the Sugarcanes and the Imposters, National Ransom delivers a powerful reminder that Costello is so much more than the sum of his hit singles.
Gil Scott-Heron – I’m New Here
Gil Scott-Heron is hardly a newcomer, but I’m New Here might introduce fans of his work to the man behind it. For 15 years, the legendary spoken-word artist/singer’s voice lay mute while he did time at Riker’s Island, his once-potent ideas becoming more like history than history in the making. “The revolution will not be televised,” but neither will it take place effectively behind bars. So, hats off to Richard Russell, head of XL Recordings, for visiting Scott-Heron in prison and planning this great escape of ideas: gut-wrenching cover songs and original poems stretched across stark electronic landscapes that effectively boost his sandpaper voice to the forefront. The title track takes Smog’s lyrics and applies a more defiant sound as if Scott-Heron were raging against your knee-jerk pity. Don’t feel sorry for him, he says, “being blessed is not just floating on air.” He hit rock bottom and mined it for meaning. It’s just a shame it took so long to surface. Don’t sleep on this record.
Laserfang – Mammoth
This local release comes out just in the nick of time, hitting stores Dec 4. I’ve been jonesin’ for a proper album from these guys for years. They took a brief hiatus, switched up the lineup and recently came back stronger than ever with smart dance jams propelled by swagger and saxophone. It’s my current running soundtrack—“Hans Gruber” is especially good for mile repeats.
The Black Keys – Brothers
The Black Keys can do no wrong. Brothers presents a perfect marriage of the raw, gritty sound that defined the group’s earliest efforts with the adventurous, electronic magic of more recent recordings. In the period between Brothers and the Danger Mouse-produced full-length, Attack & Release, singer/guitarist Dan Auerbach put out a stunning solo album and drummer Patrick Carney formed a drummer supergroup while working with artists on his label, Audio Eagle. By focusing on outside projects, each musician tapped into creative potential that might never have been realized had they stayed the course.
Spoon – Transference
Like most recent Spoon albums, at first only a handful of tracks seemed worthy of the Austin band’s stellar pedigree. Like most recent Spoon albums, Transference just took a while to sink in and now it’s stuck. Start with “Who Makes Your Money,” and “Got Nuffin.” I can’t quit these guys.
Here We Go Magic – Pigeons
Here We Go Magic’s self-titled debut was essentially Luke Temple who wrote and recorded the entire LP in his NY apartment. He recruited players to stage the material and their chemistry lead to a more collaborative recording of Pigeons. I didn’t think they could top HWGM’s “Fangela” but this sophomore album is no slump. Temple’s falsetto propels hypnotic layers of psychedelic pop songs, most of which build into wonderfully satisfying climaxes. They put on one hell of a live show, too. Oh, and be sure to check out Temple’s pre-HWGM solo material—understated and stunning.
Top 10 Songs of 2010
The Extra Lens - How I Left the Ministry
Black Mountain - Old Fangs
Interpol - Lights
The Walkmen - Blue As Your Blood
Isobel Campbell & Mark Lanegan - Come Undone
Roky Erickson/Okkervil River – Goodbye Sweet Dreams
Zach Hill - The Primitives Talk
Maximum Balloon - Groove Me
!!! - Jamie, My Intentions Are Bass
LCD Soundsystem - I Can Change
Jamie's fave shows in 2010:
Pavement in NYC
Black Mountain, Spindrift @ Urban Lounge
Laura Gibson and Ethan Rose @ Subterranean
Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings @ Twilight Concert Series
Here We Go Magic, White Rabbits @ Urban Lounge