29. Here We Go Magic: Pigeons
28. The Bird & The Bee: Interpreting The Masters Volume 1
27. Tame Impala: Innerspeaker
25. Tea Leaf Green: Looking West
24. Backyard Tire Fire: Good To Be
23. Best Coast: Crazy For You
Traditional pop doesn’t wither and die as you go into the realm once occupied by the local indie stations, bands like Best Coast just disguise it in a form more palatable to discerning tastes. The simplicity and innocence of the girl groups from the Sixties are seductively hidden behind the layers of reverberation and distortion that Bethany Cosentino and Bobb Bruno slather onto every song. There aren’t any riot grrl ravings or girl power proclamations to be found within Cosentino’s detached cooing. Rather, like Lesley Gore and Connie Francis before her, Cosentino gives voice to the shy wallflower wistfully pining over the guy that should be hers or the small tokens of affection that resound loudly within the yearning heart. A charming and engaging front woman, the tattoos peeking out from the sleeves of Cosentino’s blouse add a sense of complexity and to the pie-eyed naïveté she exudes. It’s all part and parcel with Best Coast, there’s a lot to unravel and it’s a worthy effort to undertake.
22. U-Melt: Perfect World
21. The Black Crowes: Say Goodnight To The Bad Guys
It’s a trite adage: the more things change the more things stay the same. Despite boasting the strongest lineup they’ve ever had, just five years after returning from their first “indefinite hiatus,” The Black Crowes, one of headiest rock and roll bands to ever grace a stage, are once again bandying about the dreaded term. Amidst rumors that band relations are at the same tenuous thread that led to the band’s first split, the Crowes will once again be taking flight into those cosmos of which Chris Robinson loves to preach. Entitling their farewell tour, Say Goodnight To The Bad Guys, the Crowes took one last lap around the globe in 2010. An ostensible farewell to their many fans, the Crowes reenergized and enlivened the type of concert experience that originated with the Grateful Dead. Changing set lists nightly, “Wiser Time,” “My Morning Song,” “Jealous Again” and “Remedy” turned up quite frequently as did choice tracks from their entire catalog, an eclectic assortment of covers and unreleased tracks, indiscriminately dispersed throughout the acoustic and electric sets. In giving each song a full workout, playing it as if it might be for the last time, the Crowes offered a bittersweet reminder that spontaneity and non-stasis can be key ingredients in providing a gratifying live show every night of the year. It’s something very few bands aspire to and even fewer achieve. For the last song of the tour, which concluded at The Fillmore in San Francisco, the Crowes took a sly swipe at those who don’t want the carnival end by serving up The Rolling Stones’ “The Last Time” which in typically cryptic Chris Robinson fashion wondered “This could be the last time. Maybe, the last time, I don’t know.”
20. Cee-Lo Green: “Fuck You”
As if dared to craft a Motown song that could never find radio airplay in the Detroit label’s heyday, Cee-Lo Green and his band of merry songwriters came up with “Fuck You,” easily the catchiest song since he and Danger Mouse burrowed their way into the collective psyche with “Crazy.” From the moment the undeniable “Song of 2010” went viral on the Internet, live covers by the likes of Umphrey’s McGee started popping up on YouTube with regularity. The song’s popularity became so widespread that it’s possible that the radio edit – moronically entitled “Forget You” – is even more offensive for its intelligence insulting condescension. In a bizarre twist, the music industry recognized the song’s genius making it the naughtiest song to ever be nominated for a Grammy. Let’s see Shit My Dad Says do that.
19. Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers: Mojo
18. Drive-By Truckers: The Big To-Do
17. The Hold Steady: Heaven Is Forever
16. Yeasayer: Odd Blood
15. Menomena: Mines
14. The Besnard Lakes: The Besnard Lakes Are The Roaring Night
13. Mumford & Sons: Sigh No More
12. Robert Randolph & The Family Band: We Walk This Road
11. Local Natives: Gorilla Manor
Playing their first live sets in America after the stateside release of Gorilla Manor at SXSW in Austin, Texas, Local Natives took the unofficial award for the festival’s most sought after attraction. Laying the wintery harmonies of lo-fi success stories like Fleet Foxes over bouncy neo-acoustic rhythms in a psych-folk frenzy, Local Natives found a way to engage the mind while keeping bodies moving, akin to the Talking Heads at their best. With songs like “Sun Hands” and “Shape Shifter” possessing a sophistication and finesse, Gorilla Manor sounds more like a band’s breakthrough than a debut album.
10. The National: High Violet
9. Blues & Lasers: After All We’re Only Human
With After All We’re Only Human, Blues and Lasers released the unqualified classic rock album of the year. The Scott Tournet fronted band that includes fellow Nocturnals Benny Yurco and Matt Burr, harness their freewheeling arena rock energy into a tightly-wrought panoply of finely crafted songs. The gunshot of the snare drum that punctuates the opening guitar riff of “Give It A Try” serves as the starter’s pistol for Blues & Lasers Olympian effort that combines elegiacal harmonies with heavenly slide guitar and paces dueling axes with the bombast of a duo of drums. By having an ear attuned to the greats of the past, B&L gloriously usher classic rock and roll into the next decade. After All We’re Only Human lets the world know that the art of creating an album hasn’t been lost in the age of the 99 cent download.
8. Titus Andronicus: The Monitor
7. Vampire Weekend: Contra
6. Grace Potter & The Nocturnals: Grace Potter & The Nocturnals
5. Sleigh Bells: Treats
4. The Vaselines: Sex With An X
3. The Black Keys: Brothers
2. Arcade Fire: The Suburbs
At the start of the decade, a fledgling site devoted to music criticism touted Funeral, Arcade Fire’s debut album, as one of the most significant releases in recent memory. That little site, Pitchfork, also seemed to sense that big things were in store for the band. Since that moment in time, Arcade Fire and Pitchfork have moved ahead in lockstep: one shooting to forefront of music criticism and the other rivaling U2 as the world’s most eminent band of artistes. If there was any doubt, The Suburbs erases them. Win Butler, Regine Chassagne and the rest seem uninterested in reimagining and recreating past glories. Still able to conjure up arena ready anthems, it’s the insightful nature of their lyrics that resonates. As if taken by Rush’s “Subdivisions,” on this go-around Arcade Fire takes a hard unflinching look at the alienating distance and ennui of living and aging in the suburban communities. They may be keeping an eye cocked backwards - the title track cribs the melody from Funeral’s “In The Bedroom,” Butler appropriates Gordon Gano’s wry cadence on “Month Of May” and “Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)” updates Blondie’s “Heart Of Glass” – but they are honing and refining the majestic scope of their music, much in the same way U2 adeptly eased up on the throttle of grandiloquence. Intelligent, cerebral rock that doesn’t forget that music is a communal affair will always find a home.
1. Grace Potter & The Nocturnals On VHI Divas
Deerhunter: Halcyon Digest
Cloud Nothings: Turning On
Toubab Krewe: TK2
Delta Spirit: History From Below
White Rabbits: It’s Frightening
Bafflements & Disappointments
Allman Brothers Move To The United Palace
Anyone wondering about the direction and leadership of the New York Knicks only need look at the bungling of this year’s annual Allman Brothers residency at the Beacon Theater for an example of the “genius” behind their recent decade of futility. Not content with only eroding the tradition of basketball in New York City, Madison Square Garden, Inc., through MSG Entertainment, its operating arm, expanded its ineptitude to one of New York’s longest running musical institutions, booking Banana Shpeel, a Cirque du Soleil crapfest, at the Beacon during the March weeks usually reserved for the Allman Brothers. After 20 years (give or take a residency) at the Beacon Theater, the Allmans were forced to move the event uptown to the United Palace, a venue that for all its comfort and gorgeous frills fails to compare to the Beacon’s stately charms. Adding to the indignity, due to problems that only pale in comparison to this month’s daily Spiderman cripplings, the Banana Shpeel crapctacular never opened until the end of April, leaving the Beacon vacant while tie-died men in their 50s wandered around Washington Heights in a paranoid stupor.
When people talk about a place having bad sightlines, they aren’t even imagining the extent of horror known as Terminal 5, located on the west side of Manhattan. As they may hold the roof up, you can forgive the giant columns that present the largest physical obstructions, but you cannot tolerate the fact that the venue is not set up to adequately provide proper viewing for its posted capacity. If you arrive early and claim space near the front of the stage, you are most likely fine. However, once you make your way up to either of the two balconies, which spread far back from the rails that overlook the stage, you are terminally screwed. Without the height to play power forward in the NBA, if you aren’t leaning on the rail, the angles are just too poor to be able to see anything but the back of the person in front of you. There is one section of the balcony that is set up perfectly: the VIP area has a raised level that allows you to see over the first wave of bodies. Of course, that area is rarely packed and it usually goes to waste. This explains why the floor at every T5 show is akin to a veal pen. It's the only place where you can see the band.
My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy: Album of the Year??!?
Drawing motivation from the perceived slights lobbed in his directions by the many pundits, critics and talking heads that disagreed with any of his actions over the past year and a half, George W. Bush’s biggest fan released My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy to near universal acclaim. If I had written the Yearvolution earlier this month, I would have reacted to Rolling Stone and Spin both naming Twisted Fantasy their Album of 2010 by positing that Pitchfork will surely have better sense. Of course, Pitchfork jumped on the bandwagon as well, making it their album of the year (and making it the 12th album in its history to receive a 10.0 upon its release). Listening to West raise toasts for douchebags and boast about his greatness has its charms; while West’s snatch and grab collages aren’t exactly my preference, I see the allure. However, if every major music publication, hip or passé is lining up to name this as 2010’s greatest achievement, we’ve had a slow music year.
The Commodification of Michael Franti
We Are The World – 25 For Haiti