Monday, January 31, 2011
Here it is, under the wire, a list of the music that helped me through last year. Swore to myself I'd get this done by the end of January and, yeah, I made it.... with exactly 2 minutes to spare. Sharing my list of my favorite songs a couple weeks ago took some of the personal pressure off, but I couldn't allow the calendar turn again without this run-down of albums, EPs, and free downloads that soundtracked my 2010. And the music is about the only thing I'll recall fondly when it comes to those 12 mostly-miserable months.
This year's list runs the gamut - new discoveries (Standard Fare, The Drums, Beach Fossils), strong returns (Versus, Superchunk), and Boston-area obsessions (Ghost Box Orchestra, Young Adults, Travels); double-doses of dependable record labels Matador (New Prons, Ted Leo) and Merge (the aforementioned Versus & Superchunk), along with a whole lotta stuff you can find on Bandcamp. Let the records show: 2010 was Bandcamp's banner year - I can barely smell the rotting corpse of MySpace.
Most of the releases below include a link to an official promo MP3 - not necessarily my favorite song from each, but tracks that have been approved by the artist or their label. I've zipped them all up, along with a few extras, into one big honkin' file for easy grabbing. Each release also includes a link to where you can buy the physical or digital version.
All 31 legally-shared tracks below,
plus 4 extras, in one 228 MB .zip file
So here they are, starting off with my 20-ish favorite full-lengths in alphabetical order, followed by a few EPs, compilations, and some online freebies...
Favorite 2010 full-lengths...This live-in-studio, recorded-in-one-day LP perfectly documents the well-oiled machine that David Bazan's touring band became while showcasing songs from 2009's "Curse Your Branches". Throw in a couple of Pedro the Lion and Headphones numbers, this 10-song treat felt like more than a time-filler between 'proper' albums. And the wait won't be a long one - his next full-length, the fan-funded "Strange Negotiations", arrives this year.
David Bazan - "Live At Electrical Audio"
[MP3]: "Magazine (live at EA)"
"Face It"/"Distance" 7-inch ups the production ante, brings a more confident vocal performance, and makes me want album number two right now.
38 Souls", shared above, is one hell of an album-closer, the kind that makes you want to instantly start over again at side one, track one.
too high, as I don't think "Fission" quite met them, but that doesn't keep it off this list. While it feels a bit less cohesive overall, there are so many standout songs - especially the goosebump-inducing "Still Might". Gets me every time.
You know what's awesome? Falling for a band and then finding out later that you've got a couple of friends in it - y'see, now I can honestly express my love and they'll know it's not just lip-service. Nope, GBO's debut doesn't sit here because their air-tight rhythm section are pals, but because the songs are f'in epic. The album may hold just seven cuts, but none lasts less than five minutes, and not a one feels overlong - powerfully hypnotic progressions surge and subside into mellow moments and back again - they might be a (mostly) instrumental outfit, but they're more than typical post-rock.
Ghost Box Orchestra - "The Only Light On"
(self-released via Bandcamp)
[MP3]: "Oh, the Moon Hangs Low"
March 2009. As impatient as I was to see my beloved Swirlies back in action, Meredith absolutely mesmerized, especially one jaw-droppingly beautiful song in particular. It sat lodged in my brain well after the show, like a puzzle piece I didn't know I was missing, and it's never really left. I ended up emailing her to find out if it was available anywhere - even though she let me tape her set, I craved an official recording - and she said it was a brand new one she was calling "Red Cross With Silver Shine".
So I waited, and waited, until word of her next album arrived. "Oh, please, please let it be on there. It's gotta be. It's too good. Oh, here's a tracklist. Wait, what?! It's not there. Well, damn." But it is, and it's the lead off track, renamed as "For The Best". And it's perfect. Still can't get the melody out of my head, and don't ever want to.
at the Paradise was not quite enough to satisfy, so I'm hoping he makes it back to our shores again this year.
What Turns Up In The Dark", one of my favorite single songs of the year.
Reprobate!"? Seriously. I hated that I was out of town when the band hit the Boston area last year - I so wanted to see these songs played in front of me.
When I was deep in the emotional morass early last year, Dave Godowsky, aka John Shade, helped keep me afloat. I saw him a few times accompanied by the Neave Quartet and was never-less-than-deeply moved - the combination of his songs and Zack Hickman's string arrangements is truly something that needs to be seen and heard in person. Though his excellent debut album was recorded before he teamed up with the quartet, he has a free track with them on his website, and has allowed me to share up the live track above.
John Shade - "All You Love Is Need"
(self-released / Bandcamp)
[MP3]: "Lullaby (live in Somerville 2/25/10)"
finally bless Boston with a killer live appearance at Great Scott in October. Yeah, 2010 was a very good year to be a Sky Larkin fan.
again. From the first track to the last. "A Night With A Friend" was my first taste, "Dancing" was my second, and both were instant faves - at this point they feel like UK indie-pop anthems to me. Their performance at Great Scott endeared them to me greatly, and their team-up with my friends in One Happy Island for a brand new split EP did so even more. Each band gives us a new original, and covers one of the others' songs. Perfect.
life than bands half their age. How the hell'd they do that? I was lucky enough to see them twice in 2010, once here in Boston and again at Matador's Las Vegas bash, and both times were pogo-filled parties. Welcome back, Superchunk. Don't stay gone so long next time, k?
My Funny Valentine" cover that closes it out.
not a metal band. What they are is one of Boston's flat-out best rock bands. Can't get enough. Catch them next at the Boston Underground Summit III at the Cambridge YMCA on February 12th.
Favorite 2010 EPs...The sequel to 2002's original "Reservoir Songs" covers EP came to us not from a label, but thanks some Kickstarter fan-funding. I was proud to take part, and the investment was worth it - limited edition vinyl with Eric Bachmann covering Merle Haggard, The Kinks, Thin Lizzy, & more.
Crooked Fingers - "Reservoir Songs II"
(self-released & funded via Kickstarter / Port Merch)
An experiment that shouldn't have worked as well as it did - Built To Spill's Brett Nelson rebuilding seven BtS tracks electronically, from scratch, with Doug Martsch re-singing all of his original vocals parts. One song from every BtS full-length, done 80's synth style. Shows how strong the songs are, even without Doug's guitar heroics and the rest of the band's dependable backbone.
Electronic Anthology Project
(Built To Spill electronic reversioning)
(self-released via CD Baby)
[MP3]: "Eels (Else)"
Yeah, so the cassette was December 2009, but it hooked me a couple months later, and the 7-inch sealed the deal. Boston's garage-rock wunderkinds will be taking their show on the road when they head down to SxSW in March, so don't miss 'em if you get a chance. Stream 8 tracks at their website, and have a look at this recent NPR Music feature.
Girlfriends - Debut cassette & "Gov't Seizure" 7-inch
(tape on Floating Garbage Continent,
7-inch on Aurora7 / Bandcamp)
[MP3]: "Suckin Rare Meat Off the Bone China"
As long as the Pains keep cranking out little fuzz-pop confections, I'll keep partaking, even when the guitars come down and the keys come up (as on "Heart In Your Heartbreak"). That single, and its top-notch production, bodes very well for their upcoming Moulder & Flood-produced (!) sophomore album for Slumberland.
The Pains of Being Pure At Heart
"Say No To Love" &
"Heart In Your Heartbreak" 7-inches
[Video]: "Say No To Love"
stream "12 Desperate Straight Lines" in its entirety thanks to NPR Music. It's out February 15th, on Merge of course.
on tour with the Decemberists (they played Boston over the weekend), after which they head across the ocean with the Cold War Kids before returning to the U.S. for a headlining tour. Can't wait.
Blastfest III where I bought it last March. It's stylistically all over the place, from stripped-down songs to full-band adventures to spoken-word pieces, but still somehow feels cohesive. They're doing JP proud.
As of a couple weeks ago, only 50 of the 500 copies pressed remained, so click the links above to make one your own.
Fave 2010 downloadable freebies...The existence of Cuffs very much eases last year's painful loss of Pants Yell!, as PY songwriter Andrew and drummer Casey carry on together alongside Martin from Reports and Ian from Big Trouble. No drastic shift in style here (thankfully), but the presence of a 2nd guitarist allows for some really nice melodic interweaving and gives certain songs some extra heft. The demos they've shared so far are just Andrew, but look for a 7-inch that should be out by the time the band opens for The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart at the Paradise on May 3rd.
Cuffs - 4-track Demos
(self-released via Bandcamp)
[MP3]: "Albert Kroft (demo)"
Bill's been posting his home-recorded covers (and a few originals) on his site since 2008, and 2010 saw him offer up over 30 more of them. While his self-imposed sharing schedule changed from weekly to whenever (can't blame the guy - he's got a day job and had an almost-out Buffalo Tom record to get ready for us), here's hoping he's able to keep the covers coming, and the stories that usually accompany them.
Bill Janovitz (of Buffalo Tom) - Covers of the Whenever
(shared randomly on his website)
[MP3]: "Here Come Those Tears Again (Jackson Browne)" (write-up)
Recorded in one weekend with minimal rehearsal time, and arriving with little fanfare, this (hopefully not) one-off project has quite a pedigree: Matthew Gallaway from Saturnine, Mike Donofrio from the New Year and Saturnine, and Matt Kadane of Bedhead and the New Year. Recorded by Rival School's Ian Love. Available entirely for free on their website. Hope they make that recording weekend an annual affair.
Death Culture at Sea - "God Loves Lola" EP
(self-released via their website)
[MP3]: "Just Short By Miles"
And one for the kids...I can't express how grateful I am to have Liz and Dan from Ida, along with their daughter Storey and some talented friends, making music that I can share with my little guy. Sharing and singing their songs with him, and being able to take him to see them play (as we did a couple months back at Club Passim) is something truly special.
Elizabeth Mitchell - "Sunny Day"
(on Smithsonian Folkways)
[MP3]: "Oh, John The Rabbit"
[Video]: Oh, John The Rabbit"
All 31 legally-shared tracks above,
plus 4 extras, in one 228 MB .zip file
Whenever I post one of these, I like to take a look at my "looking forward to in 2010" post to see which albums missed the mark, which ones surprised me, and which ones never showed. I may even have my 2011 version of that same list up sometime soon.
For a look back at my faves of years passed, here you go: 2009, 2008, 2007, 2004, 2003, 2002, and 2001.
And with that, I toss the last shovel-full of dirt on the grave of 2010. Let us never speak of it again.
live in cambridge, ma
on november 14th, 2008
previously: joy formidable - boston 2011
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