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Erik Roldan writesAn Interview With Kerthy Fix, Co-Director of Strange Powers, a Documentary About The Magnetic Fields

In the year 2000, Kerthy Fix, co-director and producer of Strange Powers: Stephin Merritt and The Magnetic Fields, joined Gail O’hara in documenting live performances, rehearsals, and interviewing the band. A decade later, Fix would finally be able to premiere the documentary at South By Southwest Film Festival 2010. This started an international screening schedule, and Chicago will finally get two chances to see the film at the Gene Siskel Film Center on January 15th and 20th.

Fix, obviously a big fan, says that following the band for 10 years revealed many layers of Merritt’s process and interpersonal relationships. A large portion of the film’s focus is on the relationship between Merritt and friend, band-manager and creative muse Claudia Gonson.

“Claudia helps bring him to his audience,” she says. “It’s her creative-management genius and friendship with him that allows his music to reach his audience. I felt like they were really working in tandem and their relationship itself was so fascinating – I haven’t seen this type of ‘gay man/ fag hag’ 20-year friendship profiled anywhere.”

“I thought that was an interesting thing to profile in pop music – what are the relationships and process in making this kind of work? He’s known Claudia since he was 14. Things happen in the film where you are not sure if their relationship is going to withstand the changes. He’s very reserved, and Claudia’s very outgoing and emotionally open and really funny. She kind of functions like the heart of the film because I think she’s the heart of the band.”

Having once interviewed Stephin Merritt myself, and eventually commiserating with my fellow journalists about what a hard time we had doing so, the concept of Merritt allowing someone to follow him around with a camera for ten years seems almost implausible. “He’s doesn’t plug in well to the 20 minute interview,” Fix says. “It’s sort of required as a musician – you put out a record, you go on tour (which Stephin doesn’t like to do) and you have to do a million interviews and answer the same questions over and over.”

“Stephin’s much better when you engage him on a topic. I remember the very first question for the very first interview I did with him, I was very nervous. And he has this habit of pausing for a really long time before he answers a question, but he’s actually formulating the answer to the question before he says it because he’s so thoughtful. So, I ask him what he’s reading, like as a warm up question. And he pauses for a long time and I’m getting more nervous, and he says ‘What can I say that I’m reading right now? Because I don’t want to tell you what I’m actually reading because I’m writing an opera about it.’ He pauses again and then says ‘Oh! I like your shoes.’”

“He knows that he’s making me nervous but he knows that complimenting my shoes will put me at ease and give him time to think. And we put that segment at the front of the film because it’s kind of symptomatic as to how he’s misread. He’s just not great for the quick sound-bite. He’s great if you want to hang out and talk about any kind of music or film or books. People in the press who interview him, what do you get? You get 20 minutes of this excruciating arrangement which will end badly. And so he gets this reputation of being difficult, which is not really justified. When you see the film, you’ll see a different side of him.”

Press materials for any of Stephin Merritt’s recordings usually contain the name “Cole Porter” and a statement about how in the future, Merritt’s catalogue will be revered as iconic, standard American pop music. But why not now? Why isn’t a new Magnetic Fields record greeted with reverence for a living legend in the same way that a new Bruce Springsteen record is?

“Yeah, he has an outsider status, I think,” Fix says. “He writes from different points of view. The album Distortion was written from the point of view of an overweight Midwestern housewife. He writes from these different perspectives, and as human beings, we all have that kind of shifting persona.”

“We are asked by our culture to lock down on a solid persona but the internal experience is much more complicated. As a straight white woman, I might feel like a gay man inside. Or someone who’s black and likes country music might not feel culturally comfortable with the Black Panther kids he grew up with in the ’70s and feel like an outsider.”

“There’s all kinds of different ways to feel like an outsider, and I think in that way, Stephin’s writing from different characters and different points of view is very much of our time. But in terms of mainstream success, are the most important artists the most popular? I don’t know if that’s a criteria. He makes a living off of his music – but it’s an artisanal craft like a fine wine or a fine cheese. Do you want to eat Kraft American Cheese? Probably not. I think he’s right where he wants to be situated. He’s influential without being popular.”

Kerthy Fix will be hosting a preview of the documentary at Stardust on Thursday, January 13th at Berlin Nightclub, 954 West Belmont Avenue. Co-presented by CHIRP Radio and featuring CHIRP DJ Erik Roldan and special guest DJ Kim Ann Foxman (of Hercules and Love Affair), the event goes from 9pm to 4am, $7 cover.

Strange Powers: Stephin Merritt and The Magnetic Fields screens at The">Gene Siskel Film Center on January 15th at 8:00 pm and January 20th at 8:30 pm.

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Categorized: Interviews

Topics: interview

Mike Bennett writesFriday iPod/mP3 Shuffle—Happy Birthday Kathy Valentine Edition

The Go-Go’s were a historic band. There had been other all-female bands, such as Fanny, The Joy Of Cooking and The Runaways, but none had ever had a real hit. The Go-Go’s changed that, managing to combine a fun persona with convincing rock music. Kathy Valentine was the last piece necessary before The Go-Go’s took off, her steady bass combining with Gina Schock’s energetic drumming to fuel the band’s classic songs. So in honor Kathy’s birthday (and The Go-Go’s in general), grab your iPod/MP3 player, hit shuffle and share the first 10 tunes that come up.

  1. Neko Case — Rated X (The Tigers Have Spoken): This live album showcases, at times, the more purely country aspect of Case. And nothing could be more purely country than a cover of a Loretta Lynn classic. Case tears into it with gusto, showing off the same honky-tonk skills that came to the fore on her debut album, The Virginian.
  2. The Hotrats — Damaged Goods (Turn Ons): This is Gaz and Danny of Supergrass, doing a bunch of covers. The album title is a bit of a tip of the hat to David Bowie’s all-covers album, Pin Ups. On almost every song, the Rats try a different arrangement. Sometimes, the rearrangement is a bit radical, other times it’s slight. It’s almost like they challenged themselves to tweak the songs without destroying what makes them special. That holds true for this Gang Of Four cover. Only at the end do they introduce the familiar jagged guitar, relying on the bass to provide a funk aspect, while accompanying it with an acoustic guitar. This remake eventually comes closer to the original and retains its catchiest elements, making for a nice reinvention.
  3. They Might Be Giants — The Guitar (The Lion Sleeps Tonight) (Apollo 18): Three covers in a row? Of course, They Might Be Giants reinvent the African song, giving it a faux ’70s R & B vibe and then changing the lyrics up. Moreover, there’s a subtle use of dynamics, with the verses horn fueled, contrasted with the quiet chorus, sung by special guest Laura Cantrell (who later became known for acclaimed alt-country records).
  4. Elton John — I’m Still Standing (Jump Up!): Even as his star waned in the latter half of the ’70s, Elton John still had hit records, they just dwelt in the bottom part of the Top 40. Who would have thought that Elton John would benefit from MTV. While always a flamboyant performer, one would not think a pudgy heading to middle-age pianist could captivate viewers. But this song pretty much revived Elton as a commercial force, because of the dynamic video that managed to have lots of crazy visuals and still showed off the artist’s personality. And the song was pretty damned good too, and a perfect vehicle to launch a comeback.
  5. Supergrass — Moving (Supergrass): The lead track off of the underrated third album from this great British pop band. This album showed the band further moving away from wise ass pop songs and showing a real maturity. Gaz Coombes’ melodies have always had a melancholy undercurrent and this really comes to the forefront. This song starts off pretty and then adds a spirited R & B middle eight, and then bounces from the lusher sounds to the more robust parts. Great track.
  6. Masters Of Reality — Tilt-A-Whirl (Sunrise On The Sufferbus): For a brief period, it looked like Masters Of Reality were going to bring an old school hard rock sound back into vogue. On this second album, Goss signed on legendary drummer Ginger Baker, and this album is the next best thing to a Cream reunion (perhaps even better), with peppy blues based songs that mix a bit of heaviness with a deft touch. Goss has been a direct influence on Josh Homme of Queens Of The Stone Age, who carried on the Masters’ mission of keeping a blues base and traditional ’70s elements in hard rock/heavy metal.
  7. Bad Religion — 21st Century (Digital Boy) (Stranger Than Fiction): This is a mid-tempo rant (as opposed to the band’s usual speedy rants) that became an alternative radio hit in 1994. The song was a re-recording of a song that came out on a prior album. While I love this album (and a lot of Bad Religion fans think that this was the beginning of things going downhill), but think this is actual one of the lesser songs.
  8. Adrian Belew — Laughing Man (Desire Of The Rhino King): This comes from a compilation of Belew’s initial solo records for Island. These albums showed off the three main sides of Belew the solo artist: 1) the guy who was in King Crimson, doing slightly more accessible takes on his work in that band, 2) a Beatles’ loving pop artist with a bit of a psychedelic jones, making memorable songs, and 3) a former Zappa sideman who liked to noodle around with cool guitar sounds. This song fits in Category 3, as it’s a sweet instrumental. The keyboard sound is very reminiscent of Todd Rundgren.
  9. The Easybeats — Let Me Be (The Definitive Anthology): An early Easybeats tune, this is basic blues rock/pop. The song sort of chugs along with a solid vocal from Stevie Wright. This isn’t too far away from what the early Who was doing, but it’s much more subdued.
  10. Generation X — Ready, Steady, Go (Perfect Hits 1975-1981): The band that gave Billy Idol his start seems to have been forgotten. And while they weren’t quite up to the level of Buzzcocks, The Boys and The Undertones, they had a bunch of great poppy punk songs. While Idol didn’t have a great voice, even early on he had the personality. This is nearly bubblegummy, nicking the title from the old UK pop performance show. Fun!

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Categorized: Friday MP3 Shuffle

Topics: ipod, mp3

Karin Fjellman writesCelebrate CHIRP Radio’s One-Year Anniversary this month!

January is an exciting time for CHIRP Radio, as we recognize all the hard work we’ve done in our first year of growth as an online radio station. We’re so grateful to have received so much amazing support from our community in 2010 — so what better way to honor our anniversary and thank our community than with some parties? To celebrate, we’re hosting several events around Chicago this month — and the best part is, everything’s under 10 bucks!

To kick things off, we’re having a CHIRP Dance Party at Beauty Bar with DJ sets by Mad Decent’s Depressed Buttons (former members of The Faint) and CHIRP DJ Dustin Drase on Friday, January 14. The party starts at 10pm and cover is only $5 — come shake your groove thang for cheap!

The following Monday, January 17 marks the official date of our one-year anniversary of launching CHIRP Radio online, and we’ll be celebrating with our monthly benefit show at The Whistler with The Velcro Lewis Group and Rambos at 9:30pm. Entry is free, so there’s no reason to miss this one!

That Thursday, January 20 is CHIRP’s One-Year Anniversary Party at the Empty Bottle, with music from Campfires (Mexican Summer Records), Black Math (Permanent Records), and Cool Memories. The show starts at 9pm, and entry is $8.

One week later, Thursday, January 27, we’ll be having a benefit concert at The Hideout, starring Slushy (formerly Kramer versus Kramer), and more to be announced! Music starts at 9pm, and entry is $8.

And let’s not forget about Wednesday, January 26, as CHIRP continues its reading series, “The First Time.” For those uninitiated, The First Time is a series where local performers/writers/bloggers write and read original pieces around the “first time” theme; this month is “first car.” The piece will reference a song, which will be played immediately after the reading by Steve Frisbie/Liam Davis/Gerald Dowd. The show is $10; doors at 7:30 and festivities get underway at 8 p.m.

The lineup looks like this:

Jim DeRogatis
Susan Messing (Annoyance)
Josh Caterer (Smoking Popes)
Erin Shea (; and author of Tales From the Scale)
James VanOsdol
Robbie Fulks
Matt Spiegel (Tributosaurus)

Please note, all events are 21+. Hope to see you at one or more of these parties this month!

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Categorized: Event Previews

CHIRP DJ writesCHIRP Radio’s Best of 2010

For the entire month of December the CHIRP volunteers have been posting their favorite records of 2010. Now, we've compiled the lists, have done the maths, and put together the definitive CHIRP best of 2010 list. Enjoy.

(Click here to get the complete list of CHIRP Radio members' picks.)

#1 Beach House - Teen Dream (Sub Pop)

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This in my opinion was not only the best album of 2010 but could also be considered one of the best albums of the past decade. I think a true testament to what makes an album great is an ability to still move you months after it has been released. Teen Dream came out in January and it's been nearly a full year and I still absolutely adore it just as much, if not more, then when I first heard it. Just a beautiful record from start to finish and also one of the most romantic albums to come out in quite some time.Mike Pakowski

#2 LCD Soundsystem – This Is Happening (DFA)

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As confirmed by James Murphy, this album doesn’t signal the end of LCD Soundsystem per se, but future endeavours may involve less touring in support. Or more. Their previous long-play outing, Sound Of Silver, is still a high-rotate turntable showing at the Kiwi pad, but it’s in the live arena – festival or club - where LCD come into their own. Their Coachella performance closing out Friday night was a weekend highlight, 20-ft disco ball and all, and similarly the Metro performance threatened to tear the roof off the sucker. And yes, Nancy rocks! Fave tracks? Opener Dance Yrself Clean, Pow Pow, I Can Change. —Owen Harris

#3 The National – High Violet (4AD)

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The essential National style did not change on this album. But they found a way to make their subtly anthemic rock sound even fuller without overwhelming their center, singer Matt Berninger. Combined with wise lyrics tackling adult themes, the band proves that you can be a grown up without making Dad Rock. —Mike Bennet

#4 Janelle Monáe – The Archandroid (Atlantic)

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It’s a little bit rock and a little bit soul and a little bit hip hop and a little bit 1960’s Disney musical. Janelle Monáe debut full-length album is impressively diverse, but more importantly, it works, start to finish. It’s also proof that the album format is still vital – don’t just buy the songs you like from iTunes, buy the whole thing and listen to it start to finish. —Tony Breed

#5 The Tallest Man on Earth – The Wild Hunt (Dead Oceans)

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Obtuse but intriguing lyrics, impassioned but challenging vocals, and the ability to hold an audience in the palm of his hand make this the best early Dylan record since 1963. —Shawn Campbell

#6 Kanye West – My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy (Def Jam)

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Love him or hate him, Kanye knows how to get your attention. After a pretty rough couple of years, West came hurdling through the haters with his most epic release to date, dropping My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy as his musical redemption. West proves he’s got power with his sleek beats, addicting hooks and rhymes (seriously, who else can get the masses singing toasts to ‘douchebags’?) and featured partners in crime ranging from Elton John, Jay-Z to Bon Iver. —Jodi Root

#7 The Arcade Fire – The Suburbs (Merge)

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Best Track: "We Used To Wait" – Pounding pianos, a spectacular interactive music video, plus the haunting vocals that have become synonymous with the Arcade Fire's orchestral style make this a standout song this year. —Carolyn Kassnoff

#8 Joanna Newsom – Have One on Me (Drag City)

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Aside from the sheer fact of its girth and its packaging (three discs, six songs each, three songs per side, amazing artwork / photography of Ms. Newsom) the album showed a new level of her songwriting lyrically, pushing out of the symbolic and into the intimate. On her two previous albums she would dress up what the songs were really saying in strange fantastical characters (a bear, a taxidermied dove), but on this one she would tell it to you straight: "It does not suffice to merely lie beside each other as those who love each other do."

While this kind of confessional emo-ness is the norm for other songwriters, for Joanna Newsom it is, in a way, letting her guard down, letting the audience inside to see something truer. And the songs that seemed dense and evasive still also seemed like veiled metaphors for this same relationship and its ultimate demise. This was my favorite album of the year. —Bobby Evers

#9 Four Tet – There Is Love In You (Domino)

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 I was wary of Kieren Hebden’s foray into techno with 2007’s Ringer EP, given what a fan I was of his earlier work and his previously glitchy, jazz-inflected sonic palette. But There is Love In You brought me back. Sprawling and ambitious, club-tested at London’s legendary Plastic People, Love in You is a near-perfect album. It’s dark but warm, mechanical and organic all at once, and the reassembled vocal snippets convey a beauty that lyrics could not. Absolutely stunning. —Billy Kalb

#10 Disappears – Lux (Kranky)

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This one’s for the record collectors. Probably my favorite Chicago live band, Disappears had some trouble getting this out; when Lux finally arrived, it felt as much like a sigh of relief as anything else. Good news followed a good year for the band: Follow-up LP Guider arrives in January 2011. Mark your calendars. —Patrick Masterson

#11 Robyn – Body Talk (Konichiwa)

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Before Pitchfork this summer, I liked Robyn. After Pitchfork this summer, I LOVED her. It was something like 4000 degrees the day of her performance and there's this pale little pixie decked out in a leather and knit dress, dancing and singing her heart out. She never missed a beat and kept the crowd on its feet the whole time. She even swore in two languages when talking about how hot it was. Oh, Robyn. You made my bitter, shriveled heart grow at least three sizes that day. Finally! An intelligent woman who calls her own shots on her own label, no less, and plays awesome pop music you don't feel guilty for loving. This is pop perfection. Thank you, Robyn!! —Nicole Oppenheim

#12 Superchunk – Majesty Shredding (Merge)

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Yes! Yes! Yes! Yes! Yes! This is the album that the 18 year old version of myself expected to hear as a follow up to Here's Where The Strings Come In. —Mike Gibson

#13 Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti – Before Today (4AD)

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Best Tracks: “Hot Body Rub”, “Round And Round” b/w “Little Wig” - At first you think this is a joke but then the massive genius ambition grabs you. I never thought or I forgot how making this kind of music could be possible. Thanks to this record, I hope more of this kind of music begins to exist. Amazing harmonies and awesome hooks abound. Refrain from ignoring “Butt-House Blondies”. The song has substantial meritas actioni! —Jon Schech

#14 Judson Claiborne – Time and Temperature (La Société Expéditionnaire)

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No band this year wrote a better song about cannibalism. Chicago’s own Judson Claiborne put together a fantastic full-length of moody folk-rock in 2010, and if you haven’t heard it, you’re doing yourself a considerable disservice. Sometimes haunting and bible-black, other times bursting with joy, Time and Temperature is one of the most honest, rewarding, and genuinely likeable records I heard this year. Check it out. —Billy Kalb

#15 Tame Impala – Innerspeaker (Modular)

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When describing a good music review, CHIRP music director, Billy Kalb, once noted, "Be specific. Don't use a word like, 'Beatles-esque'." With Tame Impala, it's rather complicated to move beyond the label, but imagine an alternate universe where The Beatles played "Tomorrow Never Knows" on Ed Sullivan. Moving on for there, the band exchanged flutes for synths, Yoko Ono for psychotropic soundscapes that spilt over the event horizon, arriving in our reality through the black hole we call a speaker. —James Vest

#16 Dum Dum Girls – I Will Be (HoZac/Sub Pop)

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2010 had a lot of "girly" fronted bands and this one was at the top of the top. Great harmony, perfect pop songs. This record made me nostalgic for a time that was around before I was born, riding w/ my Johnny and his leather jacket. —Caitlin Lavin

#17 How To Dress Well – Love Remains (Lefse)

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This was quite possibly the most addicting album I’ve heard in a long time. Chicago Reader’s Miles Raymer put it quite nicely when he suggests that it sounds “like someone erased all the lead instruments from the multitrack recording of a big-budget pop song, leaving just atmospheric layers of textural overdubs, all drenched in reverb.” —Matt Wenzel

#18 Best Coast – Crazy for You (Mexican Summer)

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For those moments when you just can’t get that special someone out of your mind, here is a cutie lady, unlucky in love. Lyrics born from her break-up dangle with a lo-fi yet realistic teen-angsty pop. She wrote a letter, in twelve tracks, each under or at 3 minutes highlighting the ups and downs of a sensitive yet passionately adorable galpal lost in her mind about a boy. It’s just too too, opposed to so so! —Carolyna Wheat

#19 Deerhunter – Halcyon Digest (4AD)

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I'm a sucker for shoegaze / dream pop but this album will reach deep into your consciousness and change you. Right about halfway through, something clicks and the rest just falls into place. As with most things Bradford Cox has a hand in, it swirls and floats and lifts you up, lets you down easy. This album is, in its entirety, an impressive work of art. Its shimmering melodic texture ebbs and flows and the structure of each song builds on the last. Each wall of gorgeous harmonic sound and each progression feels so perfect, so well crafted. At the end you are rewarded by a majestic, shining prize in the epic piece, He Would Have Laughed. However, it's an ending that wouldn't be near as effective without every leading minute. —Kumar McMillan

#20 The Books – The Way Out (Temporary Residence)

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One of my favorite bands remains. I trust the Books. I can't imagine this gimmick's effect wearing off anytime soon either. The staple that will always keep the Books interesting is their humor. As long as they're funny, and not topically so, we'll remember this music. A surreal absurdity blesses their music in the same way Monty Python had the good graces of silliness. The effect is universal and timeless, and occasionally a laugh riot. —Dylan Peterson

#21 Broken Social Scene – Forgiveness Rock Record (Arts & Crafts)

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The Canadian collective employed John McEntire for production on their fourth proper album, and the Chicago brainchild did good here, by the band, and the listener. The band use all their weapons in ways familiar and unfamiliar, creating an indie-rock stew that goes from minimally electronic to brutally epic, post-punk to post-rock. It's an album for sorting through one's demons, and at the end they feel exorcised. —Austin Harvey

#22 Caribou – Swim (Merge)

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As soon as you hear the start of "Odessa" off of Caribou's Swim, you're sold. Daniel Snaith, a former mathematician, puts his his big, number crunchin' brain to use by developing the most successful Caribou album yet--not to mention the live show is killer, filled with kaleidoscopic videos that will blow your miiiiiiind. —cloudsasha

#23 Delorean – Subiza (True Panther Sounds)

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Waves of sunny, pastel happiness from the Spanish former punk-rockers. It’s been said that great music transports you to other places. Whenever I listen to this album I want to be somewhere in southern Europe dancing on a beach. —Clarence Ewing

#24 Shearwater – The Golden Archipelago (Matador)

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Shearwater continues their growth from folk side project (from Jonathan Meiburgs former band, Okkervil River) to one of the most unique bands out there with this album.  Lushly orchestrated and densely lyrical, each song builds its own particular mood and atmosphere while Meiburg wails and howls and whispers above it.  The album moves effortlessly from gloriously uplifting to ominous and claustrophobic and back again. Essential tracks: "Uniforms", "God Made Me", "Castaways" —Josh Lesser

#25 Sleigh Bells – Treats (Mom & Pop Music)

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Not only was this album the soundtrack to virtually every summer party I attended, but songs from it were also featured prominently on every road trip mix I heard this year. For good reason: the songs are chock full o' infectious grooves, thunderous guitar riffs, and sugary-sweet vocals. What more could you want from a pop record? I'll admit I was disappointed by Sleigh Bells' live performance at Pitchfork, but I dare you to play "Crown on the Ground", "A/B Machines", or "Kids" without wanting to dance around your living room. I'm reasonably sure it's impossible. —Nicole Oppenheim

#26 Stornoway – Beachcomber’s Windowsill (4AD)

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There is such a richness to the record. More texture than sound. Best Song: “The Coldharbour Road” —Micha Ward

#27 GAYNGS – Relayted (Jagjaguwar)

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2010 was a banner year for Justin Vernon. Playing cover tag with Peter Gabriel, having Kanye West decide to make "Woods" the backbone of his penultimate track on his craziest album yet - but you could argue that it all started with him getting to have a little fun with GAYNGS. Not to say that anything on Relayted comes off as tongue-in-cheek; somehow, the band plays a tribute album to 10cc's I'm Not In Love with perfect conviction and execution. But “The Gaudy Side of Town” has a mournful 80’s sax wail, slinking bass, and all-high-hat scattered drums mixed with Vernon ditching his mournful winter hibernation voice for a whispery croon of schmaltzy sleaze, and you have to wonder if playing such a fun role didn't help send him into bigger superstardom (for better or worse). —Dan Morgridge

#28 Menomena – Mines (Barsuk)

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The fourth (or third) album from this Portland experimental pop trio is what resulted from a dark period in the personal lives of all the members. Ruptured relationships abound. Their eclectic approach to songwriting and instrumentation is magic in my ears, topped by huge, thumping, walloping drums. ("Taos" and "Five Little Rooms")Matt Garman

#29 Frightened Rabbit – Winter of Mixed Drinks (Fat Cat)

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The Scottish band added a member, beefed up their sound, got over a breakup, and the resultant record is their best. More confident, with still enough insecurity to create lyrics of self-doubt as well as self-assurance, Frightened Rabbit have mastered bringing in their folk influences into a full rock band setting. Empowering stuff for anyone getting past relationship troubles. —Austin Harvey

#30 Sharon Van Etten – Epic (Badabing)

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Sharon’s 2nd full-length outing is, indeed, gorgeously epic. I was lucky enough to catch her 6 or so months back at the now-legendary Chris Knox Stroke Benefit concert in NYC, and was impressed. Now, I’m bummed I missed her gig at Lincoln Hall supporting Junip. Word has she blew them off the stage. This LP has been on high-rotate and I’ll probably still be listening in decades to come. Standouts? Hard to choose, but if pressed, Peace Signs & One Day. —Owen Harris

Here's to looking forward to 2011. Thanks to everyone that made our first year of broadcasting such a wonderful time.

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Categorized: Best Albums of the Year

Topics: best of 2010

Mike Bennett writesFriday iPod/MP3 Shuffle—Happy Birthday Paul Westerberg Edition

Certainly one of the most beloved and influential bands from the American indie world of the ’80s, The Replacements are legendary for their early bratty records, their unpredictable live shows, their indie swan song (the classic Let It Be) and their maturation on Sire Records. And the straw who stirred most of the Placemats’ drinks was frontman Paul Westerberg. The speed at which his songwriting grew is amazing, if you compare a song from Stink to something like “Unsatisfied”. He has settled down into comfortable adulthood, putting out records that still please his adoring core of fans. Let’s celebrate Paul the only way we know how — by getting your iPod or MP3 player, hitting shuffle, and sharing the first 10 tunes that come up.

  1. Paul Nicholas — Heaven on the Seventh Floor (Have a Nice Day – Volume 24): A cheesy fun 1977 Top 40 hit from this British singer/actor who also appeared in the film version of Tommy (as cousin Kevin). This song seems perfect for the Me Decade and notions of free love, casual sex and songs with a light disco feel.
  2. Judas Priest — Metal Gods (The Essential Judas Priest): Judas Priest? Metal Gods? Isn’t that redundant. What intrigues me about the Priest, is that their earlier material, which was very much in the vein of heavy metal of that era, was very good. But they seemed to find a foothold during the New Wave of Heavy Metal, and found a way to mix the usual hammer and tongs approach with defter compositions and rhythms. This song is a prime example. The Glen Tipton/K.K. Downing guitar combo is as heavy as ever, but the rhythm section is playing a pea soup beat that could fit on a dance record (if speeded up a bit). And the chorus is delightfully subtle. Yes, they are Metal Gods.
  3. Steve Wynn — Wait Until You Get To Know Me (Crossing Dragon Bridge): This is a self-deprecating waltz tempoed tune. Wynn bangs out the rhythm on his acoustic, his vocals are overmodulated and double tracked, and a wobbly lead jazz guitar line holds it all together. This is a song about a guy trying to take advantage of beer goggles near closing time and the sleazy aspect of the lyric is captured by the music.
  4. Bo Diddley — Say Man (I’m A Man —- The Chess Masters 1955-1958): One day, Bo Diddley and his maracas player Jerome Green started throwing down the dozens over a Latin rhythm. The dozens is an African-American tradition of two men taking turns throwing down (hopefully!) good natured insults at each other. They rolled some tape on this, it captured the public’s imagination, and Bo found himself back on the Top 40 charts. He came back to this format again and again, often taking both roles by speeding up his voice to provide one of the competitors.
  5. King Khan & The Shrines — Que Lindo Sueno (The Supreme Genious Of): One thing I love about King Khan is how thorough his love of R & B is. While he’s best known for James Brown style frat rockers, he does it all, forging ahead behind his powerful personality. This song has a gentle samba beat, driving horns, spy movie guitar and a typically engaged vocal. Cool stuff.
  6. Orange Juice — Moscow Olympics (The Glasgow School): Edwyn Collins’ recent come back after two strokes and the new Orange Juice box set have brought well deserved attention to one of the greatest Scottish rock bands ever. Collins had a knack for combining accessible R & B foundations with classic post-punk style guitars and melodies, making something familiar sound just a little bit off, and therefore, fresh. This instrumental sounds like it was recorded in a subway station and has a twinkling ’60s mod feel. Collins’ guitar playing is charming.
  7. The Sugarplastic — My Heart Lately (Will): On Will, this criminally underrated L.A. band really gravitated towards its psychedelic pop side. This is a hazy dream of a song, with delicate piano, Ben Eshbach trading lead vocals with disembodied voices and wandering choruses. This is truly a brilliant use of the studio as an instrument, from how the instruments are placed in the mix to how each element of the song is stitched together to create a brilliant whole. This sounds like a ’40s Disney movie song cycled through the haunted house repeatedly and then sprinkled with some Abbey Road era Beatles.
  8. Surfer Blood — Floating Vibes (Astro Coast): A fine 2010 debut album from a band who, at times, reminds me a bit of The Shins and Rogue Wave, sort of. This song has a big fat lead guitar part, which sets up the soothing melody. This song actually reminds me a little bit of third album era Translator mixed with a bit of the classicist side of XTC. Which is another way to say this is damn good indie pop.
  9. Pere Ubu — Monday Night (Cloudland) Pere Ubu’s second go round, found the band taking on a more accessible tack, especially on this masterpiece of avant-garde pop, produced by Stephen Hague. The band that had deconstructed rock was putting it back together, sometimes just for hooks, but often achieving emotional resonance. This song is driven by big drums and somehow mixes a girl group structure with a Western campfire singalong, with a big twangy guitar in the background. For all of his quirks, David Thomas is a great singer, and this song is an example of that.
  10. White Plains — My Baby Loves Lovin’ (Bubblegum Classics — Volume Two): A lot of British bubblegum was a bit more sophisticated, relying less on double entendre, and more on just driving home a simple hook. The song is aided by the vocals of session singer Tony Burrows, who took the lead on many Brit bubblegum hits by fake groups such as Edison Lighthouse, The Pipkins, The Brotherhood of Man and others.

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Categorized: Friday MP3 Shuffle

Topics: ipod, mp3

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