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Nicole Oppenheim: Ear Candy writesNicole Oppenheim’s Best of 2010

Throughout December CHIRP Radio presents its members’ top albums of 2010. The next list is from CHIRP Radio DJ Nicole Oppenheim.

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

  1. Sleigh Bells – Treats (Mom & Pop Music)
    BUY: Amazon / Insound / iTunes
    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.
  2. Dum Dum Girls – I Will Be (Hozac/Sub Pop)
    BUY: Amazon / Insound / iTunes
    Whispery female vocals, Shoegaze throwback melodies, poignant lyrics? Sign me up! That’s pretty much all that needs to be said about this record. Oh, and if you didn’t like it for some reason, don’t try to friend me on Facebook. It’s not going to work out for us.
  3. The Vaselines – Sex With an X (Sub Pop)
    BUY: Amazon / Insound / iTunes
    Like many people my age, I first heard of The Vaselines thanks to Nirvana, who covered their songs on MTV Unplugged. I listened to them. I liked them. I (regrettably) forgot about them. Thankfully, I rediscovered The Vaselines when this album was released this fall. Again, it’s a near-perfect pop record (do you sense a theme to this list?) with a really great sense of humor. Does it get better than the title track, “I Hate the 80s”, or “Mouth to Mouth”? So many standout singles on this one, it’s hard to believe they all fit on one album.
  4. The National – High Violet (4AD)
    BUY: Amazon / Insound / iTunes
    As much as I love clever pop music, there’s also a significant place in my heart for songs about heartache, depression, and general world-weariness. Enter The National. On a personal level, 2010 is not remotely in contention for Best Year Ever status. Not that 2010 was horrible, but it wasn’t earth-shatteringly great, either. For all the bumps in the road, it was nice to have an album like this to listen to. The songs didn’t magically make everything better, but the music was there for commiseration. It was like having a messy heart-to-heart over a beer with your best friend. It hurts so good.
  5. Robyn – Body Talk (Konichiwa)
    BUY: Amazon / Insound / iTunes
    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!!
  6. Wolf Parade – Expo 86 (Sub Pop)
    BUY: Amazon / Insound / iTunes
    Anyone who knows me well won’t be shocked to see this record on my top ten of the year. I loves me some Wolf Parade. I’ll admit it. WP’s sound changes with each album, which is one of the things I like most about them. They aren’t afraid to experiment and grow as artists. And unlike many bands, Wolf Parade is at their best when they are growing and changing. Expo 86 is not just another Apologies to the Queen Mary. It’s a record that can stand on its own with tracks like “What Did My Lover Say? (It Always Had To Go This Way)”, “Little Golden Age”, and “Two Men in New Tuxedos”. It’s also great to see and hear a band come into its own. On previous albums, it was obvious who penned each track. Not so on this one. The magic is in the mystery.
  7. The Soft Pack – The Soft Pack (Kemado)
    BUY: Amazon / Insound / iTunes
    Garage rock + Surf rock = you know this band’s from the West Coast. And if their debut album is anything like what we can expect from them in the future, I’m one happy, happy camper. Each song on this album is simple and poppy. You’ll find yourself humming snippets from various tracks for days after listening to them. Their sound is nothing trail-blazing; it’s three-chord garage rock with some surf thrown in for good measure. But it is TIGHT. It’s not about re-inventing the wheel. It’s about making the best wheel possible.
  8. Deloran – Subiza (True Panther Sounds)
    BUY: Amazon / Insound / iTunes
    Just another reason to love Barcelona. Delorean hails from the Spanish city and already has quite the following in Europe. It’s about time we Yanks started taking notice—this is Delorean’s fourth album, after all. What is so great about Delorean’s music is that it’s so clean. There are the odd thumps and yelps here and there, but generally, it’s just a smooth beat with vocals that meld perfectly into the song. Each track offers something different—kind of like that box of chocolates Forrest Gump was always talking about. You never know what you’re going to get, but you know it will be tasty.
  9. The Depreciation Guild – Spirit Youth (Kanine)
    BUY: Amazon / Insound / iTunes
    If my emotions had a sound, it would be this. Shoegaze-y melodies, fuzzy vocals, classic dream pop-ery. It’s all sorts of pastel colored cotton candy in your head. And it’s awesome. Again, no shocker that some of the members of The Pains of Being Pure at Heart (who made my favorite record of 2009) are also in The Depreciation Guild. Every track deserves a listen, but standouts are: “Trace”, “Blue Lily”, “Spirit Youth” and “Through the Snow”. If loving electro-dream pop is wrong, I don’t wanna be right.
  10. Hot Chip – One Life Stand (Astralwerks)
    BUY: Amazon / Insound / iTunes
    Another true confession: I heart the Pet Shop Boys. I don’t think you could have grown up in the ’80s and NOT loved them, but I digress. Hot Chip is a pop band with some seriously dance-tastic grooves, not unlike the Pet Shop Boys. There’s the synth sound, the falsetto vocals, the posh accents. But there are also some risks taken here that secured Hot Chip a place in my Top Ten. While every song on this album could certainly be described as a “dance track”, there is still a wide variety. You get ballads, hard-and-fast club mixes, melodic mid-tempo beats, and classic pop songs. If it’s worth dancing to, these guys can make it happen. So, do yourself a favor. Put away all the neon spandex and Aqua-Net and put on a new pop record like this one. The ’80s were fun, but the future of pop is better. Trust this.

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Categorized: Best Albums of the Year


Mike Bennett writesFriday iPod/MP3 Shuffle—Happy Birthday Will Oldham Edition

Let’s wish a Happy Birthday to a man who put his own stamp on Americana, and did so under a number of different monikers. Will Oldham a/k/a Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy, has recorded as Palace Brothers, Palace Songs and Palace Music. He’s even recorded under his own name. Along with kindred spirits like Bill (Smog) Callahan, Oldham has led a sort of anti-folk movement, with recordings that make him sometimes sound like an old man. In addition to his recorded work, he’s made well-received forays into film acting. Let’s salute Bonnie Will by grabbing your iPod or MP3 player, hitting shuffle, and sharing the first 10 songs that come up.

  1. The Bongos — Three Wise Men (Drums Along The Hudson): An appropriate start on a Christmas weekend. But this percussive pop song has nothing to do wit the tale of baby Jesus. Instead, it’s a hyper tune that actually shares a bit in common with the early work of The Feelies. The drums and the strumming guitar dominate the proceedings on this cool tune.
  2. Yello — Desert Inn (Stella): One thing that made Yello stand out from many of their synth rock brethern was their use of guitar and drums on a lot of their songs. Here, it’s a cool stuttering guitar part mixed with prominent electronic percussion and some great atmospheric synths. Stella might have been Yello’s best album in terms of having a cinematic quality on almost every song. This tune goes in a few different directions, in a cohesive manner, in just a few minutes. And it has some real catchy parts.
  3. Danny Wilson — Charlie Boy (Be Bop Moptop): In the late ’80s, there was a small explosion of sophisticated UK pop groups. Some were teeth grindingly annoying (like Johnny Hates Jazz and Curiosity Killed the Cat), while there were others, like Swing Out Sister, Deacon Blue and Danny Wilson who did themselves proud. Danny Wilson sounds at times like a cross between Divine Comedy and Steely Dan. Some of their songs aren’t really hooky, but sound great nonetheless, like this one.
  4. The Insomniacs — Maryanne Lightly (Switched Out): A garage rock band with a strong mod influence (their logo is a heart shaped variation on the classic mod target), The Insomniacs cranked out consistently good albums for a few years. This song has a great fuzz guitar part and would make any freakbeat fan freak, with its strong drumming and deceptively sturdy melody lines.
  5. Ramones — Ramona (Rocket To Russia): It didn’t take to long for Ramones to wax some tunes that were not even slightly punk and simply showed what a fantastic pop group they were. Moreover, songs such as this one are pretty much homages to the classic girl group sound. Some Pipettes type group should cover this tune.
  6. Roxy Music — Out Of The Blue (Country Life): The evolution of Roxy Music from a hyper glammy/Velvet Underground inspired band to the lush lounge lizards that gave the world the make out classic Avalon is fascinating. Country Life is a key step in that journey, primarily because of epic songs like this one. This song is so swirling and beautiful with a palpable sense of drama. And Bryan Ferry milks it for all its worth. As with Yello, this has cinematic flair.
  7. House Of Freaks — King Of Kings (Tantilla): This Virginia band may have been the first guitar/drums duo that I was aware of, a decade or so before The White Stripes and so many others. Bryan Harvey wrote urgent folk rock songs and drummer Johnny Hott lived up to his name, matching Harvey’s intensity at every turn. This song is pretty urgent from the get go, but really builds up in the chorus. Underrated band.
  8. Shudder To Think — Trackstar (Pony Express Record): Shudder To Think is the rare band that got a major label deal and then made a record that was even more inaccessible than the indie releases that proceeded it. On this album, Nathan Larsen made his presence felt, pushing the odd tempoes and dissonant chords, finding places where melodies could bloom and riffs could rock along the way. This provides a great showcase for the vocal acrobatics of Craig Wedren. This is a moody number with a jazzy feel that eventually devolves into something more grinding and menacing.
  9. Nothing Painted Blue — Career Day (Placeholders): A nice jangly mid-tempo tune from this California band noted for Franklin Bruno’s clever lyrics. Bruno has a distinct, albeit limited, voice and he always did a good job finding musical settings that didn’t highlight his weaknesses. Something about this song has a bit of an Elvis Costello feel, but a bit more relaxed.
  10. Jimmy Cliff — The Harder They Come (The Harder They Come): The soundtrack to The Harder They Come is an essential reggae album, and the title song, from the star of the movie is a sunny yet defiant anthem. This is a stone cold classic and there isn’t much more to say about it.

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Categorized: Friday MP3 Shuffle


Caitlin Lavin writesCaitlin Lavin’s Best of 2010

Throughout December CHIRP Radio presents its members' top albums of 2010. The next list is from CHIRP Radio DJ and Assistant Guest Coordinator Caitlin Lavin.

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

  1. Best Coast – Crazy For You (Mexican Summer)
    BUY: Amazon / Insound / iTunes
    Haters gonna hate, but I dig this record. A bunch of sunny, fun pop songs from the Sunshine State. Oh wait, that's Florida. Whatever. I can get down with Bethany Cosentino, seems like she likes the finer things in life. Hanging out, cats, smoking weed. Will this band be popular next year? Who cares, that's what year-end lists are for.
  2. Dissapears – Lux (Kranky)
    BUY: Amazon / Insound / iTunes
    Quite possibly my favorite local band currently. CAN, Suicide, Wire, Joy Division all rolled up into one heavily distorted and repetitive bliss. Also, I love it when Brian Case goes "WHAAAAT!"
  3. Dum Dum Girls – I Will Be (HoZac/Sub Pop)
    BUY: Amazon / Insound / iTunes
    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.
  4. Joanna Newson – Have One On Me (Drag City)
    BUY: Amazon / Insound / iTunes
    Yet again an artist that I would've never thought would ever be on my year end list had made the cut. Never really understood Joanna Newsom before. Her last record, Ys was too overblown for me and her voice grated on my eardrums. When I saw that her 3rd release was going to be a 3CD/LP set, I groaned. But this one grew on me. There was just enough instrumentation to make each song exquisite, and it seems like Joanna has finally grown into her voice, it's a lot more playful and melodic. This is a headphones record for sure.
  5. Magic Lantern – Platoon (Not Not Fun)
    BUY: Amazon / Insound / iTunes
    Awesome spaced out psychedelic record from California. I don't have much to say except give it a few spins real loud after a long bong hit. (It's even great without hallucinogens.) Produced by Bobb Bruno of Best Coast, who was rad before people started going crazy for his current band.
  6. Benoit Pioulard - Lasted (Kranky)
    BUY: Amazon / Insound / iTunes
    Some people describe Benoit Pioulard as "bedroom pop." What does that even mean? I hope it means that he'll play some of his songs in my room someday, that would be pretty sweet. This is his third full length on kranky and definitely his best. Ambient loops act as buffers between lush, guitar ditties over his soft alto. Also, his name isn't really Benoit Pioulard, it's Thomas. But his stage name conjures up my imagination of a brooding existential French man, so that's all right with me.
  7. Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings – I Learned the Hard Way (Daptone)
    BUY: Amazon / Insound / iTunes
    2010 had its share of soul revival, but Sharon Jones has been doing it the hard way for a long time. Now in her 50s, she had several jobs including a prison guard before she started singing professionally a few years ago. The first time I listened to this record, I instantly replayed it a second time. I wish I could wail like her and have a backing band of studious looking brass-guys. Sharon Jones is my hero.
  8. Super Wild Horses – Fifteen (Hozac)
    BUY: Amazon / Insound / iTunes
    Two super cute chicks from Melbourne, Australia that didn't even know how to play instruments before starting up this band made one hell of a rockin' record. It gives me hope for whenever I decide to finally pick up my guitar and learn to play. "Mess Around" is one of my favorites of the year, and a totally this decade's "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun."
  9. Ty Segall – Melted (Goner)
    BUY: Amazon / Insound / iTunes
    If you look at producing credits for garage records in 2010, there's a pretty good chance you'll see Ty's name on the cover. So it makes sense on why this is one of the well produced garage rock records of the year, and quite possibly ever. This guy knows how to write a pop song. He's also cute. I gotta big crush on him.
  10. Belle & Sebastian – Write About Love (Matador)
    BUY: Amazon / Insound / iTunes
    I may be a bit biased, 'cause this is my favorite band. Their first record in nearly five years is something quite special. A well-done blend of their glossy newer songs mixed with the intimacy of their older ones. When I first heard "I Want the World To Stop" I nearly cried, cause it had been so long since they had written a song like that, and it's like they haven't missed a beat.


Best Reissue:
Black Tambourine – s/t (Slumberland)
The Welders – 7" (BDR) ("P-E-R-V-E-R-T, You're a perv with a capital P!" – that's all you need to know)

Honorary Mentions:
The Mantles – EP (Mexican Summer)
Moonhearts – s/t (Tic Tac Totally)
Zola Jesus – Stridulum EP (Sacred Bones)
Swiss Dots – Glaciers (Vinahyde)

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Categorized: Best Albums of the Year


Carolyn Kassnoff writesCarolyn Kassnoff’s Best of 2010

Throughout December CHIRP Radio presents its members’ top albums of 2010. The next list is from CHIRP Radio DJ Carolyn Kassnoff.

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

  1. The Arcade Fire – The Suburbs (Merge)
    BUY: Amazon / Insound / iTunes
    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.
  2. Cee Lo Green – The Lady Killer (Elektra)
    BUY: Amazon / Insound / iTunes
    Best Track: “F*** You” – Cee Lo’s soulful tale of a one-sided love story shows the worst of heartbreak makes the best of songs. This song slips straight out of the 1960s, featuring Doo-Wop background singers and a video that is reminiscent of Little Shop of Horrors, with a straightforward message that can’t help but be shouted to the girl that won’t give him a glance.
  3. LCD Soundsystem – This is Happening (DFA)
    BUY: Amazon / Insound / iTunes
    Best Track: “Dance Yrself Clean” – This lengthy track pulses for the first few minutes before breaking loose into a full-out dance riot
  4. Janelle Monáe – The Archandroid (Atlantic)
    BUY: Amazon / Insound / iTunes
    Best Track: “Tightrope (feat. Big Boi)” – Speaking of dance riots, here’s Janelle Monae, with the classiest choreographed dance moves in the craziest of locales.
  5. RJD2 – The Colossus (RJ’s Electrical Connections)
    BUY: Amazon / Insound / iTunes
    Best Track: “Let There Be Horns” – Screaming strings screech into RJD2’s racing anthem. Bonus: he’s fascinating live, orchestrating every minor element with precise attention to detail.
  6. She & Him – Volume Two (Merge)
    BUY: Amazon / Insound / iTunes
    Best Track: “Don’t Look Back” – Zooey Deschanel’s adorable voice and M. Ward’s beautiful guitar harmonize perfectly on this sweet country ballad.COMMENTARY
  7. Ben Sollee & Daniel Martin Moore – Dear Companion (Sub Pop)
    BUY: Amazon / Insound / iTunes
    Best Track: “Something. Somewhere, Sometime” – Two folksingers with a cello. A very pleasant track from a very pleasant album.
  8. Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings – I Learned the Hard Way (Daptone)
    BUY: Amazon / Insound / iTunes
    Best Track: “I Learned the Hard Way” – Sharon Jones returns with more music that sounds like the best of the Motown era, with her heartfelt telling of love and loss.
  9. Stornoway – Beachcomber’s Windowsill (4AD)
    BUY: Amazon / Insound / iTunes
    Best Track: “I Saw You Blink” – British folk singers with nice harmonies and catchy melodies.
  10. John Legend & The Roots – Wake Up! (Columbia)
    BUY: Amazon / Insound / iTunes
    Best Track: “Our Generation (The Hope Of The World) (featuring CL Smooth)” – It’s been a good musical year for both John Legend and The Roots. They team up on Wake Up! to outstanding effect.




Honorable Mentions (with Best Tracks):

1. The Budos Band, The Budos Band III (“Crimson Skies”)
2. The New Pornographers, Together (“Crash Years”)
3. Frightened Rabbit, The Winter of Mixed Drinks (“Swim Until You Can’t See Land”)
4. Of Montreal, False Priest (“I Feel Ya’ Strutter”)
5. Sufjan Stevens, The Age of Adz (“Impossible Soul”)

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Categorized: Best Albums of the Year


Peter Zimmerman writesPete Zimmerman’s Best of 2010

Throughout December CHIRP Radio presents its members’ top albums of 2010. The next list is from CHIRP Radio DJ Pete Zimmerman.

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

  1. The Tallest Man on Earth – The Wild Hunt (Dead Oceans)
    BUY: Amazon / Insound / iTunes
    The record that I listened to the most this year. Sure, the comparisons to early Bob Dylan are inevitable, but I don’t mind since I love early Bob Dylan. The record also made me sign up for guitar lessons at the Old Town School of Folk Music so be afraid, ears of people who know me.
  2. LCD Soundsystem – This is Happening (Virgin/DFA)
    BUY: Amazon / Insound / iTunes
    Not only did James Murphy put out an awesome record but he also made an appearance on The Soup with Community’s Donald Glover and that is pretty cool.
  3. Joanna Newsom – Have One on Me (Drag City)
    BUY: Amazon / Insound / iTunes
    I hate you, Andy Samberg.
  4. Janelle Monáe – The Archandroid (Bad Boy)
    BUY: Amazon / Insound / iTunes
    The only negative to this record is that it makes me want to dance and nobody should be subjected to that.
  5. Aloe Blacc – Good Things (Stones Throw)
    BUY: Amazon / Insound / iTunes
    Thank you to HBO and “How to Make it in America” for introducing me to Mr. Blacc. Sometimes watching too much TV pays off.
  6. Girl Talk – All Day (Illegal Art)
    BUY: Amazon / Insound / iTunes
    Two words: Spacehog. Toadies.
  7. Allo Darlin’ – Allo Darlin’ (Fortuna Pop!)
    BUY: Amazon / Insound / iTunes
    Having a bad day? Need to feel better? I first put this record on 3 months ago and still have a smile on my face.
  8. Robyn – Body Talk (Konichiwa)
    BUY: Amazon / Insound / iTunes
    See description for #4. Robyn’s show at Pitchfork was one of the highlights of the summer and she ends the year with a bang.
  9. Wild Nothing – Gemini (Captured Tracks)
    BUY: Amazon / Insound / iTunes
    Sometimes being reminded of high school is okay.
  10. Orgone – Cali Fever (Ubiquity)
    BUY: Amazon / Insound / iTunes
    If my guitar lessons don’t work out, I’m totally taking up the trombone.





Favorite Local Records of 2010
1. In Tall Buildings – In Tall Buildings (Whistler)
2. Gold Motel – Summer House (Good as Gold)
3. Disappears – Lux (Cranky)
4. Canasta – The Fakeout, The Tease, and the Breather (RWIM Chicago)
5. White Mystery – White Mystery (Self-Released)

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Categorized: Best Albums of the Year


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