Throughout December CHIRP Radio presents its members' top albums of 2010. The next list is from station volunteer Josh Lesser.
(Click here to get the complete list of CHIRP Radio members' picks.)
Titus Andronicus – The Monitor (XL) BUY: Amazon / Insound / iTunes
Sure, at first blush a punk concept album loosely based on combining coming of age in New Jersey and the American Civil War seems like an unlikely pick for best album of the year. But Titus Andronicus puts the full force of their rage, youth, and passion into track after shout-alongable track, and thesis statements on the state of America and youth abound ("we have enemies everywhere", "you will always be a loser", "its still us against them"). Listening to the album, or, even better, at witnessing their live show, its impossible not to get swept along with them. Essential Tracks: "A More Perfect Union", "Four Score and Seven"
Shearwater – The Golden Archipelago (Matador) BUY: Amazon / Insound / iTunes
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"
Girl Talk – All Day (Illegal Art) BUY: Amazon / Insound / iTunes
While I havent lived with this album as long as some of the others, I can't say I was more excited about any album on this list dropping. And while on first listen it didnt seem as immediate or complex as former albums, the test for me for Girl Talk is whether it makes me want to giggle and dance at the same time. And once he mixes Rhianna and Fugazi on the second track, it did. Essential Tracks: "Let it Out", "Thats Right"
The National – High Violet (4AD) BUY: Amazon / Insound / iTunes
When I want existential dread and wine soaked–sadness, I need look no further than this incredible record. Even the hopeful songs have terrifying images (being carried to Ohio in a swarm of bees, for example). Themes of protecting your children, craving sorrow, and, of course, zombies infuse this record with a maturity that wasn't present as much on the previous National albums, and they are no worse off for it. Essential Tracks: "Bloodbuzz Ohio", "England"
Ted Leo & The Pharmacists – Brutalist Bricks (Matador) BUY: Amazon / Insound / iTunes
Brutalist Bricks explodes out of the gate with a song about suicide bombings, and never looks back. Returning to the political rabble rouser form he did so well on Shake the Streets Ted Leo and co. sound tight, together, and focused. Perfect for long drives and short bursts of righteous anger. (bonus points for the amazing, Paul F. Tomkins-starring, music video sending up American Idiot: The Musical) Essential Tracks: "The Mighty Sparrow", "Bottled in Cork"
Midlake – The Courage of Others (Bella Union) BUY: Amazon / Insound / iTunes
Pretty much any album Midlake released after the near-perfection of Van Occupanther would have been a let down for me, but Courage of Others goes a long way towards soothing that pain. Rainy day music written by druids, its almost surprising to hear them address more direct, less mystical notions on songs like "The Courage of Others" (which evokes neither ancient kingdoms nor moss covered hillsides, and speaks more to emo kids than forest children). But they do both eually well, it turns out. Essential Tracks: "Rulers, Ruling All Things", "Acts of Man"
Frightened Rabbit – Winter of Mixed Drinks (Fat Cat) BUY: Amazon / Insound / iTunes
Like Midlake, Frightened Rabbit had the tall order of following up one of my favorite records of the last five years (Midnight Organ Fight). And while this album took a while to grow on me, grow it did. No other band reaches quite the heights that Frightened Rabbit does at its best when it mixes pedestrian images with soaring backings to pack the perfect punch. Sadness rarely sounds as joyful as they make it sound. Essential Tracks: "Things", "The Loneliness and the Scream"
Sun Kil Moon – Admiral Fell Promises (Caldo Verde) BUY: Amazon / Insound / iTunes
I've been saving this one for the winter, because a July release date for a Sun Kil Moon album seems somehow inappropriate. While I will admit Kozelek stripping back to his man-and-his-Spanish-guitar persona is not my favorite one of his (preferring the more produced, full band sounds of the Red House Painters and his first Sun Kil Moon album), I will eagerly absorb anything this man does, and Admiral Fell Promises has not disappointed. I look forward to many cold winter days alone with this album. How many things can you that about? Essential Tracks: "Alesund", "Sam Wong Hotel"
"Ready to Start" from The Suburbs by Arcade Fire (Merge) BUY: Amazon / Insound / iTunes
Maybe this is out of place on a Best of the Year list, but I feel I can't in good conscience discuss this year in music without pointing out the two albums that disappointed me the most. Two new albums from two of my favorite bands...I felt my cup would runneth over. But try as I might to get into The Suburbs, I just cant do it. There are tracks that I like, and one track that I love (hence giving the nod to "Ready to Start" as a standout of the year) but I fell in love with both Funeral and Neon Bible within the first couple of listens. And while it may not be fair to compare them all, compare I must, and this album just does not clear the bar. I'm still holding out hope for Arcade Fire, that someday it might just click...
"We Can Get Together" from Heaven is Whenever by The Hold Steady (Vagrant) BUY: Amazon / Insound / iTunes
...As for The Hold Steady, "We can get together" is a great song, and keeps with the bands mission statement, but for the most part, the rest of the album is pretty forgettable.
Throughout December CHIRP Radio presents its members' favorite music of 2010. Here with a list of his 10 favorite singles from 2010 is CHIRP Radio DJ Dan Morgridge.
(Click here to get the complete list of CHIRP Radio members' picks.)
"Bombay" by El Guincho, from the album Pop Negro (Young Turks) BUY: Amazon / Insound / iTunes
"We are going to explore the cosmos in the ship of the imagination." So states El Guincho in his Carl-Sagan-esque intro to the B-movie/home cinema/let's-film-some-shenanigans (NSFW) video for Bombay, his opus of 2010. The bizarre feats of cinema displayed juxtapose the somewhat sorrowful lyrics - but if you don't speak Spanish, just sit back and appreciate the melodic and almost percussive singing. The instruments weaving in and out, the steel drums and hand claps, and the echoed final cry will keep the song growing in your head for a long time.
"Tin Man" by Future Islands, from the album In Evening Air (Thrill Jockey) BUY: Amazon / Insound / iTunes
While "Tin Man" and my number one song share a prominent steel drum, Future Islands match it with a muscular guitar and the inimitable gruff wails of lead singer Sam Herring. The summer jam for driving around right before sunset, few other songs this year can come close to the gamut of emotions this tune can serve.
"Not In Love ft. Robert Smith" by Crystal Castles (Motown) BUY: Amazon / Insound / iTunes I always have a soft spot for musical re-imagination - I always find art begets art, so I love seeing someone professionally do the same thing and succeed. Taking the raw material from the rarely-mined field of Canadian glam new wave, Platinum Blonde's tune got an injection of chiptune steroids from Crystal Castles. But then for the December release, the band replaced the anemic, computerized vocals of Alice Practice with none other than Robert Smith. The Cure frontman pours his heart into it like he was 17 and just dumped, instantly owning the song like his name was Hendrix and it was about a joker and a thief.
"Burden Of Tomorrow" by The Tallest Man On Earth, from the album The Wild Hunt (Dead Oceans) BUY: Amazon / Insound / iTunes
In another universe, Swede Kristian Matsson is the world's best Bob Dylan impersonator. Lucky for us, here he's found just enough of his own songwriting voice (and just slightly more forgiving nasal tones) to be an electrifying artist in his own right. From an album of rock-solid songs accompanied only by his own guitar, banjo or piano, Matsson's narrow stand-out is the bright-eyed gleam of "Burden Of Tomorrow", a mythological origin story: "Oh but rumor has it that I wasn't born/I just walked in one frosty morn" - yelped with enough passion that you could almost believe him.
"Runaway" by Kanye West, from the album My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy (Def Jam) BUY: Amazon / Insound / iTunes
It feels almost criminal to not give Kanye the top spot in this list. You can almost imagine he would go through infinite numbers of online reviews, leaving anonymous comments saying "8.5! DO YOU KNOW HOW MUCH OF A GENIUS I AM FOR PUTTING CHRIS ROCK AND APHEX TWIN ON THE SAME TRACK?!?" But his hubris aside, Kanye has spent a year collaborating on an album with an all-star cast, but more importantly, with the Internet itself. Leaking demos left and right, posting songs without real lyrics, jumping up on tables to rap as the songs hit him - in the cult of the amateur, Kanye is king.
But to describe his finished products as amateur would be a grave mistake - love or hate him, Kanye has agonized over every second, pored over every sample. "Runaway" is the perfect microcosm of the album: a seamless blend of egomania and melancholy, both unsatisfied and unrepentant. Some of the lyrics will cause bystanders to grimace - "I sent this girl a picture of my dick/I don't know what it is with females, but I'm not too good at that shit" is as unrefined as you can imagine a song lyric- but are we grimacing at Kanye, or with him?
"Plastic People" by Four Tet, from the album There Is Love In You (Domino) BUY: Amazon / Insound / iTunes
Four Tet's paean to the club he has used as a sounding board for much of his latest album is a peculiar lie on it's surface - a quiet, scruffy ethereal sound. But it's tempo is pure dance - a touch of two-step, a hint of rave, and a mix of whatever else it takes to get a full crowd at the Metro dancing again (like he did here in October). It's a perfect tune for when everything outside is moving fast and everything inside is moving slow.
"Meet Me In The Basement" by Broken Social Scene, from the album Forgiveness Rock Record (Arts & Crafts) BUY: Amazon / Insound / iTunes
When a band whose vocal talents include Feist, Emily Haines, and several other occasional lead singers, you have to credit them with some moxie for calling an instrumental jam "something that's become our anthem" at the Pitchfork Music Festival this year. But by golly, the song has legs that go all the way to the floor, and the guitar interplay is some of the finest you can bang a head at. Bonus points: the anonymously-submitted video bashing the G20 summit in Toronto that the band put on their YouTube channel.
"The Gaudy Side Of Town" by GAYNGS, from the album Relayted (Jagjaguwar) BUY: Amazon / Insound / iTunes
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 Relayed 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).
"Generator ^ Second Floor" by Freelance Whales, from the album Weathervanes (Frenchkiss/Mom and Pop) BUY: Amazon / Insound / iTunes
Weathervanes earned its share of detractors - whether for the band's spontaneous concerts, wacky instruments like a watering can, or some of the rather grating selections from the album itself. With outstanding biases aside, the elements displayed in just the first two build-up minutes alone are stunning - banjo lead, washboard and accordion ambiance, glockenspiel taking over, and then an electric guitar somehow tastefully topping it all off. Then the harmonies pop in, and suddenly you're not cheerfully singing along in the streets to this kind little tune about accepted death.
"O.N.E." by Yeasayer, from the album Odd Blood (Secretly Canadian) BUY: Amazon / Insound / iTunes
One part Animal Collective, one part George Michael, all parts capable of making you dance like the dirtiest hippie imaginable. Anand Wilder sings his own "I Will Survive" like he's so over it, he's already in Copacabana wearing wayfarers and flirting with anyone who might bring him a Mai Tai.
"Heaven's On Fire" by The Radio Dept.
"Dancing With The DJ" by The Knocks
"Neighbor Riffs" by Surfer Blood
"Low Shoulders" by Toro Y Moi
"Ducktails" by Art Vandelay
Executives at the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB), the lobby group representing large commercial broadcast stations across the United States, were surprised to look out their windows on Monday to see a veritable circus of community radio supporters. Dozens of people hula-hooped, juggled, and asked NAB chief Gordon Smith, former Senator from Oregon, to stop blocking a bill that would expand access to 100-watt low power FM (LPFM) noncommercial community radio stations across the US – the Local Community Radio Act, HR 1147 and SB 592.
They cheered at the NAB, “Stop making us jump through hoops! Support low power FM radio and the Local Community Radio Act!” They also asked their Congressional leaders to pass this widely loved and bipartisan bill before the end of the 111th Congress.
“Low power FM radio stations not only put local music, news, and political debates on the FM dial, they saved lives after Hurricane Katrina because they put up-to-the-minute local information on the air – and they are small and flexible enough to keep running with a car battery when the power goes out,” said Pete Tridish, an organizer with the Prometheus Radio Project, a nonprofit that supports low power FM radio stations nationwide and friend of CHIRP. “By passing this bill today, Congress will be supporting thousands of constituent organizations instead of bowing to one big broadcast lobby’s wishes. Gordon Smith is silencing voices across the country by opposing the expansion of community radio. So we’re here to say: Gordon Smith, don’t make a circus of our democracy – stop making us jump through hoops; work with Congress to pass this bill.”
There are about 800 stations on the air across the US, but thousands of other groups were unable to get licenses when LPFM was established in 2000. The Local Community Radio Act, which would expand LPFM, sailed through the House in 2009, and has broad bipartisan support in the Senate. Unfortunately, new reports showed that NAB CEO and former Senator Gordon Smith is organizing secret Senate holds on the bill to kill it. The NAB claimed that they were working to compromise or negotiate on expanding low power FM radio, but as of Monday the 13th, they had rejected every offer that Senate sponsors and LPFM advocates have brought before them.
Hundreds of diverse groups, including CHIRP, support expanding low power FM radio nationwide, including emergency responders, national civil rights and faith-based organizations, and many others. They have waited years for the opportunity to serve their communities, but the FCC has been unable to give out licenses to them because Congress restricted LPFM.
Now is the time to act! Watch the hula hoopers below, and then send an email to Senator Durbin asking him to help bring the Local Community Radio Act to the floor for a vote.
Throughout December CHIRP Radio presents its members' top albums of 2010. The next list is from CHIRP Radio DJ Craig Reptile.
(Click here to get the complete list of CHIRP Radio members' picks.)
Craig Reptile's Top 10 of 2010 (in no particular order):
Autolux – Transit Transit (tbd) BUY: Amazon / Insound / iTunes
Suckers for shoegazer should celebrate this release from Autolux, while those unfamiliar with the genre of fuzzy, woozy guitars and ethereal, wispy vocals should find a compelling and wide-ranging introduction here.
Pomegranates – One of Us (Afternoon) BUY: Amazon / Insound / iTunes
From sped up tape sounds to ambient guitar squalls, this record never fails to surprise and inspire. If you dig The Jesus and Mary Chain, Blonde Redhead, Animal Collective, Crocodiles, Neon Indian, Serena-Maneesh, Brad Laner, and labelmates The Poison Control Center, you should dig this.
Sambassadeur – European (Lubrador) BUY: Amazon / Insound / iTunes
Ambassadors of Swedish orch-pop have returned with lush, fully fleshed out instrumentation, featuring melodies that bridge the girl group sound a la Phil Spector and the ambitious approach of 80's post-New Wave anthem producers.
Club 8 – The People’s Record (Labrador) BUY: Amazon / Insound / iTunes
More Swee, but this time afrobeat and Latin American rhythms and energy dominate each song--like listening to 10,000 Maniacs’ In My Tribe at 78 speed, it’s a rush of rapid rhythms and rumbling bass, with angular latticework guitar parts and soaring soprano singing.
The Soviet League – The Soviet League (Angel Oven Records) BUY: Amazon / Insound / iTunes
This sounds like Brian Eno and Roy Orbison meeting XTC alteregos Dukes of Stratosphear. Utterly mind-blowing. If this is the future, I want to be a part of it.
Belle and Sebastian – Write About Love (Matador) BUY: Amazon / Insound / iTunes
I guess twee orch-pop is not for everyone, but I can't imagine anyone not loving this record. But anything's possible. Every cut is a winner in my book (the one I'm writing about love, 'natch).
Dreamend – So I Ate Myself Bite By Bite (Graveface) BUY: Amazon / Insound / iTunes
A lovely and haunting symphony of banjos and crickets from Ryan Graveface's latest project. It may have been a bad dream, but it sure sounded beautiful to me.
Darling – Lights That Last Forever (Cardboard Sangria) BUY: Amazon / Insound / iTunes
Try as I might, I could not find a bad song on this Chicago group's first full length release. This is pure power pop for 2010 people, and it's full of anthemically awesome surprises.
Azure Ray – Drawing Down the Moon (Saddle Creek) BUY: Amazon / Insound / iTunes
I loved the record before seeing this lovely female duo at a sold out Schubas, and love it even more now &ndash never has sad been so beautiful.
The Thermals – Personal Life (Kill Rock Stars) BUY: Amazon / Insound / iTunes
It may not be their most rocking release, but Hutch's lyrics have never been better or more . . . personal. I still believe he's the Chuck D of indie rock.
5 Favorite EPs of 2010:
California Wives – Affair (Self-Released)
Chaperone – Cripple King (Self-Released)
Verma – Verma (Plustapes)
Pilot Cloud – Diaspora (Acoustic Firework)
Atmosphere – To All My Friends, Blood Makes The Blade Holy: The Atmosphere EP's (Rhymesayers Entertainment)