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Clifton’s best of 2010…. so far.

February 18, 2010

So, I’ve been presented with the rare situation that there have just been too many good albums that have been released or leaked so far this year. Some of the albums were one’s that I was expecting to love from old bands who I’ve adored for some time, but numerous others were bands that I’ve haven’t cared much for or even known about before this decade began.


5. Broken Bells – S/T

Broken Bells

What a fantastic album. Mercer’s songwriting talents have finally found a home for me in this collaboration between Shins songsmith and Danger Mouse. As I’ve told many of my friends, I feel that the first four tracks on the album do an excellent job of summing up the album’s varying styles and strengths. The first track and first single “the High Road” starts off with and infectious synth line met by bigger beats than we’ve heard from anything with Mercer’s name on it. Then the familiar vocals and melody styles come in. I would agree with those who say that this sounds like yet another Shins album but it’s a Shins album with a kick. The lowest points in the album are simply those that sound just like Shins songs and that’s not necessarily a bad thing, it just details the amount of creativity and sound innovation that can be found on this album. Recommended to people who enjoy infectious synth lines and big beats paired with acoustic guitars that become electric guitars before you even realize it.

Top tracks: “Vaporize”, “The Ghost Inside”, “The Mall and the Misery”


4. Beach House – Teen Dream

So when I first listened to this album I simply became hooked on its first track “Zebra”. It’s acoustic lofty guitars paired with haunting ambient vocals pulled me in the same way that a Grizzly Bear album does so. While maintaining the artsier, big musical elements of a Grizzly Bear album it manages to find a way to be even more accessible than most would expect it to be. In subsequent listens to the album I have found many of the other songs on the album have crept into my consciousness and become favorites. Current single from the album and my current favorite song on the album “Norway” for example didn’t hit me with its brilliance upon first listen. Late at night with the headphones on, however, I was sucked into the enchanting vocal arrangement that starts off the track and even more so by the potent melodies which the song flaunts throughout. This whole album seems to be one discovery for me after another, as soon as I dismiss a song I find that its becoming one of my favorites. As someone who admittedly hasn’t spent his fair share of time listening to Beach House’s previous attempts, I have every intention to spend a lot more time with this band.

Top Tracks: “Zebra”, “Norway”, “Used to Be”


3. The Magnetic Fields – Realism

Stephin Merritt has long been one of my favorite songsmiths and I hold him to a certain standard which I don’t hold other musicians.  This being the case, “Realism” may be the most disappointing Magnetic Fields album that I could have expected, yet it still sits at number three on this list. A songwriter who usually relies heavily on his electronic and synth prowess when creating his songs and albums, Merritt set out to follow up 1999’s triple album 69 Love Songs, with three albums which didn’t contain any synth. The first of these was “i”, 2004’s chamber pop styled album, and the second of these was 2008’s “Distortion”, a shoegazy electric guitar driven album. While Realism does the best job of the three synth-less albums at sounding like the Magnetic Fields of the late 90s it may be the least coherent album from them in fifteen years. Where this album disappoints however, it clearly also shines, as the standout tracks on the album may just be the most enchantingly beautiful songs that he has ever produced. To me, the song “Better Things” is the highlight of the album, its melodies and production quality standing out above the rest. It evokes in me a feeling that very few songs are capable of doing that I am rendered completely useless to describe. This is not an album on which I would start listening to The Magnetic Fields with and while the Merritt fan may not find this to be the strongest album of his career it most certainly has a lot to offer and is worth a listen.

Top tracks: “I Don’t Know What To Say”, “Better Things” “The Dada Polka”


2. Surfer’s Blood – Astro Coast

This is one of the bands that I hadn’t followed during their rise to indie popularity in 2009. When Surfer Blood’s debut album was released last month I had never heard the band or of the band. It didn’t take me long to realize how special this band is. Comparisons to Weezer’s Blue album have been made endlessly but I can hear a wide array of influences on this album. The album’s third song, for example, “Take it Easy” sounds like it could easily have come from Vampire Weekend, opener “Floating Vibes” has a distinct Shins-esque quality, while songs “Harmonix” and “Fast Jabroni” sound like a nod to Arcade Fire’s “Neighborhood #2” and “Rebellion” respectively. Everything about this music is catchy. A large portion of the songs being driven by catchy Power Chord progressions, then layered with even catchier lead guitars, then completed with strong drum work, anthemic melodies, and solo’s which are no less than delightful. I think this may be the most wide-spread, cross-listener, accessible album of the year so far.

Top Tracks: “Swim”, “Twin Peaks”, “Anchorage”


1. Titus Andronicus – The Monitor

Okay, I might be a little biased seeing that debut “The Airing of Grievances” was my favorite album of 2008 but my favorite album of the year thus far is “The Monitor” by Titus Andronicus. This album is enormous, with 65 minutes of music spread across ten tracks. The only disappointment which this album evokes is knowing that it will take time to soak it all in to the degree which it deserves. I seriously had my doubts that Titus Androncius could replicate the lyrical and musical intensity that made “Airing of Grievances” but they came through and don’t waste any time on this album making it evident. By two minutes into the album there is already a spoken word speech, ferocious vocals and lyrics over equally grungy guitars, and Titus Andronicus’ signature guitar solo work. By the forth minute we already have a chanting refrain, a musical build, and the beginnings of a guitar build which rivals that of “Fear and Loathing in Manwah”. This album also shows Titus Andronicus with a larger array of instruments in their sound arsenal featuring piano and sax solo’s in “…and Ever”. What a tremendous album. Not for the faint of conscious. And did I mention, it’s an American Civil War themed album? Cause it totally is.

Top tracks: “A More Perfect Union”, “Theme from ‘Cheers’”, “To Old Friends and New”


There have been a number of other albums that have come out or been leaked this year that I didn’t write about. I feel as strongly about many of these albums as I do the ones above and highly recommend that you check them out:

Hot Chip – One Life Stand

Keepaway – Baby Style EP

Los Campesinos – Romance is Borning

The Morning Benders – Big Echo

Spoon – Transference

Ted Leo & The Pharmacists – The Brutalist Bricks

Vampire Weekend – Contra


Despite the number of quality releases that have come out thus far this year there is still a great deal to look forward to. Personally, I am looking the most forward to Arcade Fire’s follow-up to 2006’s Neon Bible, expected this fall; the new album from LCD Soundsytem to follow-up 2008’s tremendous “Sound of Silver”; and above all else, the follow-up to “Shallow Grave”, which I consider to be one of the best albums of the last decade, “The Wild Hunt” from The Tallest Man on Earth drops this April.


One Comment leave one →
  1. crisbaj permalink
    February 20, 2010 8:53 AM

    thanks… I love deep-earth miners like you who go out and dig deep to find the gems and bring them to the surface for all of us!

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