Best of 2010 (LP): My Top 5 Albums

Here’s a list of what I reviewed in 2010, with links to each individual review. I knew what my top 3 were beyond a shadow of a doubt, and the other 2 won out because I felt like there were pretty grand achievements from established acts. Notably, you won’t find The Suburbs, Age of Adz, or Contra here. The grammy-winner was long on pretense and short on strong material, the Sufe-ster went too far into left field, and the prep-punks got a little too glossy and cute. That’s OK though, those acts still have their best days ahead of them.

Below you’ll find my Top 5 records for 2010. What’s on your list?

kathryn calder are you my mother beach house teen dream

5. The Books – The Way Out…When it comes to “soundscaping” types of record, I normally expect the ones I enjoy to be good background music (ie Boards of Canada). The Way Out goes way beyond the confines of its genre, achieving a sort of giddy, off-the-wall, and soulful poppiness that may not be quite radio-friendly, but says it might just be possible a few albums from now. Otherwise, this is a great record, remarkably listenable and appealling for “found-sound.” “Cold Freezin’ Night” never ceases to put a smile on my face, but “I Didn’t Know That” is pretty cool too. (original review)

4. The National – High Violet…With HV, The National has officially become the greatest indie band to emerge in the last decade, taking ideas pioneered by the likes of Joy Division, REM, Interpol, Radiohead, Wilco, and others and creating their own mesmerizing blend of gut-wrenching chamber rock. The big highlight here though is Matt Berninger’s vocal work, which goes way beyond anything he’s done before. He uses his world-weary baritone to maximum effect, bringing in realms of emotion that have heretofore reamined untouched for The National. To that end, “Afraid of Everyone” is one of the record’s highlights, and probably Berninger’s most gut-wrenching performance to date. (original review)

3. Follow The Train – Mercury…At some point, great bands stopped thinking in terms of stadium-sized rock and roll. Follow The Train appears to be trying to reverse that trend, and while they may not be playing actual stadiums quite yet, with Mercury, they’ve prepared a set of tunes that would certainly do the trick. In fact, I can’t think of a band that has dreamed of making GOOD rock and roll this grand since Pearl Jam hit the airwaves in the early 90’s. This record is quite simply a delight in every way. I don’t know what the future holds for Follow The Train, but after the glory that is Mercury, I’m hoping they will let the world hear more. “Movin” is the best place to start. (original review)

2. Kathryn Calder – Are You My Mother?…Here’s one I really didn’t see coming. When Kathryn Calder joined New Pornographers a few years back, I figured she was simply standing in for Neko Case and would be relegated to backing band status. When she announced a solo album earlier this year, I barely took notice. Yet somehow, I gave this one a shot, and I’m thrilled I did. Packed with melody, romance, optimism, and spaced-out folk tunes, Calder’s debut is the understated gem of the year, a record with a little something for everyone. While it might not make many year-end lists, that just makes me all the prouder to tout it on mine. I certainly don’t mean to be patronizing when I say that this is one charming little record. Here’s a live take of my favorite, “If You Only Knew.” Oh yeah, and another prime tune (and cool video), “Arrow.” (original review)

1. Beach House – Teen Dream…On their third album, Beach House went for broke, and nailed it. Teen Dream contains ten pop masterpieces, songs that can’t be contained by studios or venues or any other confined space that you might dream up. From the epic swell of “Zebra” to the closing credits of “Take Care”, this a record that you’ll fall in love with, in large part due to the moonlight wails of Victoria Legrand, a vocalist that certainly ranks up there with the likes of Neko and Stevie Nicks. Words fail with this one. If you haven’t heard this yet, then what in the world are you waiting for? Here’s “Walk in the Park“, which was a runner-up for my year-end track list next to “Zebra.”  (original review)

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Best of 2010 (Tracks): 80 Minutes of the Best Music

Before I get around to telling you my 5 favorite albums of 2010, take a few minutes to consider this little mix of what I consider to be 80 minutes of the best music released last year…

image

Now the tracklist isn’t in any particular order, but below I’ve written up what I consider to be the top 8 and linked to where you can listen for yourself. Enjoy!

My Top 8 tracks of 2010

1. “Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)” by Arcade Fire…Somehow the best track got tucked away at the tail-end of The Suburbs. Regine Chassagne sounds so good. On past efforts, her contributions were always welcome additions, but over the electronic backing here, she delivers a stark and captivating performance that steals the show. Lyrically, this is the most stunning track I’ve heard in ages. As a pop song, it sounds like it’s a lost synth-pop classic from the 80’s. Simply brilliant. (listen)

2. “Movin” by Follow the Train…There is a tiny minority out there that knows what I am talking about when I say, “World, it’s high time you meet Follow The Train.” And there’s no better place to start than this transcendent piece of freaked-out, soulful, symphonic space grunge. Dig those strangz dawg. (listen)

3. “All Delighted People” by Sufjan Stevens…Don’t call it a come back. The Age of Adz still hasn’t grabbed me like I hoped it would, but Sufjan made such a grand return with the preceding EP that I’ve pretty much shrugged it off. The EP’s title track is quite possibly the most glorious thing he has yet recorded. It takes everything that we’ve grown to love about the mild-mannered Suferman, vamps it up to a grand symphony, throws in a fireworks display, makes a joyful noise, and then pushes it completely over the top. Now THAT is how you make a return to centerstage! (listen)

4. “Zebra” by Beach House…The most elegant song on this list, it’s an impressionistic little waltz that, as I’ve said before, somehow becomes a stadium-sized thunder track. Between Victoria Legrand’s vocals and Alex Scally’s instrumentation, what on paper appears quite simple becomes dream-like and absolutely gorgeous. (listen)

5. “If You Only Knew” by Kathryn CalderWrote about it here. For those wondering what AC Newman was thinking when he asked his mousy niece to play Christine McVie to Neko Case’s Stevie Nicks, this should give you some indication. My pick for the backporch singalong track of the year. Too much fun…

6. “Bonfire” by Strand of Oaks…Imagine if you will a character in an 80’s slasher flick who sits by a campfire and sings a lonely song that is simultaneously terrifying and pathetic, all while, unbeknownst to him, his cohorts are butchered in the cabin just across the water. You have just imagined “Bonfire” by Strand of Oaks, and it is actually one of the most touching and atypical love songs you’ll ever hear. (listen)

7. “A Cold Freezin’ Night” by The Books…Found sound usually isn’t this giddy and delightful. The bottom line is, this reminds me of all the good things about being nine years old. Who needs verse-chorus-verse? And the video is BADNESS…

8. “Bloodbuzz Ohio” by The National…It was hard to pick just one track from High Violet. I can think of 3 or 4 great tracks that could have been here as well. But ulimately, the lyric “I still owe money/to the money/to the money I owe” was just too good to pass up. (listen)

What were some of your favorites?

Quick Review (LP): Mercury by Follow the Train

Follow the Train
Mercury
Removador; 2010

My Rating: A

Best Tracks: “Movin”, “Coffee”, “Mellwood”, “Division”, “Seamless”

One thing seems certain; the band’s songwriter has an outstanding sense of melody and majesty in a late 80’s/early 90’s alt-rock sense. Witness: “Movin”. Yessir. Wow. Let’s play that again. And again. Opener “Coffee” features a great vocal performance as well, and more melancholy bits like “Mellwood” (saxy) and “Nowhere Night” (urban lonesome) really shine as well. As I’ve said before, they remind me heavily of Afghan Whigs, with some of the mighty blues of Zeppelin thrown in for good measure (“Division”, “Mercury”) and a big midwestern heart. I don’t see any reason they shouldn’t be playing big stages at summer festivals, because this is one of the best albums of 2010.

Band website & listen to album
Removador page & listen to album
SGB Breath of Sigh review

Worth Shouting About: Free EP from Follow The Train!

The Great Disturbance EP

Well that’s just too cool — the apparently re-united Louisville space-rock powerhouse Follow The Train is giving their 2005 (out-of-print) EP The Great Disturbance away for free on their newly re-vamped website. So give the second track, “Wake Up”, a listen below, and then head on over and download some costless goodness. And while you’re there, you may as well pick up Mercury or A Breath of Sigh, excellent releases in their own right…

If you’ve never heard Follow The Train, you’re in for a dose of anthemic, dreamy rock that is part-U2, part-Pixies, part-Afghan Whigs, and part-Cure. That is to say, there is a late-80’s indie throwback feel to their work, a sound I’m happy to hear making a resurgence in their little corner of the music world. Enjoy!

Download Follow The Train’s Great Disturbance EP for free.

Listen to “Wake Up” by Follow The Train:

Top 10 Tracks of 2010 (Midway)

from thesecretstereo.com

This is a bit hastily thrown together, but here it is, 8/23, and I haven’t done it yet, so here goes. No comments, no order, only criteria is that it was released between 1/1/2010 & 6/31/2010. Links provided for samples:

Follow the Train – “Movin”
New Pornographers – “Crash Years”
Memoryhouse – “Sleep Patterns”
Stars – “Fixed”
Cerebellum – “Crawl Out of the Water”
Wye Oak – “I Hope You Die”
Beach House – “Walk in the Park”
Broken Social Scene – “World Sick”
Venice is Sinking – “Tugboat”
Strand of Oaks – “Bonfire”

So there.

Yours?

Tracknotes: “Movin” by Follow The Train

via Removador Records

A few thoughts inspired by Follow The Train‘s “Movin”, from their 2010 album Mercury

  • Epic pop song (NICE!). Sorta like “Hey Jude” crossed with “Corduroy” and “Champagne Supernova” but not really.
  • They just don’t make indie rock like this anymore – direct, anthemic, transcendent, spine-tingling indie rock.
  • Frontman Dennis Sheridan comes off like Greg Dulli, all the passion minus the strip-club creepiness.
  • Love that bridge – bassy, funky, spaced-out – a total freak-down.
  • Great symphonic strings too. Whodunnit?
  • There’s no easy way of describing this track without underdoing it. It’s just freakin great.
  • Probably one of the best of the year.  I’m sure I’ll give it the solid write-up at the end of the year.

You can download “Movin” by sacrificing your e-mail here:

Download “Movin” at the bottom of the page.

Like Eddie Vedder…

Just wanted to touch base and say that I’m still alive, and plan on returning to regular blogging sometime in the spring.

A few music-related thoughts:

– the new Norah Jones was like the last Norah Jones, pretty blah…
– the new Vampire Weekend is okay, pretty mediocre compared to their outstanding debut…
– the new Dawn Landes sounds EXCELLENT after one listen…
– I never did pick up the Farrar/Gibbard record…anyone care to comment?
– Louisville indie-rockers Second Story Man just released a new record, Screaming Secrets…you should check it out…
– I’d probably agree with Paste Mag that Sufjan’s Illinois was the greatest record of the last decade…more later though…
– I”m stoked that Louisville’s Follow the Train might re-group when their new LP is released on Removador Records
– of course I’m with CoCo…duh…
– I like that new-ish band Real Estate…
– psyched for some new Josh Ritter in the spring, more psyched for the tour that should follow…
– best record of 2009? No clue…I think last year kind of sucked for music…

That’s it for now, stay in touch…

Follow the Train: A Breath of Sigh (2006)

Follow the Train
A Breath of Sigh
Darla Records
My Rating: 79/100
Akwardly enchanting lullabyes…
After one listen to Follow the Train’s A BREATH OF SIGH, there’s no denying their influences: Afghan Whigs, The Cure, Joy Division, The Replacements, and, in general I’d say, the overall aesthetic of John Hughes. They are not unique in this regard. Plenty of bands continue to tread the familiar ground of the early indie greats, but it’s in the angle and the execution that Follow the Train manages to stand out from the pack. You won’t find sheening, over-produced hipster-bait here. Follow the Train write endearingly simple, stumbling odes to the finer things in life. The lovely “Endless Summer” sets things off on a nostalgic breeze, while “Flower” blooms into a striking love song. Tracks like “I’m Not Sorry” and “Thin in the Skin” demonstrate an inherent starkness to the overall sound of the album, as if each song was inspired from a black-and-white photo. Sometimes, there seem to be ghosts herein, benevolent beings for sure, but spooks nonetheless. My only complaint would be that the album is front-loaded – the first three tracks are just fantastic, and then it trends ever so slight downhill. Otherwise, a great record, one that has me thirsting for their (unfortunately posthumous) follow-up.
Cohesion (5/5)
Concept (5/5)
Consequence (4/5)
Consistency (4/5)
Tracks
1. Endless Summer (5/5)
2. Flower (5/5)
3. I’m Not Sorry (5/5)
4. Thin in the Skin (4/5)
5. Up in Flames (4/5)
6. Kentucky (4/5)
7. Original Disconnect (5/5)
8. Afraid (3.5/5)
9. An Akward Lullaby (4/5)
10. Remember (4.5/5)

followthetrainFollow the Train
A Breath of Sigh; 2006
Darla Records

My Rating: 79/100

A breath of fresh air…

After one listen to Follow the Train’s A BREATH OF SIGH, there’s no denying their influences: Afghan Whigs, The Cure, Joy Division, The Replacements, and, in general I’d say, the overall aesthetic of John Hughes. They are not unique in this regard. Plenty of bands continue to tread the familiar ground of the early indie greats, but it’s in the angle and the execution that Follow the Train manages to stand out from the pack. You won’t find sheening, over-produced hipster-bait here. Follow the Train write endearingly simple, stumbling odes to the finer things in life. The lovely “Endless Summer” sets things off on a nostalgic breeze, while “Flower” blooms into a striking love song. Tracks like “I’m Not Sorry” and “Thin in the Skin” demonstrate an inherent starkness to the overall sound of the album, as if each song was inspired from a black-and-white photo. Sometimes, there seem to be ghosts herein, benevolent beings for sure, but spooks nonetheless. My only complaint would be that the album is front-loaded – the first three tracks are just fantastic, and then it trends ever so slight downhill. Otherwise, a great record, one that has me thirsting for their (unfortunately posthumous) follow-up.

Cohesion (5/5)
Concept (5/5)
Consequence (4/5)
Consistency (4/5)

Tracks

1. Endless Summer (5/5)
2. Flower (5/5)
3. I’m Not Sorry (5/5)
4. Thin in the Skin (4/5)
5. Up in Flames (4/5)
6. Kentucky (4/5)
7. Original Disconnect (5/5)
8. Afraid (3.5/5)
9. An Akward Lullaby (4/5)
10. Remember (4.5/5)