Best of 2010 (Albums): Honorable Mention

Before we get too deep in 2011, I thought I’d put a bow on 2010 this week. I’ll be listing a CD-R’s worth of my favorite tracks, my top 5 albums, and maybe a few other things this week. Too start things off, a list of great albums that deserve some sort of honorable mention…

cerebellum tewligans

Cerebellum 1989 (via Slamdek.com)

 

While these albums didn’t quite make my top 5 this year, I don’t think there is any doubt that I will be listening to them frequently for years to come.

She & Him – Volume 2: I almost didn’t even bother here, but I’m really glad I did. Discovering this was like finding out about an old rock masterpiece. There’s a lot of warmth in ZD’s voice and songwriting, and M. Ward’s flourishes round out the best traditional pop record of the year. (listen to “Lingering Still“) Read my original review.

New Pornographers – Together: I’m not really sure how AC Newman keeps getting such inspiration out of this wacky ensemble, but Together, as its name would imply, manages to achieve both a stunning overall unity and the most idiosyncratic performances from each of the key players yet. Neko’s at her best on “The Crash Years”, Dan’s a wacky loverboy on “Silver Jenny Dollar”, Kathryn Calder shines on “Sweet Talk, Sweet Talk”, and Dr. Newman rounds out just about everything else. Fantastic artsy power pop, fabulous performances, a great experience all around. (listen to “Sweet Talk, Sweet Talk“) Read my original review.

Venice Is Sinking – Sand & Lines: This is what rainy Saturday mornings feel like. The great thing about this record is that you can get up close to it or leave it on in the background, either way you enjoy it. As I’ve said before, I wish more bands would just hang a microphone from the ceiling and play a set. Can’t wait to see what the future holds for ViS. (“Bardstown Road“) Read my original review.

Frontier(s) – There Will Be No Miracles Here: Chris Higdon returns 7 years after the demise of Elliott with a record heavy on the DC-style hardcore. As packed as this one is with melodic, chunky riffs, comparisons to Jawbox seem obvious but entirely appropriate. Oh yeah, and it grows on you too. (“Abul Abbas“) Read my original review.

Bruce Springsteen – The Promise: Recorded in the late 70’s, this is a gold mine for just about anyone who cares about rock and roll. Did we really need a reminder of what a monumental and unique talent Bruce Springsteen is? The Boss himself seems to think we did, and for that, I’d like to shake his hand. (“Someday (We’ll Be Together)“) Read my original review.

Stars – The Five Ghosts: Stars fully embraced 80’s synth-pop on this record, and what came of it was one of the most listenable and catchy collection of tunes imaginable. With all their earnestness, I get a feeling it’s becoming less and less cool to like Stars, but don’t let that hold you back. This is some serious ear candy, so just indulge your sonic sweet tooth already. (“Wasted Daylight“) Read my original review.

Cerebellum – Cerebellum: How could this not be awesome? Cerebellum came to a pre-mature end in 1989, leaving only 5 studio tracks (collected here) and a handful of other unrecorded songs. They recorded them for posterity this year, and it’s remarkable just how much these guys sound like they are picking up right where they left off. The big highlight is the mighty “Crawl Out of the Water”, which existed as an inferior Crain demo. It’s in all its glory here. (“Crawl Out of the Water“) Read my original review.

Quick Review (LP): Cape Dory by Tennis

Tennis
Cape Dory
Fat Possum; 2011

My Rating: B (68/100)

Best Tracks: “Bimini Bay”, “Marathon”, “Take Me Somewhere”, “South Carolina”

According to Wikipedia, Cape Dory Yachts “was a Massachusetts based fiberglass boat builder which operated from 1963 to 1996.” So it figures that the indie duo Tennis, whose debut is inspired by a seven-month sailing cruise of the Atlantic states, would choose such a name. And what we have here is hyper-pleasant, mid-tempo indie pop. Reference points? Well, there’s a definite care-free, vacation punk feel to this record, so I’d have to go with Vampire Weekend on one hand, with a bit of the languorous songswells of Beach House undergirding things. Also, there’s a big helping of the oldie-but-goodie sensibility that informs the She & Him records. It’s all well and good, but Cape Dory is a record of fleeting pleasures. There’s not a whole lot to really jump on board with, perhaps owing to the fact that this was a record inspired by an escapist life at sea. But that’s OK. It’s highly enjoyable for what it is, and Tennis is a band full of promise. Their songs really grow on you, and I can envision great things coming from them in the not-too-distant future.

Cohesion (5/5)
Concept (4/5)
Consequence (3/5)
Consistency (5/5)
Songs (4/5)

AMG review
Pitchfork review
Sputnik Music review
Paste review
Metacritic reviews

Quick Review (LP): Volume 2 by She & Him

she & him volume 2 She & Him
Volume 2
Merge; 2010

My Rating: A

Best Tracks: “Thieves”, “In the Sun”, “Don’t Look Back”, “Riding In My Car”, “Lingering Still”, “Over It Over Again”

The first time around, having not been exposed to M. Ward’s excellent Post-War, I shrugged She & Him off as another example of crass celebrity indulgence. Imagine my surprise when Paste named Volume 1 the best record of 2008. This time around, I have to acknowledge the genius. First off, Zooey can write. And vocally, she manages to channel June Carter Cash pretty darn well. The fact that she had the foresight to collaborate with M. Ward says that she knows exactly what she’s doing. Big props there. What the two of them have created is one of the finest pop albums in recent memory, a stunning collection of nostalgic throwbacks that will put a big smile on your face. If these two had been making records fifty years ago, we’d be citing their work alongside Phil Spector and Brian Wilson. Volume 2 is a great record by any stretch of the imagination, and maybe one of the best of 2010. If you haven’t already, you need to hear it.

Metacritic reviews
Pitchfork review