The Best of 2010 part 3

We’re now into the home stretch as far as the vast bulk of my listening this year.  Lines are bound to be drawn, hearts to be broken, livestock to be slaughtered.

15 through 11:

15.  Arcade Fire – “The Suburbs”

What?!  Only 15th?!  I know; I know.  It’s like learning that, in fact, Radiohead did not release 11 of the top 10 records of the ’00s.  Look, the Arcade Fire have always been a critics’ band.  They’ve also released 3 really good records, one of which, “Funeral,” is a transcendent, generational effort.  Here at KFF we don’t engage in sports metaphors very often.  But “Funeral” is the LeBron James of records.  It was great immediately; it held up; it got better; and people in Cleveland don’t appreciate what it did for them for so long.  “Neon Bible,” however, was a punt on 4th and long with the game wrapped up, that pinned the other team inside the 1 yard line.

“The Suburbs” is the b-side compilation to “Neon Bible.”  The logical progressive regression to what the Arcade Fire are all about – pining for the days of morse code and when it would take a month to travel from Montreal to Toronto.  The Arcade Fire finally get around to morning modernity.  They got past Springsteen and moved on to post-Yankee Hotel Foxtrot Wilco.  I mourn post-YHF Wilco as well, so I get that.  They also got around to making, again, a better record than the vast majority of bands this year.  With really good songs that sprawl like the title would suggest.

 

14.  Crocodiles – “Sleep Forever”

Crocodiles are the most improved band of 2010.  By far.  Whereas their first record “Summer of Hate” was really an unlistenable mash up of feelings and moments from Echo and the Bunnymen, Joy Division, and the Jesus and Mary Chain, with like one real song on it, “Sleep Forever” took the logical step for a band like Crocodiles, and said, “fuck it,” let’s just copy those guys!  And they did.  From the opening drone and synth of ‘Mirrors,’ “Sleep Forever” proceeds to not kill your idols, but bring them out for a victory lap.  The songs are focused and pick out the best of the aforementioned influences, especially from “Automatic” era Jesus and Mary Chain.  Since I have an special place in my heart for such, Crocodiles didn’t have far to go to get me on board.  I mean, there are songs called “Stoned to Death,” “Girl in Black,” and “All My Hate and My Hexes are for You.”  That last one is probably the best.  Never be afraid to take on the Velvet Underground’s more mellow tunes.  This is the mistake Crocodiles avoid – taking on VU’s most bombastic numbers.  It’s smart, and the songs are good.

13.  No Age – “Everything in Between”


If Crocodiles hadn’t already come along and shown us their work, No Age would have the most improved record of the year.  Not by shoring up, but by tearing apart.  2008’s “Nouns” was a pretty compact and tight rock record, with a couple of stand-out hits.  “Everything” is just that.  The band seem less interested in selling you their ability to reign in the madness, and more interested in admitting that mad is what they are.  The sound is more aggressive and punk rock at times, but it is also more quiet, melodic, and brooding at other times.  This was really missing on “Nouns.”  They seem to have taken the lead from their boys in Deerhunter in that regard – trippy mixed with aggressive works.

12.  Surf City – “Kudos”

Surf City are from New Zealand.  With a name like Surf City you might expect a Jesus and Mary Chain influence.  And you’d be right.  That’s what last year’s fantastic EP adhered to almost exclusively, but with a hint that they could break out their new wave / post-punk shoes.  Was this a signal of things to come?  Yes.  And they answered in a big way with a fully realized rock record unafraid of taking on the cerebral and more “mature” song writing of Wire and Joy Division.  But yeah, more surfy.  The almost 8 minute ‘Icy Lakes’ is a stand-out and one of my favorite tracks of the year.

 

11.  The Black Angels – “Phosphene Dream”

There’s not much else I can add to the views on “Phosphene Dream.”  The fact that it’s only number 11 on my list this year is a testament to 2010, not a comment on the quality.   The Angles are known for their almost inaccessibly long and muddy psychedelia.  They did the thing that most bands shouldn’t do – take on the Velvet Underground’s big noise and try to contain it.  They did it better than anyone else has ever tried before.  And almost better than VU actually.  But on “Phosphene” they made an obvious decision to make themselves something your neighbor could listen to, and be like, wow they sound like the Doors.  Which they do.  But they also sound like 13th Floor Elevators and Pink Floyd.  With songs clocking in at 3 minutes instead of 14, they now get gigs on Letterman and a song or 2 on the radio.  But don’t be fooled.  They didn’t sell out to get airplay.  They just now do the flip-side of what naturally occurs to them, and it happens to be more accessible, and happens to sound more like a collection of singles like a box of chocolates, rather than one big chocolate cake.

See ya

 

 

 

 

 

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