Sunday, December 26, 2010

The Sonic Parthenon Playlist: Autumn and the End of 2010, Part 1

Arcade Fire - The Suburbs
Every year it seems the Indie Rock world gets one representative to the big dance - the top of the charts, the Grammy awards, etc. The Arcade Fire appear to be the perennial delegate for as long as they release something. When The Suburbs debuted at number1, it arguably spelled the moment where the number one record in the country was heard - or even heard of - by the fewest number of people yet. That's the bittersweet rub in the Arcade Fire's success. And it makes tracks like "We Used To Wait" and "Month of May" ironic.

Atomic Tom - The Moment
The hard working boys in Atomic Tom hit pay dirt while yours truly was away in London being locked out of the 20-20's show in Islington. Taking advantage of modern bits of technology - namely Iphones and YouTube, the band made a video, the world went wild, and now they are living it up on the television and the charts. But they are the still the work-incensed band that was slugging it in New York City in the last couple of years.

Augustines - "Book of James"
With a flair for the dramatic and a voice to give you the shakes, this song made me think "it reminds me of the late, great Pela". Well what do ya know?! It IS Pela! Sort of. I should have recognized Billy McCarthy's voice in an instant. In fact I did. But I didn't think it was actually the man himself. Pela lives! Sort of.

The Capstan Shafts - "Quiet Wars"/Massy Ferguson - "Long Time, No See"/Poison Control Center - "Being Gone"
A trio of songs that got a lot of Ipod play that fall into a family of country/bar band mixes. The college rock anthem style of the Capstan Shafts is slightly different from the more twangy Ferguson and the jammy PCC, but together they make for a steady stream of Americana.

Cee-Lo Green - The Ladykiller
"Fuck You" - the song that dare not be named - would have been a scandal just ten or twenty years ago. Now it is an automatic hit and no one bats an eye. That's a victory. The Glee treatment was sort of a defeat (we're not on that bandwagon). The Goodie Mob half of Gnarls Barkley is still too dangerous for Ma & Pa America but he's too mainstream for Pitchfork, which makes him the King of the Sonic Parthenon Universe. If "Fuck You" wasn't enough, "Satisfied" and an unbelievably fantastic re-do of Band of Horses' "No One's Gonna Love You" bring home the bacon. If Soul Train was still going, Cee-Lo would be doing it on there, with Ben Bridwell probably helping him out.

The Colourist - "Oh Goodbye"
For a good run there, NPR's Second Stage podcast was delivering songs-to-notice as good as any of the big boy podcasts. This one sort of boggles the mind as being obscure. It is catchy, well-structured, and made for a hit. One of the best songs of the year.

The Corin Tucker Band - "Doubt"
The haunting voice of Sleater-Kinney finally got back into the mix in 2010 with a very natural record. She's sounding great and feeling great and doesn't seem to have lost any time since those first days when Sleater-Kinney made their mark. As if on cue, Carrie and Janet are now working together again as Wild Gift (with Mary Timoney no less). Could it be possible that 2011 will spell the return of...? A fella can dream can't he?

Diamond Rings - "Something Else"/The Hundred in the Hands - "Commotion"
The 80's are back. They've been back for a few years now. In fact, they are too back. Synthesizers are as prominent now as they were when George Michael and Mister Mister were breaking hearts (god help us). Throw in the auto-tune for good measure, and it appears the robot dystopia has finally come to pass. But it's not all doom and gloom. These two songs reflect what works. The Diamond Rings song has that dark side of the New Order tone to it, with a revved up rift to boot. Hundred in the Hands are building a lot of momentum, taking more of the club tack that Ladyhawke rolled with last year - in other words, the lighter side of the New Order tome.

Eliza Doolittle - "Skinny Genes"
A sweeter, friendlier spin on the saucy British ingenue, Eliza Doolittle has a nice, almost too-catchy, too-sweet ditty here. But this isn't what matters. What matters is getting her and Holly Golightly together for a tour.

Fight From Above - "Between The Curves"
Another NPR Second Stage winner - from a concept album about the City of Angels.

Fol Chen - "In Ruins"
If I was to think of what constitutes the music a trendy hipster would listen to in 2010, this is it. Making use of samples (including, yes, 80's samples), bubblegum pop melody, and a sassy female voice, what's missing? Feedback and distortion? I realize I am actually trashing all of this - but I still like this song.

Grinderman - Grinderman 2
The Fall of 2010 belonged to Grinderman, unopposed. With an album that actually sounded good from beginning to end, and a live show that spanked you red, it all seemed to flow easy and inevitably from the delirious "Heathen Child" video. After the smart roll-out, the sequel to 2007's glorious effort upped the ante with the best kick-off song in years - "Mickey Mouse and the Goodbye Man" - a twisted slice akin to the first half of From Dusk till Dawn. As if that wasn't enough, "Worm Tamer" nailed it (especially as done by Warren on the Jools Holland program), "Evil" almost made Howlin' Wolf's song of the same name seem angelic, and "Halls of Montezuma" almost sounded from the U2 mold except in that much more derelict Cave sense of things.

Gross Relations - "You Don't Know Me"
While others are trying to sound 80's, this act is going for more 70's power pop. In fact, this song could be a dead ringer for Bowie's "Heroes".

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