Bullz-Eye’s Top Ten Music Moments of 2010: Staff Writer Rob Smith’s Picks

In my mind, 2010 will be remembered more for moments of strangeness, oddity, and lessened expectation, than it will be for transcendent music. The throwaway nature of pop has never been more transient or incidental; technology enables us to hear as much as we want and, by the sheer volume of those possibilities, to actively listen as little as we ever have. How else to explain Ke$ha and the Glee cast recordings, much less the continuing nonsense of Black Eyed Peas? Raise your hand if you think Bruno Mars or Rihanna are still going to be churning out hits ten years from now, or that Katy Perry (more about her below) will still be squeezing into latex after she and her pasty Brit hubby have two or three little Russells to contend with, and things start saggin’.

I will remember 2010 for several key moments:

Top 10 Music Moments of 2010

1. The Roots, Being the Roots. Are they the best band on the planet? It’s hard to argue when their versatility is put on display every weeknight, and when they reiterate their overall excellence by turning out two of the best records of the year (How I Got Over and Wake Up, with John Legend).

2. Dio, Chilton Die. We lost metal’s gentle sorcerer (Ronnie James Dio) and Big Star’s genius-in-residence (Alex Chilton) within a few months of one another. May they both rock in peace.


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Bullz-Eye’s Best of 2010: Staff Writer Scott Malchus’ picks

Each year, when I sort through my favorite songs, I have trouble ranking them because each one has a different meaning to me. I always wind up creating a mixtape (or a playlist, for you younger readers) of those songs and arrange them so that the music flows like a great album or concert set. Without further ado, here’s my mix of the twenty songs I returned to for repeated listens throughout 2010.

“Fade Like a Shadow,” KT Tunstall
Tunstall continues to produce pop gems that are spirited, bright and full of life. This single from her latest, Tiger Suit, has everything you want in a single: a passionate delivery, a great melodic hook, and a unique rhythm that helps it stand out from other songs. A great way to kick off a mix tape.

“I Should Have Known It,” Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers
The lead single from Mojo has that vintage Petty snarl and bite. The rest of the album may be a mixed bag, but this great rocker builds to kick-ass guitar jam and stands up with some of their best.


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Crowded House: The Very Very Best of Crowded House


RIYL: The Beatles, The Everly Brothers, Squeeze

Picking songs for a Crowded House compilation is a fool’s errand. The British press was only slightly kidding when they said that Neil Finn pisses genius; the first three albums he made as Crowded House after dissolving his brother Tim’s band Split Enz in 1984 (Tim had left the band earlier that year) are about as perfect as pop records get, and the band’s fourth album, 1994’s Together Alone, is pretty damned good, too. This compilation, the second attempt to condense the band’s best work to a single disc, has an even harder task in that it includes tracks from the band’s fifth album, 2007’s Time on Earth. Five good to great albums, sliced and diced to one disc, and it’s supposed to be the very, very best of the band.

Nope.

Still, The Very Very Best of Crowded House is no misfire either, since it would have been filled with beautiful, haunting melodies and Finn’s trademark lyrical paranoia regardless of which songs had made the cut and which ones had been forsaken. But at this stage in the game, this is a two-disc affair no matter how you slice it, and as luck would have it, Capitol has released a two-disc version of this set as well. For newbies, that is the way to go, as the single-disc version of this set is simply missing too many great – and nearly all of the upbeat – moments. The band’s first two albums are reduced to a mere four songs, only one of which came from the criminally underrated Temple of Low Men (1988). Together Alone and 1991’s Woodface, meanwhile, account for over half of the songs here. Perhaps they chose to favor the later material of the Capitol years in order to keep the set more in step with the band’s recent work, but doing so makes for the most dour collection of the Capitol years that one could assemble.

The Very Very Best of Crowded House is a four-star collection of a five-star catalog. Go for the two-disc set instead; it costs more, but with the addition of “Hole in the River,” “World Where You Live,” “Now We’re Getting Somewhere,” “Into Temptation,” “Whispers and Moans” and “I Feel Possessed,” that set opens doors to the band’s work that the single-disc set doesn’t even acknowledge. This is good, but more – and more balance – would have been better. (Capitol 2010)

Crowded House MySpace page
Click to buy The Very Very Best of Crowded House from Amazon
Click to buy The Very Very Best of Crowded House (Two-Disc set) from Amazon

  

Steal This Song: Destroyer, “Chinatown”

For the last five years, there has never been any question that when it came to the songwriting powers that be behind the New Pornographers, I am a Carl Newman guy. It’s not that I disliked Dan Bejar’s stuff – “Jackie, Dressed in Cobras” is still my fave – but his songs never scaled the dizzy heights of pure pop tunes like “Sing Me Spanish Techno,” “The Bleeding Heart Show,” “Stacked Crooked” and “These Are the Fables.”

You’ll notice that I only listed songs from the New Pornographers’ 2005 album Twin Cinema. That’s because I’ve been largely underwhelmed by the band’s work since then. And it appears that Bejar is ready to take advantage of my wavering loyalties.

Armed with yet another album under his day job Destroyer (his tenth in 15 years), the band’s new album Kaputt, set for release in January, might surprise some people. Bejar forsakes his usual disjointed pop for something more casual, like he’s been listening to a lot of ’80s-era Bryan Ferry (which he cops to in the press release), and perhaps even Al Stewart. It seems an odd match on paper, but his voice is actually well suited for the genre, and the tunes he came up with are gorgeous. We’ve been given permission to share the album’s opening track, “Chinatown,” and it’s a must for anyone who digs the Blue Nile, China Crisis, and their ilk. Dig in.

Destroyer – Chinatown

  

Mt. Desolation: Mt. Desolation


RIYL: The Thrills, The Pogues, The Lilac Time

If you had asked us what we expected the next move to be from Keane after they released their fourth album Night Train in May of this year, our gut response would have been “lengthy hiatus, followed by announcement of signing with new, smaller label.” Don’t get us wrong, we love the boys from Battle, but the release of Night Train, coming so quickly on the heels of the band’s 2008 album Perfect Symmetry, looked for all intents and purposes like they were trying to fulfill their contractual obligations to Interscope and move on. Consider this: Night Train was designated EP status in their native England. Here, it’s a full-fledged long-player. Hmmm.

Mt_Desolation_01

Keane may very well be going on a lengthy hiatus, but two of its members have already cranked out their first side project, which makes it their third album in two years: Mt. Desolation, a collection of, wait for it, country songs, filtered through their English sensibilities. It’s country in the same way that the Thrills are West Coast pop, but Mt. Desolation is a charming album just the same. Rice-Oxley and Quin don’t have the booming voice of their bandmate Tom Chaplin, but their voices actually suit these songs better, though it would be nice to hear Chaplin take a whack at the Keane-ish “Bitter Pill” somewhere down the road. The album has its share of drinking songs (“My My My”) and shit-kickers (“Annie Ford,” “Platform 7”), and while it’s clear that country music is more of a hobby than a lifestyle for those involved, it’s also clear that these songs come from the heart, making this a more honest country record than most country records. Writing a song that could pass for a B-side to Beck’s Sea Change (“Another Night”) doesn’t hurt, either. This is one side project that we’d like to see grow some legs. (Cherry Tree/Interscope 2010)

Mt. Desolation MySpace page
Click to buy Mt. Desolation from Amazon

  

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