Bullz-Eye’s Favorite Albums of 2010: Senior Editor David Medsker’s picks

Having children has had a profound impact on my musical tastes. Will it make them cry? Will it teach them naughty words? Will it bore them? Then it doesn’t get played around the house, which has resulted in my sharp turn towards the poppier side of modern. And really, once you’ve seen your three-year-old completely lose his shit when hearing a song with a chorus of “Na, na na na, na na na, na na na na na na na,” it’s hard to push anything on him that doesn’t come armed to the teeth with the pop hooks. Mind you, I think the Ramones are a pop band too, so I’m painting with a pretty broad brush here. But make no mistake – these bands are pop bands, of varying stripes and shapes. If you fancy yourself a hipster, you’d be best to move on and check out one of the other writers’ lists. I gave up being hip a couple years ago, and let me tell you: it’s extremely liberating.

Note: Some of the notes at the end of the write-ups will offer suggestions of which songs to check out. Others actually offer the songs. If you see “Click here for a free download…”, those songs are on our server, meaning you won’t be dragged off to some site that asks you to give up your email address for a song. These puppies all come with no strings attached, so please download away.

Top 10 Albums of 2010

1. Mark Ronson: Record Collection
Ahhhhhh. If I get to heaven, this is what the radio station will sound like. Tasteful drum beats paired with even tastier synth tracks, highlighted by brilliantly chosen guest contributors from Q-Tip and D’Angelo to Simon Le Bon and a devastating performance by Boy George. Definitely gonna ride this bike until we get home.
Download these: “The Bike Song,” “Somebody to Love Me,” “Record Collection”

2. Hey Champ: Star
I’m a sucker for any band that justifies my love for New Order and the Buggles, and this Chicago trio threw down synth pop/rock that, in an ideal world, would have Passion Pit opening for them, not the other way around.
Click here for a free download of Hey Champ’s “Neverest”
Click here for a free download of Hey Champ’s “Cold Dust Girl”

3. Prefab Sprout: Let’s Change the World with Music
Man, what a sweet surprise this was. Originally scheduled to be the follow-up album to 1990’s Jordan: The Comeback, the album was scrapped despite Prefab leader Paddy McAloon already finishing studio-quality demo versions of every song. Eighteen years later, the songs finally see the light of day, and the result is instant nostalgia. He supposedly has dozens more albums on his shelves from the same period. Please don’t make us wait 18 years for the next one, Paddy.
Download these: “Let There Be Music,” “Ride,” “God Watch Over You”

4. The Hours: It’s Not How You Start, It’s How You Finish
This one is knocked down a few rungs on a technicality, in that it’s a Franken-album consisting of the best songs from the band’s two UK-only releases. But hot damn, are those songs good. Shimmering, sky-high, piano-driven pop that addresses the darkness in people’s lives but strives for hope and change. No wonder Nike used one of these songs for their unforgettable “Human Chain” ad earlier this year. Favorite lyric: “I can understand how someone can go over to the dark side, ’cause the Devil, he’s got all the tunes.”
Download these: “See the Light,” “Big Black Hole,” “Come On”

The Hours – “See The Light” 2010 Edit from Adeline Records on Vimeo.

5. The Silver Seas: Chateau Revenge
I’m still pissed about this one. I got a sneak peek of the record months before its release because our publicist is tight with the band. We played the daylights out of it, and couldn’t wait to sing its praises when it came out in April…only April never happened. Then it was July, and when it came out, the damn thing was buried. Why, why, why? Not enough irony or cynicism? I see no reason why the Shins can sell millions while the Silver Seas still toil in obscurity. The phrase ‘criminally underrated’ was written about bands like this.
Click here for a free download of the Silver Seas’ “The Best Things in Life”


Read the rest after the jump...

Me, Myself, and iPod 4/14/10: Amanda Palmer, the blowjob queen

esd ipod

Big, big, big selection of free downloads this week. Let’s get to it, before any more songs show up.

Teenage Fanclub – Baby Lee
If your first impulse when you saw the words ‘Teenage Fanclub’ was to say something snarky like “They’re still making records?” – or worse, “Who’s Teenage Fanclub?” – may we suggest keeping your fool mouth shut and giving this tune a listen. They’re not as in love with the feedback as they were in their Bandwagonesque days, but this golden slice of sunny guitar pop has medicinal powers that those Jamba Juice energy boosts can only dream of.

Amanda Palmer – Do You Swear to Tell the Truth the Whole Truth and Nothing but the Truth So Help Your Black Ass
“When I was seventeen, I was a blowjob queen, picking up tips from the masters / I was so busy perfecting my art, I was clueless to what they were after / Now I’m still a blowjob queen, far more selectively / I don’t make love now to make people love me / But I don’t mind sharing my gift with the planet / We’re all gonna die, and a blowjob’s fantastic.” Note to self: arrange a meeting with Amanda Palmer.

Olney Clark – Tea and Thunderstorms
The orchestral pop market has been positively flooded with sensitive minstrels…really, really sensitive minstrels, if you know what we mean. (Most of them are sissies, all right?) This track from Olney Clark, a duo comprised of a Scot and a Yank, gets the balance just right. And better yet, it’s available in Amazon’s download store, even though the album is still only available as an import. Better move fast, though: those imports tend to get delisted pretty quickly.

Kate Miller-Heidke – Politics in Space
Take the drum beat from Johnny Cash’s “God’s Gonna Cut You Down” and give it to KT Tunstall’s well-read older sister, and this is what it would sound like. Love those lower register background vocals, and the stinging indictment, “The ’60s were 50 years ago, you know.” True, dat.

Emanuel and the Fear – Dear Friends
ELO, kiddies. And unlike Cheap Trick, we mean the pun in that first sentence, because any Lynnephiles will instantly take to this nifty piece of baroque pop.

Charlie Faye – Whirlwind
We will readily admit to approaching modern-day country with a healthy dose of skepticism; that country-pop stuff feels like a wolf in sheep’s clothing to us, which is why we’re happy to see someone like Charlie Faye come along. Her voice is weathered (yes, Charlie is a girl) but not whiskey-soaked, and she’s mounting a rather ambitious tour where she’ll spend a month in each city, form a band, play a show, and then move on to the next stop. We still haven’t heard her debut album Wilson St., but if it’s anything like “Whirlwind,” we’re sure going to check it out.

Echo & the Bunnymen – Proxy
As much as we love when the band takes the occasional detour into mellow groove territory like 1999’s What Are You Going to Do with Your Life, they’re at their best when they reach for the rafters. This song, from their album The Fountain, doesn’t scale the frenzied heights of songs like “Do It Clean,” but good luck getting that piano riff out of your head.

Codeiene Velvet Club – Hollywood
This swinging side project of Fratellis frontman Jon Fratelli is still in power rotation. A boy/girl album of songs that recall ’60s-era Hollywood, this shows that the Fratellis’ last album may not have hit the mark, but don’t write them off yet. Indeed, Codeine Velvet Club might be Fratelli’s finest moment yet.

Ex Norwegian – Fresh Pit
This Miami trio casually sent us a friend request on MySpace last week, and proceeded to knock our guitar pop socks off. We asked if they would send us their last album (they’re currently working on a new one), they did, and we were amazed at the band’s versatility. This tune should pacify those jonesing for Band of Horses’ upcoming album.

Deer Tick – Twenty Miles
Is it just us, or did about a dozen Deer bands hit the scene at the exact same time? Whatever the timing, there will be no mistaking Deer Tick from the rest of the pack after hearing this track from their upcoming album The Black Dirt Sessions. Singer John McCauley sounds like David Gray crossed with James Hetfield, and the band’s blend of Southern Gothic will have Joseph Arthur pissing with envy. Good stuff, this.

  

Codeine Velvet Club: Codeine Velvet Club


RIYL: The New Pornographers, Nancy Sinatra, John Barry

Here’s the awful truth about life as a musician: when they’re not recording, touring, shooting a video, or doing press – in other words, when they’re not acting like a musician – they get bored, really quickly. It only took Jon Fratelli, lead singer and guitarist from Scottish trio the Fratellis, a couple days of down time after a lengthy tour commitment to get the itch, and before he knew it, we was recording an entire album of ’60s-styled boy/girl pop with a friend of his wife.

Codeiene_Velvet_Club_01

All people should be so productive at the brink of exhaustion; the resulting collaboration, Codeine Velvet Club, is a swinging collection of soundtrack music for an imaginary film. (Think Madonna’s I’m Breathless, only cooler, and ballsier.) Fratelli’s partner, chanteuse-in-the-making Lou Hickey, is like a poor man’s Neko Case, but the imperfections of her voice work in her favor more often than not. (Contrary to what the suits would have you believe, personality matters just as much as technique, if not more.) The vampy “Vanity Kills” slinks like a film noir femme fatale, and the charging “I Would Send You Roses” has an unforgettable, if breathless, chorus. Two showstopping ballads anchor the album’s middle, as “Nevada” and “Reste Avec Moi” could both pass for lost Bacharach compositions. The cheeky bastards even did a period-piece cover of the Stone Roses’ “I Am the Resurrection”; amazingly, that works, too.

Codeine Velvet Club is a most pleasant surprise, especially considering it comes hot on the heels of Fratelli’s underwhelming sophomore effort. There’s a statement in here somewhere about how it took a couple Scots to make a good old-fashioned American pop record, but we’re not really in the mood to point fingers – we’re just glad someone still remembers how it’s done. (Dangerbird 2010)

Codeine Celvet Club MySpace page
Click to buy Codeine Velvet Club from Amazon

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