Bullz-Eye’s Favorite Albums of 2010: Staff Writer James Eldred’s picks

I would like to preface this list by saying that I have not yet listened to Cee-Lo Green’s new album nor Kanye West’s latest – which everyone and their mother is telling me is a freaking masterpiece. So a more apt title of this list might be “The Top 10 albums of the year that I got around to.”

1. Foxy Shazam: Foxy Shazam
If I had my way this list would have one album. That’s right, this album is so good that it is actually the 10 best albums of the year. Hell, it’s the 20 best albums of the year, and the five albums of 2009. Foxy Shazam aren’t just a band, they are a force of nature that will kick your ass, steal your lunch money and make sweet love to you all at the same time. “Count Me Out,” “Bye Bye Symphony,” “Bombs Away,” the list just goes on and on, every song on this album could be a Top 10 single. Yet somehow none of them have been. America, you’re letting me down even more than usual. There is no greater band on the planet than Foxy Shazam. They are here to take over the world and be the biggest rock stars since the Beatles. So if you all could just accept that already and buy this album now, that would be great.

2. Goldfrapp: Head First
Most artists who try to recreate that classic ’80s dance sound usually crash and burn, sounding more like a parody of the music they’re trying to replicate (Owl City springs to mind) than the real deal. But Goldfrapp pulled it off with this release, channeling the soundtrack to “Flashdance” and Olivia Newton-John’s “Physical” (in a good way!) on instantly danceable tracks like “Rocket” and “Alive.”

3. The Sword: Warp Riders
There are not enough metal bands making concept albums about intergalactic space battles. Thankfully the Sword realized this, and updated their mythology-based themes for the 21st century, changing their focus on medieval wizards and warriors to space-faring heroes and transcendental beings who traverse space and time. The fist-pounding metal that accompanies the far out narrative is pretty damn good as well.

4. Coheed & Cambria: Year of the Black Rainbow
Okay, maybe there are other bands creating concept albums about intergalactic space battles. But while the Sword is like “Aliens,” direct and to the point, Coheed & Cambria’s conclusion to their epic Armory Wars saga is like “Star Trek,” “Star Wars” and Rush’s 2112 all rolled into one incredibly overblown and bombastic delight.

5. Sleigh Bells: Treats
What is it about Brooklyn and male/female electronic duos? First Matt & Kim, and now these two. But while Matt & Kim delivered the audio equivalent of a big hug with Sidewalks, Sleigh Bells’ Treats is like a sonic punch in the face, a bizarre combination of industrial, punk and straight-up noise that is louder and more original than any other record this year.


Read the rest after the jump...

Coheed & Cambria: Year of the Black Rainbow


RIYL: Rush, Dream Theater, Queensrÿche

There have been plenty of concept albums, but Coheed And Cambria may be the world’s first concept band. All of the group’s releases to date have been installments in one epic story, a sci-fi space opera dubbed The Armory Wars. And if that wasn’t confusing enough, their debut album was actually the second part of the saga; the three albums that proceeded it told the third and fourth parts (the fourth part was in itself a two-parter). Now we finally get the first chapter with Year of the Black Rainbow.

Here’s a quick recap for the uninitiated: There’s a federation of planets called Heaven’s Fence, which are held together by an energy force called the Keywork. This system is ruled by the evil Wilhelm Ryan and the only person that can stop him is Claudio Kilgannon, the son of Coheed and Cambria Kilgannon (who also happens to share the name of the band’s lead singer Claudio Sanchez). His journey is one filled with violence, heartache and loss as he struggles to accept his fate as the messiah known as The Crowning. Oh, and at one point in the narrative focus shifts to “The Writer” who created all these characters. He’s tormented by an evil bicycle. (There is a comic book that makes all of this a little clearer…but not by much).

Coheed And Cambria

So in case your couldn’t already tell, this is prog rock. But it’s really good prog rock, and while Coheed’s lyrics aren’t exactly user-friendly, their music sure as hell is. Just like the band’s four other albums, Year of the Black Rainbow, effortlessly combines prog conventions (complex drumming, and the aforementioned lyrical insanity) with catchy pop hooks and heavy metal thunder ripped straight from ’80s power metal. And while it works well as a single work (or as one part of an even larger work), tracks like “The Broken,” “Far” and the excellent single “Here We Are Juggernaut” all stand strong as individual pieces, which is something that even a lot of the best prog rock albums can’t pull off.

It can be a little ridiculous and over the top at times, and Claudio’s distinctive Geddy Lee-esque voice will no doubt annoy some listeners to death. But if you like your rock as subtle as a punch in a face by a gorilla, then you’ll enjoy the bombastic insanity of Year of the Black Rainbow, and every other Coheed And Cambria album for that matter.

WARNING: Although all five parts of The Armory Wars records are great, listening to them back to back in narrative order will make you go insane. (Columbia 2010)


Coheed and Cambria MySpace Page

  

I’m Gonna Make You Love Me: 15 Great Bands We Used to Hate

They say that you never get a second chance to make a first impression…unless you’re a musician, of course. In what other world can you hate something with the white-hot fire of a thousand suns, only to discover one day that a switch involuntarily flipped in your head that makes you think, “You know what, I really like these guys!”? Truth be told, it happens to us nearly every day, and most of the time it’s with a band or artist that we as music reviewers are supposed to love unconditionally but, for whatever reason, we just don’t. Or at least didn’t up until recently.

Call this the companion piece to our list earlier this year of bands that we just don’t get – which was almost universally misinterpreted as a staff-wide condemnation, rather than each writer speaking for himself – only with a much more positive vibe. The Bullz-Eye writers bare their souls and confess to previous biases that have since turned to heartfelt crushes (or at the very least, tolerance of a band’s existence). The list of acquired tastes is a who’s who of Hall of Famers, critical darlings, and…Cobra Starship? Who let that guy in here?

Flaming Lips
My first exposure to the Flaming Lips was seeing the video for “She Don’t Use Jelly” on MTV’s “Beavis and Butthead” show, which immediately pegged the Lips as a novelty in my mind (and not one that I even enjoyed all that much). How could one not see novelty in a song with a character who spreads Vaseline on her toast? This was kid stuff, and yes, I could be a silly kid, but where I drew my lines of tolerance for silliness were admittedly very arbitrary (example: I unironically enjoyed Mister Ed). As such, I completely shut out the Lips.

Fast forward five years later: I was just about finished with college, working at a record store, yet still very skeptical when a respected friend and coworker slipped me an advance copy of The Soft Bulletin in 1999 (10 years ago already?). His taste was generally pretty spot on, so I gave it a shot. From the first song, I heard a completely different band, one that was drawing inspiration from one of my all-time favorites – Brian Wilson. I came around almost instantaneously upon hearing “Race for the Prize,” and even grew to dig “She Don’t Use Jelly” too. How stupid could I have been all that time? Blame it on my youth. – Michael Fortes

Guided by Voices
The buzz was loud and clear on Bee Thousand, the lo-fi masterpiece by Dayton alt-rockers Guided by Voices. This was the record that everyone positively had to own, so I borrowed it from a friend of mine…and totally didn’t get it. The songs aren’t finished! Are these demos? When lead singer Robert Pollard – whose last name should be a synonym for ‘prolific’ – saw a song to its completion, as he did on “Tractor Rape Chain,” I was definitely into it, but too many of the songs felt like piss takes to me, so I politely stayed off the bandwagon. Five years later, he made “Teenage FBI” with Ric Ocasek, which I loved, but still didn’t buy any of their records. Then they dropped Human Amusements at Hourly Rates, a compilation of Pollard’s more, ahem, finished songs, and I finally bit, and the disc scarcely left my CD player for months afterward. And then, of course, the band broke up just when I was beginning to appreciate them. Luckily, they recorded 16 albums in 17 years before calling it quits. The only question now is: which one do I start with? – David Medsker

To read the rest of “I’m Gonna Make You Love Me: 15 Great Bands We Used to Hate,” click here.

  

I Swear I’m Gonna Make You Love Me: 15 Great Bands We Used to Hate

Chances are, you don’t love all the same music you were passionate about five, 10, or 20 years ago. Some artists seem like a perfect fit for us at first, but we slowly outgrow their work — and with others, it’s just the opposite, and the stuff we couldn’t stand to listen to winds up becoming some of our favorite music. It’s a common experience among music lovers, and one shared by the Bullz-Eye music staff in a new feature called “I Swear I’m Gonna Make You Love Me: 15 Great Bands We Used to Hate.”

Taste is subjective, of course, and we have all sorts of odd reasons for being rubbed the wrong way by music, whether it’s the vocals (in his essay about coming around on Coheed & Cambria, James B. Eldred describes lead singer Claudio Sanchez as sounding like “the bastard lovechild of Geddy Lee and Neil Young”), subject matter (Michael Fortes dismissed the Flaming Lips as “kid stuff” after hearing “She Don’t Use Jelly”), or even an allergic reaction to hype (Mike Farley was tired of Kings of Leon before he even heard a note). But it’s funny how our tastes change over time — we burn out on some stuff, experience new things, and develop an appreciation for what once drove us up a wall. Hence Jason Thompson’s slow-burning love for the Velvet Underground (“Life without them now would be pointless”), Taylor Long’s hard-earned Sleater-Kinney fanhood (“I like them so much now that I’m embarrassed it took me so long to “get” them”), and Jamey Codding finally overcoming his “irrational aversion” to Tom Petty.

And those are just a few of the artists mentioned in the article. See how the Bullz-Eye staff’s tales of musical evolution match up with your own by following this link!

  

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