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...

The Hours: It’s Not How You Start, It’s How You Finish


RIYL: Pulp, Coldplay, The Wonder Stuff

To call It’s Not How You Start, It’s How You Finish a debut album is technically true, but a bit misleading. In truth, it’s a Franken-album, culling the best moments from the Hours’ first two, import-only albums, 2006’s Narcissus Road and 2009’s See the Light, plus one new track (two if you buy the deluxe edition). Still, debut* album or not, it’s a doozy, filled with sky-high chorus after sky-high chorus, gorgeous octave-jumping piano lines and one of the most optimistic lyric books you’ll find outside of Christian pop (or Howard Jones). On the opening track “Ali in the Jungle,” better known here as the soundtrack to Nike’s “Human Chain” ad, speaks of how “everybody gets knocked down / How quick are you gonna get up?” In “These Days,” singer Antony Genn (think Miles Hunt of the Wonder Stuff, with better pipes) advises us, “If there’s ever a time we need to come together, the time is now.” In “Icarus,” he opines that “If you don’t shoot, then you don’t score.” They’re not deep statements, but they resonate in conjunction with the music.

The_Hours_04

The band admittedly runs at two main speeds. There are the upbeat, chugging skyscrapers like “Big Black Hole,” “Narcissus Road” and “Ali in the Jungle,” and there are the showstopping ballads like “Back When You Were Good” (a very gutsy song title in a snarky world) and the splendid “Come On.” The big exception to this is the closer “See the Light,” a slow-building, two-chord track in the vein of Pulp’s “Common People.” It’s arguably the best song here, though a thousand lashes to the person who decided to edit it down from its original seven-minute glory. This is beautiful stuff across the board, but a quick note to Genn: the people most likely to buy your music probably have kids, so let’s cut back a bit on the ‘F’ bombs, shall we? It’s unbecoming. (Adeline 2010)

The Hours MySpace page

  

The Hours: Ali in the Jungle EP


RIYL: The Wonder Stuff, The Verve, Pulp

We love when good things happen to good bands. The Hours quietly released one of 2009’s finest albums with the sky-high See the Light, and someone at Nike clearly took notice, because the band’s 2006 single “Ali in the Jungle” just scored the company’s recent “human chain” ad, which ran roughly one kajillion times during the Winter Olympics. The song is a killer, with one of those instantly memorable choruses that will serve as the soundtrack for sports montages for generations to come. “Everybody gets knocked down / How quick are you gonna get up?” challenges singer Antony Genn in his Miles Hunt-like tenor, complemented by a punchy piano riff. The EP is short, a mere four tracks – and one of those tracks is an orchestral version of the title track – hence the mere three-and-a-half-star rating, but perhaps they are planning a more proper US release for See the Light later in the year (one song from the album, “These Days,” can be found here), after its brief availability as a download last year. One can only hope, anyway. British pop fans, get this while the getting is good. (Hickory Records 2010)

The Hours MySpace page
Click to buy Ali in the Jungle from Amazon

  

The Hours: See the Light

They would surely bristle at the idea that their songs are of the throwback variety, but the simple fact is that there aren’t many, if any, bands writing the kind of music that propels See the Light, the magnificent new album by UK duo (or is it septet?) the Hours. Singer Antony Genn’s phrasing recalls Wonder Stuff frontman Miles Hunt (though Genn is a much better singer), and the songs are flat-out skyscrapers, gorgeous piano-driven epics that put the ‘wide’ in widescreen. “Come On” uses seven words to create one of the catchiest choruses you’ll hear this year, while the seven-minute title track is a brilliant, two-chord slow burner, like a mid-tempo version of Pulp’s “Common People” (which is fitting, since Genn is a Pulp alumnus). There is a lyrical gaffe here and there – “The Girl Who Had the World at Her Feet” opens with the line “The cash cow is heading for the slaughterhouse,” ugh – but such bits come with the territory, and their damage is minimal. Don’t be surprised if these guys become a very big deal in a very short amount of time. (IsGoodLtd 2009)

The Hours MySpace page
Click to buy See the Light

  

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