Bullz-Eye’s Favorite Albums and Songs of 2010: Associate Editor Will Harris’s picks

I don’t even know why I’m here, frankly. I think it’s pretty well documented that all I do these days is write about television and interview people ’til the cows come home. Once upon a time, though, I used to be a music critic, dammit…and once you’ve had opinions about music, you’ll always have opinions about music. As such, here are my thoughts on the albums and songs that grabbed me this year. This may be the first time I’ve actually written about most of them, but you can damn well be sure that I’ve spent plenty of time listening to them.

Favorite Albums

1. Tom Jones: Praise & Blame
It’s a pretty consistent tradition that my #1 slot on my Best Albums list of any given year belongs to an artist whose career I’ve followed for quite some time, but Sir Tom earned his spot fair and square. Kicking things off with a stark cover of Bob Dylan’s “What Good Am I?” which will leave listeners spellbound, the Welsh wonder goes gospel with this record, and while it’s admittedly not the sort of career move that generally results in the shifting of mass units, it’s a creative success, one which befits a man entering his seventies far more than, say, another retread of “Sexbomb.” Having already secured legendary status (not to mention a knighthood), our man Tom can afford to step outside of people’s perceptions, and for those who’ve been paying attention, that’s what he’s been doing for the past several albums, including 2008’s 24 Hours and his 2004 collaboration with Jools Holland. But while Praise & Blame is a continuation of an existing trend, it’s also arguably the first time Jones has made absolutely no commercial concessions. There’s no wink-and-a-nudge cover of “200 Lbs. of Heavenly joy.” There’s no song by Bono and the Edge nor uber-hip production from Future Cut. There’s just Tom Jones, age 70…and, by God, he’s still got it.

2. Glen Matlock & The Philistines: Born Running
It isn’t as though it’s surprising that John Lydon’s the member of the Sex Pistols who’s gone on to have the most successful solo career – he was, after all, the frontman for the group – but it continues to be equally eyebrow-raising that so few of the band’s fans have kept their ears open for the consistently solid material emerging from Glen Matlock‘s camp. It’s not quite as punk as the Pistols – which makes perfect sense if you believe the story about Matlock supposedly getting the boot from the band for liking the Beatles a bit too much – but the songs on Born Running still pack a fierce wallop.

3. Brian Wilson: Reimagines Gershwin
The older I get, the less I allow myself to feel guilty about enjoying an album that I could easily peddle to people my grandparents’ age. All things considered, I’d much rather have a full collection of new originals from Mr. Wilson, but the way he takes these Gershwin classics and arranges them to match his traditional sound is still music to my ears. Then, of course, there’s the added bonus that he’s taken on the task of completing a couple of previously-unfinished Gershwin songs. Unsurprisingly, they sound just like Brian Wilson compositions…not that there’s anything wrong with that. At all.

4. Farrah: Farrah
There’s Britpop, and then there’s power pop, but you don’t tend to find bands who can manage to comfortably keep a foot in both camp; I’d argue that Farrah succeeds at this task, but given that they don’t have a particularly high profile in either, I suppose it really all depends on how you define success. For my part, though, if an artist releases an album which contains a significant number of catchy-as-hell hooks, it’s top of the pops in my book, which means that this self-titled entry into their discography is yet another winner for Farrah.

Read the rest of this entry »


The Posies: Blood/Candy

RIYL: Big Star, Matthew Sweet, the Foo Fighters

The Posies deliver their first album since 2005 here, and it’s a mixed bag. There’s a handful of songs that rival the Seattle-rooted band’s best work on Frosting on the Beater, their 1993 alternative-era classic. Big melodic hooks, vintage gear, soaring vocals with depth, rich harmonies; these are great to hear in 2010. But there are other songs where it sounds like band leaders Jon Auer and Ken Stringfellow couldn’t agree on which direction to go, and fused competing ideas together in odd ways that don’t quite gel. Either that or some of their mutual ideas were just weird. There’s an admirable effort at musical sophistication, but their best tunes tend to be the ones that keep it simple because these guys write really great hooks.


The first three songs all feature guest vocalists, but in subtle fashion. “Plastic Paperbacks” uses some low-end vocals from punk legend Hugh Cornwall of the Stranglers. It’s more of an embellishment than a major factor in the mid-tempo track, based around a melodic piano part and some atmospheric guitar. It feels like a bit of a misfire. But “The Glitter Prize,” featuring Kay Hanley from Letters to Cleo, is a tune with the classic Posies sound. It’s upbeat with layered guitars, a groovy bass line and infectious vocals. It’s too bad that Hanley is buried so deep in the mix, because this power pop gem is the best song on the album. Lisa Lobsinger from Broken Social Scene is a guest on the Beatlesque “Licenses to Hide,” but the tune sounds like Lennon and McCartney had an argument while writing the song and neither would budge (the Lennon-esque parts are better).

“So Caroline” gets back to the melodic rocking that the Posies do so well. “Take Care of Yourself” is another good one in a similar vein, but goes in a bluesier direction. “Cleopatra Street” mixes in some heavier guitar sounds and has some interesting psychedelia, but feels disjointed. “For the Ashes” brings in some Sgt. Pepper psychedelic vocal effects, but doesn’t really soar. “Accidental Architecture” is all over the place. It probably felt very creative in the studio, but it won’t likely last long in the band’s live repertoire.

“She’s Coming Down Again” has the band’s upbeat sound, but with some darker lyrics about a girl’s apparent drug problem. “Notion 99” is a dynamic tune with big drums and various sonic counterpoints, but seems like it would benefit from some thicker guitars. “Holiday Hours” never really gets going, but “Enewtak” closes the album with some majestic rock momentum. It’s too bad the album couldn’t have been a little more consistent, but you can’t really fault the band for seeking to experiment instead of just re-hashing a tried and true formula. It’s a fine line, but the bottom line is that it’s still great to hear Auer and Stringfellow working together again. (Rykodisc 2010)

The Posies MySpace page


Me, Myself, and iPod 8/11/10: Column

esd ipod

Pulling a Public Image Ltd. with the title this week, and here’s why: the week after Lollapalooza is death. Must do full-length recaps, find pictures, etc. Meanwhile, all of the other aspects of the job that I could leave behind in Chicago are waiting impatiently for me (movies, interviews, etc.). So this is going to be an admittedly half-assed column. I don’t even have time for descriptions. But hey, free music is free music, right? All right, here’s your free music.

The Posies – Licenses to Hide

PVT – The Quick Mile

Sebastien Teller – Look

Infantree – Euphemism

Juliette Commagere – Impact


Related Posts