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”

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Bullz-Eye’s Favorite Albums of 2010: Staff Writer Ted Asregadoo’s picks

The days of getting lost in an album have passed me by. This year, I really tried to rekindle that lost listening art of playing entire albums – instead of compiling playlists in iTunes. It hasn’t been easy. I think the ease of digitally downloading albums has dried up the sense of anticipation that used to come with a purchase of a physical copy of an album at a record store. Now, the record store is just part of the millions and billions of distractions that await you on the Internet – much of it for free.

Now, I don’t mean to go on a diatribe against the devaluation of music because of the Internet, but one thing that has occurred because of the sheer plethora of music available with one click of your mouse is a kind of ADD when it comes to listening to music. My colleague both here and at Popdose (that would be Jeff Giles) has written about it more eloquently than I can, but the sentiment is very much the same: because of the volume of music that is available in downloadable form, it’s difficult for me to form a deep connection with an entire album. If we could flash back 20 years, it would have been a different story to feature 10 albums. Nowadays, it’s rare that an entire album can hold my attention.

But, never say never, right?

What you will find here are mostly my favorite songs of 2010, but occasionally you’ll find entire albums. I know, after all that “downloadable music is ruining my attention span” crap, I say that there were some albums that really captured my attention. But like I said, I’ve tried to rekindle the art of listening to entire albums, and while I feel I’m losing that battle, I haven’t entirely lost the war. So, here we go with my top 10 of 2010!

10. Paper or Plastic, “The Honest Man”
Every now and then a link arrives in my inbox that lives up to the hype. Case in point is the New York group, Paper or Plastic, who has a kind of Ben Folds thing going on with “The Honest Man.” The song is an example of some very lovely power pop, and you’ll find yourself humming the chorus after a few listens. The band is giving away their EP Ron Save the King on their website. Get it, if only for “The Honest Man.”

9. Somebody’s Darling, “Lonely”
In my review of this album, I was upfront about my allergy to country music – even if it’s alt-country. But Somebody’s Darling has enough rock-n-roll in them to make the musical waters safe for a guy with my particular affliction. “Lonely” is by far my favorite track on the album, and it’s not difficult to hear why. The song is just one big fireball of energy with a great driving beat and some wailing guitars. But it’s the full-throated vocals from Amber Ferris that takes this song from good to great.

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Chromeo: Business Casual

RIYL: Cameo, Zapp, Hall & Oates

If you’ve ever flipped the collar on an Izod shirt, owned a pair of Bugle Boy jeans, or purchased Hall & Oates’ Rock ‘n’ Soul, Part One on cassette or vinyl, Chromeo is your custom-built funky time machine – a synthy, vocoder-soaked trip to a parallel reality where musical history stopped in 1984. It was a pretty nifty trick the first couple of times around – and their last release, 2007’s Fancy Footwork, earned them a Daryl Hall endorsement and the ironic love of an audience too young to remember Lionel Richie’s Can’t Slow Down – but most tributes to dead genres wear thin pretty quickly (see: Darkness, The). So it would be a mistake to expect similar results from their next album, right?


Maybe not. Business Casual doesn’t really add anything new to the Chromeo formula, but it doesn’t really need to – whether or not you believe P-Thugg and Dave 1 are serious, they’re really good at recreating that early ’80s vibe, to the point where you might find yourself wondering if you requested “The Right Type” on your local Top 40 station 25 years ago. Everything, from the buzzy synths to the soulful-but-not-too-soulful vocals, sounds like it’s being beamed in from a giant boom box on the planet Atari – and more importantly, the songs are as clever as they are catchy. It’s ultimately a fairly empty exercise, and if you’re old enough to remember when this sort of stuff was originally being made, it probably seems more than a little ridiculous to be witnessing a revival of something that was regarded as inherently disposable even when it was popular. What’s sillier, though: the idea of a band intentionally mimicking yacht soul, or the fact that Lil Wayne’s “Lollipop” spent five weeks at Number One?

In the long run, it’ll be interesting to see where Chromeo takes this; even the artists they’re imitating moved on eventually, never to return. But hey, if they can deliver three albums that do this much with such a paper-thin gimmick, there might not be anything they can’t do. Break out the velour and pass the cocaine. (Atlantic 2010)

Chromeo MySpace page


Me, Myself, and iPod 8/25/10: Chromeo doesn’t want to see you naked

esd ipod

Made the mistake of taking the week off after finishing the Lollapalooza recap. 200 press releases later (actually, there are still over 100 to go), here we are. The lesson appears to be ‘never go on vacation.’ Yeah, that’s just not happening.

Chromeo – Don’t Turn the Lights On (Christian Martin Remix)
We are positively dying to hear Business Casual, the new album by funk poppers Chromeo, but until then this (killer) single will have to do. This remix of the track doesn’t quite kill it like the album version, but hey, it’s free. And speaking of having the lights on…

Lights On – Red Lights Flashing
…and that’s all these bands have in common. This is more driving alt-rock a la the Killers and Airborne Toxic Event.

Kyle Andrews – You Always Make Me Smile
A.K.A. The Holiday Inn song, remixed!

Ursula – Hey You! (Shake Edit)
We’d post an mp3 of Fred Schneider reading soup recipes if we had ’em, but this guest vocal, mashed up with “Shake” by ’60s band the Shadows of Knight, will have to do.

The Gay Blades – Try to Understand
Gay as in merry, and happy. Truth be told, we don’t know if anyone in the Gay Blades is actually gay, nor do we care. As long as they churn out catchy pop rock like this, it’s all good.

Tamaryn – Love Fade
The name alone suggested some diva R&B singer, but this is anything but. More like Mazzy Star, with a pulse.

The Black Ryder – Let It Go
And while we’re in the swirly-rock groove (not sure what else to call that. Shoegazer doesn’t seem quite fitting, nor does psych rock), here’s another slow, slightly noisy tune from a band that just got a slot opening for the Cult. Huh. Can’t say I would have seen that coming based on this tune.

Brad Laner – Eyes Close
We always try to support those dedicated, sorry bastards who still believe in power pop. By all rights, this tune, with vocals that Elliott Smith would have killed for (too soon?), should find an audience. Here you go, audience. Find this, please.


Lollapalooza 2010, The Final Recap: The Headliners, some final thoughts

This year’s batch of headliners is one of the strangest groups yet. Sunday was closed by another recently reunited monster of ’90s rock (witness Lolla organizer Perry Farrell giving his band Jane’s Addiction the final slot last year), Saturday night’s lineup featured arguably the biggest band in the world, while Friday’s opener – who easily drew the biggest crowd in Lolla history – is a million-selling pop star who first dazzled one of our writers on a Lolla side stage three years ago. Is it the most “alternative” group of closers they could have assembled? Probably not, but it’s very telling in a state-of-the-biz kind of way. We’ll leave it up to you as to whether that is a good or bad thing.

Let’s begin with the, um, enders, for lack of a better (or actual) word, in our week-long recap of the events at Lollapalooza 2010.

Chromeo, Friday, adidas Stage
Chromeo is officially ready for their close-up. They made lots of friends with this show, even if most of the audience was facing south in anticipation of Lady Gaga. Their riff on “Money for Nothing” was fun (they know their audience, that’s for sure), and even better was when they used Auto-Tune to sing, Sting-style, “I want my Chromeo.” Their new single “Don’t Turn the Lights Off” is a killer, and their other new songs sounded just as good.

Lady Gaga, Friday, Parkways Foundation Stage
Watching the crowd gather for Lady Gaga was an event unto itself. Her fans – and make no mistake, there isn’t anyone in all of music with a fan base as rabidly devoted as hers, ironic or otherwise – arrived early and parked in front of the Parkways stage all day long. Girls in fishnets, guys in drag, and more kids than we’ve ever seen at Lolla. Before Chromeo had even taken the stage at the northern end of the southern stages, there was already a bigger crowd waiting for Gaga than the one Depeche Mode played to last year. And Depeche played to a big crowd. But Gaga…this was borderline ridiculous. Some may have questioned Perry’s decision to bring Gaga back, since she’s now a full-fledged pop star, but he and the rest of the Lolla organizers were clearly laughing all the way to the bank.

Photo by Dave Mead

As for the set, well, we lasted 20 minutes.

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