And The Hits Just Keep On Comin': January 2011

And The Hits Just Keep On Comin'

A Music Journal Collective Effort

Monday, January 24, 2011

TOP 10 OF'10
The Albums That Round Out A Decade

So maybe it's pretty unoriginal to release a list of the top 10 albums
of the year but seeing as we are now in a new decade (yes - a
decade actually passed by us in the early 2000's somehow, amidst
awful and gaudy rumours about Y2K and armageddon and the
nomination of a Black president) and as 2011 spins its wheels,
it's good to pause and reflect on 2010 and the music that made
a decade.

 10. Bruce Springsteen - Working On A Dream

Though it's a little over-produced and too slick for even Bruce
at times, this album still captures the heart of a working man
musician. Teaming up with drum-master and massive mogul
producer Brendan O'Brien (of Pearl Jam and Stone Temple
Pilots fame), Springsteen found familiarity in these songs
and although starting an album with an 8 minute track called
'Outlaw Pete' is a bit lofty and chest-puffing, it still works
(and it's a great song). (*note - this is really a 2009 record
but it's close enough.)

9. Neil Young - Le Noise

Having truthfully only given this album a few quick spins, it
is something of a masterpiece of 'laissez-faire' in the sense that
Neil, (with another mega-producer and friend - Daniel Lanois)
after wanting to record only acoustic guitar, decided he'd better
try out mic'ing up a few amps at the same time while playing
a range of dirty and clean electric tracks on top. The result is
work of the ages. Oh yeah - and due to a superstitious belief
by Neil, this album was only ever recorded on nights with a
full moon. Amazing. Still - I miss the drums.

8. Broken Social Scene - Forgiveness Rock Record
Yeah, yeah. It's good. Listening to this record begs one of those
reactions you hope you don't have, but come on - with guest
appearances from Spiral Stairs (Pavement) and production from
Chicago sonic-god John McEntire (The Sea And Cake, Tortoise),
it's almost impossible to not get into this work at some level. Most
cutting about this album (as opposed to past BSS works of
bleeding soundscape abysses) is the fact that all of the vocals
are clearly mixed and words can actually be heard. It's like
they're saying something! And they are - Themes of problematic
environmental ignorance (World Sick) and corrupt oil barons
(Texico Bitches) flood the imagery and make this album one
for the books and Canning, Drew, Whiteman and newcomer
Lisa Lobsinger show both their individuality and powerhouse

7. Daniel, Fred & Julie - Daniel, Fred & Julie

Technically, this was a December of 2009 release, but it was so
good that it couldn't be left off this list. Recorded in the garage of
ex-Shotgun And Jaybird leader Fred Squire, Daniel Romano
(of Attack In Black) and Julie Doiron (of indie-rock pioneers
Eric's Trip and Can-rock goddess) and Fred make a trio of vocal
and acoustic-folk songwriting perfection. Totally devoid of any
pretense, this album is a bare-bones work in a day and age of
slick production that takes the listener on an essential musical
ride of heartbreak and hope. With no percussion, the vocals
soar above a delicate mosaic of finger-picking and strummy
soul. 'Hallelujah, I'm A Bum' celebrates the sloven feeling of
being jobless as Doiron's graceful vocals take you into a new
and angelic dimension while 'The Gambler And His Bride'
kicks off the record with one of the finest songs written by
anyone in the past decade, showcasing all of their unique
vocal tones together in a woeful tale. A record for the ages
that shines in simplicity and strength.

6. Bruce Springsteen - The Promise

Yes - 2010 may have well been the Year Of Bruce. Complete,
resolute and finite, 'The Promise' (which was originally slated
for release in 2008) is a Springsteen record that syncs up with
Born In The USA in both feel and ambition. Comprised from
the guts of some UK sessions called 'Darkness On The Edge
Of Town', these songs belt out in a way that cries for old times,
lost loves and open roads. Kicking off the record is 'Racing
In The Street ('78)' with a wailing harmonica that screams
and almost bends in and out of tune at times as the piano and
organ set a backdrop for Bruce's pleas 'Tonight, tonight...
we're going racing in the street'. Bruce's ability to capture the
heart of the city-smog working man is a gift that shines out
clearer in this record than ever before. Even the sombre but
charging 'Wrong Side Of The Street' shows a bright-power in
a face of darkness. 17 songs that all work well is something
that doesn't come along often - make sure you give this one
some spins.

5. Sarah Harmer - Oh Little Fire

Sarah Harmer is always that good. When I listen to her songs, I
want to sit on a shag carpet with her and drink brandy on a
winter afternoon while she plays her guitar and sings in the
backdrop of my day. As an album that she wanted to make that
revolved around the highway and driving, it is definitely a
power-pop rock trip that must not be missed. Glowy tracks
like 'The City' and 'Captive' make you glad that Sarah picked
her electric guitar back up and re-discovered her driving rock
side. Most captive-ating (catch the pun?) about this record is
the fact that every song could be a radio hit in listenability,
structure, and the recurring theme of moving from town to
town, commuting or going wherever you need to go on the
ever-expanding pavement. Next time, we can only hope miss
Harmer doesn't take so long between albums!

4. Silver Speakers - Iceland

Even though I help run a record label with this guy, I don't care.
This record is one for the books, no matter who you are and what
your biases are. In a prolonged songwriting drought, Tyrone
Warner planned a trip to Iceland to see the volcano
Eyjafjallajokull. It erupted last year, causing massive media
hysteria and annoyance for travelers around the globe as the
dense ash clouded the atmosphere for weeks. Being only a few
kilometres away from the eruption site, Tyrone found a creative
spark that penned and fueled these songs in an insane rush.
Silver Speakers (Tyrone's moniker) is a man who cares about
his craft and who thinks intensely about that which he releases
into the public eye. 'Iceland' is the ultimate
platform for his finest work to date with charging synths,
electro-beats and echoing vocals that seem to crash against
each in a caffeine-inspired, driving pulse. Get this in your
headphones today.

3. Jim Bryson & The Weakerthans - The Falcon Lake Incident

Come on, folks. It's Jim Bryson and the Weakerthans, for pete
sake! Recorded in a cabin in the snowy wilderness of Falcon
Lake Manitoba, the careening tone of Bryson's guitar-leads and
finger picks are enough to butter the dry toast of our music-
needing souls. Backed by The Weakerthans (but not in a
Weakerthans sort of way but in a way that exemplifies Jim's brand
of lyrically thrusted, soul-power-pop and highway-drive-rock),
Jim has never shone more clearly in his focus, sound and lyrical
themes of touring the country as a sideman and writing his own
songs - all the while being away from a young family and
the self discovery that lies therein. Jim is a master of guitar tone
and songwriting and this record should not be missed as The
Weakerthans do a perfect job of setting a sonic stage for Jim
to strut his stuff upon.

2. Arcade Fire - The Suburbs

You knew it was coming. Deal with it, bitches. The band
that everyone loves to hate due to their quick popularity released
another album but this is their best album to date. Internet nerds,
bitter critics and Pitchfork writers will shake their fists and
scowl at the heavens over such a claim - but it's true. In their
first two offerings, let's be honest - AF didn't really know what
the fuck they were doing. There was sentiment (in the U2-esque,
memory-lane, brit-pop, Clayton-bass-driving feel of 'Funeral')
and there was backlash (in the middle finger to conservative
press in the horrific stories of 'Neon Bible') but now - NOW
there is an album. Focusing on the growing years of Win and
William Butler who grew up in the 'burbs of Houston, this album
is full of swelling anthems and desires for something beyond
what is known. Heavy beats and hard-edged guitar riffs (and
a great focus on guitar sounds that was absent on the
first two cinematic & washy records) lay the foundation for
a Win, Regine and the rest of the team. Their best yet.

1. The New Pornographers - Together

Grinding cellos blast the first notes of this album into a sound
stratosphere beyond this world, crossing the ethereal plane,
and igniting the pleasure centers of the brain. While the critical
world is unsure of what to think of TNP (and is mostly busy
still trying to classify or genre-fy their art), 'Together' is the
collective's finest work to date. What this album does best is
display the differences of the songwriters (Bejar, Newman,
Calder and Case) but still blend them in a beautiful tapestry
of guttural guitars, whirling organs, blasting beats and songs
about hope and the power of togetherness. Calder's best and
most haunting song to date 'Sweet Talk, Sweet Talk' shines as
standout in an album full of jewels. Newman's Beach-Boy-esque
tones still win the hearts of the commoner, though, and songs
like 'Moves' and the deliciously haunting 'Valkyrie In The
Roller Disco' illuminate his talent to capture a mood and
put crafty music to it. Case's strong and ever-present voice
on the first single 'Crash Years' show an ability to still go
all out but still hold back at times. Not being a huge Bejar
fan, even his offerings (especially 'Silver Jenny Dollar')
can't help but get your head a-bobbin' and your toe a-tappin'.
All in all, Together shows how 4 very different songwriters
can truly unify.

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