Archive for December, 2010


Top 50 Tracks of 2010: Crocodiles – Mirrors

December 31, 2010

2. Crocodiles – Mirrors.mp3

You have to hear this song twice to fully appreciate it. If you trust my musical judgment at all, press play and give it a good listen before reading the following commentary. Go ahead. Do something else while the track unwinds. Or stay here if you’d like. You can read this part:

Someone once recommended Flesh for Lulu to me stating that they “sounded like the Jesus and Mary Chain.” At that point I was only familiar with the Chain’s first two albums so my initial reaction was, “The fuck they do!”

It wasn’t until I had absorbed their third album (Automatic) that I saw their point: Flesh for Lulu sound like Automatic. (If that makes sense.) It’s mostly in the rhythm section, which at that point for the Jesus and Mary Chain was a drum machine. Lots of the same tempos and presets. So, to sum up: Flesh for Lulu sound like a particular iteration of the Jesus and Mary Chain.

This Crocodiles song sounds like Flesh for Lulu: compressed riffs riding a drum machine. They do not, in general, sound like Flesh for Lulu, but in this case they do. It also sounds like Lips Like Sugar-era Echo & the Bunnymen. A bit of the Mighty Lemon Drops and small hint of psychedelic bagginess from the Soup Dragons. Some chiming tones, straightforward riffing and the somewhat tinny sound of drum machinery.

OK. Ready for that second listen?

Pay attention to that build. Now that you know where the track is headed, you’re in a better position to appreciate the windup.

Arriving first are the bright tones that surf under the entire song, followed by some subdued feedback that increases in intensity and volume along with the looping drum. It’s all just background for awhile, slowly rising above the open space.

Then the bass kicks in almost unexpectedly, arriving mid-bar rather than on a downbeat, adding propulsion and pushing the track forward and upward.

And now the guitar joins in, setting the pace with a tightly wound, minimal riff that (and I HEART this part) drops off into a full swoon, leaving the listener with the not upleasant sensation of momentarily being trapped in a plunging audio elevator.

Fucking brilliant.

More brilliance follows, led by the lines:

There’s something in the way you crucify me
That makes me smile…

God bless the Crocodiles. And god bless their tortured altpop souls.

Go. Buy. Now.

More Crocodilia.

The rest of the Top 50.



Top 50 Tracks of 2010: Lazer Crystal – Love Rhombus

December 30, 2010

3. Lazer Crystal – Love Rhombus.mp3

Sounds like ’80s music is/was supposed to sound like. Some icy vocals. Glittering synths. The underlit intersection where the New Romantic movement collided gently with the melodic castoffs of the industrial scene. It sounds like the sort of music that should have been on the Less Than Zero soundtrack rather than the schizophrenic wet dream of a major label exec it ended up being. (Bangles, Poison, Aerosmith, Joan Jett, Slayer, Danzig, David Lee Roth, Red Hot Chili Peppers, The Doors [?])

(Of course, the movie also features two colossal errors:
1. An attempt to place a sympathetic moral character into an amoral story.
2. Have this Jiminy Cricket be played by Andrew McCarthy, the only person who can make a movie starring both Robert Downey, Jr. and James Spader incredibly dull.
Bear in mind that Downey, Jr. and Spader did nothing more than play themselves (a cokehound and a colossal prick, respectively) and yet still managed to outshine the twin vanilla powers of McCarthy and love interest, Jamie Gertz. [Not that McCarthy doesn’t already have a proven track record for making movies worse.*])

More accurately, Love Rhombus sounds like the soundtrack to the book, before Nancy Reagan instilled a cliched, false conscience into the coke-fueled ’80s.

*More on this later, w/r/t Less Than Zero, McCarthy.

Calibrate your Lazers here.

Flashback to MCMLXXX.


The rest of the Top 50.

Bonus track:

Hot Pink BMX.mp3

This rocks hard in a way that tracks named Hot Pink BMX shouldn’t. A completely different side of Lazer Crystal and a great band name for any Death Set-esque electro-punks currently in need of one.



Top 50 Tracks of 2010: Glitter Bones – Ceremonial Secrets

December 29, 2010

4. Glitter Bones – Ceremonial Secrets.mp3

While there are a ton of consistent bands out there, there are very few consistently good bands, and there are even fewer consistently great bands.
Glitter Bones falls into the last category. I have yet to hear a track of theirs that I would kick out of bed, mentally stating, “Done that already. No need for an encore.”
Not one.

Even artists I love irrationally (the Pixies, Love & Rockets, A Place to Bury Strangers, Whitey) have released a few clunkers. Granted, their worst is still better than 90% of everything else out there, a majority of which does nothing but lie there lifelessly, forcing you to do all the work.

(Note: some of these “clunkers” do surprise me, though, altering my take on them in unexpected ways the next time they make their way through my mp3 player. Some sort of transformation takes place, not entirely unlike that mousy girl from all the movies who suddenly takes her hair down and removes her unstylish glasses, morphing into a stunner that elicits a “Hey… It’s you. I see I’ve misjudged you and that what I was looking for was under my nose the whole time.”)

Glitter Bones is all upfront devastating beauty. This track in particular (to continue winding our way down this path paved with dubious metaphors) is the stunner that steps into the bar, turning every head instantly. Even “hooked up” heads that should know better.

She (the track, remember?) glides up to the bar (glides!), simultaneously raising the hopes of every guy in the room, most of whom have already mysteriously appeared at the rail to buy here a drink.

As they gaze blankly into her vertiginous beauty, their hopes and dreams are suddenly dashed with the arrival of her boyfriend. 6’6″ if he’s an inch, carrying his carved ebony body with an otherworldly confidence, devastating in its own way.

As the throng of smaller, less attractive men suddenly look a million other directions at once while ordering Cosmos and Fuzzy Navels (for themselves, apparently) from a highly distracted bartender, her godlike boyfriend orders something manly for himself and something lightweight but incredibly complicated for her. The men who never had a chance are further devastated by the rich tone of his voice, which is as powerful as it is ear pleasing, like the voice of God’s own DJ.

That is this track.

More “out of your league” shit here.

More Glitter here.

The rest of the Top 50.



Top 50 Tracks of 2010: Rraaiillss – Halogen/Out of the Bag

December 28, 2010

5a. Rraaiillss – Halogen

5b. Rraaiillss – Out of the Bag

I’m cheating here because I’ve been trying to nail down which track I prefer for the last couple of months. Just when I think I’ve decided, the other track unveils its particular charms again.

Sounds like nothing else on Adam Anderson’s astounding debut 1098, with its My Bloody Valentine-ish, nearly impenetrable sonic thicket. Tangled guitar riffs meet clattering drum machines in a confident racket, asserting Rraaiillss’ grasp of the fact that beauty isn’t always pristine. This one crashes against your ears like an aural monsoon, drenching you in swelling and rippling sheets of sound.

Out of the Bag
This track takes a different tack, rolling out as a refreshingly good natured burst, sounding for all the world like a chart troubler Echo & the Bunnymen forgot to write. The guitar chimes, the beat lies slightly south of bouncy and Anderson’s vocals are appropriately breathless. The whole thing wastes no effort, gliding along on rraaiillss of guitar pop bliss.

Ride the Rraaiillss.

Connect at Mmyyssppaaccee.

The rest of the Top 50.



Top 50 Tracks of 2010: Felix & Volcano! – Shaadows

December 27, 2010

6. Felix & Volcano! – Shaadows.mp3

I don’t care what you’re listening to or what you’re doing. Drop all of it and listen to this. This is best fucking thing you will hear all day/week/month/year.

I said this earlier this year and I still mean it. (Well, except maybe the “year” part. Obviously at number 6, it’s not the best thing you’ll hear all year.) Even though I’m no longer listening to it a half-dozen times in a row, I still crank it way up whenever it makes its way through my mp3 playlist. That it rises no higher than #6 on this list diminishes its impact in no way. It just means the Top 5 are that fucking good.

It’s a triumphantly positive blast, especially considering I can find nothing else in their repertoire that sounds remotely like it. The message it still powerful: sometimes the only way to transcend is to let go.

Camp out with F&V!

Get all up in F&V’s Space!

The rest of the Top 50.



Top 50 Tracks of 2010: Whitey – Liars, Vipers, Jokes and Fakes

December 26, 2010

7. Whitey – Liars, Vipers, Jokes and Fakes

A healthy dose of cautionary cynicism from one of the finest electro-rockers in the business. No one else quite sounds like Whitey and Whitey really sounds like no one else. With Liars, Vipers, Jokes and Fakes, Whitey lures you in with curiously innocuous Caribbean cruise deck sounds. The drums kick in shortly thereafter, letting you know he won’t just be ironically samba-ing all over the place.

The second verse introduces a discordantly growling guitar which lurks just out of sight. Then comes the bridge, a fierce, buzzing, electronic, stuttering burst which stands alone briefly, connecting the breezy opening with the more aggressive back nine. The pace amps up, covered in fuzzed-up bass and carried along by a crashing, hi-hat riding, near-tribal beat.

The machinations of the music match Whitey’s rising anger, turning what might have been just another shaking-your-fist-at-the-world track into a righteously pissed rock monster.

Stick it to the man: Buy more Whitey.

Stay in touch with Whitey.

The rest of the Top 50.



Top 50 Tracks of 2010: Clive Tanaka y Su Orquestra – All Night, All Right

December 25, 2010

8. Clive Tanaka y Su Orquestra – All Night, All Right.mp3

Sporting a Japanese surname and operating out of Brazil, Clive Tanaka and his Orquestra of electronic equipment bring globetrotting flair to the music world with this impossibly great take on French house. There’s all you could possibly want in a stellar dance track: big kickdrums, rolling bass, vocoders and a stylistic confidence that Tanaka wears very well. Easily the best track by Daft Punk in years. Shame they couldn’t be bothered to create it.

Get out your dancing shoes and, while you’re digging around in the closet, grab your old boombox because this debut EP is available on cassette.

Get your analog Tanaka right here.

The rest of the Top 50.



Top 50 Tracks of 2010: Cyan Tablets – Amaretto

December 24, 2010

9. Cyan Tablets – Amaretto.mp3

Coming from Japan via Finland (at least according to the EP title), Cyan Tablets deploy minor keys and a slightly glitched downtempo beat to devastating effect, creating the perfect sonic palette to accompany this heart breaker of a track. The vocals speak to futile actions and inner ache of missing someone who’s sitting three feet away from you.

It’s perfection, from the opening doomed synth line to the near-breathless vocals to the various impeccably placed drum machine stutters. It feels like it’s borrowing from the ’80s heyday of icy synthpop (Japan, Blancmange, Heaven 17) but there’s nothing you can actually grab and say: “X sounds like Y.” Amaretto is very much its own animal, displaying influences without needing to ape. The only thing truly transparent is the wounded heart on its sleeve.

Start popping Tablets here.

Cyan Myspace: halfway to CMYK.

The rest of the Top 50.



Top 50 Tracks of 2010: Black Books – The Big Idea

December 23, 2010

10. Black Books – The Big Idea.mp3

A slow-building, burning from the inside epic, The Big Idea grows and grows, coming on like a sunrise telling you it’s time to get home. It’s a creeper, smoldering under some simple synth lines and evocative guitar growls. Just when you think that’s as far as it’s going, the chorus arrives, expanding temporarily before ceding to the rising guitar.

The real magic begins in the second chorus when it drops to just vocals and a synth swirl. Then the guitar returns, switching gears from “understated” to “dominating”, while Black Books’ lead singer Rosco’s vocals rise to the challenge, delivering a line that’s more desperation than promise:

You can have anything you want.”

Check out Black Books from this local library.

The rest of the Top 50.



Top 50 Tracks of 2010: Siriusmo – Einmal in der Woche Schreien

December 22, 2010

11. Siriusmo – Einmal In Der Woche Schreien.mp3

(Or watch this for added charming WTF-ness:)

Too quirky for dancefloor DJs. Too fun for chinstroking IDM wallflowers. Not quite broken enough for glitch. Too off-center for breaks afficionadoes. Where the fuck does this fit in?

Maybe it doesn’t. Siriusmo just wants to make you smile. Enjoy the ping-ponging helium vocal samples. Trip along with the multiple tempo shifts. Shove your head in the bassbin every time he goes down low. Walk away humming the melody. Push play again. And again. And again.

And he does it all under a title that nearly namechecks a leftfield therapy method. Loosely translated: “Scream once a week.”

Good advice. Great track.

More from the self-proclaimed “Plasterer of Love.”

The rest of the Top 50.