LCD Soundsystem, This Is Happening (2010)
M4S has now gone back ten years to build these Best Of lists and for the first time, listening to music from 2010, I felt like I was hearing slightly dated music. Electronica and technology has no doubt evolved in ten years, although I can’t articulate the specifics (I’m only an aspiring sound engineer). All I know for sure is the albums I was listening to at the time, from Broken Bells, Yeasayer and Vampire Weekend, for example, still sound good, but it’s obvious they weren’t recorded with modern-day technology. There’s something slightly rudimentary about the sound. I was particularly aware of this when listening 2010 records from electronic giants of today, like Tame Impala, Caribou and Hot Chip, all records that landed flat for me. It makes me wonder how electronica will sound in another ten years. If there’s an exception to this idea, it’s LCD Soundsytem’s incredible third album, This Is Happening, my album of the year for 2010.
Ten Best 2010
1. LCD Soundsystem, This Is Happening
2. Vampire Weekend, Contra
3. Spoon, Transference
4. Four Tet, There Is Love in You
5. Groove Armada, Black Light
6. Ozomatli, Fire Away
7. Jamey Johnson, The Guitar Song
8. Two Door Cinema Club, Tourist History
9. Erykah Badu, New Amerykah Part Two
10. Yeasayer, Odd Blood
The DMA’s, The Glow (2020)
I’ve been eagerly awaiting this record since hearing and loving the two singles (“Life is a Game of Changing” and “Silver”) earlier this year (M4S: 2/1/20). Happy to report the balance of this record doesn’t disappoint. It’s a little poppier than the two singles foreshadowed, but they’re executed nicely, my particular favorite being the lead off “Never Before.” This Australian band has been compared to Oasis and there’s plenty of justification (see: “Never Before”). Thomas O’Dell’s soaring vocals are on full display here. The previously released single “Life is a Game” is not only the best song on the album, but one of my favorites of 2020. A beautiful blast of energy.
Pigeonhole: Britpop revival, indie rock, alternative dance
Grouplove, Healer (2020)
Apparently long-time fans are a little disappointed in this record. But as it’s the first one I’ve heard from this Los Angeles group, I don’t know any different, and I think it’s pretty swell. The single “Deleter” kicks off the record and sets a very high bar, which is then equaled by “Expectations” and “Youth.” Vocalist Hannah Hooper was diagnosed with a brain mass during the creation of this album, which halted the project and influenced the songwriting that happened in the aftermath. Also not to be missed on this their fourth album are “Ahead of Myself,” “Burial” and “This is Everything.”
Pigeonhole: Indie pop
Four Tet, Sixteen Oceans (2020)
My latest obsession in the laptop musician category is Four Tet, aka Kieran Hebden. This is the tenth album from this English electronic master and it’s a wonderful array of super chill, soft electronic sound. One of my favorite moments is when “This is For You,” a two-minute, ambient-laced track accompanied by distant piano runs, bleeds into “Mama Teaches Sanskrit.” If by this point you haven’t slipped into musically induced euphoria, may I suggest pressing rewind. “Baby” delivers cut-up vocal tracks amid chirping birds and a babbling brook. In fact, five of the sixteen cuts are basically transitional cuts of found sound, like watery synth pads and tape hiss. Apparently Hebden honed his craft years ago. There Is Love In You from ten years earlier is every bit as engrossing as this.
Pigeonhole: Electronic, house, downtempo
Jamey Johnson, The Guitar Song (2010)
Good traditional country music is hard to find. The glory days of Patsy Cline, George Jones, Willie and Waylon are long gone, replaced by cleaned up, well-dressed pretty boys and girls whose material is so polished it sparkles. So it was with great pleasure I discovered this Jamey Johnson double album, largely reminiscent of a bygone era of country (this may be a ten-year old album, but its still not the good-ol’-days). Four or five songs in I had a gnawing feeling. It sure sounded like music that might be played at a certain president’s rallies; the ones where no one wears face masks and the confederate flag flies high. So it was off to the internet. After several minutes of googling, I came away with, well, I dunno. He’s said some non-racist things about racism that I found interesting, specifically that racist folks have nothing left to hang on to but their racism. I kept reading and, fankly, I’m not sure what his political views are. I know his lyrics don’t offend my progressive palate. I never got jingoistic, religious or gun vibes. His song “California Riots” appears to be from the perspective of someone who’s not a white supremacist. So I assured myself that I wasn’t listening to the devil’s music, and just enjoyed it. My only real complaint about the album is the length. Great musicians have a hard time delivering quality music for an hour and forty-five minutes. That’s essentially a concert, which is typically years worth of material. If it’s all so great, cut the album in half, maybe add a little filler, and release two albums (like the Foals did last year with Everything Not Saved Will Be Lost Parts 1 and 2). Despite all that, it was nice to hear a country artist who even Hank Williams Sr. would probably appreciate.
Rex Orange County, Pony (2019)
A big thanks to Stephen Colbert for introducing me to Rex Orange County, a musician who I’d heard of yesterday, but whom I’m all-aflutter over today! This is the third studio album from this 22-year-old Englishman and his gift lies equally in his songwriting and vocal cadence. My fave so far is “Always,” which answers the question, can people really change? “Until somebody sits me down/And tells me why I’m different now/I’ll always be the way I always am.” Other highlights are the jazzy “Laser Lights” with flute, and the utterly infectious chorus of “Face to Face.” Perhaps you’re wondering as I did what’s up with the name. It’s a nickname he picked up as a child, he’s actual name being Alexander O’Connor.
Pigeonhole: Bedroom pop, indie pop,