Colin’s Collection: The Class of 2010

My last Colin’s Collection post was written about a year ago, around the time I picked up Spoon’s Transference. Over the past 12 months I’ve added quite a bit of music to the ol’ collection, though not as much as plenty of other people. I’ve seen posts by random people who don’t work for music magazines or professional music blogs who have more albums in their “favorites of the year” lists than I bought all year, period. Also, I’m one of those weirdos who still likes to have a physical copy of an album and doesn’t download much music at all.

Spoon's liner notes: Proof that I'm not the only weirdo.

So aside from the aforementioned Transference, what other music did I pick up in 2010? Don’t touch that dial — or mouse… or whatever… because the list is coming up after the jump.

High On Fire: Snakes For The Divine

  • The heavy metal badasses’ latest release tones down their traditional sludge and raises Matt Pike’s voice in the mix but still delivers the kickass riffs and solos that we’ve come to know and headbang to.
  • Snakes For The Divine was produced by Greg Fidelman, who is perhaps best known among metal fans as the guy who mixed and engineered Metallica’s Death Magnetic, an album that quickly gained notoriety for being too loud and overly compressed, causing an excess of distortion — in other words, for sounding like crap. It actually got to a point where Metallica fans started an online petition to prevent Fidelman from ever working on an album again. Obviously, it didn’t work — his credits since Death Magnetic include this album and Slayer’s World Painted Blood. (For the record, I think this album sounds fine.)
  • For some weird reason, I get a huge kick out of the part in “Frost Hammer” where the instruments cut away and Matt Pike screams the song’s title.

“Frost Hammer”

Them Crooked Vultures: Them Crooked Vultures

  • The supergroup consisting of Josh Homme (Queens Of The Stone Age, Kyuss, Eagles Of Death Metal) on guitar, Dave Grohl (Foo Fighters, Nirvana, and many others) on drums, and John Paul Jones (Led Zeppelin) on bass deliver a debut that bucks the trend of underwhelming supergroup albums. In fact, I’ll go so far as to say that the last Queens album, Era Vulgaris, probably should have sounded a little more like this (though it’s a solid album in its own right).
  • It’s no small praise to say this about a band with Grohl on drums and Jones on bass — the star of this show is Josh Homme’s guitar. His work on Them Crooked Vultures is pretty kickass.

“Scumbag Blues”

Minus The Bear: Omni

  • MTB’s fourth album finds the band simplifying their typically intricate guitar work, putting more focus on keyboards, and playing with a new toy called the Omnichord. The result is perhaps their most radio-friendly album to date, though their previous work showed a knack for blending their more progressive ideas with accessible hooks.
  • Incidentally, this year marked the first time I heard Minus The Bear on the radio — the song was “My Time,” of course, which doesn’t really sound like anything else they’ve ever done. They also did a live studio session for Radio 104.5 in Philly and filmed a video for “Hold Me Down” at the Electric Factory.
  • Honestly, Omni was a bit of a letdown for me considering that its predecessor, Planet Of Ice, is my favorite MTB album and the band had kept improving with each release up to that point. But it hits more often than it misses. The biggest miss? That would be “Animal Backwards,” the album’s most daring experiment; it’s built around a sample of the preceding track, “Into The Mirror,” played backwards.

“My Time”

Arcade Fire: Funeral, Neon Bible, The Suburbs

  • I have a knack for getting into bands long after the rest of the world does. Case in point: the Arcade Fire. Funeral was one of the most heavily hyped and highly praised albums of 2004, and everyone was in love with the Arcade Fire. In 2007, Neon Bible inspired some backlash but people still liked them. Then in 2010, six years after it came out, I finally got into Funeral a few months before The Suburbs was released. Yeah, I’m really down with trends… or whatever.
  • “We Used To Wait” totally wins the prize for best music video of 2010. It was used as the soundtrack for a short film called The Wilderness Downtown. You submit the address of the house you grew up in and they incorporate the Google Maps images of that address into the video. So that hooded figure running down the street in the video is supposed to represent YOU. I don’t know how they pulled it off, but it’s definitely one of the coolest music videos ever made.

“We Used To Wait” (The Wilderness Downtown)

The National: High Violet

  • One of my most eagerly anticipated albums of 2010, High Violet did not disappoint. Is it even possible for the National to write a bad song? I’ve never heard one — even their weaker tracks are at least decent songs. The low point on High Violet for me is “Anyone’s Ghost,” and it’s not even close to being a sub-par song. I’ll just come right out and say it now — High Violet is probably my favorite album of the year.
  • There is, however, one particularly glaring weakness — the production job on “Terrible Love.” Maybe it’s just because the first time I heard it was their performance on Late Night w/Jimmy Fallon. But even if I’d heard the studio version first, I’d still prefer the live version. The studio version is murky and moody and the climax at the end doesn’t pack the same punch as it does live, where the guitars are crisper and the buildup and release all feel right. It’s an odd choice for a band that usually produces and arranges their music so carefully. (The alternate version from the High Violet deluxe edition is better, but it still sounds best live.)
  • As is usually the case with albums from the National, High Violet requires a few listens before it really starts to click with you. And then when it does you realize that its creators could very well be among the absolute best bands in the whole damn country.

“Bloodbuzz Ohio”

Band Of Horses: Infinite Arms

  • Officially, Infinite Arms is the third album from Band Of Horses. Singer/guitarist/BOH mastermind Ben Bridwell would tell you otherwise — for the first time in the band’s history, they have a stable 5-piece lineup. (Bridwell is the only remaining member of their original incarnation.)
  • Put simply, if you liked Everything All The Time and Cease To Begin, the band’s first two albums, you’ll probably enjoy this one too. It offers their usual easygoing indie rock with influences from folk and country in the mix, resulting in catchy straightforward rockers like “Laredo” or the gorgeousness that is the title track.

“Laredo”

We Are Scientists: Barbara

  • Fun fact: This album is totally named after my mom.
  • Here’s another fun fact: So is that Beach Boys song.
  • And a third: I just made that stuff up.
  • We Are Scientists is a band that’s known for having a pretty goofy sense of humor. They’re the kind of band that makes a video where one guy goes on a date with a hot girl and the other plays with her dog, and they end up fighting over who gets to play with the dog. The booklet for Barbara keeps up the tradition, presenting itself as a book of dating tips that answers such crucial questions as “When it is okay to give her a vial of my sperm for Christmas?”
  • In a related story, We Are Scientists wins the 2010 Harley Award for best album booklet. Or at least it would if I felt like doing a 2010 Harley Awards.

I tried to wake the li'l munchkin for this year's show, but he looked so comfy that I couldn't disturb him.

“Ambition”

The Gaslight Anthem: The ’59 Sound, American Slang

  • The Gaslight Anthem kind of sounds like what you would get if Bruce Springsteen started a punk band, only singer Brian Fallon doesn’t really sound like the Boss. They draw a lot of inspiration from “heartland rock” (think Springsteen, Tom Petty, etc.), classic rock, and the blues (they consider the Replacements their biggest influence). And they come from New Jersey, so don’t let the Snookis and Situations of the world completely tarnish your opinion of the Garden State.
  • You know how bands like the Killers have tried to do this style of music and got mixed results? Well, these guys do it right. Their lyrics are well-written and Fallon’s performance is heartfelt and passionate.

“American Slang”

Weezer: Hurley

  • Okay, first things first… I want you all to take a nice long look at this album cover.

  • Hurley is Weezer’s best album in years. And the craziest part is… nobody really thought it would be. It’s their third album in as many years. The album cover is a picture of the fat guy from Lost. Hell, the album is named after the fat guy from Lost. Michael “Superbad” Cera and the cast of Jackass are featured guests. There is a song called “Where’s My Sex?” in which the word sex is used as a malapropism for socks. It’s their follow-up to Raditude, perhaps the most critically maligned record of their career (and considering that Pitchfork infamously called Make Believe an album so bad it retroactively ruins Blue and Pinkerton, that’s saying something). And yet… here’s Hurley, Weezer’s best album since either Pinkerton or Maladroit, because I haven’t made up my mind. Go figure. Maybe Rivers Cuomo might have some tricks left up his sleeve after all.
  • In the Radio 104.5 Obligatory Year-End Survey this year, Weezer was named the band that the Philadelphia listeners (and much of the staff) would most like to see take a long break in 2011. And while Hurley is a step in the right direction, I find myself compelled to agree. Guys, you don’t need to put out a new album every single year. Take your time. Build on the stuff you got right with Hurley. Hell, you can invite Michael Cera for another session — “Hang On,” the song he cameos on, is one of this album’s best tracks. (Give Ryan Adams another call too, because “Run Away” is also pretty good.)

“Unspoken”

The Sword: Warp Riders

  • The old-school stoner-metal band returns with their third album of killer riffs and fantasy-inspired lyrics, only the vocals are clearer and higher in the mix than on their first two efforts. And this time, rather than their usual Dungeons & Dragons lyrical fare, the Sword is going sci-fi (or Syfy if you’re a TV network executive trying to alienate your channel’s original fanbase).
  • If Weezer’s Hurley gets the Harley Award for most awesomely ridiculous album art of the year, Warp Riders wins for 2010’s most awesomely awesome album cover. It looks like it could be the cover of an Isaac Asimov novel or something.

  • To promote Warp Riders, the Sword has worked on a trilogy of music videos for “Tres Brujas,” “Lawless Lands,” and “Night City” (the first can be seen below). I have no idea what’s going on in any of them.

And speaking of the little devil, here's another picture of him.

“Tres Brujas”

Interpol: Interpol

  • Interpol’s self-titled album is the last with bassist Carlos D, whose melodic style helped define the band’s sound. They haven’t found a permanent replacement for him yet, though they replaced him on tour with David Pajo (formerly of Slint, Tortoise, and Zwan — aka Billy Corgan’s first post-Smashing Pumpkins project — and has also been a touring guitarist with the Yeah Yeah Yeahs).
  • I’m hoping this album is a grower, because so far I don’t even think it’s nearly as good as Our Love To Admire. This one, particularly in the second half, tries for a slower-burning and moody sound than most of their older stuff and the hooks aren’t as strong either. There are some tracks that will reach out and grab you right away, but those are in the minority on Interpol.
  • For the record, I myself seem to be in the minority in that I think Antics is a better album than their highly-praised debut Turn On The Bright Lights.

“Barricade”

Deerhunter: Halcyon Digest

  • The reverb-happy shoegaze/noise-pop/indie rockers deliver perhaps their most accessible album to date. They still have their signature experimental sound, but if you’re looking to get into these guys I’d suggest starting here. (I myself first got into them with Microcastle.)
  • Bradford Cox, the band’s primary songwriter, is incredibly prolific. Since 2005 he has delivered four official albums and two EPs with Deerhunter and two solo albums under the name Atlas Sound. And after Microcastle leaked in 2008, Deerhunter decided to reward the fans who waited to buy the album by writing and recording an entire new album’s worth of music and releasing it as a bonus disc called Weird Era Cont. And that’s not even counting all the material he’s released on his blog.
  • “Helicopter,” the song featured in the video below, pretty much single-handedly convinced me that I had to check the rest of this album out. It’s one of my favorite songs of 2010. Amazing that it was inspired by the murder of a gay Russian prostitute.

“Helicopter”

Kings Of Leon: Come Around Sundown

  • Okay, let’s get the easy joke out of the way first: DURR HURR HURR Kings Of Leon COME around sundown! Ejaculation puns are funny!
  • And another easy joke: I was listening to the new Kings Of Leon album, but then a pigeon took a shit in my mouth and I had to turn it off after three songs.
  • Fun fact: The pigeon that crapped in Jared Followill’s mouth has his own Twitter account.
  • All right, all right… being serious now. The new KOL album is actually pretty solid and a step up from their previous effort Only By The Night. It feels more like the album that should have followed Because Of The Times — it often sounds like they took that album’s Southern post-punk and expanded its sound for a more stadium-friendly atmosphere.Only By The Night reached for the nosebleed section from start to finish.

“Pyro”

Well, that just about covers all the music I bought this year. I hear 2010 was quite the year for music, and there’s plenty of highly-regarded stuff I haven’t checked out yet so… here’s hoping 2011 can be just as good, if not better!

And here’s another picture of Harley, because I want to make it absolutely clear beyond all reasonable doubt that I have the world’s cutest dog.

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One response

  1. Pingback: My Omnichord | Layne Publications

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