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Someone royally messed up the Valentine’s Day plans this weekend. That someone being me. Bear Hands played a special show at a Lower East Side wine bar, In Vino, as part of the Vivo In Vino concert series. Only a small number of tickets are sold, and each comes with 4 glasses of wine donated by a different winemaker for each show. The nights are an intimate celebration of mesmerizingly good music and tasteful wine. Having already been to one of the most romantic shows ever with Freelance Whales, I had gotten tickets to see another one my favorite bands at this venue.
However… when looking at the ticket earlier in the day it had said the start time was 8pm. Typically when I look at the time for a show it is when the doors open, with the band playing an hour after. Surely we could get there at 9pm and be in time for the tunes. Well, as it turns out the band was starting at 8 and we got there in time to see three songs. At least we caught “What a Drag” and “Tablasaurus.” Good thing I have a loving girlfriend and Bear Hands plays Brooklyn Bowl for free on February 27th and at Knitting Factory on March 14th.
Download my favorite Bear Hands song by right clicking on the link below. If you like what you hear, buy their album “Burning Bush Supper Club” on iTunes.
Happy Valentine’s Day Brooke, you’re the best ❤
And now for something a little more lighthearted. Futurecop!’s “Starworshipper” was recently released, along with the news that an EP of the same name will come out March 29th. Glam pop singer Diana Gen fills out this delicious, embarrassing-if-your-roommate-caught-you-listening, retro synth jam. When you secretly want to say fuck-all and shake your ass to the radio but you’re just too cool to bring yourself to do it, turn to this bad boy. Doing something so wrong has never felt so right.
When Anna Calvi first came across my speakers I thought the Velvet Underground had fused with European soul and a hot stick of pure sensual fire. Much to my surprise, Calvi just barely released her debut album last Monday, earning accolades from NME as “perhaps the first great album of 2011.” I couldn’t agree more, they don’t make music like this anymore.
Smoky, seductive and dangerous – could she be the real femme fatale? Well educated in classical music, Calvi writes her own music, fingers dancing on a six string that lay a substantial foundation down on which her vocals soar. If you’re looking for something rivetingly baroque and powerful, this one’s for you.
The panda is a little late to the party on this one, but you can’t turn down a video featuring an irresistibly catchy pop tune and culturally relevant material. Here’s a pop anthem for the tech savvy, nerdy, internet dwellers everywhere to smile and nod their head happily along to. Bonus points for name dropping Donnie Darko.
Consider me one excited panda. Pitchfork is reporting that Foals have just announced a North American tour with one of my favorite bands of 2010, Freelance Whales. They’ll be getting support from another great up-and-coming act, The Naked and the Famous. The trio will be stopping by NYC’s Terminal 5 on May 4th, and you can check the full tour schedule here.
Usually you don’t find a show that is good from the bottom up, but even the openers are worth a show on their own. New Zealand’s The Naked and Famous are a band to watch in 2011, along with (hopefully) a new album from Freelance Whales.
Feeling the itch to give my blog a little love, decided to sit down and compile my list of Top 10 Albums of 2010. Lots of great music can come out over the course of twelve months and this last year was no exception. Not wanting to risk being superfluous, I limited the list to only 10 – which is about as frustrating as making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich with an egg beater and pita bread.
That being said, this list is highly personal. Albums were chosen based on what I listened to the most this last year. Each is great in its own right and links to download songs will be included with each listing. Now, enough babble out of me… let’s get to the albums!
* Forgive the shoddy formatting, text wrap worked a lot better than in the text editor and don’t have the time or patience to do battle with WordPress right now. Happy New Years!
A recent entry to my library, The Spring Standards are a local Brooklyn group with a lot of promise. Simple, elegant tracks that are as powerful as they are pleasant – wavering between catchy folk songs and something you might hear in an Apple commercial. Heather Robb’s luminous voice and cascading piano drive a record that is pleasant from start to finish. This album is something you might listen to a nice rainy day or while taking a stroll through Central Park. The Spring Standards are one of those special bands whose live performance only serves to best what you’ll hear on the record.
Buy “Would Things Be Different” now on Amazon
9. Sleigh Bells – “Treats”
The debut album from Sleigh Bells makes this list if only to say “I f**king told you so!!!!” After “Crown on the Ground” and “Ring Ring” (now “Rill Rill”) dropped as demos in 2009, I knew this was going to be a pair worth paying attention to. “Treats” doesn’t disappoint, delivering jam after driving jam of lo-fi, distorted garage pop guaranteed to rock your face off. As the cover suggests, this album was probably conceived by a gang of cheerleaders strung out on meth and sick of shelling out for the ‘man.’ Still, breaking through the distortion are solid melodies that lift the grunge pop into something listenable. “Rill Rill” is the anchor on this sick boat.
Buy “Treats” now on Amazon
Pop music is dying for someone like Marina Diamandis, aka Marina & The Diamonds. This Welsh singer-songwriter released one of the most honest pop albums in early 2010. Five out of thirteen tracks are singles, and each one crafts a new dimension to a record filled with friendly jams and scathing critiques of popular culture. It’s impossible not to love Marina, especially after watching one of her standout music videos that match the dissension of the music itself. Marina doesn’t give a shit what you think, she’s just gon do what she gon do. A sophomore album that even comes close to this will ensure a spot at the top.
Buy “The Family Jewels” now on Amazon
Here’s one you aren’t likely to find in stores but deserves a place on this list without question. Peruvian born singer-songwriter now living in London, Peglau dropped a gem of a solo project this year. Gentle pop music with traces of European folk, “The Imminent Failure” is endlessly charming. Something you might listen to while smoking a cigarette, cruising the streets of London in the 1960’s. If vintage clothing could be transformed into song, this album would be the result. One for the hipsters to say “You gotta check this out, pretty sure you haven’t heard of it.”
Download “The Imminent Failure of Francois Peglau” now on Bandcamp
Eery. Haunting. Beautiful. Freelance Whales’ debut album tells a ghost story, the lead falling in love with a female spirit who haunts his home. Never able to make her his, he imagines life with her on some spectral plane. There are not enough good things to say about this album, a gorgeous blend of ethereal indie pop. I’ve always described this band as “Like Owl City, but you don’t have to be ashamed to listen to it” and even that doesn’t do them the justice they deserve. Known for performing on the NYC streets and in the subways, Freelance Whales is a band that loves music and it can be felt with every touching note. Another great live act as well.
Buy “Weathervanes” now on Amazon
First of all, Sweden deserves a shoutout for all of the killer music coming out of there right now. Robyn has been on the scene for a while, but finally broke through in a big way this year with “Body Talk,” a studio album that was released in three parts over the course of 2010. A perfect marriage of pop and electronic, Robyn is Lady Gaga with loads more talent, swagger and sophistication. From the bubblegum gangsta nastiness of “Fembot” to the toned-down, heartfelt “Hang With Me,” the entire series brings undeniably danceable rhythm and funk guaranteed to have you listening over and over.
Buy “Body Talk” now on Amazon
Arcade Fire just won’t stop. After two solid releases in ’04 and ’07, they finally took it Wu-Tang style and dropped a megaton bomb in 2010 with “The Suburbs.” I’ve always been a fan, but past releases seemed almost too ambitious to really connect with them on a lasting basis. On “The Suburbs,” they finally hit the mark with just enough catch and hook to lock into their grand, symphonic indie melodies. If this were a top tracks of 2010 list, their single “Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)” would make an excellent case for the number 1 one spot. I remember when this album dropped and it was immediately dubbed album of the year by most critics, and they weren’t too far off.
What a year for Kanye West, after acting himself into the role of King Douche of the Planet, this album dropped and the nation collectively shit their pants. “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy” is being called the “Sgt. Pepper’s” of hip hop and they just might be right. Whatever his behavior might say, Kanye West is an absolute musical genius. It’s hard to describe exactly what’s going on with this album, only that it’s like nothing you’ve ever heard. I think Kanye says it best when he said: “Gossip, gossip. N***a just stop it, everybody knows I’m a mutha f**kin monster!” Album of the year to most, it doesn’t get much better.
Buy “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy” now on Amazon
There’s a reason why The Magnetic Fields are my most listened to artist since I got a Last.fm account in early 2010. “Realism” is one of the most down to earth, stripped bare, ‘real’ albums I’ve ever listened to. Stephin Merritt & Co have been around since ’91 and show no signs of letting up. Nothing needed here except for a few instruments and brilliant songwriting. Never heard a band do so much with so little. “You Must Be Out Of Your Mind” is the standout and intro track, a melody of honest heartbreak that sets the tone for the rest of the LP. Simply brilliant.
Buy “Realism” now on Amazon
No debate in my mind about the album of the year, or the band of the year for that matter. Yeasayer blows all competition out of the water with “Odd Blood.” Yeasayer created a lot of buzz after their debut release of “All Hours Cymbal,” but risked being mired as an experimental band. “Odd Blood” changed all of that, and delivered a fury of wonderfully constructed rock songs supported by indie sensibilities, lush synth and unmatched vocal power. Saw them in Dallas and cannot wait until they come back to their adopted Brooklyn home for a show. If Yeasayer isn’t the future of rock, then at least they made 2010 a damn good year for music.
Buy “Odd Blood” now on Amazon
These obviously weren’t the only good albums of 2010. Here is a short list of some other standouts that are worthy of mention, with links to their artist streams on Hype Machine.
- Ray Lamontagne and the Pariah Dogs – “God Willin’ and the Creek Don’t Rise”
- Die Antwoord – “$0$”
- Miniature Tigers – “Fortress”
- Local Natives – “Gorilla Manor”
- Nicki Minaj – “Pink”
- The New Pornographers – “Together”
- The Radio Dept – “Clinging to a Scheme”
- Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin – “Let It Sway”
- Best Coast – “Crazy For You”
- Phantogram – “Eyelid Movies”
- The Stuyvesants – “Brooklyn’s Finest”
- Two Door Cinema Club – “Tourist History”
- Black Keys – “Brothers”
- Das Racist – “Sit Down, Man”
- Stars – “The Five Ghosts”
- LCD Soundsystem – “This Is Happening”
- Library Voices – “Denim on Denim”
Curse ABBA for giving Sweden a bad name for musicians. Often I’ll come across music on the net that I find absolutely moving, check the origin and sure enough it comes from Sweden. Many of it electro and dance, but the music coming out of that place has this understated power and hidden drive beneath airy, fluid melodies. Let me show you what I mean….
Heartbeats is the jam right now. Nevermind that it was dropped in 2006… that track is HOT. How do you do it Sweden? How do you produce so much great music from the likes of Sigur Rós, Robyn and the Knife? Forget meatballs and ABBA, dudes and dudettes – Sverige is all about the TUNES. The country is swiftly moving to replace the city of Glasgow as my “oh, well that makes sense” musician origin.
Mind if I gush about Swedish musicians some more? You can keep your M.I.A., you can keep your Ke$ha… keep all of them just give me those funky hot dance tracks from the land of candied fish and I’ll stay happy all day.
Here’s another gem that came out a little earlier this year from Swedish group Staygold. Incredible live performance and sick backup from Robyn and American electro-rap outfit Spank Rock.
MMmmmm…. you know that felt good. I LOVE YOU SWEDEN!
(Right click and choose “Save Link As” to download)
Nina Gordon is an American rock singer best known for being the co-founder of the famous 90’s pop rock outfit Veruca Salt. Channeling iconic 80’s bands like the Bangles, she helped bring back fun melodies into a rock movement that was dominated by grunge.
Laura Marling is an English folk/indie singer from Hampshire who released a gorgeous solo debut last year. A former member of Noah and the Whale, her debut was produced by NATW frontman Charlie Fink.
So what do these talented crooners have in common? Well, they both like gettin dat skrilla and pimpin hos, of course!
Nothing beats a good cover song, but there’s never any sense in trying to mimic what the original artist was trying to do. The best covers are genre-hopping, imaginative revisitations. Sure, Nina Gordon’s cover of NWA’s “Straight Outta Compton” is all over the blogosphere, but hell, if you haven’t heard it elsewhere you need to hear it here. Laura Marling teamed up with Jeffrey Lewis to do a folky rendition of Eminem’s “Brain Damage” for the UK paper The Guardian. It just goes to show that music is music, and a good tune should be appreciated no matter what “scene” you’re affiliated with.