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LITERATURE» Full Dark, No Stars - Stephen King's new novella questions mankind's ability to trust others.
MUSIC» The Top 30 Albums of 2010 - Fashionably, fabulously late, our favorite music (and believe me, there was a LOT) of 2010, the year that some have called the best year for music ever. And only some of those fools work here. Plenty of usual suspects, lots of ties and a few surprises that I won't spoil, including our unexpected #1.
MUSIC» Live: Surfer Blood/The Drums at Lincoln Hall, Chicago, IL - Remember when Weezer used to put together records that you could sing along to and rock out to? That's what Surfer Blood's show was like!
The Coathangers - Scramble (Suicide Squeeze)
Four cute thin girls take the dwindling former surplus of KRS-style riot grrrl clatterers into their own hands, with a name that implies a pejorative for cute thin girls and/or abortion rights. Not being able to play their axes is an advantage-tour manager sat in on bass in NYC this month and even sang one. Instrument-trading live show is where the fun really begins but their dimly-produced, LiLiPutlian albums are hardly a bad place to get acquainted. On Scramble, song titles include "Arthritis Sux," "Gettin' Mad and Pumpin' Iron," "Toomerhead." The return of "I'm gonna gonna gonna break your fuckin' face!" to DIY punk.
Mike Doughty - Sad Man Happy Man (ATO)
I feel bad about dissing 2007's Golden Delicious on this site. It was hopefully cheesy with the Semisonic guy echoing every chorus, but it gave up half a great AOR pop album and "Like a Luminous Girl," which I've listened to weekly since. Sad Man Happy Man is much simpler-half solo acoustic. Write off matters like "Japanese cowboys put their snowsuits on" as holding down They Might Be Giants' job while they tackle the children's market. All that counts is his catchiest album ever at a spry 33 minutes, which is saying something when Soul Coughing's epigraph had such elliptical hooks as "I'm rolling/I'm rolling/I'm rolling/I'm rolling-uh."
Ghostface Killah - Ghostdini: The Wizard of Poetry in Emerald City (Def Jam)
Translation: only built for pube 'n pinks. One squeamish reviewer called "Stapleton Sex" the "grisliest" rap tune ever that's not about violence, but that's shorting it the tenderness, smarts, and general admission of a NSFW society we Web 2.0ers occupy at the outset of a new dickade. But while that's the only porn here, unless you believe "there's nothing so unbecoming as a nearly-40-year-old man unnecessarily agog over sex. We know it happens, but we'd prefer to think it does not," there's no reason to avoid the Wu-Tang's real genius' second-best of the decade. In which he catches the cable guy with his girl in the guest house, proposes on one knee "don't say no-you'll embarrass me!" and compliments a pregnant Estelle who's spoken for. Love raps as stimulation and thought, gangsta as passe and wallpaper.
Jay-Z - The Blueprint 3 (Roc Nation)
Jay-Z fans generally represent what's wrong with rap criticism: the best thing they can think of is being The Realest, duetting with Big and dropping "poetry" like "kept feeding her money until her shit started to make sense." The worst thing they can imagine is a "Forever Young" sample. For thirteen years Jigga's been an assembly line of cred, meeting pleasure seekers in the middle occasionally (The Blueprint, "99 Problems") but mostly skating off bombs left and right with he's-still-got-it regressions like American Gangster, in which a 38-year-old was suddenly "inspired" by his younger self again. The much maligned Blueprint 3 is, as you'd predict, perfectly fine. A little assembly line as usual-"Off That" may be one of Timbaland's better castoffs but "Run This Town" is facile-but Hova has too much charm to lay even middling tracks to waste. "D.O.A. (Death of Autotune)" rather than falling its old-man face actually resurrects his youthful nose-thumbing, and "Venus vs. Mars" is the cleverest and sexiest in the genre since LL Cool J's "Doin' It."
Miranda Lambert - Revolution (Columbia)
So Crazy Ex-Girlfriend was a fluke. Great concept out of an old personality, the Badass Country Chick, sure. But it also had "Love Letters" and two winning small-town portraits, "Famous in a Small Town" and the drinker's vaudeville "Dry Town." Here she has no concept, nothing that can be mistaken by indie-rockers for irony, no particularly distinct album cover. Just songs, which are still witty ("Only Prettier"), only prettier ("Dead Flowers").
Menya - Sleepover Series Vol. 1 (self-released)
A "mixtape," a/k/a three unsigned, sexually-advanced, NYU students' best record so far. In under forty minutes their Fannypack-inspired, Millionaires-cheapened hiphop loses novelty and the pop songs are arranged with heft. They cover Kelly Clarkson's 2009 classic "I Do Not Hook Up" and make something useful of 3OH!3 and Vanessa Carlton. Flow's not as relentless as their first two EPs. So there's no "Ripe," no "DTF" or "Diana (I Heart U)." But guests, mash-ups and smoother-than-Girl Talk snippets of TLC, Q-Tip and the inescapable "My Humps" in between tracks add color and pacing. Certified by both Blender and Out.
The Pains of Being Pure at Heart - Higher than the Stars (Slumberland EP)
EPs are small pleasures by definition, but sometimes their tossed-off quality renders more winners than the original parent album. Higher than the Stars at first sounds even better than the fledgling shoegazers' debut, with "103" and "Twins" at least as melodically urgent as anything there. But neither of the title tunes leaves its comfort zone, not even the seven-minute chill-lounge boudoir mix. You won't forget "Young Adult Fiction" anytime soon, but why would you want to?
Serengeti - Dennehy (Lights, Camera, Action) (Audio8)
This criminally overlooked 2008 opus is the most original rap album since who knows. Something from the pre-gun era I suppose. Barely-known rapper Serengeti is a gifted character actor, playing two roles here, a frustrated young rapper named Scotty who's possibly suicidal, and Kenny, a married and middle-aged Chicagoan-for-life, who wears it in his accent and mostly raps about his loves: da Bears, his wife Jueles (in both the tenderest cut and the scariest), and the title actor. Among other subjects like "growing a moustache the size of Mike Ditka's forehead." Hyperdecorated suburbia like Green Day never achieved lyrically-mature for one thing. Proudly.
Dan Weiss is the music editor for LAS. Formerly an editorial intern at CMJ and creator of the now defunct What was It Anyway?, his work has appeared in Village Voice, Pitchfork, Philadelphia Inquirer, Stylus and Crawdaddy among others. He resides in Brooklyn where he enjoys questionable lifestyle choices and loud guitars.
See other articles by Dan Weiss.
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