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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!
Of the night's players, the first up was Arthur Shupbach of Exploding Head, a Queens-based alt country outfit, doing a short solo set. Perched atop a wobbly stool, with just one guitar and a small army of pedals, and without the rest of his band, Shupbach's brand of one-man electric folk was likeable, but he probably needed the rest of the Head, especially for the Tom Waits cover. Ouch. There were funny, self-deprecating moments throughout Shupbach's set, an abundance of Tom Petty inflections, and plenty of tongue-in-cheek lyrics about Jesus freaks and sluts and nipples - but without a backing band, it was hard to figure out just what he was going for. And, although the pipes were clanging like the boiler was pegged at Full Steam Ahead, there still wasn't any heat in the place.
Once Shupbach had departed, Alana Amram and the Rough Gems began their set by wrestling with the kick drum - which was a trashcan, and obviously not their first choice. In the mess of tuning, positioning, and failing microphone stands (shame on the Charleston), they somehow managed to rig everything just right. It could've very easily all been a bit too Williamsburg if it wasn't so charming - and so exceptional. Ms. Amram and the band embraced the small audience with their honest, bar-style country in a bittersweet hug that everyone seemed to wish lasted just a few more songs. With a mixture of heartfelt slow drawls and upbeat tunes fit for a honky tonk, Amram and her Rough Gems provided the heat for an otherwise dank basement.
Jeremy Yocum and the Last Rounders, making their way to the front, multiple drinks in hand, had the unenviable task of following the Rough Gem's warm touch. The trashcan-as-kick drum was slightly more expertly rigged for the Rounders, and the Brooklyn band came together for what sounded like a perfect country moment. Full of whiskey and heartache, Yocum seemed to draw inspiration from the pit of his stomach and the bottom of the bottle. The band played impeccably, Derek Milhem's lightning fast fingers on guitar and Eric Elterman's fiddle and accordion nearly turning the basement into the Grand Ole Opry. And while Yocum's vocals could be a bit hard to hear at times, you could still understand the broken-hearted, bleary-eyed pleas. Having proven to be the highlight thus far the Last Rounders, on their last blustering appeal, saw Yocum jumping and squatting down so far that the tip of his hat nearly touched cement.
Whiteshoes and the Nightmares of Nashville came on at nearly midnight. "Hi," said Whiteshoes, checking his microphone by muttering "Uhm, baby Jesus loves me, yes I know it's true." Shupbach was back on the wobbly stool, cello and slide guitar were set up behind them, and Whiteshoes stood at the fore in his black tassel jacket. Smoothing his hair behind his ears, he pushed up his tiny pince-nez glasses and took a sip of his drink, then announced that this would be his first show standing up, rather than sitting on a stool, and so he didn't quite know what to do with himself. He took another drink and folded his arms. Upstairs you could hear the bar's jukebox and the pipes acting up again, and maybe a few parents shuffling about in search of their goddamn disrespectful kids.
The Nightmares of Nashville started up with a couple new songs, and "Shaped Like a Gun" quieted the few voices that drug on rudely in the back of the room. Shoes' nasally voice would no doubt get a nod of approval from Willie Nelson, and whining over a George Jones cover it all seemed just right for that particular moment. The cello added an achingly melancholy touch, though Whiteshoes' warbling seemed capable of sucking the joy out of life just fine on its own. The group proved to be a quiet nightcap to the previous sets, and though the crowd dwindled as Whiteshoes drawled on, those who were left stood entranced as the band played one song after another about heartbreak, heartbreak, and heartbreak.
Ending on a high note, Yocum came back on and lent some backing vocals to the last song, which, although very nearly a mess of forgotten lyrics and spilled beers, was one of the most endearing songs of the night. And then my parents came down and made everyone pour out their drinks. It was weird. SEE ALSO: myspace.com/thecharlestonnyc
SEE ALSO: myspace.com/explodingheadband
SEE ALSO: myspace.com/alanaamram
SEE ALSO: myspace.com/jeremyyocumandthelastrounders
SEE ALSO: myspace.com/whiteshoesandthenightmaresofnashville
Wearing plain black t-shirts, LAS contributing writer Pat Sullivan thinks a lot about a lot of different things. He likes thermoses but rarely has occasion to use them. He lives in Brooklyn.
See other articles by Patrick Sullivan.
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