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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!
Such a situation made compiling our top 20 albums for this year especially hard, and the results were a bit surprising to everyone. As the lists came in and the votes were tallied there were repeated ties that needed to be broken, but ultimately the picture became less cloudy. As can be seen from our staff's individual lists, our composite would hardly be anyone's pick for the best of the year. But LAS is, after all, a democracy, and when the numbers added up this is what we came up with. // ERIC J HERBOTH
01. Joanna Newsom - Ys (Drag City)
Ms. Newsome cannot do anything by the book. The raw and piercing vocals of her debut have been tempered here and backed with Van Dyke Parks' symphonic production. The album has an antiquated, oaken feel which Newsom's harp, elfin presence and lengthy, lyrical songs only serve to accentuate. // JON BURKE
02. Liars - Drums Not Dead (Mute)
This New York band relocated to Berlin to record their third album in their wildly evolving musical arc. The title says it all and somewhere Mickey Hart is giddy. But this is no drum circle or spaced-out jam, so be grateful. Drums are postulated to be the first human instruments and the stark infrastructure laid here harkens something wondrous and primitive. Add the ominous presence of singer Angus Andrew and the effect is both unsettling and comfortable. // ARI SHAPIRO
03. TV on the Radio - Return to Cookie Mountain (4AD)
When tossing around names for best album consideration the other night, my friend Nico and I seemed to agree that Return to Cookie Mountain would most likely end up near the top of the composite list not because of any extravagance or even any overwhelming qualities, but because it is quite simply the most solid rock album in a year where solid rock albums have been hard to come by. From the opening 80s-ish rhythm and subsequent horn infusion, it was clear from the first track that this album was something special. // ERIC J HERBOTH
04. Beirut - The Gulag Orkestar (4AD)
Out of nowhere (or New Mexico via Brooklyn) comes Zach Condon, the 19 year old wunderkind who sings like Stephen Merrit, writes like Jeff Mangum and loses his voice while on tour like Axl Rose. Seemingly, with a mission of creating a full album without a guitar, Beirut has laid one of the most compelling soundtracks in indie rock this year. Amazing story-telling lyrics are backed by creative structures and instruments that give the entire album a once-in-a-lifetime feel; it is a series of strange combinations of sounds that give Gulag Orkestar its legs. It is beautiful and haunting while keeping a strong foundation in creative pop. // BOB LADEWIG
05. Band of Horses - Everything All the Time (Sub Pop)
For Band of Horses the need, not simply to escape but to transcend, is clear and fully-formed from inception. While their music does exist in a psychedelic space, it is by no means aimless or singed. They evoke the feeling of gazing in complete wonder at something once unnoticed. Their sound, lush and verdant, is both natural and supernatural. It yearns for the unseen. // SARAH PETERS
06. Grizzly Bear - Yellow House (Warp)
Recorded in lead singer Edward Droste's mother's living room just off Cape Cod - in what else, but a yellow house - the band's sophomore effort flings out a few fleeting PBS moments of harmonized vocals throughout its course, but what remains is pure gold. Songs like "Knife" will have you humming its ghostly lyrics at the grocery store, no doubt inviting worried looks from other shoppers as you sing "Can you feel the kni-e-i-i-i-fe?" while groping the tomatoes. // JOSH MABRAY
07. The Thermals - The Body, The Blood, The Machine (Sub Pop)
They don't wear eyeliner, turn up in the tabloids, or try to get all rock opera on their fans. Seeming a bit down tempo compared to their earlier work, the Thermals' new songs still manage to be infectious and catchy. Barely pausing to catch their breath or swig a beer between songs, the Thermals straight up rule and made the best rock and roll record of the year. // KEVIN ALFOLDY
08. Thom Yorke - The Eraser (XL)
Even when disarmed from all but his laptop, Yorke still creates beautiful sonic landscapes. // MATT CONNER
09. Islands - Return to the Sea (Equator)
What a weird little album. This probably won't satisfy everyone who was just beginning to get their head around The Unicorns only to have the band cut and run, but it's a nice little amalgam of folk, noise, rap and everything else. I wouldn't be surprised if there was actually a kitchen sink on this record. // ERIC J HERBOTH
10. Yeah Yeah Yeahs - Show Your Bones (Interscope)
Yeah Yeah Yeahs' second album is a more than worthy follow-up to Fever To Tell. // MARK THOMPSON
11. Casiotone For The Painfully Alone - Etiquette (Tomlab)
The cover of Casiotone for the Painfully Alone's new album shows the ghost of a young lady, practicing perfect posture, sharing breakfast with a smoking, slouching alligator. The image couldn't be more impeccable, as the album itself is an improbable mix of whimsical and refined, with a destiny in tragedy. Like Books hosting a tea party for Stephen Merritt, Etiquette is swirling with fantastical pairings of electronic and organic sound; it is immediately and truly special. // SARAH PETERS
12. Ghostface Killah - Fishscale (Def Jam)
Tony Starks is the only good rapper in the world. Period. Even his bad songs are good. Shut up. // JONAH FLICKER
13. Matmos - The Rose Has Teeth in the Mouth of a Beast (Matador)
The duo of M.C. Schmidt and Drew Daniel are really into the concept album aesthetic. While I couldn't get into the comparitavely straight forward Civil War, this 10-track ode to Matmos' collective historical heroes is everything an experimental concept album should be - abstract yet warm, odd yet familiar. The track paying homage to William S. Burroughs, with its boardwalk chatter, typewriter tapping and ragtime rumble, is alone worth checking this obtusely named album out. // MONIQUE LEBREAU
14. Benoît Pioulard - Precis (Kranky)
This is the kind of densely layered album that expands with an increase in volume similar to works by My Bloody Valentine and M83. Thomas Meluch also muffles his vocals somewhat, creating a soothing effect that more than makes up for any vocal or lyrical shortcomings here. All this discussion of layering and distortion might lead one to assume that Precis is somehow inorganic. That assumption is wrong. The electronic elements have the effect of submersing the listener in a warm sonic bath that the acoustic guitar phrases float upon. // JON BURKE
15. Regina Spektor - Begin to Hope (Sire)
Sometimes I think my mother is right when she says I hang out with all the wrong people. For all of the self-professed music experts that I know, it wasn't until last month that I had even heard the name Regina Spektor. At first I wondered if it was the murdering Phil's wife or daughter, but that proved to not be the case. Rather than crushing listeners under a wall of sound, Spektor-with-an-o pierces hearts and minds with rich piano tones, keyboard twinklings, unobnoxious drum machine cadences and a sultry voice. Begin to Hope is what Sarah Mclaughlin and Tori Amos album probably sound like in their own heads, but unfortunately for those two what comes out always sucks. // CLIFTON GATES
16. Gnarls Barkley - St. Elsewhere (Downtown)
DangerMouse and Cee-Lo hit pop paydirt while still catering to independent crowds. "Crazy" was a good song until the radio killed it. Anyways, the real killer single is "Transformer." // JOSH ZANGER
17. Tom Waits - Orphans: Brawlers, Bawlers & Bastards (Anti-)
Pork-pie hat in hand, Tom Waits comes to you looking for a home for his Orphans, a collection (supposedly) of outtakes and rarities from Waits' long-running career that hangs together better than any odds-and-sods release has a right to. Holding 54 songs within the limits of its own teeming Bowery, Orphans - broken down into three stylistically distinct discs - is a sprawling masterpiece of whiskey-soaked ballads, theatrical Vaudevillian romps, junkyard jazz and drunk-tank rants and musings. It's typically weird, but entertaining fare from an eccentric genius of an artist who is anything but typical. // PETER LINDBLAD
18. The Decemberists - The Crane Wife (Interscope)
Not the best Decemberists' album by a long shot, The Crane Wife still provides enough literate pop highlights to save Colin Meloy's reputation as this generation's indie poet laureate. A 12-minute prog-rock piece in the wrong hands could have been a disaster, but Meloy saved The Crane Wife from icebergs that would have sunk other bands by navigating this ship through tasteful melodies and beautifully subtle arrangements unfamiliar to prog. That, in and of itself, is an amazing feat. // PETER LINDBLAD
19. The Roots - Game Theory (Def Jam)
The masters of organic hip-hop/jazz get top position for including a remix tribute of Donuts' "Time: Donuts of the Heart". Game Theory is a great mix to throw on if one doesn't want houseguests criticizing their music. This steak is very well done. // TED NIXON
20. Tapes N' Tapes - The Loon (XL)
Originally, this album was released in late 2005 by the band themselves. It was then released on a label in March of 2006, to a much wider base of people. All in all - it has been the most played album (in my itunes) for the past year. This is as close to perfection as an album can get. It's got some great, rollicking rock-moments, as well as some beautiful hushed gems. It's got it all, and they certainly pack a punch with their live show! // BOB LADEWIG
This was fun; we should do it again next year. In the meantime, be sure to check out the writers' individual lists to see the many objects of our affection.
The LAS Staff
A number of the Lost At Sea staff have worked and continue to work for various publications, both independent and commercial. Often very stifling in their narrow focus, conventional media outlets left our writers hungry for something bigger, more diverse, more communal. More active, because this is the twenty-first century and it makes sense. During it's short life LAS has accomplished many of its goals (but not all) and has in turn set new ones. Everything that we accomplish is through teamwork and cooperation, both with our regular staff writers and with our contributing writers. LAS is nothing short of a collective. Another contrasting point to some of the magazines out there is that we've checked our egos and scene ethics at the door. We welcome anyone and everyone to contribute and cover a wide range of topics. LAS does not follow your guide lines.
See other articles by The LAS Staff.
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