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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!
Burial/Four Tet - Moth/Wolf Cub [12"] (Text)
I'm no completist--especially not for fucking techno vinyl, but having gone mad for the defining Untrue, I wagered on this two-song tidbit (a 16-minute EP, really) which is a third of overly-basic debut Burial's length and three times better. I like how on the A-side you can tell exactly when Four Tet's spinning (glass-blowing bells and chimes pulsating in his usual claustrophobic music box fashion for the start) and when Burial supplants him (wind-up percussion from spindly desktool architecture only he could create). On the wavery B-side it's more difficult to tell who's doing what. But half the fun is evoking guesses, and oh can these imaginations evoke.
Brad Paisley - American Saturday Night (Arista Nashville)
Outside of our hip little sewing circle, this new set from the Thinking Man's Nashvillian (re: probably voted Obama) has racked up acclaim for sticking to its title: going fishing, making out among the Spanish moths, picking up girls with geeky math entendres. Some are calling it the first post-Obama country landmark, probably because an album called American Saturday Night five years ago would've been by Toby Keith and about lynching. But this is American songwriting worth being proud of, from two exquisite openers--one a chugger worthy of Rockpile, the other a ballad with a Jenny Lewis-style torch falsetto--through the post-racism-hopeful "Welcome to the Future" to the explosive get-this-straight peak "The Pants." Which Paisley doesn't wear in this relationship.
Major Lazer - Guns Don't Kill People...Lazers Do (Downtown)
Hard to tell why some are calling this distasteful, even racist...is Diplo not established enough by now as a Third World-obsessed beatmaker to take on reggae? It's not like Diplo's the one singing anyway; if Vybz Kartel says something stupid about batty boys it's on his own ignorance. And while I thought I was sick of him too guys, his strange, simple lockstep riddims here are as enjoyable as his videogame-space-reggaeton ever is, and at worst generic. Santigold and Mr. Lexx's "Hold the Line" is a surfin' bricolage riot that reclaims Missy Elliott's penchant for stock sound FX, Mr. Vegas and Jovi Rockwell's "Can't Stop Now" improves on No Doubt's "Underneath It All" with even tackier goo goo dolls singing backup. Prince Zimboo's "Baby" Autotunes a baby.
Mos Def - The Ecstatic (Downtown)
A real mixtape, for once. Indie-rap's finest year since 2003 peaks with DOOM's Born Like This and this not-dissimilar scrapbook from Mos, Madlib and the late Dilla's favorite vacation spots. Like DOOM, Dante Smith weaves one-, two-, three- and four-minute tracks into a 45-minute collage of thrash guitar, Spanish singing, pool-hall vibraphones, dissonant Arabic strings and Indian film reels. Only a few of them have choruses, notably the harmonized(!) "Pistola" and the lone caveat to 2009, the "Tipsy"-clapping, future-synth workout "Life in Marvelous Times," which flirts with crunk. But the fragments are the juiciest bits: you'll be glad to have waded through "The Embassy"'s nonsensical airline intro when the chaotically-contained bhangra beat begins bouncing off your frontal lobe.
Death Cab for Cutie - The Open Door EP (Atlantic)
I'm tempted to call this their best record for being fun alone. Certainly "Little Bribes," a walking blues shuffle that out-sasses and outclasses anything the band's ever done deserves its rightful positioning at the front of the canon. But that's not to say enough of the sparkling Wilco-done-right "A Diamond and a Tether," or the rocking, scale-climbing stomp "My Mirror Speaks." Here and there, a springy Chris Walla appears to be letting go like old Modest Mouse after years of holding out despite his peers, and Nick Harmer's wall-like bass is the ultra-catchy (and ultra-Death Cab-like) "I Was Once a Loyal Lover"'s secret weapon, something unfathomable for this band years ago. Only a pointless demo reprise of "Talking Bird" makes this feel anything like a product.
Deer Tick - Born on Flag Day (Partisan)
With a weathered growl that smacks and buzzes of not just Steve Earle but, strangely enough, Sonny Bono, Deer Tick's way-younger-than-expected John McCauley has an appeal that would be hard to explain if putting on the record didn't make it so easy. On paper, there's no real way to communicate the difference between this asshole-artworked, forefather-kissassing shit from anything else in No Depression except that Pitchfork apparently thinks they're supposed to be the Shins. But the first three songs are amazing, hooky for not just roots music but comparable pop. Caught me quicker than Lady GaGa anyway. And even after "Easy," "Little White Lies," and especially the gorgeous "Smith Hill" go our separate ways we're still left with a fast-flowing Drive-By Truckers-style set about half the length of a Drive-Bys album, which is good because their lyrics aren't up there yet. The chord changes are as smart and airtight as Rilo Kiley's at least.
Polvo - In Prism (Merge)
Speaking of chords, Polvo must've heard Battles and hurried their shit back together to...battle. The sprigs and gears in this act's riffs and song blueprints has no equal and it's not hard to believe they took twelve years putting this poppier-than-ever version of their vision together. A prism indeed: guitars and colors refracted in odd shapes, odder hooks and better-sculpted indie-rock than anyone else working the guitar circuit in 2009 unless Les Savy Fav have a surprise up their asses. Better than their original catalogue too.
Dinosaur Jr - Farm (Jagjaguwar)
Speaking of guitar-freak reunions, what J Mascis lacks in subtlety he makes up for in rocking. Dull cliché, I know. But Neil Young adepts are exempt from clichés, they only exist to rock and thud until the end of time. So like Young's 80s to their 90s, Mascis has scared up an impossible return to form with odysseys this time and last (2007's didn't-miss-a-step Beyond) blaring from the stacks with seasick, gurgling rage. Where their last effort challenged Doug Martsch with the monolithic "Pick Me Up," Farm's centerpiece is the cresting "Plans." And the cover just implores you to break out the bong.
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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