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 » 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.
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Music Reviews

Screaming Females - Castle Talk
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Castle Talk
Don Giovanni
Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross - The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
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The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
The Null Corporation
Deerhunter - Halcyon Digest
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No Age - Everything in Between
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Everything in Between
Sub Pop
Robyn - Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
The Walkmen - Lisbon
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Fat Possum
Belle and Sebastian
BBC Sessions

Rating: 6.8/10 ?

November 19, 2008
Perhaps the Spiders from Mars swagger of The Life Pursuit album and its subsequent tour obscured the fact that Belle & Sebastian once came off as a vivid embodiment of teen shyness and side-of-the-mouth cleverness. The confidence and self-assuredness of the last couple of the group's albums and corresponding tours seems to have stretched over into even the live representations of catalog work, so to hear Stewart Murdoch's nervous quiver as he counts in to "The State that I am In" on the newly issued BBC Sessions is like taking a time machine back to when Belle & Sebastian was a small band, in the best possible sense of the term.

For the Belle & Sebastian classicists there is little revelation to be had on BBC Sessions; anyone who watched the excellent documentary Fans Only, or downloaded the complete live reading of the band's early classic If Your Feeling Sinister offered by iTunes, will likely have seen at least snippets of these performances or already have more than enough live material from the band to last a lifetime. Still, as the band is apparently not working on a new album (they have recently let on they are working on some soundtrack work), it's time to purge the vaults, and few bands have made the cash grab with as much class as Belle & Sebastian has.

The BBC Sessions comes on the heels of Push Barman to Open Old Wounds, which succeeded simply because it made neat work of the Lazy Line Painter Jane EP Box, but BBC Sessions seems to somehow simultaneously offer more and less than that compilation. On the one hand, hearing fragile readings of "The State that I am in" or "Like Dylan in the Movies" is somewhat exciting; on the other hand, aside from small nuances that will likely only excite die-hards (and really only on the first listen- after all; how exciting can nuance really be?), the question lingers: beyond the wonderful packaging and the effort spent on putting everything in one place for the first time, why does BBC Sessions even exist?

Gasp! will go the cries of the faithful. But really, for those of us with 15 dollars in our pocket, looking for a new album, does this one even serve the purpose of a proper introduction? Like so many "important" bands before them, splitting the songs off of their source albums doesn't do Belle & Sebastian any justice - simply buy If You're Feeling Sinister or Tigermilk of you want to get the gist. Those albums are not only superior; as members of Matador's Mid-Price Classics, they're also cheaper!

The real draw for casual fans and those that hang on Murdoch's every utterance are the real rarities. Previously unreleased, "Shoot the Sexual Athlete" is a bass-heavy track of all wit and wink, and "Nothing in the Silence" is more notable for its back-story than its actual substance - Isobel Campbell left the group shortly after it's recording, and it's mournful harmonica laden blues foretold in shades the work she'd go on to do with Mark Lanegan. The prize piece, at least for me, is the last track, "(My Girl's Got) Miraculous Technique" which shows the band drifting across a drum-machine beat, with the orchestration carrying Murdoch's wistful vocal somewhat closer to the pop sounds that the band has flowered into. The notable missing tracks are songs that stretched the boundaries of their twee-pop, like "Electronic Renaissance" or the piano ballad "Fox in the Snow"- as though in a live setting found the band afraid to step out of their comfort zone.

All told, the release of BBC Sessions is perfect for the Christmas-time retail season, and Belle & Sebastian's unassuming packaging will offend no-one. Frankly, those lame-ass relatives of yours who were buying Yanni samplers a decade ago could do with a tastefully shocking dose of Belle & Sebastian under the tree next month. In the long run, whether BBC Sessions will really do much more than remind fans that the group exists is really the question at hand.

Reviewed by Cory Tendering
No biographical information is currently available.

See other reviews by Cory Tendering



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