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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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 » 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!
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Music Reviews

Screaming Females - Castle Talk
»Screaming Females
Castle Talk
Don Giovanni
Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross - The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
»Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross
The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
The Null Corporation
Deerhunter - Halcyon Digest
Halcyon Digest
No Age - Everything in Between
»No Age
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
»The Walkmen
Fat Possum
Aesop Rock
None Shall Pass
Def Jux

Rating: 7.6/10 ?

November 28, 2007
There's sort of an unspoken contract between music lovers and worthwhile artists that we'll let them use our ears as a canvas for whatever kooky, next-level shit they think up, with the unsaid promise of enjoyable music in return, some finished relief between learning lessons. If they don't eventually deliver the hits, their unfruitful tinkering out in the woods falls on deaf ears. Because Aesop Rock was a great rapper who kind of gypped listeners in that bargain with his last two records, I pronounced him dead, in a sense. He didn't really start to stink like a certifiable music corpse per se, he just kind of got swallowed up by his own rabbit hole. Worse offenders include the Mars Volta and Wilco.

I'm sure 2003's Bazooka Tooth and 2005's mini joint Fast Cars, Danger, Fire and Knives had plenty of invention and intelligence to spout, but I couldn't hear it for all the chaos. The music was so twisty and the lyrics so dizzying that only the labor of an extraordinarily close listen would've reaped meanings from the brittle obscurity. I'm probably making these records sound terribly meritless. They're not. They're just brittle and a bit short on comfortable resting places (exception: Aesop and El-P's tag-team duet "We're Famous," a turf-claiming firestorm that called out anything and everything). And let's call a spade a spade: "Harvest all Brand-X Clark Kents to worm food/ Carbon heart, buried his nozzle in fossil marker art/ Pardon, cadaver had a legitimate pulse/ And littered volts all over the village where the skittish pigeons molt," is a bitch to read all spelled out, much less process through a stack of speakers. No wonder indie-crits switched to mainstream rap coverage in the interim; guys like this make us work too hard. And rap's supposed to be fun, right? Even the great educators - Rakim, KRS-One, Chuck D - rocked the mic; they didn't hand it a pad to take notes. It was good reason to believe Aes would never make a "No Regrets" or "Save Yourself" or even a "Nickel Plated Pockets" ever again.

Well, be careful what you wish for. As I slowly peel my foot from my gums, the title track from the game-changing None Shall Pass does it all again: over a cautious disco beat, Aesop swings his vocab with the stride of an athlete rather than dragging it like the bulky bag of words it is. He's still on about rhyming "rouge vocoder bliss" with "motor on the fritz," but at least he's keeping up his end of the deal again - there's even Kanye West-inspired chipmunk soul break following each refrain! And it sounds great! The attack is sparer and cleaner than the average Def Jux release, but by no means would I describe the production here as "crowd-pleasing." However, I can assure you it no longer sounds like drum machines malfunctioning in a microwave; now we get a grinding blues vamp beneath "Catacomb Kids," and an Ali Farka Touré-like spiral-guitar on "Fumes."

Aesop Rock even has fun with the "accessible music" conceit, hollering "Reeeeeemix!" with a hearty chuckle before tossing in (one of several old-school nods here) a knowing wink at Ice Cube's "Once Upon a Time in the Projects." It's good to hear our man Aes no longer forgoing pleasure in the pursuit of ambition, and he rewards fans with his ballsiest trick to date: none other than the Mountain Goats' John Darnielle warbling a near-operatic exit to album closer "Coffee." And, like the days of old, it all sounds great.

Reviewed by Dan Weiss
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 reviews by Dan Weiss



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