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[02.21.2011 by Bridget Doyle]


 » 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
Miranda Lambert
Crazy Ex-Girlfriend

Rating: 9/10 ?

December 13, 2007
Two of the best country music singles from the past year have come in the form of fiery revenge screeds by young and wronged blondes. Both singers are graduates from reality TV talent quests, and both seek violent retribution against their good-for-nothing exes. And truth be told, while both singles are excellent, "American Idol" winner Carrie Underwood's "Before He Cheats" is just a tiny bit better than "Nashville Star" loser Miranda Lambert's "Crazy Ex-Girlfriend." But for Underwood's sake (and mine), don't let Lambert in on that evaluation. Those who get on the wrong side of this Texan rarely end up faring well. On the title track of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, her second album, she scouts out five bars before locating her lover's "kind of cheap" new woman. "Little bitch," sneers Lambert, before raising unspecified, though undoubtedly formidable, hell. And that's mild in comparison to the treatment meted out to the men who cross her: in "Gunpowder and Lead," Lambert cocks her shotgun, lights up a cigarette and promises to show an abusive lover what this particular "little girl's made of" (hint: the song's not called "Sugar and Spice").

"I'm mad as hell," Lambert says on "Crazy Ex-Girlfriend," as if she really needed to tell us. From her giving-up-on-love signature song "Kerosene," on her major label debut of the same name, through to the defiant rockers on this follow-up, Lambert has crafted to perfection her reckless rebel persona, and if it is an act she at times exaggerates, it is one never anything less than thoroughly enjoyable. But no matter how entertaining her steel-eyed fury is, if "mad as hell" were all she were, her music would grow tedious.

Fortunately, Lambert is a versatile performer and she has a less celebrated but just as strong talent for writing generous and optimistic observational pop. Another album single, "Famous in a Small Town," is a charmingly narrated portrait of rural life, and she sings about shooting "the first buck of the season" and landing on the front page of the local paper with just enough ambivalence to make it clear her ambitions are loftier. Meanwhile, the sweet country ballads "More Like Her" and "Love Letters" are by turns melancholic and wistful, and she lets her sharp wit shine on the cheating - rather than cheated - song, "Guilty in Here": "What became of all the boys who only want one thing?," she itches.

Lambert's preference for tough, rock-influenced songs may put her somewhere outside the realm of Gretchen Wilson in a country music world that still favors gentler material for women, but as much as she tries to run against the grain, be that of society or the music industry, her songs never fail to be anything but inviting. Her characters are always richly drawn and engaging and her melodies always captivating, with even the prickly bluegrass-derived "Down" seething marvelously as it rollicks forward. If any even perfunctory criticism of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend were to be made, it would be that it doesn't contain enough Lambert. The singer co-wrote all but three of the tracks, and while she turns in excellent performances on each of the non-originals, including a more than respectable take on "Easy From Now On," best known as an Emmylou Harris recording, Lambert so effectively inhabits her self-penned songs that her covers seem deficient in comparison. No one can write a Miranda Lambert song quite like Miranda Lambert, and hence she always sounds best when she's the one calling the shots. "Those pretty girls they're all the same/ But they're damn well gonna know my name," Lambert promises on the album's stellar title track, and if that isn't a warning to all of Nashville, from a woman who has compiled one of the year's finest releases, it should be.

Reviewed by Jonathan Bradley
A contributing writer based in Australia.

See other reviews by Jonathan Bradley



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