Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Tops for this particular pops...

Well here you go - after 70+ records that didn't make the cut, here's the rundown on what survived the longlist to end up on my Top 20 for 2010.

20. Clive Tanaka y su orquestra - Jet Set Siempre No. 1 (Tall Corn Music)

I'm guessing from the .jp on his (their?) website, Clive Tanaka is actually Japanese, but regardless of origin, this music is unquestionably beautiful chillwave.

19. Basia Bulat - Heart Of My Own (Secret City Records)

It's quite something when your unquestionable #1 from a few years ago releases a solid sophomore record and can only hit #19 - but Heart Of My Own held on for dear life to crack the Top 20 from the very start of 2010.

18. Toro Y Moi - Causers Of This (Carpark)

Dude dropped an amazing debut in 2010 and will follow it up with Underneath the Pine this February. Might have to reserve it a spot on my 2011 longlist...

17. Christian Scott - Yesterday You Said Tomorrow (Concord Jazz)

Big ups to Paul Nolin and the rest of the folks at the Jazz Winnipeg festival for bringing in New Orleans' native Christian Scott. Not only was this the highlight of the festival, it was a top 5 show ever for me - and I've been to A LOT of shows.

16. Bei Bei & Shawn Lee - Into The Wind (Ubiquity)

West Coast meets Far East on this collaboration between the musical chameleon Shawn Lee and Bei Bei, who plays a two-thousand-year-old stringed instrument called the gu zheng.

15. Kacey Johansing - Many Seasons (Porto Franco)

I had never heard of Kacey Johansing prior to this album arriving at the station this past summer and it was one of the best discoveries of the year. Fantastic songwriter, stellar arrangements, beautiful tunes.

14. Breathe Owl Breathe - Magic Central (Hometapes)

I wrote about this record in October.

13. Arcade Fire - The Suburbs (Merge)

I was just as happy to watch opener Calexico when Arcade Fire played the MTS Centre this year, but was pleased to note how touring has tightened the communication between AF's members since they played the Walker years ago - there was definitely charm to their sloppiness back in the day but they're quite the polished unit now.

12. The Roots - How I Got Over (Def Jam)

Okay, for a lot of folks THIS was the highlight of the Jazz Winnipeg festival this year and the Roots crew brought their best. I had a blast, it just was on a different level than the magic that happened with Christian Scott.

11. Ana Tijoux - 1977 (Oveja Negra / Nacional)

French/Chilean MC Ana Tijoux dropped some serious science on this partially autobiographical and partially socio-political effort. Hip hop is a global form and while I might need to look up translations of her lyrics on Google, the beats and cadence of her delivery can be appreciated in the same way that not understanding Sigur Ros doesn't detract from enjoying them.

10. Yeasayer - Odd Blood (Secretly Canadian)

I agree with Pitchfork when they declared this one of the worst covers of the year - the artwork is terrible. But as we all learned in the historic case of Book v. Cover, it's what's inside that counts.
Check out "Ambling Alp" which unfortunately can't be embedded.

09. Sam Amidon - I See The Sign (Bedroom Community)

This one skirts dangerously close to the edge of my rules about qualifying for the year-end list. The lyrics aren't original, but the the musical arrangements Sam Amidon has written for this 19th century folk and spiritual songs are. In the same way I considered Mermaid Avenue eligible back in the day, I See The Sign made the cut. What a tremendoustly beautiful record.

08. Baths - Cerulean (Anticon)

I gushed about this record back in July. Also, this video rules.

07. Cris Derksen - The Cusp (Independent)

All credit for this one goes to my lovely wife. She put me on to Cris Derksen after catching her performance at Manito Ahbee - she came home raving about the music Derksen makes. Using her cello and looping and effects pedals, Derksen crafts works at the intersection contemporary classical, folk, electronic and Aboriginal traditional musics. Amazing.

06. Flying Lotus - Cosmogramma (Warp)

Like what Cris Derksen is doing to point to the future of classical music, FlyLo is strongly suggesting where jazz might be headed.

05. Boats - Cannonballs, Cannonballs (Majestic Triumph)

Full disclosure - I sang on a couple songs on this record and am credited as the Moustache Tree. But that's not why this made the list - my contributions account for only a few bars on this fantastic rock record.

04. Beach House - Teen Dream (Sub Pop)

While Baltimore gets credit for being known for The Wire, Beach House stake a strong claim to being great ambassadors for B-more.

03. Quadron - Quadron (Plug Research)

Much as I love me some Sade, this was the soul/beat-driven record of the year.

02. Shad - TSOL (Black Box Recordings)

First he gets robbed for the Polaris this year, then I rob him of top spot on my list. I waffled back and forth on this one and the eventual number one - I even considered naming them both 1.5 as a shared top pick. This was a record that stood up to a LOT of repeat listens.

01. The Tallest Man On Earth - The Wild Hunt (Dead Oceans)

Phenomenal. Dude just keeps on doing what he does, so very well. The song below slays me every time I hear it.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Longer gets longest and then stops.

Mulatu Astatke - Mulatu Steps Ahead (Strut)

I feel like Jim Jarmusch is party responsible for Astatke's renaissance since he included him on the Broken Flowers soundtrack. Last year MA collaborated with the Heliocentrics, but this record is all his...

The Mynabirds - What We Lose In The Fire We Gain In The Flood (Saddle Creek)

The title may be painful, but the music is anything but.

The National - High Violet (4AD)

Another record that seemed like it would have a guaranteed spot in the Top 20 - "Runaway" did end up making my top songs list though.

Ô Paon - Courses (TAUS)

Geneviève Castrée makes bewitching music and beautiful artwork.

Oh My Darling - In The Lonesome Hours (Independent)

Great full-length follow-up to their debut EP fulfils the promise and then some.

Pop Winds - The Turquoise (Arbutus Records)

Between Grimes and Pop Winds, Arbutus Records was a label that put itself on my radar in a big way in 2010.

The Radio Dept. - Clinging To A Scheme (Labrador)

While I'll have to wait until 2011 for my favourite Swedish pop band, Acid House Kings, to release a new record, The Radio Dept. filled the vacancy quite nicely.

Secret Cities - Pink Graffiti (Western Vinyl)

Debut full-length from this psychedelic dream pop quartet (from Fargo, no less).

Slow Six - Tomorrow Becomes You (Western Vinyl)

Western Vinyl, delivering two in a row. Another label with such a great roster of acts.

Stars - The Five Ghosts (Soft Revolution)

When the 2010 Polaris shortlist was announced I did a little exercise at trying to guess the 2011 shortlist - The Five Ghosts was included.

Stornoway - Beachcomber's Windowsill (4AD)

This makes two Oxford, UK acts that made the longlist.

Storsveit Nix Noltes - Royal Family-Divorce (Fat Cat)

I had the pleasure of reviewing this for Uptown without knowing anything about SNN before I hit 'play' on the disc. Great discovery.

Sumsun - Samo Milagro (Moamoo)

No surprise that something this sunny and joyful came from the beaches of Florida. Former North Carolinan Judson Rogers took his talents to West Palm Beach.

Sun Airway - Nocturne Of Exploded Cyrstal Chandelier (Dead Oceans)

I'm grateful that sometimes records I enjoy catch on with programmers at the station - Sun Airway actually did fairly well and managed to crack the Top 101 of 2010.

Tunng - And Then We Saw Land (Thrill Jockey)

I'd have to go back and check, but I don't think there's been a year without at least one Thrill Jockey artist making the longlist or Best Of - such an unassailable label.

Twin Shadow - Forget (Terrible Records)

I didn't know about the Grizzly Bear connection until I was looking at Twin Shadow's entry on AllMusic in preparation for this post, but it makes sense that an album with a link to that band would resonate with me.

Typhoon - Hunger And Thirst (Tender Loving Empire)

As if Portland not only has a beautiful climate and a forward-thinking approach to urban planning - they also have great bands like Typhoon to make me momentarily consider relocating. Just momentarily though - Winnipeg, you're stuck with me.

Vampire Weekend - Contra (XL Recordings)

Maybe in a few years we'll try to distance ourselves from the love we heaped on Vampire Weekend for their debut and sophomore records, but let's be honest: this was one of the most anticipated records before it was released, and we loved the shit out of songs like "Horchata."

Vijay Iyer - Historicity (Act Music)

Amazingly, not the best jazz record of 2010 in my view - to find out what is, check out my Top 20 on UMFM on New Years' Eve or come back here after the 31st.

Wildbirds & Peacedrums - Rivers (The Control Group)

Few bands make me scratch my head as much as Wildbirds & Peacedrums - I honestly can't figure out why more people don't know about them / aren't into them. They've got curious, engaging music, intelligent lyrics, they're photogenic... what's holding them back?

Women - Public Strain (Flemish Eye)

Okay, now you're really wondering what the hell is on my Top 20 when something as obvious as this failed to make the cut...

Woodpigeon - Die Stadt Musikanten (Boompa)

Ah Woodpigeon - je t'aime. Happy to announce that they'll be gracing the newly renovated UMFM recording studio sometime this spring to record a live session for TGIFR - expect me to blog the shit out of that.

Yukon Blonde - Yukon Blonde (Bumstead/Nevado)

This BC band makes perfectly crafted AM pop. While I long for the return of KY58, this record will have to do.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

To make a long story longer...

Part 2 in the continuing saga of really good albums that didn't make my Top 20, leaving people to wonder what exactly did crack the list...

Exploding Star Orchestra - Stars Have Shapes (Delmark)

Two years ago, their collaboration with the late, great Bill Dixon made the longlist. While this star doesn't burn quite as bright as that one did, it's still a beautiful piece of free jazz and avant-garde composition.

Foals - Total Life Forever (Sub Pop)

While I enjoyed their debut, Antidotes, I was pleasantly surprised by what a step forward this young Oxford, UK band took on their sophomore effort.

Four Tet - There Is Love In You (Domino)

Kieran Hebden (aka Four Tet) is one of those guys I usually keep a spot open for on a year-end list when I know he has a new record coming out - dude is super prolific and always makes compelling / interesting records. There Is Love In You was another one of those ones I'm still flummoxed about not including in the 20...

Freelance Whales - Weathervanes (Frenchkiss)

Great band with a great record I wrote about in the summer.

Future Islands - In Evening Air (Thrill Jockey)

It's not enough that Baltimore has Camden Yards and a series like The Wire? They've gotta go and produce great bands like Future Islands?

Ghostkeeper - Ghostkeeper (Flemish Eye)

Always interesting when a band goes the self-titled route for an album other than their debut... is THIS the record they want to be most closely identified with, the statement of what they're all about?

Gianna Lauren - Some Move Closer, Some Move On (Forward Music Group)

I had the good fortune of having Haligonian Gianna Lauren stop by the UMFM studio to perform an intimate acoustic set. It was a little like this video.

Grimes - Geidi Primes / Halfaxa (Arbutus)

Grimes releases two fantastic records in the space of a year? Is she the female Bradford Cox?

Hadouk Trio - Air Hadouk (Naive)

2010 was a great year for new jazz records and Hadouk Trio was a great discovery for me. Paul Nolin, if you're reading this, consider Hadouk Trio for the 2011 Jazz Winnipeg festival!

Hannah Georgas - This Is Good (Hidden Pony)

Hannah was Canada' indie darling du jour in 2010. I missed her WECC show, but by all accounts I should have been there.

Hidden Orchestra - Night Walks (Tru Thoughts)

Tru Thoughts is one of those labels I mention at the dinner table on Thanksgiving because I'm thankful every year it's in existence.

Horse Feathers - Thistled Spring (Kill Rock Stars)

Their last album, House With No Home, made the 2009 Longlist. This is the beginning of a trend for Horse Feathers.

How To Dress Well - Love Remains (Lefse Records)

Former Twin Cities resident Tom Krell moved from Brooklyn to Cologne, Germany. Those 3 cities are key to explaining How To Dress Well: Prince funk + indie lo-fi + German electronic music = Love Remains.

Hundred In The Hands - Hundred In The Hands(Warp)

Like Chairlift last year, I feel pretty certain this is one of those picks I'm going to end up hearing in Old Navy on their in-store playlist.

J57 - Digital Society (Balanced)

I mentioned Brace in Pt.1, J57 was someone he put me on to.

Junip - Fields (Mute)

First thought on hearing Fields, "This is like a more muscular Jose Gonzalez record". Oh wait, it is.

Konono No.1 - Assume Crash Position (Crammed)

Looking for a video of Konono No.1, I found these guys. Not as entertaining as Assume Crash Position, but enjoyable nonetheless.

Land Of Talk - Cloak & Cipher (Saddle Creek)

I was going to post the official video, but I love La Blogotheque's Takeaway shows.

Les Savy Fav - Root For Ruin (Frenchkiss)

These guys attack their songs with reckless abandon.

Library Voices - Denim On Denim (Young Soul Records)

These guys and gals are such a fun band - their music is fun, their performances are fun, and it's evident from Denim On Denim, that they enjoy it as much as their audiences.

Light Pollution - Apparitions (Carpark)

Like if a 2010 version of the Beach Boys went into the studio to record Pet Sounds while on quaaludes. Which is not to say that the Beach Boys weren't on quaaludes in 1966...

Mass Choir - Live My Life On The Backbeat (Independent)

I think Mass Choir's one-sheet referred to this as sounding like Dance Mix '94. I can't find my cassette copy of that album, but listening to this song, it's evoking some serious musical memories.

Find more artists like Mass Choir at Myspace Music

Matthew Dear - Black City (Ghostly International)

Suitably dark for an album called Black City, this is a sonic trip.

Maylee Todd - Choose Your Own Adventure (Do Right)

This record is all over the place, but in the best sense of the term.

Melaena Cadiz - Rattle The Windows (Independent)

This is one of those little records I haven't seen many people talking about, but which stuck with me since it arrived at the station in June. Cadiz has a fantastic voice and she pairs it with great songs. Can't ask for more than that.

Midlake - The Courage Of Others (Bella Union)

I can't help but think of Rick Wakeman's The Six Wives of Henry VIII when I listen to this record - it feels a little like that album's folky stepchild.

So that's it for part 2! Only one more batch of longlist albums to get to before announcing the Top 20 on New Years' Eve...

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Oh, the long of it all...

This year proved trickier than most when it came to narrowing down my favourite albums of the year and assembling my Top 20 (which will once again be announced as part of my annual UMFM countdown show on December 31st prior to being posted here).

I keep a running longlist of albums that I particularly enjoy as the year goes along and then, come December, I start whittling it down. In recent years, the longlist has run around 60 entries - meaning I had to reduce it by two-thirds to come up with my Top 20. I knew 2010 was a pretty decent year for music with lots of great albums I enjoyed throughout the year, but I was still pretty surprised to discover that my longlist contained over NINETY (90) albums!! Ai-yai-yai...

Which meant that I had to scratch roughly four-fifths of my list to get down to 20 selections. I've been agonizing over what to include and what to cut (I've had people say I take this entirely too seriously. I'm inclined to agree), and have my "final list" finished. In previous years I've posted a little bit about each album on my longlist, but due to the sheer volume I'm going to try to post some videos and links, but go easy on the write-ups.

Here's part one of what didn't make the cut, but is still highly recommended, in alphabetical order [aka, Seriously that didn't make your Top 20, wtf? pt1.]:

Aloe Blacc - Good Things (Stones Throw)

Best song of the year, hands down, was "I Need A Dollar."

Amiina - Puzzle (Ever Records)

Like a folky, bookworm version of Sigur Ros.

Andreya Triana - Lost Where I Belong (Ninja Tune)

I've already praised this album here.

Autre Ne Veut - Autre Ne Veut (Olde English Spelling Bee)

This one made me think of if Yeasayer and Teen Daze had a oddball pop/chillwave baby.

Azure Ray - Drawing Down The Moon (Saddle Creek)

I wrote about this one as well.

Belle & Sebastian - Write About Love (Matador)

It's quite a year when Belle & Sebastian release a great record and it doesn't crack my Top 20 considering what a big place in my heart this band holds.

Belleruche - 270 Stories (Tru Thoughts)

Go back and read this...

The Besnard Lakes - Are The Roaring Night (Outside)

This is one of those great moments where an album's title perfectly matches the material.

Bilal - Airtight's Revenge (Plug Research)

Kinda killed me not to find a place for this in the Top 20 - soooooo close. Killer r'n'b from Bilal, who finally returned with a sophomore record after a lengthy hiatus.

The Black Keys - Brothers (Nonesuch)

This one is on a lot of year-end lists, deservedly.

Black Mountain - Wilderness Heart (Jagjaguwar)

HOW IS THIS NOT ON MY TOP 20? I honestly could have done like three separate Top 20 lists and each of them would have been different and fantastic.

Brian McBride - The Effective Disconnect (Kranky)

Beautiful, spare, captivating.

Broken Social Scene - Forgiveness Rock Record (Arts & Crafts)

I didn't hate on this one the way some folks did, but I didn't pick it for the Polaris the way some folks did...

Calibro 35 - Ritornano Quelli Di... (Nublu)

If you slept on this band when I wrote about them, you need to wake up.

Casiokids - Topp stemning pa lokal bar (Polyvinyl)

I have no idea what they're singing about, but it's so exuberant you can't help but caught up in the excitement.

Cheering For The Bad Guy - To The Last Drop (Independent)

Of course these guys don't have any videos to post - they're too busy drinking or writing great songs about drinking..

Cursed Arrows - Telepathic High Five (NoYEs Records)

My very first entry on Ear To The Sound was about this band, but they were called Arrows back then. They may be Cursed now, but they're still great.

Damien Jurado - Saint Bartlett (Secretly Canadian)

I reviewed this for Stylus earlier this year and as I said at the time, I've never heard Damien Jurado sounding more hopeful than on this song:

The Darby & Joan Club - Everything Is Fine (Independent)

Fantastic pop from Lethbridge. I think the good folks at CKXU might have sent this one along.

Deerhunter - Halcyon Digest (4AD)

Yeah, this one's on a lot of lists, and somehow didn't make the cut. I'm as boggled as you are. My Top 20 has a lot to answer for.

Dem Hunger - Caveman Smack (Independent)

Amongst the more challenging listens on this year's longlist, I found this fascinating.

Diamond Rings - Special Affections (Secret City)

If you're a fan of the D'Urbervilles, as I am, you may have been surprised by John O'Regan's other project, Diamond Rings, but the through-line is the love of pop hooks and some nice nods to pro sports fashion.

DJ Brace presents the Electric Nosehair Orchestra - Synesthasia (Nostomania)

Brace follows up his Juno-award-winning Nostomania with a record that is even better.

El Guincho - Pop Negro (Young Turks)

Here's a record that could have made it on the strength of one fantastic track (below, but NSFW) coupled with eight very good songs. "Bombay" is just soooo catchy.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

New to me, thanks to Mississippi Records

Working away on my year-end "Best Of" list (whittling a very long longlist down to my Top 20 in time for the New Years' Eve fandango on UMFM, so I've been reviewing a lot of music from earlier this year with little time for new stuff in the last few days. BUT I did just discover something that is new to me (but not, by any means, new) via the interesting Mississippi Records label.

Originally released in 1962 on Arhoolie, An Evening With Rev. Louis Overstreet - His Guitar, His Four Sons, And the Congregation of St. Luke Powerhouse Church of God in Christ is a dusty treasure that was re-issued by Mississippi Records in their usual inscrutable, quiet way.

You might read the word 'gospel' and think 'churchy,' 'staid,' or some other dismissive epithet, but the gospel on this record is fire-and-brimstone hot and energetic enough to raise hell and cast it off. A-ma-zing.

Rev Louis overstreet - Working on the building
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Monday, December 6, 2010

I used to play french horn, it was nothing like this...

This is one of the more blissfully upbeat numbers I've heard in a while and I can't get it out of my head.

The album came out on iTunes UK November 28th, but has yet to see a North American release. Can't wait.

Be sure to check out French Horn Rebellion's website (where there's a free sampler of their full length on offer) and Myspace page.

Thanks for reading, now start listening...