Top 15 songs of 2010

Walkmen at Off Broadway 2010

Photo courtesy of Tom Lampe

15. Broken Social Scene – “World Sick”

The first song on the album, and the first single they released to hungry fans. The bombastic drums and flickering guitar and synth spurts, serve as the perfect tone-setter for BSS’s most “band album” to date.

14. The Walkmen – “Angela Surf City”

Quintessential Walkmen here. Simple-albeit-gripping guitar plucking and snare-tapping, flanked by singer Hamilton Leithauser’s unhinged, roaring howl.

13. Theodore – “I Won’t Be a Stranger”

Balancing the distant banjo plucking, junk shop horns, and the subtle frailty in Justin Kinkel-Schuster’s voice, “I Won’t Be a Stranger” captures all of the best parts of Theodore without overtly exploiting any of them.

12. Gaslight Anthem – “The Queen of Lower Chelsea”

Singer Brian Fallon and the boys channel their inner Clash with this one and end up striking gold. A mild departure compared to most Gaslight arrangements, and hopefully a preview of what fans should expect in the future.

11. Drive-By Truckers – “Santa Fe”

Having spent the 2010 summer touring with Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, this song is living, breathing evidence of just how much Petty has influenced the DBT sound. Infectiously obscure lyrics backed by twang-pop sensibility and southern-fried guitars.

10. Free Energy – “Bang Pop”

I loved this song when I first heard it, but I didn’t understand exactly how huge it was until I heard it blaring through the P.A. at a St. Louis Blues game. Armed to the teeth with squealing Thin Lizzy-esque guitars and a contagious chorus, “Bang Pop” served as the feel-good hit of the summer of 1979 in 2010.

9. Titus Andronicus – “A More Perfect Union”

The perfect mission statement from TA’s near-perfect The Monitor album. Wailing guitars, time changes, Abe Lincoln speech samples, wailing guitars, Springsteen and Bragg references, and more wailing guitars. Seven-plus minutes of guttural punk bliss.

8. Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin – “Sink/Let it Sway”

SSLYBY have officially hit its stride. Sugar-coated indie pop that sticks to the roof of your mouth, seeps upward towards the brain, and remains there all day long. The bloggers were right about these guys after all!

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The Mixtape’s Top 10 of 2010 (local edition)

Below is my list of 10 favorite albums from St. Louis-based artists released in 2010. For my list of national releases, go here.

Beth Bombara – Wish I Were You

Beth Bombara is a singular talent and a beautiful singer-songwriter in the classic ’70s Joni Mitchell sense of the word. Delicate accents played by band member and husband Kit Harmon add layers of emotion to these already dense, but hummable
tunes.

Kentucky Knife Fight – We’re All Nameless Here

Alt-country swagger with a Flogging Molly-style drunken rabblerousing was all soaked into their last release The Wolf Crept The Children Slept but here some of the ramblin’ and boozin’ is cut down in favor of tastier grooves and deeper lyrics.

Tilts – Cassingle / Sidepipin’

STL’s Van Halen. If you think I’m joking, peep the VH-biting “Hot For Pizza” from Cassingle, one of their 2 EPs released this year. Wicked guitar action, drums like thunder and a bass line that’s meatheaded, but effective at providing the needed thud for this wacked-out rocker.

Dear Vincent – So Long Winter

Beautiful, elegant, bracing chamber pop performed by some talented folks never fails to amaze.

Via Dove – El Mundo Latino

Pure, unadulterated rock music performed by four dudes who know their musical history — especially their lead singer Andy, whose love of The Rolling Stones is evident in his urgent, pleading delivery on tunes like “(I Can’t) Recognize The
Signs.”

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Bittersweet Melody’s Top 10 of 2010

2010 was a great year for music and while I only scratched the surface of the 100,000 some releases from the year, I found many worthy of being in my Top 10. After culling the list down, I present to you my Top 10 of 2010.

10. Band of Horses – Infinite Arms

It took me a little while to get into this album and the concert I saw in Columbia, Mo. certainly helped. But, this may be their best album. It’s missing some of their most anthemic songs like “The Funeral” and “No One’s Gonna Love You” that showed up on their first two albums, but the songs seem to have more depth. Songs like “Older” with its sound that’s new but oh so familiar set the tone for a great album. I highly recommend “Older,” “Laredo” and “Dilly.”

9. Joe Pug – Messenger

Joe Pug, a Chicago based singer-songwriter is new to the music scene, having released just an EP in 2009 and this, his first full-length album earlier in 2010. But, you wouldn’t know it based on the great lyrics and the wizened voice that brings those words to life. I mentioned to someone at his show at Off Broadway on July 4 that the second track on this album, “How Good You Are,” may just be the most perfect track I’d ever heard. And in that moment, it was. Now I’m not even sure if it’s my favorite track on the album. Messenger is a truly great first full-length album. Check out “How Good You Are,” “Messenger” and “Speak Plainly, Diana” (also on his EP, Nation of Heat).

8. The Black Keys – Brothers

I didn’t know the Black Keys’ music until this year. With all of the music out there, sometimes things get missed. When I’d considered them in the past I always thought to myself, “Self, you already listen to the White Stripes. Why should you listen to another band without a bassist?” Well, that dude was totally wrong. When the new album came out, I listened to it … a lot. I also went back to their old albums and listened to them. But, I often find that my first exposure to a band sets the tone for all future albums and I end up loving the first album the most. As is true in this case. In my defense, I do think the songs are better on the new album than any of the previous ones. They’ve reduced the sludge and allowed the songs to breathe more which, for me, makes for a better listen. Favorite tracks: “Unknown Brother,” “Howlin’ for You” and “Everlasting Light.”

7. Justin Townes Earle – Harlem River Blues

Before this year, I’d heard stray tracks from JTE and knew he was the son of legendary guitarist/songwriter Steve Earle but had never really listened to his albums in their entirety. After hearing Harlem River Blues, I’m not sure why I hadn’t. Enlisting help from friends like Jason Isbell, best known for his time spent as the lead guitarist in Drive-by Truckers, this album wears like a favorite t-shirt. Starting with the great gospel-influenced title track, each song takes you to a new place yet sounds familiar. A great album. I love “Harlem River Blues,” “Wanderin’” and “Christchurch Woman.”

6. Hollerado – Record in a Bag

A brand new band from Manotick, Ontario. They released their debut album Record in a Bag earlier this year and it is exactly that, a record that comes in a sandwich bag filled with confetti, a download code and some nice fortune cookie sayings. The interesting packaging works for them. Their fun, infectious songs remind me of Weezer when they were worried more about having fun than becoming the poster child of the emo movement or matriculating at Harvard. This album (and especially their live show) draws in the listener and doesn’t let them go. The album is pure pop goodness with loud guitars, great melodies and lots of energy. I love “Juliette,” “Fake Drugs” and “Americanarama.”

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The best shoes at shows of 2010

Fleshtones shoes by Nate Burrell

Fleshtones shoes by Nate Burrell

In the midst of all of the requisite year-end recaps, we want to pay tribute to those who stood strong on stages in 2010. We would like to give a big hearty thank you to the musicians, the fans, the venues and the local independent media for showing strong and unwavering support. Thank you. We feel lucky to have been a part of so many memorable live shows this year. As we step into the new year of music in 2011, we do so with eager anticipation of the many shows coming to the River City.

Nate Burrell and Kate McDaniel

The Mixtape’s Top 10 of 2010 (national edition)

Janelle Monae – The ArchAndroid

What. The. Eff. Rap, folk, R & B, disco, Prince-ripping funk, this record has pretty much anything you could ask for. And Monae’s singular talent holding it all together. Unlike anything out this year. Meshell Ndegeocello is likely taking
notes.

LCD Soundsystem – This Is Happening

He’s no longer “Losing [His] Edge” but aging hipsters rarely make good dance records. James Murphy eschews this trend, busting out the lively, giddy jerk-and-stomp of “Drunk Girls” (who, according to his song “wait an hour to pee”) among many many other raw, rollicking jams.

Girl Talk – All Day

Greg Gillis, master of the mish-mashed mixtape, drops Black Sabbath metal under Ludacris swagger, Miley Cyrus pop under M.O.P. mob vocals and many other musical delights on this 72-minute, website-breaking masterwork. Easily the best mash-up mixtape he’s ever made.

The Hold Steady – Heaven Is Whenever

Proving that losing a band member doesn’t always mean losing your sound, Craig Finn and company create another peon to the misguided, the addicted, the “clever kids” – sick to death of modern life, bored with the future, sick of sex, highly literate. It’s smart bar-rock, done well. And then, suddenly, a clarinet solo.

Spoon – Transference

While the previous Spoon outings have been more elaborate than the last (“Ga ga ga ga ga ga ga” being slathered in studio lather), this record takes the necessary step back and simplifies the hooky songwriting we first heard from Britt Daniels 10 years ago on the “LoveWAYS” EP.

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Nyahbinghi Music in Jamaica 1960-2010: A 4-hour “Positive Vibrations” Special January 1 & 8, 2011

Wingless Angels

WINGLESS ANGELS -- nyahbinghi group based in Steer Town, Jamaica, including Justin Hinds (2nd from left) and Keith Richards (2nd from right). Photo courtesy of wingless angels.com.

Ring in the new year heavy with the sounds of the nyahbinghi drums when Michael Kuelker devotes two full programs of “Positive Vibrations” on Jan. 1 & 8, 2010, to the Rastafari tradition of hand percussion in Jamaica. It will be four hours of classic, rare and never-before-aired music on KDHX 88.1 FM in St. Louis, Missouri.

“Positive Vibrations” airs every Saturday from 9 – 11 p.m. on KDHX, a 43,000 watt independent radio station in St. Louis. KDHX streams live at kdhx.org, and all programming can be heard for two weeks afterward. The show is hosted by Professor Skank and Michael Kuelker, who alternate broadcasts.

“On January 1st, I’m emphasizing the origins and early development of nyahbinghi music from the sixties to the present, with a lot of cultural context thrown in. A clinic, if you will,” says Kuelker. “January 8th, it’ll be a two-hour jam of rarities, hits and heavy doses of message music, starting with late ‘70s roots reggae and bubblin’ forward to contemporary dancehall music, all of it in the tradition of socially conscious art, all of it showing Jamaican music’s persistent relationship with the nyahbinghi drums.”

The January 1 & 8 “Positive Vibrations” special is livicated to the memory of Professor Barry Chevannes of the University of West Indies-Mona in Kingston. Prof. Chevannes, who was heavily involved in peace activism and community building in addition to teaching and writing, died in November 2010. He is the author of Rastafari: Roots & Ideology and many other influential works of scholarship. The January 1 program will include excerpts from an audio recording that Kuelker made of Prof. Chevannes in 1999 delivering a galvanizing speech at a Rasta commeroration of the Coral Gardens Incident of 1963.

Scholars have written extensively about the retentions of African culture in the Americas. Percussion instruments like the nyahbinghi drums in Jamaica epitomize the linkage to Africa. Nyah drums, comprised of the bass, fundeh and repeater, are central to the ritual gatherings known as nyahbinghis, where Rastas chant down Babylon.

The presence of nyahbinghi drums in Jamaican popular music begins with the Folkes Brothers’ “Oh Carolina” in 1960. Accompanying the mento group, at the behest of producer Prince Buster, was bandleader-percussionist Count Ossie and several dreadlocked drummers. Ossie’s encampment in Wareika Hills above Kingston, Jamaica, was a lodestone for jazz musicians and Rastafarians. Ossie went on to record throughout the sixties, then led the Mystic Revelation of Rastafari in a three-LP set titled Grounation (1972). Ras Michael and Cedric Brooks also recorded important work in this period.

Nyahbinghi drums moved from being strictly ritual music into a feature of the popular music of Jamaica, reggae and dancehall. At the same time nyahbinghi music in its pure, liturgical form has continued to be recorded well past the 1970s, the height of Rasta influence in Jamaican music, into the present day by Ras Michael, Wingless Angels and Prince Tebah. Scores of Jamaican artists include strictly-nyahbinghi songs on their albums and in their performances as a way to assert a seriousness of message and to infuse militancy, spirituality and an African-ness in this Caribbean music.

“Positive Vibrations” has aired on KDHX since the station’s inception in 1987. The show was founded by Joe Striker and Craig Tabor, whose places at the controls have been assumed since then by Professor Skank (1992-present) and Michael Kuelker (1997-present). “Positive Vibrations” is one of five programs inna reggae style on 88.1 FM; the others are “Ital Rhythms,” “Night Shift,” “It’s Contagious” and “Dub Mixture.”

Video: Rhythm ‘n’ Rails on the Holiday Magic Express

I had the great pleasure to work with Courtney Sloger and Metro on the maiden voyage of the Holiday Magic Express, the holiday-themed Metrolink train that runs through this season of lights. Along with 88.1 KDHX and Production Manager Andy Coco, we presented two concerts on the train: Rough Shop on December 11 and Pokey LaFarge and the South City Three on December 18.

As you’ll see from the videos below, a festive time was had by all.

Gold Soundz’ favorite albums of 2010

I host Gold Soundz, one of the younger shows on KDHX. It features a healthy dose of new rock, pop, and folk with a splash of Americana, country, and other older forms of rock (90s alternative, new wave, post-punk, etc.). My first six months as a KDHX DJ have been an absolute pleasure and I look forward to being part of this music-loving community for a long time to come.

It was a great year for music and narrowing down my list of favorites to just ten was not easy. Additionally, there were a lot of great releases that didn’t make the list for one reason or another (I didn’t include EPs or 7″ singles, and a couple of local releases barely missed the top 10). I’ll be recounting some of these over the next week in the discussion section of the Gold Soundz show page. What follows is the list of my ten favorite full-length albums that were released in 2010, in alphabetical order. These picks will be spinning on my turntable for some time to come.  If you like what you see then be sure to check out Gold Soundz at 3 a.m. on Thursdays, or anytime online.

Azure Ray - Drawing Down The Moon (Saddle Creek)

This album’s title conjures an image that is quite befitting of the music itself: the soft white glow of a full moon which is being carefully lowered from the sky with a rope by the beautiful songstresses Maria Taylor and Orenda Fink. The beauty of this album is the way in which its songs maintain the balance between darkness and light. The darkness comes from pensive lyrics and the slow addition of layers that create a spacious palate for Taylor and Fink’s ethereal vocals. The light comes from the ebb and flow of energy that in most cases ends in a surge of emotion and sonic bliss.

Listen to: “Make Your Heart” and “Don’t Leave My Mind”

Belle and Sebastian – Write About Love (Matador)

Most reviews of Write About Love will try to put it in context with the veteran band’s earlier releases, and if the reviewer is impressed she will likely compare it to their masterpiece If You’re Feeling Sinister. Such comparisons are not only unnecessary but they also take away from the enjoyment of what is a fantastic pop album full of warm melodies, smart arrangements, and the touchstone Belle and Sebastian sound that we’ve all come to love. I’m not going to say Write About Love is the band’s best album yet, but I’m also not going to say that it isn’t. I’m just going to listen to it, over and over and over.

Listen to: “I Didn’t See It Coming” and “I Want The World To Stop”

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

The widely loved Canadian rock collective put out what is probably its best record yet, and what has definitely been their most well-received record. And for good reason; it’s a damn fine record. It contains a wide range of songs that provide the perfect soundtrack to both your beer-soaked summer party (“Forced to Love”, “Texico Bitches”) and the sunburned haze of the day after (“World Sick”, “All to All”). What cemented this record in my top 10 list was seeing the band headline the first night of LouFest in Forest Park. Now, each time I listen I can’t help but recall their scorching set that peaked with the slowly building “Meet Me In the Basement” and Kevin Drew proclaiming, to a thunderous response, “That’s your city out there. Let them know you’re here!”

Listen to: “World Sick” and “Texico Bitches”

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