phoned in

January 19, 2011

Music-wise, 2010 saw the high-bandwidth/lo-fidelity indie revolution come full-circle. Just when you thought it was safe to admit to liking a few bands that had cracked the mainstream, indie kids thought the most appropriate course of action would be to start making music so unlistenable that simply to be able to tolerate it for the length of one (90-second) song indicated either an existence on a higher astral plane of musical enlightenment, or (more likely) a rejection of the convention of music itself, in any given scene, and a subscription to nothing more than painful self-effacement in order to prove some kind of anti-establishment political stance, like hippies who chain themselves to trees and defecate in their pants, or more appropriately, that god-awful “interior semiotics” video that went viral. Their only raison d’etre would be to serve as secret handshakes for entry into the indie elite.

Last year, liking bands that had only ever played one show, under a tarpaulin strung up beside some friend of the band’s step-dad’s caravan, in front of nine fans, and had the show bootlegged off a mobile phone recording onto a series of twelve hand-labelled cassette tapes, and then broke up because they felt they had already sold out too much, so they dispersed and then congealed into six separate side-projects (two each)…liking those kinds of bands became not only cool again, but a necessary requirement for having your opinions cared about.

The highlight and culmination of my year in music was probably when I met that one-man-band Duck Tails in Tokyo, who had just come off playing some shows in Melbourne. I asked him where he played and which bands he played with, and I hadn’t heard of any them. He did compliment me on my jacket, though, which I guess is validation enough for me.

Well, the anti-bourgeois battle plan kinda backfired. Sucks to your assmar, Duck Tails. Pitchfork decreed that bands like No Age and Beach House be unleashed upon the world, and that they be loved, and the ever-reliable legion of blog trolls played along, saturating my beloved internet with wave after Wavve of shitty repetitive lo-fi three-chord noise. The irony, of course, is that it’s now cliche to be into those very bands who were only forced into existence to try to avoid getting fans in the first place.

Luckily a few sage hands showed up to save the day. Here is a brief list of some of my favourites from last year.

best albums of 2010

The Gamits – Parts (click to stream entire album)

It’s fitting that my album of the year is also the biggest surprise, best throwback album, and comeback album of the year. The Gamits have proven once and for all the validity of modern pop punk. This album is gritty, heavy, catchy, but most importantly, it’s meaningful; here is a band that was pushed into obscurity when pop-punk and emo took off on a worldwide scale, and years down the track they have reformed and released a deeply personal, punishing, haunting album that blows away everything they did in the past (which was already very good in it’s own right). It flew under the radar when it was released, and I think The Gamits would almost prefer it that way, because Parts is a huge middle-finger to what pop music has become over the last few years. Put your prejudices aside and give this album an honest go – I doubt you will be disappointed.

The Tallest Man on Earth – The Wild Hunt

I almost stumbled on this one, yet there’s something about The Wild Hunt that came to define the first part of 2010 for me. You will either love his voice or hate it, but there’s no denying this kind of songwriting. There is a starkness to most of the lyrics and they carry an elemental preoccupation, rife with references to weather and landscapes; everything seems very personal, but at the same time it’s hard to pin down. Of course it also helps that Kristian Mattson is also a damn fine geetar player.

Tame Impala – InnerSpeaker

I feel like a dork for including this, but these guys put together one dreamy, breezy album so free of pretension you will forget what year it is.

Robyn – Body Talk

Swedish pop with attitude, enough said.

Miami Horror – Illumination

The latter half of this album isn’t nearly as engaging as the first, but Miami Horror deserve praise for taking some brave steps away from big-beat electro on their debut album. Singles ‘I Look to You,’ and ‘Holidays’ easily take their places among the best Aussie tracks of 2010.

Sufjan Stevens – All Delighted People EP

Sufjan at his elaborate, intimate best; despite it’s extraordinary running time, this EP is remarkably cohesive and melodic, which is a first for him.

The National – High Violet

Like all their albums, High Violet is a slow-burner and one that takes a good while to sink in. It goes without saying, but The National are deceptively complex and reward repeated listens, and High Violet is no different.

The Walkmen – Lisbon

Two Door Cinema Club – Tourist History

Ellie Goulding – Lights

Chromeo – Business Casual

Editor’s note: Chromeo and Ellie Goulding both also qualify as 2010’s biggest guilty pleasures.

Los Campesinos! – Romance is Boring

None More Black – Icons

best songs of 2010

Bag Raiders – Sunlight

Miami Horror – Holidays

Good Shoes – The Way My Heart Beats

Sufan Stevens – Enchanting Ghost

Tokyo Police Club – Favourite Colour

Marina & the Diamonds – Are You Satisfied?

Yeasayer – ONE

The Walkmen – Angela Surf City

Kanye West (feat. everyone) – Monster (Nicki Minaj’s verse is the defining musical moment of 2010.)

Broken Bells – The High Road

Ellie Goulding – Your Biggest Mistake

biggest disappointments

Foals – Total Life Forever (This band’s main appeal to me was the feeling like each of their songs was the result of some mathematical equation designed for maximum tautness and efficiency. It was a world where emotions were simply not allowed. They were about as cold and detached as any rock band could possibly be. With their second album they went for a roomier and more atmospheric sound which is at odds with their cool stoicism. The result? Yawn.)

Bag Raiders (It sucks that the best track on this album is still ‘Shooting Star.’ A few others come close, but most of the album doesn’t make any impression. And what is up with that one track, ‘Always?’ That one sounds like it should be the aural accompaniment  to a Salt’n’Pepa video clip or something, featuring the worst key change and the worst lyrics released by any respectable group in 2010. Truly, truly awful.)

i just don’t get it

Sleigh Bells (The only difference between this band and a bunch of autistic 6 year-olds is that Sleigh Bells have a drum machine to make sure they keep in time.)

The Drums (Is this supposed to be cute or something? This is the musical equivalent of an ankle-high Scottish terrier that just doesn’t shut the fuck up.)

Caribou (One or two atmospheric and groovy tracks doesn’t mean anybody should give a shit. Most overrated crap of the year.)

Klaxons (They were shit back in 2006 and they have somehow gotten worse without changing a god damn thing.)

ok, you got me

The Arcade Fire – The Suburbs (This album is actually pretty great.)

favourite remixes of the year

Now, I’m not pretending like I’m some expert on this kind of stuff. Alls I know is, these tracks feature some of the most insane beats you are likely to encounter and they will no doubt feature prominently when I start making my “special DJ set” appearances in 2011.

Muscles – Sweaty (Shazam remix)

Miike Snow – Black and Blue (NAPT remix)

Marina and the Diamonds – I Am Not a Robot (Passion Pit remix)

Cut Copy – Lights and Music (Moulinex Remix)

most anticipated

Bayside

Iron & Wine

Cut Copy

Kimbra

Tellison

special feature: best inexplicable cover of the year

This kid took yet another GaGa abomination and not only turned it into an actual song, but a fucking emotional roller coaster that will make your hairs stand on end.

So that’s it. I’m sure I’ve missed lots. I’m always open for suggestions so do let me know about my glaring omissions. I might post a “part two” of sorts wherein I talk about films and television and the likes, but then again, I might not. Until next time!

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