That’s Right: Favorite Francophone Albums of 2010

I hardly speak a lick of French (despite three years of it in High School) but in the past few years I've really taken to French language pop, be it the '60s classics or the new wave. Even hip hop. I say if the music is good enough, it doesn't matter if I can't understand what they're actually saying. I still don't know what Michael Stipe, Mark E Smith or Elizabeth Frazer were singing in the '80s. Anyway, I listened to a lot of Francophone artists this year. Here's nine I especially liked.


1. Automelodi
Automelodi [Wierd] | BUY
Great synthpop from Montreal's Xavier Paradis who now (I think) lives in Brooklyn. This album was my #9 album of the year so there's no way it can't top the list here. Big giant hooks stick with you, no matter what language he sings in.

MP3: Automelodi – Rayons de Rien

2 Cours Lapin
 - S/T [Fake Diamond] | BUY
Four Danish film composers make lush, gorgeous fake French music. Like the soundtrack to some fashionable noir spy movie, trekking around exotic locales, ski chases, sexy intrigue. This probably shoulda made my real Best of 2010 list too.

MP3: Cours Lapin – Cours Lapin

3. Jesuslesfilles
Une Belle Table [Self-Released] | BUY
These Montrealers make a racket somewhere between the Pixies and early Dandy Warhols. Garagey, but not the blown-out levels kind, and the songs are very, very catchy. Also, the whole record is a free ("name your price") download from their bandcamp page. 

MP3: Jesuslesfilles – Melodie

4. The Limiñanas
– S/T [Trouble in Mind] | BUY
Evoking swinging Parisian scene of the mid-'60s (Gainsbourg, Dutronc, Ye-Ye, et al), The Limiñanas dance their way through 12 hits of groovy garage: fuzz leads, killer basslines, combo organ, smoky vocals. Perfect for your next Love-In.

MP3: The Limiñanas – Funeral Baby

5. Les Surveillantes
La Racine Carrée du Coeur | BUY
Super-nerdy, very charming folk from Winnipeg, Manitoba. Songs about girls, apathy and science. The album's title track ("The Square Root of the Heart") is kind of about all three. Included lyric sheet has English translations as well.

MP3: Les Surveillantes – A L'epicerie

6. Katerine
Phillipe Katerine [Barclay] BUY
Back in the mid '90s, Katerine used to make effortlessly enjoyable francopop but ever since 1999's Les Créatures, he's become something of an eccentric. Pretty much a full-on weirdo at this point actually. In an awesome way, of course. Philippe Katerine and brings together just about every phase of his career into one tour-de-force album featuring his parents on the cover.

MP3: Katerine – Té-lé-phone

Radio RadioBelmundo Regal [Bonsound] | BUY
I don't listen to much American hip hop, but I must admit I like it better en Francais. Radio Radio technically drop science in Chiac, a weird Acadian French dialect spoken (and understood) only in the Moncton region of New Brunswick. This is like cosmopolitan Frenchy yacht rock rap. No gold chains, just ascots.

MP3: Radio Radio – Dekshoo

8. Frank (Just Frank)
The Brutal Wave [Weird] | BUY
From France but Frank (Just Frank) sings in English about half the time. Like most stuff on Weird, it's indebted to the '80s. You can hear vintage French synth wavers like Ruth or Casino Music, as well as the influence of R.E.M. and the Sound. A little too goth at times ("KILL KILL KILL" goes the chorus of "Crisis") but it always gets the mood just right. Good stuff for your next angular danceparty.

MP3:  Frank (Just Frank) – Ride of a Lifetime

9. Laetitia SadierThe Trip [Drag City] | BUY
Nobody expected former Stereolab singer Laetitia Sadier to go alt-country on her solo debut. So good thing she hasn't. While it doesn't sound exactly like her old band, you're also not gonna be shocked with what you get. She does more than fine on her own. Below is maybe my favorite track, a cover of French new wave band Les Rita Mitsouko's "Un Soir, Un Chien" which you may remember from Godard's Soigne Ta Droite!  

MP3: Laetitia Sadier – "Un Soir, Un Chien"

2010 State of the Art

The importance of cover art has been shrinking, much like the size of the format it represents — from LPs to CDs to thumbnails on your computer or iPod. Labels used to have in-house designers and it seemed like, in general, people cared. In the last five years, it's gotten much worse, whether it's the sort of Photoshop nightmares that were once found only on late '90s souther hip hop albums; the sort of lazy "this'll dotype-over-photo jobs that permeates "heritage artist" releases;  stoner jokes that actually make to to press; or just plain bad taste (or a combo of all those), the state of album art seems to be at a low.

Yet there's still some musicians who seem to care. Here are 10 album covers worth framing.

1. Sky Larkin – Kaleide
Artwork: Jack Hudson
There's a 50s sort of vibe going on with Jack Hudson's work, almost like old Tintin on Babar, but what it really has me thinking of is some imaginary beatnik version of Highlights magazine. The album's 12 songs are all represented on the cover. Neat! 

2. Frankie Rose & the Outs – S/T
Artwork: Mike Sniper
In addition to running the Captured Tracks label and playing music with his band Blank Dogs, Mike Sniper is a talented graphic designer. The artwork for Frankie's album is simple but bold, and is much more striking on the 12" vinyl sleeve which has a kind of textured feel to the print. 

Klaxons_surfing the void
3. Klaxons – Surfing the Void
Art direction: Richard Robinson | Photograph: Mads Perch
A lot of album art appropriates internet memes, and there were a lot of cats too, but nobody did it with such style and class and humor as the Klaxons.

4. The Soundcarriers – Celeste
Design: Martin Goddard | Illustration: Lesley Coulson
Here's one that I think you really need to have the gatefold vinyl to really appreciate. A recreation of early-'60s Columbia releases, complete with an essay about the album on the inner sleeve, which fits perfectly with Celeste's retro-future soundscapes.

5. No Age – Everything in Between
Design: Brian Roettenger
It may just be a crumpled piece of paper with the band name/album title on it but the crisp, high-contrast image is stark perfection.

6. Weekend – Sports
Design: Jeff Brush
The abstract image to me looks like a blast furnace or a kiln — lonely, black as coal, but burning up from the inside — is pretty much what Weekend's punishing album sounds like. 

7. Four Tet – There is Love in You
Design: Jason Evans and Matthew Cooper
Jason Evans and Matthew Cooper are amongst the best designers working in the music biz right now, maybe the current equivalent of Brian Cannon /Microdot who did some of the '90s most distinctive covers. The pair outdid themselves here, with a gorgeous gatefold sleeve…worth owning even if you don't have a turntable. These guys also did the artwork for Caribou's Swim.

8. Mark Ronson & Business Intl. – Record Collection
Design: Big Active
This is the kind of high-end design you don't see a lot of anymore. Clever, cool, and owing a lot to other others who did it first…just like Ronson himself. While referential by design, some of the individual pieces within remind me specifically of Barney Bubbles. You can actually get a version of the album that is a box of 7" singles, with all the individual sleeves… pretty sweet.

9. Cloud Nothings – Leave You Forever
Design: Cory Lasser | Photograph: Nirrimi Hakanson
Every chillwave musician should be really pissed off that the perfect sleeve was released by a powerpop band from Cleveland. This is actually a 7" but the art deserves to be wall-sized. 

10. The Fresh & Onlys – Play it Strange
Art: Kevin Earl Taylor 
Bassist Shayde Sartin does the art for The Fresh & Onlys' many, many singles but they turn it over to others for the albums. There's something spookily perfect about this painting, clearly the band, but feral versions of themselves. Be sure to check out Taylor's work, which is also played strange.

Bye Bye 2010: Here’s A Whole Bunch of Mixes


Time for my third-annual set of year-end mixes. In 2008 I made three, in 2009 I made four, and this year it jumped to six. Those of you who followed along with my Summer Friday series will likely recognize a few of these songs. These pretty much represent what new music I listened to this year. There are a few songs (Disc 6 mainly) here that don't appear on any of my year-end coverage…consider them strays in need of a home. A few that may appear on some other year-end stuff next week. And I just plain left a couple artists off (sorry Anika).

I tried just grouping random hours worth of the songs on each mix, but scrapped that in favor of vaguely-themed…shades of white. These turned out real good if you ask me. Enjoy, happy holidays, no shuffling, and see you in 2011.



  1. Hot Chip – I Feel Bonnie feat. Bonnie 'Prince' Billy (Club Version)
  2. LCD Soundsystem – I Can Change
  3. Automelodi – Employé terne
  4. The Count and Sinden – After Dark feat. Mystery Jets
  5. Gold Panda – Snow & Taxis
  6. Foals – Total Life Forever
  7. Janelle Monae – Tightrope feat Big Boi
  8. Breakbot – Baby I'm Yours (feat. IRFANE)
  9. Discodiene – Synchronize (featuring Jarvis Cocker)
  10. Holy Ghost! – Static on the Wire
  11. The Hundred in the Hands – Young Aren't Young
  12. The Klaxons – Twin Flames
  13. Bon Homme – Mother
  14. Mark Ronson And The Business Intl – Bang Bang Bang Featuring Q-Tip, MNDR


  1. The Besnard Lakes – Like the Ocean, Like the Innocent
  2. Pomegranates – Prouncer
  3. La Sera – Never Come Around
  4. PS I Love You – Facelove
  5. Gold Bears – Tally
  6. The Fall – Bury
  7. The Intelligence – Like Like Like Like Like Like Like
  8. Ty Segall – Caesar
  9. Eddie Current Suppression Ring – Gentleman
  10. Lower Dens – Blue & Silver
  11. Weekend – Coma Summer
  12. Deerhunter – Desire Lines
  13. The Soft Pack – C'mon
  14. Girls Names – I Lose
  15. The Fresh & Onlys – Waterfall
  16. The Jacuzzi Boys – Bricks or Coconuts
  17. Woven Bones – I've Gotta Get
  18. Yuck – Georgia
  19. Wavves – Supersoaker
  20. Eternal Summers – Able To


  1. Reading Rainbow – Wasting Time
  2. Club 8 – Dancing with the Mentally Ill
  3. Lykke Li – Get Some
  4. Dum Dum Girls – I Will Be
  5. Translations – The Wanderer
  6. The Drums – Best Friend
  7. Violens – Full Colision
  8. The Morning Benders – All Day Daylight
  9. Darwin Deez – Constellations
  10. Charlotte Gainsbourg – Trick Pony
  11. Edwyn Collins – Losing Sleep
  12. The Radio Dept. – This Time Around
  13. Dominant Legs – About My Girls
  14. Twin Shadow – I Can't Wait
  15. Alex Kemp – I'm On Your Side
  16. Magic Bullets – Lying Around
  17. Spoon – The Mystery Zone
  18. The Jameses – Rat People
  19. The Young Friends – Riverside Kids
  20. Sky Larkin – Year Dot


  1. Wild Nothing – Chinatown
  2. Avi Buffalo – What's In It For?
  3. Gruff Rhys – Shark-Ridden Waters
  4. Richard James – When You See Me (In The Pouring Rain)
  5. The Title Sequence – Lovers
  6. Twin Sister – All Around and Away We Go
  7. Ariel Pink's Haunted Grafitti – Bright Lit Blue Skies
  8. Best Coast – Our Deal
  9. Girls – Alright
  10. Cherry Ghost – We Sleep on Stones
  11. The Coral – 1000 Years
  12. Two Wounded Birds – On My Lonesome
  13. The Art Museums – Sculpture Gardens
  14. Field Music – Them That Do Nothing
  15. The Silver Seas – What's the Drawback?
  16. The 1900s – Bmore
  17. Allo Darlin' – If Loneliness Was Art
  18. Engineers – Twenty Paces
  19. The Soundcarriers – There Only Once


  1. Warpaint – Undertow
  2. Beach House – Norway
  3. John Grant – Sigourney Weaver
  4. Tamaryn – The Waves
  5. Big Troubles – Video Rock
  6. The Soft Moon – Breathe the Fire
  7. Suuns – Arena
  8. The New Pornographers – Silver Jenny Dollar
  9. Tame Impala – Solitude is Bliss
  10. Minks – Funeral Song
  11. Shrag – Rabbit Kids
  12. Super Wild Horses – Mess Around
  13. Unnatural Helpers – Sunshine/Pretty Girls
  14. Oberhofer – o0Oo0Oo
  15. Craft Spells – Party Talk
  16. Family Trees – Dream Talkin'
  17. Kelley Stoltz – Pinecone
  18. Spectrals – Dip Your Toe In


  1. Ensemble – Food for Thought
  2. Tony Castles – Black Girls in Dresses
  3. Blur – Fool's Day
  4. Grovesnor – Taxi from the Airport
  5. Belle & Sebastian – I Didn't See it Coming
  6. Mystery Jets – Dreaming of Another World
  7. Psychobuildings – No Man's Land
  8. MGMT – It's Working
  9. Jesuslesfilles – Mercredi
  10. Frankie Rose & the Outs - Girlfriend Island
  11. Beach Fossils – The Horse
  12. Frank (Just Frank) – Crisis
  13. Fergus & Geronimo – Girls with English Accents
  14. Jaill – Thank Us Later
  15. Air Waves – Lightning
  16. Bat For Lashes – Let's Get Lost (featuring Beck)
  17. Cours Lapin – Cache Cache
  18. The Dears – Omega Dog
  19. Abe Vigoda – Throwing Shade

Long May They Play: Favorite Albums of 2010

Was it just me or was 2010 one of the best years for music in ages or what? I have struggled in the past to come up with 20 album. This year I hit 50 easy, that I genuinely loved. Also, I am not taking payola from Sub Pop. They just had a very good year. Without further ado…

01foals 1. FoalsTotal Life Forever [Sub Pop] | BUY
If you'd asked me last year of the likelihood of Foals being my favorite album of 2010, I probably woulda said "not much." Yet here we are. Where their first album, Antidotes, was all mathy angularity, Total Life Forever has soul. It's still twitchy, but there's room to breathe. And soar. Foals have made the kind of leap singer Yanis Phillipakis usually saves till right before the encore. 

MP3: Foals – 2 Trees
MP3: Foals – Total Life Forever

02soundcarriers 2. The SoundcarriersCeleste [Melodic] | BUY
Nottingham's The Soundcarriers take a trip in the time machine visiting Serge Gainsbourg, Scott Walker, Neu!, Ennio Morricone and end up landing on the moon two weeks from tomorrow. Celeste is immaculate without sounding clinical, the musicianship impressive, and the attention to detail spotless — from the production to the truly lovely packaging of the gate-fold double LP. If there's only album on this list that needs to be heard on vinyl, this is it.

MP3: The Soundcarriers – The Last Broadcast
MP3: The Soundcarriers – Celeste

03allodarlin 3. Allo Darlin’ – S/T [Fortuna Pop] | BUY
Indiepop gets a bad rap sometimes and it's hard to deny the twee tag here when singer Elizabeth Morris plays the ukulele, but Allo Darlin are no bunch of shy cardigan-wearers whispering into the mike while staring at the floor. Morris is a gifted songwriter and natural performer, and her debut album is a bighearted joy from start to finish. I dare you not to like it.

MP3: Allo Darlin – If Loneliness Was Art
MP3: Allo Darlin' – Kiss Your Lips

04radiodept 4. The Radio Dept.Clinging to a Scheme [Labrador] | BUY
The Radio Dept.'s first album in four years is their best since Lesser Matters, maybe even better than that. It's amazing how little the band has changed little over the last ten years, but it's a sound — hushed vocals, dreamy melodies — that stays fresh. Maybe 'cause its so cold in Sweden? Yet such warm sounds. 

MP3: The Radio Dept. – This Time Around
MP3: The Radio Dept. – Never Follow Suit

05playitstrange 5. Fresh & OnlysPlay it Strange [In the Red] | BUY
Not only did The Fresh & Onlys release the EP of the year, but their third long-player in less than two years is one of 2010's best. Armed with Tim Cohen's best batch of songs yet, the band head into a real studio to show what a good band they are as well. 

MP3: The Fresh & Onlys – Waterfall
MP3: The Fresh & Onlys – Fascinated

06edwyncollins 6. Edwyn CollinsLosing Sleep [Heavenly] | BUY
His first album since two brain haemorrhages nearly took his life in 2005 and left him at first without the ability to walk or talk, let alone write songs. That it exists at all is a miracle, that it's as great as it is a testament to his spirit. Helping him out on the album are a cavalcade of talent — Johnny Marr, Roddy Frame, The Drums, The Cribs, Franz Ferdinand — but always in the service of getting Collins' songs on record.

MP3: Edwyn Collins – Losing Sleep
MP3: Edwyn Collins – Do It Again

7_1900s 7. The 1900sReturn of the Century [Parasol] | BUY
One of America's most underrated pop bands knocks it out of the park (Wrigley Field?) on album #2, 35 minutes of pure pop brilliance. The melodies, the harmonies, the performances…The 1900s have moved beyond the Fleetwood Mac comparisons and now sound just like themselves. What a great album.

MP3: The 1900s – Kidnap Runaway

08dumdumgirls 8. Dum Dum GirlsI Will Be [Sub Pop] | BUY
A lot of all-girl groups these days get compared to the Shangri-La's but Dum Dum Girls are the only ones that deserve it. Dee Dee not only has a gift for melody and harmony, but she's also an ace lyricist, able to make you laugh or break your heart. And never once rhymes "crazy" with "lazy" or "hazy." (She does rhyme it to "baby," though.) This is what I wanted The Carrie Nations to sound like in Beyond the Valley of the Dolls.

MP3: Dum Dum Girls – I Will Be
MP3: Bhang Bhang I'm a Burnout

09automelodi 9. Automelodi – S/T [Weird] | BUY
In the world of minimal synth/minimal wave/what have you, it is unfortunate that most artists seem to focusing almost entirely on the sound, not the song. (Also: the look.) I dig old keyboards and sequencers as much as the next guy, probably way more than the next guy, but I like Clan of Xymox and Dalek I Love You and Yaz and Gary Numan and The Human League because they all knew that you've got to write a catchy tune. Montreal's Xavier Paradis understands that. His debut album is loaded with giant hooks and lodge-in-your-head melodies that stay with you even if you don't speak a word of French. And yes, the retro sounds he wraps around them sound very, very cool.

MP3: Automelodi – Rayons de Rien
MP3: Automelodi: Buanderie Jazz

10beachhouse 10. Beach HouseTeen Dream [Sub Pop] | BUY
I've had Teen Dream for about 13 months now and I'm still listening to it, so think that says a lot there. It's one of these records that I don't think I could sing you a single lyric, but Beach House have always been about setting a mood. The mood here is achingly heartbroken and Victoria Legrand's husky voice puts a lump in your throat even when you have no idea what she's singing about. You just get it. Hazy and gorgeous.

MP3: Beach House – Norway
MP3: Beach House – Zebra

11Intelligence 11. The Intelligence –  Males [In the Red] | BUY
Like the Fresh & Onlys, Seattle's best, most-twisted surf band ditch the 4-track in favor of a real studio and the switch to mid-fi suits them fine. It's also the first album recorded with the band he's been touring with for two years and there's added oomph in there this time. Lyrically, Lars Finberg is in rare form…or maybe it's just that I can actually make out what he's saying this time.

MP3: The Intelligence – The Universe
MP3: The Intelligence – Estate Sales

12tamaryn 12. Tamaryn – The Waves [Mexican Summer] | BU

There were a lot of gothy ice princesses hyped in 2010 but Tamaryn is my Queen. The Waves is awash with ethereal guitars that cascade over a nimble rhythm section and her breathy vocals. It's like if Verve's A Storm in Heaven had come out three years earlier and on 4AD. Also it's equally good as a sleeping album.

MP3: Tamaryn – The Waves
MP3: Tamaryn – Dawning

13besnard 13. Besnard Lakes Are the Roaring Night [Jagjaguwar] | BUY
Roar it does. Montreal's Besnard Lakes are one of the few bands worthy of the tag "epic." The guitars are a mile high, and the bad-ass basslines, giant choruses and harmonies propel you even higher. If opener "Like the Ocean, Like the Innocent" had been the only good song on this album, this LP still woulda made this year's list. But the whole thing is f-ing awesome. 

MP3: The Besnard Lakes – Like the Ocean, Like the Innocent Pt. 2
MP3: The Besnard Lakes – Albatross

14avibuffalo 14. Avi Buffalo – S/T [Sub Pop] | BUY
This record is melodically rich and complex, and lyrically heartfelt it's a little amazing that Avigdor Zahner-Isenberg is barely out of high school. It's a little Shins-y, yes, but that's meant as a compliment, and this is more ambitious than any of that band's records. On the other end of the spectrum it's exciting because there's no way he's peaked yet. Just stay away from Lindsay Lohan parties, Avi, and we'll get more gems like this one for years to come. 

MP3: Avi Buffalo – What's in it For?
MP3: Avi Buffalo – Remember Last Time

15tysegall 15. Ty SegallMelted [Goner] | BUY
For my money, it doesn't get better in the "garage" genre than Ty Segall. He cranks out records, they're all good, and each record goes somewhere new. Melted adds some nice '60s psych pop touches. Much like Automelodi — but in a completely different genre — Ty fully realizes you gotta have good songs first, then you can blow the levels into the red. It's got attitude too, and plays straight from the gut. There are too many garage rockers out there, but Ty is the real deal.

MP3: Ty Segall – Girlfriend
MP3: Ty Segall – Caesar

16weekend 16. Weekend Sports [Slumberland] | BUY
They are from San Francisco and their album is called Sports but nobody is gonna mistake Weekend for Huey Lewis & the News. Weekend's fierce assault — a blistering post punk wall of sound, rocketfueled by volume, effects pedals and feedback — is not for the meek. If this sounds like a cover-up, make no mistake — Weekend are in control. This record sounds great. In an ear-bleeding kind of way. You gotta turn it up loud. No, louder. I'm pretty sure this is the best album to come out of Slumberland since they rejuvenated the label three years ago. Which is saying something.

MP3: Weekend – Coma Summer
MP3: Weekend – End Times

17fieldmusic 17. Field MusicMeasure [Memphis Industries] | BUY
After a couple years of David and Peter Brewis pursuing solo projects that the other brother played on anyway, they brought the Field Music name out of the attic for this sprawling double album where they indulged in their myriad musical whims to our delight. There's proggy funk, nervy new wave, erudite chamberpop, soaring anthems, and straight-up pop. And almost zero filler. It all sounds like Field Music.

MP3: Field Music – Them That Do Nothing
MP3: Field Music – Let's Write a Book

18thecoral 18. The CoralButterfly House [Deltasonic] | BUY
Founding member Bill Ryder-Jones left before the making of Butterfly House and seeming took the band's inclination for weird sea shantys with him. With a strong Elektra paisley pop vibe — brought to sparkling, rocking perfection by producer John Leckie — this is easily the best album the Coral have made since their first. If, like me, you&#39
;d given up on The Coral… give this one a chance.

MP3: The Coral – Butterfly House
MP3: The Coral – 1000 Years

2anika 19. Anika Anika [Stones Throw] | BUY
Recorded in 12 days, live with no overdubs, Anika's debut sounds like the missing link between The Slits and Lilliput. Portishead's Geoff Barrow — his other band BEAK> is the backing band here — gets the claustrophobic vibe just right. A lot of people have tried and failed to recreate that Martin Hannett Sound… Barrow nails it. And the material — a mix of girl group covers and politically-charged originals — suits Anika's Nico-esque delivery perfectly. Such a weird amazing record, all the disparate pieces fall into place. So good.

MP3: Anika – End of the World
MP3: Anika – No One's There

20pomegranates 20. Pomegranates One of Us [Afternoon] | BUY
Cincinnati is not exactly a hotbed music scene, but Pomegranates deserve more attention. Especially with an album as good as this, the band's third. Maybe it's to cleanly recorded — this record sparkles — for today's au courant cool kids, but these folks have a handle on atmospherics and melody. This kind of stuff never goes out of style to these ears.

MP3Pomegranates - Prouncer
MP3Pomegranates - 50s

21gainsbourg 21. Charlotte GainsbourgIRM [Elektra] | BUY
Charlotte Gainsbourg made two unforgettable things this year, though part of me wishes I could un-see Antichrist. But IRM I'm happy to revisit. While I liked the Air-y-ness of 5:55, the more rock-oriented approach here suits her better. (She still gets a couple I was wary when I first heard she was working with Beck, but it turned out to be an inspired choice. It's the best thing he's been involved with ages. 

MP3: Charlotte Gainsbourg – Greenwich Mean Time
MP3: Charlotte Gainsbourg – Time of the Assassins

22drums 22. The Drums – S/T [Moshi Moshi/Downtown] | BUY
Taking their musical and style cues from Factory Records' unpopular bands (The Wake, A Certain Ratio), The Drums somehow became pretty popular. What's cool about this record, to me, is how minimal it all is, yet the songs are huge. Part of that is Jonathan Pierce's singing style, that puts drama in every lyric. And part is the giant hooks in every chorus. The Drums is like the soundtrack to a lost '80s teen movie. 

MP3: The Drums – For Ever and Ever Amen

23shrag 23. Shrag Life! Death! Prizes! [Where It's At Is Where You Are] | BUY
The bass rumbles along next to the ticking high hats on "Ghosts Before Breakfast," a little slashy guitar washes across the mix and you can feel the snarl coming before Helen King even sings a note. Shrag are the Sinestro to Love is All's Green Lantern. Same attack, different intent. Dancing, but looking for a fight.

MP3: Shrag – Ghosts Before Breakfast
MP3: Shrag – Tights in August

24deerhunter 24. Deerhunter Halcyon Digest [4AD] | BUY
I may not love Halcyon Digest quite as much as Microcastle, but Bradford Cox et al are still working on a higher plane than 95% of all other indie rock bands out there. Cox's hot streak doesn't seem to be ending any time soon (those downloadable Atlas Sound records were all pretty good) and that the album's high point — the dazzling "Desire Lines"  – was written by Lockt Pundt, Deerhunter might actually be getting better.

MP3: Deerhunter – Desire Lines
MP3: Deerhunter – Revival

19wildnothing 25. Wild Nothing – S/T [C
aptured Tracks] | BUY
Like the Drums, Wild Nothing barrowed the sound of some of the '80s most obscure bands and made music that appealed to a much wider audience than, say, The Field Mice ever did. (Anyone who says they sound like The Cure needs to listen to more music.) If the record has a fault it's that too many of the songs sound similar…but it's a good sound. (I think that's why everyone glommed onto "Chinatown," it sticks out musically.) And Wild Nothing are already evolving. I look forward to the next record, which at the rate he's going could be sooner than we think.

MP3: Wild Nothing – Live in Dreams
MP3: Wild Nothing – Chinatown 

The rest of my list is after the jump…

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Stop Me If You’ve Heard This One Before: Favorite Reissues of 2010

2010_ReissuesThey say those who ignore history are bound to repeat it. In music, however, those who pay attention to history seem just as likely to repeat it. So here's a bunch of new versions of things that are worth ripping off. The percentage of previously unreleased material (as well as packaging, liner notes, etc) certainly factored into what made this list as much as the quality of the original work. 

Dollymixture 1. Dolly MixtureEverything and More [Dolly Mixture] | BUY
For the first time in on place this three-disc collection brings together UK cult band's singles, demos, live cuts and, well, more…all in one place. Most of this has never been on CD before. Add to this great liner notes from Saint Etienne's Bob Stanley, you've got an indie pop fan's dream come true. 

MP3: Dolly Mixture – Everything and More 


ORANGE_JUICE_Coals_To_Newca 2. Orange JuiceCoals to Newcastle [Domino] | BUY
Most of what makes up this 99.9% complete collected works of Glasgow greats Orange Juice has been available before — Polydor UK released some nice reissues in 1997 that went out of print almost immediately. But this marks the first time EVER that most of this has ever been available in America. And for those that did get the '90s reissues, there's even more here — Peel Sessions, live cuts, 12" mixes, alternate takes — that it justifies repurchasing. No vinyl and no 7" version of "Rip it Up" help keep it out of the top spot.

MP3: Orange Juice – What Presence?! (12" version) 

Wafwotf 3. The FallThe Wonderful and Frightening World of the Fall: Omnibus Edition [Beggars Banquet] | BUY
My personal favorite Fall album gets the four-disc Omibus Edition treatment. The 1984 record was the first fully made with Mark E. Smith's then-wife Brix, who brought pop smarts to the Mancunian band's somewhat difficult sound, and their first produced by the great John Leckie.  The Omnibus Edition restores the album's original running order, putting singles from the same time — "Oh Brother!," "C.R.E.E.P." and "No Bulbs" — on the second disc with their b-sides and rough mixes of album tracks. The third collects radio sessions, and the fourth is a live recording from their performance at the 1984 Pandora's Music Box Festival in Norway (set time 3:15AM) that shows what a powerhouse live band the Fall were at the time.

MP3: The Fall – Lay of the Land (Live at Pandor's Music Box Festival) 

TAMISHOWFALL 4. The T.A.M.I. Show [Shout Factory!] | BUY

The first ever home video release of this legendary 1964 concert film, given a first-class DVD courtesy the good folks at Shout Factory. The talent here is staggering — The Rolling Stones, Beach Boys, Marvin Gaye, Smoke Robinson & the Miracles, Chuck Berry, The Supremes — and the performances even better. But nothing tops the footage of James Brown that is worth buying this for alone and shows that Eddie Murphy's famous imitation wasn't really that far off from the real thing. Incredible.

VIDEO: James Brown & the Famous Flames on the T.A.M.I. Show 



5. The Method Actors – This is Still It [Acute] | BUY
Big thanks to Acute for putting the spotlight on obscure '80s Athens, Georgia duo who pounded out nervy post punk, a bit like Pylon's weird younger brothers.This best-of will have you scouring auction sites and used bins for more.

MP3: The Method Actors – Do the Method
MP3: The Method Actors – Bleeding 


JimSullivan_thumb_325 6. Jim SullivanU.F.O. [Light in the Attic] BUY
Whenever you think you've heard every lost classic, LIght in the Attic comes along to prove you wrong. In this case, it's Jim Sullivan, whose 1969 debut only known by writers at MOJO and employees at Aquarius. Now we get it too: expansive folk/country that should excite anyone who's ever loved "Wichita Lineman."

MP3: Jim Sullivan – Highways 


JaneBirkinSergeGainsbourg_t 7. Jane Birkin at Serge GainsbourgJe T’aime… Moi, Non Plus [Light in the Attic] | BUY
This one's a little better known, the first pairing of Parisian power-couple Serge Gainsbourg and muse Jane Birkin. The infamous title track is only the beginning, so many great songs — so many killer grooves — on this album, from the foreplay to the afterglow. The vinyl version comes with a bonus 7" and a comic book!

MP3: Jane Birkin et Serge Gainsbourg – Jane B 

Hawksh_alan_mohawkthe_101b 8. Alan HawkshawMo’Hawk: The Essential Vibes & Grooves 1967 – 1975 [RPM] | BUY
In a similar if much more superficial vein is this compilation of early recordings of Alan Hawkshaw, a British composer and session man whose work can be heard all over British TV in the late '60s and early '70s, be it theme songs or jingles. All of it was groovy. (If you bought those Sound Gallery compilations from the mid-'90s you've heard his work.) I don't know that you'd want to listen to this as a whole, but it's always fun to throw Hawkshaw's tracks on a mix (or while DJing) and he seems an untapped resource for sampling.

MP3:  Alan Hawkshaw – Dr. Jeckyl and Hyde Park

Goodhumor 9. Saint Etienne - Good Humor [UMC] | BUY
Consummate '90s Londoners decamp to Sweden to work with Cardigans producer Tore Johansson and try something new: a concept album about America made with live musicians. It turned out to be a genius move, and the 1997 album is arguably the band's best. This deluxe edition gives us a second disc that expands the Fairfax High bonus disc that came with it's American release on Sub Pop.

MP3: Saint Etienne – Swim Swan Swim

Thecure_d 10. The CureDisintigration [Elektra] | BUY
One of the mopiest records ever to become a (deserved) worldwide hit, the Cure's 1989 uberwork gets the three-disc deluxe treatment. In addition to a slightly-punched up remastering (not too egregious) we get a discs worth of demos, as well as the entire Etreat live album which originally only came out in France.

MP3: The Cure – Plainsong (demo)

Black-tambourine-anth-aa 11. Black Tambourine – S/T [Slumberland] | BUY
What with every band in Brooklyn (and elsewhere) naming this band as an influence, as well as Slumberland's resurgence as a label, it only makes sense that we'd get a deluxe version of Black Tambourine's entire output, including six new tracks, three of which were recorded specifically for this release. I'm not sure it really betters Slumberland's previous BT compilation (which was always available), but the packaging and liner notes are real nice. 

MP3: Black Tambourine – For Ex-Lovers Only

Sound Bites Best of 2010: Favorite Extended Plays


I've always loved EPs. More than a single, less than an album, the format is designed as the ideal showcase for a band. Or at least a nice stopgap between albums. It was the format of choice for the '90s shoegaze scene which is probably why I have such affection. In my mind the ideal EP should be four songs and no longer than 20 minutes, but I don't follow any hard rules for this. In an age of 28 minute albums it's hard to gauge. Anyway, I've never done a Best EPs list before, but the format has definitely made a big comeback this year, in my opinion, at least in that so many ended up staying in constant rotation. Here are my 15 favorites.

01FandO 1. The Fresh & OnlysAugust on My Mind [Captured Tracks] | BUY
Year two of The Fresh & Onlys was stronger than the first, with the band honing their already sharp songwriting skills and becoming more adept at recording, whether it be in a real studio or on four-track. August in My Mind was probably their best release of a second prolific year.

MP3: The Fresh & Onlys – Garbage Collector 

15spectrals 2. SpectralsA Spectrals Extended Play [Moshi Moshi/Underwater Peoples] | BUY
Kind of a cheat, Extended Play collects the best songs from Spectrals' myriad 7" singles on one platter, which brings Louis Jones' talent into sharp focus. Reverb-drenched, but in a Phil Spector kind of way, Spectrals' sound like old favorites you've never heard before. Bewitching stuff.

MP3: Spectrals – Peppermint

14generationals 3. Generationals Trust [Park the Van] | BUY
Imagine a less cloying Boy Least Likely To or Architecture in Helsinki if they didn't try so hard, and you've got New Orleans Generationals who are young masters of clever, tuneful pop. I think you call it effortless? Like on last year's underrated Con Law, this EP brings four more great songs to the table.

MP3: Generationals – Trust

03EternalSummers 4. Eternal Summers - Eternal Summers EP [Chimney Sweep] | BUY
Not that there's anything wrong with using those words, mind you, er, ha ha? Eternal Summers are more slashy, in line with Veronica Falls and Brilliant Colors. Their debut LP on Kanine is great too, but this 10" is a concentrated dose of what they do best. Also, nice to finally see some quality bands coming from Southwest Virginia, near where I grew up. 

MP3: Eternal Summers – In the Beginning 

04THITH 5. The Hundred in the Hands - This Desert [WARP] |BUY
As Charlie the Tuna once taught us, having good taste doesn't necessarily mean you're going to taste good. But this electronic duo manage to do both, easily my favorite electronic pop act to come along in some time. Catchy, sexy, imminently danceable. Check out their album, too, also from this year.

MP3: The Hundred in the Hands – Building in L.O.V.E.

02tonycastles 6. (The) Tony CastlesNo Service [Famous Class] | BUY
Dreamy keyboard-heavy pop with a dose of funk lite brings to mind Prefab Sprout. Too much music this year banked on warm vibes, but Tony Castles understand That Summer Feeling without having to mention the beach, sun or surfing. 

: Tony Castles – Black Girls in Dresses

Dominantlegs 7. Dominant Legs – Young at Love and Life [Lefse] | BUY
Unfairly lumped in with the chillwavers, San Francisco’s Dominant Legs (Ryan Lynch who also plays in Girls) sound like a real band as opposed to something someone dreamed up in Garage Band. And you can actually imagine it being played live. (And they do, I’ve seen them.) And while there's definitely an '80s thing going on, it's not Other People's Nostalgia. Songs are as good as the vibe.

MP3: Dominant Legs – Clawing Out the Walls 

Girlsnames 8. Girls NamesYou Should Know By Now [Tough Love] | BUY
Belfast's Girls Names filled the void left by Crystal Stilts relative inactivity this year with their slightly spooky Cherry Red/Creation influenced sound. Good in its own right, mind you as it is on this list, but the resemblance is a bit uncanny. And they've got a single on Slumberland too! This was the better of the two EPs the band released this year, this one is sold out in physical form but can still be got digitally. The Captured Tracks EP is swell too.

MP3: Girls Names – Tear Me Down

Twinsister 9. Twin SisterColor Your Life [Infinite Best] | BUY
A gorgeous, groovy mix of the Cocteau Twins and Sade, Brooklyn band Twin Sister were one of the breakout stars of 2010. And rightly so. You can still download the entirety of this wonderful EP for free from the band's website, but the vinyl is truly lovely. 

MP3: Twin Sister – All Around and Away We Go

Girls 10. Girls Broken Dreams Club [True Panther] | BUY
While I wouldn't call Girls' 2009 debut low fi by any means, there is a clarity of sound on Broken Dreams Club that they haven't tried before, and it suits not only Christopher Owens' fragile voice but the ace performers they've become over the last two years. The songs were always there. As a  "LETTER OF INTENT," we can only relisten to this till the next record.

MP3: Girls – Heartbreaker

Jamesblake 11. James BlakeCMYK [R&S] | BUY
I don't listen to a ton of dubstep/grime or anything else like this but there is something to James Blake's music that sets it immediately apart and commands your attention. It's like listening to someone tune between radio stations and making it work as music on its own. Of the many records Blake released this year, CMYK was the most mesmerizing.

MP3: James Blake – CMYK

Alexkemp 12. Alex KempRat D'Hotel – Pt. 1 – Rat Walks Into a Bar [Alex Kemp/TuneCore]
Former Small Factory/Godrays singer appears after a decade or so with two EPs of bright, shiny, danceable pop more akin to his old pals Papas Fritas. New direction, but same solid songwriting that made Small Factory's early singles so winning. So good to hear Kemp's charmingly craggy voice again. You can download this EP for free from Kemp's website (click on the brown paper bag).

MP3: Alex Kemp – I'm on Your Side

Suuns 13. SuunsZeroes [Secretly Canadian] | BUY
Formerly known as Zeroes, Suuns (pronounced "Sooons") are one of Montreal's most interesting new bands, as can be heard on this EP. I have a feeling they know exactly what Mark E. Smith means by "repetition repetition repetition" given the solid Krautrock-y grooves. This EP has since been expanded to a full album, but I'm not sure it needed the extra tracks. A perfect blast.

MP3: Suuns – Arena

Cloudnothings 14. Cloud Nothings Leave You Forever [True Panther] | BUY
Cleveland's Cloud Nothings are first and foremost hookmasters in the long powerpop tradition. Live they are crunchier, louder (a skinny beast of a drummer adds massive whallop) but on record they can come off more like that time where American "college rock" morphed into indie rock. The band put out a handful of records this year, this four-song 7" is maybe the best. Certainly the best cover art.

MP3: Cloud Nothings – Weird Son

Ace 15. A Classic EducationHey There Stranger [Lefse] | BUY
Can you embrace baroque, anthemic and reverby garage all at the same time? Yes, says A Classic Education who are from Bologna, Italy (via Canada). More reverb than garage, mind you, with a'60s cosmopolitan sweep as well. In a word, lovely.

MP3: A Classic Education – Gone to Sea

In the Netherworld of Foreign Bees: Pavement | Summerstage | 9.21.2010

Not sure that I can add more than what has been said already — by others and myself — elsewhere but the Pavement reunion was totally worth seeing. Pretty sure I lucked out, the Summerstage show on Tuesday (actually the first day of Fall) was reported by one authority to be the best of the tour. I can say with certainly that it was the best Pavement show I ever saw, and I saw them three times back in the day.* They played better, had more fun than the original run and that definitely was felt by the audience.

This was the first show that was announced — way back over a year ago — before the band informed everyone that it would be a whole tour, including five NYC shows. When people at the time asked if I bought tickets, I joked that, dang it, wouldn't you know the Pavement show was the same night as my El Bulli reservation. (Many on twitter thought I was serious.)  As I said, I'd seen them back in the day and never found them to be any more than just okay live. Who plans their life 13 months in advance?

Flash forward a year and thanks to my gig writing for another blog, I scored tickets this week. Not that they were hard to get by this week. There were scalpers grumbling "how was I supposed to know they'd end up doing five fucking shows!" outside the gates which is pretty funny. Tickets were going on Craigslist for pretty cheap.

Anyway, I went in with low expectations. And then Pavement were awesome, playing just about every song I wanted to hear. Sure, not "Summer Babe" or "Embassy Row" but I got my favorite-ever song, "Shoot the Singer." Woulda liked "Here," but otherwise no qualms at all. Never considered myself more than a casual fan but I knew every song they played. 

The entire band was on but, no surprise, Bob Nastanovich made the night. He cracked jokes, gave out his home address (twice), prowled the stage with various percussion instruments, sang lead like a wild man on "Debris Slide" and "Conduit for Sale." He is Pavement as far as I'm concerned — the fanboy partymonster beating heart to Steve Malkmus' arch detachment.


1999 doesn't really seem that long ago — to me at least — and it's kind of shocking how much they all still look the same, so it didn't really seem like a nostalgia trip so much, as much a "hey, I haven't seen Pavement play in a while." Without having to endure some new so-so album.**

SETLIST: Shady Lane | Frontwards | Heckler Spray | Elevate Me Later | Starlings of the Slipstream | Stereo | Kennel District | Grounded | Rattled By The Rush | We Dance | In The Mouth A Desert | Perfume-V | Unfair | Fin | Gold Soundz | Debris Slide | Range Life | Trigger Cut | Cut Your Hair | Perfect Depth | Fight This Generation | Box Elder |ENCORE: Date With IKEA | Shoot The Singer | Conduit For Sale! | Silent Kid | Heaven Is A Truck | Stop Breathin’

NYC Taper has the whole concert to download. As well as all the other NYC Pavement shows.

MP3: Pavement – Baptist Blacktick (buy it)

While other members were tuning, Bob started singing "Baptist Blacktick" to much hooting and hollering but then SM was all "that song is just two minutes of young vocal chords screaming and we're…" then Bob interjected, "The real truth is 'Baptist Blacktick' is too fast for this age group." Hey!

MP3: Pavement – Embassy Row (buy it)

Pavement lyrics I've never even tried to decipher. I just listen for the many good turns of phrase and enjoy them for that. Which is probably why up I only just recently the the chorus of "Embassy Row" was actually "In the netherworld of foreign thieves." I still like mine better.

*The first of those times was on the final night of the Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain tour, May 14, 1994 in Morgantown, WV (I know 'cause I still have the ticket). I do remember they played "Shoot the Singer" and that SM gave me his drink tickets after the show when I tried to talk to him about the Fall. I clearly didn't need any more drinks. The night is a little fuzzy.