Matt Nerney Poop ’10

I realized this year that I just don’t like “new” music anymore. I still like the same old stuff I always liked, and anything that sounds like the same old stuff I always liked. I have become an old curmudgeon. Just go through the old lists. You’ll see what I mean. About half way through the year, I got tired of trying to find new stuff that sounds like the old stuff. As a result, my music obsession morphed from old school reggae to Zappa and the Grateful Dead. Go figure. I am pleased to report that my son Declan’s favorite band is the Clash, followed by the Ramones and the Futureheads. My daughter Finn likes anything that she can shake her butt to. I suppose all is right in our universe.

Tops of the Pops

cover for Alasdair Roberts – Too Long in This Condition  Buy New or Used via amazon
1. Alasdair Roberts – Too Long in This Condition
An album of English, Irish, and Scottish traditional songs mostly about betrayal and death. Good fun. Definitely the album I listened to the most this year. Roberts just continues to get better and better. If you like folk music, please listen.

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2. Zeus – Say Us
One of the few rookie bands on my list, but very high on the list. Not surprising, as they are obvious Anglophiles, with the Kinks and Costello as major reference points. They do blend these influences well though, into a thoroughly modern sensibility. Hoping for a good follow up.

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3. Dr. Dog – Shame, Shame
Still doing the same old thing. Obviously, I like that same old thing.

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4. James Yorkston – Folk Songs
Another Scottish singer doing traditional songs. Yeah, more love, death, and betrayal. Yorkston is less melodic than Roberts, more idiosyncratic, but does these old songs a good turn. A nice way to start a quiet Sunday morning.

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5. The Acorn – No Ghost
Probably impossible to follow up the quiet masterpiece Glory Hope Mountain. The Acorn just hole up in a north woods cabin and play it casual. Still, a very good listen.

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6. Delta Spirit – History from Below
More assured and comfortable than on their debut Ode to Sunshine, which I liked quite a lot. Good, old-fashioned roots rock. Fans of the Hold Steady may like this although, oddly enough, I don’t like them. Let the hate mail begin.

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7. The New Pornographers – Together
AC Newman has the formula for the perfect pop hit, so why isn’t this band popular? Criminal. With that being said, Newman frontloads this album with such bright gems like Moves, Crash Years, and Your Hands (Together) that the rest of the album suffers.

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8. Richard Thompson – Dream Attic
Something of a conundrum, this album. There are some really great songs here but, as usually, some lyrical indulgences dull the keen edges. Musically, the song structures are very strong, recalling the best of his late 70’s/early 80’s output. However, having Pete Zorn and Joel Zifkin around brings a slightly schlocky sheen to the proceedings. The live album concept is alright, although I think developing some of these songs in the studio could have yielded better results. I did go for the deluxe edition, which comes with a disc of the acoustic demos. Some of these far surpass the band versions. Others don’t. Still, it’s nice to have. Anyway, even with the minor quibbles, there’s no one like him, and he’s still bringing the goods.

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9. The Bees – Every Step’s a Yes
A nice amalgam of their three previous albums. Kind of like a lo-fi version of the pastoral side of Pink Floyd in the early 70’s. Some of you may know them as A Band of Bees, although I think this may be an import only, thus under their original name. They’re on a new label, an English independent, so I don’t think it will be distributed stateside.

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10. Fredrik – Trilogi
More of the same home-spun, quirky folk-pop, although a little darker, more Nordic, this time around. Very interesting videos also, for those who like the visual arts.

cover for The Figgs – The Man Who Fights Himself  Buy New or Used via amazon
11. The Figgs – The Man Who Fights Himself
Another brief look into the lives of these aging never-rans. A little bit mellower with age, but still knocking out power-pop gems with ease and grace. I don’t know, I just have a soft spot for these guys and hope they’ll stick around for a long time.

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12. The Futureheads – The Chaos
Yet more precision robo-punk. Side note, saw this band at Maxwell’s over the summer. Great show. Recommended if you like high-octane silliness.

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13. Field Music – Measure
Back in business after a few years lay-off. Not quite the heights of Tones of Town, but still very good. Too cerebral at times; they’re like an English indy-rock Steely Dan.

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14. Clinic – Bubblegum
Still uniquely Clinic, but with a softer, warmer tone. Acoustic guitars and strings feature in songs that draw strongly from a 60’s AM radio/summer of love vibe, albeit with that twisted Clinic perspective (you know, like Charles Manson).

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15. The Black Keys – Brothers
Usually not my cup of tea, but I was drawn in by some very catchy grooves on Tighten Up, Next Girl, and She’s Long Gone.

Other Notable News
Belle & Sebastian – Write About Love: as you would expect.
Crowded House – Intriguer: still a guilty pleasure.
Dangermouse & Sparklehorse – Dark Night of the Soul: sad farewell.
Deerhunter – Halcyon Digest: floating, distorted daydreams.
Fionn Regan – the Shadow of an Empire: Irish Dylan wannabe.
The Greenhornes – (****): slightly shinier than before.
The Hoodoo Gurus – Purity of Essence: good album, and great show!
Jonsi – Go: manic debut by Sigur Ros frontman.
Los Lobos – Tin Can Trust: still living in the neighborhood.
The Parting Gifts – Strychnine Dandelions: Cartwright versus Coco Ettes.
Robert Plant – Band of Joy: mining the same vein as Raising Sand.
The Ruby Suns – Fight Softly: too much like AC, but still catchy.
Villagers – Becoming a Jackal: title track should have been a hit.
Yeasayer – Odd Blood: Do we need a Peter Gabriel revival? Why not?
The Young Veins – Take a Vacation!: Kinks redux via Better Can’t Make Your Life Better.

Disappointments & Downers
Midlake – the Courage of Others: not a bad album but disappointing, lacking the dynamics and character of the outstanding Trials of Van Occupanther.
MGMT – Congratulations: again, not bad, but they seem to be trying too hard.
Besnard Lakes are the Roaring Night: pale repeat of Dark Horse.
Blitzen Trapper – Destroyer of the Void: a really disappointing release, almost a complete rewrite of Furr, from the sound, lyrical content, and sequencing, but not even close to its predecessor. How did it spoil so quickly?
Sufjan Stevens – the Age of Adz: this is just really, really bad. WTF?

Goodbye, 2010. Hello, 2011. I will now go out and buy the entire Dick’s Picks series. Jerry lives!