Jan 27, 2011

Now Playing:
Death - Spiritual - Mental - Physical

When Drag City unearthed the amazing ...For the World to See back in 2009, I fell for it immediately and became an instant fan of a band that had ceased to exist back in 1977. That release collected all of their known recordings and, even though it was brief, it breathed new life into a genre that I found myself grown tired of long ago. It was great to hear a truly exciting, original punk band blow through my head again. Just this month Drag City unveiled another batch of recordings, digging deep in the vaults for a batch of demos. And I think it is very important to emphasize that these are demos, because there isn't a whole ton to get excited about. These are very raw rehearsal tapes that, for the most part, don't really compare to the other material we've already heard. Not to say this is bad stuff, just very thin and pretty obviously the bottom of the barrel - especially considering that almost a third of these are just plain goofin' around tracks (including some fun, but pretty insubstantial, drum and bass solo tracks). There are a few good tracks, particularly the fiery "Views" (which comes closest to sounding like their other stuff) and the tremendously playful Beatles homage of "The Masks". Ultimately this is a interesting historical document, but nothing to get excited over. If you haven't been exposed to these guys, don't start here. Run, don't walk, RUN to your favorite music buying platform and buy/get/download ...For the Whole World To See, then come back to this one.

Jan 26, 2011

Now Playing:
The Decemberists - The King Is Dead

I wasn't sure I needed another Decemberists album in my life, it sort of seemed like the album-length concept opera thing they released in 2009 represented a defining moment for the band. And by that I mean, there really wasn't anywhere else for them to go, they ramped up everything that made them so loved (and hated) past eleven and went totally for baroque-pop broke. For the most part, it worked. Fans seemed to love it and it garnered plenty of critical praise, even if it failed to win over the many vocal haters. As it turns out, the band themselves knew they had reached an end point with the hyper-literate, narrative style and for this go-round, they wisely forged a new path and retreated to a barn outside of Portland for a more rustic influence. It certainly did the trick, because this is a surprisingly "fresh" sounding Decemberists record. Gone are the narrative folk tunes, the literary twists of fate, and Colin Meloy's five-syllable words (okay, so some of those still sneak in from time to time), in place of a record that feels authentically rustic and back-porch. There are touches of pedal steel and harmonica, as well as simple, pretty ballads about the changing of the seasons. The guest stars don't hurt either, particularly GIllian Welch's vocals on "Down By the Water" and Peter Buck's guitars on several tracks (even when one, "Calamity Song", features a riff that sounds exactly like early R.E.M.). The record is nicely paced and wonderfully structured, closing in at a compact forty minutes. This is a wonderful change of pace for the band and I'm looking forward to hearing this out on the back patio this summer.

Jan 25, 2011

Now Playing:
Ducktails - Ducktails III: Arcade Dynamics

I'm not sure that this album could have come out at a better time. While I'm stuck knee-deep (literally, at times) in a never-ending, dreary, snowy, and cold Chicago January, Matthew Mondanile is kicking back in his own version of the Beach Boys infamous summer. But instead of girls, cars, and sand; this summer is all about kicking back on the porch with a cold drink and some laid-back music. You might know him better through his other job as Real Estate's guitar player, but Mondanile has also attracted a fair amount of buzz through his solo Ducktails project. This full-length isn't a huge departure from his previous work, meandering guitar lines and minimal percussion remain a trademark, but this one finds him lounging on the common ground between this and his day job. The melodies are a lot cleaner and direct than they were on albums like Backyard and Landscapes, there are even a few bona-fide singalongs here, "Hamilton Road" and "Killin' the Vibe". But Mondanile's knack for subtly bending his guitar wanderings into something a little more epic is very much intact, check out the epic 10-minute closer, "Porch Projector", a near ambient jam consisting of almost Fahey-like guitar playing accentuated by distant fireworks and applause. This album is making those early morning commutes in sub-zero weather a little easier to take.

Jan 24, 2011

2010 Pazz & Jop
While I was busy falling way, way behind with posting my own year-end wrap-up, the always interesting Village Voice Pazz & Jop Critic's Poll results went live. Before I get into any commentary, as well as my own ballot, here's the top twenty for the two categories:


1Kanye West, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy
Def Jam/Roc-a-Fella
Points: 3250
Mentions: 266
2LCD Soundsystem, This Is Happening
Points: 1634
Mentions: 152
3Arcade Fire, The Suburbs
Points: 1559
Mentions: 145
4Janelle Monáe, The ArchAndroid
Bad Boy/Wondaland Arts Society
Points: 1448
Mentions: 134
5Vampire Weekend, Contra
Points: 1295
Mentions: 120
6Big Boi, Sir Lucious Left Foot: The Son of Chico Dusty
Def Jam
Points: 1156
Mentions: 120
7Beach House, Teen Dream
Sub Pop
Points: 1143
Mentions: 111
8The National, High Violet
Points: 1036
Mentions: 97
9Sleigh Bells, Treats
Mom + Pop/N.E.E.T.
Points: 902
Mentions: 86
10Black Keys, Brothers
Points: 900
Mentions: 89
11Deerhunter, Halcyon Digest
Points: 878
Mentions: 77
12Titus Andronicus, The Monitor
Points: 852
Mentions: 75
13Robyn, Body Talk
Points: 767
Mentions: 74
14Joanna Newsom, Have One on Me
Drag City
Points: 754
Mentions: 65
15Grinderman, Grinderman 2
Points: 640
Mentions: 62
16Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti, Before Today
Points: 587
Mentions: 52
17Superchunk, Majesty Shredding
Points: 563
Mentions: 49
18The Roots, How I Got Over
Def Jam
Points: 533
Mentions: 50
19Flying Lotus, Cosmogramma
Points: 500
Mentions: 53
20Jamey Johnson, The Guitar Song
Mercury Nashville
Points: 466
Mentions: 48


1Cee Lo Green, "Fuck You!"
Mentions: 187
2Janelle Monáe (ft. Big Boi), "Tightrope" **
Bad Boy/Wondaland Arts Society
Mentions: 105
3Robyn, "Dancing on My Own" **
Mentions: 81
4Kanye West (ft. Pusha T), "Runaway"
Def Jam/Roc-a-Fella
Mentions: 77
5Kanye West (ft. Dwele), "Power" **
Def Jam/Roc-a-Fella
Mentions: 71
6Kanye West (ft. Jay-Z, Rick Ross, Nicki Minaj and Bon Iver), "Monster" **
Def Jam/Roc-a-Fella
Mentions: 68
7Big Boi (ft. Cutty), "Shutterbugg"
Def Jam
Mentions: 59
8Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti, "Round and Round"
Mentions: 48
9The National, "Bloodbuzz Ohio"
Mentions: 41
9Sleigh Bells, "Rill Rill" *
Mom + Pop/N.E.E.T.
Mentions: 41
10Arcade Fire, "Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)"
Mentions: 37
10Erykah Badu, "Window Seat"
Universal Motown
Mentions: 37
10LCD Soundsystem, "I Can Change"
Mentions: 37
11Katy Perry, "Teenage Dream"
Mentions: 36
12Sade, "Soldier of Love" *
Mentions: 35
13Caribou, "Odessa"
Merge/City Slang
Mentions: 29
13Lady Gaga (ft. Beyoncé), "Telephone" *
Mentions: 29
14Eminem (ft. Rihanna), "Love the Way You Lie"
Mentions: 28
15Rick Ross (ft. Styles P), "B.M.F. (Blowin' Money Fast)"
Def Jam/Maybach Music
Mentions: 27
16Best Coast, "Boyfriend"
Mexican Summer/Wichita
Mentions: 26
16Black Keys, "Tighten Up"
Mentions: 26
17Crystal Castles (ft. Robert Smith), "Not in Love"
Mentions: 24
17Janelle Monáe, "Cold War"
Bad Boy/Wondaland Arts Society
Mentions: 24
18Jay Electronica, "Exhibit C" *
Mentions: 23
18Deerhunter, "Helicopter" **
Mentions: 23
19LCD Soundsystem, "Drunk Girls" **
Mentions: 22
20Yeasayer, "O.N.E."
Secretly Canadian
Mentions: 21
20Katy Perry, "California Gurls"
Mentions: 21
20Yeasayer, "Ambling Alp" *
Secretly Canadian
Mentions: 21

(the double astericks in the singles list denotes that the entry includes remixes and alternate versions)

The first thing I have to say is that I'm really happy with the number one single. Not only was that also my choice for single of the year, but there wasn't a more endlessly repeatable track released last year - so much fun. The number one album? I don't get it. I still feel like too many people bought into the early hype and didn't let that Kanye disc sit long enough. There will be some head-scratching over this one in five or six years. Again, that isn't to say its a bad album (it did, after all, place in my in my top 15 of the year), but there just a few too many fatal flaws for it to stand up as the best of the year. Obviously I'd have been happier with the fourth place finisher on top, but I'm thrilled enough as it is to see Ms. Monae place that high. The Arcade Fire and LCD Soundsystem albums between those two are decent enough, but again, just don't feel that essential to me - particularly compared with their earlier work.

In taking a deeper look at the top twenty albums, there is, unsurprisingly, another dearth of indie rock sitting at the top. By my count, there are 9 "indie" bands in the top spots (three more if you stretch your definition of "indie" to include the bare bones classic rock of The Black Keys and the dance-oriented LCD Soundsystem and Sleigh Bells). On the other hand, its pretty cool to see an artist like Jamey Johnson crack the top twenty, considering his traditionalist take on country music. While I'm happy to see the much deserving Agalloch get a pretty strong (for this poll anyway) showing at #44, I'm disheartened to see that only it and Kylesa (#77) represented metal in the top 100. Maybe next year.

Over in the singles top twenty, I'm really pretty pleased with that top ten. I'd boot "Runaway" (by far the weakest of Ye's 2010 singles, and slide that Crystal Castles and Robert Smith track up to take its place though. Loved to see the Janelle and Robyn love, but confounded at the continued love critics pour on Katy Perry - in no way did she deserve two in the top twenty. Most surprising, to me anyway, was seeing absolutely no Taylor Swift in the top twenty. The closest she got was #28 with her bit hit "Mine". I know critics are still loving her (sometimes the love is justified, but maybe not completely), so I wonder why the low placing.

As always, the list is an interesting way to look back on the music of 2010. For all the faults and the cries of "rockism" and "more boring indie", there are still some worthwhile surprises. My favorite was the inclusion of a compilation of early Bob Seger material made by someone over at the I Love Music message board. Hey, if the labels don't want to release that stuff, I'm glad to see it getting out there and getting attention. If you as big of a stats nerd as I am, you will want to immediately click over here for P&J statistical heaven, put together by the great Glenn McDonald.

And, for comparison's sake, here is my ballot. The number in parentheses after the entry indicates the position on the overall poll.

1. Janelle Monae - The ArchAndroid (#4)
2. Deerhunter - Halycon Digest (#11)
3. Agalloch - Marrow of the Spirit (#44)
4. Nachtmustium - Addicts: Black Meddle Part II (#119 tie)
5. Warpaint - The Fool (#86 tie)
6. Rangda - False Flag (#115 tie)
7. Drums - The Drums (#88)
8. Bottomless Pit - Blood Under the Bridge (#183 tie - I was the only mention for this album)
9. Flying Lotus - Cosmogramma (#19)
10. Kylesa - Spiral Shadow (#77)

1. Cee-Lo Green - "Fuck You!" (#1)
2. Crystal Castles f. Robert Smith - "Not In Love" (#17 tie)
3. Kanye West f. Jay-Z, Rick Ross, Nicki Minaj, & Bon Iver - "Monster" (#6)
4. Robyn - "Dancing On My Own" (#3)
5. Janelle Monae f. Big Boi - "Tightrope" (#2)
6. Gorillaz f. Bobby Womack & Mos Def - "Stylo" (#22 tie)
7. Kanye West f. Dwele - "Power" (#5)
8. Deerhunter - "Desire Lines" (#31 tie)
9. Drums - "Me and the Moon" (#38 tie)
10. Surfer Blood - "Swim" (#32 tie)

As you can see, having voted for 5 of the top 6 singles, I'm much more of a centrist when it comes to the singles I vote for. Interesting.

Jan 12, 2011

2010 Year In Review
Part IV: The Albums

I've been incredibly lax about getting this final portion up and I do feel awful about it. I meant to have it up before the calendar flipped to 2011, but you know what they say about good intentions. Not a great way to start a whole new year of posts, but now I'm here and ready to finish the look back. Here's the 50 albums that I was nuts over in 2010.

50. Jamey Johnson - The Guitar Song (Mercury Nashville)
49. Dum Dum Girls - I Will Be (Sub Pop)
48. The-Dream - Love King (Def Jam)
47. Against Me! - White Crosses (Sire/WEA)
46. Pantha du Prince - Black Noise (Rough Trade)
45. Foals - Total Life Forever (Sub Pop)
44. E-40 - Revenue Retrievin': Day Shift/Night Shift (Heavy On Grind)
43. Wild Nothing - Gemini (Captured Tracks)
42. The Soft Pack - The Soft Pack (Kemado)
41. Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti - Before Today (4AD)
40. Gorillaz - Plastic Beach (Virgin)
39. LCD Soundsystem - This is Happening (DFA/Virgin)
38. John Legend & The Roots - Wake Up (Columbia)
37. Joanna Newsom - Have One On Me (Drag City)
36. Black Mountain - Wilderness Heart (Jagjaguwar)
35. The Fall - Your Future Our Clutter (Domino)
34. The Roots - How I Got Over (Def Jam)
33. Endless Boogie - Full House Head (No Quarter)
32. Surfer Blood - Astro Coast (Kemado)
31. Grinderman - Grinderman 2 (Anti)
30. My Chemical Romance - Danger Days: The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys (Reprise)
29. Best Coast - Crazy For You (Mexican Summer)
28. Phosphorescent - Here's To Taking It Easy (Dead Oceans)
27. Superchunk - Majesty Shredding (Merge)
26. Citay - Dream Get Together (Dead Oceans)
25. Gayngs - Relayted (Jagjaguwar)
24. Tame Impala - InnerSpeaker (101 Distribution)
23. Erykah Badu - New Amerykah Part Two: Return of the Ankh (Motown)
22. Arcade Fire - The Suburbs (Merge)
21. Emeralds - Does It Look Like I'm Here (Editions Mego)

20. Swans - My Father Will Guide Me Up a Rope to the Sky (Young God)
Definitely a candidate for comeback of the year. After 14 years since their last full-length, Michael Gira and his band of miscreants returned stronger than ever. Blending multiple genres into a swirling mass of intense hysteria, the band unleashes ones of the most haunting and unforgettable albums of the year.

19. Holy Fuck - Latin (XL)
One of the year's most pleasant new discoveries, considering I almost skipped it entirely due to the band's name. Not that I was offended, but it seems like bands that need an attention-grabbing name like this are rarely able to back it up with great music. Not the case with Toronto's Holy Fuck - they've got more than enough to back up such an exclamation. I picked this up in an Ann Arbor record store solely based on the store's sleeve description. I don't remember what it said exactly, but I was sold when I saw "krautrock", "fuzzy", "beats", "proggy", and "keyboards" in the description. Holy fuck, indeed.

18. Titus Andronicus - The Monitor (XL)
Not only did New Jersey rockers Titus Andronicus avoid the dreaded sophomore slump with this, their second record, they blasted away any and all expectations by dramatically improving on their already promising debut. More surprising? They did it with a pseudo concept record that ties together The Civil War, Billy Bragg, Bruce Springsteen, classic rock, and their native Jersey. Anthemic, engaging, and cathartic - this is what great rock music sounds like.

17. High On Fire - Snakes For The Divine (Koch)
Although the crisp production and inspired mixing (I thought bringing Des Kensel's drums up to the front was a great idea) threw some fans for a loop, this record almost immediately became my favorite thing the bad has put out to date. Not to knock the other HoF albums, none of them have been less than fantastic so far, but this worked as a tight consolidation of the band at its best. Even setting aside the crazy ass concept that encapsulates fringe theories from the Illuminati to lizard people, tracks like "Bastard Samurai" and "Frost Hammer" will make any metal fan throw the horns.

16. Vampire Weekend - Contra (XL)
I'll admit that I was one of those initially concerned about the sophomore record from these guys. Their debut was such a unexpected treat, one of those tightly focused pop records that bravely twist disparate influences into something wholly original, that I worried about them choking on expectations and winding up just another band on the trash-heap of blog buzz history. Fortunately that promising debut was just the tip of the iceberg as evidenced by these ten tracks that expand the band's sonic palette without losing touch of the quirks that made them so special in the first place.

15. Kanye West - My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy (Def Jam)
Let's get this out of the way first - no, this isn't some amazing, outstanding redefinition of what hip-hop is or can be. The hype got really out of control really fast on this, which is really just another in a string of fantastic Kanye albums. Which is fine, even if it isn't the genre defining classic people want it to be. I mean, any album that contains Nicki Minaj's verse on "Monster", a brilliant King Crimson sample, a hook like the one on "All of the Lights", John Legend, and spoken word from Gil-Scott Heron is going to be good; but Kanye locking himself inside his chaotic brain is what elevated it to great. Unfortunately this same excess is what keeps it from being perfect (Chris Rock, "Runaway" being twice as long as it needs to be). Still, I can't help but wish more hip-hop in 2010 was this frenzied and careless.

14. Caribou - Swim (Merge)
Dan Snaith has been a long time favorite here at via//chicago, well, at least since his 2004 record under the moniker Manitoba, Up In Flames, blew me away. Each and every record since has taken a new approach, yet each has been just as engaging and rewarding as the last. With his latest, Snaith sets aside the more pastoral and kraut-inspired grooves of his last few albums to take on something meant for the dancefloor. But, as you might expect from him by now, it isn't really that simple. As reliant on rhythm as this thing is, the melodies and beats display a fluidity of motion that, while not as immediate as some of his best pieces, mark the talents of a true master craftsman.

13. Big Boi - Sir Lucious Left Foot: The Son of Chico Dusty (Def Jam)
Even with the amazing run of leaked tracks that led up to the long-delayed release of this Big Boi solo record, few were prepared with just how great this thing was going to be. We shouldn't have been surprised, of course, given the guy's track record and just how jaw-droppingly awesome Speakerboxx was, but I think the rumors and speculation surrounding the Outkast camp led to lowered expectations. Whatever the reason, I'm glad something lit a fire under Big Boi's ass, because this is a front to back excellent. Bringing in sharp young talent (Janelle Monae, Yelawolf) didn't hurt anything, but the best and brightest moment all belong to the man himself. Don't think of this as a holdover til the next Outkast album, otherwise you will risk sorely underestimating a near classic in its own right.

12. Enslaved - Axioma Ethica Odini (Nuclear Blast)
I'm amazed that this band continues to get better and better with each consecutive release. Ever since I started regularly following them with 2003's Below The Lights, I've watched them grow stronger and stronger with each successive release. Not that I would ever with it on any band, but I kind of expected this to be the one to find them stumbling a little or, at the very least, hitting some sort of creative plateau. But before I was even three tracks in I realized these Norwegians knocked it out of the park yet again. If you haven't been following these guys and appreciate the more progressive end of extreme metal, you owe it to yourselves to check this one out.

11. Spoon - Transference (Merge)
Speaking of bands that continue to improve, these indie rock veterans also dropped their best record to date in 2010. No, it may not have the immediate hooks of some of their bigger hits, but the consistent level of quality on this record still amazes me nearly a full year after its initial release. How did they manage this feat? By excising anything superfluous on these songs and trimming them down to the marrow. There isn't an extraneous note on this entire thing, but when your songs are this strong, you don't need to dress them up. It isn't obvious at first blush, but the most important weapon in Spoon's arsenal at this point is the recording studio. Master craftsmen at work here.

10. Kylesa - Spiral Shadow (Season of Mist)
I've loved hearing this band evolve over time, using their two drummer and two vocalist attack to become one of the more dependable Southern sludge bands around (not to mention an absolutely killer live presence). I was even more excited about their evolution with this album, as it sounds like they've spent some quality time curled up with their '80s SST and '90s Touch & Go records - to tremendous effect. The sludgy ferocity is still there, but heightened by a melodic and experimental streak unafraid to chase down narrow alleys and blind corners. I can't wait to hear where they go next.

9. Flying Lotus - Cosmogramma (Warp)
Steven Ellison is another artist that continues to evolve from release to release, but for every hesitant step forward taken by others - Ellison is taking leaps and bounds into the future. This time around he pushes his exciting mixture of jazz, electronic music, hip-hop to soaring new heights and obliterates any boundaries between the genres. While the IDM touchstones and the label on the sleeve, Warp, point to this being fodder for the headphone-strapped beat crowd, this is the kind of gorgeous music that should appeal to anyone that appreciates forward-thinking music.

8. Bottomless Pit - Blood Under the Bridge (Comedy Minus One)
A big part of me was just excited to see that Bottomless Pit was truly going to be an ongoing project. Considering how much their last album felt like a much-deserved cathartic release and fitting tribute to their years as Silkworm, I worried that there might not be much more music coming our way from Andy Cohen and Tim Midgett. But not only did this release prove they were sticking around, it also proved that they are still capable of cranking out some of the best music of their careers. Of course long-time Silkworm fans are going to love this, but anyone with a taste for dense, dynamic, intelligent, guitar-laden rock music would be wise to give this a spin.

7. The Drums - The Drums (Downtown)
When I first encountered this band, via their cheeky summertime ode "Let's Go Surfing", I wrote them off fairly quickly as another band of pretty boys with trendy haircuts jumping on whatever "beach wave" was being called that particular week. But as soon as I heard "Me and the Moon", I knew this was a band that just might be more up my alley than I wanted to admit. The majority of this album takes the obvious 60s pop of "Let's Go Surfing", but filters it through dour 80s indie rock like that of Echo and the Bunnymen. It may not seem like a winning combination on paper, but this band's talent is undeniable.

6. Rangda - False Flag (Drag City)
I can honestly say I've only sporadically checked in on Ben Chasny's Six Organs of Admittance (but liked pretty much everything I have heard) and have never really followed Sir Richard Bishop's Sun City Girls at all, so I wasn't heading into this record expecting to be floored. But, boy, was I ever. Split pretty evenly between noisier improvisational pieces and more structured songs, this album is a treat for anyone that leans towards the more psychedelic end of guitar meandering. While both Chasny and Bishop lace these songs with their expert playing, the big surprise for me was the super thrilling playing of drummer Chris Corsano. I hope this is just the start of a long collaboration between these three talents.

5. Warpaint - The Fool (Rough Trade)
This Los Angeles quartet was one of my favorite discoveries of 2010. I first became aware of them via the icy cool "Undertow" and made an effort to track down their debut EP in advance of this album's stateside appearance. Its difficult to pin down this band's sound, as they don't easily slot into any recent trend or genre. These girls have traced a defiant, effortless line of cool through five decades of pop music and are excited to add their own spin. The fact that much of this sounds unpolished only adds to the detached, bitter feel backed up by a majority of the lyrics. While other bands try so hard to fit into this week's current blog buzz sound, the women of Warpaint seem content to ignore it all and plow ahead on their own. Thank god for that.

4. Nachtmystium - Addicts: Black Meddle Pt. II (Century Media)
After this veteran Chicago metal band blasted away all expectation with the first installment of their "Black Meddle" project, many fans were wondering just what to expect when the second half dropped. More delving into the Pink Floyd progressive rock streak? A retreat to the band's darker black metal days? Instead we were greeted with yet another left turn and, yet again, it suits the band unbelievably well. This time their original blend of U.S. black metal gets doused with a fiery streak of industrial fuzz and stomp, at least as it would sound filtered through Killing Joke and dragged through the darkened depths of black metal hell. The end result gives us something even more sinister and despairing than anything the band has done before, even while it gives the tr00 metal cultists something to bitch about.

3. Agalloch - Marrow of the Spirit (Profound Lore)
I kind of wish I could say that I've been following these guys for years and was able to predict just how awesome this album was going to be but, the truth is, this was the first album I've ever heard from Agalloch. Now I'm kicking myself for ignoring them for so long. Marrow of the Spirit is, quite simply, one of the most engrossing and gorgeous sounding albums I've ever heard. As the band embraces everything from folk to black metal, they seamlessly weave it into a bleak, yet oddly inviting, landscape not dissimilar to the image that graces the album cover.

2. Deerhunter - Halycon Digest (4AD)
This album may just be the next best thing to an actual Bradford Cox "greatest hits" type compilation, because the wide-reaching variety of the tunes on display does a pretty damn good job of showing off what his work up to now has been all about. Shuffling indie pop, gauzy sheets of guitar, krautrock grooves - they are all here. But what may be the most surprising thing about this album, is the consistent level of quality throughout. This record ended up being one of the ones I listened to the most throughout 2010 and every listen revealed a new favorite. For those ready to proclaim indie rock dead, let's work out a way to keep Deerhunter around - we need 'em.

1. Janelle Monae - The ArchAndroid (Atlantic)
It has long been a tradition among critics to complain about how unjustly a particular artist or musician is being treated, moaning the lack of attention their work is getting from the public or to berate other critics for missing the boat. So, knowing I won't be the first nor the last, allow me to indulge in this tactic myself to berate the world at large for not welcoming Janelle Monae with open arms. This girl should at least be at Taylor Swift/Beyonce levels of stardom by now, because she really is the total package. Not only can she dance and sing with the best of them, but she is one of the hardest working showpeople around (not for nothing do the James Brown comparisons crop up) with a creative streak ten miles wide. The record in question here, The ArchAndroid, is the kind of winning magnum opus that a talent like this deserves. Jumping from contemporary R&B to funk to hip-hop to torch ballads to classic jazz and back again, Monae has an eye for detail and ear for hooks that allows her to get away with twists and turns few others would. Who'd expect a sci-fi concept record about robots and outlawing dancing in a dystopian future to be this damn lovable? Truly an exciting debut from a thrilling new talent and a fun record that I'm just physically unable to keep away from. Let's hope the coming years give Janelle the audience she deserves (and, yes, she is absolutely killer live - so don't miss her next time she swings through town).