Friday, December 31, 2010

The Willy's Top 10

These are the real deal.
These ain't no "Slashies", y'all.

10. The National – High Violet
HV was a slow burner for me. It didn't have the pop of Alligator and didn't pull like The first. After some QT together, me and HV are copacetic. Every track blends seamlessly with the next. No song stands above the other. They stand together with High Violet being the ultimate product. I will say that "Bloodbuzz Ohio" is about the only thing I like about Ohio. The album is beautiful but beautifully sad like many of the National's efforts. Do not listen to this album if you are depressed, it may put you deeper. It would be a great alternative to the Smiths for that broken heart. Where was this stuff when I needed it back in the day?!? "I don't have the drugs to sort it out."

9. Surfer Blood – Astro Coast
I fought tooth and nail to get a first pressing vinyl of this at the beginning of the year - I got it! What a pleasant surprise. "Floating Vibes" made me feel like I was in high school again. "Swim" falls in line with the rest of the sunny songs this year. At times, this West Palm outfit reminds me of what My Morning Jacket would sound like if they were a band from South Florida. May be if they just "Take it Easy"?

8. LCD Soundsystem - This is Happening
This IS Happening. Every James Murphy project is a party. The party continues on, but let's be honest: Sound of Silver still reigns supreme. Regardless - at the 2:57 minute mark of "Dance YrSelf Clean", the party kicks into full gear and doesn't look back. "All I Want" is supposed to be the "All My Friends" of this album but never reaches those heights. For me, "I Can Change" has the most fun and the best hook to boot! House party anyone?

7. Magic Kids – Memphis
Guess where these kids are from? Their ode to their home is a power pop tour-de-force that is almost so sweet it's saccharine. "Superball" does something to you when you hear it. You almost spasm into full on noodle dance. "Hey Boy" sounds like a song your parents danced to at a middle school sock hop. The whole album sounds like a super group of the Spinto Band, Vince Guaraldi Trio, and the Boy Least Likely To produced by Ben Folds. Crazy.

6. Best Coast - Crazy for You
The companion piece to Wavves this year, Best Coast goes to beach less stoned with a female perspective. You'll be reminded of Hole's "Malibu". It's a whole album of Malibu. Less rough than Courtney Love's gnarl, Bethany Cosentino sings her simple guitar songs about boys, the beach, what it's like when you're here, when you're there, how you make her feel, and what she's gonna do about it. Simple. Straightforward. Don't think too hard. Just take it in and watch the sun go down. "When I'm With You", "Boyfriend", "Crazy For You", "I Want To"

5. Vampire Weekend – Contra
We know the place that the boys in cardigans hold in my heart. The returned with more of the same. You'd remember drinking "Horchata": here comes a feeling you thought you'd forgotten. "Cousins" fills that "A-Punk" sized hole in your heart. "Giving Up the Gun" is like nothing from their debut. It may be their strongest song, yet. "Holiday" deserves more than a Volkswagen and Hilfiger commercial (but I approve of both). "Run" and "White Sky" are classic VW. Sophomore's are never as fresh as debut's, but Contra stays in step with the original and surpasses in some areas.

4. Black Keys – Brothers
The all male White Stripes, the Black Keys, survived singer Dan Auerbach's solo career to put out one of their stronger albums since Rubber Factory. They've tapered back Danger Mouses production hands slightly, but his songs actually have the most bang for your buck. "Tighten Up" is one for the ages, while "Howlin' for You" sounds like a stadium anthem. And their "Next Girl" will be nothing like their Ex-Girl... They'll be her "Everlasting Light".

3. Harlem – Hippies
This is my pick. While it won't be on many if any lists this year. It's on mine. I love it. Garage rock trio minimalism that triumphs at SXSW. I listen to this one straight on through. "Someday Soon" has one of my favorite lines of the year. "Someday soon you'll be on fire, and you'll ask me for a glass of water. I'll say, 'nooooo'. You can just let that s**t burn." Please put me out? "Gay Human Bones" was the single. "Be Your Baby" swings with retro vibes and modern swagger. Each song wreaks of someone scorned. These songs are the rebuttle, the revenge. Whatever.

2. Arcade Fire – The Suburbs
After putting the dark themes of Neon Bible to bed, Arcade Fire triumph with what will likely bring them Grammy gold. The Suburbs returns to the neighborhoods of Funeral. "The Suburbs" sets the tone, while "Ready To Start" hits on all cylinders. I could go on and on about the whole album, but I don't have time and my hands are tired... "Rococo" and "Modern Man" power along like the rest of the album. "Sprawl II" is an interesting curve ball with lead singer, Win Butler's, bandmate/wife taking the lead for a Blondie channeling moment. Through and through The Suburbs are a joy.

1. Local Natives – Gorilla Manor
I'll be brief. This album slays. It was the kind of thing that you feel every blue moon when you hear an album - WOW. The Strokes - Is this It?, Vampire Weekend - s/t, Franz Ferdinand - s/t all gave me that funny feeling. It's back. Start to finish there's greatness. "Wide Eyes" opens your eyes and ears. "Airplanes" grabs your heart. "Sun Hands" makes you stomp. "World News" is a sign of the times. A surprise is their cover of the Talking Heads. "Warning Sign" would make David Byrne proud. GO GET THIS - NOW!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

The Willy's #15 - 11

Halfway home....

15. Blitzen Trapper – Destroyer of the Void
After showing us the Wild Mountain Nation in 2007 and wowing me and the masses in 2008 with Furr, these NW reindeer trappers return with more of the same. D.O.V. doesn't have the immediate appeal of Furr, but it grew on me. The Black River Killer ep last year provides a good segue-way to this album. At times, this can feel like the Revolver to Furr's Rubber Soul if you follow me. "Dragon's Song" reminds me of Elvis Costello. The title track opens the album like a rock opera (much like "Sleepytime in the Western World" did in 2008), and "Heaven and Earth" sums it all up. DOV seems like an ode to the old west in all it's vast beauty but also the emptiness that can be found there, too. It's western like "True Grit" and "No Country For Old Men" just not as dark.

14. Wavves - King of the Beach
Nathan Williams, the one man tour de loser, is back and stoned as ever. He is one hyperactive user though playing more like a meth addict. I didn't care for the overfuzzed mess of his debut. I also didn't like his public fisticuffs with the Black Lips who I fully support. With the help of a quality producer in Dennis Herring (Modest Mouse, Hives, Fiery Furnaces, Ben Folds, Counting Crows, Elvis Costello), Williams finally has some constructive criticism to sharpen his sound. "King of the Beach" kicks you off in an instant and makes you reach for your shades. "Idiot" will have you having Incesticide-era Nirvana flashbacks. "Post Acid" just continues the party. Catchy pop punk abounds. More is to come with Best Coast...

13. She & Him – Vol. 2
Zooey Deschanel and M. Ward are back again with more reverbed retro cuteness for you to be bop to. "In the Sun" is so cute it can only be outdone by the companion video that is an Indie "Hit Me, Baby (One more time)". While it doesn't seem as original this time around, Vol. 2 still has things to say. The Skeeter Davis hit, "Gonna Get Along Without You Now", translates well with Zooey's wall of sound. Folky Doo-Wop is here to stay?

12. The Walkmen – Lisbon
The Walkmen are still putting out the same product year in year out. This is probably their least angry output (I think there is only the trademark growl/yell on 1 song?). "Angela Surf City" has that growl, but it's one of the catchier songs this year. There was so much "fun in the sun"/beach music/summertime music out this year? "Woe is Me" will make you tap your feet. "Victory" sounds like most Walkmen songs - full on Afghan Whigs as the house band in Beautiful Girls. (What? Watch the movie-you'll hear it...)

11. Devo - Something For Everybody
Can this be right? Yup. I bought this on a whim and was blown away. Every last song on here is catchy. You feel like pulling out your Thompson Twins tapes and popping in your VHS copy of Weird Science. It is all 80's and fun as can be. "Fresh" kicks it off like the opening credits to your favorite 80's movie. "Mind Games" is like you fused your Atari with a 4-Track to make a song. "Don't Shoot (I'm a Man)" is like the Revenge of the Nerds got back together for a corporate anthem for their office space. Listen to the first half of this album. If you're not bobbing your head at that point, check your pulse. Guilty pleasure, what?

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The Willy's #'s 20-16

And now - on with the countdown...

20. Sleigh Bells - Treats
After digitally putting out one of my favorite songs of last year with no physical album/ep/contract to speak of, Sleigh Bells put out their proper debut in Treats. "Ring, Ring" is included on Treats in a new fancy studio version (albeit as "Rill Rill"). It's still catchy as ever. While that song is the most palatable, the rest of the album comes at you like a chainsaw through a megaphone. Lead singer, Alexis Krauss, goes from a faint whisper to a pep rally yell. The cheerleaders on the cover are somewhat ironic as this music sounds like pre-game music for skateboarding competition pep rally. "Kids" has got the punks ready...

19. Cornershop - Judy Sucks a Lemon for Breakfast
While this album technically came out last year internationally, it's domestic release was this year. Remember the song, "Brimful of Asha"? It was a Buzz Clip on MTV circa summer 1997. Well, it's the same fellas. While it came out in the winter, Judy Sucks a Lemon plays like the ultimate summer fun album. The whole album exudes cheery fun-in-the-sun. The title track will make you move, while the cover of Dylan's "The Mighty Quinn" will bring Phish to mind (their Live cover from years back...). Put on "Soul School" this winter and you may feel like your in a convertible with OMC singing, "How Bizarre". (Thank you to the band for autographing my LP - I ordered it from them, and I got an email saying the band would be back in town soon. If I didn't mind waiting, they could sign it for me...OK?)

18. The Dead Weather – Sea of Cowards
Jack White's umpteenth side project, The Dead Weather, comprised of Allison Mosshart of the Kills, QOTSA's guitarist, and Jack Lawrence of the Greenhornes returns with their second album in as many years. Still dark. Still bluesy. Still Dead. Jack moves from behind the drums on this one to take a little more stage light from lead singer, Mosshart. It ends up being more of a duet for the two. The high points/singles are not as strong as Horehound, but the album as a whole is better in my mind. "Blue Blood Blues" says it all. "Jawbreaker" breaks your jaw! This is my lawnmowing music. Riding around "shaking hips like battleships".

17. Spoon – Transference
Let's get it out of the way that Spoon is one of my favorite groups. Britt Daniel just does so much cool stuff with minimalism. That being said, Transference hits on all cylinders but lacks the appeal that was found in previous releases. Every song matters to Britt but may not matter to everyone. "Written In Reverse" could be any Spoon song. "Got Nuffin" reappears from its EP release. "Mystery Zone" was my favorite with this album being more of a mystery to me.

16. Sufjan Stevens - The Age of ADZ
Illinois this is not. Sufjan is back and weirder than ever, but it works. Like all Sufjan, this album begs to be listened to as a piece and not as individual tracks. The title track hits a lot of the themes. "Too Much" is a bit more approachable. There is little you can say to describe it... It's like he's been hanging out with Radiohead's Jonny Greenwood for the past couple of years. Hmmm?

Monday, December 27, 2010

The Willy's #'s 21-25

We begin the Top 25 for 2010
in the heart and mind of me -
The Willy's.
Hopefully, you'll get them!
(the albums, not the willies...)

25. Yeasayer - Odd Blood
Odd blood indeed! With no Animal Collection bizarreness this year, Yeasayer can fill that void in your heart (yes, I know Avey Tare had an album). These space age dance grooves will have you shimmy shaking. While some of the album veers into strange, the high spots are loads of fun in the vein of Passion Pit's album last year. Check out the synth-y goodness of "O.N.E." and "Ambling Alp".

24. Belle & Sebastian - Write About Love
Oh, Stuart Murdoch how do I love thee? You let me down with your wannabe musical, God Help the Girl. Write About Love brings you back to my liking somewhat. While it may be heresy in the B&S circles, I think that Dear Catastrophe Waitress and The Life Pursuit are some of the group's best work. This album is not quite up to that caliber. There are some enjoyable songs, but like early B&S some of the album could lullaby you to sleep. Caveat: this album is not suited for long road trips. Failure to recognize this could result in bodily harm and trashing your car! That being said, listen to it in spurts on a lazy day. Download "Write About Love" and "Come on Sister".

23. The Drums - The Drums
The Drums blew onto the blog/hipster scene last summer/fall with their debut EP. "Let's Go Surfing" was one of my favorite songs last year and is still catchy to this day (it's intro is my ring tone). It appears again on their debut album this year. Songs like "Best Friend" and "Forever and Ever Amen" will have you finding your inner Robert Smith. The songs are upbeat in the theme of the EP, Summertime!, but the message seems to be anything but sunny. Therein lies their debt to the Cure - depressing, dark, loathing, and heartbroken. Yum.

22. The New Pornographers - Together
"Put, put, put your 'Hands (Together)' for the silver bullet maker!", screams the NP gang at the onset of their newest collaboration - werewolves are all the rage next to vampires! Carl Newman, Dan Bejar, and Neko Case are still making it work in their Canadian super group. "Crash Years" serves as one of the finer vehicles for Neko's voice that the group has ever put out. The album is good, but the great-ness is maybe not all there. It's a solid 3 1/2 stars. Enjoyable all over, but it's not the best they've ever done. It maybe would've been higher for me if they hadn't phoned in their show here in July... (in their defense, it was the last night of a long tour, and I'm sure they were tired...)

21. Jenny & Johnny – I’m Having Fun Now
What can we say, "We are suckers for Jenny Lewis." From the Wizard to Troop Beverly Hills to Rabbit Fur Coat, I've been all ears (and eyes). A duets album with boyfriend, Jonathan Rice, IHFN plays more like a sequel to Acid Tongue, Jenny's 2008 album. I actually like this better than Acid Tongue. "Scissor Runner" is a rocker. "My Pet Snake" is all fun. The two play well off eachother, but Rice's voice tends to be flat compared to the sharper, Lewis. The light is on her for sure, and he fades to the back with his "Switchblade". Regardless, it's a good run start to finish over and over again as it spins.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The Willy's 2010 - Honorable Mention

The Willy's are back after a basic hiatus last year with me phoning the list in. With all the absence of Blogging this year by me, this is hopefully a sign of a comeback. Life is finally at a somewhat even keel. Keep your fingers crossed (or roll your eyes).

The Top 25 are still to come.
These albums were SOOO close but no cigar....

Deerhunter - Halcyon Digest
Bradford Cox and co. put out one of their more accessible releases from the Deerhunter camp. Halcyon Digest was a critical darling this year (as was 2008's Cryptograms), and you'll see it on everyone's list. For me, Deerhunter is quite the anomaly. When they're are on, I love it (see: "Revival"). Other times, I'm just bored or weirded out(see: "Earthquake"), and I listen to some weird stuff that will not make any of these lists.... It's a good album, just not one of my tops.

The Morning Benders - Big Echo
Big Echo falls into a similar world/vein with Halcyon Digest above, albeit slightly different. The high points are all over this album, but in the end it was never able to really keep my full attention (I'm a gnat, I know). You owe it to yourself to check out "Promises" and "Excuses". The music is very melodic, but sometimes it's just too chill...

Women – Public Strain
You'll see a pattern forming here. Public Strain is a commendable endeavor for Women, but like the 2 albums above: not a top earner in my heart. Don't get me wrong, I own this album and respect it, but it is not one that I will parade around on my iPod at the Y. The tones coming from their guitars at times may make you cringe a bit. I prefer their s/t album from a couple of years ago, but again it can be abrasive.

The Love Language – Libraries
The LL is less than a band and more of a man. This North Carolina outfit has constructed a more complete album than their s/t debut of 2 years ago. The reverb is turned to 11 like a My Morning Jacket record. This was the closest call for me on making the Top 25. "Heart to Tell" is one of the better songs I heard this year...

Girls - Broken Dreams Club (ep)
This is a pretty good release. I think I like it better than their full length from last year.... Pretty tolerable from start to finish, Broken Dreams Club would be in the Top 25 if it was a full album. As far as EP's go, it's top of the pops this year, and totally worth bending an ear. San Fransisco's represented well, and this isn't quite the depressing heroin binge that Album was (the song "Hellhole Ratrace" was quite aptly named). Even with the song "Heartbreaker", sounds like Girls hearts aren't breaking so hard anymore.

Brandi Carlile - Give Up the Ghost
Brandi's "story" came to forefront this past year with her official "coming out". Good for her. She lets it all out here. Give Up the Ghost was a staple in Whitney's car, and by gosh it is catchy as hell. "Dreams", "Touching the Ground", "Caroline", and "Dying Day" are some highlights, but honestly it's good through and through. I give a hearty recommendation. This was a last second addition to my list as I nearly forgot it. Had I remembered earlier, it would most definitely been in my Top 25. I'm just too lazy to move things around at this point!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The Fighter / The Town

People always ask us, "Are there people really like that in Boston?".
You better believe it.

It has been an interesting year, 2010.... Can't say that I'll miss you - 2011 bring it on. As you may or may not know, we lived in Boston for the past 3 years and have made our way back to Tennessee. Boston has managed to stay with us and haunt us through film. One of favorite movies of the year, The Town, came out on DVD/Blu-Ray this week. I highly recommend it. Ben Affleck's 2nd time behind the camera doesn't disappoint. Unlike Gone Baby Gone, Affleck puts his acting shoes on for this ride. The Town follows bank robbers from the borough of Charlestown in Boston as they come to grips with their lives and the desire to get out the business once and for all. Affleck is good, but Jeremy Renner (Oscar nominated for The Hurt Locker) reminds me of lonely rides on the Blue Line on the T back in Boston. It's one of my favorites of the year with something for everybody. Go get this one. You won't be sorry.

This past weekend, The Fighter finally opened to wide-release. Straight out of the Boston suburb of Lowell, The Fighter follows the true story of two brothers struggling to bring honor to their city and their family, too. Mark Wahlberg plays Micky (with no - E) Ford, an up and coming boxer that is realizing his window of opportunity is shrinking, and he may actually be the boxing stepping stone he never intended. Wahlberg like Affleck a Boston native takes a back like Affleck to his stellar co-star. The other brother is Dicky Eklund, former boxer and the "Pride of Lowell" after allegedly knocking down "Sugar" Ray Leonard years ago in a fight. Eklund is portrayed masterfully by Christian Bale, who is a far cry from Bruce Wayne as the washed up, crackhead has-been. While Bale's thick Welsh accent may creep through just barely at times, his Boston accent and spot-on portrayal of Eklund are the stuff of Academy Awards (Get a look at the real Eklund and you realize that Bale even toned it down some in his version of Dicky). Amy Adams does a good job as the love interest, and Melissa Leo leads a gaggle of Massachusetts women (Mother to Ward, Eklund and their 7 sisters) that are all-too-real. The movie is very good, not great. It's the total opposite direction from Director, David O. Russell's last movie, I Heart Huckabees. Regardless, I recommend it - 2 thumbs up.