So here we are halfway through the year 2010, my goodness, and I should take a look at a handful of the albums I've dug most midway through. I've been much more about the retro than the nouveau this year, digging into all sorts of 1960s/1970s stuff, far more Electric Prunes than Justin Bieber if you get what I'm saying.
But there's still some mighty cool stuff I'm listening to that isn't 40 years old, and more to come this year with albums from Arcade Fire, Wolf Parade, Of Montreal and many others I'm looking forward to. Here's 5 albums I'm digging from 2010:
LCD Soundsystem, This Is Happening
Sure, James Murphy wears that '70s Bowie/Iggy influence on his sleeve here, but the brooding, meandering techno-pop tunes on his third disc wriggle into your head and stay there. The introspective streak begun in "Sound of Silver" continues here with the marvellously cathartic 'Dance Yrself Clean' with its loud/soft pulse, while snarky singles like "Drunk Girls" continue along the parallel 'North American Scum' satire path. Dance music with a wink.
Beck's Record Club #4, Kick
Not available in a record store near you, this online-only offering is the latest of Beck and an all-star crew's free-wheeling cover treks through their favorite albums. They've done great Velvet Underground, Leonard Cohen and Skip Spence ones so far, but my personal favorite so far is their take on INXS "Kick," which gives that slick and shiny synth-pop album a new veneer of classic cool. "Kick" is the sound of 1987 for me and has some fine underrated pop tunes -- and it's nifty to see Beck and Co. do a loose, sprawling take on it. Dig around for the MP3s if you can find them online.
Their debut album "Oracular Spectacular" had some great pop hits, like the inescapable "Kids." But they've taken a swerve with this dizzying shambles of an album that is a reactionary response to the fame of "Kids." It's not full of "hooks," but rather a kind of tapestry of psych-rock that dances around the edge of pretentiousness. It takes a few listens to get into the almost willfully obscure groove but I find myself coming back to this one a lot for its spacey appeal.
New Pornographers, Together
For some reason this fifth album isn't being praised quite as much as this alt-pop supergroup's other discs, but I'm still really enjoying its mix of hooks and bombast. It doesn't break the mold, but the dueling qualities of Neko Case's booming voice, Dan Bejar's snide asides and A.C. Newman's easygoing optimism still works for me. The Pornographers have massaged their style into a smooth formula, but it's not worn out just yet.
Roky Erickson, True Love Cast Out All Evil
Erickson's tale is well-known in rock circles -- hellfire singer of the psych-rock band The 13th Floor Elevators, he descended into a morass of drug and mental problems, including a lengthy spell institutionalized. Now in his mid-60s, he's found a kind of inner peace and teamed with alt-country act Okkervil River to make a beautiful, ravaged yet kind-hearted album looking back at this chaotic life. While it may lack the surreal, haunted-by-demons sting of his finest work, this is still a great, wistful coda to a strange trip of a career.
Biggest disappointment so far:
The man goes a decade or so between albums for this? A limp collection of covers, done with a bland orchestral backing. While Gabriel's voice is still gruff and terrific, there's a dour, labored feel to this entire enterprise, with even the world music textures that colour his best work lacking. While some work, like Arcade Fire's "My Body Is A Cage," when you suck all the joy out of Paul Simon's "Boy In The Bubble" you've messed up somewhere. It's depressing, and makes me wonder if he's "lost it" for good and if we'll ever see a follow-up to 2002's "Up."