What the mayor and other Northlanders liked in 2010Find out which albums cool kids like Don Ness, Tony Bennett, Jason Wussow and Walt Dizzo listened to this year.
To balance out my choices for the best music released in the last 12 months, I e-mailed a bunch of different people a couple simple questions: What is your favorite local and non-local album of 2010 — and why? As expected, their answers were almost as varied as their personalities. But Zac Bentz of the Surfactants summed it up best: “All told, it was an amazing year for music.”
Suzy A., Electric Fetus employee
Local: Modern Gentlemen’s “A Gentleman’s Guide to Dangerous Living”
Non-local: Avenged Sevenfold’s “Nightmare”
Ben B., Electric Fetus employee
Local: “The Moon is Down’s Excellent Adventure”
Non-local: Johnny Flynn’s “Been Listening”
Carrie B., Electric Fetus employee
Local: Charlie Parr’s “When the Devil Goes Blind”
Non-local: Erykah Badu’s “New Amerykah, Pt, 2: Return of the Ankh”
Andy Bennett, actor
Local: It’s one you can’t buy in stores. Earlier this year Jake Larson made a recording of Cars & Trucks playing the score to the Who’s “Tommy” for our production of the musical at Renegade Theater Company. They made it for the cast so they could rehearse to the music, but I often find myself putting it on in the car and singing along.
National: Even though I enjoy the new Eminem record (“Recovery”) far more than a 31-year-old man probably should, I have to go with “Together” by the New Pornographers. If I could choose a group to record a soundtrack for my daily life, they’d be it.
Tony Bennett, member of Cars & Trucks
Here: I think the Tisdales are a great band, led by two great songwriters, and everyone is a dummy for not making their album “Out With the New” double-platinum.
There: I was surprised at how much I liked the LCD Soundsystem album “This is Happening.” I’m not supposed to like that band, because it’s indie dance/blog nerd music, and dweebs with swept haircuts and miniature jeans like that stuff. But I’ll be hornswoggled if the tunes weren’t great — and if James Murphy isn’t a great singer, lyricist and melodicist.
Zac Bentz, member of the Surfactants
Local: The Virgin Marcus released two amazing albums in 2010. Both “Gimmie Violence” and “With Endless Love, We Left You Sleeping” collect what we’ve been hearing Marcus blasting out on various stages with various incarnations of the band for what seems like years now. Thank goodness he finally just released the damn things on his own. The guy can write a rock song.
Non-local: Since I write about Japanese music, I’ve got about a dozen great picks from Japan from the thousand or so I’ve heard this year. I’d have to say that Plugnet’s “Select” was not only the best album of 2010 but also a total surprise. I’d never heard of them and then bam! “Select” arrived this summer and didn’t leave my car stereo for weeks. It was the perfect soundtrack to blast from the open windows while driving recklessly. They’re a rap/hip-hop trio, two guys and a girl, who rap at a million words per minute over incredible chiptune sounds and huge beats. Absolutely fresh and infectious and fun. Their song “Good Flight” is one of those rare examples of a song you cannot possibly listen to loud enough.
World’s End Girlfriend’s “Seven Idiots” was another surprise, though only because it was such a departure from their other work. And it’s amazing. It’s like a post-rock band with a horn and string section filtered through a sampler run by John Zorn, Frank Zappa and Aphex Twin. It’s very dark, but also very deep, always offering up something you didn’t notice the last listen. And it’s all instrumental (apart from some children screaming near the end) so it’s safe for anyone afraid of foreign languages in their music.
As far as non-Japanese, non-local goes, that’s another one where I could go on and on. There’s the hip-hop artistry of Die Antwoord and Kanye West. Die Antwoord’s “$O$” is totally profane and insane, while Kanye’s “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy” is a true work of art (no, really!). These New Puritans released their monolithic “Hidden,” with its giant drums, woodwinds, samplers and vocals echoing from the depths of a grave. O. Children’s self-titled debut is a perfect, upbeat goth rock album. And Underworld released [“Barking”] their best album since, well, maybe since “Dubnobasswithmyheadman.” All told, it was an amazing year for music.
Paul Connolly, graphic artist
Favorite local album: Cowards’ “Solitude.” This final recording is a short, four-track EP that came out in early 2010 on local label The Automaton Records Media Conglomerate. I had already been sold on this band from witnessing their live show, so I picked up this EP as soon as it was available. Cowards’ live sound is huge … nothing, I thought, could be captured well on an independent band’s budget, but “Solitude” lives up to the band’s live sound. Every song is great; I find myself having to listen to it twice at a time. The band is no longer in existence to catch live, but they have “Solitude” up on http://cowards.bandcamp.com as a free download. If you like punk or hardcore, I highly recommend checking it out.
Favorite non-local album: The National’s “High Violet.” This album is going to appear on a lot of “Best of 2010” lists — mine too. Great from start to finish. Lots of what you’d expect from the National, but with a nervous energy that puts this album on the top of their catalog in my opinion. The songs are stripped down just right. Nothing feels over- or under-done. I was lucky enough to catch them live at First Avenue this summer, and that really reaffirmed my enjoyment of “High Violet.”
Christine Dean, KUMD music director
Local: Retribution Gospel Choir, Trampled by Turtles and the Tisdales all put out great albums this year. My personal favorite, though, was Coyote’s latest, “When It All Comes Down,” released way back in January. Jerree Small and Marc Gartman bring their own distinct styles to this project, and they complement each other beautifully. Like their first album, this one featured strong songwriting and harmonies, but the addition of a band and more instrumentation added some interesting variety to the songs.
Non-local: “July Flame” from Portland musician Laura Veirs was one of my favorites this year. It’s a delicate, unassuming album with gorgeously textured arrangements and harmonies.
Walt Dizzo, KUWS DJ
Ten good releases from 2010 (in no particular order):
1. LCD Soundsystem - “This is Happening”
2. Vampire Weekend - “Contra”
3. Robyn - “Body Talk (Pts. 1-3)”
4. Sleigh Bells - “Treats”
5. Jeremy Messersmith - “The Reluctant Graveyard”
6. Xiu Xiu - “Dear God, I Hate Myself”
7. B. Dolan - “Fallen House, Sunken City” (“Marvin” is the best song of 2010)
8. Drive-By Truckers - “The Big To-Do”
9. Die Antwoord - “$0$”
10. Deerhunter - “Halcyon Digest”
Ten good local releases from 2010:
1. Lion or Gazelle - multiple EPs
2. Retribution Gospel Choir - “2”
3. Iron Range Outlaw Brigade/Wyatt Famous - “Live at Beaner’s”
4. Trampled by Turtles - “Palomino”
5. Sarah Krueger - “Running” EP
6. Marc Gartband - “Fatwa”
7. The Brushstrokes - “This is How the World Will End”
8. circa a.m. - “Records of Past Events”
9. The Moon is Down - “The Moon is Down’s Excellent Adventure”
10. The Tisdales - “Out With the New”
Marc Gartman, member of Two Many Banjos, et al.
Non-local: The Magnetic Fields’ “Realism”
Local: Coyote’s “When it All Comes Down”
Daniel Golden, host of “Danny Does Duluth”
Local music: Danecdote’s “Danthropology.” The local music scene can be seen by outsiders as something of a clique where the cool kids all know each other, support each other at the same shows and festivals, and will constantly proclaim each other’s music as great art. In my mind a true artist in this landscape would be one who creates exactly what he wants to create while being on the outside looking in on this clique. It helps that an artist like this is truly and very obviously extremely talented. Local electronic maestro Danecdote first came to my attention in the last year due to some small controversy in the local blogosphere that I could definitely relate to. While not being a regular follower of the electronic genre, I still ended up finding myself drawn to the melodic and soothing sounds created by one person. Danecdote released “Danthropology” this year as a free download on his website. It seems to be a collection of various works created over time by the artist, but the seamless flow and well-formed placement of tracks makes for an absolutely beautiful and alluring listening experience. An odd (yet somehow perfect) remix of a Dr. Dre/Eminem song (brilliantly renamed “Furgot Aboot Duluth”) somehow flows effortlessly into the prettiest track on the album, “Jasthma Attack.” Highly electronic, but never coming close to the point of wanting you to break out a glowstick and go to a 1990s-style rave, “Danthropology” makes for great background music while driving through our little northern hamlet.
Non-local music: Danzig’s “Deth Red Sabaoth.” Long ago I read an interview with punk/metal icon Glenn Danzig where he was praising the greatness and importance of Elvis Presley’s ’68 comeback special. To me, the latest offering from Danzig himself is very similar. Now pushing 60, Danzig seems to somehow be in his recording prime. The latest three discs of original Danzig material (starting all the way back in 1999) were overloaded metal cliches in many ways, but this new album miraculously and simultaneously takes Danzig back to the roots of 1990’s “Danzig II: Lucifuge” while still somehow finding a powerful new/old sound at the same time. While my favorite local music of last year was decidedly on the electronic side, this album shuns the electronic era and has a feel and sound of great, classic ’70s album rock. I defy you to listen to “On a Wicked Night” just once without singing the chorus to yourself for days after. Danzig also brings the demonic sex back with nasty, yet beautiful, tracks like “Black Candy” and “Ju Ju Bone” somehow singing as a demented cross between Jim Morrison and a back-alley New Orleans voodoo priest while actually being an aging punker originating in Jersey. I welcome this album as a return to an artist doing what he truly wants to do and shunning any and all expectations.
Katy Helbacka, Renegade Theater Company’s artistic director
Local: I love, love, love the new Trampled by Turtles song “Wait So Long” (from “Palomino”).
Non-local: I’ve really enjoyed some of the “Good Fridays” releases from Kanye West’s website — especially the song he did with Bon Iver called “Monster” and the “Power” remix with Jay-Z.
Cory “MC1980” Jezierski, member of Modern Gentlemen
Local: C-Silence’s “What’s Hip Hop?” mix tape. It was released as a free download online — check him out at www.myspace.com/csilence1.
Non-local: Deftones’ “Diamond Eyes.” But I’m really big on Bad Religion’s “Dissent of Man” and Gwar’s “Bloody Pit of Horror.” Eminem’s “Recovery” was up there as well.
Mike K., Electric Fetus employee
Local: Off With Their Heads’ “In Desolation”
Non-local: “Grinderman 2”
Jamie Kallestad, member of Saint Anyway
So many great local albums this year! But my first choice: Trampled by Turtles’ “Palomino.”
As far as best new album in general … it turns out that all the “new” music I discovered in 2010 was actually released in 2009. So without the Avett Brothers, Mumford & Sons and Dave Rawlings Machine to choose from, I’ll have to go with “The Suburbs” by Arcade Fire.
Mark Lindquist, member of Little Black Books
Local: I really liked the songs I heard for the Lion or Gazelle EPs. Very nice and clever acoustic pop music — something this area is not known for at all. I was really surprised by it. Hard to believe that some of these musicians were in I Am the Slow Dancing Umbrella.
National: Shout! Factory re-released all the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion albums. “Extra Width” and “Now I Got Worry” were the best of the five in my opinion. I had sort of forgotten how cutting-edge “Extra Width” and “Now I Got Worry” were when they came out almost 20 years ago. I should also mention that they were the best-dressed band of the ’90s — which probably isn’t saying much.
Paul Lundgren, Transistor columnist and very nice man
Local: The Boomchucks’ self-titled debut was my favorite album of 2010, and their song “Another One” is up there with the Moon is Down’s “My Amazing Kite” for best song of the year.
I would also give “The Moon is Down’s Excellent Adventure” honorable mention in the album category. It is, as advertised, the “most brutal folk album ever made.”
Don Ness, mayor
Local: I know I have referenced this album over the past two years, but it is actually a 2010 album — so, my favorite local album of 2010 is the Boomchucks’ self-titled CD. It’s just a great, fun album from start to finish. Sure, I’m biased (his brother Jamie makes up half of the band), but it’s still a great album. Runner-up: Sarah Krueger’s “Running” EP.
National: The Black Keys’ “Brothers.” The Black Keys are the best band in America. Runner-up: Ray LaMontagne’s “God Willin’ and the Creek Don’t Rise.”
Amy P., Electric Fetus employee
Local: The Boomchucks’ self-titled debut
Non-local: Lost in the Trees’ “All Alone in an Empty House”
Ryan Rapsys, composer
Local: Tepetricy’s “Intangibles of Tomorrow.” OK, so this was the only local album I heard this year — my brother’s the drummer, so I guess I may be biased as well — but it is a great album! The harmonies, textures, rhythms, adventurous song structures, musicianship … a sound to behold, whether it’s heard in this album or at one of their live shows.
Non-local: Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross’ “The Social Network.” Great use of electronic styles and sounds (reminiscent of Aphex Twin, whom Trent Reznor is allegedly a fan) within a thematic film score (something like Thomas Newman’s score for “American Beauty”). I’m not sure I listened to much else other than film scores this last year (most of which were released before 2010).
Jason Wussow, member of Yeltzi
Local: The Brushstrokes’ “This is How the World Will End”
Non-local: Gregory Alan Isakov’s “This Empty Northern Hemisphere”*
*Technically a 2009 release, but, hey, what does it matter in the long run?
NEWS TO USE
Need to catch up on what was released this year? Walt Dizzo’s “Best of 2010” show will be broadcast from 8 p.m. to 2 a.m. Thursday, Dec. 30, on KUWS (91.3 FM).
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