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 » The Top 30 Albums of 2010 - Fashionably, fabulously late, our favorite music (and believe me, there was a LOT) of 2010, the year that some have called the best year for music ever. And only some of those fools work here. Plenty of usual suspects, lots of ties and a few surprises that I won't spoil, including our unexpected #1.
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 » Live: Surfer Blood/The Drums at Lincoln Hall, Chicago, IL - Remember when Weezer used to put together records that you could sing along to and rock out to? That's what Surfer Blood's show was like!
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Music Reviews

Screaming Females - Castle Talk
»Screaming Females
Castle Talk
Don Giovanni
Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross - The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
»Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross
The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
The Null Corporation
Deerhunter - Halcyon Digest
Halcyon Digest
No Age - Everything in Between
»No Age
Everything in Between
Sub Pop
Robyn - Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
The Walkmen - Lisbon
»The Walkmen
Fat Possum
The Mercury Program
All the Suits Begin to Fall Off
Tiger Style

Rating: NR/10 ?

October 1, 2004
Quick Review: Is this good? This is good. Do I think you will listen to it repeatedly? Yes. Do I think it will ever become your favorite CD? No. Do I have reservations about this CD? Sorta.

Description of the music without using any references to other bands: This is an EP of four songs, all of them ranging from six to eight minutes. The band is all instrumental, bass, guitar, keyboards, drums, and vibes, with the vibes taking on the primary melody duties for most of the songs. All the players are damn talented. The melodies chime out and catch the ear, the drumming dances playfully during softer interludes and then can plunge into a hard deep-beat sound for louder effect. What's cool is that each song covers a distinctive dynamic range with its own sort of structure and rhythmic approach, while remaining within the parameters of the band's indie-math-jazzy style: one song stays more rock-oriented, a heavy bass sound over more pounding drums as the vibes and keyboards chime out memorable tunes; one song will have repeated sequences of melodies that take a cue from the epic repetitions of Phillip Glass (he's not a band, so I can mention him).

Quick way I would describe this to a fellow fan of the indie rock: Tortoise with occasional lapses into early June of 44 sounds. It feels like this EP catches the Mercury Program in the middle of a transition, not having heard their earlier stuff, I don't know if it is a transition out of Rocking territory or out of Ripping Off Tortoise territory. Their Tortoise influenced side seems more overtly derivative, so I hope it's the former.

Deeper issue that keeps bugging me about that kind of description and why I'm reticent to call this album great, despite the fact that I both enjoy and appreciate the music immensely: When does influence become ripping off a band?

Discussion of the issue: I don't know. Mercury Program are not a Tortoise clone, and yet the Reich & Glass mixed with fusion jazz thing reeks so strongly of the big Chicago post-rockers that it is impossible to ignore. They take so many cues from the band that I feel like I have to mention it, and yet I don't feel that it makes them bad musicians or unoriginal. I guess I am hoping that they will continue in their progression and the next full release of theirs will bear even less of the Tortoise footprint on it.

Despite the neurotic babble, would I recommend this CD? Yes. Strongly? Yes.

Reviewed by Mathias Svalina
Living in Lincoln, Nebraska, Mathias Svalina is pursuing a PhD in creative writing at the University of Nebraska and also co-curates The Clean Part Reading Series and co-edits Octopus Magazine.

See other reviews by Mathias Svalina



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