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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
...And You Will Know Us By the Trail of Dead
Worlds Apart
Interscope Records

Rating: 9.5/10 ?

January 26, 2005
So here we are, already into the final days of the first month of 2005. There is a calming assurance of optimism on the new year for me; this will in fact be a pivotal point in all levels of music and multimedia. It will be the year of scientific and technological changes, and more of that "computer revolution" stuff sure to affect our economy in work and play with the high demand of iPods and Bluetooth technology, as well as the video game entertainment system upgrades that we see every year or so. In movies, this will be the year of King Kong as lord of the cinema, Peter Jackson, remakes the 1939 classic sure to break box office records and create an epic masterwork straight from Skull Island. Rumored line-ups for the 2005 Coachella festival will once again make a mark, as perhaps the most important, if not amusing, concert-going experience of the year. And in a precognition of what bands will be hot or not, as forecasted from last year's reign of indie music in the commercial acceptance arena, this will be the year of the Trail of Dead.

I can't remember a more anticipated record, or similarly hyped word-of-mouth promises of new musical explorations - to coincide with the psychedelic musical interludes that were sure to shame their last album, Source Tags & Codes, but I am here to tell you that the promises of overly-hyped letdowns are delusions.

Simply put, ...And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead's new album, Worlds Apart is stunning. It follows up their second release for the majors with a more centered and mature approach, using distinctive clarity of musical intellect and more focused understanding of melody in its most Beatle-esque fashion, while still employing the experimental, loud-soft dynamics and angry lyrical maundering as before.

The Trail of Dead starts their offering with a chant to the ancient goddess of fertility with "Ode to Isis," and musically it is exactly as you'd think it would sound. Its eerie formula of psycho-eccentric piano-driven backbone is there for an introduction and acts as a prelude for the second track, "Will You Smile Again".

Letting your guard down would only jeopardize the participation process; you must join in on this merry-go-round of sound, so that you can experience the state of awe that comes from witnessing the joining of the first two tracks. The synthesis erects a pounding overload of the senses. Swelling guitars and heavy snare interplay on "Will You Smile Again" reflect familiar themes as Source Tags & Codes and rock just as hard as anything the band has ever done.

Lyrically, Conrad Kelly explores new melodic choruses. It almost induces a sleepy, trance-like march, after the swelling of the guitars die down, and makes you feel like drugs could have been involved in the song writing process.

In an obvious attempt to steer clear of being overly dramatic with their music, the band mixes up the mayhem with a little situation comedy: Conrad tells a bunch of kids, "Fuck You Man," in the opening moments of their first single, "Worlds Apart". This song is about as straight and safe the band gets on the entire album, and becomes a good centerpiece between musical innovation and solid songwriting; the Trail of Dead are masters of both.

Differences between the new album and their first, self-titled record spring from the melodies, which have become more refined, and dare I say addictive, as obviously noted on "Summer of '91." The cut sounds like it could have been an outtake from Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, and marks progress for the group.

Moving past the perpetual praises, other eye openers include "Rest Will Follow" and "Caterwaul," both of which rock back and forth like a seizure - having a conniption, giving affirmation that the Trail of Dead's edge has not been lost, rather polished by their postmodern approach to high art.

Worlds Apart is as close as the Trail of Dead have gotten to writing a pop record, simply because of the gorgeous melodies that have been introduced from the opening moments. The song "Let it Dive" may be one of the strongest affirmations; its transcending and mesmerizing flow slowly haunts your consciousness, recollecting late 80's Camper Van Beethoven.

Running in at just under two minutes, "All White" comes at you with the biggest chorus on the entire record, proving my initial hunches that the Trail of Dead have been listening to a lot of David Bowie. Piano interludes, choral singing, layers of electric and acoustic guitars - they all consume the song's footing.

It's an exaggerated feat in songwriting from a band who used to be more concerned with bombastic drums and post-hardcore influences, with earlier works like Madonna. The song is a celestial manifestation of divine intervention and flashy cadence that I hardly expected form the bastard sons of Sonic Youth, but the Trail of Dead are able to balance the requirement meant to keep their punk leanings while also exploring the outer regions of their influences and can no longer be tagged by a certain genre or category.

Worlds Apart is a musical conquest that defies the band's previous efforts tenfold. It shows their true evolution from noisemakers to melodic composers, and no other effort shows this maturation better than the album's closer, "Last City of Refuge", which connects the new with the old. Its simple beginning of drum machine versus clean guitar and melodic lyrical content gives way to the unfamiliar territories, but the song quickly becomes recognizable at the halfway mark, when the signature sound of huge guitars erupts. It falls on top of both drummers, waving its familiar flag, and wraps its sound around the listener like a warm blanket. It gives solace to the detractors, and affirmation to the true believers, of which I am now, even more firmly, one.

Reviewed by Mark Taylor
A senior LAS staff writer, Mark Taylor is a 29 year old father of a 5 year old son and husband to a wife of 6 years, living the simple life in a small suburb of Charlotte, NC.

See other reviews by Mark Taylor



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