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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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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 Stella Link
Mystic Jaguar…ATTACK!!!!
Ascetic Records

Rating: 7.5/10 ?

April 28, 2005
As far as geographical music scenes from around the nation, Kansas City, MO continues to be one of the more underappreciated. Ten years ago things began to fall into place for area post rock groups Shiner, Molly McGuire, Ring, Cicada, Giants Chair, Season to Risk, The Casket Lottery, Boys Life and even The Get Up Kids to give the city a niche.

Following the eventual fallout for many of these bands, by the early 2000s the scene's identity was a shadow of its former image. With their recent release of Mystic Jaguar…ATTACK!!!!, The Stella Link rocks a style that is humbly nostalgic and also newly refreshing, acting as newborn brethren to that Kansas City family that refuses to go away.

Mystic Jaguar…ATTACK!!!! isn't groundbreaking, unique or socially significant in any way. It is a record of impressive consistency and solidness, however. Part of what makes the album so well-conceived is the cast of individuals that was involved in the recording and creating process.

The quartet of traditional rock musicians (drums, guitar, keyboards, vocals, and bass) comes from a background of bands like Season to Risk, String and Return and The Life and Times, but to anyone who hasn't paid much attention to KC, they are all relative unknowns. To add to the Midwestern post rock flavor two venerable sources in Paul Malinowski (formerly of Shiner) and Matt Talbott (Hum) helped engineer and record for this effort.

The Stella Link has a great feel for how to put together a fluid mix of songs. Anyone who has ever seen High Fidelity may recall John Cusack's music-obsessed character calling for, "The key to the perfect mix tape", then later saying that you can't overwhelm the listener too early, but you have to get their attention. The character goes deeper by explaining that the mix needs to build close to a climax, pull back some, and then go in for the kill with the perfect song.

The Stella Link employs a similar model by building up slowly with a two-part song, "Apogee," that makes clear their intentions to both create an atmosphere of musical depth and make heavy grooves that tear the background down in a simple, repetitive, catchy nature. By the time Justin Warring begins loudly singing in the third track ("Starting Line"), the mood has already been constructed and then elevated and a voice is just an extra push.

What defines the entire thing as 'Kansas City' is not only the group's location or affiliations, but a specific sound aesthetic. This essence is more vital to the group than any other classification. Presented are contrasts of dynamics (from the softest to loudest possible dimensions), shoegazer/math rock repetitive note-trickling guitar licks, electric bass capable of both complementing guitar lines and creating its own heavily distorted voice, low tuned (often drop-D) chords combined with orphaned riffs of jutting higher notes (see chorus for "Undetermined") and drum work featuring a sharp yet cavernous bass/snare drum sound and punctuated fills (a la Tim Dow, Jason Gerken, John Anderson).

The criteria isn't completely steadfast - the group throws in samples, synth effects and keys of all sorts - but if one had to define Mystic Jaguar…ATTACK!!!!, comparisons would most frequently be made to Shiner albums The Egg and Splay. Although being entirely unique is (supposedly) valued in our world of music, being part of a unique niche is just as important. For The Stella Link, one out of two ain't bad.

Reviewed by Josh Zanger
Joshua Ian Zanger, a native of rural Chicago, rocks many a world with his writing, style, and generally sweet aroma.

See other reviews by Josh Zanger



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