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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
Suit of Lights
Suit of Lights
Visiting Hours

Rating: 7/10 ?

June 15, 2005
The dossier on Joe Darone doesn't reveal much other than the fact he's a graphic artist who's done work for Agnostic Front, S.O.D. and get this, Madonna and Van Halen. Apparently, it's all a front. In secret, Darone, the creative force behind Suit of Lights, has been writing songs for years - only now is he willing to share them with the world. So don't laugh when he plays them for you; it's not polite. Just force a smile and in a condescending voice say, haltingly, "Good... job, Joe. We... never... thought you had it in you."

That would be the proper thing to do, except it's not necessary. Darone's Suit of Lights project is damn interesting and unpredictable - a pop pastiche with hints of emo and the occasional baroque horns. And that name, Suit of Lights, makes me think of a three-piece, pinstripe that shoots UV rays and gives the wearer superpowers.

It actually refers to the costume of a bullfighter, and considering how adroit Darone and his assemblage of studio mercenaries - Thursday guitarist Steve Pedulla and Streetlight Manifesto's James Egan, to name a few - are at sidestepping easy categorization, you could say the name fits.

At first, when you hear the giant, crushing guitar downstrokes in the chorus of the opener, "Waking Up Is Good", you're tempted to write Suit of Lights off as just another garden variety emo-core band hiding behind a wall of power chords. To think that would be a mistake. There's enough nervous energy in the Green Day-style guitars to light Broadway, and the slight rasp you hear in Darone's voice gives his vocals the serrated edge of a Joe Strummer. It's as if Suit of Lights has introduced The Clash's bastard children, The Constantines, to their real fathers and bridged the generation gap between them.

As is the custom of his contemporaries, Darone laments the loss of his idealism in "Out Of the Running," the second track, and is horrified at how "A life of comfort reeks of mediocrity." Lacking the vitality of its predecessor, "Out Of the Running" is burdened by a drowsy, slow-tempo pop-punk melody that seems sleep-deprived and lyrics that don't have anything new to say.

So, here we are, only two songs in, and you're beginning to wonder if Suit of Lights has already run out of steam. Then you hear the baroque melody and brass of "Goodbye Silk City", and it sounds like an emo version of Sgt. Pepper, with Egan providing the royal trumpet and trombone. Darone is on to something.

Having taken that left turn, he takes out a map and plots a course for more adventurous pop territory. With its somber double-tracked drums and starry guitar constellation, "Slap Me Five" is a haunting meditation on a difficult recovery from alcoholism. On "Who Stands beneath a Dream," producer Arun Venkatesh goes exploring dark, craggy caves of loops and samples with flickering keyboard flashlights. The half-light finds Darone crouching against a wall, bemoaning the tragic end of a woman who lets him "see her arms/no need to ask what [she is] on", as sinister strings hasten her undoing.

In a way Darone is a little like John Vanderslice, only his melodies have more of a noir-ish quality - they permeate like a desert, Tex-Mex version of cabaret music, especially in "The Air of Ambition" and "Into the Light." Like Vanderslice, Darone turns familiar pop melodies inside out, only he adds things like castanets and Venkatesh's eerie, horror-music organ to set the mood he wants. Where Vanderslice is more quirky and playful, with hooks keep sinking deeper and deeper into your flesh long after the songs end, Darone is more concerned with creating an atmosphere that shifts in ever-so-subtle ways - like the onset of night when it suddenly dawns on you how dark it has gotten.

That's Darone's greatest gift; what's missing is a sense that he's found his own voice. At times, it seems like he's trying on genres like clothes at a department store; some songs lack their own identity. It's as if they're more like a series of bridges, each indistinguishable from the last, leading to parts unknown. That's all to be expected from an initial recording, however. Darone has the right idea, and his willingness to not always play to his strengths makes him a rarity among emerging songwriters. Expect good things from Mr. Darone in the future; if not, he's always got bullfighting and graphic design to fall back on.

Reviewed by Peter Lindblad
Peter Lindblad lives in Appleton, Wis., and bleeds green and gold just like all the Packer fan nutjobs in the area. He does draw the line at wearing blocks of chedder on his head, or any other body parts for that matter, though. His professional career has taken weird twists and turns that have led him to his current position as an editor at a coin magazine. He hopes his stay there will be a short one. Before that, he worked as an associate editor at a log home magazine. To anyone that will listen, he\'ll swear that Shiner was one of the greatest rock bands to ever walk the earth. Yet he also has much love for Superchunk, Spoon, DJ Shadow, Swervedriver, Wilco, Fugazi, Jawbox, ... And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead, Queens Of The Stone Age, and Modest Mouse, among others.

See other reviews by Peter Lindblad



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