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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
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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
Chris and Mollie
The Palm Tree

Rating: 7.5/10 ?

May 30, 2007
I can neatly sum up this novel self-released album by Chris and Mollie in a jiffy: it's a mess, but in a good way. To call this California-dreaming duo rough around the edges is like saying Keith Richards is a whiskey-swilling/whatever-snorting/pirate-in-waiting. Part Moldy Peaches, part Stanford Marching Band, the pair of Chris Donlon and Mollie Hagar make a pretty convincing case for entertainment borne of sonic sloppiness.

The Palm Tree, according to its equally un-slick back story, was a "two year struggle of finding 'in-between' moments to record in: in between jobs, housemates coming home, moving to different cities." One song was even recorded "in between pizza delivery shifts in San Francisco" leading to a blown transmission. You can't make this stuff up, and this oddball character is partly what makes this record strangely endearing. Plus the eleven songs are peculiarly enjoyable, if a bit on the monotonous side over the forty-four minute span. Credit is due to the brawny writing, but equally significant is the fact that Mr. Donlon plays guitar, bass, clarinet, organ, Irish flute, kazoo, desk and computer, all of which figure prominently throughout. Amazingly, Donlon's instrumental prowess doesn't overshadow the contributions of Ms. Hagar, who lends her singing voice, drums, talking and duck noises. And, following a line in "The First Step," those ducks are key: "you are out of luck/ god is a superficial fuck/ and you're an ugly duck."

It would be easy to dismiss all of this as whimsical jabbing, but there are deeper themes that lurk behind the clutter. According to Donlon, Palm Tree is a concept record that puts to tape the occurrences of a single day, a day in which "a relationship gets dissolved and babies become maladjusted." True to form, reading the lyrics is akin to reading the diary of the one on the losing end of this proposition. An example, picked at random, from album opener "Slow Sunrise," reads as follows: "I am all choked up/ an emotional slut/ who can't get it up." Or how about from the title track, "Did you chop off your hand/ as part of some noble plan/ or was it just something to do?" There is a lot more where that came from, but what saves this listen from being an exercise in gloominess are two elements: the earnest stream-of-consciousness delivery of this desperado, and the jug-band music that accompanies it. Instead of being a black hole, the end result is black humor.

Chris and Mollie are definitely marching to their own strange drumbeat, and there is an addictive charm to their style. When they sing together they can induce feverish daydreams of a Mates of State on (or off) anti-depressants. When Donlon goes at it alone, his whispery vocals recall the glum of Elliot Smith. And when they get the haphazard music moving they can bring to mind Architecture in Helsinki minus a dozen or so members. The duo are currently unsigned, but probably won't stay that way, if they hone their distinctive method and expand their horizons beyond a single day.

Reviewed by Ari Shapiro
A staff writer for LAS, Ari Shapiro mixes up pretty unique smoothies at XOOM in hot Tucson.

See other reviews by Ari Shapiro



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