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[02.21.2011 by Bridget Doyle]

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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.
[12.24.2010 by The LAS Staff]

MUSIC

 » 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!
[11.04.2010 by Cory Tendering]

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
»Deerhunter
Halcyon Digest
4AD
No Age - Everything in Between
»No Age
Everything in Between
Sub Pop
Robyn - Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
»Robyn
Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
Konichiwa
The Walkmen - Lisbon
»The Walkmen
Lisbon
Fat Possum
Björk
Medúlla
Elektra Records

Rating: 8.5/10 ?


October 1, 2004
We received some bad intelligence regarding Medúlla. Not only were we told it would be wall-to-wall a capella - it isn't - but estimates of just how much vocal firepower Björk had at her disposal were nowhere near accurate, as "Where Is The Line" aptly demonstrates. The third song from Medúlla is a firefight between Mike Patton's evil, distorted groan, the somber chant-induced menace of The Icelandic Choir and Björk's untamed wail. Off in the distance, you can hear the muffled machine-gun fire of electronic beats. After a short ceasefire, the shooting begins anew, only now with spaceships blasting cities to rubble with synth laser beams. War of the Worlds never got this intense. The sonic bombardment of "Where Is The Line" sounds a little out of place on Medúlla, which, overall, sounds as clear and pristine as an Icelandic fjord. Mostly, it's a peaceful experimental symphony that blends Björk's wild flights of vocal fancy with the pure tonality of some of the best choirs in the world - and Patton's usual mayhem, the human trombone of Gregory Purnhagen, the mad genius of Soft Machine's Robert Wyatt and the gutteral human beatbox combinations of The Roots' Rahzel and Japan's Dokaka thrown in for good measure. Vocals take center stage here - the icy, almost gospel-like doo-wop of "…ll Birtan" and "Submarine" will surprise - but there's more to Medúlla than simply hitting all the right octaves. Of the 14 tracks, 11 feature some sort of electronic programming, from the rounded, elongated beats and scattered lightning strikes of the single "Who Is It" to the slow-moving current of the opener, "Pleasure Is All Mine." There are slowly struck piano chords crawling around a cold, deserted beach on "Ancestors" as dischordant vocal utterances - sensual moans and breathy sexual grunts competing with soaring loop-to-loops - fly overhead, attacking each other like starved birds.

No, Medúlla is not entirely comprised of vocal music, but don't let the spread of misinformation about the record put you off. Medúlla is an extraordinary work capable of deep intimacy - especially on "Vökun˜", which Björk sings entirely on her own in her native tongue - or barely controlled chaos. On this, her first full-length in three years, Björk is as wildly unpredictable as ever, flinging her vocal movements around with little regard for strict adherance to melody and structure. That's the choir's job, to keep the Björk train on the tracks, and the wall of sound they produce is awe-inspiring, at times dropping like a heavy, velvet curtain and then rising like a flock of doves.

The dichotomy here is fascinating. On one hand, there's the discipline, the almost martial quality of the choirs' united voices; then there's Björk, the eccentric, flitting around the melody like a hummingbird and never landing. Björk shrouds Medúlla in mystery and darkness, but it's far from gloomy. On the sweeping, majestic "Oceania", which Björk played at the last Olympics, she shows she hasn't lost her flair for the dramatic. And the electronica, especially the bass synth work, is smoother than on past efforts and less invasive, allowing the vocals all the room they need to roam. On Medúlla, Björk bids adieu, for now, to the coy coquette that danced with unabashed glee to the big-band blast of "It's Oh So Quiet." The Björk of Medúlla is more serious about her art, intent on turning choral music on its ear. And the Icelandic Choir, along with all of Medúlla's guest stars, are only happy to oblige.

So, what's next for Björk? Here's a thought: how about a barbershop quartet, a mime - she could work one in, somehow, I just know it - and that American Idol mench William Hung. Björk would do it, just to show us she could. Let's see TV On The Radio or Twilight Singers try something like that.

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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