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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
Joan of Arc
Joan of Arc, Dick Cheney, Mark Twain…
Polyvinyl Records

Rating: 6.5/10 ?

October 1, 2004
Joan of Arc, Dick Cheney, Mark Twain… will forever be imprinted on my memory for providing the soundtrack to my first car accident. On a warm, sunny August morning, opening track, "Questioning Benjamin Franklin," blared out of my brand new Nissan Altima's stereo speakers as my car hydroplaned into a sharp turn, crossing lanes and crashing into an oncoming car, after I had unexpectedly encountered a large puddle of water caused by a delinquent sprinkling system in a Meijer parking lot.

Why include this anecdote? Well, because it works as an illustration of a point I'd like to make about this record: not only is Joan of Arc… a colossal accident, but it's the consummate soundtrack for one as well. Whether or not that makes sense doesn't mean shit to me; after all, this is a Joan of Arc review.

While Joan of Arc's latest is a relative failure as an album when compared to everything else coming out in indie-rock these days (dropping them under .500 in my book), it is a winning effort, relative to the whole of the Joan of Arc/Tim Kinsella catalog. It's what one has come to expect from an ambitious group whose contributors over time have totaled almost as many as those listed in closing track, "The Cash in and Price" (I can't elaborate, lest I ruin one of the truly pointed, provocative moments of the record).

Surprisingly, for an album with the Vice-President's name in the title, there are few pointed, provocative moments on Joan of Arc…, perhaps a reason why it succeeds rather than becomes bogged down by concept or political dogma. Above all else, this album consists mostly of unrestricted, light fare: it's a fun listen.

"Questioning Benjamin Franklin" is an upbeat, bright pop song with a catchy-as-hell chorus and featuring a sugary, synthesized hook I never would have expected to hear on a Joan of Arc record after Jeremy Boyle was dropped from the band. The amusement continues with hand-claps, synth and cowbell on goofy back-to-back tracks "A Half-Deaf Girl Named Echo" and "80's Dance Parties Most of All," the latter resembling, in concept and structure, In Rape Fantasy and Terror Sex We Trust's "Happy 1984 and 2001."

Though the periods of blithe brightness on Joan of Arc… are welcomed advances in Joan of Arc's sound, the moody instances are among the band's finest, especially "Gripped by the Lips," which may be the best song Joan of Arc has ever thrown together. A Sea and Cake-esque instrumental arrangement (John McIntyre, known for his work with The Sea and Cake, Tortoise, Smog and Stereolab, mixed the album, incidentally), complete with its electronic glitches, jazzy drums and sparse melodies, accompanies a drowsy Kinsella's voice, producing a sound never heard before from Joan of Arc.

Then, as is customary on a Joan of Arc release, there is the shit. Across 17 tracks, as one can imagine, there is plenty of shit, which usually comes in the form of shitty noise ("The Little Track of This Album," "Deep Rush" and "'Still' from Miss Texture's Dictionary") and not-so-many shitty songs, although I really wish the shitty piano ballad "Onomatopoepic Animal Faces" were cut from the album altogether and permanently dropped from Joan of Arc's live set.

But the shit adds texture if not nuance. I can write that because this is a Joan of Arc review, meaning all things esoteric are appreciated.

After eight years of releasing music, Joan of Arc still has yet to record a perfect album and probably never will, even in their own terms, but, after all, like a Vice-President with a potty mouth or a classic storyteller with racist tendencies, no band can be perfect.

Reviewed by Brian Sutherland
The last we heard, Brian Sutherland lived in Chicago. He\'s a friend of Sarah Peters. That is about all we know about him.

See other reviews by Brian Sutherland



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