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[02.21.2011 by Bridget Doyle]


 » 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
Bishop Allen
The Broken String
Dead Oceans

Rating: 8.5/10 ?

July 23, 2007
After a year of nonstop music-making in an ambitious EP-a-month project for 2006, Bishop Allen sifted through the 58 songs they released last year to find the material for their second proper album, The Broken String. Only nine songs from the 58 won the right to be properly re-recorded (the EPs were done on the fly by the band), and the album was fleshed out with three brand new tracks as well. Which brings the official count of proper tracks the Brooklyn-via-Boston boys penned since January of 2006 to 61. Makes no mistake about it, Bishop Allen is a songwriting machine.

While a quick fix when searching for songs, re-recording songs that have already been released (even in a limited, self-done format) presents a band with the problem of a core audience already familiar with the songs, the way they were the first time around. This poses a catch 22 - if the tracks are reconfigured too much, they won't have that comfortable allure, but if they're not recognizably altered they run the risk of being boring. Not all of the nine songs re-recorded for The Broken String sound dramatically different, but "Click,Click,Click,Click" (from their July EP) has been sped up a bit, with a more excited drum track, and has lost some of the sincerity of the original recording.

Of course turning past material over anew can also be a smart move, and Bishop Allen have done a great job of churning the archives and plucking the cream from the top. Having released 12 EPs last year, some of the band's strongest material simply didn't make it on the boat, but when making a musical omelet there are bound to be some extra shells. If anything, the 2006 EP-a-month project has stocked the band's storeroom for new fans in search of more.

The first new song on the album, "Rain" is a quick-tempo electric/acoustic guitar duet complete with a dancey drum/shaker combo. Like most songs in the Bishop Allen catalogue, it's got simple chord structures and a positive vibe; using handclaps is nothing new for the band and their use heightens the feelings of this song tenfold.

The Mandolin-toting Christian Rudder puts his excellent skills to the test on the revamped version of "Like Castanets," and word is that he is also spending his days mastering the trumpet in order to play this song live without using his trusty melodica (to give the song a more "official" feel).

Another new song, "Middle Management" is a bit of a disappointment when considering the plethora of tested songs left with the rest of the original 58. Where "Same Fire," "Clementines," or "I Get Along" would have been safer bets, "Middle Management" wanders aimlessly, narrowly avoiding falling off a cliff. Perhaps the track is Bishop Allen's way of proving that they can be tough punks when/if the occasion calls for it.

The third and final new song, "Choose Again" is a bit of a downer to put at the end of the album. Much like the song "Fireflies" (from their September EP) "Choose Again" sounds like some rogue, blue collar Bruce Springsteen influence forced them to write a tune for the working man. In the middle of the simple, happy pop songs they've gotten so good at writing, "Choose Again" falls flat.

Four and a half years after their debut album was released, Bishop Allen have come back to take the intellectual art/film school hipsters back to pop-town. These guys have worked a lot harder in the past fifteen months than most bands do in five years, and although the new parts of their "new" album aren't the best, the band certainly deserves some praise and attention for the marathon of 2006. The Broken String will be noticed by at least a few people.

Reviewed by Bob Ladewig
Having been introduced to good music by his sister in the early years, Bob Ladewig has been searching out all the best in indie music ever since. He also rides a skateboard and performs/directs comedy shows and, like all great men, he\'s afraid of really growing up.

See other reviews by Bob Ladewig



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