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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
Death Cab for Cutie
The Photo Album
Barsuk Records

Rating: NR/10 ?

October 1, 2004
Watching the emergence of Death Cab for Cutie, indie rock's favorite new rising sons, over the past few years has got to be one of the most rewarding musical trips I have ever been on. From the simple 4-track beginnings of guitarist/vocalist Ben Gibbard to the pop brilliance of the just released The Photo Album, it is hard to imagine that this band was once intended to be a side project (!!!).

The Photo Album presents Death Cab for Cutie at their most concise yet, jumping from full on rockers like "We Laugh Indoors" to moodier and reflective songs like the piano heavy "Information Travels Faster" and "Debate Exposes Doubt," with the greatest of ease. Sprinkle in a newfound love for straight up power pop on songs like "Why You'd Want to Live Here" and "I Was a Kaleidoscope," and you have yourself one of the most tightly packed servings of pop goodness a bloke could ask for.

Particular strides are made when the band combine both moods into the confines of a single song, best exemplified in the highly melodic and frighteningly emotional "Styrofoam Plates." As a lightly plucked Fender Stratocaster announces the beginning of the song, Gibbard unveils a bitter tale about a deceased dead-beat father. After suspense filled crescendo, the band kicks in and the melody begins to soar, slightly rushed but unmistakably catchy. Gibbard spits out his anger almost as if he has more to say than what the confines of the song will allow him. The final blow comes, as Gibbard declares, "Just cause he's gone, it doesn't change the fact he was a bastard in life, thus a bastard in death," coming off as one of the high points of the album.

In the same way Death Cab's songwriting has possibly hit it's peak, the production work on The Photo Album feature mad studio scientist Chris Walla (whom also plays guitar in the band) filling up every nook and cranny, either with wonderfully swelling keyboard, modest drum machine, or well calculated dead space. The move from basements and practice spaces, into the homey confines of a "real" studio has allowed Walla an opportunity to acutely manipulate the sound, giving The Photo Album character and charm.

From their first official band release, Something About Airplanes, and onward to last years syrupy sweet We Have the Facts and Are Voting Yes and Forbidden Love EP, Death Cab for Cutie have been on an uphill swing, constantly evolving. No longer are they Built to Spill's bastard stepsons, and instead, as The Photo Album proves, one of the most confident, creative, and hype-worthy bands to grace our oh-so-lucky ears.

Reviewed by Ryan Allen
A former staff writer with fabulous hair, Ryan Allen once fronted Red Shirt Brigade with his brother, Scott. He currently fronts the art/fashion punk band Thunderbirds Are Now!, with is brother, Scott.

See other reviews by Ryan Allen



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