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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
Dogme 95
The Reagle Beagle

Rating: 7.5/10 ?

May 2, 2006
Probably banned already from schools in Kansas and parts of Pennsylvania for its views on evolution, The Reagle Beagle is 28 minutes of pro-Darwin propaganda that throws monkey feces in the faces of Fundamentalist Christians everywhere. If another Scopes Monkey Trial becomes necessary, Nick Wright, the folk deconstruction behind Dogme 95, would make a convincing witness for the defense.

As lo-fi as lo-fi gets, The Reagle Beagle is a hollowed out ship's hull of a record. Skeletal arrangements are built around feverish acoustic guitar strum, tribal chants and Wright's weathered vocals, and the whole thing reeks of mold and mildew, as if these songs have been at sea for months on a leaky, wooden ship propelled by grumbling rowers obeying a monotonous drum beat. Against this backdrop, Wright imagines himself sailing with Darwin aboard the H.M.S. Beagle on its voyage to the Galapagos Islands and becoming a student of his teachings. While the old salts sing sea chanties about treachery and violence, like "McMillan The Villain," Wright tries to ingratiate himself with the great man, whose name now fills thousands of tortoise shell ornaments on rusty VW Rabbits driven by high school biology teachers.

Along the way, Wright's eyes are opened to the scientific possibilities of evolution and natural selection. At first a wide-eyed pupil sitting at Darwin's feet and soaking up all his teachings, Wright dreams of a burgeoning friendship in "Teach Me To Read O' Darwin" and sings, "We'll lay on the beach/And we'll eat a peach o' Darwin/We'll fall in love, and find the whole world" against the song's joyous, woody strum. Later, he becomes a defender of the faith, fighting the forces of ignorance that hold science back in "Survival Of The Fittest" with lines like "This is the most important lesson/Let's not forget who's powerful/I know we all evolved from a hand, a foot, an ape, of gravel "

Wright's evident enthusiasm for discovery and exploration drives The Reagle Beagle, and his idealism is contagious. Compelling for the force of its beliefs and the oddly hypnotic nature of its minimalist, almost primitive folk expression, The Reagle Beagle has the feel of a National Geographic special that The Microphones were meant to soundtrack. The story, which hangs together loosely, plays off historical accounts of the voyage, even offering a kind of Darwinian travelogue in the spindly closer, "Bring Back Pangaea." It all begins with the dark, ominous chant of the title track, which segues into the powerfully simple acoustic arpeggios of "There's A Land That We're Beyond." Hoisting the main sail, another sea song, "Salty Air And Devil's Toes," with its bounding bass line, provides a light, upbeat contrast to the evil slide guitar and Will Oldham-inspired gloom of "Bloody Basin."
Conceived on the fly - most of the bare-bones songs here were written in one day - The Reagle Beagle is a concept album that's not overblown or fussy. The almost monastic production is simple and organic, letting Wright's engaging storytelling take its natural course. There is little clutter in the arrangements, but what's there - the stark shaking of a tambourine, the rhythmic claps, the delicate chimes, the sashaying marimba, the flaring squeezebox - is subtly positioned to lend the pieces nuance. That said, The Reagle Beagle is probably more interesting and more satisfying on an intellectual level than it is enjoyable, though there is a pop buoyancy to tracks like "Salty Air And Devil's Toes" and "Teach Me To Read O' Darwin" that warms the soul. Wright's thick, earnest vocals seem to channel the high spirits of veteran sailors heading out on the ocean after being on land for too long; yet his a cappella rounds in "McMillan The Villain" drip hot with vengeance, and it's those characteristics that make The Reagle Beagle both scholarly and warmly human. For that, it gets a gold star.

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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