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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
Thrill Jockey Records

Rating: NR/10 ?

October 1, 2004
A small detail somehow got lost in all of the hoopla surrounding last year's release of Wilco's Yankee Hotel Foxtrot - the album was, at its source, a very typical Wilco album. Jeff Tweedy's more "mature" sound followed the same basic formula it had on past Wilco albums. Most songs could have fit quite easily into the band's back catalog without the inclusion of some often-referenced noise/tech noodlings. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that in and of itself. Tweedy has long been considered a good songwriter and deservedly so. The album deserved much of its praises. The thing that burned my pants about the whole deal was how new and cutting edge the albums blips and drones supposedly were. Anyone that has heard Chicago's Califone knows that they've been doing countrified blips/drones/blurb/tech/fucked folk longer (and better) than anybody else.

Their new album, Quicksand/Cradlesnakes, is their first for Thrill Jockey and easily the best output of their career. Although not as densely layered as 2001's Roomsound, the new album more than makes up for this with affecting songs that expand with repeated listening through subtle songwriting and gorgeous orchestration.

"Horoscopic.Amputation.Honey" shows off almost everything that Califone does well in one hypnotic dose. The song slowly builds on a charmingly subdued piano line as singer Tim Rutili sings about coming "in and out of sleep" while ghostly backing vocals cry out from the back of the mix. Then the whole song veers off into nowhere, sounding like an out-of-synch electronic orchestra attempting to get in tune. Finally, a beat builds and the song comes back with an almost hummable chorus buried beneath slighted, screechy feedback.

Tim Rutilli's vocals on the song "Michigan Girls" emphasize just how effective his singing can be, wringing emotions out of lyrics that seem like they were written in a stream of consciousness. Of course, the cellos and violins that seep into the background help give his words weight. "Million Dollar Funeral" recalls a traditional folk song played through just a little smoky blues bar sludge. The band even includes their most easy-listening song to date on the album. "Vampiring Again" proves that not only can they pull off a "standard" song; they can pull it off in a big way. The song sounds like it was written for the pinnacle moment in a movie when the boyfriend is looking out the window out of the city bus after he has just left the "big" argument with his girlfriend. I can see the city streets and lights fly by as the camera concentrates on the boyfriend's reflection in the window. Just try to turn the song off before Rutilli starts chanting "Imperfection." Absolutely stunning.

Like listening to roots music through the haze of a hangover, Quicksand/Cradlesnakes is strained and beautiful. The band never takes the straight path, always showing an astute ability to make their music more interesting than it ever should have been. If there is any justice in the world, this album will show up on just as many best of 2003 lists as Yankee Foxtrot Hotel did in 2002.

Reviewed by John Steinbacher
The last we heard, Steinbacher was living in Minneapolis.

See other reviews by John Steinbacher



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