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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
The Deathray Davies
The Kick and the Snare
Glurp Records

Rating: 8/10 ?

August 1, 2005
The continuing saga of "They Stuck Me In A Box In The Ground" is curious, to say the least. It's a song cycle that's had a recurring role on every one of the five Deathray Davies' releases to date, providing the band's main songwriter, John Dufilho, with a vehicle for his ruminations on death and his own mortality - heavy subjects for a power-pop band to tackle, but Dufilho's fascination with the subjects hasn't waned a bit over time. If anything, it's gotten more intense.

Skipping over Parts 5 and 6 - evidently they're still in production or something - The Deathray Davies present Part 7 of "They Stuck Me In A Box In The Ground" on The Kick And The Snare. Here, Dufilho has passed on and is floating "Down to the floor of the ocean", where he sits trying to make sense of the afterlife and how he got there. You'd think that after recording the darker, more contemplative Midnight At The Black Nail Polish Factory, the group's fourth album, Dufilho would have gotten it out of his system. But no, Dufilho can't seem to purge such black thoughts from his mind, though lyrically he approaches the subject with a sort of bemused detachment and wide-eyed wonder that's instantly disarming and downright appealing. The same can be said for the bright, effusive power-pop wattage of The Kick And The Snare.

Gratification is instantaneous, with its let-it-all-hang-out opener, "The Fall Fashions." A driving, anti-conformity anthem, it sounds like a lost cut from Exile On Main Street, what with its "Rocks Off"-style horns and its gutsy, righteously pissed-off melody. The guitars have a sugary sweet crunch and when Dufilho sings, "and honesty is the ship that sank this song," he rings equal parts biting sarcasm and heartfelt sincerity from every harmonized note.

Not surprisingly, everything from here on out feels like an encore. To their credit, the Davies don't just drop the microphone and walk off stage. Catching their breath, they shake the jangle out of early R.E.M. in "Release The Squid (Box 6)" and scale back their full-on arrangements for the lo-fi "Stumble." A clear, lone guitar riff, droplets of piano and insistent, spare beats work the melody as a misty flute fog rolls in off the ocean, blown away by gentle, breezy Beach Boys-style vocal harmonies. It's simple and wistful, with a faint 60s British Invasion feel - a product of California dreaming and Guided By Voices' less-is-more aesthetic, also apparent in "I'll Sing A Sweeter Song Tomorrow."

In "Stumble", Dufilho sees God in a photo of his girlfriend. The religious experience gives him perspective, as expressed in the line, "It's not what you're given/It's not what you've got/It's the things we stumble on." Damn right it is. You search too hard for understanding and you often end up frustrated; then one of those little accidents of fate comes along and suddenly, the answer to whatever problem you're having dawns on you like lights turning back on after a blackout. Isn't that always the way it works?

It does with The Kick And The Snare, primarily because the Davies have gone back to basics and Dulfiho's songwriting is sharper and more focused than ever. Bassist Jason Garner is quoted in the press kit as saying, "We made more of a conscious effort towards simplistic melody, with counter-melody on top of it, and simple riffs." That's especially true of "In Circles", where the guitar and piano seem to be coming from different directions and become entangled in a game of ring-around-the-rosy. In "A Calendar Crime", The Deathray Davies strip away all artifice, letting you get caught up in the tight interplay of guitars, bass, drums and Dufilho's grabby hooks. Speaking of hooks, the hyperactive, pogo-inducing "Plan To Stay Awake" has them in spades: with punchy keyboards and blistering guitar riffs racing past you, the song leaves you breathing hard, as if you've been chasing the circuitous melody like an over-stimulated puppy going after its tail.

With a lot of power-pop, the flavor fades quickly - hence the comparison to bubble gum; it doesn't with The Kick And The Snare. Maybe it's because The Deathray Davies are a full band now and not just a roving cast of mercenaries, or maybe it's because Dufilho has become so good at his craft that making a potent power-pop cocktail has become almost second nature. In a way, he's a bartender mixing elements of The Kinks and The Who with the more streamlined melodic rock approach of a Velvet Crush or Fountains Of Wayne into a tasty, but strong, drink. The flavor is familiar. You've heard all these sounds before, and that makes The Kick And The Snare seem more generic than it should be. Still, it doesn't mean you can't enjoy the album, especially if you're addicted to this stuff, so drink up and forget all about moderation - that's only for the weak.

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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