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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
Minus the Bear
Menos El Oso
Suicide Squeeze Records

Rating: 8.5/10 ?

August 22, 2005
Minus the Bear keep getting better and better. Despite, or maybe even because of, some of the negative press they've garnered over the years, Menos El Oso is the album to show us all how pertinent and capable they truly are. Gone are the kitschy track titles that seemed to get them into trouble, and in their place is a new sense of seriousness, adventurousness and determination. This, their most urgent album, is a scholarly mix of math rock and bedroom pop; clearly the band has done its homework. While it seems a highly unlikely place to find the follow-up to the Dismemberment Plan's swansong, Change, Menos El Oso is just that; it picks up where Morrison and company ended their affairs and proves there are still more exhilarating parts of that story to tell.

And, like those lauded forebears, Minus the Bear have placed everything perfectly, so much so that it seems effortless on this release. Their trademark wit is still present but less forced; instead it is more intelligent and reflective, and as the band produced this album themselves, the reward is apparent: they sound more self-assured and strong than they ever have.

Highlights are everywhere, beginning with the overwhelming stutter of "The Game Needed Me." The spacey, skittering pounce perfects D-Plan style gyrations and punctuated sways, and its placement at the very front of the album is decisive: Minus the Bear have definitely risen to a new level. Ill-fitting but ultimately right, the track shows a broader vision for the band, seeing beyond immediacy to the greater picture; their new, vital perspective gives necessary importance and depth to the group's trademark sound.

From there, "Memphis & 53rd" is much like "Secret Curse" with its cascading, devouring ambiance. Their atmospheres are so broad; you can live grandly and stretch out in the watercolored spaces. The track's 'stranger in a strange land' theme remains amicable, its vastness inhabited by Travis Morrison, The Police, Dali and a host of loved ones; in contrast to its sprawling distance, it is both caring and personal.

This intimate, affecting trend continues on "Pachuca Sunrise," which feels like a call to repentance and relief within a quiet church, soon joined by grateful, joyful followers with supernatural accord. It harbors hopes of romantic, momentous deliverance, fashioned with the kind of pop that sticks to optimistic minds. Minus the Bear have turned a corner with this revived ability to latch on to their audience in such a lasting way. The songs hit their respective marks on Menos El Oso, and even on tracks like "Drilling," "Micho's Death Drive" and "The Pig War" - where they sound most like their previous endeavors - the band embodies greater clarity and force, allowing even these recognizable, rising numbers to sound fresh and important from a familiar source.

Along with the itchy, intricate electronics of "Fulfill the Dream", "The Fix" is perhaps the most thrilling track on the album: miniscule, tinny harmonics form measureless alien dimensions, looming smartly and uncomfortably. As vocals croon peripherally, "So this is the difference between livin' and not livin'," we know that Minus the Bear have recognized their own potential and feel proud of how far they have come. As well they should; as should we all.

Reviewed by Sarah Peters
A former music editor and staff writer for LAS, Sarah Peters recently disappeared. Perhaps one day she will surface again, who knows.

See other reviews by Sarah Peters



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