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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
Album Leaf/On! Air! Library!
A Lifetime or More
The Arena Rock Recording Company

Rating: 7/10 ?

October 1, 2004
A split album is a damn good place for likeminded musicians to meet, especially if said minds are focused on airy ambient rock that spreads out and attempts to fill the spaces as it plumes forth from their instruments… or drum machines… or sequencers, or whatever. But alas, sometimes the weight is tilted to one half, due to the superiority of the band who ends up ruling the split. Yeah, sometimes you have to suffer through some music that isn't so good to get to the music that is. Things aren't at disaster levels on this new Arena Rock split release, but Jimmy Lavelle's work as The Album Leaf doesn't quite approach the minimal freshness of NYC's On!Air!Library!

All that being said, Lavelle's work with the adult contemporary cheese-rock of Tristeza is much worse than his experimentation as The Album Leaf, so he gets a leg-up to start. Tristeza is a band who manages to heat up and innovate in a live setting, but whose recordings suffer from a serious case of 'bad use of synthesizers' - a notoriously lethal condition that is spreading faster than SARS. Going solo he manipulates sounds with greater success, and among his singers of praise are Sigur Ros, with whom he recently shared a tour. Jimmy's tunes on this split are instrumental tracks based on the use of a Rhodes and some simple programming. The first track, "Another Day," floats along shapelessly and appealingly as waves of Rhodes and slightly picked guitars swell up over ambience. But things slow down by speeding up on the next song, "Essex," which sort of devolves into a sea of smooth jazz and car commercial sounds. Fortunately, he regains his senses a bit and proves that the best tempo is no tempo on his last contribution, "Lamplight," with its slowcore drums and pretty melody.

On!Air!Library! provide the next three to five tracks, depending on whether you go by song title or track number. This band of three- two twin sisters and a boy- formed in 1998 and are said to be heavily influenced by Berlin-era Bowie. This is most evident on the first part of "Pass the Mic (P,A,C)" which I should note bares absolutely no resemblance to the Beastie Boys song of the same name. It begins with a faded drum machine and disjointed vocal melodies that soon dissolve into drum machine patterns that are a bit more disgruntled. This continues into the second part, as echoed female vocals and volume controlled guitars fill in the void, before sequenced percussion patterns once again take center stage in the most traditional song, the third part. On!Air!Library!'s music and style is a bit pretentious, but it sounds great and is a welcome and ethereal respite from the aggressive sex inspired electro coming out of NYC these days. Not that there is anything wrong with aggro-sex, but I need a tender kiss sometimes too. The other highlight from On!Air!Library! is their first song, "Ex's and He's (crossed out) Oh's" - a Joan of Arc style title serving as a mask for the dreamy percussion, breathed vocals and delayed guitars that waft in from time to time. Tender sex, if you will.

If this split album were a contest rather than a collaboration, On!Air!Library! would win hands down, sending The Album Leaf off, not in shame, but with the knowledge that he didn't try hard enough. On!Air!Library! don't exactly sound like they're trying either, but the end result is voluptuous. And ultimately, it's this melding of the musical minds that makes it all come together. Let's see more of the split, whether it's a 7" or a CDep - it raises the quality while reducing the quantity. You can't argue with that.

Reviewed by Jonah Flicker
Jonah Flicker writes, lives, drinks, eats, and consumes music in New York, via Los Angeles. He once received a fortune in a fortune cookie that stated the following: "Soon, a visitor shall delight you." He's still waiting.

See other reviews by Jonah Flicker



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