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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
Engine Down
Engine Down
Lookout! Records

Rating: 5.5/10 ?

October 1, 2004
If you were to string together the best tracks form each of Engine Down's albums, it would make a heck of a mix. It's not that their entire discs aren't good - they most definitely are - it's just that their standouts leap directly out of context. A handful of songs on each of their releases are undeniably special.

Engine Down may be the band's attempt at a cohesive album of standouts, and undoubtedly, it is their most radio-friendly effort to date. In fact, the goal to connect with a larger audience is even listed on their press sheet. Through this pronouncement of vision, however, the band seems to have lost quite a bit of its edge. One has to wonder if this release is self-titled so that Suburban Kid X thinks he stumbled on to something new. As bitter as that may sound, I wouldn't go as far to say that Engine Down "sold out," per se, just fit themselves into a niche.

One plain fact remains in the forefront: Engine Down has Sparta written all over it. While the minor chord, nasal singing that has helped found the band's fanbase is still present and familiar, their mainstream poppiness is new. As a long time fan, I refuse to believe they're another pop band like Taking Back Sunday (see "Cover"), even if they sound like it.

Know that there are moments of brilliance here, even if for perceptively different reasons. The snap-tight drumming of Shelby Cinca is still a marvel to behold, and their ability to switch up angular noise at a moment's notice is still overpowering. Tracks such as "Control Group," "In Turn" and "Et Cetera" realign them with their former sound. The slow, spacey "In Turn" even teases fans like me with the line, "One more second and I come back to life." In that instant, the building momentum finally breaks and returns Engine Down to their trademark sound. It is a stark and brooding track that will surprise those only hearing their former format for the first time - It is my hope that these fledgling followers don't immediately reach for the fast forward button.

Take also the spooky, cinematic outro, "Et Cetera," which rings through like a eulogy of the departed. Fittingly taking its place at the album's close, I can't help but speculate its placement in a summer blockbuster soundtrack like Godzilla or Spider-Man, once they become the hot young talent in the public eye.

Part of this complaint is unquestionably rooted in my getting older - I have less tolerance for what's popular these days. I realize this could be unfair, or that my projection of this Greater Mainstream Mission may just be some kind of transference on my part. I still can't shake the feeling, however, that the sudden mildness and radio palatability is blatant - that the end result of this album is exactly what they were gearing for, even if it's softened the band's bite.

The major pitfall of Engine Down is not that it takes the easy way out, it's that the songs are too shiny, bright and easy-to-swallow for a once sinister band. The instrumental interplay is still phenomenal; these could be certified Engine Down songs from any of their other albums, if only they didn't feel so normal.

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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