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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
Matt Pond PA
The Nature of Maps
Polyvinyl Records

Rating: NR/10 ?

October 1, 2004
Sometimes it seems as if the rhythms of life are set to an atomic clock, but just as soon as the weather changes, the leaves begin to fall and the days become shorter, I invariably come down with a cold, often severe, occasionally mild, but always enough to force a good week of hibernation indoors. I try to keep in good spirits about the whole situation and write it off as mother nature's little joke - an inside thing between her and I - or as early preparation for the bunkering down that will assuredly take place in the coming frost bitten months.

The only reprieve from the aggravation of the sore throat, the wads of used tissues, and the hacking cough is that I get the opportunity to sit down with all that music I have neglected listening to in an attempt to find the perfect soundtrack for a head-cold addled afternoon. This week I found Matt Pond PA's The Nature of Maps.

The fourth album from the Pennsylvania group fronted by the man with its namesake doesn't find them attempting to break down any of their chamber-pop stereotypes. They still rely on acoustic guitar ballads adorned with cello, keys, vibes, violin and the usual backing band suspects of bass and drums, but surprisingly the despondent vibe keeps its head above loathing - both for yourself and for the album as a whole - waters by turning in some rather upbeat tunes. The opening track "Fairlee" cops Keep It Like A Secret-era Built To Spill guitar tones on what ends up being the most memorable song on the record, unless of course, you make a case for "No More Chances" - a dreamy, swaying sing-along of a song which features one of the albums best vocal melodies.

Unfortunately, there are tracks that seem rather lackluster when compared to their surroundings. The techno-pop of "A Million Middle Fingers" is a brief exercise in catchy, but ultimately, kitschy, non-sequitur filler. It's a track that would be happier, and infinitely better, if it was left to roam free in Stephin Merritt land. "The Party" starts as well as any new Honda purchased right off the dealership lot, but gets bogged down by its lack of a great melody to latch onto and the monotonous rhythm provided by the single guitar chord that provides the songs backbone for its four-minute duration.

Still, there isn't one particularly unpleasant song on this disc, and that would seem to be in the band's favor, but the lack of any interesting dissonance and the studio-precise performances add up to an album that is hard to pan, but feels a bit flat and fails to make a lasting impression because of it. As it stands, The Nature of Maps is a perfect companion piece to my state of mind at the moment, though eventually the cold season will pass, I'll stop coughing and sneezing, and any remembrances I would have had about the record will be lost to the renewed vigor of the sun on a summer afternoon.

Reviewed by Mark Skipper
Mark Skipper currently resides in Nashville, TN where he can be found skipping shows, drinking Guinness, making bad home recordings, and complaining about how much music sucks these days.

See other reviews by Mark Skipper



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