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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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Music Reviews

Screaming Females - Castle Talk
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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
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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
Cat Power
You Are Free
Matador Records

Rating: NR/10 ?

October 1, 2004
It's almost a shame that Eddie Vedder had anything to do with this record (he duets on one song), because his presence will probably steal attention from Chan Marshall's gorgeous album in record reviews around the globe. That said, I'm done discussing Eddie Vedder.

I've been lucky enough to have an advance copy of You Are Free for about two months. So, I've mulled it over and over in my head, even trying to put it on the shelf in hopes of giving myself some time away from Chan. But, I'm addicted- the same way I was addicted after hearing Moon Pix. But, this time it's a far more grave addiction. Moon Pix was like your first pack of cigarettes as a teenager. You Are Free is your first dabble in junk.

Soaked in self-reference, the album's opening song, "I Don't Blame You", reads like a letter of support from a Cat Power fan to Ms. Marshall. "The last time I saw you, you were on a stage. Your hair was wild, your eyes were bright and you were in a rage. You were swinging your guitar around cause they wanted to hear that sound, but you didn't want to play. And I don't blame you." Possibly pretentious, but nonetheless Chan gives critics and fans alike that might have seen one of her bizarre concerts a nice big FUCK YOU.

Regardless of whether the gentle ballad catches Chan with the meat in her mouth, she is quick to become the aggressor. "Free" rips through an acoustic chord progression- sure to leave the obvious squeak of fingers sliding along the fret board- and drapes over the top of it a stale drum machine, synthetic woodwinds, abrasive electric guitar and a plucked acoustic melody. It's a hodgepodge of noise that promptly grabs the listener by their ankles, turns them upside down and shakes them free of their loose change. Then, like an electric evening thunderstorm rolls through the flatlands, Cat Power drops "Good Woman" on us. A harrowing country & western ballad about the closure of a relationship, "Good Woman" is a stunning song with a striking statement: "I want to be a good woman, and I want you to be a good man. This is why I'm leaving. This is why I can't see you no more." Supported by only a stark violin (compliments of Dirty Three's Warren Ellis) and an eerie children's chorus (ripped off from Smog, who first used the idea on his Knock Knock album), Marshall sounds like Patsy Cline squaring off against Patti Smith on a Colorado ranch swallowed by tumbleweeds.

From here You Are Free moves forward and takes steps back, bouncing between styles both playful and occasionally bright to downright somber, while Marshall's never-adapting voice laps waves around itself. The highlights include a cover of The Holy Modal Rounders' "Werewolf" (which Marshall adjusts accordingly from acid-folk to a sad-eyed eulogy), the '70s Neil Young-ish rocker "He War", and the sobering piano ballad "Maybe Not" (which finds Chan returning to her dreams as subject matter).

It would seem obvious to say that you will not hear another record released this year that will sound anything like You Are Free. Cat Power is clearly a unique soul, and You Are Free is the best album I've heard in a long while- sincere, scary, sublime, and absolutely beguiling. Marshall taps the psyche of Joni Mitchell, Nico, and Patti Smith on You Are Free, and the result is her strongest album to date and certainly a necessary recording.

Reviewed by Doug Hoepker
A former staff writer for LAS whom we like to call Diggles, Mr. Hoepker is currently laboring away on various music-based projects. He now works in academic publishing (ahem), but is perhaps still best known by his DJ moniker, The Noiseboy.

See other reviews by Doug Hoepker



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