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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
31 Knots
The Days and Nights of Everything

Rating: 7.9/10 ?

March 26, 2007
Earlier this month, while taking a break from the colorful rainforests and expansive Pacific beaches of Costa Rica, I found myself being jostled around the mayhem of old Europe. Milan, to be precise, a city which isn't all that fun in the summer and can be downright unbearable in the winter, especially with the locals riding high on Inter's undefeated wave. With few prospects of a decent seat for the upcoming matches against Parma or Reggina, I lit out on the train for Germany; with just a single extra day to spare before convening with friends up north, I decided to drop in and check out the new LAS digs. Within hours of my arrival I awoke on a mattress that smelled vaguely of Alfoldy, with a massive black lump of a cat curled up between my knees and a badger staring me in the face. The badger was long since dead, taxidermied for posterity, but nonetheless served as a clear sign. I gathered my things and headed back to the train station, but not before collecting the latest 31 Knots album from the dining room table. Having been a casual follower of the Portland trio, I was surprised to hear several people refer to The Days and Nights of Everything as "unlistenable," and was eager to hear what all the fuss was about.

En route from Frankfurt to Dusseldorf, a massive bottle of Bitburger Pils in hand, I settled into my seat with visions of proggy sugar plumbs dancing in my head. Instead I was slapped with piercing, wailing waves, 31 Knots blasting through my earbuds with a rumbling clatter. Could the word on the streets have been accurate for once? Was The Days and Nights of Everything really unlistenable?

It certainly starts out that way, Haege and company stumble through the opening pair of tracks, "Beauty" - which exemplifies anything but - and "Sanctify." The former bursts with a squall of digital distortion that is lassoed by a keyboard loop, while the latter wobbles awkwardly about on legs of tuneless piano. Both tracks suggest an unbridled need to distance themselves from the band's mathy origins, and while they don't land that far off in left field the only purpose they serve so early on in the album's sequence is as a ploy for attention. Look fellas, I like you just the way you are, and if I wanted to hear Deerhoof cover a 31 Knots song I'd get Greg Saunier on the horn. Saunier, coincidentally, mixed down the tracks of The Days and Nights of Everything and, although he should be awarded props for deftly slicing in crowd singalongs and Beethoven samples, should probably be given a noogie for pushing noise elements so high in the mix. Saunier's influence on the album clearly shows, and it borders on pure corruption.

Thankfully, not long after the cumbersome introduction, 31K quickly regroup for "Man Becomes Me," with its angular guitar and raucous percussion racing along neck and neck before colliding in a blind intersection of dissonance during the last half minute. With that feather in its hat the band eases into "The Salted Tongue," which seems subdued in comparison to the cacophony of the early going. In reality the cut is of course anything but subdued, and is perhaps The Days and Nights of Everything's most patently 31 Knots number; Joe Haege's poignant lyrics ("So preoccupied by the lives colliding right in your face") are finally decipherable, there's a cache of finger tapping guitar, and drum stick clicks are high in the mix (how's that for a line of rhyme - oh, snap!).

With their craft back in smoother waters, 31 Knots plots a course for epicness with the six minute "Hit List Shakes," which isn't the album's best cut but is easily the most accomplished convergence of glitchy noise and solid rhythms. By the halfway point the sickening chop of The Days and Nights of Everything's opening begins to fade into the distance, the album riding its momentum through the restrained stylistic changes of "Everything in Letters" and "The Days and Nights of Lust and Presumption" before exploding into the lurch of "Imitation Flesh," an instrumental number that cuts out as quickly as it started.

Having begun with clatter and clang, the album exits with a decidedly different tone. "Pulse of a Decimal" may just mark the first time that 31 Knots have found themselves in mixtape territory, the clean piano melodies slightly offset by a bit of percussive noise, and closer "Walk With Caution" is 31 Knots at their most un-31 Knots-est, reverberations and leveled sound junk swelling and receding around Haege's vocals before fading out in a wash. The two tracks provide a soft counterpoint to the jaggedness of "Beauty" and "Sanctify," but in the spectrum of rock music could themselves hardly be called beautiful.

Adventurous bands often get burned, but like risk-taking day traders they can sometimes hit paydirt. While continually challenging the notion that they're another indie rock band, 31 Knots seem as if they can't make up their mind as to how far out on a limb they want to go, and how far is too far. (Who knows, there may have been sounds of twigs snapping buried in the clamor of this album.) At this point in their career - this is the band's fourth proper album - 31K should be thinking that it's do or die, but The Days and Nights of Everything does neither. Nor does it choke and die. It just kind of sits there, like a jumble-faced girl perched in a seat opposite the aisle in a train car, daring you to decide if it is ugly or interesting.

Reviewed by Clifton Gates
Currently sleeping on beaches in Costa Rica, Clifton Gates is an occasional contributor, editor, idea springboard and moral crutch to LAS magazine.

See other reviews by Clifton Gates



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