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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
»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
Being Ridden
Temporary Residence Ltd.

Rating: NR/10 ?

October 1, 2004
I have to admit I'm impressed with Cex. The Baltimore, Maryland native, whose real name is Ryan (or Rjyan) Kidwell, is barely of legal drinking age but has already released four full-length albums in as many years. Being Ridden is his latest effort, with 13 tracks that mix IDM-style electronica, acoustic elements, a myriad of strange sounds and sampled instruments of all kinds. Cex lays suburban white-boy raps over all but three of the songs, his flow usually a charming half-step behind the beat; producer Craig Wedren of Shudder to Think fame lends both his production skills and rich vocals to the project.

Being Ridden as a whole is unquestionably difficult to categorize, but even the individual songs refuse to let themselves be nailed down to a single genre. Most of them alternate back and forth between sections of deep bass grooves and acoustic interludes- sometimes soulful plucking and sometimes spastically violent strumming. The musical shifts are sudden and illogical, creating the initial feeling that the record is confused and unfocused. Further listening, however, reveals a carefully orchestrated album where the frequent stylistic changes correspond with the thematic and lyrical elements Cex deals with.

The record is filled primarily with Cex's exploration of himself, his identity and his chosen profession. Introspection and self-doubt abound. "Not Working" features a memorable call-and-response chorus in which our protagonist muses that music may not be the right path for him, despite his success. By the end of the song, he seems to have resigned himself to a life of second-guessing: "I figured it out/ never gonna get rid of this doubt." "Cex At Arm's Length" finds Kidwell attempting to make an Eminem-like distinction between his performer persona and his real self with honest lyrics that approach poignancy without being self-consciously confessional.

It's not all somber reflection, though, because Cex knows how to write a party jam or three. "Earth-Shaking Event" uses a break-up with a girlfriend as a jumping-off point to blast mopey breakup songs. The insanely catchy Fresh Prince-like chorus redeems the lyrically weak verses, where Cex takes a shot at Lilith Fair and embarrassingly declares, "I'm not gonna cry 'cause my girl and I split/ I'm gonna be psyched that our lives even ever mixed." "Stamina" features a guest appearance by Venetian Snares and rips off a bit of Missy Elliott to great effect. Synthesizers buzz and drop bursts of brass over a finger-snapping bass backbone in "The Marriage," which tells the story of a bizarre wedding ritual in which the participants swallow flower petals to prove their love.

"Nevermind," the final track on Being Ridden, is an instrumental that puts a hopeful-sounding cap on the end of an album that is otherwise mostly mired more in doubt than optimism. But the second-to-last song, "Dead Bodies," is the real climax of the disc. Electronic chimes splash onto a jittery bass foundation as Cex delivers a harrowing chorus: "Clear, clear, clear," he sings, mimicking the shout of doctors with electro-shock paddles. "You're finally seeing/ clear, clear, clear/ the ambulance ceiling." It's a half-wailed plea of desperation, but I can guarantee that it's unnecessary, because anyone who is listening to him has probably never felt more alive.

Reviewed by Kevin Mulachy

See other reviews by Kevin Mulachy



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