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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
Pretend You're Alive

Rating: 7.5/10 ?

January 23, 2006
Michael Shepard is still sorry he can't ward off all his demons, and he's still scared of abusive monsters - real, not imagined - who prey on the weak, " punching skulls on your bathroom floor." At 4 a.m., you can find him with whatever " kind of vermin are creeping on the streets tonight," and on Tuesday, at happy hour in some bar, he's afraid " all my friends are turning into my enemies." Not much has changed since Lovedrug's Pretend You're Alive was originally released in 2004. Shepard's lyrics remain as tormented and full of self-doubt as ever, and the album's melodic grandeur hasn't diminished one bit. The only difference is, it's Columbia signing the checks for Lovedrug, not The Militia Group.

That's not as huge a leap as it used to be, but it's still like going from AAA ball to the majors. And it can only be a good sign when your new corporate behemoth of a label turns right around and reissues your debut so soon after signing you, right? Following that logic, it would stand to reason that Shepard and Lovedrug have a lot to be happy about, and that their next album, which would be their first for Columbia, would be a positively giddy by comparison. Don't bet on it. For one thing, that angst-ridden crap kills in the suburbs and on college campuses, and Columbia knows it. So papa Columbia probably wouldn't allow Lovedrug to be happy. For another, it's probably not in Lovedrug's nature to go all-Polyphonic Spree on us. There's a lot of pain inside that Shepard kid and one album of powerfully therapeutic indie-pop does not completely cure one as troubled as he, no matter how much of a breakthrough it seems.

And make no mistake Pretend You're Alive was a breakthrough for Lovedrug, both commercially and artistically. Not since Sunny Day Real Estate's Diary has that which is called emo offered such a flood of surging dynamics and inspired, affecting melodies. In fact, this is the glory that The Rising Tide was meant for. "Radiology" and "Angels With Enemies" ride strong currents of ebb-and-flow guitars and swirling eddies of hooks to wonderful, showering crescendos that bury you in emotion. Even weaker, more homogenized numbers like "Spiders" stab you in the heart and bleed all over your speakers. There's a tendency toward predictably maudlin, slow-building piano exercises like the title track and "Down Towards The Healing" that aim a bit too low for a band of Lovedrug's songwriting skills, landing somewhere between Train and Tori Amos. But even when Lovedrug stumbles, it's impossible to resist the strong pull of those sparkling melodies.

Here is a band that knows how to trigger an emotional response. The arena-sized riffs help, but there's more to Lovedrug than cranked amps. There's articulate rage and thoughtful introspection embedded in smartly conceived verses and choruses, and heady instrumentation that ranges from wine-toned piano to moody, rumbling bass to thick, carpet-bombing guitars . If you've ever experienced a moment of self-loathing or been damaged in any way by domestic violence, you'll be floored by "Blackout," with its charging guitars and too-close-to-home lyrics. When Shepard asks, "And when he's punching her skull on the bathroom floor does it get him off/Oh yeah/Does it get him off/Oh yeah does it get him off to know that sometimes we all blackout?" you want to dial 911.

Bigger and better still are "In Red" and "RockNRoll," two terrific power-pop standouts that hint at more sophisticated arrangements down the road. Get Pretend You're Alive so you're aware of Lovedrug's history, and then wait like a doomsday cult for the rapture. Whatever comes next from Lovedrug could be the second coming of emo. Just don't try and cheer these guys up.

Reviewed by Peter Lindblad
Peter Lindblad lives in Appleton, Wis., and bleeds green and gold just like all the Packer fan nutjobs in the area. He does draw the line at wearing blocks of chedder on his head, or any other body parts for that matter, though. His professional career has taken weird twists and turns that have led him to his current position as an editor at a coin magazine. He hopes his stay there will be a short one. Before that, he worked as an associate editor at a log home magazine. To anyone that will listen, he\'ll swear that Shiner was one of the greatest rock bands to ever walk the earth. Yet he also has much love for Superchunk, Spoon, DJ Shadow, Swervedriver, Wilco, Fugazi, Jawbox, ... And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead, Queens Of The Stone Age, and Modest Mouse, among others.

See other reviews by Peter Lindblad



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