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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
The Seldom Seen Kid

Rating: 6.9/10 ?

April 28, 2008
Manchester's Elbow fit squarely between two greater known English entities: Coldplay are the always accessible, adult-oriented masters of light Brit-pop; Radiohead are the sometimes accessible, intelligentsia-oriented masters of experimental Brit-rock. Elbow unwittingly bridge the two, and have somewhat landed on the fence in the process, at least in terms of mass popularity. Guy Garvey and his talented crew are more daring than Chris Martin and Co., and know their way around a song just as well. With their stately British manner they can have their moments of heady grace - "Grace Under Pressure," from 2004's Cast of Thousands, is a good example, with its DJ Shadow drumbeats. But they never reach the stylistic heights of the monolithic band named after a Talking Heads song.

On their current outing, The Seldom Seen Kid, Elbow takes both a step forward and backward. The good news, evident from the very first listen, is a welcome diversity of songwriting and arrangements, on an otherwise basic pop rock record. The Kid could be used as Cliff Notes for how to ring the most out of standard songs about love, life and loss. The bad news is that diversity alone cannot salvage the album from being their least spontaneous effort yet.

Embracing this varietal offering of spring tunage, and in the spirit of Guy Garvey's personal press release, herewith a track by track synopsis of the self-produced effort:

"Starlings" -- A cacophony of noise is promising, then nicely settles into a meandering groove with dollops of light piano, oohs and aahs, glaringly interrupted by a singular blast of horns. Lead singer Garvey eventually gets down to business, singing a lullaby befitting of the title. Neither here nor there, but those horn discharges are intriguing.

"The Bones of You" -- Here is the Elbow we know and want to love. Beautiful minor key progression, cryptic lyrics, off-kilter drums, blue harmonies, urgent vocals, "and the world moves in slo mo/ straight to my head/ like the first cigarette of the day." Takes a cue from compatriots Doves, a good thing; and is that an autoharp strumming away?

"Mirrorball" -- A slow burner that engrosses with its repetitive haunting piano line and Garvey's beautiful baritone. Hey Chris Martin, when your taking a break from Gwyneth and Apple, take note, this is how it's done.

"Grounds for Divorce" -- I would call this a misstep, yet it's so different than anything else here, at least it gets the diversity train steaming ahead. A rocking blues ditty with large guitar riffs and lyrics about watering holes that make this the perfect bar band badge of honor.

"An Audience with the Pope" -- The opening harp-like sounds are such a contrast from the previous song, it almost doesn't matter what comes next - a rather uneventful few minutes, actually.

"Weather to Fly" -- The weakest link by a mile, this boring anthem goes nowhere fast. Along with the next track, it terribly bogs down the midsection of this fifty-five minute album. Weather be damned, no one should have cleared takeoff on this one.

"The Loneliness of a Towercrane Driver" -- See above. And song title.

"The Fix" -- This could easily be from the 1960's Burt Bacharach school of songwriting. Absurd in its brash homage to such, it gets points for getting the record back on track, regardless of where that track is going. Perhaps Pulp's Richard Hawley, who guests on the song, deserves some credit?

"Some Riot" -- If there's a riot goin' on, no one told Elbow, who at this point in the album arc seem too tired to cause any sort of mutiny.

"One Day Like This" -- Elbow at their best, one of those anthems that could seemingly get an entire stadium of Brits singing in unison, to the immensely beautiful chorus. Or at least rioting, after the closing verses; on second thought that'd be too easy.

"Friend of Ours" -- The album is dedicated to a friend of the band's, who was lost in 2006, hence the gentle respect paid in the title The Seldom Seen Kid. Like a poignant eulogy, it is understated, and derives power in its softness and persistent melodic movement, as it taps toward the end.

Elbow have been around since the early 1990's and this is only their fourth LP release. The Seldom Seen Kid could be a placeholder for the band itself. It might be worth mentioning that the Elboys (Guy's term, not mine) are now family men. Is it fair to say that the edge is coming off, and they are becoming of band of album-oriented-rock elders? Probably not, although it seems they're inching further down the spectrum toward Coldplay territory, and if one of them names their kid after a fruit, watch out.

Reviewed by Ari Shapiro
A staff writer for LAS, Ari Shapiro mixes up pretty unique smoothies at XOOM in hot Tucson.

See other reviews by Ari Shapiro



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