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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
Hopewell And The Birds Of Appetite
Tee Pee Records

Rating: 8/10 ?

July 1, 2005
Without any pomp or circumstance whatsoever, Hopewell knows how to make an entrance. There's no red carpet, nobody grading their formal wear. There's just blaring horns, cymbals crashing all around and a pounding piano trampling the earth like a spooked herd of elephants. That's the simple lead-in to the boisterous opener, "Trumpet for a Lung", off Hopewell's positively orgasmic second album, Hopewell And The Birds Of Appetite and it heralds the return of one of psychedelic rock's greatest hopes. So make with the fattened calf, already.

Picture a Mardi Gras coronation that's turns into a full-scale riot and you get a sense of what Hopewell is all about. On "Trumpet for a Lung", a shrill police whistle tries to restore order but is drowned out by the loud honking spew of trumpets, laconic shouting and guitar notes that spiral upwards and then splinter apart like wooden boards shot up by machine guns. It has a lurching tempo and a rhythmic stomp that crushes parked cars under its heavy foot. Interrupted by a soft piano interlude and saxophone ooze, the kind that seemed to bleed from Pink Floyd's "Us and Them", the clamor is not out of character for Hopewell.

In 2001, Hopewell, led by former Mercury Rev member Jason Russo, made a minor splash with the triumphant, heartbreaking art-pop of The Curved Glass. Immersed in womb-like field recordings of water and whales, The Curved Glass was hailed as grandiose, bombastic and visceral. Magnify the intensity of those words by 10 and you've got Hopewell And The Birds Of Appetite.

Going with an aviary motif this time around, Hopewell crafts a full, symphonic rock sound that your speakers can barely contain. On your stereo, you'll swear the volume is turned up all the way when the full-on blast of Hammond organ, sun-burnt trumpet and dazed electric guitar strum of "Calcutta" and "Praise Twice" fill the room, but it isn't. Even if you put it on mute, by sheer force of will Hopewell will override the function.

A tent revival meeting between Brian Jonestown Massacre and the 60s psychedelic garage rock of the 13th Floor Elevators, "Calcutta" and "Praise Twice" pack so much into their arrangements that it feels like the instruments are fighting for air. There's shaking tambourine, sitar-like guitar parts and rolling hand drums in "Calcutta" that fight to suppress Bill Racine's trumpet as it peaks out from (and then ducks behind) puffy white clouds. A song about the poverty of the soul in an age obsessed with consumerism and celebrity, Hopewell wills itself to "wake up ready to fight the fight." "Calcutta" embraces the idea of living with "one foot in the grave and the other in the gutter" as a means to win back identity and independence, something Russo seems more cognizant of these days after leaving behind the chaos and instability of Mercury Rev, only to confront it within his own band.

The title, Hopewell And The Birds Of Appetite, refers to the turmoil and jealousy that threatened to rend Hopewell asunder. Having emerged from it none the worse for wear, Russo and company craft melodies as radiant an sunbeams in songs like "Sugar in the Honey." In a warbling croon not unlike that of Wayne Coyne of The Flaming Lips, Russo declares, "I've got the sun in me/I know you got it too" as lazy guitars gradually come to life and then flood the area in light.

Better still is the breathtaking orchestral pop of "Synthetic Symphony." The most overt reference to The Flaming Lips, it swims in a rolling river of lovely piano, gets carried along a quickening current of kettle drums and goes blissfully down cascading falls of strings in a barrel. And when that humble craft capsizes on the rocks below, you just walk away and wonder how much different life is going to be from now on.

In the life-affirming lyricism of Russo, you won't find sugary sentimentality; he doesn't indulge escapist fantasies. All the emotions are real and jarring, even ugly at times. Russo and company take all those toxins - the bitterness and the self-destructive tendencies - and fill a syringe with them. Injecting that poison into the musical veins of Hopewell And The Birds Of Appetite, Russo sets out to show just how resilient his band is.

Once again into the breach, Hopewell throws itself into the rushing winds of the instrumental title track and sits nakedly the forest, listening to the distortion-laced howl of the Neil Young-inspired "The Notbirds." The reward is the sweet, psychedelica of "Hello Radio", the mesmerizingly smoky "4 A.M." and "Kings And Queens", which connects the dots in the Cosmos between Pink Floyd and The Flaming Lips.

Sometimes noisy, sometimes painfully introspective and quiet, Hopewell crafts mind-blowing psychedelica that's as bracing as a bucket of ice cold water thrown in your face. Along with the Polyphonic Spree, the Lips and Mercury Rev, Hopewell is leading a movement to turn inward and root out cynicism and other diseases of the spirit that used to be considered traditional values of indie rock. Can you remember a time when there was so much happiness and joy in music made outside of the mainstream? I can't and I, for one, am grateful for the break from that seasonal depression that's had indie music in its grip for far too long.

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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