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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
Rhett Miller
The Believer
Verve Records

Rating: 7.5/10 ?

March 22, 2006
Once upon a time, Rhett Miller was backed by the beloved Old 97's. Now, he's backed by an orchestra - and not just any orchestra, Gershwin's orchestra... metaphorically.

He states, "Before going into the studio, I thought I'd be making a punk rock Ziggy Stardust, but I wound up with George Gershwin does T. Rex's The Slider." That being said, "The songs are about sex, war, love and death... but mostly sex."

This, the swelling that doesn't go down (entendre intended), is what will appeal to many approaching the swooning, crooning Believer, but it is also what will immediately and absolutely turn off those still holding out hope for a follow-up to Satellite Rides. Rhett Miller's in a happier place now; his solo music still, resolutely, shows that, and it's going to bother the same nostalgic masses. At some point, either Miller will give in, his followers will give up, or we'll all meet somewhere in the middle - regardless, The Believer is a strong and enormous (hee!) album about sex.

The puns should stop soon, but it's easy to feel light-hearted. While its title is in memorial to his friend, Elliot Smith, most of The Believer doesn't feel serious. Its over-the-top dramatics and layers of polished sound are alluring in a very dreamy sense. Directed in parallel lines to the Jayhawks' Smile (and produced by their very own George Drakoulias), it's pleasant, clean and radio friendly. Read those descriptors as you will: they are not, in any way, meant as insults. There's no bitterness or irony felt as Miller creates tune after tune of dense, pleasing pop, and no true reason not to like it - unless you're clinging to Wreck Your Life.

"My Valentine" begins with a neo-Victorian fugue and moves to a reprise to "get out on the dance floor" in defiance to war. It is rollicking and harmonic with a little of the country twang that made Miller so endearing in the first place and, while silly, is nothing more than it purports. In contrast, Rachel Yagamata's heartbreaking guest vocals on "Fireflies" bring the album, simultaneously, to its highest and lowest point: sonically soaring and emotionally wrought.

The album is aware of its strengths and plays them up well. "Meteor Shower" and "Brand New Way" capitalize on Jon Brion's swimming instrumentation and sound like lost Jason Falkner tracks. "Ain't That Strange" revisits the dizzying 60s garage influence that proved a watershed for the Old 97's, and I would imagine on both sides of the perpetual fence, it's hard to deny such a sizzling, seductive pop song.

Both factions might be able to agree that there's no need to rehash the 97's "Question" at the album's capper - it only brings more comparisons, and frankly, the original's better - and hopefully they'll come around to agreeing on more than that with time. The Believer is exactly as Miller states: a glam chamber-pop album - it just happens to feature a singer we've come to admire over a decade who, with a broad grin, welcomes us not to a bar but to his warm, inviting bedside. Give in to his advances and he'll do whatever it takes make a Believer out of you.

Reviewed by Sarah Peters
A former music editor and staff writer for LAS, Sarah Peters recently disappeared. Perhaps one day she will surface again, who knows.

See other reviews by Sarah Peters



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