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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 Narrator
Youth City Fire
Flameshovel Records

Rating: 6/10 ?

October 1, 2004
Narration is essential to literature. The action, the themes, everything is channeled though this entity which can make or break the book-no matter how great the story you aren't going to love it if you can't stand the way it's being told. Youth City Fire proves that this problem extends further than just Zadie Smith novels; what's happening on this EP is interesting but the narrator tends to drag it down.

The Narrator have a lot going for them. The songs on this EP are well written and for the most part well played, but Sam Axelrod's singing continuously disappoints. It's not that they are terrible, but the vocals are too far behind the rest of the commendable album. "Culture/Counts" begins with an …And You Will Know Us by the Trail of the Dead riff, but any excitement generated is soon dissipated; you'll want to turn the volume as soon as the singing begins.

Mark that one up as a fluke if you want, but the next track follows the same pattern. "All Are Assassins" is a catchy and concise song, and in theory even the vocal part is cool. Unfortunately, the execution falls short of the standards The Narrator set for themselves. This time there are a few layers of singing and none of them are keepers. The vocals remind me of that scene in Lost In Translation where all the loveable characters go the karaoke bar and comically sing along to hits-Bill Murray isn't much of a crooner but you have to give him credit for choosing an Elvis Costello song.

"Horse With Blinders" is the centerpiece of the EP and the music more than makes up for the uninspired vocals. The guitar moves like a samurai sword striking hard, fast and only when necessary. It's the kind of economy and force you'd expect from pro's like Fugazi or the Yeah Yeah Yeah's, but whereas the singers in those bands are charging from the frontlines of the cavalry, The Narrator's narrator has fallen out of his saddle and is trying to catch up on foot.

Youth City Fire sticks the landing with "Electric Slide," an extended jam with relatively good vocals. Appropriately, Axelrod repeats "Stuck in this place" for six minutes as the drums and guitars continually press forward. If The Narrator is stuck anywhere, its not because of the supporting cast.

Youth City Fire is disappointing like that poetic kid in your creative writing class that could do something with his talent if only he didn't skip class to get high all the time. This band could be the next big Chicago thing if they would schedule some vocal lessons or sideline Axelrod's voice. This story isn't over yet, as The Narrator can get on my nerves, but the book is too good to put down. Hopefully a sequel will build on the predominantly strong elements and address the obvious shortcomings of Youth City Fire.

Reviewed by Andy Brown
A regular contributor to LAS, Andy Brown lives in the frozen tundra of Minnesota, but doesn\'t think he has an accent.

See other reviews by Andy Brown



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