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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
Papa M
Whatever, Mortal
Drag City Records

Rating: NR/10 ?

October 1, 2004
I loved the Papa M's last album, Live From a Shark Cage, for it's sparse, easy instrumental feel, so I was a little scared when I found out that Dave Pajo had decided to start singing. Then I became really frightened when I found out he brought Will Oldham in to sing on this album too. Great. The world could really use about a million less albums with Will Oldham on them. Don't get me wrong, I think Oldham can be good, but there is something called "stretching yourself too thin". The last thing I need is his out- of- tune vocals dominating what could be another superb Papa M effort. All of the fears proved unfounded, however, and I should have had more confidence in Pajo. He really has a knack for playing songs straight from the hip. Even if he is singing and even if he has brought Willie with him, the music still flows like it did before. His songs are catchy without clear hooks, different enough but not difficult.

Pajo's singing is brought to the forefront right off. The album starts out with a song that would not be out of place on the Oh Brother Where Art Thou soundtrack, "Over Jordan". It has a timeless feel that takes the listener out of his place. This song works as well today as it would have in 1920. While this sound could be wearing out, Pajo breathes life into the song emoting vocally, the way he normally would a guitar. Another vocal highlight is "Roses in the Snow", and like every track he is on, Oldham is only here for backup. There vocals meld perfectly and you really feel like you can see "the moonlight in her autumn hair".

Pajo always seems to know how to really play up the dynamics of a song (more than just the loud/quiet thing that bands like Braid made a living on). It was showcased on Live From a Shark Cage and it is still in evidence here. He seems to know exactly when to make a song hit, when to bring in the electric guitar, when to hit the distortion pedal, when to hit the cymbals, where to bring in the strings, whatever you want to call it. The best example, "Krusty", is an instrumental song that is very loose until about a minute in, where it then kicks in and just rolls. Even on a traditional song like "Beloved Woman", Pajo gives the song that extra intensity in the end, this time using his voice to turn up the rock. The highlight for me is the closing song, an excellent reworking of the intro to Live From a Shark Cage. What was before only a loosely tuned, jangly guitar riff is now a full, vibrant song with harmonica, drums, and bass guitar.

Pajo has been delivering the goods since Slint's Spiderland, but I am glad to see that he is still trying new things and not really caring what other people think. This is an excellent album and never before has music been any easier to listen to. There is only one problem related in detail in a post script.

P.S. - "There is something like a wall between us, that stopped your going down on my penis" is an actual lyric from Whatever, Mortal. It is beyond bad and not really funny in the way I am sure it was intended (or at least I hope it was intended.) In fact, it jumped out at me on my first listen to the album and almost ruined it for me. I don't want to spend a lot of time talking about it, but you should know it is there. Far be it for me to complain about lyrics, but this the worst thing I have heard since Crooked Fingers sang about a woman who spread her legs and flew away. Whatever, nobody is perfect and this album is too good to let that small detail get in your way, but you should know it is there.

Reviewed by John Steinbacher
The last we heard, Steinbacher was living in Minneapolis.

See other reviews by John Steinbacher



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