Best of 2010…

I do have to start this best of list by stating that I really do get a kick out of compiling this best of each end of the year.  Hopefully you the viewer finds it easy to read and easy to copy and paste into your ongoing list of items to watch, read and listen to.  Ha!  This was an outstanding year for music, a really good year for books and television and an ok year for movies.  I think this is a list that will provoke thought, argument and perhaps controversy (?) Probably not the last thing, I don’t think that many of you are reading this.

The newest addition to the Best of list is some choices from friends.  Thanks to Thom and Ruth for their contributions.  Now there are plenty of movie, music and book choices to go around. If you were wondering how to spend the time ringing in the new year, this is it.  Enjoy everyone…

Best Films of 2010

Films

Although it gets harder and harder to see movies in the theater I do try and catch up to the year’s crop on dvd.  And while this list contains the best I did see I wouldn’t say it was a great year for movies.  That being said, it is odd to find that the top 3 movies on my list could be best movies in any other year.  They were that good.  The entire crop of movies made in 2010 was less than in year’s past.  But alas, here it is.  These are the 10 films that did resonate with me and all are worth seeing, renting or watching again.  Scroll down for Ruth’s favorites.

1)  Kids Are All Right (Lisa Cholodenko)

Lisa Cholodenko’s heartwarming tale of a family with some broken parts.  No film brought us love, heartache and drama this year.  The entire cast is superb, it was well written and Anette Bening is as good as she has ever been.  This is the best film of 2010.

2)  Black Swan (Darren Aronofsky)

Darren Aronofsky has a knack of creating almost obsessive compulsive characters in his films that suffocate to their own thoughts.  Think Micky Rourke in The Wrestler, Ellyn Burstyn in Requiem For a Dream and in Black Swan, Natalie Portman.  Portman plays Nina, a ballerina who has just been given the lead role in the latest and updated version of Swan Lake.  Can her beauty and passivity be successful not only for the white swan but for the elusive and sexy black swan as well?  Portman is outstanding in the role and what Aronofsky has created is the most visceral mind fuck movie of the year.

3)  The Social Network (David Fincher)

This is THE MOVIE for me and Nick.  Directed by the amazing David Fincher and written by one of our favorite writers Aaron Sorkin.  The Social Network is the Facebook movie.  There’s not much I can say that you don’t already know.  This is the movie that will define a generation.  A great film.

4)  Toy Story 3 (Lee Unkrich)

I’ve said this previously and will continue to say it.  There is no studio or filmmaker making films like the crew of Pixar.  All I can say is that it’s amazing that one studio can continue to create films that are heartwarming, not condescending to the viewer, original and creative.  The last tale of Woody and Buzz may be the best yet.  They have created one of the greatest trilogies in the history of film.  Yes, you read that right.

5)  Shutter Island (Martin Scorsese)

One of the more underrated films of the year and of Scorsese’s career, Shutter Island is a gripping, cerebral film.  Another mind fuck movie of the year.  Leo is so good playing (or is it) both sides of Teddy Daniels.

6)  Exit Through the Gift Shop (Banksy)

A documentary (is it?) on the elusive street artist Banksy as well as others in the field turns the viewer around and lets us wonder what is art, who is making it and whether we are in the midst of it.  That Banksy guy is one smart dude.

7)  Cyrus (Jay and Mark Duplass)

One of the more original films of the year is Cyrus.  Played with such ease and suave by Jonah Hill, Cyrus is essential about one’s power and control over another.  Cyrus’s mother has found a new boyfriend and this does not sit well with Cyrus.  The film is at all times hilarious as hell, uncomfortable and well acted by everyone.  Reminded me of Scorsese’s most underrated film, The King of Comedy.

8)  The Town (Ben Affleck)

Ben Affleck has created a highly entertaining heist film that may go down with the 70’s greats.  Essentially it is just that, a heist film with Ben leading his crew on numerous bank robberies throughout the streets of the Charlestown neighborhood in Boston.  Rebecca Hall plays the girl he falls for, Jeremy Renner is his best pal and fellow bank robber, Jon Hamm is the FBI agent who is trying to catch them in action but the most supporting actor/actress of the film is the city streets of Charlestown.  In nearly every scene, this town is the star of the film.  Well directed by Ben Affleck.

9)  Please Give (Nicole Holofcener)

There’s not much to describe the movie other than that one couple (Oliver Platt and Catherine Keener) who own an antique furniture store is trying to get the apartment of the little old lady who lives next door.  She has 2 granddaughter’s (Rebecca Hall and Amanda Peet).  That is the plot but it is so much more.  First it’s a beautiful told marriage story, secondly it’s a heartwarming tale of a kid growing into her own (Platt’s and Keener’s teenage daughter) and third it’s another kick ass film starring the amazing and beautiful Rebecca Hall.  I can’t think of another actress that wears her emotions on her sleeve as she does.

10)  Scott Pilgrim vs the World (Edgar Wright)

My last choice was between the incredibly well acted, deftly directed sports film The Fighter (David O. Russell) or this one of a kind, comic book meets video game growing up tale called Scott Pilgrim vs the World.  This usually is not the kind of film that I find entertaining but I loved it.  It was a frenetic fantasy tale for the now generation.  Creatively directed and featuring Michael Cera (who doesn’t like this kid) as Scott Pilgrim himself trying to out duel and defeat the 7 former flames of his new girl Ramona.  Highly entertaining its only negative is the laundry list of films that will try and emulate this formula to much less success.

Worst: Greenberg

Another “woe is me” flick from my favorite obnoxious and condescending director Noah Baumbach.  Ben Stiller this time plays the “who gives a shit” lead in Greenberg.  Seriously Baumbach, what started as a keen eye for dialogue and filmmaking has turned you into our most cynical and smarmy director.  I hated it.

The “I haven’t seen them yet but may have made the list if I did” movies..

  • Somewhere– because it’s Sofia Coppola
  • Blue Valentine– what won’t you love about a married dysfunctional couple starring Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams
  • True Grit- umm, the Coen brothers???

Ruth’s Best of…

1.)   I Am Love (directed by Luca Guadagnino)

Tilda Swinton is extraordinary as an aristocratic Milanese wife and mother whose privileged perfect world unravels when she enters an affair with her son’s friend, ending in tragedy. The seduction begins with a cake that we never get to see, and food continues to play a supporting role (her lover is a chef). The movie at times made me think of Hitchcock (the scene where she secretly follows the object of her desire through crowded city streets) and a little Douglas Sirk thrown in. This is a lush, gorgeous film to watch and the over the top music score punctuated the melodrama perfectly.

2.)   Black Swan (directed by Darren Aronofsky)

Natalie Portman plays ballerina Nina Sayers who lands the lead in the company’s new production of Swan Lake. She’s innocent and sweet enough to nail the role of the White Swan – but is pushed by ballet director Thomas (played by Vincent Cassel) to let go and get in touch with her inner Black Swan. Newcomer to the company Lily, played by Mila Kunis, embodies all that Nina is not, seductive and irreverent– she is naughty to Nina’s nice. This is where things get interesting. Is Lily out to get the starring role or is Nina’s search for her dark side loosening her grip on reality? I loved the dance scenes filmed with a handheld camera and the costumes by Rodarte were gorgeous. And speaking of ballet movies, if you’ve never seen “The Red Shoes” (one of my fave films of all time) You have to add it to your Netflix queue now. But don’t take it from me, Martin Scorsese is a huge fan too. Read about why you should see it here: http://artsbeat.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/11/04/cinema-as-music-martin-scorsese-on-the-red-shoes/

3.)  Exit Through the Gift Shop (directed by Banksy)

Thierry Guetta, a a French vintage clothing store owner based in L.A. ,with no film experience whatsoever, gets the idea that he wants to film a documentary on street art so he follows and befriends the likes of Shepard Fairey (creator of the iconic Obama Hope poster) and others, all convinced that they’re participating in a totally legit project. When one of the artists (the world famous) Banksy finally gets to see the finished product, it’s a hot mess – badly edited, and totally unwatchable. So Bansky turns the tables and the camera on the eccentric, zany Thierry himself and what happens next is hilarious as Thierry becomes a celebrated street artist himself. Or is it all a prank? Best line in the film – “ Life is like a game of chess. (pause) I don’t know how to play chess.”

4.)  Enter the Void (directed by Gaspar Noe)

Gaspar Noe’s films are not for the faint of heart. If you’ve ever seen his previous film, Irreversible, you know what I’m talking about. You know you’re about to experience something brutal and punishing, but at the end maybe something beautiful and profound too, When we bought tickets for the screening, there were actually signs warning that epileptics might be prone to seizures during the film (wtf?) The story is about a brother and a sister, orphans who in flashback scenes, promise to never part but are separated nonetheless and are now reunited and living in a seedy part of Tokyo. Oscar is a small time drug dealer (played by Nathaniel Brown) and Linda, a stripper (played by Paz de la Huerta). The first half of the film seems almost banal as we see these two doing actually not much of anything. But when Oscar is shot dead by cops in a drug deal gone wrong at a club called The Void, we see Oscar’s spirit rise and follow Linda through the streets of Tokyo trying to get back to her. It’s trippy and hallucinagenic and I then understood the warning at the ticket booth.  I think I read somewhere that you don’t watch this film as much as experience it which I thought was pretty apt. Whatever you think of Enter the Void , you can’t deny that it’s utterly original and that you’re been taken somewhere you’ve never been.

5.)  Tiny Furniture (directed by Lena Dunham)

When a friend asked me to go see this , I was skeptical. Was this was going to be one of those annoyingly cute quirky films That’s all style and no substance?  I was wrong and actually really liked this film. Director Lena Dunham plays the starring role as Aura, a recent college grad who comes home and tries to figure out what’s next. The film was shot in the Tribeca  neighborhood Lena grew up in and the loft of her real life art star parents – Laurie Simmons and Carroll Dunham.  In fact, Laurie Simmons plays her (fictionalized) mom in the film as well as real life sister Grace. So what happens? She goes to a few parties, gets a nowhere job as a restaurant hostess and gets not so romantically involved with a couple of loser guys. I thought the dialogue was hilarious and smart and there’s a realness to it that was refreshing i.e. – when we see Aura’s youtube performance piece, she’s not afraid of showing her un-Hollywood physique in an unflattering light.  She captures the awkwardness and uncertainty of a certain kind of girl at a certain kind of age perfectly. I especially loved the character of Aura’s sarcastic kooky friend Charlotte played by Jemima Kirke. This movie secretly made me glad that I’m no longer in my 20’s, dating guys in their 20’s.

6.) Please Give (directed by Nicole Holofcener)

Catherine Keener is in it. And if that isn’t enough to make you want to see it,read this – because I just ran out of time but wanted to include this great film on my list. http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/25/movies/25give.html,

Films I haven’t seen yet but might have made this list if I did – Somewhere by Sofia Coppola because it feels like she’s back to Lost in Translation territory, and True Grit by the Coen brothers, well, because it’s the Coen brothers!

Best Albums of 2010

Albums

This was one of the best years in music in recent memory.  Not only did the big guns release albums this year that were outstanding (Arcade Fire, Kanye, The National) the year belonged to the debut bands that could be…the following is a short list of the debut bands that released phenomenal albums: Sleigh Bells, Surfer Blood, Local Natives, Bear Hands.  The list goes on.  This is a good sign when most of the top 50 albums are by consistently outstanding bands or bands that just are getting their break.  And if you agree with me that this year kicked ass wait til you see a small list of bands coming out with albums in 2011.  Here it is.  Your top 50 albums of 2010 (scroll down to read Thom’s favorites):

1)   Beach House- Teen Dream

Dream pop at its finest.  Beach House’s third album is (and has been since it came out early in 2010) the year’s best.  Beautiful harmonies, vocals from Victoria Legrand that will melt your heart.  From start to finish, this album is perfect.

2)  Deerhunter- Halcyon Digest

Deerhunter has been one of the better indie bands for the past decade.  They continue to surprise and enchant with hypnotic yet cerebral lyrics.  And Brandford Cox has to be music’s most prolific artist.  His Atlas Sound (side project, but just as good) released not 1 but 4 FREE albums about a month ago.  What more do you need from your favorite musicians?

3)  Sleigh Bells- Treats

After 2009’s success and much hyped performance at CMJ this band blew things up in the music world.  Their debut album cracked the top 50 on Billboard chart and it was only released digitally.  No album this year was more original yet more organic sounding then Treats.  Yet, I still am surprised that someone didn’t think of it before.  Hyper and energetic.  Listen to this as loud as you can take it.

4)   The National- High Violet

The National continue their streak of highly literate, mature indie rock.  While I thought 2008’s Boxer was outstanding listening to this year’s HighViolet makes me appreciate this band more and more.  I read one review and they used the term “dad rock” to describe (they meant it as a complement) this record.  I really don’t know what that means but for a band to be this mature and this good is a great thing for Indie Rock.

5)  Kanye West- My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy

Did you hear that Kanye West came out with a new album this year?  Have you heard it?  Yes, it is just as good as people say so listen to it already!

6)   The Tallest Man on Earth- The Wild Hunt

The best album you didn’t listen to this year.  Haunting yet bittersweet tones from Kristian Matsson who goes by the nom de solo act The Tallest Man on Earth.  The closest thing I’ve heard to Bob Dylan.  Yes, that’s a huge complement.  Seek this out.

7)   Surfer Blood- Astro Coast

Another early 2010 release, Surfer Blood hails from West Palm Beach, Florida.  Intensive driven guitar rock featuring riffs and sounds emanating that are as cool as shit.

8)   Houses- All Night

I was very upset to see the so-so reviews of the debut album from Houses.  Ethereal dream electro-pop.  I just loved listening to this album wherever I was (driving, at home.)  Just flat out beautiful.

9)   Arcade Fire- The Suburbs

What more can you say about this band other than if they keep this streak up they will become one of the best bands ever.

10)  Superchunk- Majesty Shredding

It makes me so happy to see that not only did one of my favorite bands of all time come out with another record but to see that it sold well, was well received and is so fucking good?  Well, thanks Superchunk.

11)  Menomena- Mines

Beautiful harmonies, sounds that are created experimentally using a computer program/instrument that the band invented and lyrics like this:

the hours pass us by as gin slips slowly

past our tingling spines, cheeks warm and glowing

I’m a social mess but not yet slurring

the words that come to rest upon my luring tongue

The most underrated band in music.  Period.

12)  Bear Hands- Burning Bush Supper Club

Bear Hands released an EP a few years ago and caught some buzz.  Their debut is full of the same catchy indie pop that you liked if you heard them before.  If you are new to Bear Hands well then, you’re welcome.  The Indie Pop album of 2010.

13)  The Black Keys- Brothers

Never that big a fan of The Black Keys (they were good) but this album was complete from start to finish.  Hard to find good guitar driven blues rock from a major label band.  This is one.

14)  Vampire Weekend- Contra

2 outstanding albums.  Contra even better than the debut album.  My only wish is that Vampire Weekend come out with their 3rd album some time later in the year.  This came out in early January.  If this came out in the summer it would appear on more best of lists.

15)  Local Natives- Gorilla Manor

Another debut album cracks the top 20.  Local Natives hail from California and I don’t know how to best describe them.  Multi-harmonies, echoing vocals…the list can go on.  I wouldn’t classify them as original but I would say catchy without being annoying, smart without being pompous.  A great record.

16)  The Radio Dept.- Clinging to a Scheme

The first time The Radio Dept. has appeared on this list.  The dreamy, shoegaze band from Sweden made their most successful album this year.  Another record that’s perfect sounding from start to finish.

17)  LCD Soundsystem- This Is Happening

Oh, James Murphy.  Please don’t stop making music.

18)  Charlotte Gainsbourg- IRM

There’s so much to say to describe Charlotte Gainsbourg.  I’m sure you are familiar with her parents, I’m sure you’ve seen that she’s gorgeous and now she has made her best album to date (I liked 5:55 but this is so much better).

19)  Robyn- Body Talk

Success story of 2010?  Robyn.  Not only did she come back but she came back strong.  Releasing 2 small albums (and a third collecting songs from the first 2 plus a handful of new tracks) totaling 3 albums and a ton of songs.  All of them could be singles on their own and all have that European song and dance that you remember about her from a decade ago.  So why isn’t she as big as Lady Gaga?

20)  The Walkmen- Lisbon

Another mature well recorded album from New York’s The Walkmen.  Consistent and even more polished than 2008’s You & Me.

21)  Crystal Castles- Crystal Castles (2010)

I just want to dance all night listening to the new Crystal Castles.  The soundtrack to my life (if I was a 19 year old kid).

22)  Crocodiles- Sleep Forever

Digitized noise rock from San Diego’s Crocodiles.  2 great records in 2 years.

23)  The Hundred in the Hands- s/t

Another great indie dance album.  They also came out with an equally good EP earlier in the year.

24)  No Age- Everything In Between

There is so much sound coming from the 2 guys in No Age.  Feedback laden guitars, haunting and droning vocals and lo-fi drum beats.  Each album they release is more and more impressive.

25)  Tame Impala- Innerspeaker

Another album that is hard to describe yet so interesting and complex.  I heard parts of 60’s psychedelica, 90’s American indie rock and a lead singer that at times sounds exactly like John Lennon.  Really nice surprise.

26)  Caribou- Swim

Caribou’s Dan Snaith has been in the biz for some time now but this complete sounding electronic album has put him in the front of the pack.

27)  Zola Jesus- Stridulum II

I just love her voice so much.  Hypnotic and trance like.  Just so much going on with her vocals.

28)  Yeasayer- Odd Blood

Another early release in 2010, Yeasayer started off the year with the first single Ambling Amp getting major buzz.  The buzz wore off though quickly and what people missed was that each song was good on its own merit but as a whole the album suffered slightly from mixed messages.  Still, Odd Blood shouldn’t be overlooked because it shows signs of a band experimenting and finding different sounds.

29)  Twin Shadow- Forget

A band I put off listening to for a bit until I got lost in their atmospheric chillwave sound.

30)  Belle and Sebastian- Write About Love

I can’t seem to find anything wrong with this band.  They continue, album after album, to find new ways to surprise and enchant me.  They would have to be considered in the running for my favorite bands of all time.

 

And the rest:

31)  Four Tet- There Is Love In You

32)  Hot Chip- One Life Stand

33)  Jonsi- Go

34)  MGMT- Congratulations

35)  The Morning Benders- Big Echo

36)  Owen Pallett- Heartland

37)  The Joy Formidable- A Balloon Called Moaning

38)  Best Coast- Crazy For You

39)  Gorillaz- Plastic Beach

40)  Javelin- No Mas

41)  Joanna Newsom- Have One On Me

42)  Frightened Rabbit- The Winter of Mixed Drinks

43)  The Love Language- Libraries

44)  The New Pornographers- Together

45)  Male Bonding- Nothing Hurts

46)  Wild Nothing- Gemini

47)  Ceo- White Magic

48)  White Hinterland- Kairos

49)  Free Energy- Stuck On Nothing

50)  Blair- Die Young

 

Great EP’s of 2010:

1)   Keepaway- Baby Style

This 5 song disc is so good I can’t wait for the full length.  So good.

2)   Girls- Broken Dreams Club

Their debut album made this list last year and will most likely make it every year if they continue to make music.  This band is amazing.

3)   James Blake- CMYK/Klavierwerke

Electronic god released 3 EP’s this year.  All are great.

4)   Tennis- Baltimore

There’s only 3 songs on this min EP but look out for their full length in 2011.

5)   Etienne Jaumet- Night Music

Multi-instrumentalist Etienne Jaumet made a beautiful old school techno album.  Though the album is 5 songs and clocks in at just under 50 min I wanted to include this on some best of list.

Other notes from 2010

  • The their first album was so good what the hell happened to the sequel album: She & Him- Volume 2
  • The best album that would have made my list if I made the list 3 months from now: Sufjan Stevens- The Age of Adz
  • The album that I kinda liked just to please my wife because it was her album of the year: Dum Dum Girls- I Will Be
  • The band whose last 2 albums were just plain awful and I still can’t stand them: Kings Of Leon
  • The best album that I just found out about from other best of lists that would have definitely made my list: Allo Darlin’
  • The best album by someone that sounds like an immature dick in interviews but does make pretty good music: Wavves- King of the Beach
  • The most disappointing album of 2010 (though it’s not all bad): MIA- May
  • The album that is pretty good but I just don’t get all the hype: Janelle Monae
  • The 3 bands that I didn’t see on too many year end best of lists but should have: Local Natives, Bear Hands and The Hundred In The Hands
  • The album that people listened to over and over that I thought just plain sucked: Broken Bells
  • The band that if they keep up the 1 album/ep a year trend just may end up being one of the best ever: Girls
  • 2 artists that I can’t see the appeal: Drake and B.O.B.

10 anticipated albums for 2011 (in alphabetical order except #1 because it’s my most anticipated album)

  1. Panda Bear- Tomboy
  2. Cat Power- title tba
  3. Death Cab For Cutie- Codes and Keys
  4. Jens Lekman- title tba
  5. Lykke Li- Wounded Rhymes
  6. M83- title tba
  7. Okkervil River- title tba
  8. P.J. Harvey- Let England Shake
  9. Radiohead- title tba
  10. Santi(o)gold- title tba

 

Thom’s Best Albums (and Song)…

BEST SONG

Crystal Castles ft. Robert Smith- ‘Not In Love’

My favorite song of the year was not on any of my favorite albums of the year.  With honorable mention to ‘Power’ by Kanye West, the song that most stuck with me most is ‘Not In Love’ by Crystal Castles.  Not because of Crystal Castles, who are a fine group.  You just can’t go wrong by having Robert Smith sing anything.  Love this song.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=32udqal_lyQ

 

BEST ALBUMS (in no real order)

Kanye West ‘My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy

It is ok to be arrogant when you can back it up.  Based on the early singles and the weekly G.O.O.D. Friday’s releases I figured this would be a great album however it far exceeded my expectations.  The album version of ‘Runaway’ (more closely mirroring his MTV performance) is epic.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DbmaG72vPIM

 

Grinderman ‘Grinderman 2’

I readily admit that I love Nick Cave in all of his incarnations so I came to the album somewhat biased.  The interesting thing about Griderman is that it sounds nothing like the stuff he does with The Bad Seeds and is more of a throwback to his Birthday Party days.  ‘Palaces of Montezuma’ is one of his best songs which, considering how many great songs he has written, is really saying something.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9XH2NO4Jsnw

 

The Divine Comedy ‘Bang Goes the Knighthood’

Neil Hannon is a grossly under appreciated and mostly unknown commodity on this side of the Atlantic.  A favorite of the equally great Stephin Merritt, the Northern Irish singer/songwriter has only been putting out great (if quirky) orchestral pop music for the past 20 years or so and his 2010 album continues that tradition.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jgsuAUuMxFw&feature=related

 

Ghostface Killah ‘Apollo Kids’

Along with fellow Wu-Tang Clan member Raekwon, Ghostface Killah is one of the most consistent rap artists around.  This late 2010 entry continues his strong output and the first single ‘2getha Baby’ is one of his best.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dj0-zkQx53c

 

Paul Weller ‘Wake Up the Nation’

Paul Weller may well be the coolest man on this planet or any other. He has managed to transform himself over the course of 30+-year career from his early years with The Jam (one of the greatest bands of all time), the slightly more hit and miss years of The Style Council, and a varied and somewhat inconsistent solo career.  He has always been capable of moments of greatness and 2010’s ‘Wake Up The Nation’ represents the best of what Weller has always been able to do.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HykV37M67MI

 

Gorillaz ‘Plastic Beach’

Damon Albarn’s musical life outside Blur is a fascinating one.  As the face of Brit-Pop who would have thought that Albarn would emerge as one of the most talented and varied musicians of a generation.  His unparalleled knack for finding the perfect collaborators for each project, song and sample is something a lot of artists would be well served studying.  The Gorillaz has always been an interesting project from concept to execution and ‘Plastic Beach’ is a strong addition to what has moved on from curious side project to one of the best groups (if it can be called that) out there. ****Late breaking news – The Gorillaz will be releasing yet another album ‘The Fall’ on Christmas day.  I sit and wait.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L_-zEHaVOkQ

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nhPaWIeULKk

 

The Fall  ‘Your Future, Our Clutter’

Something I have learned… if you have heard The Fall you either love or hate The Fall.  Over the years I have recommended various Fall albums to people who either say thank you or ‘what the fuck?’.  Mark E. Smith’s revolving door group’s 28th studio album is as Fall-like as the others and, as such, great (at least in my opinion).

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=joY8Qn0dh3M

 

Kylesa ‘Spiral Shadow’

Southern underground metal, anyone???? The past few years has seen a rise of great underground metal bands based in and around the Savannah, Georgia area. Something in the Savannah water perhaps?   Bands the likes of Kylesa, Black Tusk and Baroness have released consistently strong albums and Kylesa’s 2010 ‘Spiral Shadow’ really raised the bar.  A sludgy, Melvins-esque sound taken to a new level courtesy of the perfect pairing of vocalists Laura Pleasants and Phillip Cole.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lHF4d788YTs

 

Ryan Adams ‘Cardinals III/IV’

Being unbelievably prolific has always been one of Ryan Adams’ greatest strengths and biggest pitfalls.  Between official releases, an ever changing sound and strange and fascinating bootlegs by various alter-egos you are never quite sure which Ryan Adams is going to show up at any given time.  His albums with the Cardinals have always been most reminiscent of his time in Whiskeytow.  This collection of seeming odd and ends from Cardinals’ sessions shows just how strong a songwriter Adams really is and how his leftovers are better than 99% of what may artists would kill to have.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ksMF3CJk7aE

 

The Brian Jonestown Massacre ‘Who Killed Sgt. Pepper?’

If you heard them for the first time and nobody told you otherwise it would be fair to assume that BJM were some great band from the 1960’s that you just never heard of. Anton Newcombe may be more famous for his drug use and erratic behavior (see the documentary Dig!) as for his musical output, which is a shame.  What is often lost is just how amazing a musician he really is.  The addition of former  Spacemen 3 bassist Will Carruthers on several tracks helps make ‘Who Killed Sgt. Pepper’ the strongest BJM album in years.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J8hx0Fe2ACM

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CtB6KS1sATQ

 

Big Boi ‘Sir Lucious Left Foot: The Son of Chico Dusty

I feel like rap music is in the midst of a particularly strong period.   For some reason I always felt like Big Boi was perhaps the weaker link in Outkast.  I am pretty sure that I was wrong.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Oc6-u931SrQ

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8lLZlaNn-bo

 

MOST ANTICIPATED ALBUMS OF 2011

PJ Harvey ‘Let England Shake’

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=64C6Ih4QlrE

 

Raekwon ‘Shaolin vs. Wu-Tang’ 2011

 

Best Songs of 2010

Songs

In a word, music was awesome this year.  Below are my favorite (and least favorite) songs and/or singles of the year.  Download them all (or stop by my desk and I can give you the playlist) and listen to them at home, at work or walking the streets of the city. This is your playlist for 2011.

1)  Chinatown- Wild Nothing

The song I listened to most in 2010.  Won’t ever get sick of it.

2)  Runaway- Kanye West

Nobody has a bigger set of balls than Kanye and still he puts his money where his money is.

3)  Teenage Dream- Katy Perry

Anyone who knows me knows that I love a good pop song.  This is the one for 2010.  Please keep this between yourselves.

4)  On Melancholy Hill- Gorillaz

There’s just something about Damon Albern’s voice that I love.

5)  Celestica- Crystal Castles

The song that gets me pumped up more than any other.  I feel I could kick ass all night long listening to this.

6)  Dancing On My Own- Robyn

The best dance pop song that all other dance pop songstresses could aspire to.

7)  Ambling Alp- Yeasayer

Released in late 2009 it was on repeat for a while until the album came out.

8)  OMG- Usher (feat. Will.I.Am)

I picture listening to this as loud as I can at a Knicks game.  Anthem-esque.

9)  Power- Kanye West

Again, I could say the same as any other person has about Kanye.  He’s in a class all to himself.

10) She Just Likes To Fight- Four Tet

It’s amazing to hear so much heart and emotion in a song without words.

11)  Tighten Up- The Black Keys

I could have picked a bunch of singles from this album.  They all work.

12)  Tell ‘Em- Sleigh Bells

I want to air slap the world while listening to this on my headphones.

13)  Home- Glasser

Dulcid tones reminiscent of Bat For Lashes.

14)  Ready to Start- Arcade Fire

The first single from the band’s third album.  Every song on this record could be a single.

15)  One Life Stand- Hot Chip

Just a great dance song.  Never that big a fan of Hot Chip before this album.  I’m sold.

16)  Only Girl (In The World)- Rihanna

Love her “hard” stuff, can’t stand the slow.

17)  Zebra- Beach House

The most beautiful song on the most beautiful album of the year.

18)  American Slang- The Gaslight Anthem

Good ol’ fashioned Jersey rock song.

19)  Boyfriend- Best Coast

Lo-fi indie rock at its dearest.

20)  Revival- Deerhunter

My favorite song of the new Deerhunter.  I could have picked a handful of songs.

21)  Odessa- Caribou

You would think from this list of 50 songs that I engaged in dancing and clubbing.  This is me living through the body of an NYU student.

22)  Living In Colour- Frightened Rabbit

Just a great rock song from a great band.

23)  Soak It Up- Houses

Ethereal dream electro-pop.  A band I really like.

24)  Not In Love (featuring Robert Smith)- Crystal Castles

What’s not to like about Robert Smith featured on a song?

25)  Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)- Arcade Fire

Another great song by one of the better bands around.

26)  Dance Yrself Clean- LCD Soundsystem

Listen to the song on high and wait til James Murphy and company kick your ass.

27)  Warning Sign- Local Natives

My favorite song off of an underrated album.  Even if it is a cover of the great Talking Heads.

28)  Flash Delirium- MGMT

The first single off of another underrated album of this year.  Just because it’s not as catchy as their other songs does not make it bad people!!

29)  Bloodbuzz Ohio- The National

Mature rock that just doesn’t quit.

30)  Zola Jesus- I Can’t Stand

One of the best voices in music in 2010.

And the rest:

31) Sweet Talk, Sweet Talk- The New Pornographers

32) My Gap Feels Weird- Superchunk

33) Floating Vibes- Surfer Blood

34) Rill Rill- Sleigh Bells

35) Can’t Stick Em- Bear Hands

36) Giving Up The Gun- Vampire Weekend

37) Shutterbug- Big Boi

38) Soldier of Love- Sade

39) Angela Surf City- The Walkmen

40) Tightrope- Janelle Monae

41) Breakneck Speed- Tokyo Police Club

42) Greenwich Mean Time- Charlotte Gainsbourg

43) Glitter- No Age

44) Heaven’s On Fire- The Radio Dept.

45) Solitude Is Bliss- Tame Impala

46) Slow Motion- Panda Bear

47) Get Some-Lykke Li

48) Come With Me- CEO

49) Wolfboy- Blair

50) Idioteque- Amanda Palmer

51)Baby- Justin Bieber (shhhh!!! This one’s for Maddie girl)

Least favorite songs (in alphabetical order, not by suckiest):

Animal- Neon Trees: please don’t start singing this song to me

Airplanes- B.O.B (feat. Hayley Williams): don’t get this guy at all

Billionaire- Travie McCoy: you go right on Travie.  Do they really call him Travie?

Born Free- M.I.A.: loud and obnoxious (and not in a good way)

California Gurls- Katy Perry: she’s a decent pop artist but this one was just awful

Hey Soul Sister- Train: ummm, I don’t know what to say

Not Afraid- Eminem: just annoying

Tik Tok- Ke$ha: do you really need me to explain why this sucks?

Whip My Hair- Willow Smith: seriously?  Their daughter too?  Please Smith family, leave us alone.

Anything by the Black Eyed Peas: THE. WORST. BAND. EVER.

Best TV of 2010

TV

Television in 2010 saw the rise of AMC, the loss of Lost and this writer collapsing to the phenomenon that is Glee.  One thing that can be said is that the big 4 networks (ABC, NBC, CBS and FOX) are not nearly the powerhouses they once were.  Cable TV and pay cable TV are where it’s at.  I unfortunately didn’t see everything so this is the best that I did watch.  Did I miss anything???  Scroll down to see Ruth favorites of the year that was…

1)  Mad Men

Yes, it’s that good.  Just watch already.

2)  Glee

My wife suckered me into watching this early in 2010.  What I quickly realized is that although the singing seems a little too much at times this is the most socially relevant, heartfelt and sincere show on television.  The entire cast is fantastic and have pipes like no others.  And Lea Michele is the most beautiful woman on tv.

3)  Parks and Recreation

The funniest show on television is the true anchor of NBC’s Thursday night sitcoms (forget the overrated 30 Rock).  A cast that is the best most cohesive on television (and just got better with the addition of Rob Lowe and Adam Scott) and way better than given credit.

4)  The Walking Dead

This 6 episode series started on Halloween and was gone as quickly as it started.  I caught up with it earlier this month and watched all the episodes in 2 days.  Outstanding direction, well acted and gross as hell.  I cannot wait for more of this.

5)  Justified

Timothy Olyphant is the most diverse actor working today.  He can do scary (one of the Scream movies), funny (was on 2 episodes of The Office this year) and can do this role just as well.  Here he plays a sheriff that comes back to the town he once lived to “take over and kick ass” (my quotes).  Excellent show.

6)  Community

I liked the first season of this and a friend at work convinced me to watch more.  I did.  It is everything a standard sitcom should be.  Characters that have depth but not too deep, a setting that is inherently funny (community college) and story archs that are so odd and outlandish that only the highly skilled actors can pull off.  This show has that and more.  Thanks Glenn.

7)  The shows of USA network

There’s a handful of them throughout the year.  Sure they placate on the simple and mundane stories but they are consistent, story driven and feature some of the better actors working today.  And you can quote me on this, Psych (the first one that I started watching) is the MOST UNDERRATED SHOW ON TELEVISION!

8)  Modern Family

The problem with comedies nowadays is that most suck and the handful that are good (appear on this list) are great.  There’s no happy medium.  This one started last year and start their second season just as strong.  More happens in this comedy in the 22 minutes than in most hour long dramas and the cast gets funnier and funnier.  Simple, heartfelt comedy.

9)  Lost

Those of you that know me have an idea that this show became an obsession.  I doubt that we will ever get to see a show resonate the same way that this show did.  Some have tried but of course they don’t get watched by those Nielsen crazies and don’t get picked up for a second season.  This last season was bittersweet.  We wanted so much to happen that we became a little pissed off.  Time has healed us though.  What did take place was enigmatic and perfect.  Tell me you didn’t tear up a little at the last shot!?  So long Lost.

10)  Conan

There are 2 types of people in the world, fans of Jay Leno and fans of David Letterman.  Conan O’Brien who left (graciously) his own Tonight Show gig (that NBC gave to him then took away) in January is a fan of the latter.  He has come back strong to his new show on TBS and given his own fuck you to Jay and all of his followers by continuing his creative, original comedy that some people just don’t get.  Shame on all of you.  Don’t worry Conan, wherever you land we will follow you.

11)  Parenthood

Maybe as I grow older and have a wife and child that I appreciate the simple family shows that show me that not all the world is glitz and glamour.  The Bravermans are a family that I could love.  Problems arise, fights happen and the bottom line is that family and friends are what really counts.  Not a bad message to convey.  It also doesn’t hurt that your 2 lead actors are Peter Krause and Lauren Graham.

12)  The Event

One of those Lost-esque new shows that has a real shot at being great.  Flashbacks, aliens and Jason Ritter.  What’s not to love.  There’s so much more to this show that you should check it out for yourselves.

13)  Google’s “Parisian Love” commercial

This appeared (from what I understand) only one time during the Super Bowl.  No 50 seconds of TV has ever been so moving.  It reminds me of the famous Hemingway story told in 6 words: For sale: baby shoes, never worn.  Sometimes it’s better when it’s short and sweet.

14)  The Big Bang Theory

This one’s for all us geeks.  Rock on.

15)  Better Off Ted

Seriously America, what does it take for you to like a show.  This one was seriously overlooked and grossly underrated.

My guilty pleasure show:

Blue Bloods- because Tom Selleck is still cool as shit.

The worst TV show:

The current season of Saturday Night Live- I come in every Monday to work and ask if anyone has watched.  I then proceed to remark that I can’t believe that I laugh so little for a show that’s supposed to be funny.  Seriously, now my wife and I watch to see how little we will laugh (save for the Weekend Updates and the occasionally funny Digital Shorts).  Get it together SNL.

 

Ruth’s Best of…

1.)   Mad Men

Still my favorite show and season 4 doesn’t disappoint. I kind of had enough of Betty Draper after last season and we see a lot less of her. I liked the addition of new character Dr.Faye Miller, who’s hired as a consumer consultant at the agency and who eventually falls under the spell of Don Draper (who could resist?) Just when you think Don might have met his match there’s a shocker of a season finale that was interesting because it had most women I know pissed off and most men sympathetic. Best scene of the season – Betty and Don’s chance meeting in the empty house where they once lived – subtle and poignant.

2.)   Boardwalk Empire

Hands down the best new show on tv. HBO does it again.  This time it’s politics and corruption in prohibition-era Atlantic City.  A great cast – Steve Buscemi who I absolutely adore in everything he’s ever done, hunky Michael Pitt, Paz de la Huerta, and in a supporting role, Michael Kenneth White (who was brilliant as Omar on The Wire). I can’t wait to see what happens next season.

3.)   In Treatment

Why do I feel like I’m the only person who watches this show?

Gabriel Byrne as Dr. Paul Weston, a psychotherapist living in Park Slope battles his patients demons and his own. Each of the four weekly episodes is a real time “session” with four different patients. My favorite – Sunil, is a sad and soulful Indian man forced to leave his native country after his wife’s death to move in with his son and less than welcoming daughter-in-law. Frances is a lonely aging actress estranged from her daughter and dealing with her sister’s terminal cancer, played by Debra Winger. Jesse- is a promiscuous and volatile gay teenager who is riveting to watch. The fourth weekly session is Dr. Weston himself in therapy with the amazing Amy Ryan (you may have seen her in The Wire or as Michael’s girlfriend in The Office). Feel-good entertainment it isn’t, but if you like intelligent, well acted dramas – it’s a must see.

4.)   Dexter

I don’t have Showtime, but the husband and I have been on a Netflix marathon of this dark and funny show and we’re totally hooked.  Michael C.Hall (who I loved as the uptight gay undertaker in Six Feet Under) plays Dexter, lovable blood splatter expert for the Miami police department by day, serial killer by night.  And if that sounds creepy – he only kills people that really, really deserve it. Plus – best opening credits for a tv show ever.  Making breakfast and getting dressed never looked so sinister….

 

 

 

 

Best Books of 2010

Books

2010 brought us a superb year for books.  While this list contains only the fiction books I read this year the list of books that I didn’t get a chance to would be just as long.  Some of the authors are the biggest names in fiction (Franzen, Mitchell, Erdrich) and some are the new and not as widely read.  But all are outstanding.  So if you are wondering what to download to the new Nooks or Kindle’s you received for Christmas, look no further.  You can’t go wrong with any of these.  Just promise me you’ll at least take a look at these before caving and purchasing Mr. Larsson’s oeuvre.  For Ruth’s picks, scroll down.

1) The Surrendered- Chang Rae Lee

The most heartbreaking, powerful literature you will read in 2010, 2011 or ever.  Chang Rae Lee’s tale of life, love and war is as good of a novel as I’ve read in a long, long time.  Ambitious and well executed.

2) Freedom- Jonathan Franzen

There’s Kanye West in music, Mad Men in television and Jonathan Franzen in fiction.  3 people/shows that are better than the accolade’s they receive.  Franzen has successful brought back smart, intellectual writing to the mainstream.  Let’s hope the world continues to read books like this even if Oprah doesn’t tell us to.

3) The Imperfectionists- Tom Rachman

The best debut novel of the year (and one of many on this list) was this one about a failing Italian newspaper.  Huh?  Yes, well told (through the numerous voices in the book) and expertly written.  A real voice to watch in the future.

4) The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet- David Mitchell

One of my favorite authors, David Mitchell’s tale of end of the 18th century/beginning of the 19th Nagasaki Harbor Japan and the adventures of Jacob de Zoet as he tries to make money to bring back to his fiancée in Holland.  Entertaining and challenging.  A real treat for fans of his.

5) Hot Springs- Geoffrey Becker

Bernice is determined to get back the child she gave up for adoption 5 years ago.  She convinces her boyfriend to assist in this foolish plan.  She’s a little bit crazy, sexy and adventurous and thinks she is making the right decisions.  An underrated novel that takes the reader from Colorado Springs to Tuscon to Baltimore.  The amazing literary press Tin House put this out and it should be read by more people.

6) Mr. Peanut- Adam Ross

The second debut on this list tells the story of David Pepin and the suspicious death of his wife Alice.  A story of love, unhappiness and despair.  A dazzling debut from another writer to watch for.

7) The Unnamed- Joshua Ferris

Arguably, this is my underrated book of the year.  Although I wasn’t a big fan of his first book (Then We Came to the End) this one struck me all year long.  Released early in the year the tale of Tim Farnsworth and his unfortunate disease.  He can’t stop walking.  Ferris gave us a tale that all can relate to, the ability to be so afflicted that anything can ruin or save us.

8) A Visit From the Goon Squad- Jennifer Egan

Much has been written recently about the latest Jennifer Egan book.  I recently caved and read it in the latter part of the year.  What starts off as a modern rock and roll book turns into much more.  Featuring some great cast of characters, a well told story and a chapter written as a Power Point presentation.  A book most will easily fall in love with.

9) Nemesis- Philip Roth

Philip Roth is my favorite living writer.  It’s that simple.  This year brought another gem from the genius mind of Jersey’s own.  Bucky Cantor is a simple gym teacher/camp counselor in Newark, New Jersey year, 1944.  The polio virus has taken a strong onslaught to the area and Bucky is in the center of it.  One again Roth has given us a story about real events and put his tale and incredibly inventive voice to it.  He continues to be as strong as ever.

10) Kapitoil- Teddy Wayne

Teddy Wayne’s strong debut set in NYC in the months leading up to the Y2K buzz.  Karim Issar is a smart and naïve character that is trying to find his voice.  What ensues is a laugh out loud ride.  Introspective and interesting.

11) Shadow Tag- Louise Erdrich

Louise Erdrich knows how to pack a wallop.  Events in the book mirrored her life with her husband.  This is an extremely well written novel about the rigors of marriage.

12) Safe from the Neighbors- Steve Yarbrough

This story takes place in the small town in the Mississippi Delta.  Steve Yarbrough’s novel of racism, violence and history shows us what people are capable when put in certain situations.

13) Model Home- Eric Puchner

A bitterly funny, sad and moving story of a family going through some turmoil and unfortunate events in the 80’s.

14) The Privileges- Jonathan Dee

featuring characters that you would never want to know or be friends with (or maybe you would) The Privileges is about just those people.  They are irritating, obnoxious and successful.  The novel is a joy to read and well written from the voice of the husband Adam.  This came out in the first few weeks of the year and I couldn’t put it down.

15) C- Tom McCarthy
Incredibly realized novel told through the decades of Serge Carrefax’s life.  Hard to describe but you will not be able to put it down.

Overrated
The Ask- Sam Lipsyte

An overwrought, overblown hype of a novel.

Most disappointing
Great House- Nicole Krauss

I was (and still am) in love with Nicole Krauss’s previous novels and was really looking forward to this.  What I got was a lack of suspense story written as populist fiction and masqueraded as art.  Here’s to hoping her next is a little better than this.

 

Ruth’s Best of (in no particular order)…

1.)   Just Kids – by Patti Smith

Patti Smith recounts her early bohemian years with Robert Mapplethorpe in 60’s and 70’s New York, before either of them became famous. I loved the story of when they both couldn’t afford to see a show at a museum so one stayed outside while the other saw the show and then came back to tell about it. A beautiful and heartbreaking memoir.

2.)   Freedom – by Jonathan Franzen

The most talked about and written about book of the year, so I’m not going to say anything about it except if you’re a person who reads and you haven’t read it yet, why not?

3.)   Role Models – by John Waters

The brilliant and subversive John Waters writes about some of his favorite personalities- from Comme des Garcons designer Rei Kawakubo to incarcerated ex-Manson family member Leslie van Houten (who he regularly visits in prison) to various local Baltimore characters – Waters shares the love. If I were throwing a fantasy dinner party where I could invite anyone, living or dead , John Waters would be on my list.

4.)   Super Sad True Love Story – by Gary Shteyngart

A satire, and yes, a love story completely written as diary entries and texts, that takes place in the not so distant future set in NYC– where books are smelly artifacts and no one can live without their “apparat” , an iphone device that provides non stop streams of information. The country is run by the military, and China is the new superpower. In these dark times, an unlikely love blossoms between the Woody Allen -like Lenny Abramov 39 year old son of a Russian immigrant, and Eunice Park, a twenty-something Korean American. I can’t do justice to writing about this – I’m no critic, so check out this review which I hope will make you want to read my favorite book of the year.

http://www.slate.com/id/2262500/

Super true – the day I finished reading this book – I literally almost walked into the author and his girlfriend (who physically resemble the main characters of the book) walking past my house. How crazy is that?

5.)   Eating Animals – by Jonathan Safran Foer

The problem with books about vegetarianism is they’re usually preaching to the choir. I mean I don’t know a lot of unapologetic meat eaters who would pick up a book like this, but then again, this is the author of “Everything is Illuminated” and “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close”, so who knows? Like the author , I spent years wavering between various forms of vegetarianism so I was interested in what he had to say. The catalyst of this book, we’re told, was his impending fatherhood and how he was going to make eating choices for his child. So begins an investigation not just into the horrific industry known as factory farming but into our culture and traditions as well and why it’s necessary to make intelligent choices about what we eat. For the record – he is now a full- fledged vegetarian.

6.)   Life – by Keith Richards

“Keef” is a great storyteller and and this was a thoroughly enjoyable read, I couldn’t put it down. Of course there’s sex, a hell of a lot of drugs, and the usual rock and roll excess but through it all it’s about his love of music. He sounds like someone who still marvels at his good fortune, even now, to be able to do what he loves and to have made a life out of it.

After reading this I felt like I had spent a couple of days hanging out with the guy, You really hear his voice and you feel like he’s recounting the stories to a friend and that friend is you.