Archive for the ‘ lists of 2010 ’ Category

just getting started, part two. [music, the many lists of 2010.]

Whew, it’s been a long time hasn’t it, friends? I bet you thought we’d let the lists fall by the wayside. Alas, that’s not the case, we just got really distracted and never got this post finished. Hopefully we can finish up all the lists by the end of the month. It would just be silly to be releasing lists about 2010 in March.

In case it was so long ago that you forgot, this is part two of our list of albums that got us really excited about the future of bands who should have long careers left in front of them.

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6. Phantogram – Eyelid Movies

B: I remember the first time Scott and I heard Phantogram. We were sitting at one of our favorite cafes in the old neighborhood, (doesn’t the phrase, “the old neighborhood” sound awesome?), Citizen, and one of the baristas/waitresses put on Phantogram. We had no idea who it was at the time, but I remember Scott commenting on the trancy/hip hop sounding beat that opens “When I’m Small” (ironically, enough). Then, the music kicked in over the beat, and we were smitten. The female vocals, the guitar, the keyboards, the harmonies, they are married together so well by this duo. More recently, I’ve heard some negative things about their live show, but you know what? Fuck it, I don’t see how Phantogram’s live show would be lacking in any way. They make fun, awesome music!

S: As Brian says, this band is just one of the lasting gifts Citizen gave us. If you live in the Seattle area, you need to try out their crepes. Savory and sweet alike, they’re delicious! Anyway, in agreement with Brian’s story, by the time the third song started playing I realized I just had to know who this band was. I had no idea who they might be, but I knew I was falling in love with them. Brian headed downstairs and inquired about who was playing, and Phantogram entered my lexicon forevermore.

According to wikipedia, fellow Upstate New York musician, Matthew Loiacano, (New York State represent!!) called their genre “street beat, psych pop.” Yup, that’s perfect, let’s go with that. This music is perfect for so many occasions: watching it rain, reading, sitting at your laptop in a coffeeshop, doing the robot, looking at sexy pictures of the Mara sisters. Yet, whatever activity you might engage in while listening to Phantogram, that activity will be accompanied by a healthy dose of head nodding.


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7. Caribou – Swim

S: Wow, we sure did pick a ton of electronic music this year. I guess it was just a good year for the genre.

I’d never listened to Caribou before this year, even though Daniel Victor Snaith has been around for a long time, first as Manitoba, then as Caribou. [via@wikipedia]

Between Seattle coffeehouses and emusic’s constant ravings, it was impossible to escape this album. That’s a fact for which I am enormously grateful. Unlike the other electronic acts we’ve mentioned so far, Caribou is more traditional. He’s more what you would expect when you hear the genre mentioned. He also represents the absolute best of what the genre can offer. According to last.fm, “he incorporates electronic psychedelia, krautrock rhythms, and breakbeat drums and creates a swirling, lush, musical panorama” Yep, I don’t really have anything to add to that.

B: “Lush” and “swirling” were the exact adjectives that first came to mind when I heard Caribou. Actually, I don’t know that I can sum up their sound better than last.fm. “Musical panorama” conjures up such rich imagery. The album art, even, gives you a sense of what you’re in store for with Swim. It’s like a carnival funhouse at times, with its distorted synths, and rotating speaker effects. Listening to the album is like spinning, but alternating fast and slow. And it won’t make you dizzy, but will make you want to get up and move. I suppose now would be a good time to look into Daniel Victor Snaith’s older stuff, and then buy everything new he comes out with from now on.

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8. Deerhunter – Halcyon Digest

B: First off, one of the best songs of the year is “Helicopter”.

If I can attempt to describe Deerhunter’s sound on this album: It’s like lo-fi bedroom pop with noise pop elements. Subdued and nuanced. Bradford Cox makes an album that feels like it was recorded in a bedroom, with manufactured reverb and quiet vocals, but sounds like a record full of space. I am reminded a bit of the Magnetic Fields at times, and the Pixies other times. I know I just did this, but I hate comparing because I feel it takes away from the originality of the music. The music is good. It sometimes sounds like other good music. Deerhunter is good. Buy this album.

S: You know those movies about best friends who fall in love? The one where there is never a love at first sight moment, but instead two people who fit together and everyone can see how perfect they are but the two of them, until one day, for some reason or another, they realize they could never consider living another moment apart… that’s how I feel about this album.

There was never a moment when I was listening to it and lightning struck and thought, “Who the hell are these guys?!?” Instead, it was a slow-burning movement that grew without me realizing it, until now I want this album on my playlist, I need this album on my playlist.

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9. Mumford & Sons – Sigh No More

B: I feel like it’s inevitable. I can hear them now, “Mumford & Sons are the British Avett Brothers.”

Sure, there are similarities in instrumentation and vocal harmonies, but Mumford & Sons aren’t some band ripping off another band’s sound (they aren’t!). They are fucking legit. Serious musical chops. And amazing literary lyrics. A long, bright future lies before them!

S: These guys are wonderful. I couldn’t really believe how much I loved this album on the very first listen, and more all the time with each listen afterward.

I think we may have dodged the bullet Brian was talking about, with them being compared to other bands, because at this point that probably would have happened already.

However, sadly, there is still the Christian bullet to dodge. Most bands can’t get away with being Christians while maintaining indie cred. Sure, it happens, like with Sufjan, but it’s rare.

You can always get away with using biblical metaphors for story-telling, like Sam Beam, Leonard Cohen, Josh Ritter and M. Ward. The problem comes when people start to realize you might actually believe the things you’re saying beyond pure metaphor.

Forget the fact that everyone creates art from a certain vantage point, that everybody hold a worldview full of bias and presuppositions. Our culture isn’t big on nuance, even hipster culture. So, understanding the difference between evangelicalism and faith isn’t always at the forefront of people’s minds.

Mumford and Sons do have some sort of faith, the specifics of which I am ignorant of, and I don’t care enough to look deeper into it. Their music can easily be heard from a universal level, with songs about life that jive with a person of faith, like myself, an agnositic, or an atheist stuck alongside me in the human condition.

To be honest, the lyrics that have gotten the most flack only indicate the ignorance of the harsher critics. The lyrics in question are quoting folks like Steinbeck and Shakespeare (the title of the album, for instance, is Shakespeare). The first line on the album is / serve God / love me / and mend /, but they aren’t quoting Billy Graham or Pat Robertson here, that’s Shakespeare dumb-asses.

“Serve God, love me and mend. There will I leave you too, for here comes one in haste.” -Much Ado About Nothing

Stop assuming all people of faith are as illiterate as Sarah Palin and… well… read a book.

I know, that’s the second time in the last few weeks that I’ve bitched about that, I promise it’s the last time for a while. I just get really tired of ignorance and fundamentalism, especially when it’s parading around as “reason.”

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10. Janelle Monáe – The ArchAndroid (Suites II and III)

S: The fusion of R&B, Hip Hop, Pop, etc. is bound to continue. It’s not going anywhere. Fortunately, if it looks anything like Janelle Monáe, we’re all in good hands.

While on one side of the spectrum you have absurd, semi-coherent ramblings and garbage music of Will.I.Am and The Black Eyed Peas, you still have the other side of the spectrum, and Janelle Monáe is that side of the spectrum’s rightful queen. My friends, Long Live the Queen!!

Sure, the concept album is nothing new. Nor is the album as rock opera. Yet, Monae upped the ante, with a three suite Hip Hopera that refuses to bow to cliche, genre, stereotype or whatever other limits you might have in mind. For this ambitious and well-achieved story, Metropolis, she draws from lots of various influences, although most clearly from the 1927 silent film of the same name.

There are all sorts of messianic themes, lots of sci-fi (obviously),and loads of musical talent. All this in the service of her greater message, which appears to be speaking out against prejudice and marginalization of ‘the Other.’ Oh yeah, and dancing, lots and lots of dancing.

Monáe really is a singular talent, and I really hope it isn’t long before she blesses the world with another record.

Embedding is disabled on the video below, but you would do well to watch it at YouTube.

B: Agreed. Agreed. Agreed. She is quite the woman. You’d be hard pressed to find a person of equal talent and ambition in the music industry today … especially one who seemingly flies under the radar. Sure, she’s received some commercial success here and there, but it is in no way in proportion to the quality of what she’s released. Just look at some of the artists Scott mentioned above … Will.i.am? C’mon, if awards and recognition were based solely on talent and quality of product, this chucker would be on the streets somewhere, and Ms. Monae would have to have a house dedicated solely to the housing of awards. And she’d be living the high life, and performing at the Super Bowl halftime show (how awesome would that be for the world?!) Listen to her music! It is brilliant.

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11. Childish Gambino

S: I’ve written about Donald Glover before, and I can assure you I’ll write about him again. He’s a wildly talented young artist best known as Troy on Community.
It honestly doesn’t make sense that he’d be as talented an emcee as he is.

He’s not a joke emcee, but his rhymes are still hilarious because his turns of phrase are so cleverly turned. It proves to me that I don’t need Hip Hop to be conscious, I just need it to be smart.

I wonder if perhaps through the various creative outlets he utilizes, Glover is baring different parts of himself to the world. If so, Hip Hop is his venue for articulating his love of vice; mostly the classics, like sex and alcohol. Whatever the case, this is not a novelty project that I listen to from time to time out of mere amusement. This is as good as the rest of the Hip Hop I listen to, and better than the garbage most often on the radio.

B: Donald Glover is the man. On what other hip hop album do you get sincere props dropped to Tina Fey?

Maybe you know him from his writing days on “30 Rock”, maybe you know him from his comedy troupe, “Derrick Comedy”, or maybe you know him for what most people do, Troy from “Community”. However you know him, be prepared to know him differently. Be prepared to know him as Childish Gambino.

Childish Gambino first came onto the radar of RtM when he released two different mix tapes earlier in 2010. He rapped over indie songs. And it was good. Really good. Surprisingly good. You can download them for free here and here.

You wonder where he finds the time and the talent to do all that he does. Between his writing, his standup act, his role on Community, he not only writes all the lyrics for his tracks, but he makes the beats and produces too. He is a phenom. Like Scotty said, it doesn’t make sense how good he is at everything he does. Let’s hope he doesn’t burn out from doing too much. Can’t wait for the next mixtape to drop!

It’s impossible to pick a Childish Gambino song to include, fortunately, you can download it all for free so that makes it easy to listen for yourself. Here he is rapping over a Grizzly Bear song.

Also, here he is showing he can make music that isn’t Hip Hop, that is still great.

My Favorite Books I Read in 2010 (aka, I didn’t read enough last year)

Scott is a machine when it comes to consuming media of different types. And I don’t mean mindlessly consuming media like some idiot who watches primetime CBS. He consumes, and critiques. He delves into it … looking through a pair of finely tuned lenses. You all have seen the brilliant stuff he’s written on here about everything from Kanye to China Miéville, and many things in between … why am I saying all of this??? Well, for one, to kiss his ass because I don’t have a non-music list up yet, but the other reason is to comment on my own lack of consumption … especially when it comes to books.

Last year, I read maybe ten books. Maybe more. But not many more. Luckily, because I live with such well read, lovely people, the quality of these books was high to quite high.

So, here they are, my three favorite books I read in 2010 … (apologies for overlap with Scott’s list)

1. The Book ThiefMarkus Zusak


I suppose in some twisted way, it makes sense that a book that is so painfully human is narrated by Death.

Like Scott, I wept and sobbed tears of the bittersweet variety over the last thirty pages or so. The way Zusak employs the theme of duality, both of people and of words, is breathtaking. The book is so filled to the brim with truth. In the end, when I did find myself sobbing at the pages, it wasn’t so much because of tragedy, but because the hope was so overwhelming in the midst of tragedy. Read this book!

2. No Country for Old Men – Cormac McCarthy


I read four of McCarthy’s works last year: the above mentioned No Country …, The Road, Blood Meridian, and a play called “The Stonemason”. Each word, each paragraph, page, chapter; each book I read, further cemented Mr. McCarthy as one of my favorite authors. To be honest, the choice of No Country was completely arbitrary. Any of his works could be on my list. Scott already spoke of the sparse writing style McCarthy uses in The Road, and it is no different in No Country. Most of us have probably seen the Brothers Coen adaptation on the silver screen. Yes, they are brilliant filmmakers, and it certainly helps when the story you are adapting is so perfectly written. Chigurh’s menacing, stoic demeanor jumps off each page. The tension is perfectly built. McCarthy wrote one of the most terrifying villians in literature in the character of Anton Chigurh.

3. The Heart is a Lonely Hunter – Carson McCullers

I have already written about this book a bit here. But I want to reiterate a few things.

You know when you read something, watch something, see something that so intensely resonates with your soul that you cannot shake it for weeks, even months? That was this book for me.

It’s a book about searching. A book about learning and understanding yourself. The struggle to be understood by your peers. This is what I got from it, ultimately: we are all very different. We come from different places, backgrounds, experiences. We may never see eye to eye on certain things. We may never resolve differences that may exist between us, but when it comes down to it, we are all people. We are all lonely at one time or another. And maybe it is that longing that will always bring people together despite their differences. Maybe I missed a point that was devoid of hope … but I’ll stick with hope.

and i just can’t hide it: the movies of 2011 i’m most excited for. [the first list of 2011.]

Here is one of my favorite lists, the movies of 2011 I’m most excited for.

Granted, it may seem a bit odd for me to be posting a 2011 list before all the 2010 lists are done, but I can’t help myself.

Last year’s list was a pretty good showing. Granted, a few of my choices last year were underwhelming, like Green Zone, Dinner for Schmucks, Alice in Wonderland, and Iron Man 2, (although, I will point out I enjoyed a few of them enough that I think they’re underrated). I also placed Shutter Island in the honorable mention category, which was a mistake, it deserved far more. Clearly, I made some missteps in judgment.

However, there were some, like Inception, Kick Ass, Scott Pilgrim, Toy Story 3, Harry Potter 7.1, and Tron: Legacy that made the list a success.

This year’s list will obviously not be exhaustive. There are plenty of 2011 films I just don’t know enough about yet, so they’ll sadly be missed. The list obviously tends toward blockbuster fare, because those are the films hyped furthest in advance, thus they are on my rader already. Also, I’m a nerd… so.

I could probably come up with honorable mentions all day, but a few off the top of my head would have to include The Hangover 2, Winnie the Pooh, and Moneyball.

Perhaps fewer will be missed this year, as I’m upping the total number of films listed from 10 to 25! With that many movies listed, there will obviously be several duds. I’m just hoping that 13 of these are hits, keeping me over the 50% mark.

Here it is, the most epic list I’ve ever made, in chronological order.

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1. The Adjustment Bureau – March 4

Matt Damon, Emily Blunt, and John Slattery in an adaptation of a Philip K. Dick story. Yes, please.

Granted, Ben Affleck is Damon’s buddy, and he was in the atrocious Dick adaptation, Paycheck, but while he is certainly impressing with his directorial work, Affleck is no Matt Damon!

I know Emily and I will at least enjoy the film on a visual level. With Emily Blunt and Matt Damon involved, we’d probably pay 10 bucks to watch the movie with the volume off.

The premise definitely has potential, and I’m really hoping this will be a good time at the movies.

[The trailer below is actually a short featurette.]

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Continue reading

fictionista. [books, the many lists of 2010.]

I’ve always wanted to read 50 books in a year. I made the commitment that 2011 will be that year. In 2010, I read 37.

Mostly, I read fiction and literature. I try to keep reading fiction steadily throughout the year. Stories help keep me alive.

Here are the ten works of fiction I loved most last year. They aren’t books that actually came out last year, I am pretty sure I only read a single book that actually came out in 2010 (Mockingjay). These are just my favorite books that I read for the first time in 2010.

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1. The Book Thief – Markus Zusak

As I’ve written before, “It’s hard to know how to describe this book, so instead I’ll allow look to words from the story’s final page; ‘The Book Thief’ is, “so ugly and so glorious, and its words and stories are damning and brilliant.”

I wept through a good number of the final 30 pages.

Everyone should read this book.”

Narrated by Death, the story takes place in Nazi Germany. Death becomes intrigued by a little girl who keeps turning up as Death busily moves about in wartorn Germany; a little girl who steals a book the first time Death sees her. Death begins keeping tabs on the girl, and then recounts her story to us.

Zusak tells a story that is so achingly tragic, and yet filled with geniune goodness.

I believe that stories and books can save the world. I also believe that very many stories are true, and a few of them actually happened. This is one of those stories that didn’t actually happen, but is so very, very true.

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2. Never Let Me Go – Kazuo Ishiguro

I’ve already written about this one, so I’ll just link to that.

The book was on nearly every “Best of the Decade” list I’ve come across, and I can see why.

Since I’ve already said quite a bit about the book, I’ll look to some other reviewers to offer corroborative testimony.

The Guardian called the book “extraordinary,” as well as, “frighteningly clever.”

Yet, the Telegraph had the money quote that most closely mirrored my sentiments: “In its evocation of a pervasive menace and despair almost but not quite lost in translation – made up of the shadows of things not said, glimpsed out of the corner of one’s eye – the novel is masterly.”

True.

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3. Catch-22 – Joseph Heller

A great portion of the time, I feel like I must be absolutely insane. If I let myself go, I would probably revert to a state of constantly looking around at everyone else with a look of perpetual incredulity, pointing at the crazy shit that happens in this world, asking, “Am I the only one seeing this?”

All the baffling, batshit crazy, demonstrably false things people get away with saying will quite literally never cease to flabbergast me. People do and say so much that is not only false, but is quite easy to prove as false, and yet the cries of ‘bullshit’ are written off as liberal media bias, or homosexual agenda, or un-American, or elitist. Folks who tell the truth are written off as religious quacks or godless heretics.

We are all so carefully practiced at believing the particular bullshit that suits us, so we have to turn a blind eye to the bullshit that suits someone else.

Thankfully, God gave the world Joseph Heller, who reminded me that in a context that is fucking insane, it’s only the crazy people who are sane.

Reason doesn’t get much help these days, the world is mostly run by bureaucrats and fundamentalists, and whenever you think you’ve got them beat, you learn there’s a catch.

This book was delightfully reminiscent of a great conversation with friends over good wine or coffee, cathartically ranting about how crazy things really are. However, Heller takes that conversation and ups the clever quotient by around a billion.

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4. The Hunger Games Trilogy – Suzanne Collins

The films are on their way. Thus, shortly most everyone will probably be familiar with the story of Katniss Everdeen of District 12.

These books, set in post-apocalypse North America, are remarkably engaging and Collins’ depiction of the effects of violence on the young is unflinching.

There were moments the books could have gone one of two ways: the choice was to either be undemanding and cloying, or honest. Collins always chose to be honest to the narrative, even when the reader was hoping otherwise.

Some might feel that’s unsatisfying, I felt quite the opposite.

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5. Perdido Street Station – China Miéville

It’s pretty much impossible for me to describe this book at all. It’s not because I’ll give something away, it’s just that Miéville’s story, set in a fantasy world centered in the city of New Crobuzon, is so unique and involved that it would take far too long to give even a general outline.

Miéville’s world of Bas-Lag is a dark, gritty, steampunk world populated by a myriad of humanoid creatures that have to be read to be believed.

This guy is really smart, and by no means would you call this “easy reading.” Fun, yes. Easy, no. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying you’ll need a degree in literature to enjoy the book, it’s just the sort of book that has to be engaged fully. This isn’t the sort of novel to be flipped through half-attentively, or else you’ll have no idea what the hell is going on.

Yet, it’s most certainly rewarding, enough so to make it more than worth your time. After 20 pages or so Miéville’s voice becomes more familiar and the harder part of the reading is actually putting the book down once in a while. This was one of those delightful times when I realized during my reading of the book that I’d be sure to read everything the author has ever written, and in this case, whatever he continues to write.

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6. The Graveyard Book – Neil Gaiman

By chance, a toddler escapes his home as a knife in the dark claims the rest of his family. Wandering into the local graveyard, the boy is taken in by the resident ghosts, protected from the danger that still looms without, and granted Freedom of the Graveyard, offering special privileges and powers which can only be bestowed by the residents of a graveyard.

Nobody, as the boy comes to be called, is cared for by the mysterious Silas, the only other resident of the graveyard who is not dead (although, he isn’t exactly alive either).

This is a really great story, at times made up of many smaller stories. Filled with Gaiman’s trademark style, the story is darkly magical and fantastic. Any chance I get to spend in Gaiman’s imagination is well worth the price of admission, and this book was no different.

The Graveyard Book is full of humor, sadness, beauty and above all, wonder. It’s Gaiman at the top of his game.

This book made me wish I myself had grown up in a graveyard, with all the quirky, idiosyncratic personalities from across the various ages of history.

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7. Fragile Things: Short Fictions and Wonders – Neil Gaiman

Mr. Gaiman made it on the list twice, the only author to do so this year.

I’ve already written about this book at length, so I’ll just direct those interested to that.

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8. The Picture of Dorian Gray – Oscar Wilde

I assume that while there may be folks, like me, who never got around to reading this one in their youth, everyone at least knows the general story of a silly young man who makes a flippant wish, only to see the terrible consequences of what happens when that wish comes true.

Wilde was such a sagacious satirist of his culture. His genius leaps off the page from each sentence.

The thing that particularly impressed me was Wilde’s ability to put brilliant arguments and rationalizations in the mouths of his characters, so that one can’t help be see the grains of truth as well as the  lies the characters used to prop up their own morally ambiguous (and at times detestable) decisions and behavior. The dialogue lies like truth. Like in life, it was often hard to know where the truth ended and the lie began.

You can certainly sense the reality that Wilde was a playwright above all, but I do wish he had left the world a few more novels to cherish.

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9. The Power and the Glory – Graham Greene

I loved this book. This tale of a whiskey priest, on the run in a past-time Mexico where Catholicism is illegal, who continues to convince himself that his human weakness and frailty prohibit him from having anything to offer the people of Mexico. He almost never seems to notice that it is his human weakness and frailty that is his greatest offering. It is when he is “holy” and pious that he does the most harm, and when he is being honest and authentic that he transforms the lives around him with truth and beauty, seemingly blind to the profound impact he was having on those around him.

I must confess, before reading this book for a class, Graham Greene wasn’t on my radar at all. Well, he’s now taken up permanent residence right in the middle of my radar. He wrote with the simple, sparse power of Hemingway. The story and characters were so tragic and ordinary, and yet also full of life-changing power.

This book wasn’t just enjoyable, it quite literally changed the way I look at myself as a human being.

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10. The Road – Cormac McCarthy

The story of a father and a son attempting to make their way to the south after the apocalypse. Marked, as the world around them is, by profound violence and tragedy, the two attempt to carry hope in the midst of seemingly utter hopelessness.

As always, McCarthy’s writing is so sparse it doesn’t even include quotation marks. It works perfectly here, in this tense world in which the violence of a cannibalistic humanity is always waiting around the corner. At times, I was practically holding my breath while reading, because the prose was so quiet, I didn’t want to disturb the unfolding story. Or, perhaps I was so engaged in the narrative that I didn’t want to alert the story’s various villains to the location of the hiding father and son by breathing too loudly.

To be so relentlessly true to his vision of such a violent world, and yet still leave the reader with hope is quite the feat. McCarthy pulls it off beautifully.

just getting started, part one. [music, the many lists of 2010.]

This list has been in the works for far too long, as we’ve been adding more and more bands. Thus, here is part one, and we’ll get your part two very soon. Promise.

These are bands that are still early in their careers, maybe this is their first album, maybe it’s their sophomore work, either way, they’re artists on the rise. Each of these bands has us crazy excited to see what comes next, in what will hopefully be long careers marked by innovation and talent.

1. The Local Natives – Gorilla Manor

Brian: The Local Natives make catchy indie pop tunes with tight harmonies, and catchy melodies. I’m trying hard not to compare them to other bands, but that proves be to a bit hard, anyway. Scott does a fantastic job of articulating this better than I could.

The record is really catchy. I feel like The Local Natives are one of only a handful of bands (a large handful, considering how many bands are out there) that can make an album full of songs where none deserve to be skipped. Every song could be a hit.

Scott: I got this album thanks to last.fm. “Sun Hands” kept playing on my listener radio, and before I knew it, I’d bought the CD and was hooked. With all the bands I’ve been hearing about forever, only to finally get around to listening, it was nice to have a band come completely out of left field like this. They weren’t on my radar at all, and I went from having never heard of them to having them constantly in my playlists in mere days.

Gorilla Manor reminds me of Vampire Weekend, in that the band plays with various “World” rhythm styles at times. The album also reminds me again of Vampire Weekend, and also of Grizzly Bear, in that they are at once fun and earnest. According to Wikipedia, they are actually at times referred to as a sort of “West Coast Grizzly Bear.” Which, in one sense, is fair, while in another is a bit too dismissive of what The Local Natives bring to the table.

Either way, this album is good listening!

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2. Holy Fuck – Latin

B: Holy Fuck are a different type of electronic band … when you think of the electronic genre, maybe you first think of instrument loops and programmed elements. Holy Fuck does whatever they can to leave those conventions behind for live instrumentation. This aspect almost lends an organic, improvisational feel to their music as compared to more traditional electronic acts.

Latin, Holy Fuck’s latest offering, is fun and energetic. It possesses the raw, live feel of a show, but it is also polished and tight. They seem to have found their niche, and are clearly excelling. It is very safe to say that we here at RtM are excited to see what else Holy Fuck comes to the table with moving forward.

S: Holy Fuck offer exactly what I would expect from a band called Holy Fuck, a fun, sexy, electronic party in musical form.

Like Brian said, you won’t find electronica here. We get a band who avoids that overused subgenre to remind us all that electronic music is far bigger than music for a rave, a big part of it is using real drums and bass. It sounds like these guys love playing music together, and the fun they have making it works its way into your earholes and keeps your mind-grapes juicy.

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3. Lay Low – Farewell Good Night’s Sleep

S: Sparse, gentle, adorable American folk/country… from Iceland. Lay Low is great music for the dreary days of Reykjavík or Seattle.

Like so many great artists, this music can be the soundtrack for a broken heart. Not angry, no wallowing, this is a lullaby, a gentle kiss to see you off to sleep in the hopes that things will be a little better in the morning.

B: I agree. Lay Low’s music is  bluesy, folky, and country all wrapped into a nice little package that sounds like the music you’d hear on 1970s AM radio. She plays music that sounds old, and seems to sing from the heart of an old soul. The way the record was recorded sounds as if it should be played on vinyl and would totally blend in seamlessly when played after that George Jones record your dad used to play.

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4. Yeasayer – Odd Blood


S: I fell fast. I fell hard. This love was made to last forever.

I’ve already written enough about this album here.

B: These guys are pretty awesome. We knew this after 2007’s All Hour Cymbals. But, if there was any question, they’ve left no doubts now. Odd Blood is a complete album. It is dynamic in its pacing and contrast. There may not be a better pair of back to back songs than “Madder Red” and “O.N.E.”, though each track prior and after is pretty damn awesome too. The trajectory of Yeasayer after their first two albums is straight up, with no slump in site. To quote Spin magazine’s review of Odd Blood, “Where did this come from, and what’s coming next?”

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5. Breathe Owl Breathe – Magic Central

B: Beardy, caped goodness.

Apparently, Breathe Owl Breathe have been known to wear capes while performing. Lead vocalist Micah Middaugh has a pretty epic beard (even by indie standards). I will not be convinced otherwise that these two factors lead to the greatness of this band. Magic Central is an album full of acoustic guitars, cello, banjo, and soothing male/female vocals. It’s lovely Michigan-made music that sounds like it was made in and for the Pacific Northwest.

S: I’ve already done this with Local Natives, but I need to give credit where credit is due. Whereas I got into The Local Natives because of last.fm, I discovered Breathe Owl Breathe thanks to the greatest radio station in the universe, KEXP. Afternoon DJ Kevin Cole kept playing their music and singing the praises of this year’s album, Magic Central.

I enjoyed “Dogwalkers of the New Age” enough to pick up the whole album, and the rest is history. Brian’s right, you can practically hear the beard in Micah’s vocals, which are sweet and soft and perfect for story-time. I have really terrible insomnia, but I bet that if this man read to me every night, I would be sleeping peacefully in no time.

Really folks, this is beautiful stuff.

heroes. [movies, the many lists of 2010.]

1. Dom Cobb – Inception

Alright haters, let’s get this straight one last time. Stop saying Inception failed to do what Dark City, or Eternal Sunshine, or Debbie Does Dallas did. Inception wasn’t trying to be all those other movies it is continually compared to. It was not a philosophical rumination on the nature of dreams, it was not meant to be the Citizen Kane of post-modern philosophy, it was not meant to get at any deep concept of what love is.

It’s attempt was to use the world of dreams as the backdrop for a kick-ass heist film, albeit with plenty of relational drama for our antagonist. Maybe you think it succeeded, maybe you think it didn’t, but you aren’t allowed to create your own imaginary comparisons to decide if a movie was successful. For example, you can decide to hate Jack-Ass 3D because you didn’t enjoy watching it, or as is true in my case, never plan to watch it, but it’s asinine to say it sucked because Knocked Up did a better job engaging what it means to finally become a real adult. You know, come to think of it, The Jerk sucked because Citizen Kane did a better job showing how a man might lose his soul as he gains success. And, Die Hard sucked because The Godfather II does a better job showing the impact men of violence have on a family. See that, I can use parallels in film to create bizarre criteria for film criticism too. Hooray!

If you want to compare Inception to a movie, or say it copied a genre, you need look no further than The Sting or Ocean’s 11. It’s not a big secret, just pay fucking attention and it’s pretty obvious. That’s the sort of movie they were trying to make, just in a way we’ve never seen before. Mission accomplished, bitches.

Yes, folks, this was a heist film.

Now, for a heist film to be entertaining, one of the primary needs is an engaging ringleader who is remarkably good at what they do, facing their toughest heist yet. Inception had that in spades, with Leo keeping shit real throughout the duration of our flight.

This fearless leader also needs a trusty side-kick to keep them honest (see Joseph Gordon-Levitt, or Brad Pitt in Ocean’s 11), a rich person to back the mission for one reason or another (see Ken Watanabe, or Elliott Gould in Ocean’s 11), some talented accomplices they’ve used on previous missions, who they recruit because they need the best (see Tom Hardy, or most of the team in Ocean’s 11), and a young protegé full of potential, so that our ringleader can explain how things work to the audience… I mean to the protegé (see Ellen Page, or Matt Damon in Ocean’s 11).

Still, it all revolves around the central ringleader. Leo kicked ass in this role. He was the perfect mix of swagger, skill, fear, and edge of sanity desperation. He brought a beautiful amount of depth and emotion to the role, enabling most audiences to care about whether or not that damned top stopped spinning.

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2. Scott Pilgrim – Scott Pilgrim vs. the World


Ah, Scott Pilgrim. Our lovable everynerd.

The clueless slacker who can’t get shit sorted out. Yet, in the end, he finally grows up enough to make peace with his greatest enemy of all. Himself.

Loved the novels. Loved this movie. Love Scott Pilgrim.

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3. Hit Girl – Kick-Ass


The messages about the failure to protect children, the harm of violence, etc. is totally lost because the movie is just so fun to watch.

I love this badass little preteen.

She had me at, “Okay, you cunts. Let’s see what you can do now.”

Profanity, FTW!

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4. Kevin Flynn – Tron: Legacy

Tron: Legacy was a movie which, for some reason, I was expecting to disappoint me. I kept that to myself, not wanting to speak some sort of self-fulfilling prophecy into existence. Perhaps it was the fact critics were split down the middle on the film. I know, I’m not normally the guy who listens to critics, but Rotten Tomatoes does offer a cumulative value that one single critic doesn’t, so, universal praise or disdain will at least get me to think twice. Whatever the reason, it was in the back of my mind that the film was going to fall flat with me. I’m glad I was wrong.

I loved Tron: Legacy, as did my decidedly non-nerd wife. Many of the unfair critiques of Inception could be more fairly made of T:L. You aren’t going to see me giving it any awards for dialogue, or emotional depth, etc. In a lot of ways, it was similar to last year’s Avatar, in that it was a hugely visual spectacle, offering something we haven’t seen before, but it didn’t go crazy in the story department. It was pretty straightforward, sometimes a little silly. Although, I should point out that in my opinion, while you can draw comparisons to Avatar, Tron was infinitely more enjoyable as a movie-going experience. This was the most pure fun I had at the movies this year.

Seeing Flynn back, after lifetimes in The Grid, was pretty damned cool for a child of the 80’s like me. In a way, Flynn was what Neo should have been in the 2nd and 3rd Matrix movies. I know Flynn didn’t do much in the way of fighting, but even just the single scene in the club, when Flynn shows up and everything changes, was more excitement than Neo offered through four-ish hours of movie in Reloaded and Revolutions.

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5. Rooster Cogburn – True Grit


Yup, Jeff Bridges made it on the list TWICE. Any chance Rooster Cogburn secures him the honor of back to back Academy Awards for Best Actor? Which would also mean that two different actors win the award for playing the same character. Improbable, but definitely possible.

As I’ve already made clear during the Western manifestation of  ‘Another Day. Another Movie,’ my unique inability to enjoy John Wayne’s flat, seemingly drunken delivery of lines resulted in me hating this character in the original film. Yet, I wasn’t worried going into this one, because the role was in the capable hands of the Coen Bros. and The Dude.

Even so, I wasn’t ready for just how great all the characters and performances in this movie would be. While it’s not the Coen Brothers’ best film by any means, I do think it’s their most accessible.

True Grit is really funny, like, laugh-out-loud funny, and that’s in large part due to Bridges and his prickly, drunken, violent man of the American West.

If I had unlimited money, I think I would see if Jeff Bridges would be willing to spend two weeks with me, if I in turn donated a ton of cash to charity; the first week he’d be The Dude the whole time, the second week he’d be Rooster Cogburn.

Yeah, I like that idea. Does anyone have a whole mess of money and the number for Mr. Bridges’ agent?

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6. Bonnie – Toy Story 3


Folks, don’t believe the lies. It seems common to buy into the myth that cynicism, fear, skepticism, and criticism are the best postures to maintain as an intelligent adult.

Bullshit.

Sure, healthy skepticism and critical thinking skills are necessary, but think back on the greatest minds in history. Inventors, authors, innovators, world changers. How many of those folks could be characterized first and foremost as cynics and skeptics and folks driven by fear? Not many. Innovation and creativity come from the realm of wonder and imagination, often to a childlike degree.

I’m not arguing for everything to be puppy dogs and rainbows. My favorite storytellers most often have imaginations characterized as ‘dark.’ Yet, even some of the more darkly, even cynically creative folks of the past, like Hemingway or Vonnegut or Heller, etc., couldn’t escape the pull toward imaginative creation. Pure cynicism doesn’t allow for creation, because, you know… what’s the point?

Dark wonder is still wonder. For example, from today, the macabre imaginations of Gaiman and del Toro are still wildly beautiful and redemptive. Darkness and death are realities we cannot escape, why not engage them through the lens of creativity and mystery.

Anyway. Enter, Bonnie. Girl had imagination to spare. Her life was overflowing with beauty and mystery and magic.

I want to be more like her.

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7. Hiccup & Toothless – How to Train Your Dragon

I’ve already written about these two lovable rascals at length.

One of my favorite on-screen relationships of 2010, they are certainly characters I will enjoy coming back to for years to come.

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8. Rapunzel & Flynn Ryder – Tangled

Wha..? Three of the movies in my heroes list are animated films? What am I, like 12? No, wait, lots of 12-year-olds pretend to hate animated movies. What am I, like 9?

Well, in my defense, I’ll at least point out that two of the animated films on this list were on Quentin Tarantino’s list of ten favorite films of 2010, Tangled being one of the two (granted, the second half of his ‘top 20’ list gets a bit insane, what with Knight and Day and Robin Hood being on there, but, whatever).

Tangled was supposedly Disney’s last fairy tale for the foreseeable future. Well, they left the princess game in style.

**spoilers**

They continued to distance themselves from the tired concept of ‘Princess needs a handsome prince to save her,’ which is wonderful. She doesn’t need Flynn Ryder, she just loves him anyway. She’s the leader. She’s the truly charismatic one. He dies for her, but she saves him with her love, the way princes have been doing for princesses in Disney films since Snow White started it all. Plus, even when he dies for her he does so because she inspires him to be better than he was before. Her goodness is contagious.

As for Flynn Ryder, it was refreshing they didn’t go through the ‘lapses back into his old ways’ routine, where he leaves her to sell her out and then comes back later. He is on her side all along, and she just thinks he leaves her when he is kidnapped.

Plus, he’s voiced by Zachary Levi, and I love that guy. Even though he is making those dumb Xfinity commercials for Comcast.

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9. Aaron Sorkin – The Social Network

There are no two ways about it: the man is a screenwriting god.

As soon as the movie was over… hell, before the movie was over, I was thinking to myself, ‘Sweet Lord, this screenplay is perfect.’

He really is staggeringly good. I was right there with everyone else, thinking, ‘Okay, I’m down with Sorkin, but a movie about Facebook? I’m not so sure I’ll ever want to watch that.’ Yet, great writing, direction, and acting made this movie easily one of my favorite films of the year, and as the critical awards and kudos continue to roll out, it appears I’m far from the only one who can say that.

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10. Darren Aronofsky – Black Swan


Holy shit. Black Swan was amazing. Truly, unbelievably amazing!

Talking to Emily after we watched it, I told her I wished I could watch it again for the first time, just to experience it again, fresh. And I truly mean ‘experience.’ That’s the only way to accurately describe how I felt watching this movie. I experienced it.

The storytelling was absolutely stunning. Even the disturbing moments were never too disturbing, they were just disturbing enough to serve the story.

A beautiful film about beauty and perfection and brokenness and sexuality and abuse and fear and art and death and performance and power and relationship and madness and the uncomfortable reality that these things can never be totally separated, at least not in the world we currently inhabit. Oh yeah, and it’s about a ton of other shit as well. Layers people, layers!

And all the while, it was Aronofsky at the helm. He’s done so much brilliant work before, I don’t really get how he can leave all those other films behind so completely with the achievement of Black Swan, but Caucasian managed to pull it off.

P.S. – Clearly, those last two entries make it clear who gets my vote for Best Director and Best Screenplay this year.

as seen on tv. [the many lists of 2010.]

I didn’t actually keep track of tv shows I watched in 2010. I should have, like Kj did, but I failed to do so.

I’ll have to remember to do that this year. In the future, I would like to actually do this as a season specific thing, but I need to keep track before I can do that.

To be on the list, they didn’t have to air this year, I just had to watch at least one full season for the first time this year.

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1. Archer

Let’s see… today is the 6th, which means we have two weeks and five days until the new season starts. Rejoice!

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2. Dexter

Em and I are dreadfully behind in our Dexter episodes. We really need to use this week to catch all the way up. So many shows, so little time.

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3. Community

The second season started a bit slow, but then kicked into ‘awesome’ gear again.

I love how layered all of the show’s references are. There are the really obvious overarching pop culture references, like the Goodfellas/Godfather episode, or the Space Camp/The Right Stuff/Apollo 13 episode, etc. Yet, they also have tiny little references I don’t catch until I’ve seen an episode two or three times; tiny moments of dialogue, the way someone drops their pepper water gun, or even the fact that early in season one, Troy and Jeff are jokingly referencing Gillian Jacobs’ caracter in Choke as they leave a classroom.

Also, they gave me my favorite holiday special ever.

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4. Sherlock

This show is fantastic. Only three 90 minute episodes in Series One, so it left Emily and me wanting so much more. Episode two was a little meh, but one and three were so very entertaining.

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5. Doctor Who

Along with Sherlock, Doctor Who ensures that 2 of these 10 shows are somehow related to Steven Moffat.

The man is a television god. “The Empty Child”/”The Doctor Dances,” the first two episodes he wrote for Doctor Who, back in ’05, were my favorite from the revamp’s first year. Then, he churned out great episodes in every season after that, including the Carey Mulligan episode.

Perhaps the most impressive thing he’s done is make a fifth season I am enjoying so much. I’m not going to lie, I cried like a big fat baby watching David Tennant’s last episode, so it was a tall order to win me over to some fancy new Doctor. Somehow, it took Moffat’s ‘revamped revamp’ about 5 minutes and I was totally in.

This show also gets more accessible every season, to the point that Doctor Who spinoff ‘Torchwood‘ (which, you’ll notice, is an anagram of Doctor Who) is moving to the states via Stars.

Anyway, if the Doctor ever starts taking male companions around with him on a more regular basis, I’m taking my talents to the TARDIS.

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6. Castle

As I was making this list, I realized that Nathan Fillion is probably known to many in the country as ‘that guy from Castle.’

This makes me sad. He has so much more to offer.

Yet, that’s not entirely bad. I think everybody can use a light detective drama in their life, to unwind without having to invest heavily on a mental level. This just happens to be the best one of those out there. The writings is usually pretty good for the genre, the characters are all likeable, and the show is clever and witty.

When you get that while also getting to bask in the sexiness of Stana Katic and Nathan Fillion, it’s a win, win, win.

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7. The Walking Dead

This adaptation of the graphic novels doesn’t disappoint. Although, I am soooo curious where they are going in season two, since they diverged so much from the end of the first volume of the books.

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8. Lost

The end of Lost certainly fits into that ‘Love it or Hate it’ category. While there were certainly disappointments, and plenty could have been more satisfying, I am still most definitely one of those seated in the ‘Love’ section.

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9. 30 Rock

I have one pet peeve, something maybe everyone else can help me out with. During the first episode of 30 Rock, The Girlie Show was already a thing. Then, Jack came to town, made Lemon hire Tracy Jordan, and rebranded the show as TGS with Tracy Jordan. Still, it’s the same show, just a rebranding, like when Saturday Night Live changed their branding to SNL, or American Movie Classics changed their branding to AMC. So, my question is, why does the show always pretend that TGS is only as old as 30 Rock? They celebrate 30 Rock milestones ‘in show,’ by pretending they are at the same milestones in TGS. What’s the deal there? Am I just missing something? Help a brother out.

Aside from that, this show is amazing. The best guest appearances, awesome inside jokes, hilarious writing, and the remarkable ability to have a show that still has me laughing out loud in season five. What is this, Seinfeld?

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10. Deadwood

Slow, dark, gritty, angry, violent, and brilliant.

This show follows along so closely with the historical account of how things went down in the actual Deadwood, it’s got much more reality than so called ‘reality tv.’