Kultur Klatch / Favorite Best Songs of 2010, Part 2 of 4

“Song” / Artist / Album

Call Me When You’re Sober” / DJ Nate / Da Trak Genious
“As with jungle or breakcore, the velocity of some of the breakbeats lend a feeling of aggression or machismo, but aside from the odd monster bassline that might have been ripped from an M.O.P. joint circa 2001 or whatever, Nate’s sound is so slender – if he worked in analogue, he could probably make most of this on a four-track – that it never feels oppressive. He also uses a slew of female vocals, most notably on ‘Call Me When You’re Sober’ – yes, that is an extra-squeaky Amy Lee that Nate’s scalpeled out of that fuck-awful Evanescence song. Works rather well, actually. Sometimes he’ll use voices in a way that pretty much divorces them from gender, such as the robotic call-and-response amidst the fucked-up electro styles of ‘Go Hard’. That, or just running together a loop of the lyric `he ain’t ‘bout shit’ so it sounds like `emotion’.”  (Noel Gardner, Drowned In Sound)

Burden of Tomorrow” / The Tallest Man On Earth / The Wild Hunt
“`Less is more’ may be a cliche, but that doesn’t mean musicians often heed that advice. Swedish singer-songwriter Kristian Matsson, who performs and records as The Tallest Man on Earth, follows it religiously. The guy knows when he has a song, and he doesn’t try to dress up music that stands alone. That would explain the skeletal structure of `Burden of Tomorrow,’ but the song’s raw emotion makes additional ornamentation unnecessary; aside from a bit of spectrally faint keyboard in the background, he’s the show. Still, Matsson’s vocal delivery is anything but understated. Affectionately worn like a dog-eared book, his voice has a gravelly quality to it. In `Burden of Tomorrow,’ it helps paint a picture of a mysterious figure whose origin story sounds like that of a superhero. His actions are just and his identity stays sealed, but there’s no need for a revelation when Matsson’s words stand out so poetically over the music: `But, hell, I’m just a blind man on the plains / I drink my water when it rains / and live by chance among the lightning strikes.’ In terms of sound, it’s nothing huge, but when it comes to passion, The Tallest Man on Earth can be spotted from miles away.”   (Anthony Fantano, NPR)

Latest Heartbreak” /  22-20s / Shake/Shiver/Moan
“22-20s’ recent single off of their debut album is called `Latest Heartbreak’ and it’s definitely a bigger hit than most people might assume. Taking the stage as front-man, Trimble’s voice is presented as almost creepy and mysterious, but it manages to fit the type of sound 22-20s are going for. The background music that the rest of the band performs can be described as sporadic, blues-like and booming– extremely delightful to the ears. The drumming is simple and upbeat, while the hyper guitar riffs give such a tune a bit of flavor.”  (Nadia Vega, Review Fix)

No Brakes” / Holger / Sunga
Some part of Gogol Bordello meets some part of the Talking Heads in the year 2010.

Angel Echoes” (BBC Session) / Four Tet / There Is Love In You
“The album begins with a crisp cymbal tap on `Angel Echoes’ that sounds perfectly live until a quick digital stutter comes a few bars in, and then a clipped female voice, reduced to just syllables but still conveying a strong sense of yearning, begins looping into view. There are bells, a steady midtempo 4/4 kick, and that voice, and that’s about it. But `Angel Echoes’, like most of the record that follows, is strangely moving in spite of its limited toolkit. After it ends abruptly and tumbles into the brilliant `Love Cry’, a much more drawn-out and darkly shaded tune, it starts to become clear that another inspiration could be in play: the music produced by Hebden’s schoolmate, Will Bevan aka Burial.”  (Mark Richardson, Pitchfork)

r ess” / Autechre / Oversteps
“The first track, `r ess,’ fades up with alternating orchestral and electric echoes. Flat percussion provides contrast—it’s nearly a mere click track. A smattering of keys at the end sound like a warm-up.”  (Jacob Arnold, Gridface)

known(1)” / Autechre / Oversteps
“`known(1)’ completely changes pace, introducing atonal harpsichord. Most of the notes vibrate and bend like actual strings pulled out of tune. Glistening metallic notes peal over top.”  (Jacob Arnold, Gridface)

Yuop” / Autechre / Oversteps
“`Yuop’ is more of a statement. The note runs sound like they are bursting from a church organ. Waves of distortion increase until everything crumbles and slowly fades.”  (Jacob Arnold, Gridface)

Chinatown” / Wild Nothing / Gemini
“Anybody who grew up listening to the elegantly miserable 1980’s guitar-pop faithfully evoked on Wild Nothing’s excellent Gemini knows a thing or two about being down. That this comfortably sad feeling can be as ephemeral as the weather makes the foggy positivity of Gemini highlight `Chinatown’ all the more fitting. `I want someone/ Somewhere’, WN’s Jack Tatum yearns, before noting during the chorus, `We’re not happy ’til we’re running away’. Tatum doesn’t sound like he’s necessarily moping around, though; instead, his low-register voice pulses and throbs like a heartbeat, giving `Chinatown’ a bright, in-the-moment, bliss-touched glow.”  (Larry Fitzmaurice, Pitchfork)

Cynicism” / Nana Grizol / Ruth
“The thin line between melancholy and hopefulness is carefully trotted upon on the opening track, `Cynicism’ on which the overall tone of the album is skillfully abbreviated. The vocalism of Hilton on these short but powerful tracks hold an anxiously timid tone that creates some of the best contrast when compared to when he breaks into all-out shouts on `Arthur Hall’. His tonal shifts capture a very obvious influence of that of Jeff Mangum (Neutral Milk Hotel) or even Jeff Buckley.”  (Sputnikmusic)

The Making of Grief Point” / Loscil with Dan Bejar (Destroyer) / Endless Falls
“Things do reach a climax, of sorts, with the standout closing track, ‘The Making of Grief Point’. Here, Morgan deploys vocals on one of his tracks for the first time, which come courtesy of Dan Bejar, with whom he works in the Vancouver band Destroyer. This is the final act of unsettling disorientation in an album full of obtuse left turns, with Morgan pulling just one more trick out of his bag by having Bejar recite a spoken word piece that easily stands alongside Slint’s canonical ‘Good Morning, Captain’ as a piece of affecting storytelling set to song. Bejar speaks in hushed tones as he hisses his thoughts on the music-making process, temporarily loosening the various narrative strands that listeners have weaved together for the rest of the album, but also maintaining that impermeable sense of unease that perforates every song.”  (Nick Neyland, Drowned In Sound)

Philadelphia” / Standard Fare / The Noyelle Beat
“Standard Fare continues its diverse sound with an equally strong `Philadelphia,’ which is a song that takes the listener for a melodic ride through the ups and downs of being a long-distance away from a lover. This track starts out as a slower indie song, but by the time it reaches the first chorus erupts into a quick guitar section that represents the raw emotion of frustration. At the mid way point, the melody drops back down as Kupa beautifully adjusts her vocals and delivers strongly.”  (The Sound Alarm)

Semi-Precious Stone” / Wolf Parade
“Of the two [songs on the single] `Semi-Precious Stone’ fares better but that could just be my personal inclination for Krug’s tracks shining through. Driven by the underrated charging drums that were present all over Expo 86, Krug sings of stealing a valued jewel of some sort and fleeing the city.”  (Ray Finlayson, One Thirty BPM)

I Only Know (What I Know Now)” / James Blake / Klavierwerke
“The music of London producer James Blake typically centers on mangled samples–often sourced from soul and R&B–pitch-shifted vocals, and slow-burn, bass-heavy beats. But even though his style is distinctive enough to pick out after a couple of bars, he continues to experiment and seek out new avenues of expression. `I Only Know (What I Know Now)’, from the upcoming Klavierwerke EP, is an astonishing investigation of space and microscopic detail that may be his most striking track yet. Here, Blake works with just a small handful of sounds–a bass thump, a bit of cymbal, one decaying, dubby piano chord, and a couple of voices, one of which mutates into chords while the other leaps out to serve as punctuation. There’s also a handclap that is as dry and pure and simple as a handclap can be. There is so much to absorb from these sounds in terms of grain and texture, but the lead instrument here is silence, and Blake plays it like a virtuoso. Chasms of space open up out of nowhere–there’s a point two and a half minutes in where it seems like the track has ended because one stretches on for so long–and then it ends when a ghostly voice comes floating back into the frame. Some of these yelps are melancholy and beautiful in the mode of Burial, others seem tinged with hope and yearning, but it’s amazing what can be gleaned from a few syllables. Packing so much emotional information into a tiny sonic space is something Blake is doing better than pretty much anyone.”  (Mark Richardson, Pitchfork)

I Didn’t See It Coming” / Belle & Sebastian / Write About Love
“Write About Love opens confidently with a strong drum pattern, simple piano chords and Sarah Martin gently cooing, `Make me dance, I want to surrender’. That track is I Didn’t See It Coming, and it sets the tone for the first half of the record with its synths, wandering bassline, airy feel and careful layering. The tracks begin fairly sparsely, but build into something fully immersive and represent some of the most professional and well-crafted work the group have produced.”  (Joe Rivers, No Ripcord)

Fireworks” / Drake featuring Alicia Keys / Thank Me Later
“From `Fireworks,’ the opening track, Thank Me Later is filled with profound ambivalence about the process that transformed Drake from a supporting player in a Canadian high-school soap opera into one of the hottest acts in music. That introspection could easily have devolved into navel-gazing, but Drake has a clear-eyed, nuanced take on his evolution from an aspiring artist to a superstar who’s exhilarated but spooked by the prospect of cultural ubiquity.”  (Nathan Rabin, The A.V. Club)

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