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The Best of 2014

Just as I will always remember that day in 1977 when I walked past Free Being Records on 2nd Avenue and saw that first Elvis Costello single hanging in the store’s window. Or in 1983, the Professor at Phoenix Records handing me the “I Will Dare” 12 inch and saying “I think you might like these guys.” Or being at a CMJ show at Tramps in 1993 when a band with the worst name in the world took the stage and became the band that saved my life. I will always remember the May 7th thread on my Facebook page where I was complaining about how another new music Tuesday came and went without anything worth listening to, and my friend Aggie Donkar wrote: “My favorite under the radar 2014 record is the new Lydia Loveless.”

I trusted Aggie’s taste, and bought the digital version of SOMEWHERE ELSE on Amazon. The opening track, REALLY WANT TO SEE YOU AGAIN, started up with guitars that sounded like they belonged on PLEASE TO MEET ME, and then I heard her voice. And once again, just like that, just like in those examples stated above, my life was forever changed.

To say that Lydia Loveless took over my musical life in 2014 is a ridiculous understatement. Ask anyone who’s spent ten minutes with me. I even had friends who suggested an LL drinking game, doing a shot every time I mentioned her name or one of her songs, but then they realized they’d be drunk by 11 AM. Even when albums from old time favorites were released, I’d listen once, maybe twice, and turn right back to Lydia. And by mid-summer I was seriously thinking that this year’s top 10 album list would have spots two through ten left blank.

I eventually came to my senses. Sort of. Because there were other very good albums released this year. Some great albums. Those records are listed below.

But it was also the year of massive disappointment. Some of my favorite musicians of all time put out albums that I truly disliked (talking about you Lucinda, Ryan, Taylor, Ty, Lykke, Bob, EMA, Bruce). And bands that I had the highest hopes for released redundant piles of crap as their second album.

Of course did any of that matter when I got to see The Replacements live three times, including the home-coming show at Midway, which on a scale of one to ten, well, to paraphrase the brilliant Nigel Tufnel, “went to 11.”

So, without further blabbering, my list of the best of everything for 2014…

BEST ALBUMS:

Somewhere Else

1. SOMEWHERE ELSE – Lydia Loveless – I can think of few albums that are as perfectly in touch with everything I look for in music: great songwriting, ferocious guitar licks, a sense of humor, a sense of rock history, that record-it-live feeling, and a voice. Goddamn does she have a voice. Whether she’s belting out “Well there were times when I was not there for you at all” in the opening track, and you know she’s not being hard enough on herself, or evoking tears with those subtle hints of a vibrato in EVERYTHING’S GONE, a song about saving her family’s farm, Loveless’ voice is at the forefront here. I’ve described her to friends as the daughter Paul Westerberg and Lucinda Williams never knew they had, and even then I think I’m selling her short. This is a perfect record from the most important new artist of the last decade.

2. BURN YOUR FIRE FOR NO WITNESS – Angel Olsen – Noise and heartbreak collide in a collection of songs so stark you’ll feel uncomfortable, as if you’re peeking through someone’s bedroom window, and they know you’re there, but they keep on doing whatever it is despite you, or perhaps to spite you.

3. BOXERS – Matthew Ryan – It’s been a while since Matt Ryan has rocked. And this record comes across as if the pent up energy finally exploded and he couldn’t hold it back any longer. This is buckets of Springsteen, The Replacements, and The Clash flung against the wall, their colors streaming together to create something fresh and new and vibrant. This is the record so many other rockers tried to make this year, failing miserably.

4. HERE AND NOWHERE ELSE – Cloud Nothings – For the longest time I was not going to put this record on this list because of how much I detested their live performance. But then I realized that wasn’t fair to the record, which was a damn great indie rock record with shades of Archers and the Mats running throughout. Buy the album, skip the show (unless you’re into a bunch of kids standing around looking at themselves as if they’re in their garage practicing).

5. BENJAMIN BOOKER – Benjamin Booker – This is such a nasty rock and roll record you’ll need a shower afterwards. Dirty is the word that comes to mind when I think of both his exquisite guitar playing and vocal delivery. Just so fucking good.

6. LET’S NOT BE FRIENDS – The Girls! – Everything about this record makes me smile. This is pure punk pop bliss. Great songs, great riffs, and a sexy sense of humor. And “Sophomore” is one of the best odes to sexual frustration I’ve heard in a long while.

7. METAMODERN SOUNDS IN COUNTRY MUSIC – Sturgill Simpson – This is Hank Williams country. This is Johnny Cash. Basically, there’s dark, and then there’s Simpson. “Woke up today and decided to kill my ego.” Fuck, man! Not always easy to listen to, but a great record.

8. SUKIERAE – Tweedy – This record feels like a long walk through your childhood neighborhood with an old friend. You talk, you laugh, you cry a little, all the while polishing off that sixer of Bud, ‘cause it’s the only thing your granddad had in the fridge.

9. HEIGH HO – Blake Mills – Really hard to describe, so let’s say noise alt-country pop. And if that doesn’t make you want to listen I don’t know why you’re reading my list in the first place. Every song is sort of a Pandora’s Box waiting to be opened.

OTHER GREAT ALBUMS:

THE BEST DAY – Thurston Moore

RIPS – Ex Hex

FAMOUS GRAVES – Cheap Girls

ENGLISH OCEANS – Drive-By Truckers

AND THE WAR CAME – Shakey Graves

PAINT ANOTHER LAYER ON MY HEART – Caleb Caudle

WORST ALBUM OF THE YEAR:

DISGRACELAND – The Orwells – After showing such amazing punk/pop/rock potential with their first album, The Orwells returned with an unlistenable collection of songs not even worthy of a B-side. It’s the laziest record of the year. As if they went into the studio with the mindset that David Letterman loves us and we can do no wrong. Well, you did wrong, boys. This record sucks.

BEST SONG OF THE YEAR:

MILE HIGH – Lydia Loveless – I don’t know any other way to say it: THIS IS A PERFECT SONG. It’s full of confusion and longing and wit. It’s feminine/masculine, it’s breathless. And it fucking rocks. It’s on endless repeat.

OTHER GREAT SONGS:

UNFUCKTHEWORLD – Angel Olsen – an ode to when everything perfect breaks. Her whisper gives me chills.

GOD’S NOT HERE TONIGHT – Matthew Ryan – This is the perfect anthem for this broken, fucked-up year. A BASTARDS OF YOUNG minus the hope.

MESMERIZE – The Girls! – Just a freakin’ great song. Nothing more need be said.

IT AIN’T ALL FLOWERS – Sturgill Simpson – You wake up in a strange room next to someone you’ve never seen before, stumble towards the bathroom, catch your reflection is a cracked mirror, what’s all that blood!   You drop to your knees, the room is spinning, and everything would be alright if you could just remember your fucking name. That’s this song.

BEST COVER SONG:

COME PICK ME UP – Superchunk – Mac and company take the classic Ryan Adams heartbreaker and rock it the fuck out. They make it theirs. And that’s saying a lot when the original is one of the great songs of all time.

BEST BOX SET/REISSUE/RECORD THAT DOESN’T FALL INTO ONE OF THE CATEGORIES ABOVE:

ALPHA MIKE FOXTROT: RARE TRACKS 1994-2014 – Wilco – A collection that makes you realize the scope and talent of this band. Beautifully packaged, with 77 tracks of outtakes and demos and live recordings. It’s like the Tweedy album, except this time your friend is telling you all these great secrets which make you grin from ear to ear.

BEST LIVE SHOW:

The Replacements – Midway Stadium , St. Paul, MN – What separated this show from the other 4 Mats concerts I’ve seen since the reunion was the emotion. It was a homecoming of rock and roll soldiers we all thought were long lost as war. They raised their guitars as high as the flag on Iwo Jima and showed us that their songs could never be defeated. And we were all a little teary eyed singing along with Paul to UNSATISFIED.

RUNNER UP:

Lydia Loveless – the Studio at Webster Hall – in any other year this show would have been number one. It was everything you could possibly want from a rock show: noisy one moment, a whisper the next, chaotic, frantic, full of surprises. Do not miss Lydia and company when they play your town in 2015. Because even compared to the reunited Mats, hers is the greatest rock band on the planet right now.

BEST NARRATIVE FILM:

IDA – directed by Paweł Pawlikowski – Quiet, haunting, and chillingly beautiful, this is a masterpiece of the sort Bergman might have made in the late 1950. A story of a young nun about to take her vows only to learn from her one living relative that she is Jewish. You will never forget this film.

BEST DOCUMENTARY FILM:

FINDING VIVIAN MAIER – directed by John Maloof & Charlie Siskel – a thrilling mystery that begins with a box of photo negatives bought at an auction and leads you through a life of a woman who was secretly one of the greatest photographers of our time. To everyone other than herself she was simply a nanny. Completely captivating.

BEST TV:

HOMELAND – Claire Danes and company came back from a horrible third season with a vengeance. This is edge of your seat, scream at the TV, need a stiff drink sort of drama. And while the ending was a slow burn, if was probably necessary after the wringer they put us through.

BOOKS OF THE YEAR:

DO NOT SELL AT ANY PRICE: THE WILD, OBSESSIVE HUNT FOR THE WORLD’S RAREST 78RPM RECORDS by Amanda Petrusich – More than just about old guys looking for 78s, it’s about obsession, about the history of American music, it’s about what drives us. I wish it were twice as long. Brilliant!

HOPE FOR FILM: FROM THE FRONT LINE OF THE INDEPENDENT CINEMA REVOLUTIONS by Ted Hope – a real-life in-the-trenches look at what it takes to make an independent feature. Trust me when I tell you, Hope knows what he’s talking about. Every filmmaker, every producer should read this book. You’ll learn more here than you will in any film class on the planet.

And that’s it. That’s enough. We’ve got a lot of great stuff coming up this year. A DOG NAMED GUCCI will be premiering shortly. And in January I’ll be announcing rock doc number four. Stay tuned. Come back for more. And please, never tell me to turn it down, ‘cause it ain’t loud enough.

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The Best of 2013

It was a very good year.  A great year even.  Hell, The Replacements played their first shows in 22 years.  And from a rock & roll point of view, that should make it the best year in, well, 22 years.  That they took to the stage with the energy of an atomic bomb on pharmaceutical speed playing so many songs from that brilliant first album is perhaps just a bonus, though I prefer to think of it as fate.  That the rock gods were looking down and thought we needed a reminder of the chaos, the sputtering genius, the sheer power that rock could provide.  And they all looked at one another, and shrugged, the answer obvious, time for the Mats to play a few shows.

It was a year in which their first album, SORRY MA, FORGOT TO TAKE OUT THE TRASH, suddenly became this old fan’s favorite Replacements record.  Can’t explain it really.  Perhaps the seeds were planted when I started work on COLOR ME OBSESSED, A FILM ABOUT THE REPLACEMENTS, but those seeds sprouted and bloomed this year.   I love that record.  Played it more than any other this year.  Realized there wasn’t a bad track on it.  That is contained some of the most brilliant licks, sarcastic jabs, and all-out fuck-you rock & roll EVER recorded.  And ok, it’s 32 years after the fact, but better late than never.

But it was also a year in which other old punks blinded us with their brilliance.   Superchunk and Grant Hart put out two wildly different records in I HATE MUSIC and THE ARGUMENT, but both were vast in scope and timelessness, as if both artists had been holding back for all these years, and for some reason felt it were time to unleash the monsters they had munching on their souls.  These are the sort of albums that make you cry the first time you hear them.  They did me.  They are faith renewing.  Faith in the power of music to make your mind dance.

The young woman behind my favorite album from 2012 (and it still remains at the top of that list), Katie Crutchfield, returned with a very strong follow up in CERULEAN SALT.  And though it seemed to widen her fan base, it didn’t resonate with me the way AMERICAN WEEKEND did last year.  But to compare it to that masterpiece is selling the album short.  It’s a great record.  (NOTE: if any of you were turned off by the worst video of the year in COAST TO COAST, proof that still photographers rarely can make the jump to shooting images that move, Ms. Crutchfield more than made up for it in the video for MISERY OVER DISPUTE.)

David Bowie returned with a record that in parts took me back to being a 13-year-old and hearing ZIGGY STARDUST for the first time.  Was it a perfect record, no.  But a number of its songs were perfect, noisy in the way that only Tony Visconti could create in 1972.  And coming from Bowie with Visconti behind the boards, that’s enough.

Aubery Debauchery also returned after too many years with a mature (in the best sense of that word) collection of songs that seemed almost harshly reflective on her past.  She bared her soul and in turn broke my heart.  I love this woman’s voice.

With all the great alt-country female artists making waves this year, none shined brighter than Amanda Shires.  Her album was not a collection of a few “hits” and a lot of filler, but instead well-thought out record with one song being stronger than the next.  And the same can be said of Lorde.  Unlike the other pop queens, her album shined from the first note to the last.  ROYALS is not even the best track.

It was one of those years.  Great ALBUMS.  Not just random collections of songs.  Listen to ONCE I WAS AN EAGLE from Laura Marling or the rapturous return to form from Throwing Muses in PURGATORY / PARADISE (it was certainly a Milton inspired year) to the dangerous sexual anarchy of Sky Ferreira.  (And ok, while Miley Cyrus’ latest certainly doesn’t fall into the best album category, WRECKING BALL was the single that stuck in my head more than any other, and never once did I mind.  It’s a brilliant ballad.  Beautifully performed, and nicely under-produced for a “hit.”)

New rock was also alive in Potty Mouth and Speedy Ortiz.  Electric folk was injected with new life in Jake Bugg.  And some of the greatest musicians of recent memory came together to help a fallen guitar legend in SONG FOR SLIM.

And, oh yeah, The Replacements put out a 5-song EP for that same reason.  And they covered EVERYTHING’S COMING UP ROSES from the old musical GYPSY.  And really now, does it get any better than that?

My Best Albums of 2013 (in alphabetical order):

THE ARGUMENT – Grant Hart

CERULEAN SALT – Waxahatchee

DEATH OF A DREAM – Aubery Debauchery & The Broken Bones

DOWN FELL THE DOVES – Amanda Shires

HELL BENT – Potty Mouth

I HATE MUSIC – Superchunk

JAKE BUGG – Jake Bugg

LIVE AT THE CELLAR DOOR – Neil Young

MAJOR ARCANA – Speedy Ortiz

THE NEXT DAY – David Bowie

NIGHT TIME, MY TIME – Sky Ferreira

ONCE I WAS AN EAGLE – Laura Marling

PURE HEROINE – Lorde

PURGATORY / PARADISE – Throwing Muses

SONGS FOR SLIM – Various Artists

BEST EP:

SONGS FOR SLIM – The Replacements

SINGLE OF THE YEAR:

WRECKING BALL – Miley Cyrus

MUSIC VIDEOS OF THE YEAR:

69 – Ida Maria

MASTER HUNTER  – Laura Marling

BIGGEST JOKE OF THE YEAR

Critics who kiss Kanye West’s ass (learn there is a difference between a brilliant artist who takes chances, and a self-indulgent egomaniac who thinks he can fart into a can and it will sell a million copies because it carries his name).

BEST MOVIE:

NEBRASKA – a simple story with breathtaking performances told in resplendent black and white.  A masterpiece.

RUNNER UP:

FRANCES HA – a heart-breaking portrait of Greta Gerwig as a confused young woman.  A beautiful, subtle performance.  (And though it’s also in black and white, after watching the embarrassingly pretentious DVD extra about the film’s look, I might suggest that Sam Levy and company watch NEBRASKA so they can learn what black and white should really look like.)

BEST DOCUMENTARY:

BLACKFISH – a must-watch film about a different sort of animal abuse.  And it’s having an impact.  Kudos to every musician who’s cancelled shows at Sea World.

DVD OF THE YEAR:

STARLET – the poster child for what a great indie film should be.  Drew Hemingway is a revelation.  And the many extras are all worth watching.

BEST TV:

Unfortunately it was the year of shark jumping.  Lots and lot of shark jumping.

BOOK OF THE YEAR:

HYPERBOLE AND A HALF – Allie Brosh – if Kurt Vonnegut was a 20-something woman living in Bend, Oregon today this would have been his first book.  And I can’t give it higher praise than that.

FILM-RELATED BOOK OF THE YEAR:

TELL ME SOMETHING: ADVICE FROM DOCUMENTARY FILMMAKERS – a collection of short clippets of advise from the world’s greatest documentarians.  Think of it as Chicken Soup for the Filmmaker’s Soul.  But work reading by any and every artist, if only for Errol Morris’ wise words of wisdom: “When you go to people for advice, expect the worst.”

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Superchunk – “I Hate Music”

If every band I’ve ever loved could have (or would in the future) follow Superchunk’s model of how to keep it going, goddamn I’d be a happy man.   Superchunk could literally write the book on how to grow old gracefully in rock & roll.

They began as every great band before them.  A kick-ass balls-to-the-wall record.  Theirs was self-titled, released in 1990, and just happen to contain one of the greatest rock anthems of all time in “Slack Motherfucker.”  It’s refrain of “I’m working/But I’m not working for you/Slack Motherfucker” still today rings loud and clear voicing the frustrations of the last two generations at least.  If the off-wall street folk had a slogan as concise as this they might have gotten somewhere.

Now granted, this first album came at a time when people were wrongly convinced that the genius embers that were burning out in Minneapolis had somehow moved west to Seattle.  Uh-uh.  Wrong!  They moved southeast to Chapel Hill, North Carolina.  And Superchunk planted the seeds that over the next few years would give us the likes of Archers of Loaf and Polvo.  Rock & roll in the 90s was Chapel Hill.

For their second album the band had Steve Albini behind the boards and delivered a masterpiece.  “No Pocky for Kitty” stands for me as one of the classic indie rock albums of all time.  And they didn’t stop there, “On The Mouth,” “Foolish,” “Here’s Where The Strings Come In.”  Three abums in three years.  Then three more over the next six years.  And I’m not even counting the EPs and B-sides.  Never a miss.  Never an album that made you wonder what went wrong.  And though they certainly had a specific sound, so driven by Laura Ballance’s bass, Jim Wilbur’s guitar, Jon Wurster’s drums, and Mac McCaughan’s vocals – perhaps best described as part Replacements/part Rush – they kept changing it up just enough to keep it fresh and wonderful, but never so much as to turn away the die-hards.

And then they took a decade off.

I’m sure I was not alone in wondering if we’d ever see a new Superchunk album.  I’m sure I was not alone in mourning another great band from my younger days.  (A band as great on stage as in the studio.)

And then in 2010 they released a new album called “Majesty Shredding.”  Was it their best?  No.  But it didn’t have to be.  It was another fine addition to the canon, with one of their best songs ever in “Learned to Surf.”   And it was a wake up call that Superchunk was still around.  (Though by this point, we probably would have been happy with Mac reading the phone book while Laura played a walking bass line.)

Which bring us to the present day.  A new album.  “I Hate Music.”  A title ripped from a song on The Replacements first album.  (I know Mac loves the Mats, he said as much on camera in my film “Color Me Obsessed.”)  That, if nothing else, held promise.

But no where, no how, did it prepare me for what I was about to hear.

This is Superchunk’s masterpiece.  A finely honed collection of eleven songs about life, love, growing old, touring.  It’s a Wim Wenders road trip through a life in rock and roll.  (I played the album for the first time on a long non-Wim Wenders road trip, so I will talk about it in order of how the songs hit me.)

It begins almost liltingly.  The acoustic opening of “Overflows” when a seemingly mellowed Mac sings “Everything the dead don’t know/Piles up like magazines and overflows/And everything that you won’t see/Just swirls around/Comes down and buries me.”  Then the drums, the bass, a delightfully light electric guitar line kicks in, as do the goosebumps.  But I’m skeptical.  Bands always put their best track first.

We move on to “Me & You & Jackie Mittoo,” which starts with an almost Rick Springfield guitar riff, and the line from which the title was culled.  Springfield is quickly ditched for a sound that could have easily sounded at home on “No Pocky.”  It’s the sort of song which even if everything else sucked would make the album worth buying.  A fun summer driving song about hating the thing you probably love the most.

I mentioned Rush before, and I know that might sound like a strange band to mention in the same sentence as Superchunk.  But listen to “Void” with its arena rock aspirations and you’ll see where I’m coming from.  It’s sort of unlike anything Superchunk has done before, and was honestly the last song on the record I warmed up to.  But Goddamn if Jon isn’t channeling his best Neil Peart.

The next song on “I Hate Music” is probably, deep down, my favorite.  “Staying Home,” one minute, fifteen seconds of pure punk bliss that truly does sound as it if belongs on that first Replacements album from where this albums’ title came.  Right down to Jim doing his best Bob Stinson, and the fall-apart ending.  It’s noisy, it’s useless, it’s pure bliss.  I fucking love this song.

And as I’m driving to Rhode Island, shaking off the shivers as if Stinson’s ghost had just poked the side of my ear with the jagged end of his guitar string, the noise pop jangle of “Low F” comes on, and by this point I’m not as much reduced to tears as I am a vibrating gaggle of goosebumps.

“And you caught me singing/Said ‘Can you meet me down at low F?’”  A love song that only Superchunk could deliver, with the best guitar solo I’ve hear since Wilco’s “Impossible Germany.”  But is it a love song to their life in rock?  Is it a love song to a life partner?  Is it a love song to the other members in the band?  Does it make any difference?  As with any great work of art, it means something different to every one who listens.

Here the album just does not let up.  It’s like a futuristic collection of a band’s greatest hits, from a world where the majority of record buyers actually had taste.

“Trees of Barcelona” and “Breaking Down” and I begin to wonder if this record could really be as good as I’m thinking it is.  It’s not just a maturity in their sound, but a vibrancy.  They sound like the Superchunk of  1990, perhaps not singing about working for the worst boss of all time, but instead of the joy of a gig in a beautiful Spanish city, or of how we all begin to break down.  Yes, it’s called getting old.  But they don’t sound as if they’ve aged a day.

With “Out of the Sun” and “Your Theme” I’m hearing the Mats again in the guitars, and that’s such a beautiful thing.  The harmonies and throw-away chorus especially, and the soloing that ends the latter.  (Can I say thank you guys now for helping to keep guitars alive?)

At this point I’m thinking two tracks to go.  And I can almost feel the apprehension.  There is no way they can keep this up.

And “FOH” begins, the wall of guitars, and Mac asking “Did you lose something?”  I want to say I had begun to lose my belief in rock & roll?  But that’s out the window.  We hit the sing-along chorus, “How’s everything at the front of the house,” and I think perhaps I died in a car crash and I’m in heaven because there really is a God and he/she is a Mats fan, and he/she is thanking me for making “Color Me Obsessed” and this music is what we get to listen to every day.

I’m tempted to just hit the back button so I can hear the song again, and by this time sing along, and then Mac asks me, “What can we do?”

That is the title of the final track, the eleventh track, over six minutes long.  And much like “Slack Motherfucker” twenty-three years earlier Superchunk has given us an anthem.  The genius of a band firing in unison, a bit older, a lot wiser, probably more proficient on their instruments, and an answer to anyone who ever thought they were never coming back, “I’ve got wrinkles around my eyes/I’ll say I love you, I won’t say goodbye.”

And yes, Mac, Laura, Jon, and Jim.  I’m a sucker for brilliance.  The tears begin, and I start the album all over again, and crank it just a little louder this time.

And if you really want to know what you can do, as if the answer isn’t obvious: never stop playing music.

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The Best Music & Films of 2010

Best & Worst of 2010

I’ll be the first to admit that because I was making a documentary on The Replacements, I listened to them probably more than all other musicians combined. I rediscovered SORRY MA, FORGOT TO TAKE OUT THE TRASH, hearing things that I had somehow never heard before (perhaps I previously focused a little too much on LET IT BE, TIM, and PLEASED TO MEET ME). And I probably played IF ONLY YOU WERE LONELY more than any other song. If was like an old friend, whispering over my shoulder, giving me encouragement and at times enlightenment.

That said, here are what I believe to be the best albums of 2010, in order:

1. Ryan Bingham and the Dead Horses – JUNKY STAR – If his voice doesn’t get you, the song writing certainly will. (Or at least the dirtiest guitar sound I’ve heard in a few years.) It was as if Steve Earle and Lucinda Williams had a kid, Eric Bachman was his older brother, and Paul Westerberg his obnoxious uncle. If that description doesn’t have you opening another browser window to order this damn thing now, then go and listen to HALLELUJAH (No, not the one we’d heard a million times over, another HALLELUJAH). I’ve given this album to a good half dozen people. The first word out of their mouths after one listen: “Hallelujah.” Then something like “wow.” Yeah, “wow,” says it best. This is a fucking great record, without a flaw.

2. Joanna Newsom – HAVE ONE ON ME – A three cd set that really defies description and begs to be heard from start to finish. A modern folk opera. Brilliant, certainly not for everyone, but if you give it a chance.

3. The Whigs – IN THE DARK – My favorite straight out rock album of the year. The closest thing I could find in the purest spirit of the Mats (that was actually worth listening to). KILL ME CAROLYNE is hands down my favorite song of the year.

4. Superchunk – MAJESTY SHREDDING – Shame on Mac and company for making us wait this long for another release, but one of the two best bands of the 90s (you know the Archers of Loaf was the other), returns to solid form with a record that sounds as if it could have been released in their heyday. LEARNED TO SURF is as good as rock gets in this decade.

5. Frightened Rabbit – THE WINTER OF MIXED DRINKS – An album of rousing anthems about drinking and screwing and all the things rock songs should be about. It’s one of those albums that just kept getting better on every listen. And that they can pull off the songs live was an eye-opener.

6. Ida Maria – KATLA – Last year she topped the list EASILY. And while this is nowhere the masterpiece of FORTRESS ROUND MY HEART, the gal from Norway nonetheless delivers 9 sucker punches. For anyone who thinks girls stopped rocking with Bikini Kill, give her a listen. Her lyrics are funny, sexy and the growl will make you weak in the knees.

7. Spoon – TRANSFERENCE – After writing these guys off because of their hideously lame GA GA GA cd from a few years back, Spoon returned to what they do best: catchy rock songs with good guitar licks. I know a bunch of people who wrote off this band after GA, take a chance and revisit them. While not as spectacular as GIRLS CAN TELL or KILL THE MOONLIGHT, still in a year of limp-doodle rock, it was damn refreshing.

8. Titus Andronicus – MONITOR – A concept album that may or may not be about the civil war. But who cares. It’s a rowdy collection of tunes that owe a lot to the spirit of The Replacements, and I can’t give a band higher praise.

9. The Gaslight Anthem – AMERICAN SLANG – Likewise Brian Fallon and company owe a bunch to the spirit of the Mats…with a little Springsteen tossed in. A solid rock album, a perfect summer driving record. Leading to…

10. Bruce Springsteen – THE PROMISE – outtakes from his best rock album (I’ll probably still take NEBRASKA over DARKNESS), his “punk” album if you will, are the sort of songs most rocker would die to write. Sure, it’s like reliving a time when rock music was exciting and vibrant, and it shook our worlds. Hmmm…because of that perhaps this should be in the number one slot.

The best songs of 2010 (in no particular order):
KILL ME CAROLYNE – The Whigs
CLEMENTINE – Sarah Jaffe
HURRICANE J – The Hold Steady
HALLELUJAH – Ryan Bingham and the Dead Horses
LANTERN – Josh Ritter
PRECIOUS STONE – Pete Yorn
THE LONELINESS AND THE SCREAM – Frightened Rabbit
ANYBODY LOOKING FOR GOD – Grandpaboy

The most disappointing album:
THE SUBURBS – Arcade Fire – After the brilliance of NEON BIBLE my expectations were damn high. And at first listen I loved everything about this record. But by the fourth or fifth go around I was getting bored. And within a week it was removed from my playlist. I’ve never gone back. Have never even wanted to. Maybe it’s me.

MOVIES

Best Documentary: EXIT THROUGH THE GIFT SHOP (WAS IT REAL? Who cares? It was entertaining as hell, and Banksy proved himself one of the art geniuses of modern times.)

Best Film: THE TOWN (Riveting, edge-of-your-seat drama from Ben Affleck. BEN AFFLECK! A rare gem in which you find yourself rooting for the bad guys. Rebecca Hall is heartbreakingly great.)

Most Enjoyable Film of 2010:
KICK-ASS (a movie that proved a beautifully foul-mouth 12-year-old girl could quite possibly be the greatest movie super hero of all time)

Guilty Pleasure Film of 2010:
CHLOE (two words: Amanda Seyfried)

Runners Up (In no particular order):
WINTER’S BONE
THE SOCIAL NETWORK
THE GIRL WHO PLAYED WITH FIRE

Worst Film of 2010
SOMEWHERE (I truly loved Sofia Coppola’s LOST IN TRANSLATION. But I don’t know what happened here. I kept waiting for something to happen. Kept waiting to feel something for any of these characters. Still waiting. So utterly boring.)

That’s my list. It’s subject to change. Having spent most of the year filming and editing, I certainly didn’t get to see everything. I’ll update it as I do…

To a rockin’ Replacements New Year!

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Filed under best albums of 2010, best movies, best music, best of, best of 2010, Color Me Obsessed, documentaries, exit through the gift shop, filmmaking, friends with benefits, gorman bechard, independent film, joanna newsom, kick-ass, paul westerberg, rock n roll, ryan bingham, springsteen, the replacements