13 Must-Hear Songs from the First Half of 2010
Dum Dum Girls
Today marks the halfway point of Nothing Not New. That means I've listen to nearly 140 records in their entirety in the first six months of 2010. Just another 140 or so to go before I can retreat to the familiarity of my record collection.
Some aren't the obvious singles or lead tracks from an album, or songs from albums that got a lot of buzz upon their release.
LCD Soundsystem -- "All I Want": James Murphy's supposedly final album under the LCD Soundsystem name has a lot of high points, including this one about Mr. Murphy's longing to settle down from the life of a pop star. Love the nod to Bowie's "Heroes" in the guitar line.
Spoon -- "Got Nuffin": Critics' faves Spoon do this sparse tension thing really well. This is the one song on their latest, released in January, that I keep coming back to. They actually took the formula from Aussie up-and-comers Eddy Current Suppression Ring and improved upon it. Meanwhile, ECSR's new record was a big letdown.
Surfer Blood -- "Fast Jabroni": Perhaps the most buzzed-about band of early 2010, Surfer Blood has a very cool laconic, reverb-heavy sound. Hopefully, the quality of the material gets up to speed with their musical vision. I sure like this song, though.
Beach House -- "Zebra": This band was all the rage in the first quarter of 2010. I was underwhelmed by their record -- and still am -- but this song has definitely grown on me. Few songs I've heard this year evoke a sense of time and place as well as "Zebra."
The Hold Steady -- "Our Whole Lives": I was really high on Heaven Is Whenever when it was released in early May, but the luster has worn off considerably -- except for this song, track nine on Heaven. To me, it's a song about what the excitement and anticipation of both fun and trouble when you choose to make rock 'n' roll the soundtrack of our life. "Sing sing sing every song we know / Blowing out the speakers of the stereo." Indeed.
The Dead Weather -- "Die by the Drop": On the other end of spectrum of Beach House sits Jack White's band. Their new records, Sea of Cowards, is -- front to back -- probably my favorite record of the year so far. It's nasty and dangerous, as the best rock 'n' roll always is.
Charlotte Gainsbourg -- "Le Chat du Café Des Artistes": Beck's production on the latest record by the French singer/actress is near-perfect. No song I've heard this year makes better use of strings.
Dum Dum Girls -- "Bhang Bhang I'm a Burnout": Of all the lo-fi, reverb-drenched garage pop that's come out this year (and, believe me, there's been a lot of it), this may be the catchiest of them all.
Harlan T. Bobo -- "Sweet Life": If you can write a song that recalls Lee Hazlewood at his finest, then I'm going to listen. This Memphis singer-songwriter did just that, and the rest of his new record, Sucker, is pretty darn good, too.
Black Rebel Motorcycle Club -- "Bad Blood": I've never been a fan of this band, but this song has been on heavy rotation for me ever since their so-so record was released in February. I guess I'm a sucker for those big, woozy guitar bends.
The Soft Pack -- "C'mon": I can't wait to hear what this young-ish San Diego band does next. Their self-titled debut record is among my favorite of the year, for their mix of hooky early-80s college rock (think Feelies and REM) and good old-fashioned garage punk.
Devo -- "Human Rocket": I was pleasantly surprised that Devo's first new record in a decade is pretty solid, with enough really good songs to make you buy into the de-evolution all over again.
"Nothing Not New" is a yearlong project in which New Times editorial operations manager Jay Bennett, a 41-year-old music fan and musician, will listen only to music released in 2010. Each Monday through Friday, he will listen to one new record (no best ofs, reissues, or concert recordings) and write about it. Why? Because in the words of his editor, Martin Cizmar, he suffers from "aesthetic atrophy," a wasting away of one's ability to embrace new and different music as one ages. Read more about this all-too-common ailment here.
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