I listened to more than 3,000 songs in 2010, so I was asked to come up with a list of the best of the year. But you've probably heard "Swim" by Surfer Blood and "Boyfriend" by Best Coast and "Helicopter" by Deerhunter and "Hustle and Cuss" by the Dead Weather, so I came up with a collection of songs that might've gone mostly unnoticed. These are the lesser-known songs that were stuck in my head for a better part of the years.
"Resolution" by Steve Wynn and the Miracle 3: After creating one of the great indie rock records of all time in 1982, the former leader of the Dream Syndicate has had a steady if mostly unheralded career in the 28 years since The Days of Wine and Roses was released. I was hooked from the opening notes of this tension-filled droner.
"The Pan" by The Goodnight Loving: This Americana-garage band from Milwaukee broke up on the night of their record-release party for the very good The Goodnight Loving Supper Club. Too bad; they kept getting better with each new record. "The Pan" sums up the human condition in six short words: "And we're all in the pan."
"Summer Nights Lakeside" by Gospel Claws: These local dudes released, as my colleague Martin Cizmar put it, the "best song by any Valley band in any genre in 2010." It could be the only thing related to music that Martin and I will ever agree on again.
"Time of the Season" by Isobel Campbell and Mark Lanegan: The late, great Lee Hazlewood is one of my favorite artists of all time. Here, the former Belle and Sebastian and Screaming Trees frontpeople, do their best Lee and Nancy imitation. The whole record, Hawk, is fantastic.
"I'd Rather Be Your Enemy" by Gemma Ray: Speaking of Lee Hazlewood, the British songstress Gemma Ray covered this Lee nugget on her fine It's a Shame About Gemma Ray album. The record is mostly covers, by acts like Gun Club, Mudhoney, Sonic Youth, Elvis Presley, and others.
"Bad Blood" by Black Rebel Motorcycle Club: Never had much use for this band, but I can't get enough of this song. I think it's those woozy guitar bends that have me hooked.
"Time Traveler" by Destruction Unit: This local band kicks off most of its shows with this 8 minute, 15 second hypnotic masterpiece. Go see them January 23 at the Yucca Tap and try not to be mesmerized.
"Pure Shit" by Call Me Lightning: The band name lets you know they wear their Who influences on their sleeve. The Milwaukee power trio plays up the Who's Next-era grandiosity along with Fugazi and Minutemen touches. The record is called When I Am Gone, My Blood Will Be Free. Get it and "release yourself from the shit you once believed."
"Boss" by Screaming Females: I try to stay out of the prognostication business, but I'll make an exception in the case of New Jersey's Screaming Females. I think they could be big, mostly because of diminutive singer/guitarist Marissa Pasternoster, who should be a future guitar hero in the mold of J. Mascis. SF's record Castle Talk is one of my faves of 2010.
"Don't Love Fall in Love with a Lonely Girl" by Freedy Johnston: Guitar pop in its purest form. I don't remember anything else about the album except this Nick Lowe-esque gem.
"Saturday Sun" by Crowded House: Yeah, more old-guy pop from a band you probably forgot ever existed. The chorus here is pretty addictive.
"Power" by the Green Lady Killers: The stock of this local power trio is on the rise: a walloping new record, a West Coast tour, and a recent label deal. Their 2010 Just Fine record features a radio-ready sound and a breakout vocal performance by leader Lady Van Buren. And they're nice ladies, to boot. Rumor has it they're setting their sights on the coast, so check 'em out while Phoenix can still claim them.
"Bounded Glory" by Tierra del Fuego: This outstanding local alt-country/Western swing/Americana band just released its Queen of the Rendezvous record, and it's a must-hear. Pure harmonies, top-notch and tasteful playing, and reverent yet not-too-serious songwriting through and through. Check them out January 22 at Chopper John's.
"21st Century" by Locksley: Who, or what, is Locksley? I have no idea, but I sure do like this timeless-sounding power-pop tune. I think they copped the first minute of the song from Luna's "Malibu," and I love that song, too.
"Our Whole Lives" by The Hold Steady: "Bang bang bang go the quarter notes . . . Sing sing sing every song we know / Blowin' out the speakers on the stereo." Of all the neo-Springsteenisms we heard in 2010 (and there was a lot), this is the best.
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. The "Nothing Not New" Archives:
December 29 -- Neil Young: Le Noise (B) December 28 -- Girl Talk: All Day (B-) December 14 -- Tierra del Fuego: Queen of the Rendezvous (A) December 10 -- Odds 'n' Sods: Helmet, Michael Franti & Spearhead, Ron Wood, and more December 9 -- Mini Mansions: Mini Mansions (B+) December 8 -- Sun City Mariachi: Funeral Mariachi (B+) December 7 -- Daft Punk: Tron Legacy (C) December 6 -- The Parting Gifts: Strychnine Dandelions (B)December 3 -- Kanye West: My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy (D+) December 2 -- Sharon Van Etten: Epic (B) December 1 -- OFF!: First Four EPs (A-) November 30 -- Robyn: Body Talk (B+) November 29 -- Steve Wynn & the Miracle 3: Northern Aggression (A-) November 16 -- Stereolab: Not Music (B-)
November 15 -- The Fresh & Onlys: Play It Strange (C+)