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Listed: Dusted’s Mid-Year Roundup

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In a special edition of Listed, we present 10 of the best records released during the first half of 2010.

Listed: Dusted’s Mid-Year Roundup

The Fall - Your Future Our Clutter (Domino)
They’re never quite off the radar; the previous decade found them scoring a sports show theme ("Sparta FC") and SUV commercial ("Blindness"). This year’s outing has made enough connections to generate critical mass — a big indie, feature stories with a "songwriter brushes with death" angle, and a line-up stable enough to become tight. All thousand-million Fall albums have quality moments, and Your Future Our Clutter seems to hit on all their best qualities: polished art pop, repetition repetition repetition garage, and a beatnik noise rant as good as "Hip Priest,” their previous peak intrusion into the basement of the zeitgeist (it plays in the cellar scene of Silence of the Lambs). If you’ve decided to connect the dots, the 2010 version of The Fall is as good a place to start as 1979 or 1985. (Ben Donnelly)

The Feeling Of Love - OK Judge Revival (Kill Shaman)
On OK Judge Revival, The Feeling of Love subdue the vicious bad-assitude of earlier releases in order to highlight the Velvets groove and Spacemen trance that their peers mostly ignore. Out of 11 tracks, the first nine cut a mean swath, and “Young Jesus” pops up from an earlier 7” to close out the album with a delirious, repetitive, stomping sing-a-long — but all of that isn’t really why the album is the best thing I’ve heard this year. No, this album is all about “God Willing.” The track lifts woozy speak-sing daydreaming into an unholy pre-meltdown adolescent bitchfest that improbably straddles the line between too-cool-for-school and legitimate, unnerved teenage self-loathing. I haven’t heard a more gob-smacking garage track since the A Frames’ “Eva Braun.” In a scene where many great bands are content to simply kick out the jams, these guys are special. (Brad LaBonte)

Omar Khorshid - Guitar El Chark (Sublime Frequencies)
Pressed on heavy, immaculate vinyl and packaged in a glossy gatefold sleeve, Guitar El Chark is a dandy fetish object, but this music would be worth tracking down even if it came on a CD-R of mp3s wrapped in moldy cheesecloth. Between the mid-1960s and 1981, Egyptian-born electric guitarist Omar Khorshid adapted the reverb-laden sound pioneered by the Shadows and Dick Dale to the melodies and scales of Arabic popular music. This all-instrumental set captures him at his wigged-out best, adding chewable moog traces and ornate organ figures to his stirring, twangy picking. (Bill Meyer)

Lee Konitz / Chris Cheek / Stephane Furic Leibovici – Jugendstil II (ESP-Disk)
Two months shy of his 78th birthday at the time of this session, Lee Konitz still deserves the title of “World’s Greatest Living Melodic Improviser” (a hopelessly subjective mantle, I know). In the quietly galvanizing company of Chris Cheek’s tenor and composer Stephane Furic Leibovici’s bass, he once again calmly substantiates it. The stellar results register like a stripped-down variant of his best yesteryear meetings with improvising soul mates Warne Marsh and Peter Ind. Chamber jazz with teeth polished to a pearly white. (Derek Taylor)

Lorn - Nothing Else (Brainfeeder)
Bleak, paranoid times call for bleak, paranoid music. But to get it this rich and this gully is enough to inspire an abundance mindset. Lorn, the most distinctive producer on Flying Lotus’s extremely distinctive Brainfeeder label, brings nothing but the pain, not-quite-post-funk dirges set against a wall of squealing drills, ticking timers and military-march rhythms. But every cut is as structurally strong as it is emotionally deep, always connecting with the fear behind the anger and building sound fortresses like Wagner. This is warrior music. Every time you listen, one of your enemies chokes on Chardonnay. And I’m delighted to hyperbolize about it. (Emerson Dameron)

Mi Ami - Steal Your Face (Thrill Jockey)
More like "Melt Your Face," as Bay Area trio Mi Ami trades in the balanced, exploratory vibes of their debut album for something far more aggressive and caustic. Screamer/guitarist (and Dusted scribe) Daniel-Martin McCormick cribs Whitney Houston and Tom Tom Club lyrics in service of a pansexual frenzy, while the octopus-like rhythm section of Jacob Long and Damon Palermo hold down polyrhythms and a tighter-than-tight groove, approximating the lockdown of Chic’s Bernard Edwards and Tony Thompson behind McCormick’s lacerating guitar. Blazing and harsh, this is the kick in the pants that post-punk not only needed, but deserved; six tracks that draw blood. Best artwork of 2010, too. (Doug Mosurock)

Oneohtrix Point Never - Returnal (Editions Mego)
As indie rock spins itself out in ever-smaller circles of irrelevance, Daniel Lopatin’s Oneohtrix Point Never project dropped its second major album in two years. Much more compact and approachable than last year’s two-disc compilation on No Fun, Rifts, the first and last tracks here are indeed strikingly different from anything else in the OPN vault, but the middle part is just as ambiguous despite its more familiar tone. "Describing Bodies" floats between soothing and disorienting, like the title itself — it’s unclear whether bodies are being described or whether they’re doing the describing. This tension between romantic excess and academic precision describes the poles of electronic music; Returnal pulls off the rare feat of developing both vocabularies simultaneously. (Brandon Bussolini)

Owen Pallett - Heartland (Domino)
One of the primary joys of being a music fanatic is those occasions when one encounters an album or song by accident, and it feels shiny new and special, one of those things that you end up listening to over and over for a season. When I was pointed to Owen Pallett’s Heartland, I wasn’t familiar with his work as Final Fantasy or under his own name, so I had the pleasure of hearing it with no expectations. Combining sophisticated arrangements and lush instrumentation with pop music motifs, many of the songs are reminiscent of Broadway musicals. Emotional and delicate, Pallett’s voice may not be for everyone, but it suits the songs, particularly when he approaches an operatic style in the ironically-titled "Oh Heartland, Up Yours!" The layers, depth, and complexity of the album keep bringing me back to it, and each time there’s more to hear. (Mason Jones)

Jack Rose< - Luck in the Valley (Thrill Jockey)
In the first year since his untimely death, Jack Rose has been almost as prolific as he was in life, with a strong, varied string of 2010 releases including a collaboration with D. Charles Speer, a DVD of him and long-time friend and fellow primitive-style picker Glenn Jones, and this, his first and only LP for Thrill Jockey. Like the landmark Kensington Blues, Luck in the Valley brings together several different sides of Rose’s mastery, with hallucinatory raga reveries sitting comfortably alongside bluegrass string band ditties, and deep Delta drones abutting the cock-eyed swing of ragtime. As always, the playing is damned near perfect, an inimitable swagger of rhythm anchoring even the most lyrical flurries of notes. And while you notice the prowess, it is far from the main thing. Rose surmounts technical difficulties with something approaching nonchalance, his considerable skill melting into a pure celebration of tone and rhythm and mood. He’ll be missed. (Jennifer Kelly)

Sightings - City of Straw
Sightings burst onto the scene in 2000 with a 7” that threatened to peel paint (if not skin), and subsequent full-lengths were no less abrasive. In 2004, Arrived in Gold marked a turning point in their music, and six years later, City of Straw is the most focused statement yet from the band. Noise and distortion still arc and spray across the music, but Sightings have turned from Tasmanian Devil into Terminator, wreaking havoc with cold precision and a finely-tuned tension. This disc features a band at the top of their game, in control of the live wire that is their music, but letting it spark and fizzle more than enough to keep things dangerous. (Adam Strohm)

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