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2010: Evan Hanlon

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Dusted globetrotter Evan Hanlon caps a "pretty good year" for music with 13 albums and their corresponding hit singles.

2010: Evan Hanlon

The following records are presented in no particular order besides alphabetical. Despite what most people say, I thought 2010 was a pretty good year for music, and out of the dozens of records that I’ve truly enjoyed, these were the ones with which I spent the most time. They represent the best at what they did, which was make me want to listen to them again.

Label: At a Loss | Release Date: July 27

I’ve written and rewritten what I wanted to say about this album at least a dozen times now, trying every permutation of biblical metaphor and hyperbolic adjective choice, but I’m realizing now that it’s best to just stick with a cliché and say you really have to experience All the Waters of the Earth Turn to Blood to believe it. The Body took six years to record these songs, and expanded the line-up from two to 32. In that time, and in those numbers, they found a way to make an album that was louder, more destructive, and even more terrifyingly awesome than anything I’ve ever come across (there we go into the hyperbole).

Standout Single: “A Body”
The entire album in a nutshell, I actually fell off my chair when the choir is devoured by what sounds like the apocalypse in Sunn 0))) form. My roommates were too scared to even ask what was happening.

Label: Drag City | Release Date: March 23

Live albums aren’t my thing for the most part. But when I do find one I like, I tend to cling to it tighter than most of a band’s studio output (e.g. Nirvana Unplugged). In the case of Bill Callahan, Rough Travel for a Rare Thing not only collects some of the best songs from his time as Smog, it also updates them to reflect his new recording ethos under his Christian name. More than that, though, is the chance to hear such despairingly intimate songs in a clearly intimate environment. Recorded live, Callahan’s voice stretches deeper than any ocean I could think of.

Standout Single: “Rock Bottom Riser”
This song was already pretty damn melancholy. But here, Callahan and the rest of his band deftly manipulate it from its single, barely-there chord to an expansive and delicate layering of harmonies, so much so that it brings on entirely new waves of emotion. It’s what should happen to a song played live: remain identifiable even as it becomes something else.

• Read the Dusted Review

Label: Def Jam | Release Date: July 13

Early on in Pilot Talk, Spitta talks about “some of the good things that weed can do.” But it’s not until later that you realize this whole album is about those things. With both a Dame Dash co-sign and Ski Beatz production, Curren$y makes a very convincing case for all of them. Every track is strong, emphasizing a real gift for specifically locating minute, peculiar truths in life that make you think, or smile at the least. Curren$y once explained that the reason he smokes so much was to alleviate a certain disgust with just how fucked up the world can be sometimes. I’ve never smoked a day in my life, but sometimes when I’m listening to this in the car, I start thinking, “Why not?”

Standout Single: “Roasted”
How many rappers would seriously namecheck not only TriBeCa, but the lemon press at Bubby’s in particular? That’s real commitment to the little things in life.

Label: Goner | Release Date: March 16

In his review for this site, Michael Crumsho wrote “Rush to Relax is that rare record, asking nothing up front, but yielding more and more rewards with each passing listen.” I can’t think of a better way to describe the time I’ve spent with this record. It’s so fundamental and straightforward, there’s something that just gets me going. And not just musically either; these Aussies do such a good job of capturing my every state of being, from “Anxiety” to “I Can Be a Jerk.” Even when it’s tackling the more stressful side of things, though, these songs remain the definition of "feel good" music for me.

Standout Single: “Rush to Relax”
The 15-minute field recording of waves crashing against the shore that fills out the end of this song is the most therapeutic set of sounds I’ve experienced since the 30 minutes of frog pond on Neko Case’s “Marais La Nuit.”

• Read the Dusted Review

Label: Kill Rock Stars | Release Date: August 24

I’ve spent the second half of 2010 listening to Past Time a handful of times every week, and there are still times I feel like I’m hearing it for the first time. In reductive pseudo-critical (oxy)moronic terms, each song is filled with so many “simple complexities” that you can’t help but find new ones lurking inside the impossibly tight rhythms. Anyone who says rock ‘n roll is getting lazy clearly hasn’t been looking in the right places.

Standout Single: “Submarine”
This is the kind of song that comes in from the side and can knock you right overboard if you aren’t ready. It’s gorgeous in its build, unpredictable in its mood swings, and damn near perfect. The three-minute pop song was always supposed to be a convenient format, but I would never expect it to be able to contain as much as it does here.

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Label: Post Present Medium | Release Date: May 11

Gun Outfit’s debut Dim Light was a good record because it so easily slipped into the college radio music spectrum alongside Smog, Sebadoh, the Silver Jews, and Dinosaur Jr. Possession Sound is a great record because it pushes past those foundational pillars into an uncharted corner of the still-recognizable Pacific Northwest sound. The main difference between the two is how strong the call-and-return between Dylan Sharp and Carrie Keith has become. Just one of them is more than capable of carrying the melody, but with both of them playing off each other, it’s something else entirely: timeless.

Standout Single: “Last Chants”
It took me like a month before I got the joke in the title, which just made me like this song even more. My main question is when will Keith end up on a Bill Callahan record, or rather, when will Callahan end up playing with Gun Outfit.

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Label: Make a Mess | Release Date: April 20

It’s been a long time since punk rock “belonged to the kids,” a la National Book Award winner Patti Smith, but there’s a couple of bands that give me hope. Knight School is one of them, a slightly darker flip side to the antics of their Queens neighbors The Beets. These songs are definitely for misfits, not cool kids: simple, honest and universally relatable for anyone who didn’t fit in against their own will. If you could turn all those escapist doodles in the margins of your notebook, Revenger and its world of half-fantastic, half-horrifying characters is what you’d end up with. And finally a table at lunch to eat some pizza in peace.

Standout Single: “Hold My Hand”
The farthest possible thing from either a Beatles or a Hootie and the Blowfish song, Knight School manages to not only write one of the more heartbreaking lo-fi love songs of the year, but also manages to denigrate their own standing as a great new band. “I don’t write songs,” they say. Yeah right.

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Label: DFA/Virgin | Release Date: May 17

This is the first LCD Soundsystem album I don’t actively dislike. At first I thought my hater status might have just worn off, but I tried to listen to Sound of Silver again, and I just skipped ahead to “New York, I Love You” and then went straight back to the beginning of This is Happening. I can’t quite place what it is that makes these songs so much better to me, or why a Bruce Vilanch call-out is hilarious this time and not insufferable. But as far as sentiment goes, it feels like James Murphy has exchanged a lot of hipster posturing for some unguarded, unfiltered honesty. When he says, “sometimes friends are mean,” it doesn’t sound sarcastic. It sounds kind of insecure. That’s enough for me.

Standout Single: “Dance Yrself Clean”
“Drunk Girls” got the Spike Jonze music video, but there’s no way “Dance Yrself Clean” doesn’t get the nod for best dance jam on this album. Hell, best Murphy song, as far as I’m concerned. This is Happening could have been just this and 55 minutes of silence and I would still stand by everything I just wrote.

Label: Columbia | Release Date: September 28

Kanye West seems to have been crowned King of the Posse Cut, but I’m still partial to Mark Ronson and his dance party-in-a-bottle. The mark of a great producer is his ability to craft songs that sound singular to each artist. The thing about Record Collection is that they also sound singular to the amorphous entity that is The Business Intl. This may not seem like such a great feat at first, but then you look at the line-up: Q-Tip, Spank Rock, Boy George, the London Gay Men’s Choir, D’Angelo, Ghostface Killah and Pill. How you make everyone play nice is beyond me.

Standout Single: “Glass Mountain Trust (ft. D’Angelo)”
Apparently Ronson is producing D’Angelo’s forthcoming LP? If it sounds anything like this, I will be first in line for it. One of the most bizarre and compelling dance fugues I’ve heard all year, it’s equal parts terrifying and fist-pumping.

Label: Bedroom Community | Release Date: April 13

The Georgia Sea Islands, Appalachia, and inner city Chicago are all stripped to the essentials and built back up on I See the Sign. Much ado has been made about Amidon’s self-described method of recomposing everyone from Bessie Jones to R. Kelly, and how he can make archival material live and breathe again, and rightly so. But at the same time, what’s most impressive to me is how I never even consider the source material. It’s a complete mastery of each song that transcends any kind of postmodern authorship discussion. On a record like this, who really cares?

Standout Single: “You Better Mind”
I’m not a religious person at all, but this is the kind of song that makes you think maybe you’d be better off, just in case. With some help from Beth Orton and a small orchestra, the judgment has never sounded more awesome, in the biblical sense.

• Read the Dusted Review

Label: Kemado | Release Date: February 2

In terms of no bullshit, four-on-the-floor, get up and go rock ‘n roll, I stand by the assertion that in 2010, The Soft Pack did it better than anyone else. Irreverent, fun, cutting and varied, this is an album in a classic sense, spanning all of The Soft Pack’s many talents that make their sound suitable for a basement show, a beach party, or a support role on tour with Phoenix. Cool songs from a cool band that has largely stayed out of the buzzband rat race that seems to swallow so many promising souls.

Standout Single: “Parasites”
One of the holdovers from their days as Muslims, “Parasites” is dominated by sharp post-punk edges and a less-than-sunny disposition concerning the future of humanity. It’s one of the few songs that’s more Wipers than Strokes, and is that much more exciting for it.

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Label: In the Red | Release Date: November 9

Unstable lo-fi indie hitmakers manage to not only flesh out their sound but also take it into a more savage corner of Detroit rock history. The excavation of new-old Death records has been good news for hardcore fans, but getting a 2010 take on stalled-out emotions and the economy is a real pleasure. But as loud and rude as they get, Tyvek still brings plenty of nuance and a real knack for pulling killer melodies from abstractly absurd situations. Nothing Fits is maybe the best post-Election Day soundtrack that we’ve got right now.

Standout Single: “Potatoes”
Half paean to urban farming, half pining for teenage sexuality, this song is just straight up weird in a wonderful way. From the pogo-stick verses to the start-stop chorus and that lewd wink at what’s happening on the sofa, “Potatoes” pops into my head at the most random times, and never ceases to make me smile at least a little.

• Read the Dusted Review

Label: Fat Possum | Release Date: September 14

I’ve always been a fan of the lazy Walkmen songs, the ones that settle over you like a blanket in winter. Not that any of them are particularly over the top in the energy department, but the first song I ever heard by them was “We’ve Been Had,” and I’d say it’s still my favorite thing they’ve recorded. Which is why Lisbon is so appealing to me: The whole album is pretty much walking pace. Sure, there are small moments of acceleration, but on the whole, there’s plenty of time for Hamilton Leithauser to unpack all sorts of melancholy and pensive thoughts. And now that the winter is here, this record is only getting stronger.

Standout Single: “All My Great Designs”
The highest concentration of memorable Walkmen moments on Lisbon occurs during this song. The horse trot rhythms under the walking bass line giving way to the nearly interminable Leithauser croon as he intones “You will know” about the results of loneliness. All of them lead up to a ghostly chorus that make you wonder what did happen to all those great designs.

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By Evan Hanlon

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