Sure, there was a lot of crap music out there in 2010, just as there is every year. In fact, as 2011 approaches,* new crap music is already being produced, slowly fermenting in the creaking, aching ball-bags of major-label mediocrity, just waiting to be guffed out into the world in the new year, into the expectant mouths of the cretinous, unthinking masses. But it’s not all bad. There were albums to emerge in 2010 that were actually pretty good. Here are three of them.
Best Coast – Crazy For You
Girl meets boy, girl falls in love with boy, boy leaves girl, girl writes slew of lovelorn indie-pop anthems, releases them on an album that boasts a silly front cover (“silly cat, you can’t go in the sea, get out of the sea, silly cat“); the fallout from all this, is a quintessentially feel-good pop record that belies its own genesis, drawing on a sound that feels detached from the lyrical content within.
While it’s true that Crazy For You’s summer-pop/surf-rock indie bent is both derivative and simplistic, and that Bethany Cosentino’s lyrics are so devoid of depth they take on an almost child-like quality (“I wish my cat could talk“…), there’s something unflinchingly endearing about the whole package that makes any criticisms of the album feel churlish and inappropriate.
In a nutshell: Tales of unrequited love presented as saccharine-sweet, indie-pop anthems with allusions to surf-rock; a soundtrack for the summer.
Choice cut: “Boyfriend”
A sonic collage of all that indie hipsters hold dear, Forgiveness Rock Record plays like the distillation of twenty years worth of American indie-rock – from Dinosaur Jr. and Sonic Youth to Pavement and yes, Broken Social Scene themselves (who happen to be Canadian) – and yet, there’s enough going on throughout the record to keep any overt comparisons to its inherent influences at arms length, at least for the duration of the album.
Forgiveness represents Broken Social Scene’s most concise and focused album to date, and while that comes at the necessary expense of at least part of the adventurous verve and apparent fearlessness that permeated so much of the band’s previous work, it ultimately works in the record’s favour, as the twelve-piece ensemble shy away from meandering indulgence and instead come to focus on finely crafted soundscapes that build with purpose to palpable crescendos and honed blasts of melodic indie cool.
In a nutshell: Ambitious and grandiose, yet focused indie-rock record, fusing brass, strings, piano and intermittent slithers of electronica.
Choice cut(s): “Water In Hell”, “World Sick”
Lissie – Catching A Tiger
Lissie – who comes highly recommended by David Lynch of all people – makes this list despite the efforts of her myriad producers and co-writers who, on the evidence of Catching A Tiger, conspired to undermine her considerable talents in the pursuit of something generic and disposable and radio-friendly. Theirs was a calculated assault on musical integrity, but it’s one that the young singer/songwriter emerges from confoundingly unscathed.
While the songs that comprise Catching A Tiger have been produced with soulless adherence to ‘radio-fodder’ orthodoxy in mind, there is an indefeasible quality to them that survives and outlasts the major-label mandate of sterility and dilution. But more than anything else, it’s Lissie’s voice that endures, transcending the banality of pop modernity, breathing fresh life into songs that assuredly navigate the well travelled roads of Americana, folk, rock, pop and Southern balladry.
In a nutshell: California folk-rock, Southern ballads and commercial pop songs that somehow survive being all but drowned in studio polish.
Choice cut(s): “Oh, Mississippi”, “Little Lovin’”
* written in 2010, forgotten about, posted in 2011