[Elevator 2011] :: Bands On The Rise

As is the custom in the indie rock universe in this coming second decade of the 21st century, it is not simply enough to know about something, you must know about it first. Furthermore, you must make outlandish predictions regarding the future success of said thing. In this case, it is music. In this case, it is 2011 and our predictions for the bands and artists who will be taking off wildly in the coming year. After the jump in no order, with regard for your future listening and the wisdom of the crowd, your Elevator 2011 bands.


32ft/Sec's 2010 Rarities Collection

We hope you enjoyed our week long feature of the Top 50 Songs of 2010.  In addition, we've put together a group of 2010 rarities, songs that you might have missed as the B-side to a single release, a radio session, a cover song, or a live show that we were able to track down. We listen to a lot of music in any given year and occasionally we come across something not everyone gets to hear. It's like Behind The Music for a blog that already spends its time on music that hardly anyone listens to. After the jump, these are those songs:


Top 50 of 2010 :: Number One : LCD Soundsystem - "Home"

"Home" was the last song LCD Soundsystem would ever make, the final track on their allegedly final record. This fatalism rang appropriate. For most Americans 2010 was an age of increasing anxiety and for James Murphy, it was a year he sold the most records of his career and wrote, "Home," about his dead friend Jerry Fuchs who fell down an elevator shaft in Bushwick in late 2009. It was a modern answer to David Byrne's "This Must Be The Place," a dissatisfied take on satisfaction, or a very sophisticated translation of the platitudes about being happiest right where you are. But, Byrne was trying to talk himself into a women, a slacker's manual for how to fall in love. Murphy was just squinting to see the cocoon of human relationships that surrounded him. He spent most of 2007 asking where the hell his friends were. In 2010, James Murphy figured out they were there the whole time.

The verses address Murphy's place as a weary social meteorite on the New York scene, the coolest of the late night kids who aren't kids anymore. He reflects, "Yeah, do it right/and head again into space/so you can carry on/and carry on/and fall all over the place," his take on Byrne's blithe, "I guess I must be having fun." These late nights have worn him down, if not out. You see him nodding his head in a DJ booth at 3am, a mixture of champagne and bourbon in his glass, while he confides his need to "shut the door on terrible times, this his "trick to forget a terrible year." The keys and synths remain amoral, neither supporting this misery nor the nights out that Murphy used to overcome it.

Amidst all this pain lies a complicated pathos. Murphy knows he is actively ignoring his age and his emotional fragility on the wrong side of 40, divorced and too many empty bottles left under the colored lights. Yet, he asks the central question: "What would make you feel better?" The answer is a self-directed admonition as Murphy pleads, "You might forget the sound of a voice/still you should not forget/yeah, don't forget/the things that we laughed about." We rolled on the floor like children, he muses, but then you need to get home safely because we can't afford to lose each other. People make this work. People fill his life.

In his most obvious nod to Byrne's search for "Home," Murphy reaches the same conclusion in almost the same words, "So I guess I'm already there." He closes with a promising reminder, "If you're afraid of what you need, look around you/you're surrounded/it won't get any better ... until the night." It took a less naive melody to arrive at this final song about being surrounded by friends. What makes him feel better is this invisible fabric he has taken all too often for granted. These long nights out aren't the sound of impending age and death; they are the life blood of a man who has built and tied his life to this scene and these people. He sees it now in the final moment. His friends are right here.


Top 50 Songs of 2010 :: 5-2 [Now we're screaming, "Sing the chorus again"]

5. Tokyo Police Club - "Breakneck Speed"

It was a comparatively laid back song from a frenetic band that dominated the spring and summer of 2010. For a record that began with ambient beeps, Tokyo Police Club's Champ had its first single sitting tight in the three hole waiting to stumble out with shabby guitars and slurring lyrics exploding into a sea of hi-fi guitars. These dynamic shifts proved to be the genius of "Breakneck Speed," especially with its driving metaphor, motif and lyric, "It's good to be back/good to be back," opening at the 1.12 mark and defining the emotional character of a band releasing their first record since 2007. It was one of those fist-swinging, life-affirming, shout-along moments, "It's good to be back". You couldn't sing it loud enough.

4. Beach House - "Norway"

"Norway" made you a little seasick if you listened to it closely enough. The tonal quality of the keyboards warped up and down in pitch only slightly, but it was more than enough for the listener to feel a mild disquiet, take a deep breath and try to focus on the horizon. This was the sound of unsettling. However, Beach House on "Norway", like the rest of Teen Dream, was comfortable in their treatment of troubling themes because the melodies behind these cold medicine keyboards were simple, beautiful pop. Even "Norway," for its challenging verses, is breathless, pulsing and remarkably singable in the chorus. This does not even account for the bridge - and surely, no one wrote better bridges in 2010 than Beach House - and the way it frames the final chorus, a sea of twirling vocals lifting Victoria Legrand up as she moans into the storm. It was enough to just breath it in.

3. The National - "Bloodbuzz Ohio"

The drums announced their return, and in the case of "Bloodbuzz Ohio," the drums did not equivocate the return of the Kings of Indie Rock in 2010, The National. Like a fighter running combinations, the band open "Bloodbuzz" with rapid fire percussion before laying over a steady piano progression, finding in this combination a strange and less stable cousin to "Fake Empire." Berninger fires his lazy wisdom in his head-spinning trip back to the band's roots in Ohio, reflecting both on his impermanence there, "Ohio don't remember me," and the current economic status quo, "The floors are falling out from everybody I know." But there is surprise affection in this return as Berninger muses with regret, "I never thought about love when I thought about home." The power of this nostos carried the National through a tour de force album, a return in its own right to the frustrated brilliance of Alligator, proving that which was left in the dark, behind and forgotten, is not just fuel for reflection, but what moves us onward.

2. Arcade Fire - "We Used To Wait"

One of the most moving songs of the year was about standing still. Win Butler and Arcade Fire crafted the fantastically tense, "We Used To Wait" to address exactly this disjoint. Butler too, along with many of his contemporaries, stares into his personal history with a mixture of fascination and horror. It is his delicacy in handling the source material that sets both song and record apart. Bulter's curiosity is evident, though not particularly judgemental, as he sifts through seemingly bland vignettes of his youth, like the romantic sloth of postal delivery. There aren't easy answers here, suburbia cast equally as terrifying and beautiful. In fact, Butler's complex and divided feelings about his own upbringing, the ability to find richness in superficial American experience, are the soul of The Suburbs and the emotional core of "We Used To Wait." The record's unsettling cover art revealed the key. We are poised behind a car in the driveway of the subdivided neighborhood of Butler's youth. The only glimpse of ourselves will be in the rear view mirror as we move forward (and backward) to explore what is in front of us and what is left inside.


Top 50 Songs of 2010 :: 10-6 [They're sorry they couldn't change]

10. Crystal Castles - "Not In Love" [Ft. Robert Smith]

Crystal Castles, mostly known for their ripping electoclash, found a slice of pop brilliance in 2010 with an assist from Robert Smith. "Not In Love" was rooted in a simple chorus of industrial synths and Smith's lithe, rye vocal modulating the title lyric. It was a cover of a Platinum Blonde original, but that robbed none of the top-shelf pop in the chorus, a 1980s tune recast somewhat anxiously as one of the best hooks of the year.

9. The Jezabels - "Mace Spray"

The Jezabels were the darlings of all the bands we saw this year. Their Kate Bush-tinged pop was best framed on "Mace Spray," a song that lyrically addresses the need for self-defense in an increasingly pessimistic age. The piano chords are spacious and the vocals from singer Hayley Mary eventually take the elevator to the top in the chorus, where the arrangement crashes around her voice, sounding equal parts vulnerable and threatening. With one of the best singles of 2010, the Jezabels already marked themselves as one of the best young bands to watch in the next 12 months.

8. GROUPLOVE - "Colours"

Over the summer we saw the two singers from GROUPLOVE kiss each other on the mouth. This wasn't necessarily scandalous, and our voyeurism was joined by the other fifty or so people in Los Angeles' Troubadour. It was a moment of raw emotion of exactly the kind that the band describes in "Colours," a song rooted in a simple acoustic guitar progression that ends sailing and screaming over a fractured landscape. The band insists on "leaving the ground to find some space," before assuring us, "it really ain't that bad." The final movement is a tautological edict, "We call it ... life!" GROUPLOVE was uniquely positioned to describe this great, common human experience, screaming, shouting and floating above it.

7. Spoon - "Got Nuffin"

There was no more menacing combination of drums and guitar in indie rock in 2010 than on Spoon's "Got Nuffin." It defines the very need for down stroke guitars, before spiraling off and finding a few demanding piano chords to go with all the purpose of Britt Daniel's structure of guitar, bass and drums. The lyrics describe a moment of hope in an era of hopelessness. "I've got nothing to lose but darkness and shadows," Daniel reminds us as, we assume, he spends all this time losing only to find the freedom from constraint as the necessary descendant. It isn't a grand social gesture, some weak marching orders against the backdrop of a broken American life, just the private commentary of one man who sees his way out of the tunnel.

6. First Rate People - "Girls Night"

"Girls Night" was the one song of 2010 that seemed to unflaggingly cross boundaries, unifying disparate people behind a single bouncy keyboard progression. The vocals, the male-female back-and-forth kind, circle each other flirtatiously, throwing looks across the room and daring the other to come over. Their overlap is part of the charm, weaving in between one another, roping us closer and closer to First Rate People, a fantastically promising group from Toronto. No one else brought R&B to indie rock this year; no one else made something this irrefutably catchy. No one else is building these kind of would-be-hits for a mixtape you haven't made yet. This song is the hope that these two voices will cross the room and talk to each other, the hope that this is great and the hope that you will tell someone about it.


Top 50 Songs of 2010 :: 20-11 [My heart hides in a cassette tape]

20. Owen Pallett - "Lewis Takes Off His Shirt"

The big news this year was Pallett stepping out from behind his old moniker, Final Fantasy and becoming, in no uncertain terms, himself. And then he released a nearly perfect concept record about bipolar farmer, Lewis, and the problems of his magically real universe. Pallett's signature strings come on like a storm, building and menacing at the edges before washing over the arrangement with a fury and taste for renewal. The lyrics, beautiful and delicate, end up settling on single edict, "I'm never gonna give it to you." It is beautifully oppositional, independent and wholly itself.

19. Fang Island - "Daisy"

A 2010 reviewer called Fang Island the sound of "everyone high fiving everyone." On "Daisy," an explosive, decentralized rock song, the band traffics in nonsense lyrics and chord resolutions so big they pull the plane out of the nose-dive, reset the financial markets and, yes, organize a six billion person high five at the apex of an arrangement built to crest. In a year with too much anxiety for too many people, Fang Island took this gospel of freedom on the road and to the people: Less worry, more hand slapping.

18. Band of Horses - "Dilly"

Band of Horses did the crossover this year, making more money than ever before and managing to frustrate some of their loyalists. The record was too pop. It was being sold in Starbucks. It was built for sync. "Dilly" cut through the hype and the criticism to divine one of the great choruses of the year. Modulating between three pitches and settling on easy rhymes and platitudinous lyrics, "It took a tall one to see it/two to believe it/three to just get in the way," made it instantly memorable, singable and infectious. In 2011, this will be the soundtrack for some dreadful movie trailer. The crossover is dangerous, but it works.

17. Computer Magic - "Running"

We have a certifiable music crush on Danz from Computer Magic. Her string of one-off singles dominated 2010 in intervals of her choosing and with shocking consistency for an artist that admits she's only been making music for a few months. On "Running," uneasy synths swirl and sway in the ether, as her voice sheds pretension and asks the simple, if fleeting question, "And I'm running all the time/Can you catch him before I go?" No one is making better laptop pop anywhere right now.

16. French Films - "Golden Sea"

It was a year dominated by the surf rock of the Drums and the Weezer-beach vibes of Surfer Blood and the stoned summer of Wavves and Best Coast. Amongst all this coastal music, everyone missed the Finnish upstarts French Films and their buzzing and propulsive "Golden Sea." Track one of the Golden Sea EP, one of the best of the year, the song of the same name takes us to the water, but there is a trick. The slurring lyrical delivery sharpens around the final chorus, "It was only a dream," as plinking synths erupt like children let out for recess, proving the best beaches are the ones we go to in our minds.

15. The Naked and Famous - "Young Blood"

It was the wanton hopelessness of the central lyric, "fall back in love eventually," that kept "Young Blood" from being one of those blind anthems of youth. The Naked and Famous explored the concept of unfettered younger days with a hint of the despair that always creeps near the edge of such meditations. Fact is, lionizing youth is a losing battle, every day the romance a little less intense, each moment a little less pure. It was those words, "fall back in love eventually," that gave a certain, hopeless and hopeful finality to these breathless, sparkler-holding, bleeding-from-the-arm, jumping-in-the-deep-end days of miracle and wonder.

14. Frightened Rabbit - "Nothing Like You"

The next move is never clear for a band who made their name by being miserable and now, against the odds and better advice, are happy. So it was not by choice that Frightened Rabbit fostered a different sense of pathos on 2010 release, The Winter of Mixed Drinks. The band was famous now, and the lead singer was in a relationship that he repeatedly and fondly referenced on stage. The only thing worse than being happy is trying to fake misery. So, Frightened Rabbit angled to describe how they got happy. The pointed and furious "Nothing Like You," took the romance of the platitude in the title, turned it entirely around, not as a compliment but as an accusation. The most damning line is the first one, "This is a story and you are not in it," before offering a shovel for this previous love to bury herself.

13. The Radio Dept. - "Heaven's On Fire"

On the cusp of super-stardom, Sweden's the Radio Dept. released their best record, Clinging To A Scheme in 2010. Sunny single, "Heaven's On Fire" hid something darker, a perfection inflamed, maybe by an arsonist, from just one look at "you." The power of this significant other - and here we mean this literally - is not unidirectional; its capabilities both productive and able to destroy. Over bouncy keys and lighter-than-air drums and guitars, the vocals belay this danger. One of the best songs of the year, hiding in plain sight, ready to light your perfect world on fire.

12. Magic Man - "Monster"

Boston's Magic Man released one of the best truly independent records of the year, Real Life Color, a twinkling bit of electro-pop that made no apologies. On "Monster," a nearly six-minute epic, there are three distinct movements, each colliding into final marching orders, "Find your monsters, don't tell you friends," turning human psychology into a gigantic internal game of Manhunt. As for the outside world, they tell us to, "leave the world in a jar but come back to it." We are reminded of the great frontier inside, of the terror and beauty that lie within us, and of the stunning little keyboard band in Boston.

11. Blair - "Hearts"

It was a little guitar record from a girl in Brooklyn that grabbed us by the throat in 2010. While at times it was reminiscent of a twenty years later Exile In Guyville, this wasn't so angled against love or at sewing up a busted heart. If anything, Blair's Die Young, and its most seminal track, "Hearts" is about being in love with youth, what she calls the yearning and aching of young life. In her fortune cookie wisdom, Blair confides, "my heart hides in a cassette tape", one of the most subtle and winning lyrics of the year. The final minute finds a spinning conclusion with the hyperventilating title lyric recast as texture. We never had this song on cassette, but we spent most of the year hiding in this digital record, a new, modern love.


Top 50 Songs of 2010 :: 30-21 [Are you the one I've been waitin' for?]

30. Wolf Parade - "Ghost Pressure"

Wolf Parade released perhaps their last and perhaps their best record, 2010's Expo 86. Lovers of the Apologies-era Wolf Parade found something in this smoother, darker version of the band. On "Ghost Pressure," haunting, frozen synths dance around the ceiling like spectres before a playful, upstroke chorus implies that this paranormal activity might not be all bad, "Little vision come shake me up, shake me up." Dan Boeckner spends the song's final two minutes in a direct conversation with these chilly keyboards, barking about swarms of bees and this imminently altering vision.

29. Tanlines - "Real Life"

Uber-pretentious Brooklyn duo, Tanlines forecast a world in which we are perpetually promising to begin anew. It seemed that this urban-tribal pop was all the rage in 2010 and no one did it better than the two-some with the bad habit of saying about New York, "Um, yeah, we're from here." Despite their weak stage banter, the band proved a winner with "Real Life," and its concurrent assurance, "It was a passed life thing, it was a passed life thing." For New York kids with a ton to work on, it wasn't a flawed promise. For a song with nothing but sweetness in its borders, it wasn't anything at all.

28. Various Cruelties - "If It Wasn't For You"

A slice of throwback pop and a conditional message about love, Various Cruelties delivered one of the catchiest singles of the year with "If It Wasn't For You." The backing swells with some well-intentioned keys playing the role of strings. We can't promise this band will explode in 2011, but with a one-off this good, it would be an absolute shame if they didn't.

27. Mr. Little Jeans - "Rescue Song" [RAC Remix]

In the 2008 version of this list, we listed Temper Trap's "Sweet Disposition" in the 20s. There was no clear sense that the song was not only the song of that year, but, in all probability, one of the best rock songs of the last ten years. On Mr. Little Jeans' "Rescue Song," we can't be certain of a similar explosion of this one song, but what is certainly true is that this girl is a comer, destined to invade your 2011 in a bizarre combination of Lykke Li and Feist. Put simply, if you're not ready, be ready.

26. Oberhofer - "I Could Go"

If repetition is the soul of pop music - and those songs we take most seriously to heart, those we hear most serially - then Brad Oberhofer is the dealer of this new brand. On "I Could Go," one of the most unbelievably catchy songs of 2010, Oberhofer utters twinkling keys behind a motivated rock arrangement that finally explodes into a million little pieces. It was the most explosive, true indie rock of the year and for that there are no apologies or explanations.

25. Bad Books - "You Wouldn't Have To Ask"

The mixture of Andy Hull and Kevin Devine didn't result in a fantastic record, but it generated a stunning and erupting single from Bad Books. The initial acoustic underpinnings hide all of the final thrashing aesthetic of the chorus and its singular message about things being either so good or so bad that you, well, shouldn't have to ask. An attention span under two minutes doesn't stop "You Wouldn't Have To Ask" from being one of the best rock songs of 2010.

24. The New Pornographers - "We End Up Together"

In all probability the New Pornographers made 2010's best song to characterize a fracturing and faithful American landscape. We are both certain that we are screwed, and for the damage that will necessarily ensue, and yet we are unavoidably in favor of our own co-dependence. Yes, we are for damage, sweet damage, and yet, in the midst of what might be our favorite but not best song of the year, we will all be in the same boat as we fly over the top of the falls.

23. Twin Sister - "All Around And Away We Go"

It was club music for the kids partying at the bottom of the local swimming pool. Twin Sister was cold medicine techno for kids with down-stroke sensibility and affection for a laissez-faire female vocalist only matched by Victoria Legrand. The bass line was out to lunch and the guitars were only built to shuffle feet. The sea sick vocals and Dramamine synths were what made this unique, one of the few songs to encourage and demand our attention from a New York band with nothing but future in front of them.

22. Lord Huron - "Mighty"

Opening with the persistent rain that colors none of the rest of "Mighty," Lord Huron, LA's answer the Vampire Weekend problem so aptly posed by the band of the same name in 2007, offered nothing but sunshine on their most stunning single of 2010. "Mighty" was to indie rock what the Lion King was to the world of animated movies in the mid-1990s. Certainly it was full to brim, and unapologetically so, but it was the pop swell of the chorus that stuck well beyond the pop of the moment.

21. Stornoway - "I Saw You Blink"

Stornoway produced not only one of the great folk records of 2010, but two of the great singles, "Zorbing" and "I Saw You Blink." After weeks of internal debate and much fuss, we decided that "I Saw You Blink" was the superior of the two, leaving "Zorbing" out in the cold with its artistic integrity and pop-hooks as its only sustenance. Well, we have no such grandiose vision. "I Saw You Blink" is one of the best singles of the year. Beyond that - Lucy, whoever you are - we refuse to provide answers to the band's central question. We assume "the one," is in all of us and out there somewhere for everyone.


Top 50 Songs of 2010 :: 40-31 [It's alright if you wanna come back]

40. Tallest Man On Earth - "Burden of Tomorrow"

In 2010 Kristian Matsson as Tallest Man On Earth, an unlikely Swede, so successfully tapped the American folk tree, the most common critical comparison was Bob Dylan. Perhaps a better precedent - and entirely more reasonable - would be Bon Iver, as shared makers of small, acoustic records that chart the depths of human sorrow with mournful vocals and little else. On "Burden of Tomorrow," Matsson's yelp and drawl sketch a universe full of metaphors rooted in nature. Perhaps with an eye toward Dylan and Vernon, he intones, "Rumor has it that I wasn't born/I just walked in one frosty morn." Surprise.

39. Wildlife - "Stand In The Water"

On one of the best debuts of 2010, Wildlife charged out of the gates with "Stand In The Water," replete with pounding drums and a unforgettable hook, "just as long as you're looking for me." This is all before the arrangement explodes into a sea of backing vocals and another assurance, "We're all going somewhere." It sounds a little like a more fully realised Wolf Parade demo, something absolutely going somewhere

38. Dead Confederate - "Run From The Gun"

A shabby chord progression and vocals that sound like they've been up all night before being recorded into a wax paper microphone are the backing of Dead Confederate's slow drive "Run From The Gun." The title lyric is sandwiched around the divine promise, "don't be afraid," while it remains unclear if this violence is real or imagined. The guitars project longing, the vocals agony, but the hook will stick in your cheek because it was built to do so.

37. Hooray For Earth - "Surrounded By Your Friends"

In 2007 it was fashionable to scream, "Where are your friends tonight?" Hooray For Earth offered an entirely optimistic response in 2010, with a chorus built on the title lyric and a church of chiming synths and swelling backing vocals. A cloying subject matter that never becomes cloying in practice as the band navigates this hopeful territory with aplomb and a knack for arty synth rock, like an indie rock Erasure. That is, hopefully, taken as a profound compliment.

36. Math and Physics Club - "Jimmy Had A Polaroid"

No band, and certainly no song, better captured the essence of a spinning, sunny summer than Math and Physics Club did with "Jimmy Had A Polaroid." The lyrics are built around a silly bit of nostalgia before the protagonist moved away. All that remained was this picture and these lost salad days spent getting dizzy in the park.

35. Glasser - "Home"

The stage name for Cameron Mesirow, Glasser delivered some combination of the industrial pop that has become currency in loft apartments and the cold, urban tribalism of label mates Tanlines. Mesirow's vocals emerge as the only source of warmth in the the freezing arrangement of xylophone and looping hand claps. Slowly, the sonics expand, becoming fully realized as "Home" swells behind her like the menacing storm front she alludes to in the song's first lyrics. She is gorgeous and haunting, as you might expect.

34. Northern Portrait - "New Favourite Moment"

Designed perfectly for a movie montage, Northern Portrait craft a slice of twee with tumbling guitars and a self-actualizing chorus. Left in the wake of a now defunct Lucksmiths, the band takes up the banner of shoe-shuffling, feel-good pop currently only rivaled by the Acid House Kings and Math and Physics Club in spirit and execution. Is it the Cure playing a Belle and Sebastian record or something less self-serious? They make no mistake, the answer sitting squarely in the title.

33. LESANDS - "Pretenders"

We saw LESANDS on two coasts and in two small rooms in 2010. One, a tiny art space in East LA and the other, a well-accented space in Park Slope, Brooklyn and each time their vibrating synthesizer anthems elevated the scene. "Pretenders" is their center piece, a pounding and buzzing dose of pop so relentless and infecting in its approach that you will have "roses, roses, roses ..." stuck in your head for weeks.

32. Magic Bullets - "Lying Around"

Magic Bullets delivered one of the most immediately accessible songs of the year on the yelping, Smiths-inspired "Lying Around." The lyrics trace the animative qualities of relationships, and the concurrent malaise in their absence. The guitars are playful and the bass line, frenetic. The final conclusion is a little slice of pop nihilism, "It doesn't mean a single thing."

31. The Vaccines - "If You Wanna"

The Vaccines are absolutely going to kill you in 2011, approaching US shores with as much unknown hype as any rock band we've seen since the early Arctic Monkeys singles in 2005. On first demo, "If You Wanna," the band etches their exit strategy for a failed relationship; just let her come back. It's alright if you wanna come back, they suggest, with something of a rye grin and no mention of what drove the separation in the first place. It's refreshing, a chorus this full of hooks, and unpolished and unconcerned with being either.


Top 50 Songs of 2010 :: 50-41 [Get up, get up, get up]

50. Silver Swans - "Secrets"

A dark, sexy slice of female fronted post-punk, Silver Swans took us downtown and underground in 2010. Pushed through crowd to the back of the club and into some secret corner with dead eyes and weak hearts, the central lyric is a lie, "I don't think about you anymore."

49. Apex Manor - "Under The Gun"

"Under The Gun" both enjoys the comfort of conversation cliches and relentless 4/4 snare drums. A pounding rock song at the center of Apex Manor's debut record, The Year Of Magical Drinking due next year on Merge, caught our attention for its unapologetic affect and the huge guitars that carry us into the last chorus.

48. Murder Mystery - "I Am (If You Are)

Ebullient on arrival, New York's Murder Mystery slice synth-pop into the kind of digestible bites that are metaphorically carried around by waiters at Chairlift's holiday party. It's not quite "I tried to handstands for you," but chiming synths and an intensely infectious chorus make the co-dependency of the title seem an after thought and your answer the immediate and necessary, "Yes."

47. California Wives - "Blood Red Youth"

The glossy, soaring rock of California Wives gave us an intense reflection on lost youth this year. The song builds and builds on the backs of whipping guitars, clocking near five minutes in total, before a final chorus and an explosion so fitting it makes clear that getting older isn't dying at all. For a young group with a stellar EP, be certain to follow each day in the future for this band with an inside chance of being the Stills of 2011.

46. Pallers - "The Kiss"

In one of those moments that needs television licensing before you will take full notice, Pallers' "The Kiss" takes off under its own power at the 3.15 mark, like a zero-gravity push, sliding into infinity with no regard for physical friction or conventional resistance. We said this was a long drive for someone with someone with too much to think about. Apologies, Brock, it's still true.

45. Generationals - "Trust"

The guitars in Generationals' "Trust" are so simultaneously mournful and optimistic, it very nearly makes the lyrics seem sarcastic. Earnestness is currency in this crowd, and this band, more than most, is willing to look you in the face and sing lines like, "what's the use in trusting more than we have to?" They don't have an answer but the prevailing assumption is you will figure it out yourself.

44. La Sera - "Never Come Around"

La Sera vocalist Katy Goodman is so stupidly pretty she inspired cynicism from at least one 32ft/sec contributor who accused us of giving looks-based favoritism. The former Vivian Girl did stun, but it was with her voice, the detached, breathy tones that held captive the longing "Never Come Around." It was a single more suited to a late 1950s house party where the boys and girls spin records and smile at each other, not because they feel good, but because it was the fashion to do so.

43. Small Black - "Photojournalist"

Small Black have sold their guitars and bought turntables, and then they sold their turntables and bought synthesizers and samplers. Perched behind a wall of modern technology, the band draws on the sonics of a distopian, urban safari, creating the music for the headphones of the kids who roam post-industrial Bushwick (you can fill in your own version) wondering what the hell happened here.

42. Sun Airway - "Put The Days Away"

Sun Airway traffic in sea-sick loops and bending sonics that feel like the woozy second-movement of cold medicine on an empty stomach. The chorus sails out of the gloom and maw, but the message is about burial, about being driven underground. In the verses the band returns to its cloudy, anxious vernacular as we steady ourselves against something immovable. If you feel unsettled, good, it's working.

41. Delorean - "Stay Close"

For this writer in 2010, Delorean will never leave the stage at Chicago's Empty Bottle the night before their daytime slot at the Pitchfork Fest. It was late and we were bouncing around to the fog horns and the stream-lined and echoing Euro-pop. At the center of a washed out summer in the middle of the night in a foreign city, "Stay Close" seemed an appropriate close to an evening spent next to Kurt Vile and Neon Indian, losing their minds along with the rest of the kids, "Get up, get up, get up."

First Rate People :: "Funny Games"

The first installment of the Top 50 Songs of 2010 will be up in a few hours but we'll start with a song by a band we went nuts for in the first days of this calendar year. Toronto's First Rate People are going to close our year with the release of latest single, "Funny Games," with cover art drawn from the movie of the same name. The chorus, "I can turn on the bright lights and turn 'em back off, just to make sure I'm still in your life," is one of Jon Lawless' simple, brilliant mixtures of looping synths and an instantly memorable hook. The band is on a temporary hiatus right now, but, Jon assures us they're still alive and this is proof of life. We believe it and think 2011 could be even bigger than its predecessor.


Beach House :: "I Do Not Care For The Winter Sun"

On Monday, the first installment of our Top 50 Songs of 2010 will run, and this song won't be on it. But leave it to Beach House, a band that certainly will be, to sneak one more song into the last days of a year they so singularly dominated. The band's latest offering, dubbed "I Do Not Care For The Winter Sun" sounds like the title of a Robert Frost and Doctor Seuss mash-up. The sonics are the same distant, wistful pop that peppered Teen Dream, only there is a hint of sleigh bells at the edge of the mix. Victoria Legrand haunts the snowscape with her low-end drone, a Christmas for people with a hole in the chest.

Listen :: Beach House - "I Do Not Care For The Winter Sun"


Nana Grizol :: "Cynicism"

One of the best records of 2010 that it seems no one has heard is Nana Grizol's Ruth. With equal parts of the Weakerthans, the Mountain Goats and a splash of Neutral Milk Hotel, track one "Cynicism" crafts the indictment of all the broken-hearted, or half broken-hearted, or those who thought High Fidelity spoke to them on some intimate level. You got run over, you say. That doesn't make you special, they respond; it just makes you everyone. "Cynicism isn't wisdom/it's a lazy way to say you've been burned," marking the least romantic, romantic lyric of the year.

Nana Grizol - "Cynicism" by 32feet

Download :: Nana Grizol - "Cynicism"


Sun Airway :: "Put The Days Away"

Sun Airway's "Put The Days Away" falls claustrophobic and cold. The keyboard loop reminiscent of the first two bars of LCD's "All My Friends," but with the soul cut out and cast as an extra in a zombie flick, left to wander listlessly, sickly around some deserted American city. The hum and buzz of the arrangement remain aggressively modern, unsettling and frozen. Out of this maw twice comes a chorus of anti-nostalgia as the lyrics, "oh, how we put the days away/we just dance beneath a sea of snakes," indicate that to bury our past, we must bury ourselves. We will emerge, certainly, even necessarily, but it will come at considerable personal cost, this life underground. The final crescendo does not offer resolution, only a loud noise and the beginning of something else.

Listen :: Sun Airway - "Put The Days Away"


Toro Y Moi :: "Still Sound"

Electro-pop never sounded so distant and so hazy as on last year's Toro Y Moi single, "Blessa." The brain-child of multi-instrumentalist Chaz Bundick, Toro Y Moi promised to release two LPs in 2010, one digital and one with a live band. The second LP, Underneath The Pine didn't fit into Carpark's end of the year schedule and is now set for early 2011 release. First single, "Still Sound" is a sultry romp, sounding a bit like a male-fronted Twin Sister. Bundick is at his finest in a reverb-heavy chorus, vocals echoing and bouncing off the walls as he spins a falsetto fabric in the middle of it all.

Listen :: Toro Y Moi - "Still Sound"


Eulogies :: "You Hide"

Eulogies, set for a January 18 Dangerbird Records release, carry such a sad story, it almost doesn't bear repeating. The record, Tear The Fences Down, is based loosely on the emotional trajectory of singer and lyricist Peter Walker after a close friend's young son died of rare cancer. He describes the album as his attempt to dig out, to come to grips. None of this is specifically highlighted on first single, "You Hide," a comparatively effusive rock song featuring a tumbing, infectious chorus. The mediation is a both a question and an accusation: "How do you hide?" None of the darkness of Walker's process is visible but, we assume this doesn't mean it's not there.

Listen :: Eulogies - "You Hide"


Junk Culture :: "Summer Friends"

Junk Culture's lead single off their debut EP, the shimmering, unsettling, "Summer Friends" is at once wistful and light-hearted. The central lyrics are functional nonsense and the sonics are the plinking pianos of early Matt and Kim and the woozy backing vocals of Dirty Projectors. But there is something undeniably fun about the jittery rhythms (an indie rock Delorean?) and happily disorganized song structure. The song's most emphatic edict is its last one, a yelled, "So go!" before the lights go out and we're left with nothing.

Listen :: Junk Culture - "Summer Friends"


Mr. Little Jeans :: "Rescue Song" [RAC Remix]

We are certain that Mr. Little Jeans is headed for greatness in 2011. Not only is her cart attached to the Neon Gold locomotive but her most recent "7 single, "Rescue Song" features one of the most instantly memorable choruses of 2010. The original, sounding like post-"1 2 3 4" Feist, is hollowed out here by RAC and filled with winsome Computer Magic-style synths and enough space to let the refrain sail out above it all. It will be stuck in that crevice in your brain between your childhood home phone number and that thing you were about to say that slipped away, both hard to pin down and pretty unforgettable.

Mr. Little Jeans - Rescue Song (RAC Mix) by Remix Artist Collective


On The List :: The New Pornographers @ Terminal 5 [12.6.10]

This review runs live and in color on Bowery's House List.

Neko Case, one part of Canadian rock band the New Pornographers, flicked absentmindedly at the zipper on her sweatshirt before visibly, but not sheepishly, yawning as frontman Carl Newman spat wry bits of magnanimity to the crowd. But Case wasn’t bored. She would later confess that her house had caught fire, she had been involved in a car accident, she had been dumped and she was convinced the whole band was going to die on their flight to London the next day. So you could forgive her for seeming a little distant. But these unassuming reveals wove the fabric of a tangible anti-heroism, even for a band that seems to take pride in coming out of the phone booth in the same clothes they went in with.

The night opened with the stomping and churning of “Moves,” the centerpiece of which is the lyric “These things get louder.” It wasn’t exactly a promise, rather a reminder as the band wandered through their five-album catalog, touching on quieter moments, “Adventures in Solitude,” and approaching serious bombast on the third song, “It’s Only Divine Right.” The New Pornographers’ sonic evolution was obvious from this range, stretching from the 2003 power-pop anthem “The Laws Have Changed” to the orchestral “We End Up Together,” off the most recent record, Together, each sharing the same foot-shuffling excellence that this group seems so uninterested in advertising.

Before an encore including the stunning “Challengers,” “Up in the Dark” and crowd-favorite “Sing Me Spanish Techno,” Newman and his unassuming band closed their main set with “The Bleeding Heart Show.” Even with all of Case’s heartbreak on the table, it was not the title lyric that stood out larger than the 36-inch illuminated letters spelling out NEW PORNOGRAPHERS behind the stage. For the rapt thousands of spectators, even with a group that seems to deny the possibility of such a triumph, the words rang out in the West 50s and across the river: “We have arrived.”

Deer Tick :: "Christmas All Summer Long"

A band doesn't need do much more than name-check my home state of Rhode Island in the first lyrical couplet of its Christmas song to get me in the holiday spirit. For Deer Tick, the spirit of the season is a skuzzed up rock song, with charging guitars and lyrics that sound like, and actually describe, flying around in the backs of cars. So it's not Mirah Carey or Bing Crosby, and it has an intentionally hard to ignore f-bomb, and the final motown tempo feels about as sentimental as putting a cigarette out on your forearm, but this is Christmas to Deer Tick. 'Tis the season for neat drinks and sentiment earned before it is felt.

Listen :: Deer Tick - "Christmas All Summer Long"


On The List :: Stornoway @ Bowery Ballroom [12.02.10]

This review runs live and in color on The House List. It was written by occasional 32ft contributor Noah Davis. It's unclear why he's writing this intro in the third person. Thanks to Ronnie Zizmor for hooking up the guest spot and Geoffo for being able to schedule himself properly.

The loudest ovation for Stornoway came after its quietest song. At the start of the encore, Brian Briggs asked the Bowery Ballroom audience if it was OK to play acoustic. “It’s going to be about this loud,” he said quietly from the front of the stage before he and his band—accompanied on strings by Rahul Satija and a member of the opener, Franz Nicolay & Major General—launched into “The End of the Movie.” After the music faded and the explosion of applause died down, Briggs wondered if they’d played loud enough. He’s genuinely considerate in that way a lead singer is when he can’t quite believe this many people are paying attention.

The unstated conclusion of “Could you hear OK?” is “Because last time we were in New York, we played to 50 people at Union Hall.” And while Stornoway has graduated from performing at venues in Brooklyn basements, the quartet certainly hasn’t forgotten its recent past. This is still a band that buys a saw at a hardware store to convince its drummer to play it with a bow. “Rob has been learning to play the saw,” said Briggs before launching into a song in which the drummer struggled valiantly to tame his unlikely instrument. Who knew a toothed implement of destruction could be so charming?

To close the night, Briggs asked if we wanted another unplugged song. This wasn’t idle chatter; our wish was his command. So we responded in the affirmative, and the quiet half of the crowd shushed the louder half as Stornoway began the jiggish “We Are the Battery Human.” “We’ve got the whole world at our fingers/ We’ve got the whole world in our hands.” We could hear Stornoway just fine.

Windmill Wedding :: "Espanola"

Jon Lawless of First Rate People has split for a minute to work on a side-project under the name Windmill Wedding. Is this a loose reference to a whirlwind courtship? Or is it a magically-real moment where Dutch wind towers walk and talk and flirt with each other, slowly the building the foundation of mutualistic, not to mention environmentally sustainable, romance? Nicole Jasper's talents in tandem, Lawless builds a classically hooky, summer jam around a bouncy synth line and one of those irrepressibly ebullient melodies that remind you: It's never not happening. "Espanola" takes off without looking down or back, a 45-degree jet stream in a blue sky. It is the far-side of the world from the Northern Ontario town from which the song gets its name, one of those secret places where young people make great music and its summer even when its freezing outside.


Yuck :: "Rubber"

It takes more than seven minutes to slog through the fuzz and the feedback of Yuck's "Rubber". The band that so stunned us earlier this year with the Pains of Being Pure At Heart-inspired "Georgia," have gone in something of a different direction as they ready their debut LP for a February release. Here, they evoke a ground-down Thurston Moore aesthetic, or the Pixies, if recorded underwater at half the BPMs. On "Rubber," you imagine the last grainy scenes of a movie with one of those unheroic, anti-climax endings where everything goes wrong and the girl ends up with someone else, and the VX gas hits San Francisco, and John McClane falls slowly from the 30th story of Nakatomi plaza.

Listen :: Yuck - "Rubber"


Porcelain Raft :: "Everything From Your Hands"

Porcelain Raft's "Everything From Your Hands" is one of those perfect rainy day songs that spent too much time listening to Elliot Smith b-sides. The eponymous edict is the opposite of that derivative barb at the beginning of a paragraph by a writer who likes this song a lot. In essence, we will be judged by that which we create, that which we give, but in the modern way, this ends up being up for criticism, not veneration. Reverse the paradigm. It sounds perfect for a guy seen posing with a piano and heard playing tiny guitar chords and whispering into your ear.