within which ieatpants presents a gigantic list

these are the things that came out in 2010 that i listened to and loved most. they are not ranked because it is too hard and i am lazy.

strand of oaks, pope killdragon
the number one reason that this album is amazing: “daniel’s blues,” a song about dan akroyd hunting down and killing john belushi’s drug dealer… so sad and oddly satisfying in the revenge it cultivates. all of the songs here are unadorned and understated. such simple songs can be powerful, emotional, and heavy. death, innocence, and religion, are ever-present backdrops across all of the songs, and it’s that cohesiveness that makes pope killdragon so amazing.

the national, high violet
there’s really not too much to say. this album is damn solid. just like alligator. just like boxer. songs that make you think of whiskey on a sunday summer morning. songs that sound like whiskey—still soaking in burnt barrels in the kentucky countryside. songs that make you think of walking on a cold night out on city streets. songs for collapsing home after a long day. songs for feeling all alone. songs that make you want to write pretentious reviews. celebratory and contemplative.

damien jurado, saint bartlett
it’s easy to replace moments in a recorded version of a song with moments from your memories of seeing a performer sing that same song live. this happened to me for the first few times i listened to saint bartlett. that’s because seeing damien jurado perform these songs somehow connects you to him in some indescribable and sad way (in a good way, i mean). saint bartlett manages to add something to that, though. the songs are sad. damien’s voice aches. he seems a damaged as his old guitar. he sounds like neil young but sadder and is way prettier. i guess that makes it more tragic. he sings about friends and lovers and friends that want to be lovers. he sings about arkansas and kansas city. he does all these things live too, but the record feels so close. so comforting. i love this record for the same reason that i love disentigration or on fire. it’s sadness, despair, a complete lack of pretense or coolness… the songs tell stories that hurt; for example, he sings, “tell you mean it when you tell me you love me. i wanna believe you, i wanna believe you…” and i want to fall down with despair.

bardo pond, bardo pond
this album proves that if you make your best of year list before the end of the year, you might miss something amazing. i’ve only been listening for a couple of weeks, but this album completely blows away the last couple of records. this is the album they should’ve made after ticket crystals… maybe it’s just because it sounds so new and different. bardo pond sounds like a band who’ve just discovered something new. the guitars are gorgeous and the vocals are lovely. i think the word i’m looking for is epic, although i’m shocked to find myself using that word to describe this band. i just didn’t know they had it in them to create something so subtle and immense. they sound more like godspeed you black emperor or mono now… which i suppose in some way is appropriate, considering they just played the godspeed-curated all tomorrow’s parties festival in december… anyway, my favorite is the opening track, “just once,” which right off the bat, lets us know that something has changed. there’s just something so engaging and refreshing, on this, the first song on their self-titled album. isobel sollenberger sounds sure of something… more like patti smith or pj harvey.

the walkmen, lisbon
another solid record from these guys. i can’t go two songs without telling myself how awesome the drummer is. it really makes this record stand out. the songs are solid, of course, it just makes the walkmen feel like an entire band and not just a delivery mechanism for hamilton whats-his-face’s songs. also, an ex told me once that she couldn’t stand his voice. she said it sounded like rod stewart. i asked what’s wrong with rod stewart? i think rod stewart use to kick ass… so yeah, she became an ex-girlfriend a few weeks later. just kidding. but not really.

liars, sisterworld
liars 2007 self-titled album was god-damned amazing. by comparison, sisterworld is just ok. but i mean, still, it’s damn good on its own, if just for the opening of “scissor.” i have a bit of an obsession with opening tracks and this one sets a new standard. if your’e not careful you’ll hurt yourself. the album saunters along with darkness and foreboding—it’s kind of awesome.

emeralds, does it look like i’m here?
it was such a sweet surprise to hear this album. i was obligated to give it a listen seeing as how these fellows hail from my favorite city ever. anyway, so i was expecting a kind of electronic-meets-electric-guitar-jab-in-the-face and not a sweet lovely wash of tonal beauty. oh well. that’s why we don’t judge a book by its cover. i’ve been sleeping to this album for a while now and the songs are starting to blend together with my dreams. it makes me take emeralds way more seriously than i ever did before… which is kind of awesome. i can’t wait to hear tons more from these guys.

personal and the pizzas, raw pie
ok, so maybe this album isn’t that great or deep, and maybe i won’t be able to listen to it more than a few times a year, but god damn, these stupid songs are so much fun. some wise guy once said, “hey, lighten up!”

violens, amoral
i either really like this album or i really like echo and the bunnymen.

antony & the johnsons, swanlights
this is a complicated album. i almost feel like i’ve started liking poppy operas—poperas. i can’t help it though, because antony keeps singing about death and loss covered in discordant swells of clamoring pianos and strings. it’s freaking awesome and “the great white ocean” might be my favorite antony song ever.

xiu xiu, dear god, i hate myself
i have no idea who is actually in xiu xiu now… people seem to take that sort of thing seriously and it has been discussed somewhere. all i know is that this album continues on some brave mission to explore new worlds, to seek out new life. to boldly go where no band has gone before. ok, that’s a thing writers call “hyperbole.” i am not sure if i am using it right since i am not a real writer. anyway, terrible things happen to people in xiu xiu’s songs. people are fucked up, but jamie stewart’s people are especially fucked up. there are pedophiles and purging bilemics… it’s dark. but it’s also lovely. there are moments of beauty buried within the horrors.

and speaking of how awesome jamie stewart is, next on my list:

blue water white death, blue water white death
a lot of people like to say to me, “brandon, isn’t it cool that the guy from xiu xiu and the guy from shearwater made an album together?” and i say to them, “well—people that i made up inside my head—it is cool, but don’t forget that this album also features prominently that guy from the paper chase, john congleton, who has been kicking ass for as long as xiu xiu and shearwater. so there!” seriously, this record is great. it’s amazing to hear jonathan meiberg’s flowery voice alongside these strange and haunting arrangements. and when i say strange, i’m mostly thinking of what sounds like things falling. it’s like einsterzende neubaten was recording on the second floor of the studio, and then the ceiling collapsed onto where bwwd were while they were trying to record. and when i say haunting, i mean the kind of dread and tension that the band and album’s title envokes: swimming alone, far out in the water, surrounded by sharks.

women, public strain
listening to public strain takes me back a bit. maybe to like 1995 when i first heard sonic youth’s experimental jet set trash and no star. there’s these intense guitar moments and lovely yelling and energy and the fucking stars are spinning… this shit is dark and paranoid. it’s the best of syd barret and the worst of electric light orchestra. there is this beautiful buzziness that fills every nook and cranny of the album. it’s definitely a bit of a grower, but now I am hooked.

arcade fire, suburbs
i hate hate hate super hyped bands and albums and blogs and people and dogs that yap all night and mobs and mobs of schoolchildren—they’re always so freakin loud! like on a playground… i mean, do you really have to scream just because it’s recess and you’re outside? god i hate living next to an elementary school… wait, what was i talking about?

right, yes. overhyped bands.

the thing about suburbs, is that somehow, it deserves all the hype. i mean, it’s crazaaay, but holy crap, it is true. some critics in the popular media actually know good shit when they hear it. and oh man, this shit is good. when i first heard this album, i wasn’t sure… y’know, all that hype and blogs and buzz (and don’t forget about the god-damned children on the playground). i was hoping for neon bible 2, i suppose, and suburbs is far from that. but months later on a winter morning, this album makes more sense. removed from the paranoid terrorism of neon bible, suburbs feels like a rock concert on a late october night where the singer keeps saying, “happy rock-tober!” or something. i dunno. whatever. this album is so good i could write about it for a hundred pages. i did not grow up in the suburbs, but as an american white male, i feel like a lot of the contrivances that come with suburbia come with american middle class life in general. thank god i don’t have to feel like an asshole for un-ironically agreeing with some of win butler’s cynical lyrics.

beach house, teen dream
there are some complex reasons why i love this album so much. first off, i think the singer is probably a super annoying person. what’s up with that? i mean, her emotional and sultry voice (especially on the back to back punches of “silver soul” and “norway”) floors me even after a hundred listens, but that doesn’t change the fact that the lyrics make me think she’s being coy. i fucking hate people who love being coy. it reminds me of all the theater nerds i knew in college (mind you, the ones from high school were kind of awesome, because well, high school is fucked up and sometimes you need friends that are just as geeky and uncool as you and well, a distinction doesn’t need to be made as long as someone buys the beer and someone else brings the pot and someone else plays sabbath and blue cheer records… but i digress). admittedly, i am torn between absolutely loving and religiously hating beach house, but i have to put aside my cynicism just this once and embrace this band because they’ve managed to evoke such a response. plus, their from baltimore, which reminds me a lot of cleveland. i have good friends from baltimore and could only wish such amazing success to their bands… who knows, maybe beach house’s success will make it easier for other b-more bands to get the attention they deserve. and that would be amazing.


Honorable mention for best thing of the year, non-music based: paul f. tompkins, the pod f. tompkast
holy shit, i love paul f. tompkins. i feel like he might be my long-lost brother. of course, he’s not really lost (or long), because obviously, a ton of people know where he’s at. but that’s the curse of celebrity, i suppose.

anyway, this guy has the right combination of old-timey tomfoolery and nonsense rambling absurdities to constantly keep me on my toes. and just when i was at the point, late last summer, where i said to myself: “gee the two albums i have of his are hilarious, but wouldn’t it be nice to have a bit more of pft in my life?” and then, BAM! along comes a monthly hour-long podcast filled with the beautiful silliness that is “the purple-tied wit.” (that’s my new nickname for pft. i hope it catches on.) and the impressions! my word! it’s so wonderful to hear a good cake boss impression! and to drop eaves on Ice-T talking shop with Sir Andrew Lloyd Weber! Honestly! i could go on! but i will wrap it up. in the words of the cake boss: “merry christmas to all, and to all, CAKE BOSS!”

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