A list of my ten favourite music-related things of 2010, for The Vine.
Big Boi - ‘Shutterbugg’ (feat. Cutty)
Precis: Impossibly addictive; the single standout track from an album full of ‘em.
From the album Sir Luscious Left Foot: The Son Of Chico Dusty, reviewed in July for The Vine: “Built around a compact backbeat and unique usage of the talkbox, Boi’s chorus hook in ‘Shutterbugg’ – “Now party people in the club, it’s time to cut a rug / And throw your deuce up in the sky just for the shutterbuggs” – is irresistible. It’s one of the best singles of the 2010, regardless of genre.” (Link)
Crystal Castles – ‘Baptism’
Precis: A gripping vision of an electronic apocalypse.
From the album Crystal Castles II, reviewed in May for The Vine: “‘Baptism’ is the best thing they’ve ever written, surpassing Crystal Castles I standout ‘Air Wars’ by a considerable margin. On ‘Baptism’, they do everything right. Sheets of urgent synthesisers give way to a dainty, circular keyboard melody pasted over a pulsating beat, before Alice Glass’s pained vocals are met by the synthesised opening phrase cut into staccato triplets. ‘Baptism’ concocts an air of foreboding unlike anything they’ve summoned before.” (Link)
Foals - ‘Spanish Sahara’
Precis: Slow-burning pop songwriting perfection.
From the album Total Life Forever, reviewed in May for The Vine: “‘Spanish Sahara’ sits in the album’s centre; in turn, it forms the beating heart of Foals’ revised artistic direction. In stark contrast to their previously-accessible singles, the epic song’s payoff occurs over halfway into its seven-minutes. Singer Yannis Philippakis urges listeners – and himself, perhaps – to “Forget the horror here / Leave it all down, here / It’s future rust, and then it’s future dust”, as the song slowly builds upon a sparse introduction to climax amid an ethereal lead guitar melody, thundering tom rolls and, ultimately, a somber, circular synth pattern. As an artistic statement, ‘Spanish Sahara’ is peerless among indie pop circa 2010. (Link)
Surf City - ‘Icy Lakes’
Precis: The definitive noise pop track of 2010.
From the album Kudos, reviewed in November for Mess+Noise: “It’s a saccharine rave so wide-eyed and beautiful that you wish it to never end. While the rhythm section stays pinned to a groove, the guitarists shear off great chunks of the surrounding landscape with abrasive, Jesus & Mary Chain-like chords. Needling lead phrases punctuate each section, while the singer says “When your icy lakes swallow me” in the chorus over and over (or so I imagine; it’s pretty hard to tell through all the reverb). The result is a song more deserving of that idiotically-overused descriptor “widescreen” than any song that came before it. The best part is that the band is acutely aware of the rare musical alchemy they’ve tapped into, and opt to extend the jam to nearly eight gorgeous minutes.” (Link)
My Disco - ‘A Turreted Berg’
Precis: Musically ominous; lyrically, even darker.
From the album Little Joy, reviewed in November for Rolling Stone: “Album closer ‘A Turreted Berg’ – characterised by a subterranean bass hum, a simple backbeat and screaming guitar squalls – is the single best song they’ve released. ” (Link)
Die! Die! Die! – ‘Frame’
Precis: Frantic, emotive, timeless.
From the album Form, reviewed in August for The Vine: “Closing track ‘Frame’ proves the singular highlight. It might be the most satisfying, most perfect song that Die! Die! Die! have ever released. Its sparse verses shiver in anticipation of the release offered by the towering chorus (“Give up the ghost, you can’t escape / We’re too close; I am here now”). ‘Frame’ is a masterpiece in three-point-five minutes.” (Link)
Tokyo Police Club – ‘Bambi’
Precis: Clipped electronica and sharp drums, intercut with a killer pop chorus.
If you asked me to pick a song released in 2010 that best evokes ‘joy’, this would be my first choice. It remains as exciting in December as when I first heard it in August. You should play it five times in a row, at least.
Metallica – Brisbane Entertainment Centre, Saturday 16 October (review)
“For the first hour, it’s exciting enough just to be in the same room as Metallica. Metal bands don’t come bigger than these four men, and since it’s been six years between visits, there’s electricity in the air. From the moment the lights dim and their introduction music – ‘The Ecstasy Of Gold’, the theme from The Good, The Bad and The Ugly – plays, we’re transported. We forget we’re in a big, shitty shed 20 clicks from the city centre. This show is about spectacle, and nothing’s done by half. It’s something special to witness a band who still sound fresh in a stadium despite having been in the game for nearly 30 years, and having punched in this weight division for more than half of that. This is their norm. By their standards, playing to 13,000-odd fans probably qualifies as an intimate show.
As they rip through the climactic vocal section of ‘One’ with blistering intensity (“Landmine! Has taken my sight! Taken my speech! Taken my hearing!”), I realise what a rare talent they have, to make some these tired-ass songs sound fresh. And then they follow up ‘One’ with ‘Master Of Puppets’, one of the greatest metal songs ever. There’s no-one not grinning, headbanging or fist-pumping. For some artists, reminiscence is a dirty word. Not so for Metallica, who dip deep into their back catalogue tonight, all the way back to their 1983 debut Kill ‘Em All. The house lights are requested for their finale, ‘Seek & Destroy’, during which dozens of Metallica-branded beach balls are dropped from the ceiling and punted around by both band and fans, and by this point, I can’t stop grinning. I’m not alone.”
Massive Attack – Brisbane Riverstage, Tuesday 23 March (review)
“They wield a back catalogue that makes lesser artists tremble, and they’re not afraid to use it. British trip-hop production duo Massive Attack close out their first Australian tour since 2003 with a commanding performance at the Brisbane Riverstage that delivers on all fronts: sonically, visually, and emotionally. Speaking to The Vine (link) on the eve of their Perth show nearly two weeks ago, Grant Marshall – a.k.a. Daddy G, who forms half of the core duo alongside Robert del Naja (3D) – spoke of how he’s learned that “you’ve got to give people something that’s quite memorable”. Check that box. Take a song like ‘Teardrop’. It’s that rare kind of musical composition whose impact is felt across generations, gender and race. Tonight, it’s performed by longtime Massive Attack collaborator Martina Topley-Bird, whose talented, vocal loop-heavy support slot proved a fascinating precursor to the main act. Their most distinguished tune has been reworked into an arrangement comprising little more than a backbeat and her beautiful voice that sings of love, loss and hope. It’s a touching moment for the thousands stood in silence, and as the song climaxes, I decide that it reaches a summit of human expression through music that few others can lay claim to.”
Faith No More – Soundwave Festival @ RNA Showgrounds Brisbane, Saturday 20 February (review)
“Immaculately dressed in pale suits, Faith No More immediately establish rapport with the tens of thousands who crowd the main showground bowl to witness the reunited headliners after their 12 year absence. Opening with a full-band lounge version of ‘Reunited’ by vocal duo Peaches & Herb, it’s made immediately clear that their ‘Second Coming’ tour is no half-baked cash-grab; instead, the band are serious about doing justice to what was left behind in 1998. Serious, that is, while maintaining the playful, casual air for which they became known. (During set closer ‘Just A Man’, Mike Patton hijacks a video camera and – mid-song, without dropping a note – forces the operator to film his cock, which briefly appears on the giant screens that flank the main stages – video of the incident.) Any doubts about their reformation were squashed the moment the suits walked onstage.”
To see the rest of the critics’ choices, visit The Vine.
Elsewhere: my 10 favourite Australian albums and five favourite Australian songs of 2010, for Mess+Noise.