Sunday, February 27, 2011

Megan's Top 70 of 2010: #1 - The Black Angels

Why I Decree it to Be So:

As soon as I heard Phosphene Dream, I knew The Black Angels had claimed the number one record. True, it was probably fated to be my favorite record of the year, given how much I adore The Black Angels. But not even I could have predicted just how much I would love Phosphene Dream. It is record number three for my favorite time-traveling lovers of all things psych and holy, and it might just be my favorite. Right away, the disarmingly delicious drone draws you in in the form of "Bad Vibrations." Shit starts to get crazy around three minutes and twenty seconds in, when Alex Maas yelps and the guitars explode into an assault of pure noisy ecstasy. On "Yellow Elevator #2" the band officially blew my mind, not only with the super sexy bassline but the breathtaking harmonizing and the daze tha ensues as the song reaches its ending. It's brilliant. And what follows this little piece of spiritual awareness? Only what could be called a pop song (well, as pop as The Black Angels are likely to get). "Sunday Afternoon" is fast and catchy and calls to mind images of go-go dancers in Nancy Sinatra-approved boots shaking and whirling in their mod minis. Title track "Phosphene Dream" will probably blow out your speakers if you listen to it loud enough, but with all that heavy, heavy soul going on, odds are you won't mind. The band pulls another pop song out of the hat in the undeniable "Telephone," with that great organ sound wrapped in that mess of delightful noise. Phosphene Dream says goodnight with the magnetic, masterful "The Sniper," all molasses-thick and impossible to ignore. Oh, but before it ends it gets faster. And harder to ignore. This is The Black Angels at their absolute finest. They prove once again that they will out-drone, out-loud, and out-psych anyone and everyone. End of story.

mp3: Bad Vibrations (The Black Angels from Phosphene Dream)

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Megan's Top 70 of 2010: #2 - Lower Dens

Why I Decree it to Be So:

I'll tell you a little something, you foxy foxes, Lower Dens really knows how to put the charm in Charm City. Twin-Hand Movement is a masterpiece, pure and simple. And as a side note, it also makes for some pretty fine mood music. I suppose that's neither here nor there, but believe you me, 'tis true. To me, Lower Dens made one of 2010's most beautiful, most atmospheric, and most incandescent records. There's stuff going on here that is incomprehensible in its loveliness. The seductive, hazy lo-fi tones of "Tea Lights," for example, or the heart-stopping, slow-motion trap that is the impeccable "I Get Nervous." Perhaps you'll be snagged by "Rosie," which begins ever so slowly and gently, whispering coyly in your ear before, a minute or so later, it expands and rushes into a jumble of lushness. It's nigh on impossible not to hear "Truss Me," a song scented with the perfume of a velvet midnight in the pulsating, sweet height of summer, and not want to kiss someone. Even now, oh so many listens in, this album knocks me out. If you don't own this record yet, don't let yourself go another day without it. It really is that good.

mp3: Blue & Silver (Lower Dens from Twin-Hand Movement)

Megan's Top 70 of 2010: #3 - Weekend

Why I Decree it to Be So:

The manner in which I fell in love with the Weekend album Sports was rather unusual. For the first few listens, I only listened to "Coma Summer." Then, I only listened to "Youth Haunts." And then, only "Monday Morning." Every few days it was a different song. And every few days, I fell deeper down the Weekend rabbit hole. Sports is an almost unfathomably wonderful record, my little warm fuzzies. There is a richness to it, a warmth, this despite the cutting precision and decimating distortion that courses through its veins. My first love, "Coma Summer," is an epic mess of the aforementioned distortion, along with muddy vocals and an unrelenting exuberance. Contrast that with "Youth Haunts," a haunting echo of a song very much akin to those LET favorite sons A Place To Bury Strangers with a cruel crackle and raging bull aggression. A few songs later, along comes "Age Class," building a wall of hypnotic, monotonous drum beat with a whole lot of increasingly loud, ferocious guitar riffs. And "End Times," well, that might be my most favorite of a record of favorites. There's a hint of the pop meets post punk of early Joy Division to it, and it practically bounces off the walls. The way Weekend constructed these songs is nothing short of magical. Sports is magnificent I tell you. Simply magnificent.

mp3: Coma Summer (Weekend from Sports)

Megan's Top 70 of 2010: #4 - The Love Language

Why I Decree it to Be So:

My oh my, how I do so love love love The Love Language. I adored their self-titled debut and was convinced they couldn't possibly get any better. But lo and behold, along came Libraries. And somehow, wouldn't you know it, The Love Language bested themselves. They lost a little of the lo-fi crackle between then and now, but each song on Libraries has that same lazy summer haze feel to it. Album opener "Pedals" explodes from a sultry slow burn into a starburst of sound behind the prettily plaintive vocals of ringleader Stuart McLamb. "Brittany's Back" brings the Carolina backyard dance party vibe like nobody's business. "Summer Dust" and "Anthrophobia" were made for slow dancin' and "Heart To Tell" just screams dancefloor frolics. Libraries also boasts one of the best lines of the year: "I'm no sailor/I want to rock the boat" (from "Heart To Tell"). Classic. McLamb's wonderful lyrics abound, proving once more than he has a knack for the forlorn and the lovesick. Just call him the patron saint of the lovelorn. Libraries is utterly, totally swoon-worthy.

mp3: Heart To Tell (The Love Language from Libraries)

Megan's Top 70 of 2010: #5 - Beach House

Why I Decree it to Be So:

Right from the get-go, Teen Dream is gorgeous. “Zebra” opens the record in magnificent fashion, dreamy and transcendent, probably the most glorious song ever written in homage to one of nature’s most unique creatures. Not only do I love this song, but I love Beach House for writing a song inspired by those brilliant stripes. “Silver Soul” is languidly seductive, with that warm, glowing guitar and gentle, steady beats. It’s a song to which a boy should catch the gaze of his beloved from across the room at a house party, in slow-motion, of course. Totally, incomprehensibly, spectacularly hypnotic. I just love the layers, the beautiful, decadent sonic layers that comprise each and every song on this record. It comes at you from all angles, wrapping around you in a heavenly swirl, creating an utterly disarming and magical effect. Listening to Teen Dream is somewhat akin to listening to musical interpretations of the best days of your life captured on record by people you’ve never met, yet who hit the nail on the head with exquisite accuracy. “Walk In The Park”, for example, took my breath away the first time I heard it. It’s stunning, simple as. And “Used To Be”? It’s just about alive with a glittering, gossamer glory. Is this a record wherein life is but a dream, and everything comes up roses all day every day? Of course not. But the music, o the music. It sure could fool you into thinking we do indeed live in a perfect world. I hereby testify that this record is a little slice of heaven, believe you me. Teen Dream is a thing of beauty, my friends. But then, you probably already knew that. I might be a little slow on the draw, but I am here today to sing the praises of Beach House from sea to shining sea. If you, like me, were a little behind the times when it comes to Beach House, do not despair. The mere acquisition of Teen Dream will make it all ok. (SEE MORE)

Live Review: Pujol @ Comet Ping Pong, 2/4/2011

It was, for all intents and purposes, the week that wouldn't die, perhaps because I was so super stoked to see Pujol once again at Comet Ping Pong (touring with Monotonix). Once I arrived at the pizza/rock joint, I was amazed/pleased/impressed to see the concert room bursting at the seams. It was so packed that people were actually being turned away at the door, something I haven't seen at any venue around DC in quite a while. I could hardly see the stage for the heaving mass of people, but that was quite alright. I didn't need to see Pujol to get blown away once again.

With one of his band sporting a Bob Dylan circa Nashville Skyline hat, the band was ready to begin. "Fuckin' own that shit!" someone slurred drunkenly behind me, and own that shit they did. "We're all from Tennessee and we're gonna play some songs for you," Daniel Pujol proclaimed before the band ripped into their fantastic set. As I expected, based on my last live Pujol experience, the band was rougher and more raw live, though the poppy undertones remain amongst all that rowdy rock and rolling. The band was loud, raucous, and fearless. "We're gonna slow it down and be serious, Daniel said in his intro to "Butterflyknife," garnering loud cheers with the cool, easygoing slowdown with just a hint of bombast it presented among all the sweaty shimmying.

The set was over way, way too fast for my liking. But what a set it was. If you're in need of some sweet little rock and rollers, you can't do much better than the catchy as all hell song stylings of Pujol.



Friday, February 25, 2011

Megan's Top 70 of 2010: #6 - Beach Fossils

Why I Decree it to Be So:

Beach Fossils has a lo-fi feel to the production, reminding me a little of those great albums that came out of New Zealand and the UK in the early 80s. In fact, Beach Fossils at times remind me just a touch of The Clean, seminal Kiwi indie popsters. At times there’s a whole lotta Flying Nun coursing through this record. The guitar on opening track “Sometimes” is drenched in retro, slightly reminiscent of a less brutal Beat Happening, and sets the stage for just how impossible it’ll be to resist the onslaught of shimmery, twinkling noise to come. “I don’t know just what I feel but I feel it all tonight,” goes second track “Youth”, a wonderfully sweet little song with a kicky bassline and drum-machine taut drums. “Twelve Roses” is glorious, jangly and washed in gentle fuzz. Consider it a favorite. Same goes for the song right after it, the equally killer “Daydream”. There’s something so optimistic about this music, it puts me in a good mood no matter what. And the guitar gets me every single damn time. I absolutely, positively, unequivocally love this record. It’s almost too good to be true. From start to finish, it’s divine. (SEE MORE)



Megan's Top 70 of 2010: #7 - Crocodiles

Why I Decree it to Be So:

Crocodiles run rampant all over the Nile. A different kind of Crocodiles runs rampant all over my affections. Odds are they don't bite quite as hard as their toothy namesakes, but on Sleep Forever the band showcases a beautifully biting sonic crocodile smile. To me, they occupy an ethereal middleground between the retro-infused shoegaze shenanigans of those rascally Raveonettes, the Jonestown-ian drone and the noisy walls of sound built so magnificently by LET faves A Place to Bury Strangers. Crocodiles calls to mind all of that and yet so much more. Listening to Sleep Forever was for me a near trance-inducing, transcendental experience each and every time. I'm not sure where this band has been all my life, but I sure am glad they're here now. This record, dear loves, is so good that I almost can't stand it.

Megan's Top 70 of 2010: #8 - Darker My Love

Why I Decree it to Be So:

When I last saw Darker My Love in the flesh up in Baltimore a few months back, their set was heavy with tunes from their fine, fine new record Alive As You Are. The songs struck me then as quite a departure from the swirling, dreamy nouveau psych concoctions I'd initially loved, and the record too steers this new, electric countryland course. But here's the thing about Darker My Love that y'all need to know. Be it the "Rubber Soul" meets Laurel Canyon meets Syd Barrett meets twang with pistols at dawn vibe of Alive As You Are or the heady retro rush of their older records, the end result is ultimately the same: A collection of absolutely killer songs played by a group of incredibly gifted musicians. Alive As You Are gets better with each and every listen, and it was pretty fucking fantastic to begin with.

mp3: Dear Author (Darker My Love from Alive As You Are)

Megan's Top 70 of 2010: #9 - Archie Bronson Outfit

Why I Decree it to Be So:

The odds of being fatally wounded by a falling coconut are about 1 in 250 million. In comparison, the odds that you’ll fall madly in love with the third Archie Bronson Outfit record, Coconut, are substantially higher. I first fell in love with ABO back in 2004, upon the release of their debut Fur. It was a dark, heady, big bastard of a bluesy rock record, the kind of album that’s drenched in boozy sweat and reeking of ciggies and mornings after. In short, it was fucking brilliant, and I was in fucking love. Derdang Derdang, the second Archie Bronson Outfit record, left some of the filthy blues behind it, relying more on sheer size and scope and noise to see it through. It was sharp and severe, and it was another fine, fine record. Sure, we all expect fine things from bands signed to Domino, but even so, it was a fantastic record. And then, to my chagrin, the boys seemed to vanish. For years there was not a peep, and I feared the worst (i.e. a breakup). Happily, though, this wasn’t the case. And I’ll tell you what, my lovelies, the wait for Coconut was well worth it. Right from the start, this record blew my mind. Once again, ABO turned their sound on its arse, and oh my heavens it’s amazing. “Magnetic Warrior” is choc-full of sordidly tribal drumming, charmingly muddy vocals, and a whole lot of noise. Oh, and it’s frighteningly loud (and sounds best played at deafening volume). Upon hearing it I knew in an instant that I was in for a treat. And it gets better, friends. Single “Shark’s Tooth” is painfully good. The chilling, razor’s edge of the guitar, the maddening noisy swirl, the overwhelming feel of fucked-up love that’s come to be so familiar in Archie Bronson songs…it’s nigh on breathtaking. They don’t let up, because next comes “Hoola,” a groovy little song with a more than slightly bawdy bassline that makes me want to do all sorts of bad things. But wait, you say, that’s typical Megan. Well, friends, what can I say, the ABO just brings out the extra saucy in me. (SEE MORE)


mp3: Shark's Tooth (Archie Bronson Outfit from Coconut)


Thursday, February 24, 2011

Megan's Top 70 of 2010: #10 - LCD Soundsystem

Why I Decree it to Be So:

Thank goodness for James Murphy and the many seasons of his discontent. Were it not for his multitudinous complaints about life in the scene, my music collection (and probably yours, too) would definitely be missing a certain something. You might give me the stink eye here, but in my humble opinion This Is Happening is the best LCD Soundsystem album to date. It’s got everything you could want and expect from Mr. Murphy, and then some. It’s pretty much the best dance music for the disaffected you could ask for. If loving this here record is wrong, well I don’t wanna be right. It’s a damn fine dance album, and without question has some of the best lyrics you’ll hear all year. It’s funny and sad and way more poignant than you’ll want to admit. And I love it. (SEE MORE)

mp3: Drunk Girls (LCD Soundsystem from This Is Happening)

Megan's Top 70 of 2010: #11 - Phosphorescent

Why I Decree it to Be So:

Sometimes, sweet friends, I get a hankering for a good old, tumbling dice, jingle jangle morning kinda record. Something awash with the carefree attitude of a time more innocent and much less frantic than that in which we live today. Something full of deliciously rollicking rhythms, sweetly whispered love songs, and the sound of many instruments melding together to form sonic divinity. As it happens, these days I don't have to put the needle down on Skynyrd or The Band or Leon Russell to get that feeling. Phosphorescent (Brooklyn via Alabama's Matthew Houck with the help of some amigos) creates the warm glow of days gone by on Here's To Taking It Easy with an easy abandon. The album is full of big, beautiful songs bringing together pieces of the aforementioned with a hint of that doomed brilliance of Gram Parsons (minus the doomed thing) for a truly timeless sound. For example, "We'll Be Here Soon" offers up a syrup slow sway, Houck's voice rich and commanding against the tender tones of the glorious instrumentation. "I don't care if you like me," he proclaims in the splendid "I Don't Care if There's Cursing," but maybe that's because he knew all along that it would be impossible not to love this record. Song after song is a triumph, a golden shimmering triumph. A must-have record.

mp3: It's Hard To Be Humble (When You're From Alabama) (Phosphorescent from Here's To Taking It Easy)


Megan's Top 70 of 2010: #12 - Eternal Summers

Why I Decree it to Be So:

Roanoke, O Roanoke. Something wonderful goes on down there, y'all, I kid you not. Eternal Summers is the latest head to sprout from the mythical being that is the Magic Twig Community, and this record of theirs, Silver, is quite a grand old time. The pairing of Nicole Yun on guitar and vocal duties and Daniel Cundiff on drummery and the odd vocal outing hither and thither proves a charmingly perfect fit. Their take on surf meets shoegaze meets twee is heavenly. Yun's voice is breathy and adorable, and the record's lo-fi production is just fuzzy enough. Just try to resist them after hearing the languid lullaby and heavenly harmonies of "Eternal," or the playful sass of "I'll Die Young for Rock n Roll," or the kaleidoscopic, magical frolic that is "Silver." You might as well just go ahead and give up now. Throw up your hands, throw on Silver, and send me a thank you note at your convenience.

mp3: Pogo (Eternal Summers from Silver)


Megan's Top 70 of 2010: #13 - Die! Die! Die!

Why I Decree it to Be So:

Those of you who have been around the old LET block a few times are familiar with my love for the New Zealand trio Die! Die! Die!. For years now their visceral, cutting angularity and savage brand of brash art punk have been firm favorites of mine, so it's only natural that I greeted the arrival of their latest record, FORM, almost like a national holiday. On the surface, perhaps, the record is slightly less seething with aggressive vitriol than its' predecessors. But after a few spins round the turntable (or, in my case, incessant listening, because I just couldn't stop myself), the old familiar menacing attitude is there in all its' angsty glory. "We Built Our Own Oppressors" is raucousness personified, choked with vicious guitar, unrelenting basslines, and ridiculously tenacious drums. My favorite track, "Pacquin," has possibly my favorite guitar play of the entire year, a fiery slide into darkness so very beautiful. Alternating between favored themes of social commentaries and personal disappointments, FORM is one hell of a record. It shows a continued maturation in the band's sound, without losing that unhinged, hellraiser feel which first drew me in.

mp3: We Built Our Own Oppressors (Die! Die! Die! from FORM) (via Einstein Music Journal)


Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Megan's Top 70 of 2010: #14 - Violens

Why I Decree it to Be So:

A couple years back, I saw MGMT play down at The National in Richmond. They brought with them another New York band, a band that totally blew my mind more than did the headliner. That band, o lovelies, was Violens. Happily, in the many months that have elapsed since that show, they've been busy little bees. This here record of theirs, Amoral, is positively dynamic. The band produces a well-groomed, glossy yet gritty 80s synth pop incarnate sound that is immaculate and insanely awesome. On Amoral you'll hear big beats bouncing alongside heavenly smooth vocals and lascivious basslines on songs like "Acid Reign" and "Full Collision," whereas "Violent Sensation Descends" pairs a jarring intro with some early 60s-esque harmonizing and an overwhelming air of uncompromising infectiousness. You really might want to add Amoral to your record collection, and sharpish.

mp3: Violent Sensation Descends (Violens from Amoral)



Megan's Top 70 of 2010: #15 - Interpol

Why I Decree it to Be So:

I had concerns about this one initially, y'all. Here was Interpol 2.0, and I was a little dubious about whether that old sinister magic would rear its marvellously menacing head on Interpol. Obviously, I was just being silly. Interpol the record is yet another fine effort by Interpol the band, full of that old familiar dreamy darkness and the slick sharpness that hallmarks the Interpol sound. For me, it's always been about that voice, the magnetic, commanding tones of Paul Banks. On Interpol, his honeyed slink is at its' seductive, Christopher Lee vampire-eyes mesmeric best, and the aural assault of each multi-faceted song is as battering as you could hope for. "Lights" is a standout, on par with the best of Interpol's best, all biting guitar and sexy swells of noise. I'm not sure they'll ever match the electric brilliance of Turn On The Bright Lights, but with Interpol they hit upon something wonderful in its own right.

mp3: Lights (Interpol from Interpol)

Monday, February 21, 2011

Megan's Top 70 of 2010: #16 - Woven Bones

Why I Decree it to Be So:

Who the bloody hell does this here band think they are? Who asked them to make one of the best records of the year? How is it that they could come out of nowhere and rock my world so very much? I’ll tell you what, these saucy little Austinites have made a killer, killer record, my friends, and it seriously has my knickers in a twist. 9 songs is all it takes Woven Bones to wrap me around their collective little finger. In and Out and Back Again is delicious from start to finish. And a little perplexing, too. You see, the first time I listened to it, I wasn’t sure when the hell this record had been made. It reminded me more than a little of bands like The Dream Syndicate and The Nectarine No. 9, both bands tangled up in muddy, magnificent fuzz with a rather aggressive attitude resonating through their music (the peak music being made in the late 70s-early 80s). So too with Woven Bones, who while relative neophytes in that pseudo post-punk meets shoegaze meets the garage playground, certainly don’t act like new arrivals. Hot damn, In and Out and Back Again has swagger. It’s all over the place, wrapped around the distortion, giving extra bite to the slightly monotone sneer of the vocals. Basically, little darlings, this record is without a doubt one of the best I’ve heard, or am likely to hear, this year. It totally blew me away, and if you give it a chance it might just do the same to you. I’m converted to the ways of Woven Bones, I’ve seen the light, and there’s no goin’ back. (SEE MORE)



Megan's Top 70 of 2010: #17 - Black Rebel Motorcycle Club

Why I Decree it to Be So:

Black Rebel Motorcycle Club and I go back quite a long way. I’ve been a fangirl since the early days, swooning initially over their deliciously droning nouveau gaze and then embracing each subsequent incarnation with open arms (I’m particularly fond of the Howl era, as well). As far as I’m concerned, BRMC has been one of the most consistently great bands of the past decade, and with newest release Beat The Devil’s Tattoo they prove they’ve still got it. I’ll admit, I’m probably predisposed to love any record they release, but I’m pretty sure you’ll find that this album is worth all the gushing I’m about to do. Beat The Devil’s Tattoo makes me a one heck of a happy gal, because it’s a return to both the sensational southern-fried, gospel-tinged honey blues that were so prevalent on the glorious Howl record, and the black-clad distortion and drone of their debut. The whole record absolutely crackles with electricity, and it’s charged with this energy that not many bands can match. Even though I expected to adore Beat The Devil’s Tattoo, I was a little taken aback at just how much I ended up loving it. If you’ve not yet fallen in love with BRMC, this album might just do the trick. They’ve got their mojo workin’, and it sure is workin’ on me. (SEE MORE)

mp3: Beat The Devil's Tattoo (Black Rebel Motorcycle Club from Beat The Devil’s Tattoo)

Megan's Top 70 of 2010: #18b - Pomegranates

Why I Decree it to Be So:

I already really, really liked me some Pomegranates, y'all. Heck, they might already have been my favorite Ohioans. But then they went and made One of Us, and damned if this record didn't blow my mind, rock my boat, and shiver my timbers. My smit was instantaneous, with title track "One of Us"'s sophisticated swirl and undeniable shimmy thawing my cold black heart. It sounds to me like what might happen if Sound Team and The Spinto Band got drunk while listening to the Jesus & Mary Chain, which basically means lotsa fearless fuzz and poppy cuteness. The divine "50s" is deliriously, dizzyingly addictive, madcap quick and irrepressible with a very John Hughes-ian sweetness to it. But really, there's not a song here that isn't sensational. Talk about putting the Oh (hell yes/shit fire/holy hell/mercy/sweet Jesus) in Ohio.

mp3: 50s (Pomegranates from One of Us)

Megan's Top 70 of 2010: #18a - Thee Oh Sees

Why I Decree it to Be So:

As soon as I started listening to Warm Slime for the first time, I felt an overwhelming urge to pull an Easy Rider; hop onto a hog and drive into the desert for some crazy days and crazy nights (minus the whole redneck issue, of course). With Warm Slime, Thee Oh Sees concoct a bewitching bevy of songs that are pretty far fucking out in their intensity and intricacy of composition. Their nouveau psychedelic lusciousness knows no bounds, and it's so very big and beautiful and beatific. Whether it's 14 minutes mindfucks like title track "Warm Slime" or the catchy as all hell dancefloor ditty (and perpetual repeated track around my house) "I Was Denied," Warm Slime is one heck of a trip.

mp3: I Was Denied (Thee Oh Sees from Warm Slime)

Megan's Top 70 of 2010: #19 - White Fence

Why I Decree it to Be So:

I must admit, I was a little predisposed to like White Fence’s new record before I even heard it. After all, the man behind the White Fence is a familiar face around these parts: Tim Presley of LET favorites Darker My Love. On first listen, you might ask yourself which long-lost gem of a 1968 record you might have stumbled upon. But no sir. No ma’am. It’s just the good works of Tim Presley. Tim’s definitely been listening to his Syd Barrett records, and has managed to create a really great sound here, evocative not only of Syd’s solo work but with glimpses of Pavement, The Fall (particularly on “Baxter Corner”), and overtones of obscure 60s bands that very few people are fortunate enough to know about. The album is more than a little lo-fi, crackly and muddy and sounding a lot like a basement or bedroom recording. And I’ve got to say that in this case, that’s a wonderful thing. It’s very atmospheric, very exposed, and very, very good. You production snobs might not agree, so if you’re looking for super slick look elsewhere. In the meantime, the rest of us will enjoy the beauty that a little roughness around the edges can provide. Listening to this record, and it’s not a short one, you feel like the whole thing is done before it’s barely begun. And at that point, you’ll just wanna keep listening. And listening. And listening. (SEE MORE)



Sunday, February 20, 2011

Megan's Top 70 of 2010: #20 - Common Prayer

Why I Decree it to Be So:

The first time I listened to Common Prayer’s There Is A Mountain, I was driving home from an afternoon spent in Tappahannock, a lovely little hamlet on the banks of the Rappahannock River in Eastern Virginia. The sun was starting its slow descent into the countryside, and the car was covered by a blanket of tall trees along the roadways, peachy sunlight poking through and creating long shadows along the pavement. It was, without question, the perfect accompaniment for the first haunting taste of Common Prayer. Common Prayer is the brainchild of LET friend and favorite Jason Russo, pied piper of superior Brooklyn band Hopewell. Taking a break from his Hopewellian duties, Russo decided to pick up stakes and decamp in the United Kingdom for a spell and work his magic in the countryside. To make a potentially long story short(er), may I just say that There Is A Mountain is glorious, darling, magical, and almost as much fun as a barrel of monkeys. As much as I adore Hopewell, Common Prayer is quite a breath of fresh air. Don’t be surprised to see this here album perched on the Best of 2010 list, not just here, but all over the place. (SEE MORE)

mp3: Us vs Them (Common Prayer from There Is A Mountain)

Megan's Top 70 of 2010: #21 - Patrick Park

Why I Decree it to Be So:

I first accidentally discovered troubadour Patrick Park many a long year ago, playing at Iota in Arlington, Virginia with another band I’ve long since forgotten. Something about his voice, so very pure and clear and somewhat rustic, struck a chord with me, and still does. Now, years later, Patrick has released another record, the fantastic effort Come What Will. And friends, it’s mighty, mighty fine. From the very start I loved Come What Will. The Neil Young-ian sound (it’s very much in the vein of “Out On The Weekend”) to the guitar on opening track “You’ll Get Over” compliments Park’s tinkling timbre to perfection. There’s an honesty to it, and to the entire record, that you don’t come across all that much. “You don’t listen much,” Park laments, “to what goes on inside,” as he laments a love lost. And yes, I do very much love that little harmonica break towards the end of the song. Bonus points for sure. Amiable and frank, Park has a gift for crafting a down-home, spare sound that will utterly capture your heart. Though the album is perfectly produced, there’s a casual geniality to each and every song, as though the album, and Park, are holding out open arms, ready to envelop you in a heartfelt embrace. Come What Will is such a welcoming record, and feels instantly familiar and comfortable. (SEE MORE)

mp3: You'll Get Over (Patrick Park from Come What Will) (via songs:illinois
)

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Megan's Top 70 of 2010: #22b - Arcade Fire

Why I Decree it to Be So:

I was a little slow to initially jump on the ole Arcade Fire way back a few years ago, when they released the absolutely beauteous and amazing Funeral. I still don't quite know why I was so resistant. I've learned my lesson, thankfully. New record The Suburbs is, well, beauteous and amazing. There's a new wrinkle in Arcade Fire-land, though, and I'll go ahead and quote my friend Henry because I think he hit the nail on the head: "When did Arcade Fire decide to stop moping and just rock?" When, indeed. It was a good move on their part, the whole rocking thing, because it turns out they can successfully do more than just mope and get their gloom on. I can't even fathom how much I love "Ready To Start" with that dark, hypnotic rhythm and, yes, much rock. They also retained a little of their Springsteen love from Neon Bible, which I definitely approve of (see: "Modern Man"). I was blown away from start to finish of The Suburbs. Odds are, you pick this thing up (the few of you that don't own it already), and you'll be pretty dang blown away yourself.

mp3: Rococo (Arcade Fire from The Suburbs)

Megan's Top 70 of 2010: #22a - Local Natives

Why I Decree it to Be So:

I’m beginning to wish they all could be California bands. No, really. The latest conglomeration of Californios I’m currently salivating over is Local Natives. They’ve arisen from the hipster haven of Silver Lake (though technically hail from elsewhere) and shot me through with many Cupidian arrows of musical amour. Gorilla Manor, their new full length, is at this very minute making my heart go pitter-patter, and quite possibly might induce swooning at any moment. Gorilla Manor takes its name from the house the band once shared, and in which substantial portions of the record were written. A friend of mine once lived in a house dubbed The Rape Cave, in Richmond, but that’s neither here nor there, really. I’m not holding my breath for an album of the same name. Digressions aside, Gorilla Manor, the record, is choc full of loveliness in many forms. Gorilla Manor. A name definitely not giving anything away in terms of the depths of golden beauty to be found in the album’s twelve songs. But it’s a name you should definitely make yourself familiar with, if you haven’t already. And go ahead and just accept the fact that it’s one of the best records of the year. (SEE MORE)

mp3: Sun Hands (Local Natives from Gorilla Manor)

Megan's Top 70 of 2010: #23 - Friendo

Why I Decree it to Be So:

Me oh my, I sure do love me some Friendo. Cold Toads, this fantastic little record of theirs, came out of seemingly nowhere to take over my affection with an aggressive campaign of brutal, authoritative artsy punkish reckless rapscallionism with a counter attack of blissed out, outlandish dreaminess. It's fuzzy, it's loud, it can be a bit jarring, and it. Is. Fabulous. With ties to Women, the droll, slightly bored vocals and proclivity towards divine dissonance are to be expected (such as on the sublime, spy theme-esque "Oversees"), but warm guitar licks and all that fearsome fuzz makes Friendo their own very special animal. Winner winner chicken dinner.

mp3: Oversees (Friendo from Cold Toads)

Megan's Top 70 of 2010: #24 - Ceremony

Why I Decree it to Be So:

I’d like you to meet Ceremony. They’re from Fredericksburg, they’re nouveau gaze in its finest of fine fettle, and they’re going to do nothing short of fry your little brains. Rocket Fire is the sweat equity of two Fredericksburgers, Paul Baker and John Fedowitz. The noise these two make as Ceremony is both beautiful and terrifying, full of snarling ferocity as well as dazzling rays of sweetness and light. Rocket Fire could be straight outta 1981, but in the way that only the most modern and on-point music can be. It will quite possibly make you yen for My Bloody Valentine, but also make you hanker for Ceremony themselves. “Stars Fall”, the album opener, exhibits both elements of Ceremony, the sugary sweetness and the liquefying oblivion. Crunching, jagged guitar cuts through the fabulous fuzz and the kick of the drum machine, while honeyed vocals offer respite from the attack of the instrumentation. Even better things await the further you wade into the intense mess of sound that is Rocket Fire. “Breaking Up” is simply blistering, fierce layers of fuzz creating a blinding backdrop for lovelorn vocals. “Marianne” is another favorite, scorching guitar and still more fuzzery playing off the lovesickness of the lyrics. “You’re killing my soul, Marianne,” goes the lament, while the wall of noise undulates every which way. “Silhouette” has rapidly turned into quite possibly my favorite of favorites on Rocket Fire, darkly sinister as it is and with that fantastic rapid fire drum machine action. The heady, scathing swirl of the guitar and bass also add to the intense appeal of said song (and, to a greater extent, said record). And if you don’t make it a point to add this record to your collection, well, I fear there might not be any hope for you, ladies and gents. (SEE MORE)

mp3: Marianne (Ceremony from Rocket Fire) (ta, Tale of The Tape)

Megan's Top 70 of 2010: #25 - Thieving Irons

Why I Decree it to Be So:

Say you're in a really, really great band. But that really, really great band breaks up. What do you do? Well, friends, if you're Nate Martinez, you keep making really, really great music. And that's precisely what Martinez did post-Pela under the guise of Thieving Irons. This Midnight Hum, the first Thieving Irons LP, is one of the most honest records I've heard in quite a while, crackling with heartfelt emotion like you wouldn't believe. To me, it's a record in the vein of vintage Americana, as interpreted by Bruce Springsteen and John Mellencamp (when he rocked the Cougar in there, just so we're clear). The song composition is ace, intricate and lovely, and Martinez proves a more than able frontman, exhibiting a voice lacking in pretense, stripped of everything but tons of stories. Along with partner in crime Mike Brown and other friends, This Midnight Hum is an impressive collection of stories and beautiful moments in time. Ever so highly recommended.

mp3: Tow The Line (Thieving Irons from This Midnight Hum)
(big ups to Rollo & Grady)

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Megan's Top 70 of 2010: #26 - The National

Why I Decree it to Be So:

I don’t love it as much as my favorite National record, Sad Songs For Dirty Lovers. I’ll go ahead and admit that right now. But I love it all the same. There’s something about this band that seems to get stronger as they go along, perhaps it’s the whole maturation process. Whatever it is, The National makes some of the finest music to wallow to that I’ve ever heard. For some reason, in my mind they often seem like sonic equivalents of the (brilliant) plays of Tennessee Williams, imperfect slivers of American Gothic steeped in layers of sorrow and yet achingly beautiful. The songs on High Violet only add to this parallel. It’s a sullen, sulky record, which is exactly what we National fans expect. High Violet is an album of regrets, and it’s beguiling in its unhappiness. Once more, the five Ohio boys turned New Yorkers have made music to soothe my weary soul. The wait for High Violet, agonizing though it may have been, was well worth it. When it comes to The National, being sad feels pretty good. (SEE MORE)

mp3: Bloodbuzz Ohio (The National from High Violet)


Megan's Top 70 of 2010: #27 - The Phantom Band

Why I Decree it to Be So:

And now, dear friends, we come to my favorite band in all of Scotland, The Phantom Band. As The Kinks would say, they're not like everybody else, and hallelujah for that. Second album The Wants sees the gents travel to all sorts of kooky sonic places, anchored all the while by the big, earthy brogue of Rick Anthony. It's not the record I envisioned The Phantom Band making, but strangely The Wants is even more than I could have hoped for. The Wants goes here, there, and everywhere, backwards and forwards, upside down, rightside up, and just about anywhere else. They defy space, time, and genre with their mindbending blend of rocking dancefloor folk confoundery, and in the process made one of the most interesting records of 2010 by 1000 light years, and then some.



Newsflash!: Holy Crap! Another LET-Sanctioned Show of Awesome!

Yes, friends, that's right. It's the gray season of Winter and it's cold cold cold (ok, so it's not cold today, but work with me here), and damned if that's not as good an excuse as any to listen to some damn FINE music of the local variety.

We are happy as clammy clams to be sponsoring what will, undoubtedly, be a night of insanely, wickedly, hearing-loss inducingly loud and ridiculously rad music on February 28th, starring the behemoth talents of Mittenfields and Forevsner. The night promises to be so loud, as it happens, that earplugs will be provided for one and all. We don't want anyone's eardrums popping, after all! So come hang out with us, see two killer bands, AND do good while you have a good time. How's that, you ask? Well you see, darlingest darling dears, the proceeds of the show are going to benefit We Are Family DC. So chase the Mondays away with us, down at Arlington's Galaxy Hut. We can't wait to see your pretty, pretty faces. To get you in the mood, here's a couple lo-fi, rough gems from Forevsner.

mp3: The Ones Who Steal Yer Trash (Forevsner)

mp3: So We Stayed Home (Forevsner)

Megan's Top 70 of 2010: #28 - The Jim Jones Revue

Why I Decree it to Be So:

Goodness gracious, great balls of fire indeed. Riddle me this, friends, how does a band from Blighty manage to channel the spirits of rock’s crucial dawning era so convincingly that listening to this here record might challenge anybody as to when it was made? How can they capture the exact firecracker tinkling of the piano, the rough, jagged polish of the guitar, and most of all, the soulful, guttural, holy howl so needed to inspire legions of fans into riotous abandon? I might not have an answer to any of that, but what I can tell you is that The Jim Jones Revue should probably become one of your favorite new/new favorite bands immediately, if not sooner. This self-titled release has been around for a little while, but just now are we Yanks lucky enough to be able to get our mitts on it. And trust me, you’ll want to get a hold of this one. It’s like having Jerry Lee Lewis wiggling around at the keys, Little Richard running rampant with the mic, and the best axemen and rhythm section you can possibly imagine carrying the rest of the load. The rock just does not stop on this record. Does. Not. Stop. The band goes gangbusters from start to finish, and I can only imagine the holy hell of a live show they must put on (hey y'all, come on down to the D of C). (SEE MORE)

mp3: Hey Hey Hey Hey (The Jim Jones Revue from The Jim Jones Revue) (hey hey hey hey Rollo & Grady!)

Megan's Top 70 of 2010: #29 - Suns Of Guns

Why I Decree it to Be So:

You've heard me ramble on about DC's very own Suns of Guns before, and seeing their record On The Border of Snakeland on my list should therefore come as no dang surprise. This record, my little tenderhearts, is absolutely killer. It's full of filth & fury, grit & grime, and oh yes, rock & roll. This, my friends, is a band that means business. The guitar is raw. The vocals are raw. The bass and drums are, well, you guessed it. Suns of Guns on record really do sound like refugees from the Motor City of The Stooges and The MC5, full of raw power and ramblin' roses but with that extra little DC dirty to them. And let's face it, and band with a song called "The Them" that kinda sounds a little like the actual Them after a month-long bender wins major, major points with me. Without a doubt one of the filthiest, dirtiest, nastiest, sweatiest rock records of the whole dang 2010 open season.

mp3: Purple Bats (Suns of Guns from On The Border of Snakeland)

Megan's Top 70 of 2010: #30 - Women

Why I Decree it to Be So:

I'm still hoping (i.e. deluding myself) that the disintegration of Women as a band is a mere hiccup, but on the slight chance that it's a little more permanent, well, at least they went out with one hell of a bang. Public Strain is absolutely golden, a hotbed of dissonant dreams and unexpected beauty. It's a record that shows tremendous musical growth, and even more tremendous awesomeness. Opener "Can't You See" puts typical Women-esque dissonant discordance against Velvet Underground-inspired strings for a perfect introduction to what else lies in store. "China Steps" is a favorite of mine, with the sinister repetition of drummery as well as in the severity of the guitar. It's almost violent in its' aggression at times, and damned if it's not one of my favorite songs of the year. The whole record, really, is a jaw-droppingly jarring jangle, a crack'd looking glass of 60s psych, perfect pop nuggets, and even some good old fashioned noise rock thrown in for shits and giggles. Squeamish folk might want to look elsewhere, because Public Strain bares its' teeth early and often. But for those of us who dig that kinda thing, well, this record's a welcome treat.

mp3: China Steps (Women from Public Strain)

Megan's Top 70 of 2010: #31 - The Morning Benders

Why I Decree it to Be So:

I love pretty much just about everything about Big Echo. No lie, my friends. The Morning Benders hit it out of that proverbial park, got a hole-in-one, and got themselves the winning buzzer-beater or whatever little sporty metaphor tickles your fancy. Big Echo is bucolically beautiful, robust and sunbursting, an homage to the beachtastic 60s and the glammiest of 70s in equal, and equally-pleasing measure. Christopher Chu's vocals are simply lovely, and oh-so beach ready, and the whole record elicits plenty of California daydreamin. It's idyllic and poppily pastoral and just plain gorgeous. Buy it immediately.

mp3: Excuses (The Morning Benders from Big Echo)

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Megan's Top 70 of 2010: #32 - She & Him

Why I Decree it to Be So:

I tell you what, y’all. The wait for this one sure felt like a deep, dark, black hole of oblivion. But the end result, Volume Two certainly proves that old adage that very, very good things come to those who wait. Well, in this instance anyway. She & Him's adorable Zooey and dreamy M. put their heads together once more and came up with another batch of beautiful songs, heavy with the ghosts of country and girl group greats. These two together are utterly irresistible, between Zooey’s voice and M.’s guitar play. Now friends, with an album of this length, you might expect some throwaway songs. Well, there aren’t any. Each and every song is as good as the one before and after it. I wasn’t sure if lightning could strike twice for this unlikely dynamic duo, but strike it did. I might still be slightly partial to Volume One, but with enough listens to Volume Two I very likely could soon be singing another tune. Hot damn, these two have found musical soulmates in each other, and I’d say we’re all pretty lucky these kids got together to make music. Now, the big question is, are we gonna have to wait this long for Volume Three? (SEE MORE)

mp3: Thieves (She & Him from Volume Two)

Megan's Top 70 of 2010: #33 - The Walkmen

Why I Decree it to Be So:

I can't believe it's been something like eight years since first The Walkmen jauntily jangled their way into my cold, black heart (remember "We've Been Had?"). In truth, they could put out a crappy record and I'd still love 'em, and not only for their DC connections. With latest record Lisbon, the band shows just how far they've come, getting better with age though still impish and playful at heart. They continue to hone their unmistakable sound, that bouncy surf rock meets calypso meets pop, given voice through the warm warble of irrepressible (and dashingly handsome) Hamilton Leithauser. "Angela Surf City," one of my favorites, is classic Walkmen, while "Blue As Your Blood" bleeds a little bit Ennio Morricone along with the traditional Walkmen fare. And you can't help but believe Leithauser when he opines, "I could dream you forever." If you're a fan of the band, you obviously need this record. And if you're not yet a fan, Lisbon will convert you to the wonderful world of The Walkmen.

mp3: Angela Surf City (The Walkmen from Lisbon)

Megan's Top 70 of 2010: #34 - Kris Kristofferson

Why I Decree it to Be So:

By this point, we all know (or hopefully know) the name Kris Kristofferson. But what yours truly didn’t know was just how much I’d fall in love with Kristofferson, the voice, and this here record. Light In The Attic has scored another hit with this release of a collection of Kristofferson demos (their 50th release!), recorded over a 4 year period and pieced together with the man himself's approval. I was well and truly blown away by the simple, honest quality of the recordings, and have found them to be a frequent player in my current listening rotation. Beautifully stripped and laid bare, the rough quality of the demos belies just how very good the songs are, and yet the roughness adds to the overall appeal of the record. The songs are so lonesome they might just make you cry, that being what a good ole country song has the power to do. I guarandamntee you’re gonna enjoy this. (SEE MORE)

mp3: If You Don't Like Hank Williams (Kris Kristofferson from Please Don't Tell Me How The Story Ends)

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Megan's Top 70 of 2010: #35 - Brass Bed

Why I Decree it to Be So:

Laissez le bon temps roulez, they like to say down there in the Big Easy, and the good times they sure are rollin' here on Brass Bed's tres, tres fantastique record Melt White. Blending together an array of wonderful elements, from Big Star-ish powerpop to cheeky dashes of 70s ELO and The Kinks and splashes of good old sunshinin' Americana, Brass Bed will, wait for it, melt your dang heart with this record. It's full of infectious classics in the making, no doubt. Melt White is a definite must must must have, so y'all best get out and get to the having. Unless, of course, you don't enjoy having a good time. In which case, there's nothing here for you.

mp3: Begs Me Not to Beg (Brass Bed from Melt White)


Megan's Top 70 of 2010: #36 - Past Lives

Why I Decree it to Be So:

For quite a while I had a hard time getting past opening track “Paralyzer”. It’s a serious slow-burner, building ever-so-smolderingly into a noisy crashing climax, aided along the way by some absolutely wicked guitar sliding. “She came outta nowhere,” singer Jordan Blilie declares, blindsided, as steamrolling noise batters the air around him. But really, the racket has just begun. “Falling Spikes” shows off spiky vocals and taut, guitar and high-speed drummery. Past Lives is one of the only bands I know of with a self-titled song, the third on Tapestry of Webs. Like the band, the song “Past Lives” is full of sonic complexities, a mix of darkness and light both musically and lyrically. It’s a little ominous, and I sure do like it. The more I listen to Tapestry of Webs, the more I love it. It’s more nuanced than run of the mill punk, a little more aggro than straight up rock and roll, and definitely not just standard indie fare. While it defies genre-fication, it can’t hide the fact that it’s a darned fine record. Not only do I love it for being nice and loud, there’s a lot more to it than that. It’s an album that goes full-tilt the whole way through. This is a band to keep an eye on, that’s for damn sure. If you’re in the mood for a good old sonic kick in the teeth, might I suggest Past Lives? (SEE MORE)