- Menomena – Mines
Somehow this album manages to reflect each member’s different approach to crafting a song, yet it completely melts together into this subconscious synergy the Portland trio has mastered over the last ten years. It still included all the multilayer mixing that made Friend and Foe so amazing, but Mines finally brought the electric guitar more into the songwriting rather than an afterthought. With the epic and haunting “Tithe,” hard and fast “TAOS” and heartbreaking “INTIL,” I cannot think of an album that satisfied me more this year.
- Local Natives – Gorilla Manor
Even though Gorilla Manor was released in the U.K. in November 2009, we didn’t get this masterful debut until February here in the U.S., but I didn’t hear it until May at the Sasquatch Festival. I had heard nothing of the band before passing by the huge field filled with people and stopping to listen to 3 songs. It was nearing the end of their set, and Taylor Rice took to the mic to dedicate “Who Knows Who Cares” to his girlfriend, and that beautiful song is what hooked me. Gorilla Manor was the only album I purchased at the festival, and it was the soundtrack to my summer, with not one song I wished to skip.
- We Are Scientists – Barbara
I will admit, when it comes to We Are Scientists, I’m biased. I’m not going to pretend that I’m not, but I honestly think that this album was far underrated by snobs like Pitchfork and utterly ignored by most others (at least in the U.S.) What Keith Murray and Chris Cain did with this album was strip away any limitations that a major label put on them, and with the help of Andy Burrows on drums, wrote a killer pop record. The hard-hitting bass on “I Don’t Bite,” the adorable synth line in “Jack and Ginger,” and the ballads that show that Keith can really hit those high notes, “Pittsburgh” and “Foreign Kicks” help round out my third favourite album of the year. And if you’ve got the chance, and you like Weezer, seek out the U.K. b-side “Pound For Pound.” It’s really good.
Best Show of 2010:
This was a very difficult one, mainly because being with PopWreckoning has multiplied the number of shows I annually attend by…at least tenfold. I could come up with so many reasons why the dozens of shows I saw in 2010 are amazing, but I’m going to sound a bit repetitive right now. Menomena at the Crystal Ballroom for Portland’s Musicfest Northwest was – hands down – the best show of 2010. In fact, that whole week was full of amazing bands. But what Menomena did in their hometown at perhaps my new favourite venue was phenomenal. Danny Seim is the most intense drummer I’ve ever seen, singing on key with so much power while bashing away at his kit. Justin Harris plays a freaking baritone saxophone with so much vigor that you forget it’s a woodwind instrument. And Brent Knopf provides the subtlety and loveliness of the band with his soft lilty vibrato and driving melodies on the piano. I was shoved into this room with hundreds of Portlanders thinking that I’d skip out after a few songs to see the Smashing Pumpkins at a different venue across town. In more ways than one – I was stuck there. Literally leaning against the stage at the Crystal Ballroom, you can feel both the movement in the floor and the vibration of the stage. So in a sense, not only was I hearing and seeing the music, but actually feeling it. It was awesome to hear them open with “The Strongest Man in the World” off I Am the Fun Blame Monster and play through not-quite-as-old songs like the the weird and rough “The Pelican” off Friend and Foe and brand new ones like the moving “Tithe.” Not only did I get to listen to these amazing songs I’d been only hearing on record, but I got to watch these talented artists in their home town. Menomena was so good. Like otherworldly good.
Most Anticipated in 2011:
- I follow Eddie Argos on Twitter, and a couple of weeks ago he posted an update saying that Art Brut was working on their new record in a studio in Salem, OR. You know what that means? A new Art Brut album in 2011. I don’t know when and what it’s going to be called, but it could also mean another tour coming to Seattle? Hopefully, because the last time Art Brut came through Seattle it was a 21+ show before I was 21.
- If Noah Lennox would ever set a real date for his newest Panda Bear release instead of teasing us with 7″ releases here and there, I’d be more excited. But I am, nonetheless, super excited for his whole album, having heard most of it live at Musicfest Northwest.
Most Overrated in 2010:
- Taylor Swift. She really needs to get out of my life. I can’t escape Taylor Swift. Sure she’s cute and a better role model than Miley Cyrus. Sure she plays guitar and writes her own songs. But her songs are getting really old and repetitive, and the girl can’t sing live to save her life. I’d honestly rather listen to Justin Bieber.
Best Musical Memory of 2010:
- Travelling down the west coast with several friends to see We Are Scientists on tour this summer was the best time of my life. I called it the “WASTRAVAGANZA,” because I’m a nerd, and we needed something to call it. It started in Portland, where I finally got to meet the band. It was funny, because I’d interviewed Chris over the phone for a PopWreckoning interview, and when I told him that he said, “oh, you’re THAT Abby. Thank you for your personal and professional interest in our band,” then he gave me a hug. Two days later we went to the Seattle show where my friends brought Keith and Chris pastries for the post-show, and we got offered some cocaine by a homeless man on Capitol Hill at 2 a.m. But the absolute best part was a week and a half later when two friends and I drove 13 hours to San Francisco to meet up with four more friends who loved We Are Scientists just as much as we did. Plus, it was the only all-ages show on the west coast that my underage friend could attend, so we had to make the drive. For some reason in Portland and Seattle WAS had neglected to play “It’s A Hit,” which is my favorite song, so it made it that much sweeter when they played it in San Francisco. While at Slim’s, we also had a nice inebriated conversation with their opening act Aaron Pfenning a.k.a Rewards. I’d gotten a lot of the show on tape, so I told him I’d recorded a couple of his songs and it made him smile like a little boy. After buying some crepes from a vendor outside the venue, Keith and Chris invited us all to the bar they were going to called “Butter,” but we politely declined since not all of us could actually go in the bar. But we did stick around to finish our crepes and hang out before we had to go back to our respective hotels or homes. When they stepped out the door, they saw us on the other end of the block, pointed at us all and said, “you guys are CRAZY!” We did appear a bit crazy at that point, but it was worth it, because we got another round of hugs and my friends and I got to see our favorite band together finally.
Probably several people who just read that think I’m absolutely nuts, but I don’t really care.