Here is a link to download…
Welcome to my 2010 best-of mix CD. In this day and age it is kind of ridiculous to still think of a CD length in terms of mix-making (quick, what was the last CD you actually purchased?) , but I like the challenge of making a musical statement, with beginning, middle, and end, in the self-imposed limit of 80 minutes, which once again I have just about filled up with this year’s selection. No prizes for guessing what my personal favorite event of the year was, with three tracks tied to it, the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa.
The title of this year’s mix comes from a John Lennon quote, who would have turned 70 this year. The quote is used as the main sample in track 19 of this mix. And now here is a track-by-track run-through.
1. Jarvis Cocker – “Belton House – Walking on Gravel & Birds”.
A curious record released by the once and future Pulp front man. Ambient noise from various National Trust sites around England. I like short little introductory tracks to start these things and this one fits the bill, as well as the short time span allotted after the 19 other tracks had been locked down. It’s quite pleasant to listen to, just an unusual release.
2. K’Nann – “Waving Flag” (Coca-Cola Celebration Mix)
This one is a bit of a cheat, since this song dates from 2008, but it was picked by Coke to be the signature song of their World Cup campaign, and K’Naan, a Canadian rapper originally from Somalia, obligingly re-recorded a new version with new lyrics. It’s literally a flag-waver and a grand positive way to kick off the mix proper.
3. One Night Only – “Say You Don’t Want It”
ONO are a fairly middle of the road English rock band who come up with catchy singles such as this one. Their singer dated Emma Watson, of Harry Potter fame, and she appeared in the video for this track, showing the then-happy couple larking about New York City. Coincidentally Ms. Watson is a student at my former employers Brown University, and I have spotted her twice on the streets of Providence’s leafy East Side.
4. Eels – “Mansions of Los Feliz”
A nice hymn to the Los Angeles neighborhood where my father grew up. Eels released two albums this year; one depressed, one happy. Guess which one this comes from. Though it is specifically about the shut-in nature of certain Los Angelenos I can certainly relate to the ‘my-little-empire’ attitude one develops when you spend a lot of time cooped up in your living space. Coincidentally as I type this it is below freezing outside in Providence.
5. Infant Sorrow – “Going Up”
This is comedian Russell Brand in his fictional guise as debauched British rock star Aldus Snow in the film Get Him To The Greek. Often a secret weapon of music-based comedies is that the music itself is actually quite good and can stand on its own. You can still pump a semi-ironic fist to Spinal Tap’s “Hell-Hole” or enjoy Dewey Cox out-Dylan Dylan with his baffling “Royal Jelly.” And if there was a better hands-in-the-air rock anthem this year than this one, I’d like to hear it.
6. Belle and Sebastian – “I Didn’t See It Coming”
While it may be rude to call this a comeback, it was the Belles first proper record since early 2006’s The Life Pursuit, and this leadoff track signaled a supreme return to the fray. I still get chills when Stuart comes in with the wonderful lyric “Make me dance/I want to surrender” at 3:47. It was the orgasmic “Go Let It Out” climax moment of the year. This is probably my favorite overall track of 2010.
7. The Divine Comedy – “The Complete Banker”
Similar to B&S, this was The Divine Comedy’s (really singer/songwriter/genius Neil Hannon) first proper album since 2006. It is my favorite record of 2010; a dazzling tuneful, exploration of life in these times, highlighted by this biting character sketch of the reckless, carefree financial industry that has pretty much screwed the world over and laughed all the way to their beach homes scot-free. Any of the other 11 tracks could have easily made it on to this mix as well. Please don’t stay away so long next time, Neil. Bonus points for Album Cover of the Year too.
8. Two Door Cinema Club – “Do You Want It All”
A spunky band from Ireland, TDDC released some catchy singles, though this wasn’t one of them. An album track, I feel this song surpasses their other releases. Generally, I am unmoved by the spiky post-punk sound of modern indie rock that has been in vogue for the past few years, but this song is a wonderful exception.
9. Vampire Weekend – “Horchata”
Sophomore slumps can end careers prematurely, but this smart outfit successfully sidestepped the second album curse with the sterling Contra. This track kicked off the album and showed a confident, expansive sound, but still in service to melody. Good songs are still the key. Another example where plenty of other songs could have made the cut. One of the best of the year.
10. Kate Nash – “Do-Wah-Doo”
Snarky English songbird Kate Nash also body swerved the sophomore slump with her album this year. Arguably an improvement on her 2007 debut, her 2010 record was loaded with instantly catchy gems such as this. Producer Bernard Butler, former Suede guitar swami, has reinvented himself as a pseudo-Spectorian maestro of big wall-of-sound backed chanteuses. (See also: Duffy). Let’s just hope he doesn’t have a gun collection he likes to show off.
11. Pitbull, TKZee, and Dario G – “Game On”
Back to the event of the year, this upbeat dancer is labeled as the Official Song of the 2010 FIFA World Cup Mascot. Who that was I can’t tell you off the top of my head, but his tune is a catchy one that makes me want to grab my ball and find the nearest pitch for a kickabout, which I suppose is the point.
12. The Len Price 3 – “Mr. Grey”
From way back in January, the English pop punk band released another short, sharp album that was fun to rock out to while on the walk home from work, back when I was employed. I like tracks like this which have a bouncy, upbeat feel with a big catchy chorus and Sgt Pepper trumpets, but then you listen to the lyrics and you realize its about a marriage disintegrating and the resultant suicide. Good times.
13. Kula Shaker – “Peter Pan R.I.P.”
Britpop survivors and hipster punching bags, the Shake actually quietly released one of the best records of the year; a dark, mystical exploration of English pastoral life. Almost no one takes them seriously anymore, if they ever did, and you won’t find this record anywhere near any year-end best-of lists except mine. I liked them a lot then, and I like them maybe even more now. Completely un-self-conscious, forever destined to be uncool and outside of step with modern music (except for a few weeks in 1996), I’ll continue supporting them.
14. Ocean Colour Scene – “Twenty-One”
I could pretty much copy and paste what I said about Kula Shaker and it would apply to OCS. Britpop survivors, terminally uncool, they keep chugging along and quietly putting out solid records with good songs and pleasing their loyal fan base. Nothing wrong with that. They were particularly productive in 2010, releasing another pretty good album, and a career retrospective box set, the latter of which this is the new offering and title track. Carry on, my good sirs.
15. Babybird – “Failed Suicide Club”
Hmm, I’m sensing a pattern here. Yet another Britpop survivor who keeps on keepin’ on. As you may be able to tell, Britpop (the mid 90s explosion in laddish rock bands from England) had an enormous influence on me personally and I am still in thrall to the various masters of it, with their unwavering commitment to melody and sense of grandeur. Particularly this year I returned to it in spades, uncovering several buried gems from the original era, and joyfully discovering what the progenitors of the movement were up to today. And it’s still quite good, thank you very much, as I feel this simultaneously sad, upbeat song proves.
16. Elephant Stone – “Savage Soul”
While fellow Montreal-ians Arcade Fire released a sprawling record this year to much acclaim, I actually found it to be dull, without balls, and tuneless; frankly a major disappointment having been a fan of their first two records. On the other hand this largely unknown band from the same city released an EP that far exceeded it, concluding with this rocking sitar-bedecked number. Love the Stone Roses reference with their name too.
17. Ed Harcourt – “So I’ve Been Told”
Ah, it wouldn’t be a Ted Knowles mix without the master. Ed returned this year with, again, a first proper album since 2006. I originally was going to use “A Secret Society” this year, a much more rocking song from him, but then he does these booze-soaked, sad-eyed piano laments just so beautifully. This one from the perspective of a person wasting away in a mental institution. Getting to meet Ed and tell him personally how much his music means to me when he came through Boston as an opener for James was definitely a highlight for me this year.
18. Shakira – “Waka Waka (This Time For Africa)” (K Mix)
The third and final track saluting the World Cup. While the quality of play wasn’t the best I’ve seen from this tournament, I still can’t help getting an all-encompassing warm happy glow when I think of it; this feeling is no better summed up than by this rousing remix of the official song. When I hear this I think of everyone dancing and cheering together, smiles all around, and Andres Iniseta peeling away in celebration having scored the tournament winner for the just champions, Spain.
19. The Brian Jonestown Massacre – “Felt Tipped Pictures of UFOs”
Perhaps the strangest track on this mix, I love this 10 minute ambient piece from the L.A. hell raisers, sampling John Lennon and then a Scouse bird who doesn’t much care for his worldview. It his hypnotic and beautiful, and I can’t stop listening to it, I usually have to go through all 10 minutes of it when it comes up on the iPod. Note – not safe for children’s ears.
20. Yann Tiersen – “Fuck Me”
A late addition to the mix, this is a nice grand-summation closing track from the evolving French multi-instrumentalist. He popped into my world when his mostly instrumental music was used as a de facto score to my favorite film Amelie in 2001. I gathered his records and listened to them endlessly over the next few years, but admittedly I haven’t really followed him much since he started to morph into a modern rock guy. He doesn’t have much of a voice and I probably still prefer his earlier stuff but this is a good , if R-rated, conclusion to the mix and the year.
Hope you all like it! Here’s to a better 2011, even if there’s no World Cup or even a EURO to look forward to.