Marc Sollinger’s Top 10 Bands of 2010
Lists are awesome, aren’t they? Well, the NME and Stereogum seem to think so, because they both just posted lists of the best new acts of 2010. And, well, the lists are alright. But can WERW do better? Of course we can! (And by “we” I mean Marc Sollinger, assistant Production Manager and host of “Harmony in My Head.” I’m not speaking for all of WERW. Or am I? No, no I’m not). So, without further ado, here in reverse numerical order, are the top 10 new bands of 2010!
OK, some further ado actually: choosing what makes a “new band of 2010” is difficult. Basically, if the band gained major blogospheric (and yes, blogospheric is a word. A stupid, stupid word) attention before January 1st of 2010, it’s ineligible. But yeah, that criteria is fuzzy, most bands here have released stuff before 2010. I’m going with the very loose “it seems like their time” rule. Which means I have to exclude Sleigh Bells (who released the devastatingly catchy “Crown On The Ground in ‘09) and Clubfeet (who’ve been around for a while). Other than that, if your favorite new band isn’t on here, it’s because they’re just not good enough *cough, Best Coast, cough.* And of course, feel free to mercilessly pick apart my decisions in the comments.
The Head and the Heart are dirty hippies from Seattle making pleasant psychedelic folk that recalls Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young. So, how are they at all different from Fleet Foxes? Well, for one, The Head and the Heart aren’t nearly as good. But their self-titled debut does have some very bright spots. As of now, they’re all right, with the potential to be much, much better.
What do you get when you put the early Kinks and the Unicorns into a blender? Well, you’ll get a mess of mangled corpses and a murder charge. But you’ll also get Harlem, a garage rock band from Austin. Seeming intent to disprove my theory that all bands named after places are god-awful (seriously: Asia, Chicago, Kansas, Linkin Park, Europe…all terrible, terrible bands), Harlem’s debut Hippies is ramshackle, catchy, and fun. Pick it up and pretend you’re a go-go dancer from the 60s. Trust me, you’ll have a blast.
Let’s be honest here, Arcade Fire are kind of played out. Everybody (including me) loved Funeral when it dropped, but their output since then has just been…well, it’s been boring. Enter The Bewitched Hands on The Top of Our Heads, a French Arcade Fire minus the insufferable pretension and plus a psychedelic tint. TBHOTTOOH (and yes, their name is VERY annoying) have only released their EP Hard to Cry, but it’s great and fills my need for anthem-esque indie-rock wonderfully. If a just God exists, (which, considering Ke$ha’s career, is looking unlikely), they’ll be playing stadiums by 2012.
Cloud Nothings don’t seem like they care very much. Their songs are lazy and distorted. One can imagine Dylan Baldi, the ringleader of Cloud Nothings (who’s only 18 and makes me question everything I’ve accomplished), tossing off Turning On in his parent’s basement in the span of an afternoon. But there’s magic here. Like very early Pavement, the slacker attitude hides genuine songcraft, and the lo-fi quality brings out hidden depths. What’s the forecast for Cloud Nothings? Sunny. (Sorry for that one, I’ve always wondered what jokes Jay Leno would make if he were really into indie. Now I know).
Yes, Perfume Genius is a guy with a strange voice, sparsely accompanied by only a piano, singing highly personal songs about tragedy. Yes, you have heard albums like Learning. Yes, Learning is a black hole of soul-wrenching depression. Yes, you will cry when you listen to it. Yes, it is jaw-droppingly gorgeous, stunning, and any other synonym for beautiful I can think of. And yes, you should listen to it immediately.
Cults are mysterious. An un-Googleable name, no Myspace page, a limited bio. It’s enough to make the Swedish hermits behind jj look like extroverts. But it works. Cults make simple, childlike pop with dark undercurrents. The lead song off of their 7-inch (so far the only thing they’ve released) begins with a clip of Jamestown leader Jim Jones but transforms into a sing-along. It’s happy, it’s sinister, it’s catchy, and it’s totally original. Get into Cults before everybody’s talking about them.
I’ve said it in my “3 Overlooked Albums” post, and I’ll say it again, Drivan’s debut album Disko put a blindfold over the listener’s head, drives them deep into Nordic backwoods, and abandons them, possibly to be eaten by trolls. A Nordic folktronica group, Drivan are creepy and weird and just plain amazing. I adore them.
3. Wild Nothing
Of all the Pitchfork-generated “movements” in indie rock, Chillwave might be the most annoying. Most records to come out of the “movement” are boring, and those that aren’t are almost unlistenable. Chillwave is a vast wasteland of mediocrity. The exception, however, is Wild Nothing’s Gemini. Laid-back without being boring, yearning without being sentimental, Wild Nothing have created a very close to excellent album. If we had to go through the idiocy of Chillwave to get this album, well, it was worth it.
Yuck make you feel like you’re underwater. The music washes over you slow, dreamy and beautiful. It’d difficult to describe, I’m not sure exactly why I’ve rated it so highly. They’ve only released one EP, and they sound A LOT like Yo La Tengo. But there’s something about them, something that seems timeless and moving. It wrenches your heart, and I don’t know why. It uses the vocabulary of early 90s indie, but transforms it, makes it into something different. If I ever needed a soundtrack to go into space, this is the band I would play.
1. The Drums
Imagine everything good about the 80s. That’s The Drums. They’re infectious, jittery, and cooler than anything I’ve heard all year. Their self-titled debut is neck and neck with Titus Andronicus’ The Monitor for my favorite record of the year. It doesn’t even sound like a debut album, it sounds like the magnum opus of an excellent 15 year old band. From start to finish, it’s damn near perfect. It’s magnificent and assured and…and I should stop the hyperbole train before it goes off the tracks. (By the way, have you been on the hyperbole train? You should, it’s the best train ever). I’ll just say that there was absolutely no doubt in my mind what the best band of 2010 was. The Drums are just that damn good.