Monday, July 26, 2010

2010: Nothing New?

2009 was an extraordinary year for music. From crazy electro-pop to electrifying indie rock, we were treated to some truly breathtaking stuff as the decade ended. This year, however, is a different story. It’s not necessarily that the music has been worse, but, so far anyway, it has been much less groundbreaking. Take a look at three of the best albums of the year to this point: ‘Teen Dream’ by Beach House, ‘How I Got Over’ by the Roots, and ‘The Wild Hunt’ by The Tallest Man on Earth. At their most creative, each improves on an existing sound – it doesn’t invent new ones. Beach House puts a wonderful spin on the relatively standard indie rock formula of clean, colorful guitar lines and a distant rhythm section. The edge on this record comes from Victoria Legrand’s vocals, but they aren’t enough to make ‘Dream’ revolutionary. The Roots perfect jazz-hop on their latest release, but it’s not the first time we’ve heard this sound. Actually, it’s not even the first time we’ve heard the Roots play this way. The Tallest Man on Earth writes soulful, clever ditties and accompanies them with very fine acoustic guitar playing. This is certainly his best outing yet, but it isn’t innovative. If anything, it reminds us that there’s still a place for the acoustic songwriter in the pop lexicon.

There are a few months for 2010 to change the way we think about music, but the odds don’t look good. We may have to settle for a year of albums that were great listens but didn’t provide new frontiers of sound.

- Jesse Javna


  1. The Tallest Man on Earth will be in Philly on October 2nd - just in case you want to see some of that lovely Swedish guitar playing live...

  2. While I agree with the overwhelming trend here, I think there are some exceptions to this. Among those exceptions are the following artists & their releases:

    1) Treat, Sleigh Bells
    Industrial-inflected indie rock? Their loudness is definitely new for a rather restrained scene.

    2) Drink the Sea, the Glitch Mob
    The group that defined glitch-hop finally came out with an official release as a trio. Great stuff that really exemplifies the genre better than anything else we've seen

    3) Li(f)e, Sage Francis
    This record features the most innovative blending of indie rock and rap that has ever been released.

  3. I suppose I should give Glitch Mob their due, as I find them both original and good. Unfortunately, I don't think I can use those two adjectives simultaneously for the other recordings you mentioned.

    Though 'Treat' is a valiant effort, I think it ultimately falls short of being musical or creative. Perhaps there will be room for another full-length Nine Inch Nails vs. Madonna mashup in the future, but for now I prefer to leave alone those two demons from our past.

    As for 'Li(f)e', I just don't find it very exciting. Also, while it depends on your definition of indie rock, I'd argue that the best and most original blending of the two genres you mentioned has been accomplished by mashup artists (see "Two Weeks of Hip Hop" and "Bittersweet Dirt Off Your Shoulders").

    In sum, I don't think 'Treat' or 'Li(f)e' belong anywhere near the Best Albums of 2010 list. The three albums I chose were selected specifically because they belong near, or at the top, of that list.