So that was 2010. What does Webcuts remember most about it? It’s hard to say, really. The landscapes shift, the memories flickr and 365 days blur into one long unending soundtrack. Webcuts lived vicariously through 2010, almost surprisingly so for a bunch of mid-30s burn-outs, but hey, from Brisbane to London to Barcelona to Gothenburg to Las Vegas and Los Angeles, we were there, chasing those who chased their rock n’ roll dream.
The selection of tracks chosen appeared like one night stands that lingered a little longer than usual, almost all of them attached to a singular memory of the song being performed, either from a distance or elbows resting on the stage in mute admiration, or maybe just there emanating from a speaker aimed direct into our inner consciousness, refusing to budge. We begin the countdown below, with tracks 20 to 11, concluding with tracks 10 to 1 on New Years Day.
20. Re:Enactment – “Problematic” (from Talent For Retail EP)
The enfants terribles of independent Brisbane label lofly recordings, Re:Enactment had one hell of a year: an eventful southern tour on the back of their Talent for Retail which garnered healthy radio support, an exhausting amount local shows, before wrapping the year up in sweaty, outlandish fashion garbed in neon Tron-like costumes at the final Hangar. “Problematic” was a faithful encapsulation of their thrilling electro-punk energy while fellow EP track “Nintendogs” revealed a more polished, soulful side to the band with a restrained vocal by Jacob Hicks that hints at an surprisingly eclectic debut album by the band in 2011. (CR)
19. Civil Civic – “Lights On A Leash” (from Lights On A Leash 7″)
Civil Civic made for great driver-less car crash pop. Careening guitars, uncomplicated beats, explosive word-less choruses with no cosseted front person spoiling the mixture. A handy recipe, but still, only good for a few servings. For their second 7″ single release for 2010, “Lights On A Leash” eased on the accelerator and pulled off a neat trick, sounding like Ben and Aaron (le Civil Civic) had spent the night in some art fag dive on Kingsland Road listening to The Cure. Let’s hope they can turn more late night tricks like this. (CS)
18. Lord Huron – “The Stranger” (from Mighty EP)
The whole Mighty EP could have been included in this list, but “The Stranger” stands out for me. Lush, heartfelt folk disguised in layers of tropical ambiance. Think of Lord Huron’s sound, particularly in “The Stranger” as Animal Collective lite. This is the noisy tenor-folk stripped of its noise, the tribal layers of vocals and electronically-reproduced sound effects without the effects. In fact, the simple melodies are almost boring upon overanalyzation, but the lush accompaniments make them worth listening to again and again. Can’t wait for LH’s full length in 2011. (JL)
17. Dum Dum Girls – “Jail La La” (from I Will Be)
California girls. Beach Boys praised them, Katy Perry revived them, but Los Angeles’ Dum Dum Girls, weren’t the kind of girls that either Brian Wilson or Katy Perry had in mind, looking as they do more like Josie and The Pussycats meets Tim Burton than a sun-tanned Runaways. Finding their perfect foil in the form of Richard Gottehrer, writer of 60’s classics like “My Boyfriend’s Back” and “I Want Candy”, Dum Dum Girls released their Gottehrer-produced, 60’s garage-inspired debut album I Will Be earlier this year. From it, “Jail La La” was a fast action sugar-pop garage-rock delight. (CS)
16. Stars – “Fixed” from The Five Ghosts
Rebelling, or maybe just repositioning themselves from the baroque indie pop of their previous album Stars instead opted for an album of electronics, distortion and synths as frosty as the Montreal winters the band are no doubt accustomed to. While not every track was successful, especially those featuring the anodyne singing of Torquil Campbell, it still had enough to hold your interest especially when Amy Milan came to the fore. When she did and the band plugged the guitars in, as well as synths, they made an almost perfect modern take on shoegaze in the failed relationship drama of “Fixed” complete with breathtaking rapid-cut video. (CR)
15. Ima Robot – “Sail With Me” from Another Man’s Treasure
(track begins at 4.51)
The darker, less whispy side of Alex Ebert, or Edward Sharpe as he’s now known to the kids, was on full display throughout Ima Robot’s new album, and is a lot more fascinating to me than the lighter. Somewhere in between the bars of “Sail With Me”, Ebert balances an almost-progressive rock xylophone open with a Bowie-sized voice and a flair for emboldened music. The shrieking “sail with me!” a minute and a half towards the end and just after the instrumental breakdown really seals the song; as the song suggests lyrically, it feels like the music is constantly moving forward even as it fades away. (JL)
14. Crystal Castles – “Not in Love” (feat. Robert Smith)
The not-so-big question of 2010 is what happened to Canadian electro-anarchists Crystal Castles? The follow-up to their self-titled debut was one of 2010’s anticipated releases but fell short of delivering the same sensory assault. First single “Celestica” was a neat bait and switch that showed they could mainstream it while giving hyperactive, speaker-stack ascending singer, Alice Glass a chance to play out her X-factor. But it was the unexpected release of a reworked version of “Not In Love“ featuring the vocals of Robert Smith of The Cure that set the blogospheres buzzing and rightly so. (CS)
13. Foals – “Spanish Sahara” (from Total Life Forever)
Of all the tracks on Foals‘ near perfect sophomore album Total Life Forever to encapsulate singer Yannis Philippakis’ description that the LP would “sound like the dream of an eagle dying”, “Spanish Sahara” was it. Several other songs would would achieve the similar ambition of melding melancholy and killer hooks, while others would deliver an upbeat sleek mix of indie and funk. It was “Sahara” though, which started with a fragile guitar line, ambient noise and crackling vocals and built to an otherworldly, heart in chest pounding finish which gave you hope that the eagle made it after all. (CR)
12. Suckers – “Martha” from Wild Smile
Accompanying an album filled with so many other memorable songs, but that sometimes didn’t stick out individually when listening to them in order. Note the percussion on “Martha”, the way it gradually expands throughout; admittedly, sometimes I get lost just listening to the drums and by the end of the song, I’m amazed I haven’t heard the rest of the song. It was this tonal depth that made the rest of Suckers’ debut so marvellous, and the clever balancing act of indie folk, rock and other world music elements that shone specifically on “Martha”. (JL)
11. Warpaint – “Undertow” from The Fool
Sounding something like a monochrome, multi-vocaled Luscious Jackson, the Los Angeles’ ladies of Warpaint left a noticeable impression with music fans with the release of their Exquisite Corpse EP in 2009. A year later came their debut album, The Fool, full of loose, layered harmonies and subdued dub rhythms, that cast an enigmatic yet relaxing spell. Warpaint’s overall effect was much like that of the fabled Sirens, who’s voices washed over you in waves and lured you to your demise, which in “Undertow” was something they clearly excelled in. (CS)
Chosen by senior Webcuts contributors: Craig Smith (CS), Caleb Rudd (CR), and Jonathan Langer (JL).