LOCAL BAND TOPS LIST
Infectious mashup by local band The Peptides tops the list
The Big Beat’s top 10 albums of the year leads with the Peptides
It’s a first for the Big Beat this year: a locally produced album sits atop my list of best records of 2010.
Readers can be forgiven for skepticism. Local media sometimes gives extra points to musicians merely for being local. Too bad, because readers can sniff out boosterism, and if they believe local musicians are being held to a lower critical standard they’ ll be less likely to buy local CDs.
Fair criticism is what helps a music community grow, so when a truly great record comes from a city band, it gets its rightful opportunity to shine. And don’t doubt that there’s great music coming out of Ottawa, and this year none better than ...
❷ Brothers The Black Keys The duo from Akron, Ohio gets better, and that’s saying a lot. They’ve added a bit of instrumentation but maintained the workmanlike feel in the music. After a decade, they’ve fully attained the mainstream with FM radio play and spots on all the late-night talk shows. What they’ l l do next is anybody’s guess, and that’s part of what makes the Black Keys so great. ❶ For Those Who Hate Human Interaction The Peptides An infectious mashup of sounds and styles, created by Claude Marquis in his Chinatown apartment, with the principal vocal help of the irrepressible and wonderfully named Dee Dee Butters. It bursts with music and sound, from vintage radio slogans to walls of horns to vocals that veer gleefully from a soul-inflected “ huh!” to an Andrew Sisters’ squeak. It’s the most fun you’ ll find on a CD this year. Get the party started. ❸ Grinderman 2 Grinderman Don’ t wait for Nick Cave to mellow with age. The tireless 53-year-old Aussie, back with his side project and driven by squalling electric guitars, lays down another set of lyrically vivid and edgy songs. ❹ The Monitor Titus Andronicus A fest of literary and historical references and skepticism about the state of American patriotism, all laid out on a bed of arty hard rock for your loud listening pleasure. They’re on Rolling Stone’s list of the seven best new bands of 2010 (though their first disc came out in 2008). Their concert at Mavericks on Rideau Street a few months back was more fun than a Monday night has a right to be.
❺ I’m New Here Gil Scott Heron What a comeback for the oft-called godfather of rap, who remains unclassifiable — spoken word? jazz? R& B? Hip-hop? A Brit producer tracks Heron down (in prison) and lures him into the studio for a set of reflective gems. Heron has lived hard, and his aging growl adds gravitas to the voice perhaps best remembered for the 1970s’ black-power anthem The Revolution Will Not Be Televised. Songs such as Me and the Devil and the sparsely funky New York is Killing Me show a talent undiminished by time and trial.
❻ That’s All I Need Andre Williams The “Black Godfather” puts out his best record since 1998’s greasy, sleazy Silky. He’s still ornery and pugnacious, even if the songs are mellower than some of his recent output. At 72, he’s not so ribald as he’s notoriously been in the past, but he’s still bedevilled by women and vices. “Cigarettes, and my old lady,” he laments again and again, “are gonna drive me to my grave.” Sure, but you know he’ll never give them up.
❼ Ghostkeeper Ghostkeeper A jumpy, plucky album from the Alberta band. Its sound is slightly offkilter but maintains a delicate and energizing balance. It’s as if it’s coming from a different musical place, likely rooted in the Métis heritage of Shane Ghostkeeper.
❽ God Willin’ & the Creek Don’t Rise Ray LaMontagne and the Pariah Dogs When you find a mellow groove, you ride it. LaMontagne’s fourth album of Americana is his first as producer, and it was a good move. It’s an impressively steady and coherent collection of songs — testified by three Grammy nominations.
❾ Meat Hawksley Workman “French girl in L.A. — ooo la la la la la la.” Not sure how Workman, time after time, makes trite lyrics sound so smart and refined. It doesn’ t always work — Baby Mosquito is an embarrassment — but he shines on the sublime Song for Sarah Jane, alone at the piano, even with the sounds of people moving about in the background. Some songs work, some don’t, but Workman takes chances, and that’s why he’s interesting.
❿ Eyelid Movies Phantogram Metric, sedated. Gil Scott-Heron’s aging growl adds gravitas to the voice perhaps best remembered for the black-power anthem The Revolution Will Not Be Televised.
Claude Marquis and DeeDee Butters are the Peptides, and their album For Those Who Hate Human Interaction is the most fun you’ll have with a CD this year.
Hawksley Workman’s songs don’t always work, but he’s not afraid to take chances.
Dan Auerbach of the Black Keys, the duo from Akron, Ohio that just keeps getting better.
Nick Cave of Grinderman isn’t mellowing with age. The tireless Aussie lays down another set of lyrically vivid and edgy songs on Grinderman 2.