For the past seven years Mister Marlowe has offered up his memories for that year’s music scene.  Here is his list of favorites for 2010: 

#12 The Chemical Brothers- Further
“Once again they prove that the rave never has to end.”

#11 The National- High Violet
“So grab an import pint or three and get ready for ultimate lamentation.”

#10 The Walkmen- Lisbon
“…the band’s sixth album finds them fine tuning their melancholy reverb mastery satisfying old fans and making new ones in the process.”

#09 Beach House- Teen Dream
“The album is a dream come to life…”

#08 The Black Keys- Brothers
“Sparse instrumentalism, major washed out echo, and an easy, tough feel permeate the album’s 15 songs.”

#07 Crystal Castles- Crystal Castles II
“There remains no band on earth that can do what makes Crystal Castles great.”

#06 Kanye West- My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy
“…fascinating and a crucial step in hip hop’s continuing evolution.”

#05 Eminem- Recovery
“The best rapping I’ve heard since Tupac and Slick Rick? Indeed.”

#04 Fistful of Mercy- As I Call You Down
“…soaring harmonies are key to the Fistful of Mercy sound finding their fulfillment in the prettiest album of the year.”

#03 Cee Lo Green- The Ladykiller
“…a modern neo soul thriller that grooves, moves, and exudes an exceedingly fun vibe that never stops.”

#02 Vampire Weekend- Contra
“That tugging feeling of present pleasures disappearing before one’s eyes is the emotion Contra best evokes.”

#01 Orchestral Maneuvers in the Dark- History of Modern
“History of Modern proves that OMD are masters of their genre, their instruments, and pop music in general. Whether this album came out in 1981 or 2011 the verdict is the same: History of Modern is amazing.”

To read the complete reviews and see the other yearly awards bestowed for 2010 check out Mister Marlowe’s full article at UndependentMedia.



El Ten Eleven = Kristian Dunn and Tim Fogarty = an amazing instrumental rock duo.  Full disclosure:  eTe is one of my favorite bands.  Kristian (guitars) and Tim (drums) are probably two of the most talented musicians on the planet; they also play well with others (Exhibit S:  The Softlightes).  Seeing El Ten Eleven live is guaranteed to be an incredible performance.  It never ceases to astonish me that just two musicians can create and sustain such complex and rocking songs.

I arrived home after a workplace holiday party to find a new mashup of an eTe track. “Marriage is the New Going Steady,” my favorite track on the new album, “It’s Still Like a Secret,” has been mashed with “ROC Boys” by Jay-Z.

I like mashups.  I realize there are musical reasons, but it’s still rad how vocal and instrumental parts devised by different artists in different places from different times can sound like they were meant for each other.  El Ten Eleven tracks are ripe targets for mashups due to a lack of vocals and a good amount of looping/vamping, and I’ve enjoyed most mashups of eTe compositions.  I dig hip-hop and rap, but it’s not my go-to music, and I can’t say that the song title “ROC Boys” triggered anything for me.  When I cued up the original “ROC Boys,” I recognized it immediately – very solid song.

What makes “MITNGS” such a great track is the instrumental build, climax, and cascade.  It does not adhere to a standard verse/chorus structure.  “ROC Boys,” on the other hand, does, and it is strange to hear verse/chorus vocals over an instrumental part that does not adhere to the same structure, that does not revisit a previous musical passage at a similar time point.  The moment around 2:31 is particularly awkward, when the “ROC Boys” chorus hits deep into the peak of the instrumental part.  It undermines the potency of the instrumental part.  Part of me wonders if this is an issue of not being used to listening to this contrast, but most of me has concluded that some instrumental parts should just be off limits for mashing because of their wondrous standalone elegance.  Regardless, definitely worth a listen, and cool.

It’s easy to say Jimi Hendrix, Jimmy Page, and Eric Clapton are the greatest guitarists of all-time, but are they your favorite?  Here is my list of the four guitarists that have meant the most to me.

Tom Morello

When I first saw Rage Against the Machine in concert in 1995 at Manhattan’s Roseland Ballroom I knew immediately that I had seen a very special show.  15 years later the concert remains the best concert I have ever attended.  The biggest reason: Rage guitarist Tom Morello.

Having listened to the band’s debut album hundreds of times prior to the concert I was extremely familiar with Morello’s unorthodox sound.  But what I didn’t realize until I saw him live was the technical originality of Morello’s playing style.  Whether dipping into finger taps, his odd use of feedback to create record scratching sounds, or literally unplugging his guitar to play a solo (my personal “holy shit” moment) it was quickly obvious that Morello was the greatest guitar innovater of his generation.  However, it may not have been until Morello’s 2009 performance with Bruce Springsteen at the Rock N’ Roll Hall of Fame Ceremony that his greatness reached a more mainstream audience.  It was at that performance that Morello pulled out all his tricks, stealing a show that featured many of the biggest music legends of the past 50 years.

John Frusciante

Frusciante is the riff master supreme, the funk meister extraordinaire, a man who leaves his heart and soul on every ditty he throws down.  Known mainly for his work with The Red Hot Chilli Peppers Frusciante is responsible for some of the ‘90s most memorable licks including those from “Under the Bridge,” “Otherside,” “Californication,” “Snow,” “Around the World,” “Parallel Universe” and many others.  Rather than use a gimmick it is Frusciante’s impeccable ear for melody that makes him a true guitar god.  And for anyone doubting his genius check out his bizarre solo recordings.  The track “As Can Be” is a lo-fi masterpiece of the rawest nature.

Mark Knopfler

I have always surmised that if somehow I could wake up one morning and be a virtuoso guitar player that I would want to be Britain’s Mark Knopfler.  Working with Dire Straits, on solo albums, and as the score writer to several feature films (The Princess Bride his most famous) Knopfler’s signature sound is unmistakably his own.  Using a classical finger style picking technique Knopfler merges the majesty of the acoustic guitar with the power of the electric guitar.  The result is mindblowing: Knopfler’s sound is precise yet free, fast yet relaxed, and always makes the most of the sustain and pause between each note.

Some of Knopfler’s best and most recognized songs include “Sultans of Swing,” “Walk of Life,” “Romeo and Juliet,” “So Far Away,” “Tunnel of Love,” and “What It Is.”

Eddie Van Halen

When Eddie Van Halen arrived on the music scene in the late 1970s it was a startling revelation.  His band’s debut album, 1977’s Van Halen marked a point in music history where hard rock had a new signature sound.  Loud, fast, aggressive, and sporting an unprecedented lightning fast finger tapping technique Eddie slashed and burned through the rest of the guitar playing world.  No doubt the first time anyone hears “Eruption” they will be left breathless and scratching their heads as they wonder, “How the heck?”

In the 1980s Eddie added a synthesizer to his guitar playing repetoire and in the process ushered in a whole new angle on what it means to be a guitar virtuoso.  Indeed, he was the first to prove without a doubt that the lead guitar player could evolve in directions never thought possible.  The band’s 1984 album shows the second side to Eddie’s signature sound and his guest appearance on Michael Jackson’s “Beat It” is a touchstone ‘80s guitar moment.

The sound of some guitarists is enough to stick with you for a lifetime.  No doubt, my reminisces of these four gentlemen will remain with me forever.

Some random links from the web on this Thanksgiving holiday:

pic from brooklynvegan.com

Given Arcade Fire’s recent SNL appearance to support their new album “The Suburbs”, here are two graphical depictions (using wordle) of all the words they used for lyrics in the album. Click on the picture to make it larger.

Wordle: arcadefire1

Wordle: arcadefire3

I gave wordle all the lyrics in the album and removed all function words such as the, you, and of. It then weights the size of each word by its frequncy. So the top most frequently used words in “The Suburbs” are: la (94 times), rococo (40), now (34), used (32), like (29), wait (28). Surprisingly, for an album about suburban disenchantment, suburbs is only mentioned 6 times and suburban once.

An onion avclub interviewer asked AF members Jeremy Gara and Richard Reed Parry: One of the more frequent criticisms of the record is that it feels heavy-handed—that the subject is something of a cliché, or that Win is always talking about “the kids.” Kids is mentioned 14 times in the entire album, or, less than once per song.