Year in (Music) Review.

Maybe chronological, definitely incomplete list of the good stuff I listened to in 2010. Albums are included if the whole thing’s worth a listen.

• Miike Snow, “Cult Logic” from  Miike Snow — In the interest of things coming full circle (yay, symmetry!), I listened to this song first thing after waking up last New Year’s Day — dry-mouthed, disoriented and wondering what to make of the night before. Mr. Snow had all the answers.

• Beach House, “Walk in the Park” from Teen Dream (actually released in 2009 and not to be confused with Katy Perry’s Teenage Dream, which I was also briefly obsessed with) — I was never impressed with Beach House until PopWreck gave me this album to review. This song made me respect them.

• Wildbirds and Peacedrums, “My Heart” — Blown away by this tune/band when they opened for St. Vincent in February in Lawrence. See also, St. Vincent, who didn’t make the list but is equally amazing.

• Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros, “40 Day Dream” — Oh my, hippie love.

• Tegan and Sara, “Alligator” from Sainthood — Tegan and Sara keep getting better. Most reviews of this album used the word “mature” a lot, but “Alligator” is just for fun.

• Vampire Weekend, “Giving Up the Gun” from Contra — My friend asked me if I had listened to Contra yet. I nodded yes. He asked me if I’d checked out “Giving Up the Gun” and then turned it up on his massive speakers until the floor shook. Turns out I hadn’t really listened until that moment.

• The Black Keys, “Howlin’ for You” from Brothers — Sometimes you just feel bluesy.

• The Hood Internet, “Ghostface Killah vs. Beirut” from The Mixtape Vol. 4 — Mash-ups made in heaven. All of the mixes are available for free download and all are recommended.

• The Notorious B.I.G vs. Miley Cyrus, “Party and Bullshit in the USA” — Whatever I just said about Hood Internet’s mash-ups, this one’s better: No. 1, gold standard, king of all mash-ups. These two have been harmonizing — for real or in my head — during every awesome moment of 2010. Kirksville bar nights, road-trip sing-alongs and that time an ambulance guided us to Hy-Vee in Minnesota.

• LCD Soundsystem, “Dance Yrself Clean” from This Is Happening — In need of a go-to party album that also gets you through morning cleanup?? Here.

• The xx, “Crystalised” from The xx — So sexy. Remember that summer night we listened to this on vinyl in my apartment before watching vampire movies? I do.

• Freelance Whales, “Hannah” from Weathervanes — Wake up to this album every day if you’re vaguely attracted to rooftops.

• Sleigh Bells, “Infinity Guitars” from Treats — Sometimes you just feel angry (and loud).

• Local Natives, “Who Know Who Cares” from Gorilla Manor — Dreamy respite from that Sleigh Bells album.

• Broken Bells, “October” from Broken Bells — Danger Mouse + James Mercer create something so far beyond any of the Shins’ (still great) albums.

• The National, “Afraid of Everyone” from High Violet — It was going to be hard for the National to beat Boxer, their last album, so they brought in the big guns: Sufjan Stevens (who contributes the background oohs and aahs). High Violet wins.

• Arcade Fire, “Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)” from The Suburbs — Funeral killed me, Neon Bible was disappointingly meh, but Arcade Fire returns to top form (and then some) with The Suburbs. This is the soundtrack to what my life has been and what I want it to be.

• Sufjan Stevens, “Vesuvius” from The Age of Adz — Sufjan got really weird in 2010 in a really epic and ultimately beautiful way. A strange journey that started in late August with the All Delighted People EP, led through his first fully formed album in 5 years, and eventually to a plush theater in Minneapolis full of awful back-up dancers and UFOs. Whatever, Sufjan. You’re great.

• Kanye West, “All of the Lights” from My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy — Whatever, Kanye. You’re great.

“What makes Kanye West interesting and feel so relevant is that he’s got bravado mixed with a very current, generational need to be liked. … He doesn’t know he’s the best, he thinks he’s the best, and the difference between that drives his furious creative output. He possesses a mixture of perfectionism and egotism that leads him to agonize and second-guess himself until he produces something he is convinced nobody can beat.” — Stereogum

Water cooler.

There are two kinds of courage when it comes to frigid showers. One is to man up and clean yourself (as fast as possible) in the freezing water. The other is to man up and let yourself be a little messy for the day — because greasy hair never hurt anybody.

I’m the first type. And now I’m swaddled in a million fleece blankets.

David Archuleta is the real crime.

“Well, ma’am, we’ve found some stolen CDs. I’ll go through them and you let me know if any of them could be yours. Breaking Benjamin? David Archuleta? Linkin Park? Susan Boyle? Maybe Michael Buble? A mix that just has the letter J on it?”

“No, none of those.”

“Did you have any CDs in the device that we could identify?”

“Um, yes. Tegan and Sara.”


A Christmas Story.

It was snowy. Actually, it was always snowy — northeast Vermont is well-covered from mid-November to April Fools — so each Christmas could be differentiated only by the depth of precipitation. First determining factor, the snow coating on the bushes by the front door: Thin enough that the small bulbs of holiday lights could burn a hot tunnel all the way through? Or so thick the decoration lent its frozen dressing only a vague luminescence? Second, were the drifts pushed up by plows on the side of the rode monstrous enough to shelter a decent snow fort? I still remember these banks as 12-foot-tall behemoths, but at seven and scrawny, anything over 4 feet was insurmountable to us kids — like the deep end in a swimming pool.

This is Lyndonville.

This was a midsize snow bank Christmas. No Everests, but we were well beyond our depth.

At the local department store, I had my eye on a jewelry box fashioned to look like an old English wardrobe. I wanted it, not to store baubles, but for my dolls to use as an old English wardrobe, which still seems more logical.

I also wanted to see my dad, who had been erratically shuttling between our soon-to-be home in glamourous Indianapolis and this quiet mountain town with zero streetlights but no shortage of fresh cheese. He spent business days at his new job in a glass-walled skyscraper near Monument Circle and weekends in our little blue Lyndonville house near a dirt road I’ve forgotten the name of. But for the holiday break, his plane was set to land in Burlington at 10 p.m. on Christmas Eve and we four girls were ready to stay up late and surprise him.

Mom insisted on naps before the trip to the airport, though we could hardly be expected to rest easy with two the most important men in our young lives visiting that night (Santa and Dad, in no particular order). Likelihood we’d spot the old man’s sleigh in the sky on the long dark drive was high, so we took up positions on opposite sides of the mini-van and tried to keep our sleepy baby eyes watchful. Every red-light radio tower deserved a second opinion.

Dad loaded into the family sleigh, gift-wrapped in squeals and kisses, and we started home. Now we were nervous: Up so late past bedtime, there were a very real chance Santa had skipped us in favor of the good children in bed. If the old man could hold off on our corner of the woods for just a little while longer, soon we’d be fast asleep.

We trooped back into the living room in the reverent silence grown-ups reserve for Christmas midnight Mass. He hadn’t waited. The only light in the room glowed from the holiday tree, illuminating a parade of strange and shiny gifts that spiraled outward from the tree. There was my wardrobe/jewelry box, unwrapped and ready, surrounded by bright-colored boxes and bags and other Seussian rhyming Christmas gizmos.

“He was here,” the girls whispered collectively, checking the plate of cookies and carrots for nibbles and the ash in the fireplace marked with a bootprint. If we had needed reassurance of Santa’s existence, here it was — tinsel-covered and gorgeous evidence. There was only one magical soul who could have managed this.

Years later, we found out there were actually two people capable of such magic: Santa, and the family friend who actually took care of it. But that one Christmas miracle extended my belief in elves and flying reindeer by at least three years — leading to some embarrassing misunderstandings and revelations in fifth grade.

Civics lesson.

10:00 PM Drew: I did these mock citizen interviews with a handful of elderly clients

I failed them all

they can read english but they can’t understand it

My grandpa told me a story about how he was going over the test with his uncle and when it came to discussing the Congress he asked his uncle “How many houses are in Washington?” his uncle replied “tousands and tousands”

Sam & Sufjan.

I’ve been meaning to write some super pretentious music critique about these two for a while, but really, the songs speak for themselves and all we need to ponder is, “When did this electric/synth craze start?” I blame Kanye’s foray into new musical territory on 808s.

For your consideration and comparison:

Now then. I think they’re great. A logical step for Iron & Wine after The Shepherd’s Dog and, though the sound on Age of Adz came out of nowhere, it’s Sufjan Stevens. It’s eccentric and it’s gorgeous. He can do no wrong.

Last line of defense.

My friend Becca substitute teaches. Elementary through high school, she’s seen it all — from girls who protest the mile run in gym class by taking baby steps around the track to 7-year-olds claiming teacher always lets them lay on the floor to watch films. We know this is the kind of riff-raff that will grow up to build meth labs, start militant anarchist collectives in Montana wilderness, or just be somebody’s pain-in-the-ass boss. So sometimes, she has to discipline.

Becca describes the process as a kind of power high. It’s just Ms. Substitute and the no-good fourth-grader, each looking for an edge. Little Billy’s pre-pubescent voice protests The Rules with a mixture of mischief and panic. Becca gives an inch and insurrection wins. We get kindergarten chaos; piles of Dr. Seuss books burning in the library. Lord of the Flies stuff. The stakes are high; the other kids can barely breathe; alphabet posters sag on their bulletin board as tension, like humidity, smothers the classroom.

The only thing separating our classrooms from this apocalypse is the threat of The Principal’s Office. And when Becca looks Billy in his (viciously twinkling) eye, he’ll see this final card in her deck and he’ll be finished. Authority always wins.