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avengers vs. aliens.

It looks as if perhaps Whedon’s Avengers will be fighting aliens, as in the blue-skinned, humanoid Kree and the green-skinned, goblinesque Skrulls.

Since the Fantastic Four aren’t involved, I assume we won’t have any Super-Skrull.

It’s still way up in the air, this isn’t exactly solid proof. If it is true, it would make sense to use a huge alien threat as the reason for the first Avengers mission.

Let the shapeshifting tomfoolery begin!

[via AICN.]

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audio cooperstown. [music, the many lists of 2010.]

Let’s be honest, while there are plenty of cool things about the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, it isn’t exactly a true representation of all rock music. There will always be a link between the Hall and commercial success that leaves plenty of worthy bands off their roster. Fortunately for you, you have us to honor the bands that deserve to be celebrated.

It is pretty much the same thing right? I mean, we have like eight readers here, so we’re as legit as any fancy, schmancy Hall of Fame back east.

Some of the albums that came out in 2010 were brilliant releases by bands who have turned in a resumé full of amazing music. The expectations are so high for each new release, yet they never disappoint, they never let us down with a subpar follow-up to an amazing album.

We couldn’t quite be sure these albums were the artist’s best yet, but only because of how amazing their entire catalogue is.

We looked back and retroactively decided that for a band to be included in the “Their Best Yet” category, they had to also be Hall of Fame bands. Fortunately, it worked out that way. So, the actual RtM Music Hall of Fame inductees for 2010 include all the bands from this post, as well as all the bands from the “Best Yet” post.

Anyway, we hereby canonize the following bands into RtM Music Hall of Fame immortality. Feast, my friends, on the albums of 2010 which solidified an artist’s place in our RtM Audio Cooperstown.

1. The New Pornographers – Together

B: To say that I was late to the New Pornographers/A.C. Newman/Neko Case party is a dramatic understatement. I deserve a Hall of Fame beatdown for my musical negligence. Together is an album that does what every other New Pornographers album has done: showcase the songwriting and musical prowess of one A.C. Newman and his band of talented musicmakers. A.C. Newman is a freak. Get Guilty was one of last year’s best, and then he turns around does it again with a little help from his friends. Induction status confirmed. What color are the RtM Hall of Fame jackets?

S: Agreed.

The fact that Newman is able to put out solo albums of such remarkable depth and quality, while also doing the same with The New Pornographers, is nothing short of remarkable. The man makes the beauty and nuance of a great record seem easy.

I was late to this party too. I actually got really into AC Newman as my avenue into The New Pornographers and Neko Case.

Their newest album really is amazing, like all of their work. It’s infinitely listenable, every song on the CD is my favorite while it is playing, and then the next song comes on and becomes my favorite for four minutes or so.

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2. The National – High Violet


S: Quite frankly, over the last three years these guys have become my favorite band.

Mos Def once said about MF Doom, “He raps as weird as I feel.” That’s sort of how I feel about The National. Matt Berninger’s deep, dark, melancholy vocals feel like the vibrations of my own soul.

The music and lyrics are angry and sad and disconsolate.

It’s insomnia. It’s isolation. It’s a low, burning rage. It’s me most of the time. Yet, for all it’s darkness, it’s also haunting and beautiful.

The careful and measured perfection of their song craft; the disillusioned, former golden boy angst; the angry summation of the bullshit we’re always wading through. Somehow The National is more than all that. Their art adds up to more than the sum of the parts. I hope that part is like me too.

B: It is because of Scott that I am as big a fan of this band as I am today. I heard Boxer first, and was blown away by the nuanced minimalism of their arrangements. You hear of bands that create an aural landscape with their music and the production of a record. The National design vignettes worthy of the stage. They are aural sets, really, with Matt Berninger playing the part of narrator. Each song is a new scene or act. The music is moody and reflexive, seething with “disillusioned, former golden boy angst” (if I can quote Scott, he is spot on). Berninger’s scathing critique of typical, suburban life is borne of his own fear for himself and his family. Because of what I called nuanced minimalism, the virtuosity of each instrumentalist in this band gets overlooked. The songs are expertly crafted, and expertly played. Just listen to the rhythm section in “England”. Lastly, no band can be a hall of fame worthy band if they don’t put on a good live show. Scott and I had the privilege of seeing The National play with Okkervil River (perhaps another Hall of Fame band) back in September. It may have been the best concert I’ve ever been a part of.

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3. Spoon – Transference

B: Spoon. I tried so hard for so long to convince myself I didn’t like Spoon. I don’t really even know why. Maybe a couple of their songs ended up in too many movies, and I just grew tired of them. But, that doesn’t even make sense. They deserve the exposure. And a band’s gotta make a living, right? Transference finds Spoon at the top of their game. Britt Daniel’s distinctive thin, raspy voice carries more than it’s weight in melodies. They have become masters of pop songcrafting, and have arguably been the most consistent indie rock band over the last decade. Transference has made me listen to, and appreciate Spoon all the more.

S: In so many ways, Spoon feels to me like the city of Austin in which they formed. For all the reasons to love them, there are even more that I can’t place my finger on, I just want to keep going back and feeling the way I do when I listen.

Brian, mentioned their exposure, popping up often in commercials, films, television shows and the like. I’m actually surprised they aren’t around even more. And, like Brian, I love Britt’s vocals. He might actually be one of my five or six favorite lead vocalists.

These guys take talent, throw in some great pop sensibility, mix it together with charisma and pump out fun in audio form.

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4. Josh Ritter – So Runs the World Away

B: He’s pretty good. And by pretty good, I mean, he’s the shit. His albums have been consistently great. There are always at least two songs on every album he puts out that grab me and pull me in. This should in no way be read as “He’s good for two good songs a record, and the rest are shit.” … it’s more that I usually get hooked on a song or two and almost seem to neglect the rest of the record because I’m so entranced by said song(s). When I finally get over my song-obsession, I delve into the remaining goodness.

I’m a sucker for a non-traditional love song. Ritter seems to have mastered that. On The Historical Conquests he hooked me with “The Temptation of Adam”, a song so wrought with humor, sadness, and wit, that you tend to forget it is a song that addresses nuclear war. On So Runs the World Away, Ritter’s “The Curse” is heartwrenching and whimsical waltz. Is it a song about a mummy and the woman who discovers him, or is that merely a vehicle for what Ritter is truly saying about love and devotion? His songs are full of literary references and beautiful stories all his own. He’s written a novel, you know. It comes out next year. He’s a talented gentleman and definitely deserving of his inclusion in RtM’s Hall of Fame.

S: Josh Ritter certainly is pretty amazing. It’s not surprising that he’d write a novel, because he is one of the best storytelling songwriters I’ve heard.

He’s also one of my favorite theologians, even though I have no clear insight into his thoughts on God. The way he uses biblical imagery transcends dogma and doctrine to a place that only art and poetry can go, like Leonard Cohen and Bono. As an example of his theological lyrics, it may not be on this year’s album, but “Thin Blue Flame” is one of the most beautifully epic songs ever written. Angst, doubt, despair, universalism, love, anger, hope, longing and beauty. Fucking epic.

Ritter’s work is fantastic, and I hope he keeps writing songs for decades to come.

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5. Menomena – Mines

S: I’m sure that this title is talking about mines in the subterranean explosive sense. For some reaason, every time I see the title I think of the way all the kids in my elementary school in Newburgh said “mines” when they should have said “mine.” Like, “Get your hands off those Reeboks, they’re mines.”

Well, in that spirit, this album is most certainly mines.

“TAOS” just may be my favorite song of the year, the second track on the CD, and the album isn’t really a letdown from there.

In keeping with what Brian mentioned earlier about live performances, I saw a show here in Seattle at The Moore where Menomena opened for The National. (Somehow, I have been lucky enough to see two Hall of Fame worthy bands open for my favorite band. Crazy.) Menomena really is a hugely fun live act. Their harmonies are really tight, which I thought would be difficult to recreate from what they sound like in the studio. Fortunately, they apparently keep the vocals as raw as the rest of the instrumentation, their voices just sound that great as is.

There are many reasons I think they should be in the RtM HoF, not the least of which being the way they experiment, playing with random layers of competing instrumentation that winds up working together to create a really great energy. Yet, they never get too huge in their sound in the production sense, they’re like the anti-Glee. They also use their really simple sax riffs to such delightful ends.

B: Agreed. I am a sucker for a three piece band. These guys, like Scott said, know when to stop, production wise. As a three piece, you are going to have limitations outside of the studio, as you aren’t really able to overdub new parts live. They use a little fuzz on the bass to add a fullness to their sound (i.e. Ben Folds Five, Muse, et al), the splashes of baritone sax are perfectly placed, and then Scott mentioned the vocals. Tight in the studio, and just as tight live.

In order to make a three piece work well, a good rhythm section is an absolute must. Menomena does not fall short here. Scott already brought your attention to “TAOS”, but allow me to ask you to look to it again, piggybacking Scott a bit. Songs don’t get more fun than this. Bluesy guitar riffs, keyboards, piano, hard driving drums, and a sometimes sparse, sometimes centered bassline. Oh, the vocals … great melody, nice harmonies. And we’re talking about one song here, the rest of the album is just as fun! Menomena, come get fitted for your RtM Hall of Fame jackets.

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girl talk.

The newest Girl Talk album doesn’t have cool fan-made mash-up videos yet like Feed the Animals does. There is one that is pretty close, but for some reason there is a bunch of other images thrown in, most of them pointlessly sexist. I suppose a Feed the Animals video will have to do.

You’ll have to watch it on YouTube.

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arcade fire – we used to wait.

In truth, this is an interactive moviefilm to play with Google Chrome. Functionally, it’s the music video for “We Used to Wait.” In both cases, it is awesome, and the most unique music video thus far conceived.

You’re supposed to use the address of your childhood home, but it works best if you put in an address that has lots of Google Streetview/Google Earth data.

Don’t forget to write yourself a letter.

You’ll understand what I mean when you go here, to The Wilderness Downtown.

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best yet. [lists of 2010, music.]

In 2010, some sort of miracle took place and several amazing bands released their best albums yet. Not just good bands who had a great year, but brilliant bands who had no business transcending their previous work, and yet still did. And the winners are…

1. Arcade Fire – The Suburbs

Scott: In my opinion, Arcade Fire was the epitome of one of those bands mentioned above. Bloggers and critics alike have almost universally praised it, so I’m not alone. Some are even referring to the CD as Arcade Fire’s OK Computer. High praise indeed.

If I was forced to pick just one favorite album this year, there is a strong chance this would be the one.

Also, if you haven’t yet, you should watch the Spike Jonze directed video for “The Suburbs.” Epic.

Brian: In my opinion, Arcade was one of those bands … wait, that’s already been said. But it’s true. The Suburbs garnered three Grammy nominations [ Album of the Year, Best Alternative Music Album, and Best Rock Performance By A Duo Or Group With Vocals ] … proof the the Grammys still are paying attention to the really great music that is still being made out there, despite what MTV would have us believe.

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2. Kanye West – My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy

S: I’ve already written about this album at great length. Suffice it to say, I think it is a pop masterpiece. Kanye did some world conquering this year.

B: Pitchfork gave it an extremely rare 10 out of 10. Plus, what more can be said after this has been written?

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3. The Roots – How I Got Over

S: As is the case with so many of these albums, I’ve already written a bit about this one. You can read that here. It’s still hard for me to be sure this is their best album yet, because they are so continually reinventing their sound from project to project that each album is so unique and brilliant. I can tell you that whenever iTunes is set on shuffle and a song from this album comes on, I more often than not find myself putting on the whole CD as a result. It’s a remarkably listenable album. My affection for it just grows and grows.

B: The Roots brand of genre blending, smart, tight hip hop is as genre blending, smart, and tight as ever. Black Thought, ?uestlove, and the rest of the Legendary Roots Crew, the greatest band in hip hop (and late night TV), have made an astonishingly good album. But then again, we’ve come to expect them to do just that.

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4. Girl Talk – All Day

B: Greg Gillis, the brains behind Girl Talk, has done it again, but this time, he’s really done it. This time around, Gillis seems to have pulled more from popular music, more specifically from his top 40 contemporaries. Ozzy Osborne and Ludacris, Foxy Brown and Peter Gabriel, Radiohead and ODB, Portishead and Big Boi, Phoenix and Ludacris. He pulls from multiple genres and multiple decades creating insanely fun, danceable music from the sometimes mediocre. While I dislike Lil’ Wayne (I hate him, to put it more accurately), as soon as he shows up in a Girl Talk song, I love it. Perhaps it is the fact that Gillis has the talent and pop sensibilities to take two seemingly unrelated songs, separated by 3 decades, and miles apart as far as the amount of talent goes, and create something new (all while lounging around with his girlfriend!). The first week he released All Day, it “broke the internet“. To say this is Girl Talk’s best work, is truly saying something.

S: Yup, what Brian said pretty much sums it up.

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5. Beach House – Teen Dream

B: I first heard of Beach House when I was still living in Baltimore. I didn’t hear of them because they were a local band. Here is the story: It was St. Patrick’s Day ’08. I was walking into a local Irish pub and ran into the parents of an old friend from high school. We exchanged pleasantries and I asked what my friend had been up to since I hadn’t talked to him in about two years. “Oh, he’s in Austin with his band for some music festival … South by Southwest, or something.”  This came as a surprise. Not a huge surprise, but a surprise. Alex and I grew up playing together. He was super talented and had everything you need to make it in music. I just thought he would go another direction. I (and so many others) am glad he didn’t. Beach House has gotten huge. Their brand of lo-fi dream pop is good. Damn good. Organs, keyboards, slide guitars built a wall of fuzzy, dreamy sound around the reverb-drenched vocals of Victoria Legrand on the first two releases. On Teen Dream, we find her voice out in front of the wall of dreaminess. The whole thing sounds less lo-fi as a result. Everything seems tighter and more dynamic. I could listen to the album any day, all day. How is it their best release to date when their first two albums were included on Pitchfork’s best list the year they came out? They are that good.

S: I remember when I first heard of Beach House. I was making out with Rosario Dawson when my friend Mos Def called me and told me he’d just heard a great indie band I might like called The National. I told him I already listened to The National, and they were good friends of mine. Actually, I needed to remind him that I’d already told him about The National a month or so earlier, when the two of us were out drinking with Donald Glover and Alison Brie. We laughed about the fact that we had done so much drinking and laughing and best friending that he had completely forgotten about the band I tried to introduce him to.

That was when he mentioned Beach House.

They are really great. I like them. (That last line is true.)

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6. The Black Keys – Brothers

S: Just picked by iTunes as the album of the year, Brothers finds The Black Keys up to their old tricks; crafting songs full of bad-ass swagger and keen relational insight, all wrapped up in a fun musical package.

Whether you are getting dressed for a big night out and want a soundtrack that makes you feel awesome, are looking to rage against that asshole who jilted you, or are in the mood for some sweet, sweet, babymaking fun, this album has the right prescription for you. Just let Drs. Auerbach and Carney cure what ails ya.

B: I love Scott’s last paragraph! The Black Keys are masters of down and dirty garage blues/rock with a touch of refinement. Brothers is no exception. If you love fuzz box distortion, cool keyboard/organ riffs, kick ass drumming, and bluesy vocals (as well as everything Scott mentioned), you will agree that Brothers is one of the best albums of 2010, and The Black Keys best album to date.

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7. Sufjan Stevens – The Age of Adz

S: Like many people I know, my relationship with Sufjan had sort of run its course. It seemed it was never meant to be one of those love affairs that turn into a happy marriage. Instead, it appeared it was destined to be the hot, short, flash in the pan sort of union that you look back on fondly because it was a lot of fun at the time. There was no part of me that was excited for this album to come out.

Yet, when the All Delighted People EP came out, I used some spare emusic credits to pick it up, and suddenly those old feelings started rising to the surface. Then the Age of Adz came out, and suddenly I found myself wondering if perhaps my love affair with Sufjan might become the lasting sort after all.

With Age of Adz, he has successfully balanced between reinvention of himself and continuity with what made him great in the past. He’s still full of audacity, as evidenced by all 25 minutes of the album’s final track, “Impossible Soul”; and the man still has the talent to back it up, as evidenced by the fact that I’ve heard all 25 minutes of said track aired on KEXP more than once.

B: Looking over this list, it seems that the bands here have at least one thing in common (maybe except Girl Talk, but he is a different animal), each has the ability to reinvent themselves and grow over the span of each release. It is something that takes balls and artistic vision. Not every band has these qualities. When you change, you run the risk of alienating a part of your fanbase. When you don’t change, you get criticized for not pushing forward into new sounds. Change is scary and hard. It takes balls. When a band is so sure of who they are, change is easier. They make music that is honest and free to go wherever the soul of the band dictates. Sufjan’s new album exhibits his amazing artistic vision and his huge balls. It is an epic tapestry of sounds where Sufjan pulls out all the stops. We thought he was audacious when news first broke that he wanted to make an album for all 50 states, but listen to the Age of Adz and I think you’ll find that audacity was redirected into one beautiful and grandiose album.

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