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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.