Thursday, December 30, 2010

Top Ten of Twenty Ten, Pt. 1

My top ten records of the year are not ranked - these are just my favorites from the past year, ordered alphabetically by first letter of the artist's name.

Best Coast - Crazy for You

When i first hear about this record, i was not super enthusiastic: Girl moves to New York from Southern California, hates the Big Apple, retreats back home, writes about smoking pot and her cat. Just about every bit of that sounds repulsive to me. However, when i gave Crazy for You a chance, i was pleasantly surprised by it.

First of all, Bethany Cosentino, the writing/singing/guitaring third of Best Coast, has an amazing voice - it has a strength and a playfulness to it that makes it stand out from both the music underneath it and most other music being made today. She writes for her voice very well too (this may sound silly, but lots of artists don’t. Listen to George Harrison’s Living in the Material World - there are some really great songs [like “Try Some, Buy Some”] that are just not in a key that flatters Georgie’s voice), and it helps elevate these deceptively simple pop songs into something really special. And those pop songs happen to be really, really good. I’ve heard rumblings that live the band gets a lot “grungier,” and that makes sense to me; Nirvana had great pop songs that became the standard bearer for grunge in the early 90’s, and these songs could easily be crunched and dirtied up without losing much of their impact.

The basic elements, at least on record, are 1960’s girl group melodies and rhythms, surf guitar, and a lo-fi haze. It is almost, to me, the perfect aural representation of Los Angeles. The production is the smog - something we have to look past to see what really lies underneath. The surf elements represent that ever present, but not really prominent, relics of ‘60s culture that somehow is still part of the allure/myth of Southern California. And the melodies are pure nostalgia/hope, those intertwined emotions that are bought and sold for a dime a dozen in the Hollywood/Television/Music Industry. The record sounds hopeful but sad - does that remind you of any place in particular?

Songs to seek out: “Crazy for You,” “Bratty B”

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