Music

Part 3: From Perfume Genius to Xiu Xiu

Slipped Discs continues with the return of a legendary power pop band, previously unreleased Springsteen gems, the resurrection of '60s British folk rock sounds, loads of indie rockers and many more. All records that missed our top 70 list last year.

Artist: Perfume Genius

Album: Learning

Label: Matador

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Learning

Released in the calm of summer to quiet acclaim, the debut album from the one-man project of 26-year-old Seattle songwriter Mike Haderas might not have received the buzz of some of his other Matador labelmates in 2010. However, it's with a keen sense of detail on Learning that he touches upon such nerve-chafing, emotionally charged subjects as drug addiction, child molestation and the frailty of the family dynamic with a sensitivity and realism that belie his mere quarter-century on this earth. The fractured loveliness of the sonic fragrances by which this Perfume Genius rests these unsettling thoughts -- a lo-fidelity bouillabaisse of Atlas Sound at its sparest, Sparklehorse at its quietest and Elliott Smith at his weirdest -- comprised some of the most intimate and intriguing listens of the year, if not the decade. One can only hope more people will be listening next time. Ron Hart

 

Artist: Liz Phair

Album: Funstyle

Label: Rocket Science

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Funstyle

We've been hating Liz Phair for a really long time now. It's been almost 10 years since the release of her self-titled 2003 album Liz Phair where the full out revolt against this once Indie Princess began. 10 years! That's a long time to keep up the hate. On 3 July 2010, Phair quietly released Funstyle to the masses and everyone (and I mean EVERYONE) on the internet tried their damnedest to intellectualize this unabashed move. Almost as if to suggest it was all calculated, this new smorgasbord of a record is some grandiose statement about her life and her music: "What is she doing?"; "What does she mean?"; "Why is she singing these things?"; "Has she finally gone completely insane?" I think the internet takes itself much too seriously, and Phair, aware of it all, was taking the piss out on all of us. Funstyle is the lunatic rantings of a magnificent singer/songwriter who knows more than people give her credit for. She's not seriously rapping, she's not really presenting "Beat Is Up" as some wondrous 'high art' statement meant for pontification by media communications majors. Get over yourself. In 2010 Liz Phair managed to stomp on all these conversations about "What's happened to Liz Phair!?" by taking control of the endless tautological conversation and redirecting it into something less serious and more productive. We don't need your hateration in this dancerie! Enio Chiola

 

Artist: Plan B

Album: The Defamation of Strickland Banks

Label: 679/Atlantic

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The Defamation of Strickland Banks

British rapper/musician Ben Drew's debut, Who Needs Actions When You Got Words, was filled with graphic rap tales about violence in contemporary England. Drew, aka Plan B, still has the darker side of life in mind on follow-up The Defamation of Strickland Banks, a concept album concerning a soul singer's wrongful incarceration. This time, however, the subject matter is amplified by a far sweeter sound. A few digressions into rap aside, Drew spends this outing singing beautifully before backdrops of caramel smooth soul and R&B. While not the sweetest, "The Recluse" is a Defamation standout, its noisy soul swagger never once relenting its conviction. It's likely these songs about life on the inside will never appear on a sensual soul compilation, but that doesn't mean listening is any less pleasurable or rewarding. Maria Schurr

 

Artist: The Posies

Album: Blood / Candy

Label: Rykodisc

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Blood / Candy

Their first release since 2005's Every Kind of Light, the Posies' Blood / Candy serves as a return to form for the power pop masters. Opening with three guest duets (Hugh Cornwell, Kay Hanley, and Lisa Lobsinger, respectively), the album's energy is immediate and infectious. The Posies have always been a band built on melody, both catchy and intricate, whether drenched in '90s guitar fuzz or stripped down in acoustic versions, and Blood / Candy delivers on both. From the perfectly Posies "Take Care of Yourself" to the deceptively plaintive "For the Ashes" to "Licenses to Hide", a ballad turned classic rock anthem turned ramshackle sing along, this is an album made by a band unafraid to experiment all the while remaining true to themselves. Blood / Candy may not be the Posies' best album, but it's still a pretty great one and they deserve all the attention a band this good can get. J.M. Suarez

 

Artist: Diana Reyes

Album: Ámamae, Bésame

Label: EMI Latin

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Ámamae, Bésame

Diana Reyes has been making good albums for years, but Ámame, Bésame ("Love Me, Kiss Me") is an explosion of color and energy like nothing else in her catalogue. It's also a breakthrough for duranguense, the Chicago-based techno-polka style that often sounds like its recording budget came from a smashed piggy bank. This time, with a major label budget and some seasoned producers, the bands and arrangements really sparkle. With their madcap woodwind lines and beat changes, Reyes's bands resemble Carl Stalling's orchestra performing Europop songs during Oktoberfest. The polkas are faster and louder, and Reyes alternates them with more pop-wise techno cumbias, even covering a couple Selena tunes. Here's what hasn't changed: Reyes still sings the hell out of her songs. She commands her arrangements with a powerful, husky conviction that remains melodrama-free, even while hinting at some secret pain between the lines. One of 2010's best dance-pop albums. Josh Langhoff

 

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