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My Year In Music -- March

March saw the release of a new Bonnie 'Prince' Billy album, this one with members of the Cairo Gang (a band I was not familiar with beforehand). BPB usually manages an album a year, so this was not a big surprise to see. However, I don't have much to say about the album. Many BPB albums take some time to absorb and enjoy, and I haven't given this one quite enough. At the same time, it is missing even the few hooks that usually get me to return to his albums. Instead, over the last year, I came to really appreciate his 2008 effort, Lie Down in the Light--his last wholesale success.


So for March I'm going to cheat a little bit, since this is when I heard the first single from the new album from The National, High Violet, which ended up being released in May.

2010 was a promising year for new albums from several of my most favorite bands: The National, Josh Ritter, Ra Ra Riot, and Arcade Fire (with a sneaky unanticipated release from Superchunk as well!). I had high hopes for them all, and perhaps only The National came close to living up to them. Anyway, the others will be covered as this ponderous exercise continues.

The early-release National single was Bloodbuzz Ohio, a catchy and generally poppier song than most National offerings. Although I loved the lyrics, I was ambivalent about it because it seemed to forgo the typical off-kilter style that makes the band so interesting. Paradoxically, it became the song I looked forward to most when spinning the album because it's so easy to listen to. So, yeah, ambivalent.

Overall, though, High Violet stands up pretty well next to its predecessors, Alligator and Boxer (the former would be the one I would rescue from a fire, but only if forced to choose). As usual, the drumming is the highlight on almost every song. There is no more inventive drummer than Bryan Devendorf, to my knowledge.

The only substantial complaint I have is the inexplicably poor mixing on the opening track, a fantastic song called Terrible Love. It sounded great when they played it on late night television. But the album version is bassy and muddy and, sin of sins, they totally covered up the drum track! It sounds nothing like the rest of the album. To quote Fred Willard: "Wha' happen?!"

Okay, dull opining finished. Give a listen to what ultimately became my favorite track on the album, the mystifyingly cryptic "Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks":

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