2010: Things I Heard

December 29, 2010



2010: Things I Heard, originally uploaded by erin m.

2010: Things I Heard
In 2010, I listened to more new music and saw more live shows than any year ever. On that basis alone, this year has been a rousing success. In a year that veered wildly off the tracks at times, there was always someone or something there to help refocus my head; the simplest, quickest, most easily accessible trick to change a moment from angst to its opposite was to simply cue up a good song. I spent a lot of time with my iPod in 2010.

Top 5 Things I Heard this year:

Dawes, North Hills. One random day in February, I met a friend at Iota in Clarendon to see two performers I hadn’t heard of a week before: Dawes, and Cory Chisel. Technically, they were co-headlining, but Dawes came first. By the time their set ended, I felt bad for Chisel, who had to come out and follow a bunch of guys who left everything they had onstage (he did just fine). In the hour they played, I watched a room full of people convert from passive listeners to rabid fans, all of them aware that they were seeing a band at the cusp of something truly great. I was lucky enough to interview the band this summer and to hear lead singer Taylor Goldsmith describe that very moment when the band knows they have won over the room.

I enjoyed the Dawes show in February so much that when I heard they were playing in New York City in May, I figured what the hell, I might as well go up to see them. They were opening for some guy named Josh Ritter, who was touring in support of his latest album, “So Runs The World Away.” The album contains so many perfect lines, like this one from “Lantern”: “So throw away those lamentations, we both know them all too well/If there’s a book of jubilations, we’ll have to write it for ourselves.” It comes about two-thirds of the way through the song, most of which he has spent lamenting the difficulties of life. What I love about Ritter is that you can hear the joy in his voice every time he sings, and he can barely contain himself as he races to the most joyful part of the song. The iPod shuffle I go running with is loaded with nothing but Ritter albums.

Sometimes, music is just about having a damn good time. The Delta Spirit show at 9:30 Club in early July was like that. It was hot, it was crowded, it went late, and I don’t think a single person left that club disappointed. Same with the Drive-By Truckers at the end of July: a hot night, a sold-out crowd, people out for nothing more complicated than a good night with good music and good friends.

And then sometimes, you’re not interested in partying, and you’re not interested in the words of a lovelorn (if talented) boy with a guitar and a fountain pen. That’s where Spoon came in: “Transference” came out in mid-January, and I dutifully downloaded it and took a few turns through its tracks. I liked what I heard, but, well, the year got busy and I moved on. And then a funny thing happened: You know that iPhone app Shazam? You hold it up to whatever song is playing, and it tells you the name and the artist. I did that four times in two weeks songs from this album, twice for “Mystery Zone” alone. The album kept creeping up on me, and it kept being exactly what I wanted to hear.

What I love about music–and about this year–is that this list could have easily been 10 times longer. Old 97s had a new album this year, and so did the Truckers. Jim Bryson and the Weakerthans put out a disc together, and holy hell, the new Gaslight Anthem is incredible, and so is the one from The National. I discovered Owl City this year, and Cory Chisel up there made an album I could not stop listening to. Delta Spirit and Alejandro Escovedo both had new albums, too, and both got played into the double digits. 2010 pretty much rocked.

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