The Best Albums of 2010: 5. LCD Soundsystem – This Is Happening

5. LCD Soundsystem – This Is Happening
DFA

Tell me a line
Make it easy for me
Open your arms
Dance with me until I feel all right

– I Can Change

In my own little corner of the world, there are few records that are as important to me as Sound Of Silver, LCD Soundsystem’s awesome 2007 album. So my expectations were high and the follow-up, This Is Happening, did not let me down.

I love this band. I love every time I listen to James Murphy talk about music. And the themes that run through their albums – growing old, what being cool means, listening to music – are big calling cards for me. They also blasted down my prejudice against electronica by mixing the wit of Elvis Costello with the physicality of the Ramones. Head and hips covered.

As a fan, this record came with an extra story – this is to be the last LCD Soundsystem album. Just when making it huge seemed like a possibility, Murphy will be pulling the plug on the full time LCD Soundsystem. So This Is Happening can be read as a last statement.

Not that it ever gets that heavy. No, it’s still a lot of fun. You Wanted A Hit has it’s tongue far in cheek. Pow Pow is a great bit of nonsense. Drunk Girls – derided by everyone I know – is fun but light. But it’s all designed to make you move, and the beats and rhythms hit and hit hard.

This album doesn’t reach some of the highs of Sound Of Silver, but they come close. I Can Change is the real stand out on the album. Murphy has stated this was his attempt to write an 80s synth pop song in the style of Yazoo. He nails it, with his best vocal to date.

The other songs on this album include Home and the rather large Bowie tribute of All I Want. Knowing it’s the last album makes it even more powerful.

There’s only 9 songs on this album. Maybe in retrospect, it wasn’t the grand statement we were hoping for with the follow-up of such an important album, or their last album. Which is a perfect thing for a band who put out an EP called “Confuse the Marketplace”.

What is left is a lovely goodbye. Like drinks with a friend who is moving on. Some laughs, some music, some heart, no sadness.

Goodbye LCD Soundsystem. I saw a couple of amazing gigs of yours. I loved every album. See you maybe one day.

Best tracks: I Can Change, Home, All I Want

Official site: LCD Soundsystem

There’s no proper film clip so you don’t get the fantastic studio version, but here’s I Can Change from Jools Holland.

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Top 10s of 2010 (so far)

It’s been a while between blogging. But lots of writing being done – just not so much the publishing.

So hence, a quick intermission.

Top 10 albums of 2010 (so far)

1. Laura Marling – I Speak Because I Can
(Virgin)

A huge leap from her already pretty great debut. A mournful album about growing up and womanhood, wrapped up in stories of timeless darkness. She mixes old time-y weirdness about husbands, devils and letters with stunning guitar playing and vocals. The name Joni Mitchell is bandied about a lot in reviews.

‘Women’ is not a genre, but it seems of late even the gals have forgotten that, with so many carbon copy pop stars out there. And here we have someone who doesn’t use her image (or her body) to sell her music. As she says herself – “There’s a mind under this hat“. That maturity is even more impressive when you take into account she wrote and recorded this album at age 19.

My favourite track by a long way is Goodbye England (Covered In Snow), and the singles so far are Devil’s Spoke and Rambling Man.

2. The Soft Pack – The Soft Pack
(Kemado/Heavenly)

This is turning into a year of great rock ‘n’ roll records, coming off several years of slim pickings. For me, the Soft Pack are leading the charge. Their sound is a perfect storm – short, catchy rock, great riffs, great voice, no excess. At 35 minutes, the album whizzes by at a pace, but the choruses and the hooks stick with you. It’s punk-y, it’s garage-y, it’s pop-py, it’s rock-y – it’s perfect.

This is a really easy album to fall in love with. It’s immediate and easy. Most people I play it for love it. Crackers like C’mon, Down On Loving and Answer To Yourself are hit songs. Then they even up the aggression on Pull Out. And then they pull it all back on the penultimate track, the laid back, sweet Mexico.

This still could be number 1 at the end of the year. I’ve been playing this non stop since February. Time will tell.

The film clip for Answer To Yourself features some of the cast from the movie Kick-Ass.

3. The Hold Steady – Heaven Is Whenever
(Vagrant)

The Hold Steady have made themselves one of my favourite bands in the last few years. They do that “rock and roll can save you” thing better than anyone else around at the moment. Craig Finn is a believer – spouting lyrics mainly about rock, drugs, girls and other important things like that. Their 5th album is as good as their past works – just listening to it makes me feel alive, and that life will be ok.

Heaven Is Whenever is a different beast than their earlier albums. The loss of the keyboard player brought the guitars forward, and with them come some stunning slow moments. We Can Get Together is the absolute highlight – mixing songs about heaven with the band Heavenly, and how that drummer died. But ending with the most quoted lyric in reviews this year

Heaven is whenever we can get together
Close your bedroom door and listen to your records

It’s poetic, it’s romantic and it rocks. It’s what these guys do best. From the opening kiss of The Sweet Part Of the City throughout a healthy portion of rockers (Hurricane J and Weekenders are the best of them), it shows a slightly new sound but the same old heart and soul. And I think of this band, and Craig Finn, and the more I think he’s right about everything.

4. LCD Soundsystem – This Is Happening
(DFA)

For me, Sound Of Silver was one of the 5 greatest albums of the last decade, and I wasn’t the only one. So the pressure was on for James Murphy, main man for LCD Soundsystem, and their 3rd album. They do an admirable job. Although it lacks some of the highs of Sound Of Silver, it’s still a fantastic record.

Drunk Girls divided people, but it was fun bubblegum garbage like Song 2. But the depth of Murphy’s songwriting is better expressed elsewhere. I Can Change, All I Want, You Wanted A Hit – sort of crap titles but Murphy is totally in charge of these dance pop numbers. The sounds, the lyrics, the moods, the feel – all spot on.

There’s the stuff that has made LCD Soundsystem so legendary – chaotic messes that somehow stick together like Pow Pow. Beautiful ballads like Home. It’s all here, and again, I’m still listening to this record, discovering new things.

5. Hot Chip – One Life Stand
(EMI)

I don’t know what happened in the lives of Hot Chip since their last record, but they are in love and not afraid to show it. Two great records so far were full of humour and cheeky fun. This record is something new – it’s straightfaced and affectionate. Sometimes you are waiting for the smartarses to reveal themselves but they never do.

In a way, the songs are the simplest they’ve ever been. It’s a pleasant record. If the beats weren’t just a little too hard, and the synths weren’t a little too loud, these could be teen pop songs. As they are, they keep that Hot Chip-ness. It’s just that it’s Hot Chip, the love balladeers.

And to boot – video of the year so far.

The rest of the top ten so far are:

6. Spoon – Transference

7. Vampire Weekend – Contra

8. Teenage Fanclub – Shadows

9. Dr Dog – Shame Shame

10. Surfer Blood – Astro Coast

Obviously a lot more will be written at the end of the year. And some of my favourite artists are coming up to bat – Belle & Sebastian and Darren Hanlon amongst them.

It’s been a great year so far. Many records are just bubbling under, and still have six months to prove themselves as well…

100 for 2000 – #76. LCD Soundsystem – Sound Of Silver

To end another wonderful decade of great music, I’m going to write about ten albums from each of the last ten years, that are either great, or hold some sort of personal significance. A musical kiss off to 00s.

2007 – #6. LCD Soundsystem – Sound Of Silver
(DFA)

All My Friends. That spectacular, breakout song from LCD Soundsystem‘s excellent second record Sound Of Silver. That’s how I came to this record and this band (band? Can I call them a band?).

This is pretty far removed from the kind of stuff I normally listen to. I don’t mind the odd electro single, but a full album? And so few of them have made me seek out the album. But the thing about electronica is that it’s sounds great and paints great imagery. Whereas James Murphy and LCD Soundsystem uses electronica sounds and textures, but wields them with the craft of a master songwriter. His spot-on concerns match the accuracy of Elvis Costello.

So, lets start with All My Friends. Could the song be more acclaimed? Such differently snobby music worlds as Pitchfork and Mojo both voted it their songs of the year. And it’s amazing – 7 and a half minutes of jagged piano rushing by, as Murphy contemplates getting older, the value of friends, not understanding the pop charts and how we live our lives. People started covering this song immediately, and by the time it was a single, the b-sides were covers by Franz Ferdinard and John Cale. The Franz version is actually pretty great as well.

History and criticism aside, this song is one of my favourites as well. There’s been a running thought in my head in the last 4 years (and perhaps even longer) – I will never have all my friends in one room together. And when I heard this song, that idea got wrapped up in it. As the years go by, it’s all about friends. And being away, and maybe for the rest of my life, wherever I go, part of me will always be missing someone. And often, tipsy, in a bar, having a moment to myself, Murphy’s voice runs through my head.

If I could see all my friends tonight

All My Friends is a big song and it overshadows the rest of the album. But it’s all great. North American Scum, the first single, has Murphy declaring he knows all the anti-American cliches already, so you can save them. Since when has irony, sarcasm, unreliable narrators and subtext been used so fully on an electronica album? The other song that no review can go by without mentioning is Someone Great. It sounds like a death song, but maybe to an ex-lover? Or a friend that our hero fell out with? I’m not sure, but whatever that line about being smaller than my wife imagined – for some reason that image sticks.

I picked up the first two LCD Soundsystem records around the same time. Although this is the better one (by a mile), I do have to quickly mention Losin My Edge. One of the greatest debut singles of all time. With an iPod, you just put the whole artist on shuffle. Which is really how I got to know this band.

This is a radio edit or something. You really need to hear all 7 or so minutes of All My Friends. One of the key texts of the 00s. I hear it being ripped off everywhere already.