Best New Nonrequired Listening 2010

Eric Deines, Project Manager

Eric Deines, Project Manager

Andrew Graham & Swarming Branch — “Take It Easy on Kathy, At Least She Can Dance”

Hard to believe that Mexican Summer’s annual output has grown so dense as to already include lost gems like this. But alas, this stunner from Columbus, OH’s Andrew Graham dropped early this spring to absolutely no avail. For shame! Young Lou Reed (Graham) is drunk and feeling punchy. He’s leading Mo and the gang through a site reading of Vince Guaraldi, dropping a low-end riff that has just as much of a Stones swagger as it does some motorik fever. He ties little, colorful yarn knots that connect honky-tonk and beach music, Smog and Sesame Street. My loosey goosey romper of 2010. Fun Fact: Kathy is also the name of my lovely copdesk buddy and the glue of this label. And yes, she can dance.

Nite Jewel — “Tonight”

LA’s Ramona Gonzalez burst into summer with guns blazing, firing off this herky-jerky, faux-slick synth-R&B digital one-off. It’s a cover of Prophet, a crate digger lost ark of sorts, and Nite Jewel gets about 25 cool things going on here at any given moment. If everything sits just behind the beat, including the beat itself, then where the hell is the beat? And how do I look so great dancing to this? Lock-n-pop bass, Casio record-scratches, new age synths. If Beck’s way-underrated Midnite Vultures predicted the future of pop, this is the Delorean within which we will/have been travel/traveling (and hotboxing). Back To the Future 2: The Ride: The Song.

Gardens & Villa — “Orange Blossom”

Pop-guru Richard Swift produced some tunes for Santa Barbara’s Gardens & Villa earlier this year and posted “Orange Blossom” to his blog not too long ago. What a gift! I’ve been hooked since, playing it on end around the pad with the lady. And dudes, it’s melted the snow around our house’s foundation, a four-foot perimeter of Spring, all bursting green buds and fertile animalia. The band just put out a 7″ on Cool Summer Records, and “Orange Blossom” is the b-side to the also-excellente jammer “Black Hills.” Mega-warm, big-bliss pop-hookery.

Dirty Projectors + Bjork — “All We Are”

Any tune that can touch on both Meredith Monk and Nirvana without sounding overwrought and pompous deserves some special attention. It’s really too bad this digital-only EP may go down as lesser Dirty Projectors. Because, let me tell you, more than just not being overwrought, Mount Wittenberg Orca is the band’s most restrained, refined, minimal and unashamedly beautiful output to date. The vocal trapeze artistry is as playful and staggering as ever. It’s still “challenging” music. But Dave Longstreth focuses on the songwriting and keeps the instruments contained to bass, minimal drums and one short guitar solo. Released amidst the oil spill disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, its ecological/oceanic meataphysical themes are made that much heavier by current events.

Oneohtrix Point Never w/ Antony — “Returnal”

The emotional heavy hitter on this list. The Goosebump Express. All aboard.

Mount Kimbie — “Tunnelvision”

You heard a lot about James Blake this year, and you’re going to hear a whole lot more about him in the coming months. Mount Kimbie are his closest contemporaries as it stands. And this lead track off their longplayer Crooks & Lovers is as close to a thesis statement on Blake, Kimbie, post-dubsteppery etc. as you’ll find. Spooky/tricky, space-analog soul. You think someone in your apartment building is jamming classic Basement Jaxx, but you can’t be sure what it is exactly or where it’s coming from. Essential play in my Saturday night pre-game G&T hour.

Autre Ne Veut — “OMG”

Double-layered Prince demo tapes. One running along properly. One running backwards at half-speed. Glued together in the perfect spots. Double your dosage; double your inspirado.

Erykah Badu — “Window Seat”

For grown-ass, sexy and cosmic adults only. I’m so glad to see this song and respective album aboard some bigger year-end lists. I feared that in the year of Kanye, The-Dream, Janelle Monae and Drake, this high priestess of urban jammers would be forsaken. Ms. Jackson is heavy on class even in her most diva, self-martyring moments (take note, young Mr. West) or stripping naked at the site of JFK’s assassination (and trumping Matt & Kim) in her controversial video for “Window Seat.” New Amerykah Part Two is her Innervisions.

Das Racist — “Fake Patois”

“First Jamaican in da Kentucky Derby.” My girlfriend and I threw a dub/Jamaican-themed Kentucky Derby party this year and called it The Kentucky Dubby. The following Monday, an intern at the label dropped this jammer on me in an attempt to call me out on passing the Dubby off as my own original thought. But it was my original thought!! Get out of my brain, Das Racist!! Half-sociopolitical satire, half meta-hip-hop hilarity, 100% intended to pull your pants down the second you think you’re on their team (i.e. the whole gaggle of artists it calls out as posers on this sweet jam).

Teen Inc. — “Friend of the Night”

According to FADER, this LA duo has shortened its name to Inc. since popping up with this amazing tune. Homies of 2010’s weirdo king Ariel Pink, Teen Inc.’s “Friend of Night” should/could be the B-side to Pink’s excellent “Round & Round.” You’re just so damn sure this song is sampling a jam from your brown-carpeted, chickenpocked, Mtv toddlerhood, but you’re coming up empty. Bask in this murky kiddie pool of crypto-nostalgia.

Sam Buck Rosen — “Rich”

I will forever go to bat for Sam Buck Rosen. I will put his music on as many mixes and lists as I am able. The four-way lovechild of Arthur Russell, Elvis, David Byrne and, uh, Lee “Scratch” Perry — cocksure, sassy and bold.