Tag: 2010

Fitz and the Tantrums – Pickin’ Up the Pieces

ARTIST: Fitz and the Tantrums      220px-Pickin'_up_the_pieces

TITLE: Pickin’ Up the Pieces


CHART ACTION: #140, #1 Heatseekers

SINGLES: Winds of Change, LOV, Breakin’ the Chains of Love, Moneygrabber (#2 Adult Alternative, #33 Rock), Don’t Gotta Work It Out (#23 Adult Alternative)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: No, but they all could have been on the radio

LINEUP: Michael Fitzpatrick, Noelle Scaggs, James King, Ethan Phillips, Jeremy Ruzumma, John Wicks and others

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: After a successful home-brewed EP and a great set at SXSW, a singing and an album release quickly follow to great success.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Taking three tracks for their debut EP, and recording seven new ones in the same home studio, Fitz and the Tantrums debut record was rolled out and became a hit…slowly. As soon as “Moneygrabber” hit the radio, though, people were enthralled with the neo-soul-pop-retro band.

Featuring hooky melodies, retro-sounding arrangements, and a dynamic vocal duo of Michael Fitzpatrick and Noelle Scaggs, this record is catchy and fun. There’s nothing more you need or want from this kind of album.

You may quibble about the inconsistent pastiches at times, and a couple of songs aren’t top notch, but, again, it’s a fun record. Fun!

NOTES & MINUTIAE: They were signed the morning after their SXSW set.


 GRADE A-: Fun, Goddamnit! FUN!

Off! – The First Four EP’s

ARTIST: Off!                                    220px-Offfirstfourepalbum

TITLE: First Four EP’s



SINGLES: These were four EP’s, as the title says.


LINEUP: Dimitri Coats, Steven Shane McDonald, Keith Morris, Mario Rubalcaba

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Old punk (Morris) gathers up a band and makes a throwback punk rock record.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Off! is a nostalgia trip for those of us who were around (or kind of around) during the first wave of punk rock in the States, especially the LA / Orange County variety.

Here we have 16 tracks in 18 minutes, with no song lasting longer than 1:33. Keith Morris, formerly of Black Flag and the Circle Jerks is the vocalist and his voice is unmistakable.

However, to my ears, the tracks sounded a bit perfunctory and rote at times. Sure, it’s great to hear some real-life punk rock in the vein of the early Circle Jerks (“Black Thoughts” brings you right back to 1979) and “Jeffrey Lee Pierce” is a nice eulogy for the former Gun Club leader. But it’s not going to replace your original SST record collection. I don’t think it was supposed to though.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: The Circle Jerks went on hiatus right before this material was recorded. It was done in two days – one in January and one in August.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Two extra tracks on various platforms.

 GRADE: B: I like it enough to keep it, and it’s real punk rock.

Danny Brown – The Hybrid

ARTIST: Danny Brown               220px-Danny_Brown_The_Hybrid

TITLE: The Hybrid




OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Underground hip hop fans only

LINEUP: Danny Brown with producers Quelle, Mainframe, Nick Speed, Danny!, Chuck Inglish, Denmark Vessey, 14KT, Frank Dukes, Slopfunkdust

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Non-commercial rapper releases first record.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: He’s had no hit singles. He’s only had two charting albums. Yet Danny Brown is one of the most critically respected hip-hop artists going today.

He doesn’t sugar coat himself to go to radio. On repeated listens, this debut album takes you in. Using a variety of producers, Brown keeps his beats and backing fresh, and his flow and rhymes are strong and in your face. When he uses effects and tricks, you notice since it’s for embellishment.

This record didn’t get a lot of attention except for some deep hip-hop fans, but it’s solid and undeniably unique.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: He used to be in a group called Rese’vor Dogs.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes, a few extra tracks

 GRADE: A- –  It’s easy to see why this got him some attention.

Grouplove – Grouplove

ARTIST: Grouplove                            220px-Grouplovemirrors2010

TITLE: Grouplove



SINGLES: Colours (#15 Alternative, #29 Rock)


LINEUP: Christian Zucconi, Hannah Hooper, Andrew Wessen, Ryan Rabin, Sean Gadd

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Debut EP sets the stage for the indie pop / rock groups success, and their side gig on TV commercials.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: If there was a modern group made for providing backing music for TV commercials, it’s probably Grouplove.

They’re tuneful, positive, and quirky. Hannah Hooper and Christian Zucconi’s voices blend together in an appealing way, and while the music isn’t outre, it’s different enough to stand out. The big thing are the hooks – big, bold and tuneful.

This six song EP is a great start for the band, and my gosh “Naked Kids” gets in your head and doesn’t let go.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: “Getaway Car” was licensed to HBO.


GRADE: A:  An EP that you can play on repeat.

Bruno Mars – Doo Wops & Hooligans

ARTIST: Bruno Mars                        Doo-Wops_&_Hooligans

TITLE: Doo Wops & Hooligans



SINGLES: Just the Way You Are (#1 US, #1 UK), Grenade (#1 US, #1 UK), The Lazy Song (#4 US, #1 UK), Marry You (#85 US, #11 UK), Count on Me (#78 UK)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: That’s half the album, and it saturated radio.

LINEUP: Bruno Mars, Richard Windman, Dwayne Chin-Quee, Brody Brown, Ari Levine with guests BoB, Damian Marley and Cee Lo.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Debut album from versatile performer showcases his vocal styles in various modes.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: This is one of those pop albums that’s of its time, but could also be one of those that transcend its era thanks to the vocal chops of Bruno Mars.

Mars’ voice is a classic high soul tenor, and can definitely sing your R&B torch song in a timeless manner. But when the tempo speeds up and it’s a dance song, Mars has the chops to handle that too.

The production does sound of its time, which means it may not age well (hard to say now). Plus, a few of the cuts aren’t so hot compared to great songs like “Marry You”. But it’s a great first effort and got him on the map, not just in music, but in pop culture in general.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: His real name is Peter Gene Hernandez.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Several: European, Japanses, iTunes, Platinum, you know how it is now.

GRADE: B+:  A pretty good early 2010 pop record with some great singles.

Caro Emerald – Deleted Scenes from the Cutting Room Floor

ARTIST: Caro Emerald         220px-Deleted_Scenes_from_the_Cutting_Room_Floor_cover

TITLE:  Deleted Scenes from the Cutting Room Floor



SINGLES: Back It Up (#190 UK), A Night Like This (#65 UK), That Man (#84 UK), Stuck, Riviera Life


LINEUP: Caro Emerald, David Schreurs, Jan van Wiegingen, session musicians

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: A great combo of jazz / swing sounds with contemporary pop idioms.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Trained as a jazz singer, Caro Emerald burst onto the scene in the Netherlands with some smash hit singles. Backed by a great combo that blends classic jazz and swing sounds with some modern flourishes, Emerald’s sound is pleasing and fun.

Her singing is expressive and fluid. She’s not trying to hit every high and low note, but rather would just rather use her voice to evoke moods and expressions. Her style and the sound crafted by hers and her producers make it so that she’s not a retro act, but a blend of old and new.

This is a fun record that’s great to put on for many moods.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: She was born in Amsterdam to a Dutch father and Aruban mother.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes. A deluxe Italian musician and remixes.

GRADE: A: The songs are varied enough to keep you interested, and the arrangements and vocals are fun.


Drake – Thank Me Later

ARTIST: Drake                              220px-ThankMeLater

TITLE:  Thank Me Later


CHART ACTION: #1 US, #1 R&B, #1 Rap, #15 UK

SINGLES: Over (#14 US, #2 R&B, #1 Rap, #50 UK), Find Your Love (#5 US, #3 R&B, #24 UK), Miss Me (#15 US, #3 R&B, #2 Rap, #162 UK), Fancy (#25 US, #4 R&B, #1 Rap)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: A lotta people bought this, so probably many know other songs. I don’t.

LINEUP: Drake, with guests Alicia Keys, Nicki Minaj, The Dream, Young Jeezy, Jay-Z, Little Wayne and a shit-ton of producers, etc.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: First full album (not a mixtape) by the Canadian multi-media star was popular, but didn’t move me.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Drake is…Drake. He’s sensitive, and his auto-tune singing and rapping along with his lyrics and melodies make him stand out from the pack.

But, on this record, I just didn’t connect with it. Some of his lyrics, and his explicit talk just didn’t work for me, and it seemed the tracks didn’t have a good solid core, just some production around some raps and singing.

It was popular, and others loved it. I didn’t, and it’s exiled.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: He released mixtapes and EPs before this came out, and that made his name in the business.


GRADE: C: Even the hits didn’t sound like they’d sound good on the radio. It’s probably just me, but I’m exiling this.

Katy Perry – Teenage Dream

ARTIST: Katy Perry                    220px-Teenage_Dream_album_cover

TITLE:  Teenage Dream



SINGLES: California Gurls (#1 US, #1 UK), Teenage Dream (#1 US, #2 UK), Firework (#1 US, #3 UK), E. T. (#1 US, #3 UK), Last Friday Night (#1 US, #9 UK), The One That Got Away (#3 US, #18 UK

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: If something else got on the radio, you tell me.

LINEUP: Katy Perry and I count 17 others appearing on it, including Snoop and Kanye

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Big McLarge Huge record that’s basically pop confections. Nothing filling for sure, but many songs are sweet.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: There may be a few people on planet Earth that hasn’t heard some of these tracks. Let me summarize: eight producers collaborate with Perry on a 12-song record (the regular version) that took over radio and pop culture in 2010. The songs all sound very polished, Perry’s vocals are improved (she’s not trying to sing right INTO your ears, but she’s not subtle), and there are hooks and hooks and more hooks.

It does sound artificial, but not overtly so. Perry’s vocals are double and triple tracked and maybe auto-tuned some, but she doesn’t sound fake or like a robot and for most of the up-tempo pop songs her style works well.

There are some turkeys on here, and she’s not really a ballad singer. She’s just better with fun pop songs, and hanging out with Snoop and singing memorable hooks that sound great on the radio. 220px-TheCompleteConfectionCover

NOTES & MINUTIAE: The singles off of this album spent 225 straight weeks on the Hot 100. Holy shit, Sherlock!

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes, of course. In fact, there was a new release in 2012 (The Complete Confection) that had two more singles: “Part of Me” (#1 US, #1 UK) and “Wide Awake” (my personal fave of hers) (#2 US, #9 UK)

GRADE: B:  This owned the early 2010’s. The singles will be what people remember from this era.

John Grant – Queen of Denmark

ARTIST: John Grant 220px-Johngrant
TITLE: Queen of Denmark
OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Sinead O’Connor covered the title track
LINEUP: John Grant + Midlake and Session musicians
WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Former frontman of the Czars recovers from personal crises and records a poignant and touching album about growing up gay and romance lost and found.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Seemingly from out of nowhere, Grant released this album on the record company that released the Czars material. The band Midlake recorded it with him in Texas, backed with session musicians adding the strings and other classical touches.

Grant has a rich baritone, which adds even more of a touch of sadness and resignation to these tales. The album doesn’t seem uplifting, and some songs do wallow in the morose side of life, but the arrangements are tremendous and that does help to lift the melancholy. There is some humor too, like in the song “Sigourney Weaver” – “I feel just like Winona Ryder / In that movie about vampires / And she couldn’t get that accent right / Neither could that other guy.”

It’s a very adult album, but the combination of song, arrangement and voice does make it accessible and inviting for serious music fans.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: After the Czars broke up, he went through a period of substance abuse, and quit music to wait tables before pulling himself out of it.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No. It’s not even streaming on Google Play or Spotify.

GRADE: A-: I wish I knew about this record in 2010. I was going through rough patches and I probably would have liked this as a companion.


Little Red Wolf – If Only We Were Just Like We Are

ARTIST: Little Red Wolf littleredwolf
TITLE: If Only We Were Just Like We Are
OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Hip and well-read Wisconsinites have heard them!.
LINEUP: Kelly Maxwell, Meghan Rose, Emily Mills, Laura Detert
WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Wisconsin foursome blends voices, styles and multi-instruments for a pleasing debut record.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: NOTE: I know Emily – have drank beers with her and sent her a bunch of mix CDs for a Mix Tape Trade we participated in, but I’ll try to remain unbiased.

You could say that this is a folkie record – or a blend of alt-country and folk – or…well, it’s kind of hard to pin LRW down into a genre. I can say this, there are plenty of good songs here and it is a pleasant listen for chilling out.

The quartet harmonizes well, plays a variety of styles and instruments and share in the writing and singing. For an independent release, the production is great as well, with everything in good balance and clear and crisp, which you need for this music.

My only quibble is that at times it seems the songs aren’t as varied as I’d like them to be. Maybe it’s the sequencing or just how the songs are structured, but I want more of a changeup on occasion, especially near the end of the album. However, that’s a quibble – hopefully they’ll make more music for a long while.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Emily is a Sunday columnist for the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No, but there is a re-mix album.

GRADE: B+-: A good album for a rainy weekend where you just want to stay in and chill.