2010 The Year in Music

The local 2010 year in music will be remembered locally for festivals, reunions and departures. Here are a few highlights: - After a rocky launch in '09, the MAHA Music Festival proved that Omaha can produce a true indie music festival. The one-day concert, held on Lewis & Clark Landing, attracted first-tier bands like Spoon, Ben Kweller, Superchunk and local heroes The Faint, along with thousands of indie music fans. Can MAHA top it in 2011? - Organized by Bright Eyes frontman Conor Oberst, The Concert for Equality was a day of performances built upon a message about divisive immigration laws that made headlines from Arizona to Fremont, Nebraska. Oberst, who had become a poster boy for the cause, got help from old friends Gillian Welch, David Rawlings and Cursive as well as members of Desaparecidos and Lullaby for the Working Class, who played together for the first time in years. - On a legislative front, local boozers no longer had to flee to Council Bluffs to get their late-night drunk on, as new new state laws allowed local bar closing times to expand from 1 a.m. to 2 a.m. in Nebraska. Meanwhile, Omaha bars felt the sting of a new entertainment tax that not only drove drink prices up, but may drive Mayor Suttle out of office. - One of Omaha's oldest venues for live music, The 49'r, closed for good in October after a drawn out battle that pitted the Dundee neighborhood against CVS Pharmacy. In the end, everybody lost. - Perhaps the biggest music news of the year came after the festival season. MECA, which runs the Qwest Center and the new downtown TDAmeritrade ballpark, announced it's hosting the Red Sky Music Festival July 19-24. MECA will work with Live Nation to book 50 bands that will perform in and around the ballpark for what they hope will be a festival that rivals Milwaukee's Summerfest. On a national level, we all watched last year as the music industry continued to decay. More and more bands, whether local singer/songwriters or national acts that have sold millions, complained that fewer and fewer people are buying CDs. There will be those who say that it's too early to write the obituary for the Compact Disc -- including our friends at Homer's, who saw their worldwide chain of seven record stores dwindle to two, including a smaller Old Market location. They're right. The CD will be around for a few more years. But its prognosis is dire. That doesn't, however, mean that the music industry is dead. Not yet. There are more musicians and bands and recordings being made available today than ever, thanks to the same technology that's killing the CD, a technology that allows anyone with a laptop to become a record producer, for better or worse. As record sales dwindle, musicians are beginning to depend more on licensing deals (selling their music for use in TV commercials, movies, etc.) and live performance income. The age of the CD is over. Here comes the age of the Stage. Now, without further ado, here are my 10 favorite recordings of 2010, in no particular order (Note that I didn't say "favorite CDs" -- all 10 are in regular rotation … on my iPhone). Arcade Fire, The Suburbs (Merge) -- Mewing frontman Win Butler may be too smart for his own good -- a sad, tortured realist, he's stuck in a rut, dwelling on the past, on the future and on our current situation. And yet, his music on this, his band's third album, is as inventive as anything on 2004's Funeral. Titus Andronicus, The Monitor (XL) -- The New Jersey band expanded on its low-fi punk sound, adding new instruments (bagpipes, fiddle, trombone, cello) that elevated these epic, drunken, Celtic-flavored sing-along ballads to a level as grand as the album's so-called Civil War theme. It's True, self-titled, self released -- Adam Hawkins and company soared to new heights on personal songs of love, heartbreak and redemption. It's a fitting elegy for a band that could have been a contender, could have been somebody. Tim Kasher, The Game of Monogamy (Saddle Creek) -- Closer to The Good Life than Cursive, the differentiator is the baroque strings, the upbeat brass, and the cool hand claps on "Gonna Die Here," which would be a radio hit in any other universe. In the overall Kasher oeuvre, this is a minor, simple, but ultimately satisfying guilt trip. The Black Keys, Brothers (Nonesuch) -- Auerbach and Carney take their gritty blues sound, meld it with a dollop of psychedelia and smooth out the edges just enough to make this their most accessible -- and enjoyable -- long player since '04's Rubber Factory. Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings, I Learned the Hard Way (Daptone) -- It's not so much a reinvention of the classic old-school R&B as an embrace of days past by a band and a singer that embodies the best of '60s soul. Ted Leo and The Pharmacists, Brutalist Bricks (Matador) -- There's something simmering just below the surface of every one of this album's 13 edgy, angry, catchy pop songs, as if a smiling Mr. Leo was about to stroll into a bank with a bomb beneath his overcoat. Belle & Sebastian, Write About Love (Matador) -- A return to form for a band that defined a style of chamber pop that's been copied by every mopey scenester indie band in this country and theirs. LCD Soundsystem, This is Happening (Virgin) -- The long-awaited follow-up to '07's Sound of Silver finds our hero James Murphy more concerned about writing embraceable pop songs than getting your feet moving, and that's OK (I guess). Pete Yorn, self-titled (Vagrant) -- Everyone's favorite indie crooner enlists the help of everyone's favorite post-punk rocker (Black Francis of The Pixies) to pull his music out of a mire of heartbreak and into something leather-clad and angry. Who ever thought that Yorn knew how to rock? Check out more year-end lists in this section, and my list of the year's best live shows in this week's Lazy-i column.

posted at 04:23 pm
on Wednesday, December 29th, 2010

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