The Upstate Life
The Upstate Life

Monday, December 20, 2010
The Top 10 Albums of 2010, Because You Really Care!

10) Janelle Monae – The ArchAndroid: While this year was stuffed with releases from some of our favorite bands, Janelle Monae brought something indescribably fresh to 2010 with her breakthrough album, The ArchAndroid. She delivers a level of soul we haven't seen since Motown's heyday while singing about robots, space, and time travel.

9) Arcade Fire – The Suburbs: Let's face it - nothing will ever hold a candle to Funeral. That album made the band, and since then, they have been trying to escape from its gorgeous shadow (i.e. - just watch an audience's reaction when the band performs a track from Funeral as opposed to other material). Following the deep but disappointing Neon Bible, The Suburbs might be the band's most straightforward approach yet. And it works quite well. While David Byrne's fingerprints are all over this record, potent songs like "We Used to Wait" and "Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)" clearly demonstrates that, despite 2005's masterpiece, they are still fully capable of crafting exquisite music.

8) Robyn – Body Talk, Part I: Now this is how pop should sound like. Robyn puts insufferable "talents" like Katy Perry and Ke$ha to shame with an album chockfull of delightful gems. The one-two punch of "Dancing on my Own" and "Cry When You Get Older" is the highlight of the first LP in Robyn's planned Body Talk trilogy. While the acoustic version of "Hang With Me" is not nearly as good as the one found on Body Talk Part II, closer "The Girl and the Robot" more than makes up for the lack of electronic beats. One of my favorite live acts this year, too.

7) Free Energy – Stuck on Nothing: KISS –Keep it simple, stupid. The Philadelphia-based band achieves this with great success on their debut release. With sounds that are heavily influenced by the 70s rock bands of yore, most notably Thin Lizzy, Stuck on Nothing takes the listener on a 45 minute trip back to a time where big hair, tight t-shirts, and catchy guitar hooks were all the rage. I guess not that much has changed since then, except replace the big hair with mustaches perhaps. At any rate, this is how a garage band should sound.

6) Hot Chip – One Life Stand: It's amazing to hear how far Hot Chip has come since 2003's debut Coming on Strong. The progression of their sound from then until now is pretty extraordinary. Alexis Taylor's vocals carry more weight and confidence while the band's production values have reached new highs. From jarring synthesized strings found in "I Feel Better" to the layers of harmonies in the album closer "Take It In", Hot Chip has gradually climbed the ladder and has yet to reach their zenith. I think the best is still to come.

5) The New Pornographers – Together: After the misstep of Challengers, the Canadian supergroup gives us their best album since the epic Twin Cinema. The harmonies are so lush it nearly brings a tear to your eye. And even if Destroyer comes off as a dick onstage, the dude can write some catchy-as-hell pop songs. Dan Bejar's "Silver Jenny Dollar" is one of his strongest TNP tracks to date.

4) MGMT – Congratulations: Yeah, I know I'm going to get a lot of shit for this, but you know what, for one reason or another I really, really enjoyed this album. Sure, it might be Ben Goldwasser and Andrew VanWyngarden's way of saying "fuck you if you only liked us because of ‘Kids'", but the versatility of this band shines through on the record's nine tracks (for the exception of "Lady Dada's Nightmare", that song is rather unlistenable). The heavy use of echo and reverb come off rather well and gives a complimentary nod to the 70s influences found throughout the album. The apex of "Someone's Missing" is a thing of beauty.

3) Kanye West – My Beautify Dark Twisted Fantasy: Just before the year had concluded, Yeezy brings us his most cohesive effort yet. After the muddled 808s and Heartbreak, Mr. West, whose production standards were already on another level, takes it one step further and creates a record that shines brightest in his already impressive catalogue. Dealing with topics such as self-doubt, fame, and reevaluation, My Beautify Dark Twisted Fantasy is Kanye's most introspective recording to date. He invites the listener into the life of 'Ye where one can practically watch him self-destruct then recollect himself all while sitting on his Versace sofa. I dare you to find another artist that would record let alone release a single as reflective as "Runaway."

2) Broken Social Scene – Forgiveness Rock Record: Probably their best album yet, it somehow got lost in the shuffle amidst all the heavyweight releases this year. Known for noodling around at times in earlier releases, Kevin Drew and company keep the jamming to a minimum (sans 'Highway Slipper Jam', I suppose) with 14 focused yet diverse numbers. From the toe-tapping "Texico Bitches" to the sweeping instrumental "Meet Me in the Basement", Broken Social Scene has released a prolific collection of music that is one of the year's very best.

1) LCD Soundsytem – This is Happening: If this is in fact James Murphy's swan song, he couldn't have closed out his LCD career with a bigger bang. Following 2007's tremendous Sound of Silver, LCD's latest effort is even better. Just listen to "All I Want" for all the evidence you need. One of Murphy's most haunting tracks, the guitar riff alone takes you back, and then the lyrics kick in: "And all I want is your pity, oh all I want are your bitter tears". Please don't leave us, James.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010
So Yeah, I Have a New Blog

So you're probably wondering why not much has transpired on The Upstate Life in the last few months, or dare I say, even the last year? Well, apathy would be the easy way out, but we all know that's not productive marketing.

Anyway, the majority of my blogging exploits can now be found over at DMV Dining. Yes, it's another food blog. But it's MY food blog (along with my wife). Yeah, I also got married. That probably should have warranted a post on this site in itself, but that's what Twitter is for, right?

Nonetheless, be sure to point your browsers over there as we'll be tackling reviews of the latest restaurants in the DC area as well as bring you some news on the latest happenings in the dining world, and even some rad photos to boot.

Meanwhile, The Upstate Life will carry on with its infrequent, music-related postings while still generating the majority of its hits from people Googleing "Brent DiCrescenzo". C'est la vie!

Monday, September 13, 2010
Dismemberment Plan to Reunite in 2011 for Mini-Tour

According to the Washington Post's Click Track blog, DC's own Dismemberment Plan will be reuniting for an abbreviated four-city jaunt in commemoration of the vinyl rerelease of their 1999 classic, Emergency and I.

The band hasn't formally gone on tour since 2003, the very same year they announced they were officially breaking up.

Dismemberment Plan has only performed one reunion show since then, and this author was fortunate enough to have attended what turned out to be a very special evening.

No ticket information is available as of yet, but get excited, DC. We're going back (and forth).

Dates via Click Track:

1/21/11: Black Cat ($20)
1/22/11: 9:30 Club ($20)
1/27/11: Philadelphia, PA at the Starlight Ballroom ($20)
1/28/11: Boston, MA at Paradise ($20)
1/29/11: New York, NY at Webster Hall ($25)

UPDATE - Tickets are scheduled to go onsale at noon this Friday via their respective venues. NYC show will have a separate Bowery Presents/Amex Presale this Wednesday. Thanks to Pinna Strom for the tip!

Wednesday, September 01, 2010
Die Antwoord No Longer on FreeFest Bill

In a bit of rather disappointing news this evening, we’ve learned that the South African hip-hop sensation otherwise known as Die Antwoord is no longer part of the Virgin Mobile FreeFest.

The homepage for the festival indicates as such as the band’s name is notably absent from the lineup.

Sharam and Wolfgang Gartner have been added to the list of Dance Forest artists, but honestly, I don’t know who they are nor do they help numbing the pain of what has transpired.

Sorry FreeFest goers, but there will be no repping of the Zef Side come September 25.

Monday, July 19, 2010
Virgin Mobile FreeFest Lineup to Be Announced Tomorrow

While it seems like every other music festival lineup through October has already been announced, finally (and I mean, FINALLY) we'll hear what this year's rendition of the Virgin Mobile FreeFest has to offer.

There will be a live announcement of the scheduled artists to perform delivered by Sir Richard Branson himself via Virgin Mobile Live, the company's brand new Internet music station, tomorrow at 11am. The station kicks off its inaugural broadcast with the lineup announcement and is accessible by heading over to the festival's website.

We already know that Joan Jett and the Blackhearts will be the one artists to perform, while Pavement and LCD Soundsystem appear to be heavy favorites as well. All I can say is that by this time tomorrow, the speculation on who will be performing (and numerous blog entries accompanying them) finally ends. And that my friends, is a good thing.

Monday, June 14, 2010
Joan Jett: First Confirmed Artist for Virgin Mobile FreeFest

Thanks to a tipster over at the 9:30 Forum, we have ourselves our first official artist slated for this year’s rendition of the Virgin Mobile FreeFest.

Joan Jett and the Blackhearts will be one of the many artists to perform at the free music festival as confirmed by the artist’s website as well as Pollstar.

I still think Pavement is one of your headliners, alongside LCD Soundsystem (no tour date in the DC area in sight despite releasing a killer new record), but with FreeFest being three-plus months away, more artist announcements should trickle out between now and then.

UPDATE - Both Pollstar and Joan Jett's website have taken down the date from their respective websites. I'm assuming that they Virgin/IMP want to keep this on the DL until the festival makes a formal announcement on the entire lineup, whenever that will be.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010
Pavement to Headline Virgin Mobile FreeFest?

Let me first say that this is entirely speculation on my part, but if you look closely at Pavement's touring schedule, this really does add up:

In case you didn’t notice by now, the reunited band has a day off on the very same day FreeFest takes place. Logistically it makes sense since they cap off their four-day Central Park stint on the 24th before heading south to Atlanta on the 26th:

This would be one hell of a coup by Seth and IMP, and then when you throw in the fact that tickets will be free again this year, you’d have yourselves one hell of a collective head explosion in the DMV if this turns out to be true.

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