WVAU Top Music of 2010: #1

Alex Rudolph, Brad Barbour

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#1 Album: LCD Soundsystem – This Is Happening

The two things everybody focuses on with This is Happening are that James Murphy is now forty and that this is the last LCD Soundsystem release we‰’re going to get for a little while. Neither of those ideas really matters.

First, this isn‰’t an album about being forty years old‰ÛÓ it‰’s an album about turning forty years old. The songs aren‰’t about complacency or irrelevance, they‰’re about maturation. In James Murphy‰’s lyrics, that means compromise, regret, and recognizing when you‰’ve put too much stock into that one last chance for a slow dance. It also means making a hell of a lot of mistakes.

This is an incredibly fun album, but it‰’s one that sucker punches you every once in a while. The often misheard final line of “Drunk Girls,‰” for example, is “Be honest with me unless it hurts my feelings.‰” Upbeat synth line, gang vocals about getting wasted and having one night stands, and then a little plea for tenderness. “One Touch‰” is a goofy Talking Heads take-off about missed connections that leads into the devastating, divorce-themed combo of “All I Want‰” and “I Can Change.‰” This album isn‰’t about being old, it‰’s about accepting that very soon you are going to be old.

Second, this is the kind of album that you‰’ll be able to return to in a decade. Every moment of This is Happening that was supposed to be exciting the first time you listened to it is still exciting half a year later. The explosions and the choruses and the weird little moments you only hear through headphones both make this a great album today and make it the kind of record you‰’ll be able to revisit and still have a blast with. As long as it‰’s played at a decent volume, opener “Dance Yrself Clean‰’s‰” big bang will not fail you. If there‰’s never another LCD Soundsystem full length, you‰’ll still be able to put this one on and pick apart all the complexities you missed during the last dozen listens. And those big moments will still hit just as hard as they did when they initially dropped.

So that‰’s why this album is good.

Written by Alex Rudolph

#1 Song: Sufjan Stevens – “Too Much”

The Age of Adz is nothing if not unpredictable, trading in the gentle baroque pop/folk fusion that made the elusive Michigander an international indie sensation, for instrumentation and atmosphere that pushed boundaries and threatened to alienate his fanbase, But throughout the glorious cacophony of the album, “Too Much” stands alone, the most head-turning in a collection of tracks designed to grab your attention. The track accomplishes a rare feat, managing to fit alongside his most emotional material, while also being more epic than the 25 minute closing track. The heart is crafted through its ambiguous yet evocative lyrics (Now I’m lonely as that, I put up a fight. So pick up your battering ram…. Love, I wanna see it.) Stevens is no longer the storyteller around the campfire, evoking well known tall tales from local history. “Too Much” puts himself as the central protagonist, achieving a heightened level of personalization and introspection necessary to counteract the more harsh tones of the song’s instrumentation. The song’s epic nature, on the other hand, is credited to its immaculate construction, setting up motifs early so they can be combined in a glorious,bombastic final two minutes. And what a conclusion this is! Strings! Crazy flute! Endless synths! This is not your older brother’s Stevens, a fact of which he is well aware, winking at the listener with the album’s telling title. Is the amount of production and complexity simply “too much”? Will the beauty of Steven’s songwriting skills be overshadowed by a wall of experimental noise? Give this track just one chance to wash over you with its sonic force, and you’ll quickly discover that “too much” can sometimes be perfect.

Written by Brad Barbour

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