The New Year Brings a Hodgepodge of Great New Music to Check Out

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Jim Taugher listens ecstatically to the great, new tunes he’s found to listen to this year so far.  Photo by Cass Krughoff/Foghorn
Jim Taugher listens ecstatically to the great, new tunes he’s found to listen to this year so far. Photo by Cass Krughoff/Foghorn

This year started off with a bang. Between the Jay Leno, Conan O’Brien fiasco and the iPad, this new decade has already proven to be an exciting one for pop culture, including the music industry. In main stream music, Ke$ha stole the spotlight with her promiscuous ways shoving underdog audience pleaser Susan Boyle aside. Indie favorites Vampire Weekend still managed to hold strong with their follow-up album, “Contra.” Here are the best songs of 2010 so far, of course some of the best are yet to come (and if you’re resourceful, some of them have already leaked – watch out for Harlem’s new LP “Hippies” in April, it’s amazing).

“Yellow Wings” by Keepaway – Animal Collective fans, rejoice! This recent release from the little known unsigned trio, from Brooklyn, Keepaway combines vocal samples, heavy naturalistic drums sequences and big reverb-y guitar licks to create a beautiful atmosphere for a stunning song. It starts off like it could pass for an M.I.A. song and then ventures into Animal Collective territory, especially in the quick yelps during the chorus. The lyrics explore the progress of desire and wanting: “to be in two places at once.”

“Giving up the Gun” by Vampire Weekend – This is probably the most likeable song off these prepsters’ second release. Vampire Weekend consistently creates catchy, quirky vocal melodies and this song exemplifies their skill. Filled with guitar effects, a bumping snare beat, crying bass and lots and lots of bells, it all ends with a clap beat that could easily be found in most top 40 songs these days. It’s a happy reminder that Ezra Koenig, VW’s lead singer, “sees you shine in your way.” Fun, fun, fun.

“Ambling Alp” by Yeasayer – These guys are insane. If you get a minute, check out the very weird drug-induced music video for this one. It’s a trip. Yeasayer had one of the best tracks on last year’s benefit compilation, Dark Was the Night, so this release was much anticipated. Unfortunately, many of the songs on this album are too bizarre for me to entirely grasp, but this song will please most. Some have issues with the vocalist, but others love the desperation in his voice. The chorus offers a bit of encouragement, “stick up for yourself son / never mind what anybody else done.” The song starts with a burst of drums and sounds that bounce off each other with precision and the bridge comes out of left field with a horn section and vocal harmonies that are reminiscent of Prince. Remember: stick up for yourself.

“Norway” by Beach House – Beach House keeps pumping out quality make-out music. The verses are filled with wavering notes that modulate in and out of key just slightly, creating an unnervingly dream-like world. Victoria Legrand’s “Norway” chorus slides in over her beautiful vocal movements that seem to hug the rolling guitar riffs without letting go. Then all of a sudden the song is over and you find that you have a strange desire to be in Norway.

“Take it Easy” by Surfer Blood – This track sounds like it could be straight from Vampire Weekend’s “Contra,” but it’s not. It’s from newcomers Surfer Blood, a group of goofy looking youngsters from Florida who make really rad music. The rest of this album sounds like they’ve taken the 90’s alternative sound and re-vamped it in a new way; incorporating the sounds of African roots music and a bit of 60’s pop. It slowly melts away with looped guitars, catchy shaker and  high hat beat that only remind you of why you like this song so much. I’m excited to see what these guys will do in the future.

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