Feature: Jeff the Smith’s Top 5 Albums of 2010

One of the best things about life is meeting people. Almost a year ago, I had the pleasure of being introduced to Jeff Smith aka Jeff the Smith. He is an up-and-coming experimental electronica artist here in the Rio Grande Valley and, to this day, remains one of the most fascinating people I’ve ever met. Here are his

Top 5 Albums of 2010

5. Avey TareDown ThereDavid Portner’s primal screams have made an all-too-brief cameo again. I bought Down There wanting it to be the ying to the yang of Panda Bear‘s Person Pitch. Such a ying would necessarily have some Avey Tare shrieking. But Down There is as primal as a father rocking his baby to sleep. Nevertheless, I always want to hear more. This record employs all the sampling and sonic texture one expects of an AC record. All in all, it’s another artsy (read: less-accessible) effort for the AC family’s catalog.

4. GorillazPlastic BeachYears ago, Blur’s Damon Albarn found a new home for his poppy hooks and compositional pacing. (Its name was Gorillaz.) The musical mage is at it again on Plastic Beach. On the album’s second track, the National Orchestra for Arabic Music settles the listener into a breezy, seaside hammock, peppered with the wind-blown chirps of a nearby piper…the listener’s hammock is flipped, and when he wipes the sand from his face, an infectious rap beat and a pair of tea-sipping rappers signal that a beach party is under way. Ultimately the rap beat and the classical Arabic score merge in a seamless mash-up to wind down the track. The listener sighs. Then the Gorillaz-brand bad-assness bursts back in on “Rhinestone Eyes,” which, like the record’s first single, “Stylo,” reminds us of the band’s first hit, “Clint Eastwood,” whose synth-rock made Gorillaz a household name in the first place.

3. MGMTCongratulationsA Pitchfork review said Congratulations was a major departure from the debut album. It wasn’t. There’s no dance songs on Congratulations, but if you take “Kids,” “Time to Pretend” and “Electric Feel” off Oracular Spectacular, that disc becomes Congratulations. I love both albums.

2. The Ruby SunsFight SoftlyThis is the more dancey follow-up to the New Zealand band’s sophomore-but-far-from-sophomoric album, Sea Lion. Despite the festive mood of Fight Softly, the album manages to squeeze in a reference to tween alcoholism (the opening lyrics of “Olympics On Pot”: “Today I met a 12-year-old whose favorite beer was Coors Lite”). Hurray for emotional complexity. Hurray for indie Down Under. Hurray for non-Western instrumentation.

1. Of MontrealFalse PriestThree albums ago [Sunlandic Twins], Kevin Barnes’ funk was confined to bass lines. Two albums ago [Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer?] he cut loose his falsetto, ghetto-fab spirit and introduced the narrator Georgie Fruit. One album ago [Skeletal Lamping], Georgie Fruit (who in one song told us, “I’m just a black shemale/and I don’t know what you people are all about”) took center stage. On the current album, half of which owes to George Clinton, Kevin Barnes goes so far as to enlist Beyonce’s little sister for a roller-derby duet, dubbed “Sex Karma.” Barnes has soul, but he’s not a soulja. Of Montreal began life as a Beatles cover band. The indie icons have come a long sonic way from the acid-drenched ramblings of their mid-catalog in the early 2000s. And we can only hope for more transformations to come. Lyrics plucked from the nonsense chanting toward the end of Hissing Fauna became titles for the two albums that followed (Skeletal Lamping and False Priest). It’s worth noting now because the varied and cluttered soundscapes of False Priest probably hold the seeds from which Kevin Barnes’ next perceptible identity mutation will spring. I, for one, can’t wait for the next dispatch from his freak-flag empire.

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