Park Life: The Songs of 2010
by Ami Heller
Here we go again. A glorious musical year ends. Full of exploration and extremes. Still writing. Still posting songs. Still ruminating over what this music does to me and putting it to words. Last year’s list was shorter and arranged at my brother’s apartment in Tel-Aviv. On the other side of the world, it rained incessantly. This year the list was compiled in this haven of mine on Park Road. On the first snow-covered day. It was time. Because precipitation and dark skies make me reflect. I guess.
18 is a random number, but it’s the most honest one. Adding more songs wouldn’t have made this as personal and true. These tracks shaped my year, my walks, my flights, my moods, my seasons, my mornings and late, exceedingly late nights. My life. Park Life. I briefly wrote about each of them. Simple anecdotes, thoughts they conjure and the places they take me. There were many other lovable tunes that didn’t quite summon up words. I simply loved them because I loved them. Those might show up in the near future, in some form or another.
The genius artwork was created by the gifted Meghan Kraemer, who’s on a much-deserved hiatus from photo-shopping stuff, and still willingly complied. I’m honored to showcase it. Couldn’t thank you more Meg.
Love Lah you.
Here is my very personal musical journey. A playlist of the last 365 days. My soundtrack of 2010.
18 • EFTERKLANG • FULL MOON
An intoxicated night in Tel-Aviv early September. A city that claims to never sleep seemed to have taken quite the nap. I decide to walk to my brother’s apartment and listen to music being shuffled at random. A 30 minute walk on the empty streets of my favorite place in the world. This song starts playing. Unrecognizable at first. An album I’ve owned for several months, but never really took the time to let in. So I resist the urge to skip. And all of a sudden the strings and the choir and the beat of the drum and the piano are a blessed gift. An unblemished soundtrack. Approaching my brother’s street, writing drunken facebook messages on friends’ walls from my phone. I look up at the Mediterranean sky. A full moon up above. Or a figure of my imagination. Then at home. Crash. Wake up depleted. But this song remains.
17 • ARCADE FIRE • ROCOCO
A third. Of my holy trinity of bands. Love most everything they produce. Always have, always will. It goes: Radiohead <-> Grizzly Bear <-> Arcade Fire. In the weeks before the release of The Suburbs, snippets of this song trickled onto the web. An exciting sense of discovery overcame me. A sound unheard before. When the album came out, it was all that I hoped it would be and this was in repeat. On a miserable day in August, grey clouds threatened to pour merciless rain on us. We went downtown to watch the modern kids play live on Toronto Island. I lost my friends in the crowd as this song was playing. I went on an expedition, the whole time thinking “I’m missing this”. But really, it was all registering. Rococo engraved in my brain. There was no torrential downpour. It all turned out okay.
16 • JOANNA NEWSOM • EASY
Disc one track one of a saga. A trilogy that truly is a triumph from one of the most hyped-about, harp-playing, fairy-like, uber-talented phenom that is Joanna Newsom. And I distinctly recall the moment this played for the first time. Opening a door to the voyage that is listening to magic. An impressive journey of poetry put to music. Back then I thought it would be hard to trump this opener. Secretly hoping that each song will be better than the one before. And the rest of Have One On Me is quite sensational. But this remains favored. As if she could read my mind, this was the first song on the setlist of her live show at the Phoenix too. Making it eeeeeasy. Eeeeeasy for me to endure. Sing. Speak. I’ll appear.
15 • MIDLAKE • ACTS OF MAN
Right around this time last year I was visiting my family in Israel. My father turned 60 and I surprised him, by just walking into that renowned purple house of ours. The look on his face was priceless. A moment to remember for life. The first signs of a Middle Eastern winter, i.e. no snow, some rain and the possibility of warm sunny days. After my year-end list was finalized, I could start exploring songs of the year to come. This was the first one. The harmonies made me think Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young. Midlake tend to do that. I was hooked. In my parents’ living room, the need to share this with someone was overpowering. My mother was making dinner. I turned up the volume. She liked.
14 • SPOON • I SAW THE LIGHT
A rock ‘n roller-coaster. Back in the frost of January I was listening to a different track in repeat and making up stories about two best friends and a wall. However, this one is a maze. In which, no matter how sure Britt Daniel sounds and how many times he repeats the title, I never know if in fact I’ll see the light at the end. But it happens. At 2:17. A shift. Flecks of luminescence begin blazing slowly in all their glory. To precisely create one uniform solid ray. In the most raw and organic way possible. By 4:28 I fully sense it. I’m blinded. And all’s right with the world.
13 • LCD SOUNDSYSTEM • ALL I WANT
The joy of seeing LCD live twice this year is indescribable. It happened to me. On different sides of the world. And to have shared it with my brother in Israel was priceless. This Is Happening was one of my highlights this year. Play it front to back without thinking. In order. And abandon worries. Surprisingly, both in Toronto and in Tel-Aviv, James Murphy and co. hardly played any of the new songs. But it was all right. With a canon of groundbreaking, brilliant tracks from previous albums, the new material wasn’t essential. And on a visit to NYC late April this was what I listened to. From JFK to Jamaica station to Delancey/Essex. Then a walk to Ronny’s place. Cigarette in hand. First signs of a summer to come. Much like that astounding city, I was alive. Confident in where to go. But I got lost, took a wrong turn, recovered. Strangers still asked me for directions. It felt like home.
12 • OWEN PALLETT • LEWIS TAKES OFF HIS SHIRT
I write. Detach. Devise solitary characters. To vindicate a feeling. Put to words inner most thoughts. Repeat. Now and then in the first person. Most of the time not. Owen Pallett astonishingly does the same thing in this grandiose anti-hymn. Lewis comments on Owen. On life. With Owen. With the most rich melody and lush lyrics. To be able to create an ornate work of art such as this staggering piece. That is my final fantasy.
11 • PETER BRODERICK • SIDELINE
This quintessential winter song was uncloaked in the dead of summer. Utterly inappropriate. So then the gloom kicked in, and this was the right companion for that. The exact dose of sincerity. A sensitivity that makes me envious. Stripped down. Piercing acapella. A living proof that all you really need is a heavenly voice. A gentle piano. And heart.
10 • JAMES BLAKE • I NEVER LEARNT TO SHARE
A young prodigy from the UK creates a magnum-opus using a single sentence: “My brother and my sister don’t speak to me, but I don’t blame them”. A couple of months ago, somewhere around 3 am, my usual music/soul-searching time of day, I happened to stumble upon this. An odyssey of sound and harmonies. I’ve always been infatuated with families heavily saturated with siblings. Brothers & sisters. Because I love the one I have. To death. And this track makes me wish I had an abundance of them. Just like him. Even though I can imagine it must be tasking to share.
9 • SUFJAN STEVENS • I WALKED
We go way back. 4 years ago we were pretty much inseparable. And then a long hiatus. One that was very much needed for me to appreciate anew. In all honesty, my first listen through of The Age of Adz didn’t draw me in completely. I didn’t immerse myself in it like I did with Illinois. Track #8 Vesuvius is exquisite, but other than that the sound of his voice was too much of a reminder. A throw back to an album that (I thought) he could never live up to. And 3 weeks ago I gave it a second go. And this track is everything I loved and so much more. Electronic notes that are seamlessly weaved with an angelic voice crying “I walked because you walked, but I won’t probably get very far”. Heartbreaking and seemingly faultless. 4 years later. And we’re back.
8 • BEACH HOUSE • SILVER SOUL
Late March. The smoke and illumination on The Opera House stage signified everything that THE best album of the year is. A hazy, colorful dream. Teen Dream. Front to back. Victoria Legrand is a force. With embracing vocals, lyrics and melodies that captivate. Ironically, a band named Beach House captured my soul for the better part of winter. My silver soul. When the year started Zebra played in repeat. But then this became the one. Shauna said it’s all reminiscent of Cocteau Twins. A modern-day version. She shared Cherry-Coloured Funk on my wall, which will now forever be linked with this Baltimore duo. Bewitching and irresistible. The chanting of “It is happening again” haunts me every time. My mind fills with re-occurrences I wish would cease. And the desire to forget.
7 • LAURA VEIRS • JULY FLAME
Songs are places. In February I was Colorado bound. A ski trip I thought would be a mistake. As per usual, obscenely early for my flight. Obsessively listening to this on the moving walkways, while staring at oversized windows revealing taxiing airplanes and cold. And then on the breathtaking slopes of Breckenridge, Vail and Keystone. This song again, with the words “July” and “Flame” in its title. The irony. And I was so wrong. I had the time of my life. The trip was wondrous. This song is wondrous. A feat, with a choir and clapping and Laura Veirs asking “Can I call you mine?”. Sure can. Upon arriving home all I could do was write this.
6 • JAI PAUL • BTSTU
Music gurus. I have a few. Everyone should have at least one. Some are fellow blog writers, one is a radio show host, and a couple are close friends. One of them is Mark Paiva. 99.9% of the songs he recommends I simply adore. I don’t need to over-think the pressing of play when he shares a track. So somewhere around March, on a random Tuesday, I opened my eyes to a feed of “news” on facebook. Paiva shared this, with the simple “Shit this is good!” caption hanging above. And boy was he right. This has become an obsession. Jai Paul, another young prodigy from the UK, with a timid falsetto, demands you to not fuck with him. Crazy, heavy, infused synths throughout stimulate an undeniable groove. Shocking and marvelous. A killer demo. I can’t imagine what it’ll sound like on an official album release. Also, 9 months later I still don’t have a clue what BTSTU means.
5 • SHARON VAN ETTEN • LOVE MORE
Not sure how much more I can gush about this masterpiece. Relayed my thoughts here and here. Crystal clear. A precious work of art. Our song. Rebecca and I. The one we could listen to over and over and over again. Chained to the wall of our room, we hit repeat without an ounce of hesitation. We saw SVE live twice this year. She enhanced our lives with her presence and song and kindness and vitality. Her album is rightfully titled Epic. Yet another adjective to attach to one of the most stunning tracks to ever grace my ears. Love more? Could I possibly?
4 • MIRRORS • HIDE AND SEEK
The reason I follow some very special blogs. Because no matter how skilled I think I am in discovering the freshest reverberations out there, some people can simply do it better. And that’s what happened in April, when a favored blogger posted this smashing hit. Yes, a hit in my mind. This foursome from Brighton will surely detonate into the world next year. They must. A confession to a loved one that moves me. And makes me move. I think this one (even more so than Robyn’s tune) made me dance on my own the most this year. First there was this demo, and later in the year they released a new, different sounding version with an official music video. I prefer this earlier take. The one I originally fell in love with. Sounds more unsure, not as polished, less produced. It’s waking up in the morning from a wild sleep, with someone new lying next to you in bed, hurriedly running to the washroom to check imperfections in front of the mirror. That someone new has got to be for you.
3 • ROBYN • DANCING ON MY OWN
To Sweden! Anyone who knows me knows my thoughts about this. And Robyn. This was her year. A 90s Swedish Princess upgrades to Queen. Back. Reinvented. Better than ever. I recall listening to this for the first time back in April. I hit play and instantly went from Go to Whoa! I think many people had the same experience with this boiling dance hit. 8 months later and it’s still devilishly irresistible. Addictive and perfect, it simply is the most extraordinary electro-pop
song anthem released in years. And when the explosive beat at 3:07 hits, the rest is history. January 26 is when we get to see her live. Hope her show lives up to this.
2 • THE NATIONAL • AFRAID OF EVERYONE
I’m assuming it’s very hard to produce a masterpiece and then try to achieve such great heights again. High Violet was released this year. A gorgeous album that couldn’t quite live up to the phenomenon that was/is Boxer. But who cares when you have songs like this? In September I visited my family in Israel. And on the way to the airport with my parents, a ride towards another sickening departure, this came on the radio. The three of us were silent, staring out respective windows. The dry landscape hurriedly passing by. The soundtrack to yet another goodbye in the works. It helped. It didn’t help. And in May at the legendary Massey Hall, I was surrounded by friends and this song live. Having the worst seats in the house didn’t matter. Stunning golden lighting. Meg took a snapshot of a priceless moment that would become a profile pic. Subdued breathing. A braid of voices reiterated “You’re voice is swallowing my soul soul soul”. And a single hidden tear was shed.
1 • CARIBOU • ODESSA
A song unskippable. One that never should end. If only. The Dauphin accompanied lazy grey Saturdays in the summer, full of rain and lethargy. Some of my thoughts regarding that mellow soother can very much be applied to this upbeat treasure. Every time this plays, by choice or at random, I’m transcended to unrivaled places. Flawless entwining of electronic beats and the soft vocal of mastermind, mathematician-turned-musician-extraordinaire Daniel Snaith aka Caribou. No wonder it seems so perfectly calculated. In apartment 3313, or on the street, or working out, or at my favorite bar. Countless are the times I’ve lost myself in the sound, relentlessly giving in to the beat. But also feeling. A discrepancy between quivering lyrics of heartache and pain about a suffering relationship, and a melody that begs you to sway. Genius juxtaposition. Chaos ensues and reaches its peak at 4:55. And I’m lost at sea. Enchanted. Enveloped in another world. I never want to leave. And this is THE song of 2010.