#10YearThrowback Thursdays (2010) – Gorillaz, Stylo (feat. Mos Def & Bobby Womack)

A new segment on In My Ear! On the occasional-to-maybe-regular Thursday, I’ll be digging into my archive and featuring tracks that were in my ear (and on my annual playlist) a decade ago. First up, the year was 2010…..

This remains one of my favorite Gorillaz tracks and near the top of any road trip playlist I’m libel to make. I mean, really. One of the best driving songs ever.

Stylo was the lead single off British virtual band Gorillaz third album Plastic Beach — and for me the real standout highlight of the record. The bass line is so pulsing and hooky and the guest turns from Mos Def and Bobby Womack are so tight; it all just hangs together really well.

This track introduced me to Bobby Womack, who I knew by name but not by his music or his catalogue. He absolutely crushes his verses and adds some soulful grit to the otherwise polished funk and electronic sound of the song.

This one feels dated to me…but just in my memory of it, not the sound itself. Gorillaz has always been (and remains) remarkably able to adapt their sound to stay current.

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#10YearThrowbackThursdays (2010) – Brother Ali, The Preacher

A new segment on In My Ear! On the occasional-to-maybe-regular Thursday, I’ll be digging into my archive and featuring tracks that were in my ear (and on my annual playlist) a decade ago. First up, the year was 2010…..

Brother Ali. This man right here is one of my favorite rappers, musicians, artists, poets, thinkers, and human beings.

And, of all the #10YearThrowbackThursday tracks I’ve featured thus far, this is hardest to get my head around that it came out ten years ago. Ali’s style and flow from then still feel so fresh now. And, unfortunately, all of the topics he raps on (the complicated nuances of racial and cultural identity; persecution of Black people; persecution of poor people; politics and power; etc.) remain pervasive and insidious today.

The Preacher is one of the standout tracks for me off the record Us, Ali’s fourth studio album when it came out. It’s an album chock-full of stories. One of Ali’s endearing gifts is his clarity as a storyteller. He populates his raps with richly-wrought characters and imbues his music with an abiding humanity.

But, as any good storyteller will tell you, it’s all in the delivery. And, Ali delivers straight fire — to me, he is a perennially underrated talent who can go toe-to-toe with any rapper in sheer skill, freestyle, and vocal dexterity. On The Preacher, he sets asides the stories, makes himself the subject, comes out of the gate hot, and doesn’t let up for the entire 3:23.

Y'all been violating the rapper code/ 
Can't just walk around here acting bold/ 
Got to earn respect to brag and boast/
Skills get you that not swag and clothes/
Chin might get tapped, I crack your nose/
Fall back before y'all collapse/
Me, I'm an artist all a y'all are acts

Man, I wore this track out.

Brother Ali is marking the anniversary of Us as well with a special edition vinyl you can order. You can also find him touring (well, he was before and expects to be back out after the COVID-19 pandemic) on the 2019 release of his seventh studio album, Secrets & Escapes.

Us by Brother Ali

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#10YearThrowbackThursdays (2010) – Broken Bells, The High Road

A new segment on In My Ear! On the occasional-to-maybe-regular Thursday, I’ll be digging into my archive and featuring tracks that were in my ear (and on my annual playlist) a decade ago. First up, the year was 2010…..

Man, this song was all over the place in 2010. Following Brian Burton’s (aka Danger Mouse’s) awesome collaboration project with CeeLo Green, Gnarles Barkley, he teamed up with The Shins front man James Mercer to form Broken Bells. They released their self-titled debut album in 2010, with The High Road as the insanely catchy, indiepop gem lead single.

Cover Art, Broken Bells, Broken Bells

This is not a song I associate with any particular memory: a place, a person, a moment in time. It doesn’t do that for me. What it does is evoke the same feeling and emotion of seeing a close friend for the first time in years. There’s a sense of immediate comfort and intimate familiarity. Kind of a warm glow.

It helps that this track *totally* holds up 10 years later.

#10YearThrowbackThursdays (2010) – Band of Horses, Ode to LRC

A new segment on In My Ear! On the occasional-to-maybe-regular Thursday, I’ll be digging into my archive and featuring tracks that were in my ear (and on my annual playlist) a decade ago. First up, the year was 2010…..

Alright, so technically, Ode to LRC was released on Band of Horses‘ 2007 sophomore album Cease to Begin. But, ten years ago, I was less immediately dialed into new releases (2010 was only three years removed from the first iPhone and, to my mind, still early days of streaming, on-demand music) *and* I liked Cease to Begin a whole lot better than the record that Band of Horses’ actual released in 2010, Infinite Arms.

Blah, blah, blah…technicalities aside, I was listening to this band a lot in 2010 and, specifically, this track (along with No One’s Gonna Love You also off Cease to Begin). Starting right off with the power chords, the song features all that I like about Band of Horses: straight-ahead, guitar-driven, roots-y indie rock, a deft mixture of tempos and pacing, a great sense of melody, and lead singer Ben Bridwell’s distinct vocal tone.

#10YearThrowbackThursdays (2010) – Minus the Bear, Into the Mirror

A new segment on In My Ear! On the occasional-to-maybe-regular Thursday, I’ll be digging into my archive and featuring tracks that were in my ear (and on my annual playlist) a decade ago. First up, the year was 2010…..

Minus the Bear was a great, great rock band from Seattle. They disbanded in 2018 after 17 years and six full-length records, having earned a fierce reputation for expert musicianship and innovative, forward-leaning, rock music. Founded by members of metalcore and post-hardcore bands and often classified in the ‘math rock’ subgenre (“a rhythmically complex, often guitar-based, style of experimental rock and indie rock”), Minus the Bear moved from and between rock, punk, prog rock, indie, and pop-synth rock — always evolving their sound on each record.

I first tuned into them starting with their huge-sounding 2007 opus Planet of Ice and have been a fan ever since. In 2010, Minus the Bear changed labels and released Omni, a sleeker, more pop-forward record featuring this single, Into the Mirror.

God, it’s so damn catchy.