Sunday, December 12, 2010

b/o 2010: pt I (25-11)

Looking for a predominant theme in my world, at least, it has been the Year Of Merge, comfortably placing four albums in the top 25, notching their first #1 album in Billboard, and topping it off with the resurgence of label founders McCaughan & Ballance's own band Superchunk, it has certainly been a year to remember for the Little Indie That Could...

The subtext would be: 'The Long Tail Rules...' Years from now, I suspect I'll look back on this time as being as much of a watershed as the early '90's, in terms of depth of releases. The List has been very tough to narrow down the last few years, and it's been a bonanza of great music. Last year tilted heavily towards veterans, this year seems more of a mix.

Without furthur ado:
Carl Newman and the gang bring it on home for 'Together', sharpening the songs, and adding the special bonus of a tour that included, (at some stops), all the original cohorts.

A pure pop extravaganza from the Canadian supergroup...

Key tracks: "Silver Jenny Dollar" and "Your Hands (Together)"

#24) VASELINES: Sex With An X
Any decade that has a Vaselines record can't be all bad. Wonder of wonders, 2010 saw the gang drop 'Sex With An X', dress up as a priest and nun in their video, and hit the road in style for a U.S. tour, while maintaining their bellicose goodness on record.

"I Hate The 80's" will serve as the statement on misguided nostalgia, and the final track, "Exit The Vaselines" closes another chapter.

Utterly unpredictable, and joyously bitter, that's our Vaselines!

#23) WARPAINT: The Fool
Long strange trip from the LA underground to this, their debut album. Intense and atmospheric, they could be the dark horse of the strongest LA musical scene in the last 25 years...

Key tracks: "Undertow" & "Lissie's Heart Murmur"

#22) SERENA MANEESH: S-M2: Abyss In B Minor
Tired of waiting for that My Bloody Valentine record that's hell bent on putting 'Chinese Democracy' to shame? Well, have I got something for you, or the noise rock fan in your life...They don't call it "Abyss In B Minor" for nothing!

Surprisingly tuneful, and always rocking new entry from Serena Maneesh that never really left the turntable all year long...

Key tracks: "I Just Want To See Your Face" & "D.I.W.S.W.T.T.D"

#21) BROKEN BELLS: Broken Bells
Danger Mouse continues his hot streak, this time picking up Shins frontman James Mercer for an album of dark pop bliss.

Branching off his recent work with the Black Keys and Beck, it's a deep record that rewards every new listen...

Key tracks: "The High Road" & "The Ghost Inside"

#20) SUN KIL MOON: Admiral Fell Promises
Dark cryptic record that poses as many questions as it answers...Perhaps not the greatest gateway to Kozelek's work, but at the same time a portal for a subset who might never have come across his previous work.

Stark insular take on the ususal Kozelek tales of people and the road, done all on one nylon string guitar. What at first could sound samey becomes a hypnotic trance...

Key tracks: "Half Moon Bay" & "Third & Seneca"

#19) SCOUT NIBLETT: The Calcination Of Scout Niblett
What might win the takeaway prize for cover of the year, the enigmatic photo only serves to enhance the spookiness within. A great grueling guitar album for those who bemoan the lack of such things in today's environment.

Key tracks: "Calcination" & "Just Do It".

#18) QUASI: American Gong
Really don't know when Janet Weiss finds the time, but Quasi steps back into the limelight with their strongest and most assured record to date.

A genuine rock and roll blast!

Key tracks: "Bye Bye Blackbird" & "Death Is Not The End".

#17) BEST COAST: Crazy For You
Simple stories of a woman, her cat, her boy problems, and her weed, or the lack thereof, set to fuzz blasted Spector tones...What indeed, is not to love?

Key tracks: "Our Deal" & "When I'm With You".

#16) ALOE BLACC: Good Things
Aloe Blacc runs over the sophomore slump with 'Good Things', an assured followup to his bedroom treasure debut 'Shining Through'...

Key tracks: "I Need A Dollar", which got some great exposure as the theme to an HBO show, and his reinvention of the Velvet Underground's "Femme Fatale".

#15) SHARON JONES & THE DAP KINGS: I Learned The Hard Way
SJ&DK return with an album perfectly pitched to these trying times...'I Learned The Hard Way' is bloodied but unbowed look at the state of things in the here and now, personally and politically.

The band is in as fine shape as ever, and enterprising late night show hosts should take notice: if there's one band that could possibly give the Roots a run for it's money as the default house band, the Dap Kings would be the one.

Key tracks: title track, "The Game Gets Old".

#14) BROKEN SOCIAL SCENE: Forgiveness Rock Record
Broken Social Scene return with their first LP in five years, a sprawling beautiful mess of a record that holds up to repeated listening...

Drew and Canning have dropped some of their most cohesive tunes, and it stands as a breakthrough record for them.

Key tracks: "World Sick", "All To All", "Art House Director", & "Texico Bitches".

#13) GRINDERMAN: Grinderman 2
Building on the dirty ass rock & roll of their debut, Grinderman 2 ups the ante with more assured songcraft, while not sacrificing the edge.

In places, the line between Grinderman and the mothership Bad Seeds is not erased, but certainly blurred. As long as Nick Cave is at the helm, though, you know what you're going to get...

Key tracks: "Heathen Child", "Mickey Mouse & The Goodbye Man", "Evil"

Bonus Points: Amazing remixes are available, including "Worm Tamer" as done by A Place To Bury Strangers, and "Super Heathen Child", featuring Mr. Robert Fripp.

#12) LONELADY: Nerve Up
Amazingly assured debut LP that builds on wired post punk rhythms but coalesces into a beauty all its own...

Key tracks: title track, "Marble", & "Cattletears".

#11) SUPERCHUNK: Majesty Shredding
Heart warming return from North Carolina quartet with their first full album in nine years. Dial is firmly wrenched up to 11, and their energy level throughout shames bands half their age.
Followed by a series of blistering performances that left many a poor aging hipster all pogoed out.

Key tracks: "Fractures In Plaster", "Learned To Surf", & "Everything At Once".

Post script: 11 & 12 were the hardest things to kick out of my top ten, & led to much weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth.

Mea Culpa: Albums that I haven't got to yet that would probably be very listworthy: Joanna Newsom's 'Have One On Me', and Gil Scott Heron's 'I'm New Here'...


  1. I love these things because it gives me stuff to dig into next year... I've only heard 3 on your list so far (ouch!), but I'm looking forward to the top.

  2. OK, I'm listening to the Aloe Blacc album now, about halfway in, and I love the voice and style, but the uhh... I guess it's the production? The instrument choice, mixing level, etc. - even the ... eh, basically everything going on with the instruments feels tacked on to me and is discernibly decreasing my enjoyment of the music. Some of it is less annoying than others, and some of it works, but so far the majority isn't.

  3. 1) scariest thing is when i think of all the albums i still have to catch up with from this year...
    2) it's an indie album on Stones Throw, so not processed to death...what i like is the organic-ness of it. i'll have to give it another spin & see if i get what you're saying. What's funny is that is what i thought about the first record, "Shine Through", definitely a laptop album with some genius peeking through.

    Make sure you get to the Janelle Monae if there's one record you check out the rest of the year...for all the whiffle being piled on the Kanye record, for me Monae was the one that 5 or 10 years from now i'll be referencing. Like Prince's 'Dirty Mind', it was the one where all the pieces fell into place, and i just spent the entire first time listening to it going 'Oooo', with a face like the kid in the Far Side. Probably just cut and paste this for the capsule review in Top Ten; that pretty much sums it up.

  4. I've accepted that I'll pretty much never be caught up. Stuff to do when I get older :P.

    I did pick up the JM album, and I agree that it is excellent. I'm working on some geeky posts, but after I finish those I need to do a best-of music post...probably much shorter than yours just because I don't get nearly as much any more.