My Pure Pop Top Ten Of The Year List
by Jason Cooley
Well, it was a better year for me this year than it was last year. That acne problem that kept threatening to explode on my face finally just packed up and went away to wreck some other kid’s complexion. Whew! Sophomore year has been a lot cooler to me than Freshman year, that’s for sure. On to the list…
(in no particular order)
Depeche Mode, Violator
This record is just killer, man. I know people talk a lot of shit about Depeche Mode, but Music For The Masses was a pretty great album and this one is even better, especially for the one-two punch of “Blue Dress” and “Clean” at the end. The CD single extended mix of “Personal Jesus” is awesome, too. 95 Triple XXX had this stupid thing where they put two new songs up against each other and people call in to vote for which one is good/bad. “Personal Jesus” went up against “Cherry Pie” by Warrant. Guess who won? Some dumb redneck chick said the breath-break on “Jesus” was “gay”.
Faith No More, The Real Thing
Where the fuck did this album come from? The CD says it came out last year, which is weird. “Epic” is already a goddamn…well, epic song, but then the rest of the album is epic, too. There’s a fantastic instrumental at the end called “Woodpecker From Mars” that blows my mind. I made a mixtape for this girl I’m trying to steal from my best friend and I’m having a hard time deciding which tune should close it out: “Woodpecker” or “Clean” from the aforementioned Violator. Apparently Anthony Keidis is angry with them for stealing his band’s funk-metal stylings. I keep forgetting that the Chili Peppers invented funk when they were swimming in their daddy’s balls.
Jane’s Addiction, Ritual de lo Habitual
Goddamn! Finally, the new Jane’s comes out a few days after my 17th birthday! What an album! After I got it I took it over to my buddy Chris Lentz’ house and we listened to it on his back porch, particularly marveling at side two. The “erotic Jesus” part of “Three Days” had us rocking our asses off, happily.
The new tape by Fugazi is just plain fucking awesome and that’s that. Nobody can or will deny it. “Shut The Door” and “Blueprint” are just…oh God help me.
Pixies, Doolittle, Bossanova, Here Comes Your Man CD single
So after a few months of trying to figure out who plays that “Wave all through the nation” song I taped off of WRUV last year, a TV ad for the new movie Pump Up The Volume had the song! I took the bus to Pure Pop to look at the soundtrack and there it was: “Wave Of Mutilation (U.K. Surf)” by The Pixies! Yay! A new band to get into. I initially ignored them because Rolling Stone kept pushing them on me, but alas, I have found The Pixies and they are great! Bossanova is their new tape and I listen to it a lot in my room with only Christmas lights on. It makes my room look like the cover. Fuck, everything this band does is awesome. They’re kinda edging Jane’s out of their position as my favorite active band…
Public Enemy, Fear Of A Black Planet
Wow, this tape is fucking insane! Some of it is impenetrable. It’s just soooo fucking dense. It came with a little fold out page with all of the rhymes. Jesus, Chuck D. is the greatest rapper alive. It starts with the holy fuck “Brothers Gonna Work It Out” (I wonder what 1995 is going to be like) and ends with “Fight The Power.” God fucking DAMN.
Sinead O’Connor, I Do Not Want What I Haven’t Got
I kind of fell in love with her last year when she sang “Mandinka” at the Grammys with the PE logo shaved into the side of her head, but when I saw the premiere of the video for “Nothing Compares 2 U” on 120 Minutes, wow. I really fell in love with her. Gorgeous, so gorgeous, especially her eyes. Mmmmmmm. Here I am, 16 years old, crying to a Prince cover. The rest of the album is pretty great, too.
Sonic Youth, Goo
Well, they’re on a major label now: Geffen. We’ll see how long that lasts. I don’t like Goo as much as Daydream Nation, but it’s still on the fantastic side of things. My favorite song off of this so far is “Disappearer”. It reminds me of when I lived in Manchester, NH and would ride my bike around various tall apartment complexes on overcast days. The video for “Dirty Boots” is pretty funny. I wonder if I’ll ever get to see them live.
The Velvet Underground, ALL
Last year I got New York by Lou Reed and dug it a whole helluva lot. I did some reading up on him and found this band he used to be in called The Velvet Underground. Everything is starting to make instant sense now. I know where so many bands are coming from, what inspired them, etc. It was this! Luckily, all their tapes are cheap as hell. I asked for them all for Christmas and got them except for Loaded, which I’m getting next. What an amazing band! How did I not pick up on them earlier instead of listening to all that hair metal? Fuck. I don’t really know where to begin with all of this, but I can say that “Sweet Jane” is now probably my favorite song of all time (it’s on a greatest hits thing). I’m still trying to figure out: is their drummer a boy or a girl? I honestly feel bad for not being able to tell.
Wild At Heart, Twin Peaks Soundtracks
This year has been the year of David Lynch. After four years of silence after Blue Velvet, he’s just suddenly all over the place. First Twin Peaks came along in April (on TV!!!) and rocked my fucking world weekly, and then Wild At Heart showed up in August to blow every movie I’ve seen so far this year out of the fucking water. The music is great, too. Angelo Badalamenti is a fantastic composer. The Twin Peaks soundtrack is creepy and awkward at times, but in a totally good way. The Wild At Heart soundtrack has some of his stuff, but also Chris Isaak’s AWESOME “Wicked Game”, Koko Taylor (she’s even in the movie! Wow…), Them! (with Van Morrison), and even some speed metal by a band called Powermad (they’re in the movie as well). Go, angriest dog in the world. Go.
11. Madonna, Justify My Love
It’s hard to talk about the song without talking about the video so fuck it, I won’t even try. Me and my friends heard this on the radio on our way to school on one cold fall morning, and I can’t speak for the rest of the guys, but I wanted to beat off so bad for the rest of the day. Sexxxxxxxxxy sexy sex-sex. Then the video came out. Creeeeeeeepppy creepy creep-creep. Why does Madonna always hang out with douchebags (with the exception of Sean Penn)? This Tony guy looks like he got rejected from The Village People for looking too weird. But yeah, Madonna: SEX.
12. Red Hot Chili Peppers, Mother’s Milk
I know this came out last year, but the Peppers came to play live in Burlington at Patrick Gym with the Violent Femmes in April. Personally, I thought the Femmes made the Peppers look like a bunch of poseurs, except for John Frusciante. Everything out of Keidis’ mouth was rehearsed. “I must be in Rome…cuz you all look like a bunch of Gods!” What am I, at a fucking Whitesnake concert? The high point of their set was Frusciante playing “Tiny Dancer” between songs. The Femmes played every song from their first album except for “Good Feeling”. They were just great. This should really be a Violent Femmes record, but they didn’t come out with one this year.
Bob Mould, Black Sheets Of Rain
Iggy Pop, Brick By Brick
The Soup Dragons, Lovegod
Living Colour, Time’s Up*
House Party, soundtrack
*I really feel I should let you know that in hindsight, this record should actually be on the Dishonorable list. One of my biggest regrets as a music fan was being duped into singing along to the chorus of “Elvis Is Dead” when they played at Memorial Auditorium in 1991. I was a PC alt-rock sheepdick that night, and if I could go back in time I’d rip both myself and those guys a new asshole. What an insipid, ignorant, and race-baiting song that was. Since then I’ve learned that good music is good music and shitty music is shitty music no matter what the color of your skin is. The story of Elvis Presley is one of the most uplifting, saddest, and emotionally complex stories ever told. The story of Living Colour? They played crappy metal versions of James Brown and Talking Heads classics, sued the TV comedy show In Living Color for trademark infringement (that’s some solidarity, yo) and finally broke up when everybody realized they actually sucked. Now it’s reunion money gigs. People are still buying Elvis records. Living Colour records? Stick it up your Stain, Vernon.
Vanilla Ice, To The Extreme
Prince, Graffiti Bridge
Roger Waters and Various Artists, The Wall Live In Berlin
Gerardo, Mo’ Ritmo
20 Years Later:
1. LCD Soundsystem, This Is Happening
and in no particular order:
2. Jay-Z, Decoded (yes, it’s a book.)
3. Kanye West, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy
4. Girl Talk, All Day
5. OFF!, First Four EPs
6. Curren$y, Pilot Talk
7. Chemical Brothers, Further
8. Ariel Pink, Before Today
9. Broken Social Scene, Forgiveness Rock Record
10. M.I.A., /\/\/\Y/\
11. Gorillaz, Plastic Beach
12. The Sword, Warp Riders
13. Big Boi, Sir Lucious Left Foot: The Son of Chico Dusty
14. Four Tet, There Is Love In You
15. Caribou, Swim
1)The Black Keys – “Brothers”
I hadn’t heard of this band in till this year. My friend made me listen to “tighten up” and i fell in love with this band. I Can’t Believe its just two guys. Its not one of those cds were you like a couple of songs and skip the rest, you fall for every song.
2)Mumford and son – “Sigh No More”
The unique sound and amazing lyrics make it one of my new favorite CD’s.
3)Weezer – “Hurley” Switching labels was the best thing they could have done. This definitely makes up for Raditude. They came back to their amazing sound rather then the stupid pop rock they did on that last album also “memories” is an amazing song.
4)Band Of Horses – Infinite arms
3 years spent waiting well worth it! Ben Bridwell’s voice makes this album and this band amazing.The song “on my way back to you” gives me chills every time.
5)Warpaint – “The Fool”
Haven’t really heard anything like them before. Love “set your arms down”. Best female Rockers around!
6)Two door cinema club – tourist history” This album is amazing. Alex Trimble vocals are so good!
7)Ra Ra Riot- “the orchard”
Kind of a mixture of death cab for cutie and vampire weekend.
8)Big Echo-”big echo”
you can tell they really poured their heart and soul into this album
9)Arcade Fire – “The suburbs”
10)American Bang.”wild and young” perfect road trip song!
I bought most of these records at Pure Pop. Thanks for being my favorite independent record store! – Marc
Off! – First Four EPs (Vice)
This is hands-down the best thing I have heard all year. Keith Morris was the first (and in my mind, the best) singer for Black Flag and he has recaptured the vibe of the Nervous Breakdown era with his band of fellow L.A. punk luminaries. The raw power and brevity of this record is startling. Got a half hour? You can listen to the whole thing twice. Morris was always kind of funny, but now he’s just pissed off (“Now I’m Pissed”, “F**k People”, “Full of S**t”) and alienated (“I Don’t Belong”, “Black Thoughts”, “Darkness”). It makes me want to steal a skateboard and a can of spray paint and just go to town. I can’t stop listening to it. I don’t want to, either.
Spoon – Transference (Merge)
Spoon is one of those bands that I love to love. I have been following them from the beginning, and with one exception (Girls Can Tell) I have enjoyed each record more than the one before it. Each release manages to be different than the last while still retaining its intrinsic Spoon-ness. Instead of one-upping the production after Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga, they went the other direction with Transference and stripped it down to its core elements: Britt Daniels’ raspy voice, time signature-guru Jim Eno’s brilliant drumming, and those spare, counterpoint guitar lines.
Black Mountain – Wilderness Heart (Jagjaguwar)
I liked their last record and I like this one even more. It has less free-form jamming and more power chord crunching. It reminds me a lot of Zeppelin; the keyboard lick in opening track “The Hair Song” sounds like it was lifted straight from “Kashmir”. There is a lot of interesting duality going on: electric/acoustic guitars, guitar/organ, and male/female vocals. Maybe one too many acoustic songs, but that’s just splitting hairs.
The Sword – Warp Riders (Kemado)
That Texas heat must have finally gotten to The Sword. Everything about the new record is warmer than their first two- the production, the songs, the vocals, even the cover art. The guitars are panned and dripping with reverb, the Orange amps crackle with overdrive, and the cymbals decay across the breaks. The songs are more diverse than previous efforts; the long intros and guitar harmonies are still there, but some of the bludgeoning, repetitious riffs have been replaced with a 70s hard rock vibe, and the tempos are slowed down a bit. Come for the Metallica, stay for the Sabbath.
Monster Magnet – Mastermind (Napalm)
It’s funny how I used to crank up the treble on my stereo when I was a kid. C’mon, you know you did it too. It hurts my ears to listen to music like that now. Besides, there’s so much more going on in the lower frequencies of rock. I was thinking about that while listening to this record. It has a big, fat bass sound that stands out on nearly every track, rivaling the guitars for dominance and giving the album coherence. Maybe they rely a little too much on the familiar (but still awesome) stoner rock chord patterns, but not in a derivative way. It has all the qualities I’ve come to expect from a MM record: comic book sensibilities, the flaming Bull God and sludgy, hard rock riffage played with pride and abandon by the great Ed Mundell.
Brant Bjork – Gods and Goddesses (Low Desert Punk)
The Secret History of Stoner Rock, Chapter 1: Brant Bjork, former drummer for Kyuss, Fu Manchu, and Mondo Generator. Now he’s a master of the Stratocaster and putting out records on his own label. He still knows his way around a hard rock riff but has trimmed the fuzz off the top to expose the melody and groove.
The Vaselines – Sex with an X (Sub Pop)
Picks right up where this Scottish duo left off years ago: short, catchy songs with tongue-in-cheek lyrics about sex, religion, and other topics for uplifting gormandizers. They’re like nursery rhymes for adults, so simple and direct with lots of repeating words (“Duran, Duran, Duran, Duran”, and “mouth to mouth to mouth to mouth”). I also hear flourishes of Americana in the mix, adding some color to their punk palette.
Superchunk – Majesty Shredding (Merge)
I think this is Superchunk’s best record to date, the crown jewel in a storied career. If they broke up tomorrow they’d be going out on top. But let’s hope that doesn’t happen, because this record proves that they still have something to say.
Retribution Gospel Choir – 2 (Sub Pop)
RGC caught my attention when they opened for The Meat Puppets at Higher Ground and really gave the headliners a run for their money. This record is full of moody, atmospheric songs with washes of guitar fury and upper-register emo vocals. Some of them start softly and build into a psychedelic tempest, and others rage like a full-blown cyclone right out of the gate.
Girl Talk – “All Day” (Illegal Art)
In case of party, break glass. Mash-ups were an interesting novelty at first but got stale pretty quickly. You know something has lost its cultural relevance when it starts showing up in tv commercials. But Girl Talk revived my interest by taking it to the obvious next level: by mashing up the mash-ups. This new set is relentless and exhilarating. I can’t help but smile every time I hear Ludacris going “get out the way bitch, get out the way” in between Ozzy singing “War Pigs”.
10. Twin Shadows – Forget Holy Crap this record is catchy. There is one track on here that immediately reminded me of the Knife (steel drums and beats) and I was hooked. The rest of the album doesn’t really sound like that, more like the vocals of Robert Smith meets the music of Studio or something, but DAMN is it ever good. 80’s new wave and synth pop inspired, and produced by Chris Taylor of Grizzly Bear fame – it has been on repeat on my ipod for AWHILE.
9. Blank Dogs – Land and Fixed Blank Dogs is Mike Sniper who runs the amazing Captured Tracks record label. This guy has been getting so much attention lately, which is great. He has unleashed a flurry of releases over the past couple of years, so quickly it’s almost hard to keep up. I am usually a quality over quantity type of guy, so I was skeptical that it would all be equally as good. It is. He does lo-fi blown out staticy garage with joy division type vocals better than anyone out there right now.
8. Bonobo – Black Sands This album is just so listenable. I know a lot of people that just aren’t really into the dub side of electronic music, or didn’t think they were into electro at all that fell in love with this album. He incorporates some dreamy soulful female guest vocals and jazzy instrumentals so make a really great record. I spin this record at any dance party no matter what the mood and it always goes over well.
7. Crystal Castles – Crystal Castles I love this duo, and I have been waiting for awhile for this one to come out. It ialways sucks when bands rush their second album coming off of a stunning debut, just to keep their name in people’s ears, often at the expense of quality tracks. Good to know that Crystal Castles aren’t willing to make that compromise. This album is just as solid as the first one, and well worth the wait.
6. Xiu Xiu – Dear God I Hate Myself The latest from one of my all time faves, Jamie Stewart really was an awesome one. The opening track is so beat driven and almost dancey that you just have to sing along, but there is always this awkward moment when you realize that the lyrics you are shouting along with are about about physical violence and emotional abuse and eating disorders and other terrible stuff. He gets at the tense juxtaposition of those two elements better than ever before on this one.
5. Zola Jesus – Stridulum EP and the slew of other stuff she has put out lately. I had the pleasure to see her perform in Austin at this past SXSW and it was definitely one of the highlights of the week for me. Having been pretty into her music for a couple years now, I am so pleased that she has hit her stride and putting out really perfect gut wrenching stuff. I was also so shocked to discover that she is only 21 years old! Her voice is incredibly well trained and the lyrical content of her songs is so dark and mature, it is all the more amazing.
4. Oneohtrix Point Never – Returnal This music is a lot like some of my top faves from 2009, Tim Hecker and Ben Frost and also really arpeggiated like the aforementioned Emeralds release. Drone music with a lot of beepy minimal techno influence and psychadelic stuff going on. This record is a lot more pop oriented than his previous outtings and (like that Twin Shadow release) there is one track on here that I could have sworn was the intro to a Knife song.
3. Emeralds – Does It Look Like I’m Here? This record is so so pretty. Their music hasn’t ever before been this blissed out, lots of swirling drone in the background with gurgling arpeggios up front. A soundtrack to one of those Planet Earth type things, but underwater, maybe the coral reef edition.
2. Prince Rama – Shadow Temple Straight forward stoney psychadelic rock. Equiped with chanted vocals and looped sounds, this record it the best of its kind to come out, not just this year, but in many! This is what I was hoping Black Mountain would become, but alas they turned more toward indie/psych/ folk rather than emracing their metal roots.
1. Pantha du Prince – Black Noise This record absolutely ruled my headphones this year. It is good in every mood and for every situation. I also had the cd in my car, I played it a LOT on my radio show, I played it on my ipod at work…it is just plain good. His niche is the perfect balance between minimal techno and a more danceable sound, but there is something that can only be described as post-rock-esque going on. It is a tendency toward the epic and sprawling, the songs often lead toward a crescendo or an abrupt change of pace, which is unusual in mininmal house music and really does the trick here.
The first ten I feel VERY strongly about. These are the albums that I listened to a shit ton, but I think are a tier down from the top ten.
11. Best Coast – Crazy for You
12. Marnie Stern – Self Titled
13. Teenage Fantasy – CD-R release, I have no idea what this one is properly called, and I don’t think they have a proper release yet…but be on the lookout.
14. Joanna Newsom – Have One on Me
15. Flying Lotus – Cosmogramma
16. Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti – Before Today
17. White Hinterland – Kairos – This is the one record down here that I think maybe should be in the top ten. But that would make it a top 11, so that wouldn’t work. This is different than her previous stuff, ethereal and cathcy…check it out.
18. Grinderman – 2
Josh Friedman is a pure pop regular, creator of brittle, blackened sludge noise, family man and educator. His taste in music is some of the most truly underground you’ll find. Her are his “Tops of 10″ – Apparently in no particular order
Sun City Girls-Funeral Mariachi
These guys are such an institution, I won’t even attempt to write anything about them. This album is wonderful
Endless Boogie-Full Head House
Top Dollar and the gang are back again and if you know these men from before it’s more of the same. Big chooglin’ riffs, growling vocals, and jam after jam after jam. It’s like the last 40 years never even happened.
Satan’s Satyr-demo cs
Duo from Virginia that brings blackened thrash metal with some psych/Stooges worship. Big downer vibes on this one, but you can’t help but nod your head.
Personal and the Pizzas-Raw Pie
Jersey’s finest, the equation is simple Ramones + Stooges + Weird Al + Pizza= Personal and the Pizzas.
Blood Brothers-First Blood Mix
Two guys mixed together the best songs and dialogue from all those awesome 80s movies that involve some young punk who gets his act together to kick some major ass. If you’re a male of a certain vintage this will warm your heard during these cold winter months. This has been the soundtrack to my family’s life for the past couple of months. It’s only a download:
This did not come out in this century and (unfortunately) has not been reissued, but I finally discovered it. It could have possible the worst album cover of all time, but the jams contained herein are gold. Summery tunes that have a bit of darkness around the edges, you can see why the mighty Mac picked these two.
Frieder Butzmann-I’m a Seven Inch Single 7″
German kook whose been at this for a while, dropped this little slice of heaven earlier this year. It tells about the life of a seven inch single. The backside is what else, a dreary lament about being the backside of a seven inch single and not “Nicole Kidman’s backside.”
White Fence s/t lp
This guy managed to cram a boatload of late sixties psych on this lp. It’s a ton of fun to listen to.
Umberto “Prophecy of the Black Widow” lp
This guy managed to cram a boatload of Goblin/Carpenter love on this lp. It’s spooooooky.
Garbo’s Daughter demo cs
The hottest thing since Cher went solo.
From the ashes of the Brainbombs comes No Balls. Tight pummeling riffs that wash over you again and again. If you like drone, but sometimes think things should be heavier, check these Swedes out.
It was hard enough for me to narrow down a list to 10 albums, and even harder to choose an order. Alas, with much contemplation, here are my final choices for 2010.
#10. Belle and Sebastian- Write About Love
They’re back! And still killin’ it with those same poppy tunes we know and love, I sort of want to go skip through a field of daisies with them…
#9. Noveller- Desert Fires
Noveller, AKA Sarah Lipstate, is a phenomenal guitarist (she was a part of Glenn Branca’s 100 guitars!) who loops and pedals her way through a dreamy, delightful album.
#8. Women- Public Strain
A collage of sounds non-traditionally creating catchy tunes.
#7. Deerhunter- Halcyon Digest
I’m all about the shoe-gazey fuzz, and these guys really know how to layer it on. Halcyon Digest is pure dark, catchy, fuzzy goodness.
#6. The Fall- Your Future Our Clutter
Their 28th album, and they still take us back to the mid-80′s…meaning they hung on to their original sounds of single-chords, lo-fi, and yells, and they still sound fantastic. I was tremendously impressed.
#5. Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti- Before Today
I’m liking the addition of a full band…and still full of pop dreams!
#4. Phantogram- Eyelid Movies
Not only can I relate to the title, this album just calls for a good mood. Listening to “Eyelid Movies” puts me in a place somewhere between slipping down playground slides and dazing out on the floor of a tiki hut opium den.
#3. Thee Oh Sees- Warm Slime
Jagged yips and yaws, psychedelic garage style guitars, messy lo-fi…I’m in love.
#2. Cocorosie- Grey Oceans
These two sisters will never cease to amaze me. This album is similar to their others, but they have added a whole new array of beats that truly compliment their crazy style.
#1. Gonjasufi- A Sufi and a Killer
World music influence, intricate, booming rhythms, soothing yet powerful vocals, and a hidden track! The first time I heard “A Sufi and a Killer” I played it 3 more times that day, and haven’t stopped playing it since. With mind blowing sound, this album is positively my favorite album of 2010!
So if you’re into avant-garde-post-punk-lo-fi-shoe-gaze-fantastic-dream-fuzz…do your self a favor and pick up these albums!
Pure Pop reader Adam Deverell send us in his list with quite a few outside favorites from across the board. I was specially psyched to see Thee Oh Sees and Wild Nothing on this list. If you’ve got a list, send it to us and get a chance to win a Pure Pop Gift Certificate. Thanks Adam!
10.) Dunes “Dunes”
Sounds like a phone call from a ghost with a bad connection. Very mysterious stuff.
9.) Las Robertas “Cry Out Loud”
Energetic distorted riffs which never fail to cheer me up. The pace and tone of the songs have a strong sense of purpose racing to the finish line. Great combination of angelic singing surrounded by a mammoth sound.
8.) Spectrals “Extended Play”
A mutated Beach Boys experiment that embraces reverb and echo. Feels like an endless playground spiral slide.
7.) Wet Dog “Frauhaus!”
Refreshing and fun! Songs filled with surprising turns and tiny explosions of joy. Distilled uninhibited happiness of a foot tapper.
6.) Thee Oh Sees “Warm Slime”
The opening track says it all. 13 minutes of loud garage rock filtered through a hazy summer day of drunken bliss. Their secret weapon is the back and forth boy/girl vocals.
5.) Weed Diamond “Carry On + Sweater Kids” Abstract and non-linear concepts happening on this release. No, I can’t define what that means exactly. All I do know is that Weed Diamond has underdog charm in spades.
4.) Eternal Summers “Silver” Great example of a 2 member band being absolutely in sync with one other. They strip away all unnecessary production which amplifies just how strong the songs are.
3.) Frankie Rose & the Outs “Frankie Rose & the Outs”Takes inspiration from Phil Spector’s “Wall of Sound” aesthetic to create a spooky modern soundtrack. Beautiful vocal harmonies.
2.) Beach Fossils “Beach Fossils” Surf guitars elevated and executed better and above the sometimes silly “surf” genre cliche. I’m powerless to resist the hypnotic guitars that dominate and flow so well on this album.
1.) Wild Nothing “Gemini” Total euphoric listening pleasure. No matter what mood, energy level I’m experiencing or time of the day this record always is perfectly compatible. The melodies in the songs come so effortlessly, yet they really demand your attention.
Here’s my list – I decided to narrow it down to 5 albums. It was hard to do as this year was a very good year for music, the influential rise of Witch House & Dubstep alone could populate a top 10 list with fantastic albums. This year though the more i’ve thought about it, the more i want to highlight the albums that have really resonated with me emotionally. So many arguments can be made the anthropological or technical value of an album like the universally loved Cosmogramma – but what matters for me is how it works as a soundtrack to my daily life, and though i’m sure there are no hard feelings, Flylo ain’t got nothing for me. These albums however do.
5. Salem – King Night
I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one that feels like shooting a big bag of heroin after listening to this gargantuan sludge beast of an album. If Kanye’s latest is the emotional 8ball (complete with moments of hysterical crying), King Night is the massive dose of Ketamine and heroin that finally brings me down. Wayyy down. To the point where blood red subbass rolling it’s uglies all over the screaming face of Oh Holy Night or lyrics like
“It’s like people say, we all gonna die
But me is different Im not tryin to be alive
I just try to get high
Baby I just I just I
pull the sheet over my face before I die”
Slurred and menacing over molasses-slow dirty south beats held under water by an industrial freezer synth bass and punctuated by samples of cars crashing. These are just what the good doctor ordered. It’s a sound that always feels like it’s on the verge of it’s eyes rolling back up into it’s own head and passing out with a Malborough 120 in its hand, but somehow manages to be not only the soul transcendent offering from the whole Witch House scene to date, but one of the best albums of the year.
(See also Balam Acab, OOooOo, White Ring, etc)
4. Zola Jesus – Stridulum II
Zola Jesus’s Nika Roza Danilova is the voice of the over-mother. Cold, powerful, emotionally and physically all encompassing – her drums pound like a determined heart and her synths continually rise and wrap round with thick blankets of cold, stifling love. (What? Me?Mother issues? Nah…) I’m just saying, Stridulum II is the best sequenced, mixed and mastered version of Zola Jesus to come out yet. When Zola finally uncovered her voice and melodies from behind the wall of noise she showed us she was ready to take it all on, and showed us what was really there – angst, sure, but anger and violence turned out to be love, strong determined love – A woman hell bent to shield her lover from harm, to offer protection, to assure them of the end of suffering.
Stridulum II soars with leaden inevitability, there’s a deep core of strength, and even when she sings “You gotta help me out” on Manifest Destiny, you know she’s gonna make it regardless, and on the way she’ll rescue you, the kids, and anyone else she sets her love to.
(see also Zola Jesus)
3. Twin Shadow – Forget
This album was so close to being my number one, and depending on my mood, how much I’ve had to drink, how sentimental I let myself get – it can quickly run up the charts and stay on the top of my playlist for days. Tight, melodically dazzling songs about romantic young love, dancing, ghosts, a voice that takes me back to everything that’s great about Morrissey but minus some of the whine and none of the falsetto yelping, shimmering synth lines, lean, choppy guitars, funky bass lines, swinging drum machines – everything in it’s right place. A true gem of an album that on every listen gives you a new favorite track, new favorite lyric ( “As if it wasn’t enough to hear you speak, they had to give you lips like that.”), and new favorite reason to let this one just roll on repeat.
(see also Wild Nothing, The xx)
2. The National – High Violet
The National are my boys – I wanna sit in the back of a bar in a button-up shirt and jacket, tie askew, hair-line receding (faster and faster) – Whiskey in hand and listening to this album on repeat with these guys. They’d pick it and each other apart, laugh at it, downplay it, there would be quiet moments and deep draws, we’d go out and smoke cigarettes even though we shouldn’t – we’re getting older and there are fewer of us around these days…
Some have argued that it’s the same album they’ve been making for the last 3 or so, but that’d be ignoring the subtleties, the small but important changes, new skills learned, melodies refined – much like the common person’s life, when viewed from afar, seems the same, unchanging, monotonous – but we all know that upclose and person, we’re all constantly in flux, growing and straining.
The National are the soundtrack to my everyday, while the rest of the albums on my list are part of my escape from it, High Violet is the sound of the working week, driving to the doctor, the grey skies, late to bed, late to rise weekdays that bleed into weekends, domestic disagreements, quiet insignificant resentments, things we forget to do, things we wish we’d never done.
It’s an album about the cold, uncertain world and its uncertain people making uncertain decisions and its little, wiry special power is that it makes it all feel ok. In fact, The National’s music lifts up all those moments in our mundane lives and drinks a sad toast to the secret drama and magic we give them.
(see also The Walkmen)
It’s bloody hard to go twelve months in new music without finding something that you dig, but 2010 was an especially good twelve months. For me anyway. Grand statements aside, it was much harder to narrow this year down to ten of my favorite releases than it was last year. So here we go with some honorable mentions:
I spent a good amount of time on a few mega releases. Beach House‘s Teen Dream leaked last November and still sort of feels like a 2009 joint rather than something out of this year. The duo cleaned off their basement haze pop dynamic into something all together shiny with beautifully minimal guitar and organ melodies, but Vitoria Lagrand’s voice, which was decidedly bigger than previous releases, is what really set things apart for Beach House this year. Arcade Fire‘s The Suburbs happened. The record is huge and, for better or worse, it’s Arcade Fire (for better). Deerhunter‘s new record continues to push the group into indie dominance. I don’t really have much more to say about Holcyon Digest other than, just listen to those saxes on “Coronado” or the wordless chorus on “Revival” or the rhythm jam on “Memory Boy.” Sufjan Stevens returned to relevancy with two amazing releases–All Delighted People EP and Age of Adz–both shamelessly indulging in their unending pastiche of wondrous intricacy–Sufjan ever leading his army of musicians into the territory of beautiful inapplicability. Except when it’s just him whispering softly into your ear.
My number 10 spot was especially competitive this year. Here’s what didn’t quite make the list but you should check out anyway because they’re pretty good: Twin Shadow‘s Forget was a pretty pleasant pop music surprise. The record is a sharp playlist of synthpop songs with a contemporary fondness for the 1980s. Darkstar‘s North found an endearing place between synthpop’s immediacy and dubstep’s negative space. The group’s label, Hyperdub, certainly seemed busy this past year. Perfume Genius‘s Learning was another surprise, and a pretty special record, being a collection of ten highly affecting lo-fi piano tunes. Lo-fi in the right sense too, in that it feels and sounds like it was found by chance somewhere forgotten and dusty. Australia’s Tame Impala with their debut, Innerspeaker, created some analog psych-pop that sounds drenched in 1960s summer sun. Salem led the mid-year witch house (or whatever it’s called) charge with King Night and their blend of chopped and screwed hip-hop with heavy graveyard dream pop. But enough. Needless to say, it was an amazing year. On to the list:
10. Prince Rama – Shadow Temple / The Body – All The Waters of The Earth Shall Turn To Blood (Tie)
A tie (okay, so it’s not quite down to ten). I wrestled endlessly between these two, but it’s a fitting tie. Shadow Temple is a very straight forward record, unlike a lot of pseudo-experimental psychedelic rock records these days that get too bogged down with esoteric indulgences. Prince Rama aims to create a swirling wall of sound formed by synthesizers, guitars, chants, and wordless vocals, all propelled by ceremonial tribal percussion. And it does that. With great success owed to it’s momentous energy, distant melody, and a perfect balance of all these elements to leave the listener breathless on the edge of whatever state of transcendence the group creates in the record’s thirty-five minute span. The Body finds their own form of transcendence on All The Waters… (as apocalyptic and metal as it sounds) in a primal slow freak-out brand of sludge that combines classic downtuned droney riffs and cathartic “holy-shit” banshee screams with a layer of careful experimentalism made up of femm choirs, guttural throat chanting, and string arrangements that never get in the way of the devastatingly crushing noise.
9. James Blake – Klavierwerke EP
James Blake was a busy lad this year and he deserves some kind of recognition for it. Three very strong EPs all of which showed great diversity and a sense of linear evolution from clubby dubstep into something altogether unique, ending with a cover of Feist’s “Limit Your Love,” which points forward to a pop, vocal-based direction for the young Englishman. Klavierwerke is the third in the string of EPs and easily the strongest. The Bell Sketch and CMYK are both arguably dance crossovers, whereas Klavierwerke exists firmly between your noggin as a headphones-destined kind of record. It’s so minimal in places it’s almost cocky. James Blake gets constant props for his unique use of pitch-shifted vocal samples, but the element of his sound that struck me most, especially on this record, is how powerful his use of negative space, that often descends into flat out silence, can be.
8. Scuba – Triangulation
This year dubstep turned into post-dubstep and post-dubstep turned back into dubstep until that turned back into just being general electronic music maybe and then no one cared. I did a full review of this record for Purepop back in September and it has only continued to grow on me. Scuba’s Triangulation is the essential isolated-nighttime record of 2010, basically destined for some personal midnight walking choreography. As danceable as it is meditative, Scuba’s production is full of momentum and atmosphere, and there’s enough attention to detail to impress the most nerdy of production nerds.
7. Zola Jesus – Stridulum EP
Zola Jesus didn’t quite hit it big this year, but the two EP’s she released in 2010 has her, in my mind, destined for something great if she can follow them up with an appropriate full-lenth LP. She’s only 21, for one. And otherwise, she has a pretty distinguished voice that’s touted as operatically trained, and press aside, it is huge and gorgeous. Then there’s the music simply being damn affecting for some reason. It’s made up of overlapping synth melodies drowning in a thick wash of gothic black reverb. The drums and lyrics are perfectly simple. All to create a uniquely thick and immediate sound.
6. Teebs – Ardour
Ardour sounds like a record of beautifully musical found-sound. It’s a perfectly organic album that’s offset by its beautiful melodies of sparkling shimmering percussive samples with the right amount of Brainfeeder-style drum programming to weigh it down. Teebs seems anxious to show his audience glimpses of an aural paradise he’s discovered and brought back with him only to rough it up with huge kick drums and offbeat snare. It helps the songs barely ever cross the three minute mark, creating a sort of naturalistic flow that’s been pieced together with as much delicacy as which it was discovered.