Friday, December 31, 2010

Best Albums of 2010

I know that I promised to have this list up in the middle of December, and I had every intention on following through with this goal. Unfortunately, this was not to be, as I received news that my grandmother has passed away at the age of 99. She lived a great deal longer than any of my family ever imagined in our wildest dreams, and she passed on without feeling any pain. When I saw my mom's name on the caller ID on my cell phone, I could just feel it in my bones that my grandmother had passed away. There are some things that I have an instictual feeling about, and this proved to be true. It was bittersweet to hear that she had passed on. Sweet, because she had been ready to go for a couple years, and bitter because it is always hard to lose someone that you care about. I dedicate the year of 2010 to my grandmother whose spirit lives within me.

Because I needed to fly across the country to attend my grandmother's funeral service, and drive back with a generous, unexpected gift from my parents, I was out of town until just before Christmas. Even though I had started compiling this list prior to my trip, I still needed some extra time to put the finishing touches on it. After a few days of working on this, I am now ready to present my picks for the "Best albums of 2010", but first I would like to reflect back on the year in music.

I seemed to buy more new music this year than the past 5 years combined, and I believe this is due to the resurgence of more artists releasing their music on vinyl with a free mp3 download of the entire album. This is important to me, because I love having access to a portable format of the music, as well as having the warm sound of crackling vinyl spinning in my living room.

One of the only people who ever seems to comment on here said that he didn't think 2010 was the best year for music. If I was basing my assessment on the music that the majority of blogs herald as the best, I would probably have to agree with him on this point. With this not being the case, I believe that 2010 was a fantastic year for new musical discoveries as well as new albums from veteran artists that I have featured on Eclectic Grooves in the past.

Blogs that I turn to every year when I am compiling my own list are
Raven Sings the Blues, The Decibel Tolls, Impose and Rate your Music. They tend to lean towards more outsider/experimental music, but there are plenty of bands featured on there that would be familiar to many readers of Eclectic Grooves.

My overall assessment of the year is that there was plenty of great music that was released this year that simply flew under the radar of the general public. In order to find this music, the listener has to be willing to put in some serious time to search for it, and not everyone has this time. That's where I come in. Hopefully by visiting my blog and checking out my picks for the Best Music of 2010, you will find something that you haven't been exposed to yet. Since this list is fairly long, I am going to present it in two parts.

Without further ado, I present to you in no particular order, my picks for the Best Music of 2010.

1) Ty Segall- Melted- Fuzz-fueled bombastic garage rock with Lennon-esque vocal melodies and a cleaner, tighter sound. Highly recommended!

















Listen: Caesar and Girlfriend


2)
Benoit Pioulard- Lasted- Dream-like songs that float by with an air of mystery and melancholy. Ethereal vocal melodies complement the dark musical accompaniment for a sound that perfectly evokes the rainy Pacific Northwest landscape.



















Listen: Sault and Lasted

3) Deerhunter- Halcyon Digest- So much has already been said about this album that it almost seems pointless to say anything. They sought out a completely new direction on Halcyon Digest, keeping the focus on song development with less experimentation, while giving their existing fanbase plenty of things to salivate about. A crowning achievement for a band that is well on their way to becoming iconic.


















4) Mary Halvorson Quintet- Saturn Sings- Those of you who have been following this blog over the years will recognize the name Mary Halvorson. It has no secret that she is one of my favorite musicians, and on her latest record Saturn Sings, she continues to push the envelope of what free jazz is expected to sound like. This time around she has lowered the cacophony and ratcheted up the musicality of the sound by featuring a full reed section. This balances the discordant with the tuneful, making for an utterly absorbing listen.



















5) Thee Oh Sees- Warm Slime- I have so much respect and admiration for John Dwyer and company, that I am practically gushing as I write these words. While nothing really comes close to the visceral energy and excitement of a Oh Sees live show, producer and lead singer of avant-thrash band the Mayyors has come close to doing just this on Warm Slime. Slimy, grimy and thick with blankets of fuzz on each track, especially the side long title track which feaures an extended mantra of "All we need is the summertime" with trippy sound effects added to their voices for a truly psychedelic experience. This band is unstoppable, and one of the best bands to check out live.


















6) Golden Triangle- S-T- Tuneful, upbeat girl-group rock that maintains its own identitiy in the current garage rock scene dominated by countless imitators.

















7) The Fresh and Only's- Play It Strange- These guys take the top honors for being the most prolific artists of the year with a new full length, two 7 "s, an EP and another full length solo album from lead singer Tim Cohen. You would think that with this much output, the quality would be lacking. However, Play It Strange is one of the most engaging albums in their repertoire, featuring desert-scorched ballads, infectious sing-alongs and extended jams. This is a band who is not content with being pigeonholed as garage rock, so they have created a new sound that evokes the past but keeps pushing forward.





8) Dum Dum Girls- I Will Be-
Arsenic and honey-dipped vocals combine with hazy guitars and a lo-fi production, creating songs that you will ultimately be humming for days.


















9) Black Milk- Album of the Year- I was really hard-pressed to find examples of fantastic hip-hop records to be released this year. The hype of Kanye's overblown My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy seemed to overshadow this record by Black Milk, cheekily titled Album of the Year. He wasn't far off the mark though, as this record features the most innovative production and skilled rhymes of any of the other hip-hop records I listened to this year.





10) The Fall- Your Future Our Clutter-
Since the last couple records by the Fall have left a little bit to be desired, I was skeptical that this one would measure up to the hype surrounding it. I was happily surprised that this one literally floored me upon first listen, and continues to astound me after each repeated listen. Those of you who are fans of the Fall's early classics like Hex Enduction Hour and Dragnet will find plenty to dig into here. Mind-blowing stuff.









11) Kemialliset Ystavat- Ullakkopalo-
the latest from these Finnish experimenters finds them utilizing samples to augment thir hodgepodge tape-collage sound into a living, breathing avant-electro-psych behemoth. One of the most ground-breaking albums I have heard in recent memory.







12) Elephant9- Walk the Nile-
The cover art to this one would lead you to beleive that you are about to delve into something along the lines of Autechre or Aphex Twin. Instead, this is hyperspeed prog-fusion of the highest order. Make sure that you are not driving an automobile when listening to this, as I can't be responsible for what happens to you.








13) Woima Collective- Tezeta-
Since most of the living Ethiopiques players are no longer making music that sounds as good as this, you need to add this to your listening repertoire. Fascinating, alluring songs that evoke feelings of hanging out in an opium den in the middle of Egypt after midnight.

















Listen: Woima and Gaaf



14) Effi Briest- Rhizomes-
This was one of my favorite new discoveries of the year. Expansive, epic songs that unfold into psychedelic sound worlds, while keeping the listenener's attention with bold, in your-face rhythms.

















Listen: Rhizomes and Shards



15) Jack Rose- Luck in the Valley
- In light of Jack Rose's passing last Christmas, I feel that it is fitting to pay tribute to his legacy by featuring this posthumous record on my list for this year. He is one of the greatest fingerstyle guitarists to ever play the instrument, and this is a perfect album to showcase his talents. Absolutely mesmerizing!











16) Mountain Man- Made the Harbor
- Another one of those misleading monikers such as "The Ten Thousand Maniacs", as their are no men in this band, but three female singers singing some of the most beautiful melodies ever recorded. This is perfect music for a lazy Sunday morning, where the sun hasn't quite come out, and your eyelids are still a bit heavy.









17) Hayvanlar Alemi- Guarano Superpower
- another fantastic release from the Sublime Frequencies label run by the Sun City Girls and Hisham Mayet. Face-melting Turkish instrumental psych-rock for the people who like their music rough around the edges.















18) Beach Fossils- S/T-
lo-fi surf jangle with intoxicating melodies that will stick in your head forever. Nothing revolutionary here- just feel-good music to take with you on your life adventures.

















Listen: Sometimes and Vacation




19) Lower Dens- Twin-Hand Movement-
this album sneaks up on you when you least expect it to, as upon first listen it seems like a fairly straightforward record. Repeated listens reveal a full-fledged masterpiece of moody dream-pop, with little parts of brilliance in practically every song. Slow and moody on some songs, and fast and heavy on others- this album has something for everyone.










20) White Fence- S-T-
This is the side project of one of the members of the Strange Boys, and it is an absolute game-changer. Lo-fi psychedelia filtered through the lens of a fuzzy scope, with melodies that imprint themselves on your brain. People who like Skip Spence, Sic Alps and Amen Dunes will definitely dig this. If you don't know any of those artists, you should check them out as well.










6 comments:

said...

Happy New Year Kevin. Thanks for all the great musick from the last year. I'll have to try & get caught up on quite a few of the items on this list that I have not heard.

icastico said...

I like the ones I have heard and will listen to the ones I haven't.

Here's a hip-hop album I enjoyed from this year.

http://justplainant.bandcamp.com/album/rumble-young-man-rumble

Have a great year.

No-head said...

Whoa! Elephant9. Fecking brilliant. Must buy this one. And Effi Briest is new on me but sounds great.

Cheers and have a good New Year.

Kevin said...

Nathan:

Happy New Year to you too. I certainly hope that 2011 is a better year than this past year. I hope that you are able to find some great stuff from this list that you haven't heard of before.

Icastico:

I will definitely check out that hip-hop record that you suggested, and will let you know what I think of it. glad that you dug some artists on the list. That's ultimately what keeps me coming back- knowing that I have turned someone on to something new or given them a new appreciation for something that they already knew.

No Head: Yeah that Elephant9 record blew my mind when I first laid ears on it. Also Effi Briest was a fantastic discovery. There was a lot of really creative music that was released in 2010, and here's to a bunch more in 2011.

Best, Kevin

Kevin said...

Icastico:

I finally got around to listening to this Just Plain Ant album on band camp. As a whole, the album didn't blow me away, but there were specific songs that grabbed me. My favorites were "I Listen to Classical", "Request" and "Scream Out. Will definitely have to see what other stuff the Photosynthesizers have out cause they had some dope rhymes.

Best, Kevin

Shamim miah said...

I really like the album Dum Dum Girls. I have to give them credit for it. I also like listening to some Asian music such as old Bangla song or Hindi song of Kumar shanu.