Thursday, December 30, 2010

Top 50-ish Records of 2010 (#1-#10)

I'm going to do this a little differently from the usual Top 10's, and a little closer with the lists leading here (11-20, 21-30, 31-40, 41-50). Any link from the album title goes to a previous blog post, as I add new Top 10 posts for each rank I'll add new links in. Because I ran out of time, the write-ups are just a intro taste of what's to come in January.

#1. Pyramid of the Sun - Maserati
"Pyramid of the Moon" 12" - Maserati

[Full Top 10 post here]

Pyramid of the Sun
"Oaxaca" from Pyramid of the Sun (2010)
"Pyramid of the Moon [edit]" from "Pyramid of the Moon" 12" (2010)

Genre - Motorik Delay-Action Post-Rock
Official -
Myspace -
Location - Athens, GA

Review - Tiny Mix Tapes
Download - Amazon, iTunes
Purchase - Temporary Residence Limited

Whoa. Dude. At the beginning of all this (#50), I said that "I welcome the renaissance of John Carpenter appreciation." Well here we are, and Pyramid of the Sun begins with a very Carpenterian synth-drone. Unexpected! I thought this would be a pretty decent record. After losing a crucial player (drummer Jerry Fuchs) and then committing to use his already-recorded drum parts, Maserati seemed to be fencing themselves in. But not at all. If there was one real flaw to Inventions for the New Season (#2, 2007), it was that most songs followed the same sonic template. Even hemmed in with drum constraints, they broke out more diversity than they've ever shown - only somewhat due to the synth assist from Steve Moore of Zombi. I was already a fan, but I'm pretty confident this is the first record I've ever called a triumph here so far. Truly. [Read more...]

#2. Does It Look Like I'm Here? - Emeralds
Living with Yourself - Mark McGuire
Colored Mushroom and the Medicine Rocks - John Elliot
Glowing Net E.P. - Mist
Emeralds CD re-issue - Emeralds
Imaginary Softwoods re-issue - Imaginary Softwoods

[Full Top 10 post here]

Does It Look Like I'm Here?

"Double Helix" from Does It Look Like I'm Here? (2010)
"Now You See Me" from Does It Look Like I'm Here? (2010)
"Clouds Rolling In" from Living with Yourself (2010)
"Geode" from Emeralds (2009/2010)

Genre - Kraut-Drone Synth Improv
Official/Blog - Cleveland Wagon
Location - Cleveland, OH

Review - Treble Zine
Download - Amazon, iTunes
Purchase - Forced Exposure, Amazon

Believe it or not, that isn't even close to all the Emeralds-related releases from this year. I never could find the Outer Space record, I missed all of the 7" singles, and there's no way I could keep up with the CDr and cassette releases. Still, Does It Look Like I'm Here? was easily the single most listened-to record for my ears. I was finally able to get the sold-out-on-vinyl 2009 self-titled album when it was re-released on CD. Otherwise, I might have given up after not especially digging What Happened (2009). Mark McGuire successfully transplanted my favorite part of Emeralds (the guitars, of course) onto a great post-rockish solo-album. Mist teamed up John Elliot (of Emeralds) with Sam Goldberg (of Radio People) for an E.P. of neo-New Age jams. Colored Mushroom and the Medicine Rocks was Elliot collaborating with people on more synthesizer-based workouts (with beats). And Imaginary Softwoods has Elliot experimenting solo, for 2 LP's of suspiciously similar-lengthed drones (all right around 6:30). So much to hear... [Read more...]

#3. Escobarb [post 2] - Pong

[Full Top 10 post here]

Escobarb Unleashed!
"Superwrong" from Escobarb (2010)
"Escobarb" from Escobarb (2010)

Genre - Party-Down Space Rock
Official -
Myspace -
Location - Austin, TX

Review - 29-95
Download - n/a
Purchase - Amazon

What can I say? I'm a huge fan of Pong. I mean, I made videos for all the songs on this album, even "Applesauce." Which is kinda frightening! More reading's at the two video posts linked above. But this ended up being much stronger even than I'd originally thought. The older live favorites were excellent of course, but some of the unheard stuff was just as good... Especially the ever-more-mindblowing title track. I still think of Pong as primarily a live in-person event, so this their 3rd album continued a progression - taking them beyond just awesomely documenting their current accumulated live set. [Read more...]

#4. Le voyage - The Alps

[Full Top 10 post here]

Le voyage
"Drop In" from Le voyage (2010)
"Crossing the Sands" from Le voyage (2010)

Genre - Easy Noise
Official/Myspace -
Location - San Francisco, CA

Review - Pop Matters
SoundCloud (stream) - Le voyage
Download - Amazon, iTunes
Purchase - Forced Exposure (US), Amazon (US), Boomkat (UK)

The way I see it is... If time ran backwards, then 40 years from now, the perfect band to provide music for Zabriskie Point would be located, and they would be heavily influenced by The Alps. Instead we've got this universe, and they had to make do with Pink Floyd, the Grateful Dead (and Jerry Garcia), John Fahey, and Kaleidoscope. Which was definitely alright too... The Alps also put together their ranked free online mix "Summer Trips" Typecast.

#5. Gnod Drop Out with White Hills II - White Hills with Gnod
White Hills - White Hills
Stolen Stars Left for No One EP - White Hills

[Full Top 10 post here]

Gnod Drop Out II
"Run-A-Round" from Gnod Drop Out with White Hills II (2010)
"We Will Rise" from White Hills (2010)
"Drift Away" from Stolen Stars Left for No One EP (2010)

Genre - Space-Rock Jams
Official -
Myspace -
Location - New York, NY

Review - Roadburn
Download - others on Amazon & on iTunes
Purchase - Forced Exposure, All That Is Heavy

White Hills can be pretty inconsistent. I wouldn't go so far as to call them "all over the map" stylistically, because they do tend towards the psychedelic-space quadrant. But they are, in some ways, an experimental rock band - in the sense that they aren't afraid to play with forms and expectations. So you get standard blast-off space-rock jams, slow-burning drones with ambient noise, collaborations with a British electronics squad, etc... Something in their core style might fall a bit flat, or might play to their strengths. Sometimes when they go farther afield it yields unexpected treats, or something that doesn't work so well. But it's always some kind of thrilling adventure.

#6. At Echo Lake - Woods

[Full Top 10 post here]

At Echo Lake
"Time Fading Lines" from At Echo Lake (2010)
"Death Rattles from At Echo Lake (2010)

Genre - Folky Psych-Pop
Official -
Myspace -
Location - Brooklyn, NY

Review - Prefix Mag
Download - Amazon, iTunes
Purchase - Amazon

Great album from Woods! Good tunes, nice playing, just enough noisiness to give it an edge, and a high level of quality through the whole thing. Faint praise? Maybe, but if I had to guess I probably listened to this album the whole way through, the 2nd most in 2010 - third most maybe. It just seemed to catch me at the right time, and continued to hold up really well. Amidst the drones, the electro-Kraut, the space-rock, the ambient mash-up experiments, the psych and the post-rock, this was an album of laid-back, somewhat catchy, tuneful songs, done really well. And sometimes, that's more than enough.

7. Voice of the Seven Thunders - Voice of the Seven Thunders

[Full Top 10 post here]

Voice of the Seven Thunders
"The Burning Mountain" from Voice of the Seven Thunders (2010)
"Out of the Smoke" from Voice of the Seven Thunders (2010)

Genre - Jamming Guitar Rock
Official -
Myspace -
Location - Bolton, UK

Review - Drowned In Sound
Download - Amazon, iTunes
Purchase - Amazon (US), Tchantinler (UK)

I'm not entirely sure why I ordered this. I know very little about the previous incarnation as Voice of the Seven Woods, although I had an impression of it as Six Organs-type drone-folk (which might even be accurate). I want to say I was ordering Set Phazer to Stun (#15) to get the Rough Trade bonus disc, and just added this one on a whim. But it's awesome! Veering between hard-charging lead guitar rock-out and quiet finger-picked acoustic folk interludes, with very slight vocals, each song just keeps topping the one before - or at least throwing a loop or two.

#8. Samhain Slant Azimuth - Demdike Stare and Antworth Kirk
Osmosis - Demdike Stare
Industrial Desert - Demdike Stare
Forest of Evil - Demdike Stare
Liberation through Hearing - Demdike Stare
Voices of Dust - Demdike Stare

[Full Top 10 post here]

Forest of Evil
"Dawn" [NSFW!!] from Forest of Evil (2010)
"Bardo Thodol" from Liberation through Hearing (2010)
"Rain and Shame" from Voices of Dust (2010)

Genre - Dark Ambient
Official/Myspace -
Location - Lancashire, UK

Review - Resident Advisor
SoundCloud (stream) - on Modern Love
Download - Boomkat
Purchase - Forced Exposure (US), Boomkat (UK)

In some significant ways, this was The Year of Demdike Stare for me. Very early on, I was hooked by a Hot Offer on a limited-edition CD called Osmosis (still £6 at Boomkat!) It turned out even better than the typically-glowing Boomkat description, and through the year, they just kept coming. Terrific free online mixes, another excellent full-CD mix release (Industrial Desert), a year-long trilogy of vinyl records... and the pièce de résistance at the end - the best of the full-length 1-tracks: a collaboration with Antworth Kirk, Samhain Slant Azimuth! Each release and mix has its own character, although they're all made from a mix of similar elements - ambient electronics, Eastern musics, noir jazz, minimal rhythm music techniques, some drone-some noise-some psych, a haunting mood and a soundtrack approach, obscure source audio blended seamlessly with original material.

#9. Ghost Box Study Series 01-04
Youth and Recreation - Belbury Poly and Moon Wiring Club
Cycles and Seasons - The Advisory Circle and Hong Kong in the '60s
Welcome to Godalming - Belbury Poly and Mordant Music
Familiar Shapes and Noises - Broadcast and The Focus Group

[Full Top 10 post here]

Ghost Box SS03
Both songs from 01 (2010)
Both songs from 02 (2010)
Both songs from 03 (2010)
Three songs from 04 (2010)

Genre - Electronic Hauntology
Official -
Myspace -
Location - England, UK

Review - Other Music
Download - Ghost Box, Amazon, iTunes
Purchase - Ghost Box

This series of extra-hefty vinyl 7"s with really classy artwork reaches a new peak for Ghost Box. For most of its existence, the label was strictly CD's and downloads but just recently took the step into vinyl. In addition to some re-issues, these four singles mash-up two separate acts (British, electronic, hauntological) to either split sides or collaborate.

Some free news!! Belbury Poly recently put out the downloadable Radio Belbury: Programme No. 1. Moon Wiring Circle released a free EP and 3+ mixes summarized here. The Advisory Circle made the #6 Free Podcasts of 2010.

10. Your Mercury - Teeth of the Sea
Hypnoticon EP - Teeth of the Sea

[Full Top 10 post here]

Your Mercury

"A.C.R.O.N.Y.M." from Your Mercury (2010)
"In the Space Capsule (Love Theme)" from Hypnoticon EP (2010)

Genre - Soundtrack Jazz and Noise Ambience
Official/Myspace -
Location - North London, England

Review - The BBC
Download - Amazon, iTunes
Purchase - All That Is Heavy

This is why you don't publish a Year-End list at the beginning of December! (Among other late releases...) On its own, Hypnoticon would have probably been in the 20's or 30's. But then I caught word of an all-new full-length album, and it had already been released! In the newest issue of Mojo (Freddie Mercury cover), they have an article on Teeth of the Sea (not the 4-star review of Your Mercury). Influences referred to are: Hawkwind's Space Ritual (#4, 1973), Sleep's Holy Mountain (1992), and Monster Magnet's Spine of God (also 1992)... "Krautrock, Kosmische music, spaghetti western soundtracks, pompous Euro-prog" (per Julian Cope), The Cramps, Steve Reich, Queen's soundtrack to Flash Gordon, "Iain Sinclair/Alan Moore psychogeography," Sunn O))), Heldon, and Bongwater (#4, 1988). But then makes the important point that "their singular wisdom is never to copy their heroes." Right.

Pyramid of the Moon
I just recently noticed a pattern here towards the top: artist-run labels and self-releases. Pong, Woodsist, Tchantinler, Demdike Stare (mix CD's), Ghost Box (The Focus Group / Belbury Poly), Neurot Recordings, Linus Pauling Quartet... That's ½ of the top 14!! More if you consider Emeralds, whose Wagon/Gneiss Things label(s) self-released Colored Mushroom and the Medicine Rocks, the original Mist cassette, and the original Imaginary Softwoods and Emeralds self-titled LP's. Nice to see!

1 comment:

Shut Up And Roll said...

Hey, great list! Found some really nice tunes thanks to you!

Btw, if you ever get a chance to see Voice Of The Seven Thunders live then I thoroughly recommend it - totally mind-blowing! Saw them at Supersonic Festival last year along with such great bands as Tweak Bird, Barn Owl and Swans!

Take it easy and keep up the good work! :)