Friday, December 24, 2010

Top 50-ish Records of 2010 (#41-#50)

Yes! Along with all the other Year End festivities here at Astral Headspace, we're bringing a Top 50(-ish) Records of the Year list. FIFTY!! At least...

So, we'll be starting the official Records list at the bottom... the dregs. Since the entire list will feature pretty much every 2010 album I bought, these are the worst of the bunch. Now I'm not saying #50 is better than Kanye's acclaimed new album (10.0?! Come ON!), but I'd probably still rather listen to it. Anyway, there won't be too many consensus Best-Of's on my list, because the world doesn't work right. Just remember: it only gets better from here!

The rankings are usually pretty much based solely on the release listed first. Other 2010's from the same artist are grouped together, and an especially strong body of work sometimes had an effect on the end results. Ah, whatever... the ranks all shifted around a lot in the planning stages, and will probably be significantly different for me in just a couple of months.

If there's already a relevant full post on the album or artist, the album title will be linked to someplace previously on Headspace. I tried to provide a couple of representative tracks (via YouTube), and all the other typical background info-blocks you've come to expect. Here we go!

41. Platoon - Magic Lantern

"Planar/Solar" from Platoon (2010)
"Dark Cicadas" from Platoon (2010)

Genre - Psychedelic Wah-Wah Trance-Funk
Official/Myspace -
Location - L.A., CA

Review - Foxy Digitalis
Download - Amazon, iTunes
Purchase - Forced Exposure

I know that Sun Araw does some kinda dub-based wah-wah something-or-other, and Magic Lantern was supposed to be his more psych-rock band. Well, the guitar is set pretty much permanently on "wah." For the most part, they build up a dense throb of sonic overload and keep pounding at it. Pretty cool, but it just goes on... Until "Friendship," which sounds a hell of a lot like a lost Teeth of the Sea diffuse interlude>jam (to its credit). Strangely enough, I might have ranked a "Planar/Solar" / "Friendship [edit]" single higher than the album. Probably the same goes for this year's single "Showstopper,", which is maybe technically part of this album - kind of... Too hard to figure out. I could see this one winding up a mid-level favorite down the road, and I could understand someone else putting it in their Top 20 for the year. Just not me, not yet.

42. Skin Collision Past - Wild Moccasins

"Skin Collision Past" from Skin Collision Past (2010)
"Psychic China" from Skin Collision Past (2010)

Genre - H-Pop
Official/Myspace -
Location - Houston, TX

Review - Pop Matters
Stream - BandCamp
Download - Amazon, iTunes
Purchase - Amazon

Good classic-style pop music. Catchy hooks, boy/girl vocals, it's got a beat and you can dance to it. Plus, I know from live shows that the non-singers contribute a whole lot. On the album, everything services the singers and the song - so you don't get as many of those spiky moments. I was kind of expecting a sophomore slump after Microscopic Metronomes (2008), especially with increased touring. But they managed to get even more new songs sorted out, and the road has significantly improved the playing and interplay. Anyway, you can stream the whole album at the link above. It's all pretty similar, all pretty good, with that Wild Moccasins pop sound.

43. The Way Out - The Books

The Way Out
"Group Autogenics I" from The Way Out (2010)
"Beautiful People" from The Way Out (2010)

Genre - Audio-Collage Culture-Jamming
Official -
Myspace -
Location - NYC, NY

Review - Treble Zine
Download - Amazon, iTunes
Purchase - Temporary Residence Limited

Now here's something. This could have gone much higher - but instead of too much of the same, it's because of a wide like/dislike gap between styles. There are a lot of meditative, almost new-agey tunes - some with manipulated self-help-tape audio. Then, there's a few acoustic singer/songwriter-ish numbers. And finally, some tightly-coiled digital sleight-of-hand goofs. Basically, the more frenetic (or spastic) the arrangements, the less I like. The more subdued (or musical), the better. And I think the balance favors me overall, but still too much cutting-up for my taste. I can usually skip certain tracks, but why should I have to?

44. Swim - Caribou
Caribou Vibration Ensemble (Featuring Marshall Allen) - Caribou

"Odessa" from Swim (2010)
"Leave House" from Swim (2010)
"Melody Day (live)" from Caribou Vibration Ensemble (2010)

Genre - Smooth-Techno
Official -
Myspace -
Location - London, UK

Review - Reviler
Download - Amazon, iTunes
Purchase - Amazon

What a bummer... I really love the previous three from Caribou, including the #4 Album of 2007 and a probable Top 10 release in a very weak 2005 (if I hadn't put off buying so long). Four if you count the Marino DVD's companion CDEP (2005). This looks to be somewhat of a breakout album, and I'm hard-pressed to really like more than a couple of these songs - those linked above. Dan Snaith moved from Canadian seclusion to the London club scene. I think you know which environment is going to produce music more to my liking. (FYI - the former.) Drag...

44. New Age Outlaws - Dylan Ettinger

New Age Outlaws
"Shandor's Dream" from New Age Outlaws (2010)
"Land of Confusion (live)" not from New Age Outlaws (2010)

Genre - Analogue Soundscapes
Official/Myspace -
Location - Bloomington, IN

Review - Raven Sings The Blues blog
Download - Amazon, iTunes
Purchase - Forced Exposure

I really wanted to dig this album a lot more, and it still might grab me at some point. "New York City, 2069. A new form of crime has evolved. Only one hard-as-nails ex-cop has what it takes to get to the bottom of their plot and stop the new age outlaws from finding the alien artifact and destroying earth as we know it." (according to Boomkat!) It does have a cinematic, futuristic, Blade Runner-ish vibe. Overall it's pretty cool-sounding, but for some reason doesn't really hook into me. Too much uniformity of tone, or reliance on sequencers maybe... With enigmatic sci-fi art by Dan McPharlin - the guy behind great covers for Prefuse 73, Pretty Lights, and The Sword.

46. We're The Mathletes, and We're from Houston, So How About That? Volumes One, Two and Three - The Mathletes

We're The Mathletes...
"FLM" (live) from We're The Mathletes... (2010)
"Pinnochiobot" (live) not from We're The Mathletes... (2010)

Genre - Silly Indie-Pop Covers of Houston Scene
Official/Myspace -
Location - Houston, TX

Review - The Skyline Network [Vol. 1]
Download/Purchase - probably not... Go to a show!

The Mathletes, they are not for everyone. And quirky, nerdy, semi-confessional, semi-satirical pop songs aren't my usual bag. Good enough for my #9 Release of 2005, though. Joe Mathlete is OCD about writing and writing and writing... and releasing and releasing and releasing. The originals are generally pretty nice and skewed, and he somehow wedges in a large number of cover songs. When this Houston-focused cover-tune series began, I looked for them but never found any. Then at the recent LP4 show they opened, I got the 3-volume CDr and also a 19-folder/album .mp3 collection.

This one's pretty fun, covering some of the bigger Houston acts, like these songs by: Jana Hunter (two!), Young Mammals (and The Dimes), Buxton, B L A C K I E, Hearts of Animals (two!), Wild Moccasins, Linus Pauling Quartet (what the hell happened to the "Switzer" vidya?!), Something Fierce, Giant Princess, Beyoncé, plus ones by Jenny Westbury, sIngs, Time Machine Veterans, Bring Back The Guns, The Jackson 5 and Cornershop (not from Houston).

47. KTRU Live, Vol. 2 - various artists

KTRU Live Vol 2
"Scandinavia '79" by Secret Prostitutes,from KTRU Live, Vol. 2 (2010)
"Nap in the Woods" by Ghost Mountain, from KTRU Live, Vol. 2 (2010)
Astrogenic Hallucinauting (live) appears on KTRU Live, Vol. 2 (2010)

Genre - Local Scene Radio Show Live Compilation
KTRU Official -
Myspace -
Location - Houston, TX

Review - Space City Rock
Download/Purchase - Ltd. Ed. of 300, so probably not...

With KTRU all set to impode in a storm of local scenester ire, I'm real glad I picked these comps up. This one's a double-disc exploration of Houston live in-studio happenings. Because I'm old, this is an easy way of getting some kind of larger view on what's going on - because my live-show circuit is pretty much limited to my longtime faves and their opening acts. Doesn't mean I have to like all of it, but it's good to know it's all out there.

I was real happy to see a 9-minute "Adrift in Alpha Centauri" from J.D. Emmanual, whose 1982 album Wizards was re-released this year by Important Records. (Need to get that one!) Further in my style of long-form experimental psychscapes are Astrogenic Hallucinauting, ms. Sandy & ms. YET, and Wasp and Pear. The Jonx show that they can bring the extended heavy jams with their traditional set-closer (download a 2007 Rudz show at their Myspace). You also get the welcoming trad Americana of listenlisten, another theatrical glam rave-up from Roky Moon & Bolt, 40-second burst of noisy punk from Heavy Roach Activity, the smooth of The Literary Greats. And other greater and/or lesser examples of similar stuff... and some hip-hop and Sitar music.

48. Far Out Spaced Oddyssey - various artists

Far Out Spaced Odyssey
"Apocalipse" by José Mauro, from Far Out Spaced Oddyssey (2010)
"E ai Galera, Voltei" by Binario, from Far Out Spaced Oddyssey (2010)
"Caça à Raposa" by Azymuth, from Far Out Spaced Oddyssey (2010)

Genre - various styles from Brazilian indie label
Label Official -
Label Myspace -
Location - Brazil

Review - Resident Advisor
Download - Vols. 1 & 2 (Amazon)
Purchase - CD (Amazon/US), LP (Rough Trade/UK)

Rough Trade (and the cover) made this sound so promising: modern indie pysch from Brazil, like the noisy post-punk children of Os Mutantes... Bardo Pond goes tropicália maybe. Not exactly. It's more like half-retro (faithful to the original rhythm-folk & psych-pop of '60s tropicália) and half-electro (synths and drum machines). None of it is terrible, but the whole doesn't hang together at all. The experimental ambience of Rabotnik, the jazz-funk of Kirk Degiorgio's Offworld, the classic style of Joyce... Too much of not enough. I just usually go back to the Mutantes records when I'm in this mood.

49. Boris & Ian Astbury EP - BXI

Boris & Ian Astbury
"Teeth and Claws" from Boris & Ian Astbury (2010)
"The End/Magickal Child" (live) from Boris & Ian Astbury (2010)

Genre - Unexpected Collaboration
Official -
Myspace -
Location - Tokyo, Japan / UK

Review - The Quietus
Download - Amazon, iTunes
Purchase - Southern Lord Records

Oooh, this one almost bottomed out the year. Some people will try to justify it out of an understandable love and respect for Boris (#6, 2007). Or maybe a misplaced nostalgia for The Cult, I dunno. "Teeth and Claws" kicks off sounding exactly like Sonic Youth (c. 1988), which is cool. However, Ian Astbury is pure cheese... which I expected. But the Native mystical lore and Morrisonisms are all too much, so much that it falls flat even as comedy. "The animals will save us!!!" Ugh. The only reason to get the EP would be for the Ian-less cover of "Rain" sung by Wata (guitar/female) with cool sibilance-delay. Somehow, Sony has rights to this, so no internet samples for you. Worth the single-song download, and barely avoiding the #50 spot!

50. John Carpenter Aspect - various artists

John Carpenter Aspect EP
"Escape from New York" by DJ Sun (Bottin remix), from John Carpenter Aspect (2010)
"Christine" by Architeq, from John Carpenter Aspect (2010)
"Pork Chop Express" by Sare Havlicek, from John Carpenter Aspect (2010)

Genre - Soundtrack Dance Remixes
Official -
Myspace -
Location - Venice, Italy - plus...

Download - Amazon, iTunes
Review/Purchase - Boomkat

I wasn't expecting too much. I welcome the renaissance of John Carpenter appreciation, and name-brand DJ's remixing some sountracks seemed like an adequate idea. And it's pretty decent, as a novelty. You'd be better off grabbing the 100% free Alan Howarth podcast mix of original source materials. Anyway, I'd made a vid for the Belgian King DJ's EFNY theme, remixed by Bottin (Italy), and the other two were posted to SoundCloud by Architeq (UK) and Sare Havlicek (Slovenia). All linked above, for your perusement...

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