Friday, December 31, 2010

The Baker's Dozen 2010

So. What the hell happened this year?

It’s like the crazy-juice that we supposedly banned after Obama got elected somehow got its formula changed and is now part of the Tea Party company.
And now it’s made with extra crazy!

Thankfully, new music was in full bloom which made narrowing down a list to just thirteen fairly difficult.

At least some things stay the same.

After considering a large list, narrowing it down some, and then breaking it down to the top thirteen with an obligatory honorable mention of thirteen more.

1. Roky Erickson with Okkervil River True Love Cast Out All Evil

It helps if you know the story of Roky Erickson before listening to True Love Cast Out All Evil, because it makes its impact a lot more noticeable. But even if you’re not familiar with Erickson’s incredible tale of redemption, True Love paints an aural biography for you, one that will undoubtedly have you discovering more about this man’s legacy. Truly inspiring.

2. Kanye WestMy Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy

At these prices, you’d be silly not to check out Kanye’s tale of discontent. His issues with ego, fame, and his own talent are presented in this challenging record that is both catchy and clever. After watching Ye come close to getting crucified for some of the most ridiculous “controversies” that our lazy media conjured up, MBDTF comes across as a welcomed ball of vitriol that ends up being the best rap album in a long time.

3. High On Fire Snakes For The Divine

For years, Matt Pike seems pretty content with delivering album after album of solid metal. With Snakes For The Divine, he ramps up his ambition and delivers his first album that matches the brilliance of the genre’s most notable efforts.

4. Paul Weller Wake Up The Nation

Another impressive rebirth as Weller gets back to the Mod swagger of his youth. It is, quite simply-the best work since The Jam while managing to be more consistent than his old trio’s own output. Getting older has its advantages, but the Modfather sounds like he’s having a blast during his second wind.

5. Pantha Du Prince Black Noise

With probably the most perfect cover-the music sounds like it was created in a cabin in the Alps-Pantha Du Prince combines organic ambience with subtle beats into a deceivingly brilliant effort. This will no-doubtedly become an electronic reference point but Black Noise’s quality will be apparent to any music fan. A perfect soundtrack to winter, Pantha Du Prince has created a warm counterpoint to electronic music’s traditionally cold landscapes.

6. Vampire Weekend Contra

Not only does Vampire Weekend overcome the sophomore slump with Contra, they manage to explain the hype of their over-rated debut through sheer musicianship. They’ve won me over-hands down-with this quirky and complex gem of mood improving music, and if you let your own cynical guard down a bit, you might just hear it’s impressiveness too.

7. The National High Violet

Stunningly good. The first half sounded a bit too slow at first, but now I’m wondering if it’s a matter of pacing. Because the second half of High Violet is about as good as you can get in rock. It’s a perfect soundtrack for these troubled times, with references to the economy (“I still owe money to the money I owe”), the war (“It’ll take a better war to kill a college man like me”) and how the past decade was ruled through fear (“Venom radio/Venom television/I’m afraid of everyone.”). If the next decade is just as bad, The National will just get that much better.

8. DeerhunterHalcyon Digest

By my accounts, Deerhunter are probably the most consistently good American band operating today, and each record seems to further affirm how talented they are. Halcyon Digest builds upon a few layers of accessability, but it includes the band’s wonderful penchant for Velvet jangles (“Desire Lines”) and Brandon Cox’s love of atmospheric textures.

9. Best Coast Crazy For You

Just a cute little scurvy pop record that’s perfect for anyone who doesn’t mind limited songwriting, primitive musicianship, and an abundant amount of beach blanket bingo. A fun, thirty-minute distraction that could have easily been a guilty pleasure if it wasn’t so awesome.

10. Titus Andronicus The Monitor

Nothing like reaching for the skies when a bunch of New Jersey boys ape Born To Run and Rum, Sodomy and the Lash in equal measures. Titus Andronicus write and perform like it’s their last musical statement ever. And when it doesn’t fall over from the weight of its own Ritalin-aided spaz, it damn near reaches the heights of those aforementioned classics.

11. WavvesKing Of The Beach

Another shameless blast of 80’s pop-punk that also manages to place Wavves’ frontman Nathan Williams in a better light than his previous offerings. Thanks to a bigger production, Wavves is no longer a band of enormous hype and dubious talents, they are contenders who finally found out that clearing your head occasionally gives you the clarity to create a tremendous album.

12. Wolf Parade Expo 86

Another record planted firmly in the sonic landscape of the 80’s with a firm eye towards tomorrow. Expo 86 sounds as wide-eyed and nervous as the moment you tossed your graduation cap up in the air, only to ponder “Now what?” It’s also the first Wolf Parade album that sounds like it was created by a band instead of just a side-project. And what a good sound that is.

13. The Sword Warp Riders

A concept album of sci-fi proportions that fueled by laser-tight guitar chords and asteroid destroying tempos. There’s a bit more shitkicking in the guitar chords than other comparable metal band mining from the same creative pool, which makes The Sword a unique fixture in the genre and Warp Riders one of metal’s high points.

I'm sure that other albums will crop up after posting this, causing havoc on the overall list. While I'm confident that the Baker's Dozen will remain as listed, the real danger comes in the following honorable mention, which has changed about a dozen times prior to this post.

14. Arcade Fire The Suburbs
15. The Fall Your Future Our Clutter
16. Gil-Scott Heron I’m New Here
17. Holy Fuck - Latin
18. Serena-Maneesh SM2: Abyss In B Minor
19. Bryan Ferry Olympia
20. Morning Benders Big Echo
21. Love Is All Two Thousand And Ten Injuries
22. Ted Leo & the Pharmacists The Brutalist Bricks
23. ShearwaterThe Golden Archipelago
24. Bob Dylan The Witmark Demos
25. FoalsTotal Life Forever
26. No Age Everything In Between


Baker said...

Nice list

Cousin J said...

While I do own The Sword disc, I rarely listen to it. I also really like individual songs off of most of the choices you listed but, so far, 2010's new music is for me best enjoyed in small doses. Meaning I would rather make an awesome comp out of the best songs off of these than own any one of them. Maybe it's because I have much less time to waste or even just explore.

But I'm not sure about that reasoning either because I got a shitload of new music this year from bands that I'd never heard before and I've found time to listen to it all. Repeatedly. The only thing is, it's all 30-40 years old. I'm just in a different place right now and I'm really enjoying digging into the past and discovering hidden gems that I can't believe have been so quickly lost or forgotten.

I'm certainly not saying that "Music was so much better then." because I know better. There are releases from 2010 that I picked up and will be in my listening rotation for a long time to come. They're just not on any "Best Of 2010" lists I've seen Maybe I'll revisit the releases on your Bakers Dozen from 2010 in 2020 or 2030. I doubt it but you never know. I'll probably be just as happy with my own homemade version of "NOW 2010!"

Cousin J said...

So here's my list of my favorite of what I got in 2010; a mix of old & new.

1. Electric Warrior - T-Rex
How did I ever miss this?

2. The Slider - T-Rex
Are you kidding me?

3. Farther Along - The Byrds
Most peoples least favorite Byrds album. McGuinn is there but these are Clarence White's Byrds - FYI - he was one of Hendrix's favorite players.

4. Badfinger - Straight Up

5. Dungen - Skit i allt
Seeing them live was brilliant

6. The Amazing - Waiting for a Light to Come
Dungen offshoot, more 70's vibes

7. All India Radio - The Silent Surf
Mellow electronica.

8 Free - Fire & Water
Paul Kossoff's tone is out of this world

9 Emmylou Harris - Luxury Liner
Albert Lee!

10. Imperial State Electric s/t
Nick Anderson's post Hellacopters project. Still sounds a bit like the 'copters with only one ego to manage.

There are honorable mentions to other various Tyrannosaurus Rex, T-Rex, & Byrds stuff, Silver Meteor - the amazing long lost progressive country comp album from the 70's that was reissued, & solo stuff from Gram Parsons, Gene Parsons & Skip Battin...on & on. That's all for now.

Todd Totale said...

My old man had that Emmylou album.