The Top 100 Albums Of 2010
I feel like we should all be jamming out to “Right Now” (and drinking Crystal Pepsi?), because this is the day we’ve all been waiting for. It’s time to stop living in the past and start living in the moment: my annual list of the one-hundred best albums of 2010 is finally ready for you to feast your eyes on it. Look at it. Look at it how you would a naked slut as she spreads her legs for you. It’s here for the taking. As is customary now, I’ve decided not to write blurbs for all 100 albums on the list, and not to post MP3s from all 100 albums. That would take way too much time and effort. Since I didn’t start composing the list until Wednesday the 29th, there was no way in hell I could accomplish such a feat. Plus, I’ve never done those things before. So that’s my excuse. As far as I know, none of these albums were released before 2010, but I am just as imperfect as you or Jesus Christ your Lord and savior (not mine!). Let me know if I’ve gone and fucked something up horribly. Otherwise, enjoy the list and let the negative reader comments begin!
The Top 100 Albums Of 2010
100. Steve Moore – Primitive Neural Pathways (Static Caravan, November 2010) – The dude from Zombi and Titan has recorded some fantastic solo compositions before (see: 2007’s The Henge). I love a record that includes a list of all the instruments used during the recording sessions. As soon as I noticed the inclusion of the Arp Solus…I came in my pants.
99. Melvins – The Bride Screamed Murder (Ipecac, June 2010) – Melvins cover “My Generation” on their latest album. You decide if that’s the most amazing or worst musical idea they have ever had.
98. Golden Retriever – Golden Retriever (Root Strata, February 2010) – The first of four (I thin?) Root Strata releases to make this list. Synethsizers and bass clarinet. Very warm experimental drone stuffs. [Listen to “Moments Receding”]
97. Die! Die! Die! – Form (Flying Nun, July 2010) – [Listen to “Paquin”]
96. Grails – Black Tar Prophecies, Vol. 4 (Important, May 2010)
95. Stereolab – Not Music (Drag City, November 2010) – Is it just me, or was this the least Stereolab-y album you’ve heard from Stereolab? I mean that in a good way, of course. I get tired of Dots & Loops and Peng! really quickly now. [Listen to “Everybody’s Weird Except Me”]
93. RV Paintings – Samoa Highway (Helen Scarsdale Agency, October 2010) – This ambient drone trio had a brilliant CD released by Root Strata in 2007 (Trinity Rivers) which ranked 90th on that year’s top 100 list. Previously described by yours truly as “Shimmering abstract weirdness, like wine glasses and loops and harnessed fog.” Maybe I was high at the time. [Listen to “From Manila To Forever”]
92. The Oh Sees – Warm Slime (In The Red Recordings, May 2010) – John Dwyer can do no wrong. From Coachwhips to Pink And Brown to Thee Oh Sees. Help was ranked on last year’s list, and as long as he keeps recording I’ll keep a spot warm for his various incarnations.
91. 91. Pocahaunted – Make It Real (Not Not Fun, May 2010)
90. Miles Kurosky – The Desert Of Shallow Effects (The People’s Committee For The Preservation Of Sound, February 2010) – If it wasn’t for one of my co-workers playing this a dozen times at work I wouldn’t have these great melodies stuck in my head.
89. Sightings – City Of Straw (Brah, April 2010) – Saw these guys for the first time after Arrived In Gold came out. They were opening for Comets On Fire, and they were one of the most abrasive bands I’d ever heard. So good.
88. Troum – Mare Idiophonika (Tourette, November 2010) – I first heard about this German duo in 2005 during the height of my fascination with Mystery Sea label. I’ve been scooping up various releases since then, and I think this might be my favorite yet. It yields vivid dreams.
87. Outer Space – Outer Space (Arbor, September 2010) – John Elliot of Emeralds solo LP. It took two years to record, supposedly. A fantastic, spaced-out synth album from one of the best modern electronic composers out there.
86. Negura Bunget – Verstele Pamentului (Code666, March 2010) – Without Sam around to burn me various Black Metal CDs, the number of albums from this genre on my list has dwindled to less than five this year.
84. Serena Maneesh – #2: Abyss In B-Minor (4AD, March 2010) – Saw Emil and Co. earlier this year at the Troubadour and they have not lost a step since my unhealthy obsession which led me to see them half a dozens times or more during their ’05 and ’06 tours of the states.
83. Harvestman / US Christmas / Minsk – Hawkwind Triad (Neurot, May 2010) – See: Swan Fungus Review
82. Winter Drones – Blood In The Coffin (Weird Forest, November 2010) – At first I saw the name of Winter Drones and I cringed. I thought, “Oh come on, could you pick a worse name? That’d be like calling your arena rock band Arena Rock. Then again, I hate it even more when bands are named after other bands’ songs. I guess in a Thunderdome matchup I’d prefer the Winter Drones to some lazy band who can’t choose an original name. At least this guy’s name choice caught my attention. I was really surprised by this record and dug it. It’s more like electronic shoegaze than…well…glacial, slow-moving drones. Still, a really silly name. And don’t try to play that “There are other definitions of ‘drone’!” card with me, buddy. You know the implications of that name choice! [Listen to “Winnie Cooper’s Bones”]
81. Danny Paul Grody – Fountain (Root Strata, February 2010) – Member of Tarentel’s solo album beautifully encapsulates elements of folk music with killer ambient flourishes.
80. The Books – The Way Out (Temporary Residence Limited, August 2010)
79. Alcest – Ecailles De Lune (Prophecy) – This was an Ian/Jon recommendation, which at first I took with a grain of salt, but inevitably grew to enjoy. Whoever told me about this group described it as “shoegaze black metal,” which I think is code for “indie kids who want to like black metal like it.” It’s definitely not black metal in my opinion. It’s big and blissed-out, but aside from some gruff vocals that’s it. Still, a good listen. [Listen to “Perce de Lumiere”]
77. A Silver Mt. Zion – Kollaps Tradixionales (Constellation, February 2010)
76. Islaja – Keraaminen Paa (Fonal, September 2010) – I usually follow the Fonal release schedule pretty closely, but this year seemed a bit slow for the Finish folk/experimental label. Oddly enough, Islaja seems to have left behind the lo-fi folk sound and replaced it with better production value, uptempo numbers and (gasp!) pop sensibility. Still good!
74. Burning Star Core – Papercuts Theater (No Quarter, March 2010)
73. Witxes – Scrawls #01 (Self-Released, December 2010) – I thought Bandcamp was for stupid hipster bands and kids who live in their parents’ basements. Then the amazing drone/ambient blog Deleted Scenes, Forgotten Dreams turned me onto Witxes and I thought, “Huh…maybe not ever Bandcamp band needs to be ignored.” After a moment of contemplation I realized, “Yeah, they pretty much all need to be ignored.” But not Witxes. Great ambient noise.
72. Chihei Hatakeyama – Ghostly Garden (Own, February 2010) – [Listen to “Cave”]
71. Maserati – Pyramid Of The Sun (Temporary Residence Limited, November 2010) – Dedicated in loving memory to Gerhardt Fuchs, one of the best drummers I’ve ever seen.
70. Keith Fullerton Whitman – Disingenuity (PAN 13, 2010)
69. James Ferraro – Night Dolls With Hairspray (Olde English Spelling Bee, December 2010)
68. La Otracina – Reality Has Got To Die (Holy Mountain, June 2010) – See: Swan Fungus Review
67. Yellow Swans – Going Places (Type, February 2010)
66. Sun Araw – On Patrol (Not Not Fun, May 2010)
65. Twells & Christensen – Coasts (Digitalis, December 2010) – One part Xela (John Twells), one part Zelienople (Matt Christensen). I’d say that’s a recipe for success. This two-track LP only release were recorded back in 2008 but just recently released by Digitalis. Electronic tones meet strings, guitar and distant synths. Beautiful stuff.
64. Bottomless Pit – Blood Under The Bridge (Comedy Minus One, August 2010)
63. Purling His – Public Service Announcement (Woodsist, October 2010) – Heard first after a recommendation from my friend AZ, this is a bit different than the totally blown-out, in-the-read wild shit on the self-titled CD-r. It’s a bit more pop-driven, but it’s still really good. Not that there’s anything wrong with pop music. There just isn’t a lot of it on this list.
62. Electric Wizard – Black Masses (Rise Above, November 2010)
61. Rene Hell – Porcelain Opera (Type, May 2010) [Listen to “Gas”]
59. Various Artists – Good God! Born Again Funk (Numero Group, March 2010) – I have worn out my copy of Good God! A Gospel Funk Hymnal at various record parties, at home, and in the company of good friends. So you could imagine my excitement when I saw this on the list of upcoming releases from Numero Group. Solid.
58. Cloudland Canyon – Fin Eaves (Holy Mountain, September 2010)
56. Circle Bros. – Haven (Morc, May 2010) – Shoegaze/drone from Belgium. This shit is so good it elicited a positive comment from the preeminent Swan Fungus’ resident hater/commentor what’s-his-name.
55. Endless Boogie – Full House Head (No Quarter, July 2010)
54. Black Swan – In 8 Movements (Experimedia, July 2010) – One of the sites on my list of daily websites to visit is OMG Vinyl, which lets me know when it’s time to dump a bunch of money on pre-orders for various new releases. Sometimes I even learn a thing or two from the website. I wouldn’t have heard Black Swan without that site. “An incredibly captivating journey through drone and modern classical that will not soon be forgotten.” [Listen to “Part IV”]
53. En – The Absent Coast (Root Strata, October 2010)
52. Millipede – Full Bloom (Install, 2010)
51. Daughters – Daughters (Hydra Head) – Winner of the Most Insane Album I Heard All Year award.
50. Xasthur – Portal Of Sorrow (Disharmonic Variations, March 2010)
49. Philip Jeck – An Ark For The Listener (Touch, September 2010) – Appeared on the Top 100 Albums of 2008 list with Sand (#35 on that list). Edited together from different performances, one of the most texturally unique and fascinating albums on this list. Beautiful solo work from one of the best sound manipulators out there.
48. Fursaxa – Mycorrhizae Realm (ATP, March 2010) – Liz Harris (Grouper) has blown up in recent years, but it seems like Tara Burke (Fursaxa) has received less attention in spite of similarly her eerie, stark, lo-fi music. Her voice is up-front as opposed to distant — she sounds a bit like Nico — a perfect compliment to her quivering drones and haunting acoustic guitar. [Listen to “Poplar Moon”]
47. Swans – My Father Will Guide Me Up A Rope To The Sky (Young God, September 2010)
46. Shipping News – One Less Heartless To Fear (Karate Body, November 2010)
45. Common Eider, King Eider – Worn (Root Strata, August 2010)
44. Celer – Dwell In Possibility (Blackest Rainbow, May 2010) – Another electronic/experimental act I discovered thanks to the Mystery Sea label. Glacially-slow drones reminiscent of Stars of The Lid. Supposedly this vinyl-only release consists of 15 different sections arranged in an aural mosaic. Ok…I just think it sounds great.
43. Pale Blue Sky – Shades Of Grey (Arbor, February 2010) – Arbor released some fantastic music in 2010 from the likes of Sun Circle, Rene Hell, Outer Space, and Jefre Cantu-Ledesma. This was my favorite of this year’s offerings, beautiful new-age synth drones perfect for late night meditations.
42. Mist – Glowing Net (Amethyst Sunset, 2010) – John Elliot (Emeralds) and Sam Goldberg!? Tell me I’m dreaming…
41. Barn Owl – Ancestral Star (Thrill Jockey, October 2010)
40. On – Something That Has Form And Something That Does Not (Type, July 2010)
39. The Alps – Le Voyage (Type, May 2010) – Some of the best soundscapes of the year. El Topo on Mars. [Listen to “Saturno Contro”]
38. Night Control – Life Control (Kill Shaman, January 2010)
37. Austerity Program – Backsliders And Apostates Will Burn (Hydra Head, October 2010)
36. Motion Sickness Of Time Travel – The Sound Of Reality Dissolving (Hooker Vision, July 2010) – I swear, if it wasn’t for experimental/drone music blogs I wouldn’t be able to seek out a lot of this great electronic/minimalist ambient music. This was original released in an edition of 15 (!) numbered copies. I posted a track on Sunday Mix Tape 199 and one comment noted that it was the only good song on the entire mix. For a disc containing but three songs, this thing is killer. [Listen to “It Is Unfortunate But True”]
35. Magic Lantern – Platoon (Not Not Fun)
34. John Elliot – Colored Mushroom And The Medicine Rocks (Wagon, October 2010)
33. Lightning Swords Of Death – The Extra Dimensional Wound (Metal Blade, May 2010) – LA’s biggest and baddest Black Metal act put forth their best album yet this year. If you get a chance to see these guys live, do not pass it up. [Listen to “Nihilistic Stench”]
32. Grouper / Roy Montgomery – Split (Grouper, January 2010) – While 2008’s Dragging A Dead Dear continues to be re-pressed enough times so that everyone can get their hands on a copy, I’m left to scrounge around for any new Grouper releases I can find. 2010 was something of a lean year (a couple 7″s, a fancy DVD-book set, and this split LP), but no matter how little the output, Liz Harris continues to amaze with her ghostly voice, warbling tape loops and dreamy guitar. [Listen to “Hold The Way”]
31. Kemialliset Ystavat – Ullakkopalo (Fonal, August 2010) – Each new Kemialliset Ystavat findings its way into my possession is like a junky finally satiating his or her need for a fix. I keep wondering if Jan Anderzen and friends will ever misfire and put out a bad album, but it hasn’t happened in a decade. Fuck Devendra. This is the real freak-folk, people! [Listen to “Palava Puolukka”]
30. Expo 70 – Where Does Your Mind Go? (Immune, November 2010) – One of the better negative reader comments of this year was from “Ron” who wrote, “I heard the guy in Expo ’70 just farted into a mic for 70 minutes again. Try not to get too big a boner thinking about all of the color variants.” Where Does Your Mind Go (and all of Justin Wright’s recorded output) sounds nothing like farts, but I almost get hard while listening to Expo ’70.
29. Mugstar – Lime (Important, 2010)
28. Loscil – Endless Falls (Kranky, March 2010) – Even Daniel Bejar’s contributed words/vocals to “The Making Of Grief Point” couldn’t deter me from liking this album. Great ambient music with superb strings and drone/experimental requisite rain droplets as the first and last sounds you hear. [Listen to “Showers Of Ink”]
27. Rockford Kabine – Xero (Cobra Films/Clockwork Productions, June 2010) – If you haven’t heard Italian Music: 31 Invalid Movie Themes before, get your fucking ass up away from the computer and go buy it, NOW. This shit is downright awesome. Short bursts of sound (tracks are rarely longer than two minutes) that defy classification. Oh yeah, and it’s the soundtrack to a porn, and you have to buy the DVD to get the CD soundtrack.
26. Actress – Splazsh (Honest Jon’s, May 2010)
25. Woodsman – Mystery Tape (Lefse, June 2010) – See: Swan Fungus review
24. Benoit Pioulard – Lasted (Kranky, October 2010) – I was a huge fan of his first album (2006’s Precis), which was recommended by someone working at Soundfix in Brooklyn. Normally I don’t take advice from record store clerks (I also never give advice, as a record store clerk) but I was drunk after a session at Mugg’s and wound up buying and falling in love with it. Lasted is more bedroom drone/shoegaze/pop fare from a talented songwriter who seems to improve with each successive album. [Listen to “Sault”]
23. Radio People – Radio People (Digitalis, July 2010) – Sam Goldberg alert! Anyone who enjoys Emeralds or Oneohtrix Point Never must hear this killer kosmiche record. I told you people years ago that the Krautrock thing was coming back in a huge way and nobody believed me. You were all too busy trying to start bands influenced by 90s indie bands. Idiots. [Listen to “Designer”]
22. Jefre Cantu-Ledesma – Love Is A Stream (Type, October 2010) – [Listen to “Mirrors Death”]
21. Infinite Body – Carve Out The Face Of My God (Post Present Medium, January 2010) – Okay, forget everything I’ve said before. I guess there’s one person here in Los Angeles making good music right now. Heavy synths…white noise…has anyone ever used the word “violent” to describe drones before? It seems more apt than “harsh”. I’ve been digging on this for a while, and as other records have fallen out of favor over the past twelve months this one has remained consistently listen-worthy. Kudos, LA guy Kyle Parker! [Listen to “What They Wanted To Be Was Useless”]
20. White Hills / Gnod – Gnod Drop Out With White Hills II – In 2008 we got the collaborative Aquarian Downer CDr, and in 2009 we got Drop Out. But 2010 was even kinder, as we got a sick double-LP from the Gods of modern psych rock (White Hills) and Gnod — who I pretty much only know from their White Hills and BONG collaborations. This was so good I bought up a bunch of copies and gifted them to friends on their birthdays. 11 people ganging up to create some of the most sprawling, intense psych/space rock you have ever heard. God damn, this is good shit.
19. Aidan Baker – Liminoid / Lifeforms (Alien8, February 2010)
18. Autolux – Transit Transit (TBD, August 2010) – Autolux gets enough press elsewhere, you don’t have to hear me opine about this record too.
17. Burzum – Belus (Byelobog Productions, March 2010) – After sixteen years of incarceration for the murder of his former bandmate and setting fire to multiple churches, Varg Vikernes returns! Belus, of course, was the “White God in North European pagan mythology,” so there are some racist connotations involved in recording an album for/in honor of such a deity…but the music stands on its own as (in my opinion) the best black metal recorded this year and some of the most-listenable black metal I’ve heard since I was turned me onto Burzum so many years ago. By a girl. I know, right? [Listen to “Belus’ Doed”]
16. The Conformists – None Hundred (Sick Room Records, 2010) – One of my favorite rock bands of the ’00s. These guys are so cool it defies logic. At a recent PRF (that’s insider-slang for the Electrical Audio forum) “festival,” the Conformists made 20 copies of their latest disc and challenged fans to listen to it? What was so challenging? Well, they fastened the two EPs together with a bolt. Here’s one man’s attempt to actually listen to it. [Youtube]
15. Oneohtrix Point Never – Returnal (Editions Mego, June 2010)
14. James Blackshaw – All Is Falling (Young God, August 2010) – I think James Blackshaw has appeared on more Swan Fungus Year-End lists than any other artist. Maybe Aidan Baker or White Hills could have more, but I’m too lazy to look it up. All Is Falling might have the least acoustic guitar of any Blackshaw release yet, and it manages to be just as inspiring and beautiful as ever. [Listen to “Part 3”]
13. Mugstar – Sun Broken (Important, 2010) – “Furklausundbo” might be the kraut-iest jam I’ve heard all year. The other five tracks are about as good as modern space/psych rock gets. [Listen to “Today Is The Wrong Shape”]
12. Titan – Sweet Dreams (Relapse, 2010) – Prog! Prog! Prog! Josh Anzano for best guitar player of the year? It’s got to be him or Dave W. from White Hills… [Listen to “Sweet Dreams”]
11. US Christmas – Run Thick In The Night (Neurot, September 2010) – See: Swan Fungus review
10. Mark McGuire – Living With Yourself (Editions Mego, October 2010) – Emeralds’ guitarist has put out two or three dozen records before, but they’ve all been limited-edition cassettes or CDrs, so this is kind of like his first official album. And it’s stunning. He’s a modern Manuel Gottsching, and I know that’s a little blasphemous but I’m going to say it anyway.
09. Ufomammut – EVE (Supernatural Cat, May 2010) – See: Swan Fungus review
08. Voice Of The Seven Thunders – Voice of The Seven Thunders (Tchantinler, 2010) – Ian turned me into Rick Tomlinson, and I’m happy to say it’s one of the better recommendations he’s made in the past couple years. Far out psychedelic music, not light enough to be folk but not burly enough to put Tomlinson in the Hawkwind-revival club. Eastern tinged acoustic guitars vie for attention with searing solos and distorted bass riffs. One minute it’s overblown, lo-fi Arabian space rock, and the next it’s beautiful arranged, sun-dappled acoustic movements. [Listen to “The Burning Mountain”]
07. Arp – The Soft Wave (Smalltown Supersound, September 2010) – Kind of an Ian recommendation? He saw Arp with Emeralds and as soon as I heard the word “Arp” I was intrigued. Perfect for the synthy krautrock fan out there, it sounds like a modern progression from the days of Cluster and Harmonia. [Listen to “White Light”]
06. White Hills – White Hills (Thrill Jockey, August 2010) – Uh…is there anything new I can write about White Hills? They’re still my favorite modern band, in case you were wondering.
05. Harvey Milk – A Small Turn Of Human Kindness (Hydra Head, May 2010) – I was playing this album over the stereo system at work when it came out and a woman approached one of my co-workers and asked, “Is this woman singing on her period? She sounds like she’s in agony.” A lot of people wonder how to describe Harvey Milk, but from that moment on I decided that is going to be how I do it. How great are those guitar/vocal harmonies on “I Know This Is No Place For You”? How beautiful is “I Know This Is All My Fault”?
04. The Body – All The Waters Of The Earth Turn To Blood (Aum War, May 2010) – It took five or six minutes of sampling this album online before I stopped and ordered it. A day after it arrived I declared it one of the best albums of the year, and here we are more than six months later and its stood the test of time. This is, by far, one of the most unusual, intense, unique records I have ever heard. How the hell do two people sound so massive? The combination of a full choir and the most ultra-heavy doom metal I’ve heard in ages makes for one of the best albums of the year.
03. Umberto – From The Grave (Permanent, 2010) – Okay, TECHNICALLY it was a 2009 release, but come on…limited edition CDr and cassette only? That hardly counts as an official release. If you’ve ever thought about how cool Goblin’s soundtracks were, you need to hear this album. Not only that, it incorporates Germany kraut elements as well, so it’s basically the greatest throwback album of all time, spanning the progressive rock movements in two different European nations while updating the sound with a modern flair. Oh, and it’s all done by one dude. [Listen to “The Child”]
02. Emeralds – Does It Look Like I’m Here? (Editions Mego, May 2010) – In 2009, Emeralds accounted for three albums on my Top 100 list. This year, Emeralds and its members various side projects and solo projects account for even more than that. Four sides of unbelievable electronic music. I have no doubt that these guys will continue to record great shit for years to come, and perhaps they haven’t even reached their true potential yet. The modern Kosmiche Kuriere.
01. Master Musicians Of Bukkake – Totem Two (Important, May 2010) – I was listening to Totem Two the other morning and it dawned on me how truly remarkable this record is. Side A is like a collaborative effort between Hans Zimmer and Ennio Morricone, and they’re scoring the most insane Samurai film the world has never seen. I could see how this sound and this band name could be construed as gimmicky, but Side B of Totem Two changes everything. “Coincidential Oppositorum” is downright beautiful, with a string arrangement that hasn’t moved me so much since Godspeed You Black Emperor’s “Gathering Storm”. The album closes with “Patmos,” an 11-minute stunner whose triumphant strings and multi-part vocal harmonies strike a perfect balance. Ten years ago it could have been used to define the “Post-Rock” genre. By the time it’s over, you’re left wondering what the fuck you just experienced. Unbelievable. The best album of 2010. [Listen to “Coincidential Oppositorum”]
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