Monday, December 20, 2010

Behold! My favorite records of 2010

I won't waste your time with a whole long "Whoo, boy - what a year, right?" intro paragraph. But would you like to know what records I liked best in 2010? Yes? Ok, here goes...

1. Rae Spoon - Love Is A Hunter
It never occurred to me in a million years that an unsolicited promo from a PR company would make it to my year end list, let alone be my favorite album. But that’s exactly what happened here. If you haven’t heard this, please go check him out. And don’t get all caught up on the gender business. Just accept he’s my man of the year.

2. The Thermals - Personal Life
I’ve heard from a lot of Thermals fans that they feel lukewarm about this record. “It’s not bad, it just isn’t The Body, The Blood, The Machine...” Nope. But why would you want them to make that record again? I do not know! Here’s one thing I do know: If for instance, the record Personal Life mirrored your personal life completely this year, it would also be one of your favorite records of 2010. So there.

3. Perfume Genius - Learning
Simple, haunting, addictive. Remember how, still to this day, people go insane for Neutral Milk Hotel? This record has that same kind of mysterious, off kilter, highly personal allure, but more stripped down - mostly just piano and vocals. Yes I did just compare this kid to Jeff Mangum. Yes I am serious.

4. Beach House - Teen Dream
There’s nothing I can really say that has not been said about this record. Yes. It really is that good. So many records were over-hyped this year (shut up, Sleigh Bells), but Beach House deserves every positive word said or written about them. This is one of the few records of 2010 that is destined to become a classic.

5. The National - High Violet
I still don’t understand how this band got so huge. Maybe I underestimate people? But I can’t complain because they are amazing and in a perfect world, when people hear amazing music they say, “Wow, this is amazing, I like it.” But that hardly ever happens. Because this isn’t a perfect world. And people are very complicated creatures. The National is very good at reminding me of this.

6. The Divine Comedy - Bang Goes The Knighthood
I have loved Neil Hannon for years. Since 1997 or so in fact. I thought ours was a love affair that could and never would end. But in 2006, after never letting me down, he managed to release a record that I felt lukewarm about. Obviously this caused me to reevaluate our whole relationship. We took a break. I saw other people. I tried to forget. Then, all these years later, he releases Bang Goes the Knighthood. And it’s “I want to have Neil Hannon’s babies” all over again.

7. Copper Thieves - II
If you can make me like something this much that sounds like it could be played on the classic rock station, you’re obviously impressive. The key is the blend of Tony Rochon’s perfect 70’s rock style, John Nelson’s 90’s indie sensibilities and Christian Doble’s insane ear for melody. The record just came out this past weekend and I can’t stop listening to it. Next thing you know I’ll be buying Thin Lizzy reissues and getting a WCSX tattoo (please do not let me ever get a WCSX tattoo).

8. Zola Jesus - Stridulum EP / Valusia EP
Zola Jesus is so tiny. Her voice is so not. Usually, because one of my favorite things is to impose stringent and unbreakable rules on myself, I do not allow EPs on my year end list. But I have to make an exception here, because holy shit. And I figure two EPs in one year an album makes, right? If you think Disintegration is the best album ever, but prefer Siouxsie Sioux to Robert Smith, you basically have no choice but to fall in love with Zola Jesus.

9. Damien Jurado - Saint Bartlett
I don’t think Damien Jurado has ever managed to put out even a mediocre record, but now he’s finally managed to release a near perfect one. Saint Bartlett exemplifies everything that is awesome about Mr. Jurado. He played at the Magic Stick with Shearwater recently, and it was just him and his guitar. I thought my heart was going to burst out of my chest.

10. Superchunk - Majesty Shredding
I’ll admit I’m still high from seeing Superchunk play the Magic Stick recently - nothing could have prepared me for them opening the show with the Magnetic Fields’ “100,000 Fireflies.” I was very close to peeing my pants. Especially since I refuse to pee at the Magic Stick under virtually any circumstances. Majesty Shredding is just as great as anything they've ever done.

11. The Juliets - The Juliets
When this record came out earlier this year, it reminded me so much of what I loved about Neil Hannon. The whole record is smart, melodic chamber pop without even a second of filler. Perfect sounds in our own back yard! I love Detroit.

12. Child Bite -
The Living Breathing Organ Summer
I suspect listening to The Living Breathing Organ Summer is a lot like taking a peek directly into Shawn Knight’s brain. Which makes me think it’s similar to how my brain operates when I’ve had a lot of cough medicine before bed. Except way more musically gifted and unhinged.

13. Bars Of Gold - Of Gold
I saw Bars Of Gold for the first time at Blowout at Small’s this past March, and their performance immediately brought to mind Jesus Lizard meets Fugazi. And that’s saying something. Also, “Heaven’s Got A Heater” is one of my favorite song titles ever.

14. Yeasayer -
Odd Blood
This is another record I don’t think I have to say a lot about. Other than apparently hipsters get it right sometimes. Totally managed to take the uncool sounds of the 80’s that I unabashedly loved anyway and make me unabashedly love them all over again.

15. Twin Shadow -
Despite my being fed up with “twin” bands (which includes both bands with the word “twin” in their name along with Tegan and fucking Sara), this record is too good to be denied. I can’t help but wonder if George Lewis Jr. listens to a strict diet of Morrissey, Xiu Xiu and OMD. If so, it’s working for him.

16. Robyn - Body Talk
I don’t know that the whole Pt. 1 and Pt. 2 and “oh, here’s like the partial combo of both of those and it’s just called Body Talk” deal was necessary (I do not like confusion!) but there is no denying the catchiness of these songs. It also helps that my nephew loves to shake it to Robyn.

17. Shearwater -
The Golden Archipelago
If Talk Talk had an ornithology bend to it. When I was living in Charlotte, NC I drove myself to see them play even though I was in the middle of passing a kidney stone and had no business leaving the house, let alone to go see a concert. It was totally worth it. Jonathan Meiburg’s voice makes me swoon.

18. Male Bonding -
Nothing Hurts
Considering how much punk rock I listened to this year, I’m somewhat surprised there’s not a few more noisy selections on my list. But these guys love Mudhoney, and they met while working at the same record store in London, so they’re obvious shoe-ins for my heart.

19. Stornoway -
Beachcomber's Windowsill
People have been going gay for this Mumford & Sons band this year, but those guys don’t hold a candle to Stornoway. Plus they have a song called ‘Zorbing.” Which is like, when you roll around in a ball for fun. Take that, stupid Mumford & Sons.

20. Tim Kasher -
The Game Of Monogamy
Tim Kasher is disillusioned with the modern relationship paradigm and he’s made a record about it! This record will be the perfect soundtrack to when you get around to tackling Jonathan Franzen’s Freedom over the holiday break.

There you have it! As I have done since I think 2002, I will be making a mix CD with one song from each one of these records... And you can have a copy if you want. Just be patient with me.


Scotter said...

I just heard Perfume Genius and really, really liked it. I've been looking for some fractured music that is in between Antony and the Johnsons (too operatic) and Xiu Xiu (sometimes too creepy), and I think this is it.

Kevin Maloney said...

The Fool - Warpaint
Stroke - Songs for Chris Knox - V/A
The Illustrated Garden - The Radar Bros.
Singles - The Screaming Females
Half Nelson Courtship - Puma
One-Armed Bandit - Jaga Jazzist
The Complete Novus & Columbia Recordings - Henry Threadgill
Grinderman 2 - Grinderman
Message From the Tribe - V/A
Teen Dream - Beach House

Jean-Luc Garbo said...

"If you think Disintegration is the best album ever, but prefer Siouxsie Sioux to Robert Smith, you basically have no choice but to fall in love with Zola Jesus" - good comparison. I'm mystified by the people let down by that Thermals album. I absolutely love it. The songs also show that they're good songwriters and not just some punks blowing stuff up thru sheer force of rock and roll. It's simply the other side of the coin to Now We Can See. I'd rather take a good album like this to an ambitious flop. Do you know if these people who complained about Personal Life bothered to find a good substitute and listen to Ted Leo's newest instead?

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