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The Year End List 2010

The Year End List. I think you can appreciate how we approach the obligatory list that publishes in December. We don’t use the words “best” for the end of the Gregorian calendar year wrap, and we don’t enumerate the list. Empirically ranking albums with some sort of number designation, coupled with superlatives, really trivializes such a mercurial entity as music. So we don’t do that. The Year End List is simply a reflection of albums that provided the most accurate representation of our aesthetics, embodying the songs most likely to receive rotation in the personal ghetto blaster for years to come, long after whatever 2010 fads (stupid band names being the most annoying) propagated themselves have long died out. While in the past we’ve differentiated between LPs and EPs, it seems more and more artists are choosing to release shorter EPs more often than the typical cycle of releasing a full length every two years. Hence, this list features any EP more than two songs alongside traditional 45-minute long players.

Honorable mentions include this year’s full lengths from Caribou, Tame Impala, Liars, Ty Segall, and The Radio Department. We wanted to include these records, but in the interest of brevity and making this list more manageable than 2009’s massive extravaganza (not to mention the aforementioned records already got lots of well-deserved love from other blogs), this year end list is kept to 30 releases, many of which may have flown under your radar.

The N.E.C. – Is
Within the first minute and a half of this Atlanta collective’s first major recorded statement, The N.E.C. lets you know where their loyalties lie, and they fight fervently on the side of Echoplex, complemented with triumphant percussion, total decibel damage, and guitars so crunchy that gallons of Korova milk couldn’t make that shit soggy.

It’s Right

CLOUDLAND CANYON – Fin Eaves
Fin Eaves is Cloudland Canyon transmitting your ears serious aural vitamin D – sunny, gorgeous, bombastic melodies coupled with balmy, foggy, deep reverb. 2008’s Lie In Light was large and cavernous, while Fin Eaves is engrossing and propulsive. The visceral, deceiving catchiness of oceanic dream pop movements like “No One Else Around” and “Yellow Echoesz” is subtle, understated, and richly melodic.

No One Else Around

WHITE HILLS – s/t
Scorching acid rock with a bit of ambience and psychedelic proto-metal flair that will sear your eyeballs and turn your brain into a cottonball. Repetitive, greasy, and pulsating with fuzz face guitar tones and primitive tribal rituals – don’t listen to White Hills on any sacred religious holiday. The shit is decidedly evil. Kid Millions of Oneida hits skins under the direction of Aleister Crowley, while Dave W’s acrobatic throat offerings toggle between gutteral and ethereal.

Dead

A SUNNY DAY IN GLASGOW- Autumn Again
Love ya’ll Glasgow! You know what I like. The 11-track LP doesn’t deviate much from 2009’s Ashes Grammar, and it doesn’t need to – nothing but wall to wall soaring, ethereal, cheekily-titled, glitchy dream pop with no additives or artificial coloring. It also glows in the dark. When I saw them at SXSW, I remember slamming Lone Star tallboys and smiling a lot before my fucking face melted off. The white-washed celestial head stew of “Drink Drank Drunk” might be the best pop song of the year.

Drink Drank Drunk

NO JOY – Ghost Blonde
Perhaps it’s the Khanate reference in their name, or perhaps it’s something completely intangible, but No Joy is not all about the good vibes that’s been repeated ad infium by their contemporaries. Sure, you could spin this record at the beach, but a visceral sesne of foreboding lurks under the hazy, murky sonic pallette. This isn’t dreamy, wistful beach pop. As a whole, Ghost Blonde is closer to a sort of sludgey doomgaze. Yet, they still masterfully craft crystalline four-minute pop songs. And therein is what makes No Joy exemplary.

Mediumship

BENOIT PIOULARD – Lasted
As with his previous work, Pioluard sounds like a sort of crestfallen yet benevolent being singing from inside a cavern – powerful hall-reverberated vocals over grainy, arboreal, abstracted moods, Anglo-folk instrumentation, and wistful, hauntological textures. This time around, Lasted’s songs are more focused and mature, with rich melodies that remain subtle for particularly rewarding results. Warm, cascading ambient pieces are peppered throughout, cultivating a cohesive and mercurial body of work. Lasted is a deeply emotional body of work.

Shouting Distance

SOARS – s/t
Soars’ silky and slow burning self-titled album offers a hazy half hour of cathartic sounds and elegant dream pop, all of which congeal into a meditative mood exploration. As such, there are no standout tracks; Soars crafted the rare album that resonates as a single piece. None of those crappy sythns or compressed beats that seem to be creeping into psychedelia these days – just beautifully sculpted guitar sounds, whispered vocals, and compelling melodicism. Simple instrumentation, profound result.

Throw Yourself Apart

WHITESAND/BADLANDS – Seeding the Clouds
This mysterious and shamanistic Minneapolis collective flew low under the radar and crafted a nearly perfect pop record. Ektachrome-tinted, jangly guitars and dreamy textures punctuates magnificent vocal melodies and a general sense of bombastic urgency. Orchestral without the pretense, gritty without the dissonance, Seeding the Clouds establishes a band that’s about to become a force to reckon with.

Angels on a Pinhead

DISAPPEARS – Lux
The songs you know and love from their accidental debut live album, Live Over the Rainbo, were even better than expected when officially laid to tape. Echo, tremolo, chugga chugga, shout, repeat – all caked in a metric shit-ton of warm analog reverb. Their simplicity borders on sublime brilliance.

Pearly Gates

SHEDDING – Tear in the Sun
U.S. Supreme Court justice Potter Stewart defined pornography in Jacobellis vs. Ohio by stating “I know it when I see it.” You can appropriate similar logic for evaluating ambient music. There’s a fine line between brilliance and banality, intriguing sounds and just dicking around with synths. But you know when it’s good, and Shedding’s full length is real fucking good, and infinitely more interesting than Brian Eno’s new one (with all due respect).

Perspective

TOTEM POLE – Caves and Tunnels, Mountains and Stairs
Caves and Tunnels Mountains and Stairs, is a haunting, distant, yet familiar collection of viscerally retro psychedelia, six songs that could easily provide the soundtrack to Valerie and Her Week of Wonders or a similar hyper-surrealistic dreamscape. Taking cues from hauntology, Morricone-style desolate moods, Vashti Bunyan brain-bending folk, and the hazy evocation of vaguem Paisley Underground aesthetics, Totem Pole is a brilliant cross-section of gorgeous sonic milieus and light pop accessibility.

Pointless Love Gallery

DEERHUNTER – Halcyon Digest
We at blog base camp never reviewed this record. There was no need, everyone was listening to it when it dropped. Deerhunter is a unifier. The indie pop dorks and the noise blowhards can both agree that Deerhunter is unequivocally clutch. It might even be fair to say they are the premiere American rock band. The group holds its title again this year with their most mature and emotional offering yet, showcasing the strengths of Bradford and Lockett in complete unison. This is a well-oiled machine, this Deerhunter band.

He Would Have Laughed

WISE BLOOD – +
Space is the place, as Stephen Hawking said, but the jury’s still out on Wise Blood’s thoughts on God (no Dishwalla). Doesn’t matter, Wise Blood continuously dropped secular shag music for the International Space Station throughout the year, carved out a truly new sound, and wins the award for most “dude I have no idea what the fuck is going on but this rules.” The manner in which this Pittsburgh champ sampled The Beatles was pretty ace as well.

STRT SRNS

DEPATTERNING – The Liminal Farm
Found sounds, twinkling analog melodies, woozy oscillators, disintegrated tape, and the sounds of the nature reinterpreted through the pulses of the national grid are Depatterning’s smoky sonic identity, replicating the sensation of wandering an unobstructed remote forest, or scanning the shortwave dial before the dawn breaks. The staples of what is considered hauntology – the old sci-fi sound effects and bumper music of ’50s and ’60s era nature films – are ever present, but it’s hunch, based on Garry Mentanko’s DIY approach, that these sculpted sounds are recreations of the source material, rather than direct samples of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop library. Excellence in library music indeed.

Uranium City, SK

ARIEL PINK’S HAUNTED GRAFFITI- Before Today
No duh this was gonna get rocked on the year end list. We were jockin’ the Pink back when he got booed off stage opening Animal Collective and Slint shows while most of y’all were busy springing chub for Bloc Party. But as Sir Dylan said “times they are a’changing,” and 2010 was arguably his year, for better or worse (gotta be careful what you wish for). Despite apprehensions some had about the move to 4AD and the new, more “listenable” direction the band hinted at when “Round and Round” dropped, Before Today delivers in a big way. Unlike Animal Collective when they dove head-first into pop music and gumballs, Ariel Pink maintained his latent strangeness to satisfy old fans while creating a body of (absurdly accessible) songs that will find a wider audience.

Revolution’s a Lie

THE BLACK ANGELS – Phosphene Dream
Alex Maas and company are no longer sharing their disturbing visions of war and snakes and bad trips from their desert vision quests – Phosphene Dream is, at various intervals, seeing these dark and damaged dudes throwing a super swinging beach party that J Spaceman may or may not be invited to. It’s a surprising recording. Predictability is the ultimate death rattle, and The Black Angels have proven they’re here for a while replete with tricks in sleeves – all while demonstrating a more distinct, sophisticated songwriting prowess. The Black Angles are no longer just prophets from the wrong time recreating niche rock and roll from the past – they’ve truly come into their own on this one.

River of Blood

WHITE FENCE – s/t
Combining art punk’s call and response with remnants of the period when every band, even the “square” ones with matching suits, had to have a least one vaguely psychedelic song, Darker My Love’s Tim Presley crafted a truly bizarre yet catchy body of painfully ignored destroyed-tape pop songs. Where baroque pop and the blank generation meet, you shall find White Fence.

The Gallery

THE BESNARD LAKES – …Are the Roaring Night
The Besnard Lakes are a lot of things. They are a Brian Wilson meets Slowdive type of hybrid organism. They are anthemic yet restrained. They mesh a mean falsetto and siren vocals against The Conet Project and pop dread. They are a band that does not sound like the fuckin’ Arcade Fire. They are the dark horse as well as the roaring night. They either have a tongue-in-cheek sense of humor or they really think a lot of themselves. They also do not fuck around. …Are the Roaring Night continues where …Are the Dark Horse left off, with added songwriting focus. Kids like me who came of age more on classic rock than punk rock have a special place in our hearts for The Besnard Lakes. I mean, look at the fuckin’ flaming sea!

Like the Ocean, Like the Innocent Pt. 1: The Innocent

GROWING – Pumps
The clairvoyant collective of sages and shamans, Growing, was first unleashed upon an unsuspecting Earth as an exercise in catastrophically loud guitar-based minimalism. With 2008’s All the Way, we saw the group move laterally into more focused, song-oriented, dynamic ambience. Their latest, the monolithic PUMPS, sees Growing at the end of their transformation into a fully polyrhythmic unit that retains their certifiably alien sound. Wringing their trademark drones and guitar tones trough intense tremolo, quick pans, and sampler splicers to cultivate a cacophony of driving rhythms, Growing has created an 8-song sci-fi score that I could conceivably see Burning Man patrons dancing to in the future. Distant future. But the time to become a disciple is now.

Hormone

DEVOLVER – Christs Lane
Is it possible to remain unquestionably obscure in the Internet age? Yes it is. Go find some tangible information on the shimmering and destroyed AM pop of Devolver, the clandestine Montreal duo who’ve quietly released songs since 1997. Christs Lane, their first release since 2003, offers up smooth, concise, and sparkling psychedelic pop songs caked in layers of worn copy Pram-evocative, spooky hauntological washes, like a ninth generation tape dub or a distant shortwave radio broadcast. Gorgeously comforting and remarkably unsettling at the same time, these dark, hook-laden spooky psych gems sound more like a mystic relic than an impeccably conceived bedroom pop record. It’s a fucking shame that these guys aren’t selling a billion albums… but then again, it’s their mystery that makes the discovery of Devolver that much more rewarding.

Careful

FOREST SWORDS – Dagger Paths
Lurching samurai vibes, phased vocal apparitions, and menacing bass lines are just a few of the disparate tricks that Forest Swords has up his sleeves. This savvy UK producer lays the groundwork with dark planetary dub-step akin to Not Not Fun affiliates and then decorates with ascending guitar lines that teeter between cloud-bursting ambiance and claustrophobic tension. It’s definitely not a go-to for any occasion, but if you feel like a spaced out trek up Desolation Peak and back, your ride is here.

Visits

HOLY FUCK – Latin
Holy Fuck is smart – melting your eardrums while you’re under the impression you’re having fun. The motorik precision and ethereal heaviness Holy Fuck has hinted at for years truly came into focus on Latin. Despite their lighthearted nature (the name helps for sure), Latin is a heady and complex record, reminding the troops that post-rock can totally be fun. It’s not all dystopian boogie, The Road, and dead flag blues.

Silva & Grimes

GHOST ANIMAL – Summertime in Heaven
There’s a beastly punch within the good vibes scuzzgaze of hard workin’ Ghost Animal that you don’t hear much in “lo-fi,” whatever that is. Ghost Animal rises above their hard-to-Google contemporaries with their acumen for hooks, general panache, and a driving reverberated surf metal stomp meets Link Wray thump that evokes early Jesus and Mary Chain or a sunny version of Loop if they visited a cheap studio, with stand-up caveman percussion to boot. Too boisterous for the Gorilla vs Bear set, too gritty for arena rock – Ghost Animal’s heavy dream destruction is full and soaring while maintaing the intimate graininess that fans of garage rock appreciate.

One Night

FOUR TET – There Is Love in You
A twitchy dub return-to-form, but with all of the perennial elements of Hebdan’s work from 1999’s Dialogue to present, There is Love…is a clever predictor of what the scene would sound like upon its completion. With the emergence of new-school dub steppers like Joy Orbison stealing the spotlight with their organic, staccato spin on a flat-lined genre, Four Tet re-emerges with a complete vision that anticipates this, then expands on it in ways only a seasoned mind could. The results are lucid and immersive. The pulse beat of a heart, a motif of his since early albums, is recreated by the hum of organic sounds carefully cut and expanded, orbiting around an invisible core like a mobile of samples. Voices curl and multiply, even the most obviously synthesized sounds are kneaded into an uncannily human vibe that only Four Tet can diffuse from the circuitboard.

Plastic People

EMILY REO – WITCH MTN
Sunny good-times Orlando doesn’t necessarily seem the type of milieu that begets sequestered and supremely haunting subterranean pop. But it did, and Emily Reo is decidedly in a league of her own. Simple synths, swells of tape warmth, junky drum machines, a touch of vibraphone, and distorted, melodic, post doo wop vocals certainly evokes Tickley Feather, Broadcast, and Grouper. However, Reo adopts a more cathedral-tinged approach to hauntology, as evidenced on the icy, aquatic WITCH MTN, as well as her ultra spooky covers of Built to Spill and Neil Young.

Above Ground and a Golden Cloud

SERENA MANEESH – Abyss in B Minor
Abyss in B Minor in no way resembles a rehashing of the swirly guitar movement. Sure, all the essential elements are there, even down to the blurry album art. However, there’s an intrinsic punk aura about the group, eschewing many of the trends that defined the tongue-in-cheek shoegaze term. There’s no detachment, no navel staring, no aloofness – Serena Maneesh is a rough around the edges, guttural collective. They will beat your ass. If you don’t believe that, exhibit A: they recorded this album in a cave outside Oslo. However, outside the album’s epic bookends, Abyss in B-Minor is a collection of pop songs, and each one is deceivingly brutal under the shimmering surface. If you could strip away the nasty gale of noise and fuzz that I imagine the apocalypse would sound like, you could possibly play this record around your folks. Eh, maybe not.

Reprobate

ARP – The Soft Wave
Alexis Georgopoulos’ ideas come fully into focus with The Soft Wave, an eclectic exploration of electronic and pop music that recalls shades of Eno, Cluster, and Belbury Poly. Expanding the palette of his crafty solo debut, Georgopoulos adds guitar and a surprising vocal presence to his trademark, modular synth-laden meditations. Balancing both lush and sparse arrangements, Arp cultivates high-minded, aerodynamic sonic vehicle sans pretension, informed equally by the academia of John Cage and the accessibility of Boards of Canada.

Pastoral Symphony / Dominoes / Infinity Room

BIG TROUBLES – Worry
Spirit warriors Big Troubles are brilliant and self-aware – from their Angelfire-hosted website to their New Jersey chic circa ’78 videos. The Olde English Spelling Bee upstarts brandish the fuzzed-out guitars and balmy blues pop vocals of Hawkwind and Psychocandy in one fell swoop whilst carving out their own distinctive fucked pop niche. Brain simmering and hummable, Big Troubles bring the fiesta without the kitsch.

Video Rock

J. IRVIN DALLY – Despistado
J Irvin Dally doesn’t have to convince you of his status as a nomadic wild-eyed prophet in dress and demeanor – the music does that on its own. Dally’s handful of home-recorded demos demolish the bedroom walls, creating expansive, adventurous, electric experimental folk. The foundation of Mr. Dally’s free floating dirges is built upon the aesthetics of torch ballads and Dally’s distinctive and rustic vocals, reaching upward toward the heavens in washes of ornate tape noise, reverb, and silky psychedelic textures. While many of his songs stay true to a cohesive vibe, you can subtly hear the dynamic range of Dally’s orchestrated yet understated songwriting, and it’s simply astounding.

Salt Water

ULAAN KHOL – III
Ulaan Khol’s III bounces about the space time continuum with great ease like a pandemensional cosmic ball. Sacred mystic moods and Ben Chasney-esque eastern modal tonalities fraternize with apocalyptic noise and ambient bliss blasts from the future. Both sides make a compromise by settling somewhere in ’70s lo fi freak outs a la early Can. Ulaan Khol is timeless not in the sense that he amalgamates genres from many movements or that he fails to convey what place in time his music exists, but rather, Ulaan Khol has no time. Does that make sense? I promise I’m not stoned.

Untitled 2

  • Alpo

    By far the best year end list I've encountered so far. Provocative, well encapsulated, highly educational, and just plain fun to listen to. I found several gems thanks to you. A tip of the hat for your fine presentation for us music junkies!

  • Alpo

    By far the best year end list I've encountered so far. Provocative, well encapsulated, highly educational, and just plain fun to listen to. I found several gems thanks to you. A tip of the hat for your fine presentation for us music junkies!

  • Justin Snow

    Awesome list. Nice high profile shit mixed with stuff I now know I need to scope out like Totem Pole, Shedding, and Depatterning. Although how come you put The Dark Horse album cover for The Roaring Night? Legit mixup or putting the nerds to the test? :)

  • kenny_bloggins

    Uploaded the wrong art… faaaaaiiillll

  • kenny_bloggins

    Uploaded the wrong art… faaaaaiiillll

  • simon

    nice list. thanks. a bit different to the average list that i'm tired of seeing this year. particularly liked the emily reo song.

  • kenny_bloggins

    Awesome! Thanks dude. Definitely wanted to show love to some artists that (unjustifiably) passed by a lot of music writers/bloggers this year.

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