Humbled by a venerable WWLN tradition, I submit to you, dear reader, my best of 2010 in no particular order. I just checked and the grand tally is just under 33 gigs of music this year. Is that a lot or a little? Not all of the albums below came out this year (though most did), it’s just this year that I got hip to them.
Megafortress: Stumbled into Zebulon one night after being ambushed by giant litres of beer at Radegast and this dude blew my mind. In 2010 I spent many a night at Zebulon checking out the experimental music they tend to feature early in the week, never a cover charge, across the street from my apartment in Williamsburg, that dynamic itself was a musical highlight in 2010 for me. Anyway, Megafortress is Bill Gillam and it’s just him sitting Indian style in front of a whole row of effects, he’s got some flute-like mic and he gets these deep Gregorian monk vocals going over god-like electronic pulses and it’s pretty amazing. You can download his EP off myspace and he posts stuff a lot on his soundcloud page.
Koen Holtkamp, Field Rituals: Koen H. is one half of the ambient duo Mountains, if you like their stuff you’d like this, I listened to it a lot in 2010.
Deerhunter/Atlas Sound: I saw Atlas Sound, Deerhunter lead singer Bradford Cox’s solo project, at the Bell House last Saturday night. Dude has marfan syndrome, is often in drag, and is kind of freaky looking. He’s also super-talented, kind of a weird shaman. I’m scared of him and awed by him. I like Deerhunter, but they are kind of hit or miss to me. “Fountain Stairs” is the catchiest thing they’ve written and I loved that song right away, and “Earthquake”, the first track off their new album, Halcyon Digest, became one of my favorite songs of the year (the hissing sounds, the weird electric/acoustic robot guitar, the underwater vocals). But I’m not crazy about the whole album. I’m a bigger fan of Atlas Sound, which has some great "songs" but is half brilliant ambient music. I didn’t know what to expect live, but thought he’d actually have a few people playing with him. But it was just him solo, acoustic guitar through effects and a harmonica and vocals. Fucking amazing, I’ve never seen someone make music that way. The Bell House was sold out and people we’re hanging on every moment (see attached photo), you could hear a pin drop between songs, the whole place waiting on every weird mumbled sentence Cox uttered, the bashful weird kid, effeminate and bullied, who became a rock god.
The Black Keys, Brothers: These guys just put out good albums, great driving music. “Everlasting light” and “Sinister Kid” are best of 2010 status.
Kurt Vile, God is Saying this to You: I like the other Kurt Vile albums but I like his acoustic low-fi stuff a lot more than his full-on rock band. Great song-writer, manages to be weird and still write killer melodies. “My Sympathy” and “My Best Friends”, top 2010 tracks.
Storm & Stress, Under Thunder and Fluorescent Light: This is a band from the early 2000s I think, a trio with the unique Kevin Shea on drums. Kevin plays in dozens of bands and is one of the most deeply weird and distinctive musicians I’ve ever been around. Word is he hates Storm & Stress now, despising it’s hipster indie-rock milieu, and he’s certainly now moved into way more bizarre territory. This year one of the most memorable shows I saw was a show he put on at the Kitchen, the famous Chelsea performance space. My friend Tim Dahl came out in a platinum wig to “Move Bitch” and got on a platform where a synthesizer and mic awaited him and rapped along with Ludacris to start things off. The rest of the crew came out, including a bassist dressed as Jesus, and they basically destroyed pop music for an hour, all with a screen of the movie 300 and it’s scenes of gore violence going on silently at the front of the stage. It was alternately excruciating and hilarious, but also had moments of musical synchronicity, as the stillborn child of melody occasionally peered it’s head out of the abortion that actually was the music. Anyway, I first heard Storm & Stress this year, and to me it’s more jazz on the thrill-jockey tip than it is indie-rock. Check out the band and also all of Kevin Shea’s shit.
Child Abuse, Cut & Run: another local act, Tim Dahl’s main band, a few of their shows make my top 2010 list and their album came out this year as well. No one really knows what to make of these guys. They tour with metal bands sometimes but they are not really metal; I’ve heard some extreme math rock bands that sound a little like them, but the screaming vocals and laser-sounding synth take it out of that area; and beneath it all there is a core of avant-composers like John Cage or Stockhausen. Not music to be taken lightly.
Tallest Man on Earth, The Wild Hunt: Great album, and one of best shows of the year was this guy’s show at Webster Hall. Sweden’s pride, Kristian Matsson, is getting a lot of recognition and all of it is well deserved.
Future Islands, In Evening Air: Another memorable show that introduced me to a band this year. Saw these guys at Death by Audio on my birthday. Death by Audio is a total dive, wires hanging from the ceilings, weird bathrooms; off-label whiskey, PBR cans and cheap red wine are sold from a table in the back. Future Islands are a trio from Baltimore, animal collective meets Danzig, ecstatic crowd, small venue, great time.
Local Natives, Gorilla Manor; The Morning Benders, The Big Echo: I was listening to both these albums in the spring a lot, both debuts, really solid. One of my best memories of 2010 is listening to the Morning Benders (and lots of dub) in Jamaica at a friend’s wedding with a huge spliff, seaside.
Das Racist, Bike for Three!, Blakroc: These were the only three albums/bands (in that order) that hit my radar hard in terms of hip hop.
Washed Out, Twin Shadow, Neon Indian: I actually got Neon Indian at the end of 2009, but I listened to a lot of electronic stuff like this in 2010. Twin Shadow’s “Tyrant Destroyed” and “Castles in the Snow” are on my top tracks list, as is Washed Out’s “Feel it All Around”.
Spoon, Transference: They just put out quality album after quality album, “Who makes you money” is one of my favorite tracks of the year.
Warpaint: I guess their debut album was self-released in 2008 (and is either self-titled or called Exquisite Corpse), their latest, The Fool, came out this past fall, but I got both this year and I’m a fan of this band.