I would like to open the ceremonies briefly by saying 2010 has been a good year for rock music. I wasn’t even forced to list reissues this year since there were so many great new albums! (And there were plenty of great reissues too). As there’s less and less money to be made in music, maybe we’re seeing more and more quality bands in it for the right reasons. And hopefully they’ll all one day make lots o’ money! ; )
Also keep in mind that I don’t listen to every album that comes out. I don’t even have a desire to do that. I just list the ones that I, Mike Newman, heard and loved in 2010. So please don’t ask why Kanye is not on this list…or the National.
Here are the 2010 albums that really did it for me (in no particular order, mind you)…
John Grant – Queen of Denmark : This album, a collaboration with Midlake, out on Bella Union Records, is so motherfucking good and emotionally powerful. But not in that played-out deep singer-songwriter kind of way, but in a way much more indescribable. Because isn’t that the way our lives are? At times transcendent, other times lonely, and other times straight-faced humourous…John Grant’s range shows what makes music so perfect: It’s ability to make the brutalist aspects of life bearable. Not to mention, as if designed just for me, there are plenty of great proggy keyboard flourishes! Own this album.
Mondo Drag – New Rituals : It seems like these young psych warriors came out of nowhere, and depending on how you view Iowa, that may just be true. A stunning and accomplished debut from a band that sound like they’ve been playing together for a decade. Locked in psychedelic magic.
Check ‘em out playing stripped-down on Beyond Beyond is Beyond on East Village Radio… Mondo Drag play Come Through on EVR
Wolf People – Steeple : Yeah man, these cats crept up on me too and released this phenomenal debut after showing a little promise with their Tidings EP. Well, it turns out Tidings was just some nice bits and pieces of what Wolf People have in their heavy duty arsenal. Sure, you hear all kinds of influences everywhere, especially Traffic and Cream, but what better stuff to be influenced by! And Wolf People don’t just do Xerox copies of their influences. These are all-new jams…that sound perfect in the 21st century.
Conspiracy of Owls – Conspiracy of Owls : I love this album. Made up of ex-members of awesome Detroit rockers The Go, as it says on the Burger Records website: “Conspiracy of Owls have created a mind blowing album of epic proportions!” My thoughts exactly! And you’re missing out if you don’t own it.
So grab the vinyl at Burger Records right here!
Endless Boogie – Full House Head : Please don’t say that rock is dead. You’re just looking in the wrong places…and you’re being too dramatic. And if you actually believe that rock is dead, then you haven’t heard Endless fucking Boogie.
Chooglin’ and churnin’…endlessly.
Mount Carmel – Mount Carmel : *Ditto to what I wrote above for Endless Boogie*
A true fuzzy blues-rock trio with absolutely zero ironic posturing. Thank god for bands like Mount Carmel, their fellow Columbus, Ohio rockers Main Street Gospel, and Endless Boogie who aren’t afraid to play killer long drawn-out guitar solos in what’s become a limp indie-rock environment.At least in my humble opinion.
The Besnard Lakes – The Besnard Lakes Are the Roaring Night : Jagjaguwar has put out some killer records in 2010 and this might be my favorite of them all. I like the Amazon description: “The album is a dark bliss-out that folds the eerie guitar epics of the Montreal band’s breakthrough into a wall of affected drones and atmospherics, but with a toughened immediacy and grit that gives the form a much-needed shove over the cliffs, making for a haunting, provocative swan dive into the crushing tide.” That’s what I wouldn’t have been able to say quite as well! Saw them live in 2010 and it was one of my favorite shows. I hope these cats are here to stay for many many more years!
Masters of Reality – Pine/Cross Dover : Do you know about Masters of Realty? Do you know Chris Goss? Do you know he’s the mastermind behind Masters of Reality and that he produced Kyuss and Queens of the Stone Age? And did you know that I like his albums better than I like those albums? Why do I keep asking you questions? What’s wrong with me?
Trippy, rocking, melodic, swinging, majestic, psychedelic, pounding.
Field Music – Measure : This one is addictive just like your favorite Steely Dan or Supertramp album. Great pop hooks everywhere, snappy arrangements, beautiful vocal harmonies, smart lyrics that ain’t overly clever, and guitars that occasionally even snarl at you. Makes me think of Lol and Kev a lot too! Not many folks are making records like this these days, treading the line between indie rock and classic rock. But Field Music’s swing is enough to tell you which way they lean.
Steve Hackett – Out of the Tunnel’s Mouth : There aren’t so many prog heroes these days that are still making the same kind of mind-blowing music that they made in their prime, but Steve Hackett (ex-Genesis guitarist, in case you don’t know) is a big exception. Many are calling ‘Tunnel’s Mouth’ his best solo work of his career. I don’t know enough about all of his solo ventures to make that claim, but I do know that this is a thoroughly solid and engaging progressive rock album that doesn’t sound at all dated or embarrassing.
Tame Impala – Innerspeaker : I guess it seems so strange to me that this kind of great psychedelic music would become so popular. But that doesn’t change the fact that this is a fantastic new psychedelic album. And I guess it’s good to know that people who might not usually listen to psych music are able to dig this. I’m telling ya, music’s seeing a rebirth…moving further away from the business model and inching closer to the creative. Or maybe I’m reading too far into things. What the fuck ever, this album is tasty psych bubblegum…so getcher chew on!
Velcro Lewis Group – White Magick Summer : This is a band I stumbled on at the end of the year, somewhere in November, and what a great stumble! White Magick Summer if full of foot-stompin’, R&B-tinged, bloozy-rockin’ hooters and hollerers. Pure rhythm and power from Chi-town.
Check out their killer Daytrotter session from October and then try to resist buying the album!
Dungen – Skit I Allt : Every year that Dungen makes a new album, it will certainly make my year-end ‘Best Of’ list simply because these psychedelic Swedes are all about quality. Still refusing to record albums in English, this is the kind of music that you don’t need translated. To me it always translates to beautiful, transcendent rock & roll.
Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti – Before Today : I gotta say, I’m so happy that Ariel Pink decided to upgrade his lo-fi aesthetic to medium-fi. I had been a fan of his super-hooky bizarro-pop style for several years, but I just don’t have it in my constitution to be able to listen to those lo-fi recordings for more than a song or two. It was like listening to Hall & Oates on acid via my neighbor’s stereo through a plaster wall. If ‘Bright Lit Blue Skies’ isn’t one of the best tunes of the year, then ‘Round and Round’ is. Super-addictive in a great way.
Jack Rose – Luck in the Valley : Well sadly enough, the world lost a great guitar talent in Jack Rose in December 2009 to a heart attack at the young age of 38. Crazy. He was quite the picker and this album is full of amazing acoustic Americana. Thrill Jockey also released Jack’s final recordings that were done with D. Charles Speer and the Helix, and you’ll want to own that EP too, so here’s a link to Ragged and Right!
AND HERE ARE SOME OTHER ALBUMS THAT I LOVED IN 2010 THAT MUST BE MENTIONED (that are just as good as the records above but I just couldn’t do all the work of fully listing 30 albums, geez, gimme a break) :
Main Street Gospel – Love Will Have Her Revenge (Tee Pee)
Barn Owl – Ancestral Star (Thrill Jockey)
Citay – Dream Get Together (Dead Oceans)
Sleepy Sun – Fever (Dead Oceans)
Cornershop – Judy Sucks a Lemon for Breakfast (Ample Play)
Black Angels – Phosphene Dream (Blue Horizon)
Charlie Alex March – Home/Hidden (Lo Recordings)
White Noise Sound – s/t (Alive)
Phosphorescent – Here’s To Taking It Easy (Dead Oceans)
The Lovetones – Lost (Planting Seeds)
La Otracina – Reality Has Got to Die (Holy Mountain)
The Electric Mess – s/t (self-released)
The Growlers – Hot Tropics (Everloving)
Runaway Suns – Emerald Door (self-released)
Hacienda – Big Red & Barbacoa (Alive)
Blitzen Trapper – Destroyer of the Void (Sub Pop)
Black Keys – Brothers (Nonesuch)
The Greenhornes – **** (Third Man)
What else am I missing? What are your faves o’ the year? Lemme know below…