That Was the Year That Was

2010 was the year I gave up. That is, I gave up trying to rank music: I’ve never been yr stereotypical list-maker, but in past years, in December and January I’ve dutifully attempted to rank, or at least tier, the music I’d spent the past year listening to, primarily to put together my year-end mixes.

It was always a sort of iffy exercise: when I go back to older lists, I’m always surprised at how highly I rated certain items that I now rarely listen to, how I ignored titles I now love…and of course how many items I simply hadn’t owned yet when I put the list together. But this year…instead of any sort of ranked list, I’ve simply placed a bunch of albums in categories, with the occasional remark. (Note: most of my year-end…uh, year-change…music mixes focus on songs rather than albums; this one is all about which albums I paid most attention to.) The mix I put together is drawn from these albums…but its 25 selections are not necessarily from my 25 favorite albums (I’m not sure what those are): there are definitely albums I liked better than some of the albums represented in the mix.

Anyway, here goes…bolded tracks are on the year-end album mix, I Meme Mine:

Four excellent albums that most polls have forgotten because they came out very early in 2010:

  • Ted Leo & the Pharmacists The Brutalist Bricks
  • The Magnetic Fields Realism
  • The New Pornographers Together
  • Spoon Transference

Five albums that are on nearly every year-end poll, which I also think are pretty spiffy:

  • Belle and Sebastian Write About Love
  • Deerhunter Halcyon Digest
  • LCD Soundsystem This Is Happening
  • Janelle Monáe The ArchAndroid
  • The National High Violet

Ten albums that weren’t as good as expected (not necessarily bad, either):

  • The Apples in Stereo Travelers in Space and Time
  • Arcade Fire The Suburbs
  • Blonde Redhead Penny Sparkle
  • Caribou Swim
  • Black Francis Nonstoperotik
  • Robyn Hitchcock & the Venus 3 Propellor Time
  • Interpol Interpol
  • Seeland How to Live
  • Stereolab Not Music
  • These New Puritans Hidden

Five albums that were much better than expected:

  • Beck’s Record Club Kick (full-album INXS cover, free online download: track 7, Sad Keanu Is Everywhere)
  • Roky Erickson with Okkervil River True Love Cast Out All Evil (mainly because the pairing at first seemed…bizarre…but you know what? It worked.)
  • The Posies Blood/Candy (I’d sort of lost touch and slightly given up on the Posies…) track “Notion 99”
  • Vampire Weekend Contra (After the first album’s hype considerably outweighed its songs’ musical merits, I was ignoring this release until, for once, one of Momus’s recommendations bore fruit: spirited, broad-ranging, experimental) track “Cousins”
  • Paul Weller Wake Up the Nation (After a couple of friends both gave this rave recommendations—one comparing it to Bowie’s Low—I felt compelled to check it out. And you know what? It’s really good: sonically all over the map, with its mix of lots of short songs potentially disorienting, but it keeps improving in my ears.) track “7&3 Is the Striker’s Name”

Nine albums from musicians that predictably make my lists, if not that many other folks’:

  • The Books The Way Out
  • The Chap Well Done Europe (album cover of the year) track “We Work in Bars”
  • Clinic Bubblegum track “Lion Tamer”
  • The Fall Your Future, Our Clutter
  • Field Music Field Music (Measure) track “Each Time Is a New Time”
  • Brad Laner Natural Selections track “Little Death”
  • Liars Sisterworld
  • The Mitchells The Secret Sounds track “Charts and Graphs”
  • School of Seven Bells Disconnect from Desire (a slight letdown: a bit more straightforward and harmonically less adventurous than their previous work, but still excellent) track “Camarilla”

Eight albums from musicians that probably aren’t on many such year-end lists: should be far less obscure:

  • Agony Aunts Greater Miranda track “Linus’s Fists of Death”
  • Darker My Love Alive As You Are (track 1, Fukkin’ Magnets…How Do They Work?)
  • Serena Maneesh No. 2: Abyss in B Minor track “Melody for Jaana”
  • Sonoi Sonoi (ex-Manishevitz: track 19, Pants on the Ground)
  • Soviet League Soviet League (Ben Eschbach from The Sugarplastic and Matthew Kelly from The Autumns) track “The Mirror”
  • Suuns Zeroes QC (At first, they were the world’s most-scarily-similar Clinic tribute band—and this song is pretty Clinical—but they have many other tricks up their collective sleeves: worth watching.) track “PVC”
  • Violens Amoral (Ex- Lansing-Dreiden among others…) track “Full Collision”
  • The Wagner Logic The Wagner Logic (Few bands are from more nowhere than these guys: a small town in Alaska. Their publicity/deservedness ratio is strongly the reverse of another small-town Alaska export: track 1, Full-On Double Rainbow All the Way Across the Sky!)

Four Milwaukee releases worth paying attention to:

  • The Mike Benign Compulsion Rollicking Musical (This is actually one of the more worthy releases of the year…although the band is much better live: sometimes the production here is a bit overdone.) track “The Soothing Sounds of Seals & Crofts”
  • Clean Hands Undone (ep) (track 1, Rent Is Too Damn High)
  • Fever Marlene The Way We Broadcast (ep)
  • Juniper Tar The Howl Street EP

Five albums that involve friends involved in writing, performing, or the album’s distribution…which I’d rank highly regardless:

  • Anton Barbeau The Psychedelic Mynde of Moses track “Reasonable Freq.”
  • The Bye Bye Blackbirds Tour E.P. 2010
  • Paula Carino Open on Sunday track “Road to Hell”
  • Miles Kurosky The Desert of Shallow Effects track “Dead Language Blues”
  • Statuesque Reader, I Curried Him

Five releases featuring the ever-busy Robert Pollard:

  • Boston Spaceships Camera Found the Ray Gun (ep)
  • Boston Spaceships Our Cubehouse Still Rocks
  • Circus Devils Mother Skinny
  • Robert Pollard Moses on a Snail
  • Robert Pollard We All Got Out of the Army

Five fine EPs:

A whole bunch of other 2010 releases that I enjoyed listening to:

Superchunk Majesty Shredding (track “Crossed Wires”), Joanna Newsom Have One on Me (still haven’t fully absorbed this one…), The Besnard Lakes The Besnard Lakes Are the Roaring Night, Mark Eitzel Klamath (limited release: track “Like a River That’s Reaching the Sea”), Los Campesinos! Romance Is Boring (track “The Sea Is a Good Place to Think of the Future”), Owen Pallett Heartland (track “Lewis Takes Off His Shirt”), Pernice Brothers Goodbye, Killer (track “The Great Depression”), The Like Release Me (track 12, Full-On Double Rainbow All the Way Across the Sky!), The Walkmen Lisbon (track “Woe Is Me”), Women Public Strain (track “Narrow with the Hall”), Adam Franklin & Bolts of Melody I Could Sleep for a Thousand Years, Elvis Costello National Ransom, Kathryn Calder Are You My Mother? (track 22, Fukkin’ Magnets…How Do They Work?), The Autumn Defense Once Around, The Sadies Darker Circles (track 25, Full-On Double Rainbow All the Way Across the Sky!), The Whitsundays Saul (track 3, Fukkin’ Magnets…How Do They Work?), Broken Bells Broken Bells, Brian Eno with Jon Hopkins & Leo Abraham Small Craft on a Milk Sea, Holly Miranda The Magician’s Private Library, Jody Porter Close to the Sun (track 23, Fukkin’ Magnets…How Do They Work?), MGMT Congratulations, Momus Hypnoprism, Wolf Parade Expo 86, A Sunny Day in Glasgow Autumn, Again, The Baseball Project Broadside Ballads (track 25, Full-On Double Rainbow All the Way Across the Sky!), Danger Mouse, Sparklehorse et al. Dark Night of the Soul, Grass Widow Past Time, Jesca Hoop Hunting My Dress, Laetitia Sadier The Trip, Les Savy Fav Root for Ruin, Of Montreal False Priest, Oneohtrix Point Never Returnal, Outrageous Cherry Seemingly Solid Reality, Philip Selway Familial, Pop Winds The Turquoise (track 5, Full-On Double Rainbow All the Way Across the Sky!), Retribution Gospel Choir 2, Richard Thompson Dream Attic, Robert Plant Band of Joy, Solex vs. Cristina Martinez + Jon Spencer Amsterdam Showdown, King Street Throwdown, Tame Impala InnerSpeaker, The Break Church of the Open Sky, Tokyo Police Club Champ, Viernes Sinister Devices (track 19, Fukkin’ Magnets…How Do They Work?).

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3 Comments

Filed under 2010, noise

3 responses to “That Was the Year That Was

  1. Whoo hoo! been waiting for this.

  2. PC

    This is awesome. I like the de-rankification. And thanks for the mention!

  3. JJRJ

    Whoa whoa what? New album by The Mitchells? I have to get this. Thank you for mentioning it.

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