Writing lists about music is a strange phenomenon. Comparing the complexities of BJ Nilsen to the swaggering exuberance of Big Boi is, frankly, a ludicrous endeavour. However, I do enjoy reading them. I’ve also found I enjoy writing them, or at least I’ve enjoyed listening back to all the great albums of the year. The cataloguing/journal-side of things is oddly satisfying too. In writing this, I realise I’ve probably listened to way too much music this year and could do with taking a bit more time with a choice few. It is all getting a bit obsessive. Anyway, the order can really be taken with a pinch of salt, they are all fantastic. Commence the hyperbole!
01 Erykah Badu – New Amerykah Part Two: Return Of The Ankh [Universal]
A lot of the music that appears on these pages is intrinsically experimental, often a little rough round the edges, on a journey to some place or another, not necessarily ‘a finished thing’. But this isn’t. On this record Badu sounds like she’s found her place in the grand scheme of things. This is as close to a perfect record as you could ever really need.
02 Keith Fullerton Whitman – Disingenuity / Disingenuousness [Pan]
Like hearing someone spontaneously exhale a lifetimes worth of memory, inspiration and emotion condensed into thirty thrilling minutes. Mister Whitman is a bleedin’ genius, everything he’s released this year has been unbelievably good.
03 B.J. Nilsen – The Invisible City [Touch]
Epic, intimate, totally beguiling. An astonishing achievement, creating sound that you feel you could wander around to examine its intricacies, a virtual metropolis of noise.
04 Forest Swords – Dagger Paths [Olde English Spelling Bee/No Pain In Pop]
Certainly newcomer of the year, made my memory nodes fizz whilst still exhibiting a truly original sound. Won’t forget the morning when I first heard ‘Miarches’ for a while. Very exciting music.
05 Sun Araw – On Patrol [Not Not Fun]
Intolerably intoxicating in the wrong moments, but when the mind is ready to tune in, it is a totally absorbing, complex delight. For a year that has been a bit overwhelmed by the slow-jam aesthetic, this record stands out a mile in terms of originality and pure groove.
06 Pan Sonic – Gravitoni [Blast First Petite]
Exhilarating intensity. Maybe not one to listen to often, but one you pay attention to when you are. With Pan Finale, probably the perfect ending for Mika Vainio & Ilpo Väisänen’s final release.
07 Big Boi – Sir Lucious Left Foot: The Son Of Chico Dusty [Def Jam]
Takes me back to the days when hip hop and skateboarding and hanging out on the top of carparks was pretty much everything. Totally ace.
08 Evan Caminiti – West Winds [Three Lobed Recordings]
This year’s Barn Owl (of whom Caminiti is half) LP was a wee bit disappointing (I had very high expectations). Caminiti’s solo work though is a brilliantly focussed affair; full of space, movement and texture. Anyone that says drone music isn’t emotionally stirring is incorrect.
09 Eleh – Location Momentum [Touch]
A suffocatingly dense monolith of obsessively pure noise. Totally beautiful, it’s very hard to explain why. If you are the sort of person who stops when passing a building site, or when some unexplained mechanical malfunction is occurring somewhere in the distance, to focus on a strange, articulated buzzing noise, you’ll probably understand. Play it loud and let it soak through you.
10 Yellow Swans – Going Places [Type]
One of drone’s finest finally call it a day. And, with it, they drag you painfully through a scorched landscape of such density and texture it leaves you a lacerated mess, a gloopy glob kneeling at the foot of music of great magnitude. It deserves better alliteration than this.
(much more below the line)
11 Flower Corsano Duo – You’ll Never Work In This Town Again [CD-r/No Label]
Two exceptionally talented musicians in a mind-blowing live set of psychedelic freakery; colliding and weaving rhythm patterns of shahi baaja and drumming, astonishing intensity.
12 Emeralds – Does It Look Like I’m Here [Editions Mego]
Kinda mixed feelings about this. Hugely anticipated following their exceptional year in 2009, it didn’t initially let me down. But as the year has gone on, I’ve found myself returning more often to their live recordings rather than this, the longer tracks and improvised format seems to suit them more. Whereas before you could totally lose yourself in the streams of euphoric chaos, this is more of a series of surprising corners. Still damn good and plenty of highlights.
13 Autechre – Oversteps / Move Of Ten [Warp]
Bit lazy really not splitting these up, but they seem to have grown from the same seed. Says something about the quality of music this year that one of my all time favourite acts can produce such a great record (see my ridiculously excitable review) and still be languishing outside the ‘top ten’ (whatever that actually means).
14 Keith Fullerton Whitman – Generator [Root Strata]
KFW invokes his array of synthesizers to say more bafflingly wondrous things.
15 Senking – Pong [Raster Noton]
Breakbeat rhythms and precision-hammered beats stretched out to expose flawless beauty. Bit of a late entry, not quite worked out *how* good this is. A lot of void to explore.
16 Sun City Girls – Funeral Mariachi [Abduction]
Another last-ever-recording, we have seen a lot of great bands split this year. Bit bonkers, but still significantly reigned in from other efforts, all part of the joy of Sun City Girls.
17 Chris Abrahams – Play Scar [Room 40]
Almost unrecognisable from his role in The Necks, this is album covers a heck of a lot ground. From simple organ pieces through to fractured electronics and waves of static, all loosely bound with his slow, deliberate piano phrases. Not what I was expecting, but a total delight to discover.
18 Philip Jeck – An Ark For The Listener [Touch]
Layers upon layers of texture. I imagine him piecing together these rich collages of vinyl and tape recordings covered in masking tape and Uhu.
19 Expressway Yo-Yo Dieting – Bubblethug [Weird Forest]
A pitch-shifted hip-hop blur, slowed down to expose a glory of textural bass detail. Beats and lyrics are occasionally allowed to surface, never quite becoming fully tangible, before they are dragged back down into the tranquilized stew. RIP DJ Screw.
No Spotify – but here’s an ace mixtape to give you an idea
20 The Fun Years – God Was Like, No [Barge]
Hugely refreshing to hear an album so free of gimmick in what has been a pretty gimmicky year. A beautifully restrained record of dazed, delicate structures that grows and grows.
And the next 20 : Demdike Stare – Forest Of Evil / Liberation Through Hearing / Voices Of Dust [Modern Love]; LA Vampires & Zola Jesus – LA Vampires Meets Zola Jesus [Not Not Fun]; Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti – Before Today [4AD]; Mark Fell – Multistability [Raster Noton]; Julian Lynch – Mare [Olde English Spelling Bee]; Oneohtrix Point Never – Returnal [Editions Mego]; Swans – My Father Will Guide Me Up A Rope To The Sky [Young God]; James Blackshaw – All Is Falling [Young God]; Erstlaub – Sleepwalking Into The Underworld [Highpoint Lowlife]; Umberto – Prophecy Of The Black Widow [Not Not Fun]; Master Musicians Of Bukkake – Totem Two [Important Records]; James Ferraro – Last American Hero [Olde English Spelling Bee]; Fenn O’Berg – In Stereo [Editions Mego]; The Black Dog – Music For Real Airports [Soma]; Actress – Splazsh [Honest Jon’s]; Suum Cuique – Midden [Young Americans]; Messages – After Before [De Stijl]; Dolphins Into The Future – Ke Ala Ke Kua [Kraak]; Sam Amidon – I See The Sign [Bedroom Community]; Autre Ne Veut – Autre Ne Veut [Olde English Spelling Bee]
Older releases newly discovered :
01 Shabazz Palaces – Of Light / Shabazz Places [No label]
Cannot, CAN-NOT, wait to hear the new album. Expected early 2011.
02 Stellar OM Source – Rise In Planes [Black Dirt Records]
So so so much better than anything else I’ve heard by them. A proper bit of intense kosmische.
03 Bill Orcutt – A New Way To Pay Old Debts [Palilalia]
Thanks, as ever, to the ace Mapsadaisical blog for pointing me in the direction of this one. Guitar boss.
04 Richard Youngs – Beyond The Valley Of The Ultrahits [Volcanic Tongue]
Richard Young’s takes on the role of a pop performer, managed to catch him perform the whole thing live this year which was a treat.
05 Ilyas Ahmed – Between Two Skies / Towards The Night [Digitalis]
Iraqi guitar noodling. I’m tired of writing now.