Sunday, January 02, 2011

The Best of 2010

It's time once again to round up my favourite albums of the year. There's a bit of a twist in this year's list: I'll say one thing for 2010 - there was a big pile of sensational heavy music on offer. I buy a substantial amount of music across a wide range of genres, but this year the high volume crew really tipped the scales in terms of quality crunch.

Cauchemar at the Avant-Garde Bar
Cauchemar at the Avant-Garde Bar, November 13, 2010

I could easily make a Top 10 list that was only metal. My favourite album of the past year was Darkthrone's Circle The Wagons, which ably combines the two kinds of metal I most favour right now: Motorhead and black metal. Also getting frequent spins were Dawnbringer's Nucleus; High on Fire's Snakes For The DivineAgony + Opium from Christian Mistress, Cauchemar's La Vierge Noire; Ash Pool's For Which He Plies The Lash; Slough Feg's The Animal Spirits; The Body's All The Waters Of The Earth Turned To Blood; classic metal fanatics Hammers of Misfortunes' The Bastard (I must also mention Ludicra's The Tenant, as the band feature Hammers guitarist John Cobbett); and Bison B.C.'s The Dark Ages makes an even 10 (not counting The Tenant). I could have switched plenty of places with offerings like The Enforcers' Diamonds, Torche's Songs for Singles, The Scorpions' excellent career-capper Sting In The Tail, Nachtmystium's Skinny Puppy-worshipping Addicts: Black Meddle Part II, Harvey Milk's A Small Turn of Human Kindness, Agalloch's Marrow of The Spirit, Kylesa's Spiral Shadow, Gnaw Their Tongues' L'Arrivee De La Terne Mort Triomphante, Tryptikon's Eparistera Daimones and Ratt's Infestation and on and on.

Ty Segall at Babylon
Ty Segall at Babylon, October 18, 2010

Phew! Well, it can't all be metal ... when I'm not inflicting permanent damage on my eardrums with metal, I'm inflicting permanent damage on my eardrums with fuzzy pop and psychedelica. If I were forced to nip my list down to Top 3, Best Coast's Crazy For You would undoubtedly be up there. Ty Segall's Melted was also up there. Also getting spins: Royal Bath's Litanies, Sonny and The Sunsets Tomorrow is Alright, Nobunny's First Blood, Wavves' King Of The Beach and Ariel Pink's Before Today. From a similar headspace I enjoyed Wild Nothing's Gemini, Perfume Genius' Learning, Girls' Broken Dreams Club EP,  Jaill's That's How We Burn and The Dum Dum Girls' I Will Be. No Joy's Ghost Blonde and Happy Birthday's self-titled release also tickled my fancy.

Mother's Children at Ritual
Mother's Children at Ritual, July 11, 2010

I have to say that this year was a very good for local bands, with standout releases from Year Zero and Mother's Children. The bands will just have to arm-wrestle for top spot (Michael Haddad can wrestle himself). The winner may have to go up against Jack Pelletier and The Battle of Ontario though - Friends and Lovers was another local triumph. Also making a big splash, at least as far as my eardrums were concerned were The White Wires' WWII, Peach Kelli Pop's debut, The Holy Cobras seven-incher ... and I would add the Steve Adamyk Band but strangely enough I haven't managed to get ahold of his album yet. On the freakier side of things were The Band Whose Name Is A Symbol's Biker Smell and Mark Alexander McIntyre's Situs Inversus Totalis. I also really enjoyed area expatriate Carlangas' Soul Stalker. I'm also eagerly awaiting the vinyl for Tokyo Sex Whale's Slammed.

Gramercy Riffs at Mavericks
Gramercy Riffs at Mavericks, August 26, 2010

There was also a bunch of top-notch recordings from Canadian bands in general. My favourite Canadian recording this year (aside from local folks) was another slit decision: Quest For Fire's Lights From Paradise really stuck with me, but so did Gramercy Riff's It's Heartbreak. I'm not going to attempt to decipher the discography of Red Mass, but I'm sure they released something this year I listened to and enjoyed. The Sadies knocked it out of the park with Darker Circles, and C'mon once again kicked ass with Beyond The Pale Horse. In a dancier vein I thought Diamond Rings' Special Affections lived up to the hype. Women's Public Strain was also great.

Leatherface at Babylon
Leatherface at Babylon, February 26, 2010

And then there's "the rest." My usual Top 10 list for also included stellar turns from Leatherface, whose Stormy Petrel was the equal of anything they've done before, Alejandro Escovedo's Street Songs of Love, Archandroid by Janelle Monae, Big Boi's Sir Lucious Left Foot - The Son of Chico Dusty; the ever reliable Shearwater's Golden Archipelago and Sharon Van Etten's stunning Epic. On the weirder side of things was Barn Owl's Ancestral Stars. I got a review copy of Screaming Females' Castle Talk, and dug it quite a bit - as I knew I would from the evidence of their live show at Zaphod's earlier this year. I've been snapping up all I can find from Zola Jesus, and Valusia was well worth the effort. I seem to be getting into the cold-wave thing; The Blank Dog's Land and Fixed and Cold Cave's Love Comes Close (okay, technically 2009) landed in my player. Another good sign: Personal favourites Belle and Sebastien, Drive-By Truckers and Spoon all released strong albums in Let's Talk About Love, The Big To-Do and Transference. More faves: Circle's Rautatie, Emeralds' Does It Look Like I'm Here; former Hellacopters' chieftain Nick Andersson's Imperial State Electric; Foxy Shazam's ridiculous ebullient self-titled effort ... I could go on, but I'm going to stop there (I'm not going to even talk about re-releases) because I must sleep. Who knows, maybe I'll have a part 2 in a week when I wake up and realize all the stuff I left off ....

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