Here are some things I enjoyed in 2010:
Sun City Girls, âFuneral Mariachiâ (Abduction)
Part of the Sun City Girls’ appeal for me was always their unpredictability, their total refusal to play by anyoneâs rules but their own. Â So it was fitting then, not only as a tribute to the late Charles Gocher, that the final statement from this one-of-a-kind trio was the most beautiful and emotionally direct work in their long and influential career.
Ulaan Khol, “III” (Soft Abuse)
Woods, âAt Echo Lakeâ (Woodsist)
Phantom Payn Days, “Phantom Payn Daze” (De Stijl)
“Razend Zand” from Razen, “Razen/Sheldon Siegel” split (Kraak)
An absolute cooker of a track from this Belgian duo that brings together a very unique Eastern European/Ethiopiques ethnic psych pulse with a sort of noir crime jazz feel to it. Â I found myself playing this song quite often and adding it to mixes with tracklists that looked roughly like this:
âTreading Waterâ from Naked on the Vague, âHeaps of Nothingâ (Siltbreeze)
âWaterfallâ from The Fresh & Onlys, âPlay It Strangeâ (In The Red)
âParadox Boxâ from Phantom Payn Days, âPhantom Payn Dazeâ (De Stijl)
âMomâs Houseâ from Donovan Quinn & the 13th Month, âYour Wicked Manâ (Soft Abuse)
âEarsâ from Julian Lynch, âMareâ (Olde English Spelling Bee)
âCollapsing Starsâ from Richard Youngs, âBeyond the Valley of Ultrahits” (Jagjaguwar)
âEverythingâ from Lil B, âRain in Englandâ (Weird Forest)
âTreesâ from Gate, âA Republic of Sadnessâ (Ba Da Bing)
âC.G. Maskâ from Rene Hell, âPorcelain Operaâ (Type)
âDear Heartbeatâ from Darkstar, âNorthâ (Hyperdub)
âHoneyâ from Altar Eagle, âMechanical Gardensâ (Type)
âThe Stakeoutâ from Sun Araw, âOn Patrolâ (Not Not Fun)
âLi Raja Behawakomâ from Omar Souleyman, âJazeera Nightsâ (Sublime Frequencies)
[Insert Razen track here]
Forest Swords, âDaggar Pathsâ (Olde English Spelling Bee)
I was a bit surprised when I initially heard this album as it definitely cut against the âOlde English Spelling Bee soundâ that I had wrongfully pigeonholed. Forest Swords deal in dark, atmospheric dubstep productions with very minimal, post-punkish elements that make for a rather cool, nod-yourself-into-a-trance listening experience.
Dire Wolves, “Jams and the Giant Peace” (Stunned)
Shahs, âDry Heat/Valley Lowâ (The Riley Bushman Recordings & Archives)
Heavy duty double vinyl, heavy duty gatefold jacket, and heavy duty guitar explorations from this member of Emeralds, which fortunately didnât disappear into limited cassette run oblivion thanks to Weird Forest.
Rob Jo Star Band, “Rob Jo Star Band” (Pomme)
The Fuckin’ Flyin’ A-Heads, “Swiss Cheese Back” 7″ (De Stijl)
Ron House, “Blind Boy in the Backseat” (Columbus Discount)
Best Various Artists Compilation
“Compilation #1″ (La Station Radar)
An hour-plus rush of damaged pop and general outsider sounds from this kickass French label whose scope and vision reaches far and wide, making the distance between France and Iowa City seem fairly minuscule.
âRegolith Vol. 1â (Moon Glyph)
âThe BYG Dealâ (Finders Keepers)
âFoundation Stones: The Stunned Boxâ (Stunned)
âFoundation Stonesâ is a modest, yet abundant, milestone release from this consistently brilliant label, bringing together twelve of their key out-of-print titles that highlight just how diverse the label truly is.
Alphabets “Alphabox” (Digitalis)
Richard Youngs & Simon Wickham-Smith “20 Years” (VHF)
Best Cover Art
Bored Fortress 7â Club â Year Four (Not Not Fun)
Despite having different artists do each of the sleeve designs, I really liked the overall look of this series, including the individualized stickers that adorned each of the six releases and the larger rendering of those images on the florescent poster that came tucked inside the last batch. I must say, though, that I am a bit partial to the Carlos Gonzalez colored pencil drawings on the High Wolf/Taterbug sleeve.
Any/all releases that Stunned puts out.
Best Vinyl Only
Wet Hair / Naked on the Vague split 12″ (Night People)
Probably the strongest and most concise song-based material Iâve heard yet from either of these groups, which came pressed on lovely clear vinyl and was accompanied by Shawn Reedâs always eye-catching graphic design work.
Century Plants/Locrian, âDissolversâ (Tape Drift)
Sparkling Wide Pressure, âFields and Stringâ (Digitalis)
Best CD-R Only
Lee Noble, “Creeping Death Fever” (La Station Radar)
Lee Noble is THE SHIT. Not only is he one of the more interesting soundscape artists out there, but he goes and drops this perfect little collection of scruffy rock and electro-pop tunes on us, going all Thin White Duke in the process.
Black Eagle Child, “Poland” (Sturmundrugs)
Pumice, âWorldwide Gulletâ (Nyali Recordings)
Best Cassette Only
Warm Climate, “Camouflage on the River Wretched” (Stunned)
âCamouflage on the River Wretchedâ was the one release that truly blew me away this year and in many respects was my favorite album. Â 2010 may have been the year of âhypnagogic popâ or âchillwave,â but for me it was WARM CLIMATE: a genre unto themselves.
Donato Epiro, “Supercontinent” (Stunned)
Konntinent, âArev Bennâ (Sweat Lodge Guru)
Lee Noble, âOur Star, The Sunâ (Moon Glyph)
Best Live Show
Legendary Stardust Cowboy & The Fleshtones @ The Red Sky Lounge, Mankato
A college/community radio sponsored event that provided one of the most surreal live music experiences of my life. Â The Ledge is a bit of a legend around these parts, and he tore it up (and off) with his band that included former Dead Kennedy member Klaus Flouride. Â I still chuckle at the thought of the random passerby who may have encountered the olâ Cowboy on the streets of âKato in his Dark Knights and cowboy boots. Â Yr darn tootinâ it was a memorable evening.
Low @ Varsity Theatre, Minneapolis
I was driving around in the late summer with the windows down blasting Altar Eagleâs âMechanical Gardensâ and singing along like a little school girl to a J. Beibz tune. Â Iâm not quite sure if B. Rose is as strategically groomed, but I am certain that the captains of the good ship Digitalis provided one of the yearâs biggest surprises for me.
Iâm writing this here list one day after I heard the news of Captain Beefheartâs passing. Â This isnât necessarily the biggest disappointment for me, but I know that I wouldnât be sitting here writing this at all were it not for the music he created.
I was excited by the Rangers making the World Series, but I was a bit nonplussed by the “Suburban Tours” album they made. Â A .275 team batting average may be good enough for post-season play, but frankly isn’t enough hits on record, especially with no home runs. Â Is Ariel Pink up for free agency?