Monday, December 20, 2010

2010 Album Index 50-31


Before the oncoming review/hyperbole, I think it might be good to review the past few years lists.

11. Kiss Kiss | The Meek Shall Inherit What's Left 4.5-stars
10. note. | my city of ghosts, stars and hours 4.5-stars
9. Local Natives | Gorilla Manor 4.5-stars
8. Long Distance Calling | Avoid the Light 4.5-stars
7. Pure Reason Revolution | Amor Vincit Omnia 4.5-stars
6. Umphrey's McGee | Mantis 4.5-stars
5. dredg | The Pariah, the Parrot, the Delusion 4.5-stars
4. The Dear Hunter | Act III: Life and Death 4.5-stars
3. Mew | No More Stories 4.5-stars
2. Soundscape | Grave New World 5-stars
1. Kevin Gilbert | Nuts/Bolts 5-stars

8. Kacica | Mosaic 4.5-stars
7. Wolf Parade | At Mt.Zoomer 4.5-stars
6. Mutyumu | Ilya 4.5-stars
5. Bend Sinister | Stories of Brothers, Tales of Lovers 4.5-stars
4. Burst | Lazarus Bird 4.5-stars
3. Ours | Mercy (Dancing for the Death of an Imaginary Enemy) 5-stars
2. The Stiletto Formal | !Fiesta, Fiesta, Fiesta, Fiesta! 5-stars
1. Apes and Androids | Blood Moon 5-stars

10. 3 | The End is Begun 4-stars
9. Karnivool | Themata (US) 4-stars
8. In Vain | The Latter Rain 4.5-stars
7. Kiss Kiss | Reality vs. the Optimist 4.5-stars
6. House of Fools | Live and Learn 4.5-stars
5. Fair to Midland | Fables From a Mayfly: What I Tell Three Times is True 4.5-stars
4. Oceansize | Frames 4.5-stars
3. Between the Buried and Me | Colors 5-stars
2. The Dear Hunter | Act II: The Meaning of and All Things Regarding Ms.Leading 5-stars
1. Kaddisfly | Set Sail the Prairie 5-stars

So, looking at those lists, each year had something great about it. 2007 had a really nice race between the top 3-6 records especially. 2008 had 1 record come out of nowhere, and then a couple of records coming in late that have been staples since. And 2009, while wasn't filled with perfection, had a lot of depth.

2010? sort of was not as deep nor not quite as top-heavy. It was a year where 1 record did kind of come out of nowhere, and another even before it was rather impressive. And then the rest of the year nothing really gave a hint of getting close.

Maybe I'm selfish or picky to want a race? I dunno. I do know, I found myself hunting and hunting (or hoping often) that something would blow me away this year, and while some of the records surprised me, and new bands showed up on my radar, it really didn't have quite the drama or memorable competition that those last 3 years did I guess.

I must not forget, 2010, will also be known, a bit like 2006. There was 1 record I got to hear in 2006, that got pushed back until 2007. That record was Kaddisfly's Set Sail the Prairie. And 2006 really was the last weak year I have felt for new albums, until 2010. Had the Kaddisfly album been included, it would have made 2006 seem a fair amount better. 1 great record can do that. And 2010, the same sort of thing happened. A great record (although I'd question if it'll ever get to the level of that Kaddisfly album, but who knows) I got to hear for many months, knowing it was pushed back until the next year.

In other words, 1 album would have certainly helped the depth and the way I see 2010 now. But as a result, that record will make 2011 all the more better. And 2007 was all the more better with the Kaddisfly record being included. So we'll see.

But I suppose 2010 will be known, from my experience, for a few things. The djent fad in Metal. It's all over the place the way "post" "math" and even "stoner" have been the last 5-7 years especially. How long it lasts? I dunno. But like those others, it's only valued when used with well written songs/compositions. And most of it ain't.

2010 also was the year I probably came across more music with tambourine-toned splash and crash cymbals. Poor production. A mixing and mastering flaw I've been hampered by for a few years, but I think this year more than any other, I've noticed more music suffering from it. Many of the 'core and any hard rock and modern metal albums have it. I suspect it's just being unaware and using mediocre software to mix. It's interesting, I did hear a few records within those genres that had totally clean splashy cymbal mixes. If only the people doing that mixing and mastering work would publish something online and give it to every band on Facebook, Bandcamp, Reverbnation, Soundcloud, Spotify, Grooveshark and yes, still Myspace. Perhaps a lot of these terrible mixes would be a thing of the past.

2010, was also of course for myself, the year I probably experienced the hype-machine more than ever, from artists I've known longer than more or less 95% of their fan-base by years end. I'm referring to of course Local Natives and Warpaint.

I probably will think of 2010 for those 2 bands more than any others. And how all the lemming-hipsters jumped on their bandwagons and started pigeon-holing them pathetically. Comparing them to artists they sounded next to nothing like. And along with that, I being someone who have done a ton of cross-posting and spreading the word, received very little if any credit from those blogs, bandwagon-fans, and most importantly, media-resources, frankly I wish would-have, and still should give me some credit for.

The band's themselves know I've been around as long as I have. Local Natives do of course. I've seen them 5 times the past 3+ years in concert in Minnesota. They know me, they know my name, they likely also have seen this blog many times. But expecting them to name-drop me, isn't what I would hope-for. But receiving some level of credit would be nice, but I guess I've learned that's not how the hype-machine works. At least in my present activities.

very much the same, save for the fact my time is a little shorter only going back to March of 2009, and really not until around the time of that School of Seven Bells show in October 2009. But still, I told a lot of people, posted on many forums and blogs about them long before they even were known at Pitchfork, and received very little credit.

The dj's at Radio K though, specifically Kayleigh and Kari would know. I told them about Warpaint and Local Natives before Pitchfork hijacked who and how they got fed to their public.

I hope within 5 years, Pitchfork is where Myspace is now, if not worse. It's the most despicable website for music, and it's brainwashed far too many music fans into becoming Hipsters. Hipfork.

I guess I can learn that having your favorite band get swallowed up by that evil community, while it gets them success and money, really, ultimately is not necessarily for the better. As sad as it is, I almost would rather a band breakup than find themselves fall into their trap. But perhaps the day Hipsters become Un-Hipsters or irrelevant as they should be, the idea of getting grabbed onto by a large group may not be so bad. As long as people like myself have a chance to steer their narrow-taste away from the wrong places, then those artists will have a fighting chance to avoid being ruined. But, that of course remains to be seen for now.

Here's the list.

50e. Apparatjik | We Are Here

Members of Mew, a-ha and Coldplay made up this rather cryptic project. It ended up sounding kind of like Mew doing more electronic music with a bit of an 80's New Wave influence. I guess my best recollection of it, the 1st 4-6 tracks all seem to work and flow well, and the 2nd half or at least last 1/3 of the album doesn't hold up quite as well. Still interesting, and something to ponder what the future holds for this project.

50d. Black Milk - Album of the Year

Consistently engaging and flowing. As for Hip-Hop, this guy is probably become one of my favorites, in my recent, yet still limited at this point, re-exploration. What i enjoy about him is he tends to incorporate jazz and other rock elements in well. Tastefully, to fit the songs. And some of the lyrics and pop-culture references are something that gets my attention. The piece with someone questioning the title had maybe the funniest of them all.

50c. Avenged Sevenfold | Nightmare

Mike Portnoy of course replaced the late The Rev, and there was a lot of emotion coming in through much of this record. The title track and especially "Save Me" are the most significant and moving tracks just from memory.

Putting aside all the controversy with Mike being in the band, and then leaving Dream Theater, this is some of the best work he's done as a drummer in many years, even if the parts were mostly written by The Rev.

Also it can't be ignored, it was nice to see this album go #1 on Billboard, probably the 1st time a band I like has had that recognition, other than maybe Muse last year. And a band Portnoy is involved with, it seems even more unbelievable. I suppose losing a band member can lead to martyr-ism. It's sad it's come to that, but still nothing to forget.

50b. Dean Magraw & Marcus Wise | How the Light Gets In

This album almost means as much to me and Dean's fans as himself. I've been fan of Dean and his vast talents for nearly 10 years, which is only about 1/4 of his career. But the guy is brilliant, and as significant a musician not only in Minnesota and the Jazz, Ethnic, Folk, Blues and Rock world, but in music in general.

He's been battling cancer for longer than I've known him. But he never found it to be hampering his ability to play and record music until a couple of years ago, when what I guess was in remission, came back. But now nearly 2 years later, he is alive and kicking thanks to modern medicine, support from his family and friends. And fellow musicians like Marcus Wise.

This album was written and recorded while he was undergoing intermittent cancer treatments. And honestly, the finished result reflects the struggle yet optimism that comes across here. It's a healer of a record. And the dynamics and flow totally fulfill what Dean was going through. Some of it almost comes as atmospheric or post-rock like in some ways.

It's wonderful to hear and go back to for an escape or connection with Dean. I hope this ends up as the next chapter in a highly prolific career, that is far from over.

Suggested: Portals, Entrainment, Jade

50a. In Vain | Mantra

2007's debut The Latter Rain, was one of the most significant records that got me interested in Extreme Metal. It's one of those highly-layered, highly-perfected records that I just got to enjoy more and more. The styles, and fulfilling experience of so many of the pieces worked wonders. Progressive blackened death metal of a sort. The guitar work, vocal variation, tones in terms of sound and moods, etc. It really had a ton to enjoy.

So, this was a really big deal to me, to follow-up. I suppose I had a bit too lofty of expectations going-in. How this would compare, etc.

It ended up reminding me of what happened with Karnivool's follow-up Sound Awake in some ways, the songs and album overall came across too long and self-indulgent. Prog for the sake of prog at times. I mean they did what they wanted to do, but for what I like in music, something with a lot of extended, drawn-out sections, doesn't lead me to want to listen to all that often.

The sad part is, there's still some beautiful melodies and bone-crushing riffs on this thing. They just were not composed or refined the way they were on The Latter Rain or other great progressive metal songs were.

Suggested: Captivating Solitude, On the Banks of the Mississippi, Wayakin (The Guardian Spirit of the Nez Perce) (the last 3 or minutes is nice with the Native American narrative with piano and strings)

49. Henry and the Nightcrawlers | Henry and the Nightcrawlers

This is a new project from Vancouver musician Henry Alcock-White, who is formerly of Bend Sinister, which ever since reading about his departure from Bend Sinister, I was curious on what he was leaving one of my favorite bands for. Well, this is not exactly Bend Sinister, but just on this 5-track ep (which I guess only 100 were printed, 1 of which I won in a contest), they show a lot of what I love about Bend Sinister still. The catchy-ness, and hooks namely. A comparison to Elvis Costello makes sense to a point, but I just sense there's some styles Henry never got to explore entirely with Bend Sinister, that his band does here.

Now, they also released a full-length a few months ago which I have yet to hear. Hopefully I will be able to soon.

Suggested: Amberly, On a Week Night

48. Water & Bodies | The Rain City Sessions Part 2

The 2nd release from the new project that has 4 members of Kaddisfly. I enjoy a lot of these tunes, although I guess I never was as addicted to them as much as their last, Self-titled EP from 2009. But, I'd be lying to say I didn't enjoy these tunes. "To the Sun" "Hard to Pin" and "Bizarre" all stand out in ways among them.

Maybe part of my feeling is, sure, this is great, but what happens on the upcoming 1st full-length may impact how good they are. Part of the problem listening to EPs sometimes, it's kind of a tease. But who knows, maybe this EP will be looked higher upon over some time. Certainly, being a Kaddisfly fan, I enjoy this and am optimistic to where they are going.

47. The Chap | Well Done Europe

Indietronica group from the UK, in some ways an answer to Apes and Androids over there. Although, in listening to more of their music, they seem more and more distinctive to me. They are rather tongue-in-cheek lyrically and politically I suppose. They use sarcasm effectively, and more or less don't take themselves or their music too seriously.

How this record compares to say, the record I was initially drawn to them by, 2008's Mega Breakfast, I suppose is it doesn't have as many go-to or standout songs, but it has maybe more depth. A little bit of greater than the sum of it's parts I suppose. Some of the songs from memory I think of it for would be "Well Done You" and "We Work In Bars" and "Nevertheless, The Chap."

However, like some other records this year, and some of their other albums, I have still yet to fully investigate them to how I'd like. A lot of things in their songs are subtle, they aren't necessarily noticed until more time is spent with them. In other words, they are growers; the tortoise, rather than the hare.

46. Pat Metheny | Orchestrion

The idea behind this record, having instruments including drums perform the material Pat composed, like an old-fashioned, automatically playing piano, really sounded intriguing. And the idea is still rather forward-thinking. Pat being as progressive and evolving an artist in music, the past 50 years.

However, the music itself didn't end up being all that different than a lot of his material in content/composition. That is probably why I didn't end up listening to it all that much.

But it still contains some good material, for what the music is/was. I would just say, it didn't break a whole lot of new ground as far as listening. Now to witness in person, or even some of the footage he filmed, makes it more interesting at least.

45. Laura Veirs | July Flame

I know her best in guest appearances on the The Decemberists records, mostly as a vocalist I recall. But I have listened to her solo records and enjoyed them a bit in the past. This album I enjoyed a little bit more. Why? maybe after seeing her live it helped. The title cut namely, reminded me of Annie Haslam in some ways, and some other tracks had nice subtle melodies. "Summer Is the Champion" for example, is a nice almost power-pop track. And "Wide-Eyes, Legless" got some radio airplay, I grew to enjoy it every time I heard it.

44. Adebisi Shank | This Is the Second Album of a Band Called Adebisi Shank

I loved their debut album This Is the Album of a Band Called Adebisi Shank from 2008, so much so, I paid a bit extra to import the thing. That record is/was and incredibly addictive, less-is-more energy fest. Math-rock done, frankly, the way it should be done.

Quirky especially. This band are in some ways, the king of quirky.

So I was naturally pumped to hear this next album from them, even though I wasn't aware it was coming until a few weeks before it dropped.

I rated it at 4-stars originally, and that may still make sense. However, I for whatever reason, didn't go back to it like I would have thought, especially like their 1st lp. I suppose some of the annoying comments people made saying it was just a Battles ripoff, or even just a rehash of their 1st album got me to shy away a bit from it. And, I'm not sure it's quite in the league of their 1st record, but I also recall some of it being a little different. "Genk Shank" for example.

or just re-reading a description:

The 40-minute album certainly is steeped in Japanese influence from the band’s three tours there. It’s a dizzying album of mostly instrumental music, not really a rock album as such, as the first album was. It’s more varied and sounds like nothing anybody else is doing anywhere. Vocoders, synths, marimbas, guitar riffs that would be comfortable sound-tracking a level on a vintage platform game, big drums and even some ’80s bass-lines

So, Vocoders, Japanese influence, marimbas, etc. Doesn't sound exactly like a rehash, nor Battles. I suppose part of it was the style in general, is rather mood-ish, and that 1st album was like the epitome of less-is-more. This album, I don't recall giving the consistent energy or flow. But in the long run, maybe it'll be all the more better because of that.

43. Jeremy Messersmith | The Reluctant Graveyard

Somewhat of a worthy, yet still a bit different follow-up to 2008's The Silver City. I think the orchestral part of this record was one of the reasons I enjoyed it. Although, that may have been more in the short term. It was billed as a 60's psych influenced work, and it was to a point.

Like the new Broken Social Scene album, this from a rating/quality standpoint, remained in the same place the whole year. It has good, but not amazing songs, and an album without any bad or skip-able tracks.

At least the Sufjan comparisons, might be worth stripping-away to a point.

: Violet, Dillinger Eyes, A Girl, a Boy, and a Graveyard

42. Broken Social Scene | Forgiveness Rock Record

I honestly don't have a ton to say about this, other than the fact it's their 1st new full-length album in many years, and I recall liking it more than the two "Presents" albums. The blogs and radio stations went to bat for it big-time in their p4k worship.

However, it ultimately just gave me a mid-level feel. The songs were good but not great. But I recall not any being poor, which I suppose allows it as-a-whole to be put higher than some records (The New Pornographers and their new album Together) that didn't find this list.

Although in most, better, deeper, years for me, this record would not have been this high, but that maybe says something about how much 2010 lacked in terms of depth. But, at the same time, it might be worth revisiting this again just to see how much further it could go. This could be one of it not their last records for all I know. I do wonder if they'll ever match let alone top 2002's You Forgot It In People, the album that got me into them originally.

41. Enditol | Enditol

This is one of those progressive core or "djent" bands that does enough from a songwriting standpoint, I was impressed by. The chops are there, yeah, but so are the twists and mix of vocal styles and melodies to allow them to stand out enough.

I guess on one hand, the whole tech/death/core and even "prog metal" style has become thin with me for everyday listening, that a band really has to stand out even more for me to appreciate them. I have got to either be in the right mood, or listen to their record and just feel after wards that I didn't just hear something I've checked out a few dozen other bands do as well.

This record works in less-is-more, because the style has been done before, no question. But this record only clocks in the 30-minutes or so range. That can work better, than some of the longer winded albums some of these bands put out, that seem to be repeating the same ideas over and over.

The djent and tech/core scene should take notice of this band and that album, and that scene would be a lot less repetitive. Also, unlike so many of those recent bands and albums, there is no production issue with the cymbals clipping. I'm already more interested in a band who can avoid that.

: Monoculture, Huath, Exerminans/Heavenvain

40. Bend Sinister | Spring Romance

This picks up a bit from where 2008's Stories of Brothers, Tales of Lovers left off. Catchy, power-pop-type songs with twists. The money the band was awarded for winning 3rd place in Vancouver's "Peak Performance" project/competition, this is part of where it went, along with the work they are spending/spent on the next full-length lp, which hopefully will be out soon (2011).

Suggested: Spring Romance, The Little Things, Things Will Get Better

39. Skeleton Staff | Solipsism

Another power-pop band to like from down-under. If you like the The Dissociatives or Silverchair, this band may be worth your time.

38. Field Music | Field Music (Measure)

Long record, but still consistent. Pretty much slightly better than the sum of their parts. I think they may be a bit better live though.

37. Walking Sleep | Measures

Previously known as The Flying Tourbillon Orchestra this album was anticipated by myself being a fan of the previous name groups' ep Escapements. While I never got attached to this record, it still included enough work to like. One of those albums that has a couple of ear-worm songs, and the rest being good enough within the whole thing. Many songs sort of take twists that by the time they finish, you're surprised you liked them.

36. Averse | The Endesque Chants

Not a short record, and has consistently poor 4C, but there still was a lot to like here. We didn't see Ne Obliviscaris release their debut lp in 2010, but at least this group did. This worked pretty well in the progressive black metal style, with strings and other textures.

35b.Renaissance | The Mystic And The Muse

What a wonderful return! Unlike many of their peers, they manage to make new music that fits and excels with the tradition and spirit of their best work of the past. I really was highly surprised and impressed here. The title track alone made this a much bigger deal than I expected. Slightly Gothic, and still orchestral and progressive. This was one of the best surprises of 2010. Of course the tour date I saw in Chicago helped. Plus a full-length is anticipated for 2011.

35a. Ihsahn | After

More proggy, and adding saxophone to black metal can work as they proved here.

34. Annuals | Sweet Sister

"Loxtep" is probably still my favorite track on this, however the whole thing works well, pretty much like nearly all of their other releases. I like some of the "jungle" or Caribbean element to parts of this especially. This will have to tide fans like myself over until the next full-length, which hopefully will come in 2011.

33. Cyclamen | Senjyu

This projects/album as I understand, has members from the UK and Japan, and features as guest appearances from members of the late progressive metal-core group SikTh, along with Periphery and TesseracT.

I was impressed by the Dreamers EP from 2009, enough to be pretty optimistic about the full-length they would release.. And honestly, unlike some of folks pigeon-holing them to more or less be a 2nd or 3rd rate version of SikTh and Envy, I honestly did not hear all that much similarities between those two.

This is more of a "post" or ambient record, with a few songs that go into 'core or extreme metal. But the bulk of it, doesn't carry that style at all. However, it's a record I've put on only 3 or 4 times, but enjoyed each time a little more. There's a pretty good flow to it, nice dynamics, the Japanese vocals work well with the guitar textures especially, along with some subtle melodies within. I probably will go back to this record more in the coming years, and may appreciate it even more.

32. Dead Letter Circus |This Is the Warning

A somewhat long awaited debut record, from this band from down-under. I've felt more or less since hearing them, they are the 2nd best band doing heavy college-prog from Australia, and at least close to the same class with Karnivool and Fair to Midland among some others (Oedipus, Opus Dai). Which gives them something, because there's dozens of other generic Tool/Chevelle inspired bands attempting to do this kind of music that suck all kinds of ass.

However, this record wasn't short, didn't have perfect production (a fraction of the songs at least I heard cymbals clipping , of course), and still seemed to be a bit repetitive. To a point. I guess about half of it, has songs I really enjoy, and maybe even more have at least a section. "The Drum" and it's insane outro stands out as this album's biggest highlight.

So, as for a debut album, this still works overall, but I still think this band can be better than what came out here, if they think about album structure and varying the base of their sound a little. Although they should be able to, given many of the tracks open with some electronic or ambient texture I recall.

31. Grammatics | Krupt

The final release of this groups career apparently. Sad, yet at least they went out on a high note. Very much of the quality if not better than 2009's Self-Titled LP. It does make you wonder what their next full-length would have ended up like. Maybe a reunion happens down the road.

Suggested: "Stalinesque"