Last week in this space, I published my list of what I considered to be the top 10 albums of 2010, which garnered this actual response from a reader: “Top ten what? Bands no one’s heard of? Top ten albums that some teenage nobody likes? Top ten albums that suck?” (Um…thanks for reading!) Honestly, I love getting a response from readers—any response—and while I can understand that reader’s frustration, I disagree with his criticism. Indeed, the very thing I love about reading year-end lists is that they give me great opportunities to discover music I might have missed (or dismissed) during the year.
To wit, I spent much of this past December—as I have done every December for the past two decades—hungrily scouring every year-end list I could find, writing down names of albums or artists I’ve never heard of, and then hunting them down. It is, quite honestly, one of my very favorite times of year for this reason alone; this is one of my most beloved pastimes.
Anyway, with The Year That Was now behind us, and The Year To Come still ahead, I figured I’d use this space to share with you, dear Reader, some of the albums to which I have been introduced by others via their end-of-2010 lists. I kinda wish I’d heard these albums earlier, so they might have had a shot at my list. But I’m happier to have them saved for me, for now, for this lull, for this magical moment of discovery.
Red Vienna—Red Vienna EP (via AversionOnline’s Andrew W’s “Get Averse” list, published on Decibel Magazine’s Deciblog)
You might know extreme-metal mag Decibel as one of the few music-specific print publications that still matters. You might know Andrew W’s AversionOnline as an MP3 blog focusing on hardcore and metal. And if you’re familiar with either, you likely wouldn’t expect them to recommend Canada’s Red Vienna. But I’m so glad they did. Red Vienna is a super-catchy, ’80s-inspired pop band that has echoes of both Joy Division and Rick Springfield. And as great as that sounds on paper, it sounds even better in real life, I promise. Very highly recommended.
Forest Swords—Dagger Paths (No. 48 on Pitchfork.com’s “Top 50 Albums of 2010”)
Everyone knows indie-mainstream tastemaker Pitchfork, and everyone seems to hate them, but everyone checks the site every morning, and really, no publication has done as much for experimental/underground music. I was familiar with most of Pitchfork’s 2010 Top 50, but this gorgeous, haunting and dark electronic gem flew under my radar. In Pitchfork’s year-end capsule, they compared Forest Swords to ’90s electro-shoegaze gods Seefeel—which should pique anyone’s interest—but I hear more Portishead, Burial…even some of Bill Laswell’s ambient-dub work. All this is to say: weird, spooky, hypnotic and essential.
Year of No Light—Ausserwelt (No. 9 on BrooklynVegan.com’s “The Year 2010 in Metal,” by BV contributing writer Fred Pessaro, aka BBG)
Fred Passaro is Brooklyn Vegan’s resident metal critic, and he’s one of the best in the business. His 2010 year-end list was loaded with good recommendations, but I was blown away by Year of No Light’s Ausserwelt. Lush and cinematic post-rock, like Godspeed or Explosions in the Sky, Year of No Light write marathon-length songs with dizzying peaks and passages so sweeping and grand that they send chills up my spine and blood rushing to my head.
Inquisition – Ominous Doctrines of the Perpetual Mystical Macrocosm (No. 5 on Stereogum.com’s “Haunting the Chapel’s Top 50 Albums Of 2010,” by Stereogum senior writer/columnist Brandon Stosuy)
Brandon Stosuy is one of my favorite music critics—over the last five years, he’s introduced me to more great bands than any other writer I can think of. Both he and Brooklyn Vegan’s BBG had Ominous Doctrines in their top five albums of 2010, which, to me, was an embarrassing indication that I had slept on something kind of big. Oh well. Inquisition are a black metal band from Seattle, and Ominous Doctrines is, in fact, amazing: some of the catchiest, most deftly executed, most layered and most exciting metal I’ve heard this year. That said, I don’t know if it would make my list: The band’s vocalist, Dagon, “sings” in a froglike manner that I find really distracting. (And I listen to, and love, a lot of Cookie Monster vocalists, so I assure you, it’s a pretty severe sound.) Still, I can’t stop listening to this album, and every time I listen, I grow more accustomed to those vocals—maybe even liking them. Beyond the vocals…like I said: some of the best stuff I’ve heard this year. And like everything else on this list, I’m so glad I finally found it, so glad that someone took the time to introduce me to all this music, to share with me this great bounty.