2010 was a surprisingly great year for music. It was really hard to come up with a list of top five albums this year. It’s one of those years where when I look back on it I’m not sure how well I will be able to defend my opinions. 2008 comes to mind and I’d like to say the Heathers album had more impact over the long run than Off With Their Heads. Not that the Off With Their Heads album isn’t great, but both Heathers and Pygmy Lush are much more important bands in my life and their albums still resonate with me. At the time Off With Their Heads was giving me the emotional “FUCK YOU” that I needed.
So there are some other albums that I found really great this year, many I wrote about, but I wanted to give another nod to and take a minute to explore. They are definitely bands and albums that I think are worth your time (all 20 of you) and want to make sure they are cataloged in the cosmic fabric of my stupid memory, here on the internet for anyone to see.
1. Camu Tao – King of Hearts, Def Jux.
It is fitting that Camu Tao serve as the final bookend in the Def Jux catalog, at least as long as Def Jux is in a deep coma. Camu was the guest star on so many Def Jux album and was working on his debut for years before his untimely death. This collection is a sketch book of music by an artist that was clearly a visionary. I have no doubt in my mind that were this fleshed out to the Camu’s full vision that it would be the most damaging, punishing, amazing album from 2010. King of Hearts was on its way to being a legendary debut that changed hip-hop. Sadly, we will not get that opportunity from Camu. I can only hope some young kid picks this up and takes this shit where it needs to go.
2. ONSIND- Dissatisfactions, Plan-It-X
That whole riot-folk movement seems to have ended, memories of Juno and Kimya Dawson fading from the teenage lexicon of geek cool. There is some bitter sadness you might detect from me on this topic. Perhaps this scene didn’t really get the just recognition due. But no matter, it’s still going strong and One Night Stand In North Dakota (ONSIND) make one of the most compelling “post-riot folk” music. They are amazing singers, filled with political vigor and made a really dynamic, clean sounding album. The sexual and gender politics are not surprising, but the poetic language they use to forward and express these ideas is. This is a pretty crucial bit of music for anyone that wants to learn how to write good songs.
3. Coliseum – House of Cards, Temporary Residence
Part of what I love about House of Cards is how well it presented live. The recording is fantastic, as one would expect and the songs are really strong, but Coliseum is just one of those bands that must be seen live. Unfortunately when the album that is essentially the live band’s business card can not ever capture how awesome the band is, it can easily get lost in the shuffle. This probably happened with House of Cards but it shouldn’t. It’s loud and pushing and chock full of awesome riffs and great, powerful vocals. It is flawless from start to finish.
4. Defiance, Ohio – Midwestern Minutes, No Idea
It’s hard to say really how I feel about Defiance, Ohio and Midwestern Minutes. I think it’s because they are a band I like more than I realize consciously. I really like this band. They are sincere, and honest and beautiful and politically powerful, because their lyrics and stories aren’t about vague concepts but the human condition. There is nothing abstract about Defiance, Ohio. They are truly a beautiful group that should be heard even more than they are. They also probably had the option of going the route of Against Me and making more rock oriented records, but they continue down the very difficult path of DIY punk. It is a shame that DIY equates to less professional or less authentic in our culture because Defiance, Ohio is a band I truly believe needs to be heard by more people. Not that I want to share those sweaty, crowded spaces with more people and not have those intimate shows that are totally amazing. But Defiance, Ohio are a powerful band and this is their most accessible album yet. By accessible, I mean most focus and best produced. The songs have always been this good. It’s not slick, in fact it sounds more natural and true to anything Defiance, Ohio have done previously. They are a band that are overlooked too often and having them in the Honorable Mentions category feels like a scam on my part. But that should not detract you, this is a great record.
5. A Stick and a Stone – Opal Nightly, Exotic Fever
Perhaps one of the most exciting new artists I have heard in a long time, Elliot Harvey is a musical genius. When he told me earlier this year that he had very little formal training, I was totally shocked. Harvey makes timeless music that is inspired not so much by genres but movement in sounds. He is a capable, creative musician whose hands master many instruments. Expect great things from A Stick and A Stone. This is an artist you need to hear.
6. Jonsi – Go, XL Recordings
Some people are just too talented to contain, too creative to pigeon-hole, too intense to fully realize. Jonsi, he’s out of this world. American modern rock culture has done a decent job incorporating the lexicon of Icelandic artists. But man, I have a feeling we could do a lot better. Go is an amazing pop album, complete with Jonsi’s dreamlike vocals. I haven’t seen any of the live presentations of this album, but I am really looking forward to it, because the visuals that I have caught look amazing.