Friday, 21 January 2011

Top 50 Albums of 2010

Two thousand and ten is officially dusted my friends!  Without too much extra preamble, here is my year that was 2010 in album form.  This was probably the hardest year of writing end of year lists that I have ever had; a phenomenon I would attribute to the ever expanding boundaries of the musical universe.  The more bastardisation and cross-pollination goes on, the harder it is to define anything incontrovertibly, but in spite of that, here it is a massively disparate selection of records from a year that was wall to wall individuality with hard-lined categorising numbers beside them. You will see that I have taken the contraversial step of slamming a couple of albums together into the same place on occasion. this is a slight remnant from my original idea of completely reconstructing the nature of an end of year list, but it starting edging too close to genre-fication and that isn't what I intended. maybe next year you will be viewing a brand new paradigm but right now you get this half-cocked version in which I get a couple of records that can be tied together bundled up with the barest of threads. Works for me.

50. Clair Cassis – I (Full Moon Productions) / II (Starlight Temple Society)
Perfectly executed olde school Norther trance black metal, from Velvet Cacoon's Josh – with the temerity to keep the tracks below three minutes a piece. Shocking.

49. Sleeping Peonies – Rose Curl, Sea Swirl (Khrysanthoney)
Using the romanticism of their local coastlines to inspire an album shrouded in the sounds of salty sea spray, siren calls, dense mists and lowland fog, this two piece produced an affecting record with a ragged core. No matter how many times I say it, I will never tire of the term Norfolk Black Metal.

48. Magic Lantern – Platoon / Sun Araw – On Patrol (Not Not Fun)
The former is the steamy tropical screaming wah-quake full band blues behemoth, the latter is the solo sweat lodge endurance trial before enlightenment, possibly in a spaceship, possibly not – both spun from the effervescent mind of Cameron Stallone.

47. The Steven Lasombras – A Diamond Eye Shines In Failing Light (Wise Owl / To The Neck Recordings)
Industrial pop from a Portland based solo artist who recorded part of it during a year in Indonesia learning shadow puppetry - a beautiful metaphor for the music within as ballroom song structures are outlined in noise and pure tone viscera.

46. Drudkh –
Handful Of Stars (Season Of Mist)
Ukranian forest metallers returned with another  in their regular series of blazing bark-thick riffed minimalism that puts torch to sky and fans the flames as the Heavens burn.

45. Twin Stumps – Seedbed (Fan Death)
Ultra overdriven violent nihilism roared and smashed out from the bodies of a band howling their sickness right back into the faces of anyone who might had had the slightest involvement in creating the dystopia they are setting about destroying.
  If you mourned the passing of Mayyors, Twin Stumps will be the band for you.

44. Winterfylleth – The Mercian Sphere (Candlelight)
Leading the heathen Heritage Metal wing of the UKBM scene overground with a combination of Cascadian and Scandinavian riffs and undulating song structures, emboldened with a rich narrative of ancient British folklore, this was an album thatmarked its territory in more ways than one.

43. Stag Hare - Sand Paintings (Moon Glyph) / White Stag (Marriage)
Last year's
Liight Being Traveler and Black Medicine Musics set the scene for the environment Stag Hare's follow up rolls about in, colouring in the details that were outlined on the previous ventures; from scrubland psych to diving deep into the emerald waves coral reefs, this tape shifted the landscape to one richer in life, a real advance deeper into the heart of one man's soundworld. The second album, White Stag is a collaboration with White Rainbow that blitzes these kinds of tropical drone and White Rainbow's more cerebral resonance into a throbbing disco flux with the massive twenty minute Shhooopeey Shoop Mega Tuff House Remix.

42. Swans –
My Father Will Guide Me Up A Rope To The Sky (Young God)A massively unexpected triumph for Gira's 75% reformed Swans as they resurface with a record that forged a new future as strongly as it recognised their past. If anyone was nervous about hearing this 'comeback' (*spit*) album then they were fucking terrified by the time they got to the end of it. Intimidating enough, even without Jarboe's presence, the involvement of children on a Swans album would surely always be enough to chill you to the bone.

Je Suis Le Petit Chevalier – Tropical Malady (I Had An Accident)
Definitely something about Portland - this French artist, relocated to Belgium via Portland, dragged a psychic net behind his travels, capturing a dreamscape of late night television frequencies, the ebb and flow of the ocean, hypnagogic volcanic drone bottled up whilst star-gazing over a roaring ocean. Some kind of far out trip and then some.

40. Weapon – From The Devil's Tomb (Ajna/Agonia)
Second release from one Bangladeshi born Canadian occultist who brought tropical Satanism to bear over the ritual bodies fo Black and Death metal.  Dense, claustrophobic, complex yet following some grim, ancient logic that locks its talons into the skin and pulls the listener into its very very violent course.

39. Castevet –
Mounds Of Ash (Profound Lore)
Hardcore reformed Black Metal off the streets of New York that led with the backline - bass and drums pushed way out, heavy on the rhythm, guitars that tremeloed in reference to their history, everything else a post-rock crescendo of hammer blows right up to the horn section that blows you away every time.

38. Ikonika –
Contact, Love, Want, Have (Hyperdub)
Streets of Rage was pretty much all Sara Abdel-Hamid had to do to win a place in my heart, but that fact that she dropped it into the highly emotive, atmospherically resonant depths of her individualised take on dubstep and produced an album of consistently nifty beats took her to the next level.

37. †‡† -
CDr (Disaro)
Disaro's finest contribution to the Witch House cannon this year, an occult inducted hex on techno and bleak trance overcast with a sinister pall - spine chilling atmospheres juxtaposed an upwardly spiralling mental state that frequently spiked into full on warehouse euphoria.

36. High Wolf – Shangri L.A. (Moamoo) / Iibiis Rooge - Iibiis Rooge (Dekorder)
French based deep jungle trance and cosmic radiation drone with earthen clatter to stamp your feet in circles to. High Wolf is the lone incarnation - a looser, more primitive beat-based urgent sounding instance of the same mind striving for transcendence. Iibiis is HW plus Astral Social Club - a telepathic entity that seduces beats from the ether of its own making, moulding tone into rocking pulses and trickling an almost incomprehensible mix of effervescence into the mix. Heavy heavy, trippy trippy, deeply deeply ppssyycchheeddeelliicc.

35. Actress – Splazsh (Honest Jons)
The efficient minimalism of the cover art belies the level of detail and business of the tracks inside this album - almost like an ariel view of a city, each track formed a block, set out a shape and sound defined by it's own clinically segregated tones - yet the more listens I gave it the closer I zoomed in on it until I was at street level, face to face with the characters in each track and able to see more clearly the smooth transitions between them and the ways in which they interacted. 

34. Horseback – The Invisible Mountain (Aurora Borealis / Relapse)
Black Metal slowly borne from a world of ambience, if ever there was an album that sonically captured the growth of organism from the primordial fog and sludge of the first days at the microbial level, all the way up to the scaly roar of full grown sentience then this was it.

33. Ghost Animal – Summertime In Heaven (Self-Released) / In Your Room (AMDICSC)
An album and an EP from these one-time LA residents, now relocated to..Portland. So yup, this is some scuzz soaked perfection that's got played ad infinitum. Formed in April this year, the mind melts at the idea of their tunes when they hit the 12 month mark.  Tracks formed from the ghosts of New Order, shadows of Joy Division and the spectre of the Cure; influences that mooch attentively at the back of the class as Phil Spector gives them a lesson in the Wall of Sound, all shredded, rolled up and smoked in youthfully hedonistic form.

32. Jack Rose –
Luck In The Valley (Thrill Jockey)
The final album before he died well before his time saw Jack combining his impossiblly accomplished understanding of stomping ragtime American Primitive with the sonorous patience of Eastern ragas in a record that almost displayed his full hand or at least outlined it, tying up the threads from all his previous projects into a neat package that pointed towards so many paths, some of which may never get opened up by anyone else.

31. Women – Public Strain (Jagjaguwar)
Updating their sound with a second album of slanted melodies, Women threw down a set of landsliding sound that swept their influences off the rock-face in a torrent of distortion and atonal scree. Public Strain is one of those rare albums that subtly transcends it's influences; when you start to hear Silver Apples in China Steps, they soon follow it up with a sideswipe of detuned Sonic Youth guitars to level the field; Velvet Underground bob up into Venice Lockjaw but the awkwardly uplifiting harmonising dissolves it into something else, and by the first peak of Eyesore you'll have already decided on your song of the year and that's before its moebius strip of interwoven melody and harmony that reworks itself through peak after peak of hauntingly beautiful repetition.


30. Solar Bears – She Was Coloured In (Planet Mu)
pushing those vintage sounds right out there, holding on to their vapour trails until they solar winds blew them out of their hands, Solar Bears set their controls for deep out into the cosmos to produce this album of retro-kosmiche pulse, technicolour drone and psych electronica; and if those weren't enough they also set about tricking their textural space cruise out with some post rock dynamics, prog riffing and at least one Balaeric sunset comedown.  Maybe there was more sounds than were needed to fill out one album, but what it lost in narrative cohesion it more than made up for in songcraft.

29. Eleh – Location Momentum (Touch)
From something ethereal to another, equally intangible but one formed from a sense of cognisant deliberation rather than free flowing improv. Apparently Eleh has many many releases, but I am not sure I want to sully the stark, diamond cut perfection of this.  The intricacy with which every sound is crafted on this, and the fine granular detail in which they are cast into the mix and moulded is mind melting, moves the body to a different place to the head and disloacted time and space. And then the bass kicks in.

28. Loscil –
Endless Falls (Kranky)
An album shrouded in mist and moisture, light refracted, sound subdued, muffled by the environment, and album that lifted something between listener and artist, between the music and the listener. From the opening rainfall there was something alive and fresh sounding in this, and it wasn't until the end that its exact nature was revealed, in the voices the rise during the final moments; a personal warmth, the pulse of life amongst the abstract landscape. An album far beyond the sterility of what Ambient may perhaps signify, Scott Morgan melted the biological energies of neo-classical instrumentation into the electronic undercurrents of his previous work and produced his most intimate and affecting work to date.

27. Autre Ne Veut –
Autre Ne Veut (Olde English Spelling Bee) / Games – That We Play (Hippos In Tanks)
Two more inseparable albums from separate entities as far as assessing the year goes, but both occupying the same place in the musical timeline and/or nostalgia/reminiscence curved hypnagogic bubble. Both reconfigure an era I have never been able to tolerate, let alone enjoy, so whether that means I should throw myself on the sword of hipsterism for falling so hard for them I don't know; all I know is that there's tangible atmosphere tied together with more emotional and musical hooks within these tracks than I sensibly know what to do with, so I've had to step outside myself to understand it.

26. Gnod & White Hills - Gnod Drop Out With White Hills II (Rocket Recordings) Manchester's multi-headed psychedelic rhythm band Gnod team up with US psych-rockers White Hills to create the greatest space rock album of the year. Reworking tracks from both their catalogues in a truly intuitive collaboration, this album weaves it's own eternal tapestry of eight smoked-out meditative forays through fractal kraut and tribal rhythm, building sky-high space jams that spiral into the stars.

25. Heavy Winged – Fields Within Fields (Three Lobed) / Sunspotted (Type)
One of my favourite bands ever took to using multi-track studio recording for the first time this year, first on
Fields Within Fields – a set of pieces they had been aiming to give the full recording technique to for a couple of years, then later, Sunspotted appeared on Type – both albums fully engaging the listener from their opening bars with clearer definition and thicker, heavier production that highlights all the previously murky brilliance. The slowly coalescing rumbles that build to jet engine screaming peaks, howling vortexes and yawning abysses of sound; the switching of bass and guitar over fore- and back-ground confuses the shit out of the senses and leaves them prone to the mercies of Jed Bindeman's gargantuan drum kit. Heavy Winged produce rock music out of pure sound then pull it apart in slow-motion explosive force.

24. Deathspell Omega –
Paracletus (Season Of Mist)
The concluding chapter of their trilogy,
Deathspell relaxed their grip eve so slightly to allow slivers of light to bleed into their pitch black metal and offered the listener the most rocking experience of their career. Replacing hyperspeed technicality with hyperspeed groove lost them none of their violent brutality with many of the tracks providing the most memorable riffs of their canon and for me, their greatest achievement in the tortured post-rock climax of Abscission

23. White Medal –
Agbrigg Beast (Turgid Animal/Seedstock)
Crust influenced black metal, like a UK rescrub of Bone Awl's spiteful malice, George Proctor offered up an album steeped in English heritage, singing in his Yorkshire dialect, and being wholly incomparable. Downtuned atonal riffs bounce up to major keys in On't Borough and The Last Days adding a shockingly fresh melodic buoyancy that provided a vital sound through fresh violent minimalism.

22. Infinite Body – Carve Out The Face Of My God (Post Present Medium)The previously harsh noise artist Kyle Parker created a second album or lush melodic fuzz that layerd on the dense gauzey beauty like Birchville Cat Motel or Belong, in even softer focus. The field recordings submerged into the shoegazy rhythmic ebb and flow add a sense of life similar to the ending of the Loscil album, and probably give it all 6 places of edge over it in this list; and this album has a greater twist with the almost imperceptibly subtle shifting guitar figure in A Fool Persists – the kind of meditative bliss that I just cannot rate highly enough.

21. Balaclavas –
Roman Holiday (Dull Knife)
nfuckable force to be reckoned with in one of 2010's best savage guitar missives that shifts through as many genres as you could possibly handle in one hyperblast fast sitting, burning a sense of macabre noir through the hearts of some kind of noise/punk/new wave arête that straddles an elevated understanding of the effectiveness of minimalism. So, layers of polyrhythmic drumming and distorted guitar overcoats get blown about into ultra moody backlit shapes over six episodes until the final track where cosmic disco label Italians Do It Better signees Twisted Wires get their hands on Vuitton and send an electric shock through it that jumps it into another dimension altogether - some pretty intelligent tracklist design to finish the album on it, like one final knockout blow to send you spinning, right round to come back for more.

20. Tame Impala – Innerspeaker (Modular)
It took a lot of listens for this album to really sink in and when it did it wasn't so much a sinking feeling as one swinging right at my head and bowling me for six.  On a level with Dungen for psychedelic rock experiences, far-out, far-off out of focus shimmering and some Sabbath heavy slabs of real life 60's patchouli metal kitted out with one of the best drumming performances of the year and strung together with a Lennon-influenced vocal style that I didn't want to punch in the face. Quite an achievement.

19. Drekavac –
Drekavac / Grave Dirt and Blood (Self-Released)
A relentless, light-less two-piece whose take on the genre sucks up and spews out energy like they're the Heavy Winged of USBM.  Over two demo tapes this year they have put out a form of black metal that has little regard for anything else going on around it. A blizzard of noise howling in off some inhospitable mountain range. The drumming is like a freight train, heavy and full of momentum, the guitars have the spiteful blown out wrongness of old Vlad Tepes or other Les Légions Noires bands – a sickly caustic fury muffled within the skins of rats (not literally....allegedly). Pretty hard to tell quite what is going on with the riffs underneath it all but they leave an imprint on the speakers and your ears that proves it's not what you do but the way that you do it.

18. Gkfoes Vjgoaf – Light Weaving (Ace Of Tapes)
One of my favourite discoveries of last year who put out a slew of self-released tapes that were like some epic psych jumbalaya drone, stewed up and strung out over a backwoods campfire – Skip Spence time-stretched into modernity along side the likes of Peaking Lights.  Previously there was a chaotic sense to the tracks, like a survival instinct had gripped them, so when Light Weaving came out in the summer I wasn't quite prepared for the beautifully measured, all enveloping slowly revealing majesty with which his drone has become.
17. Gr†ll Gr†ll – CDr (Disaro)
Until Salem and Dream Boat came along Gr†ll Gr†ll were the only witch house affiliated artist/s to have anything resembling an album; for a long time back there they were unique in having a full set of tracks that flowed through each other, creating a whole worldview and range of sounds that offered a widescreen view and vision of someone producing these sounds, and with this Cdr they fully delivered, blurring the edges of their degenerate collages, screwing down a Lil Wayne solo piano track that transcended the beauty of the original tracks then flipped that by torturing the ghost of Kurt and kiddy cartoons, scrubbing elements of glitch, drone, and noise deep into the 16 wounds they carved into this disc. Two fingers up. What more could you want?

16. Cosmic Church - Arcana Dei (Kuunpalvelus)
Trilogy of tapes crushed together onto one CD reissue of primal Finnish noise that ate the deathspell album alive in terms of subterannean Satanic might; this was a scream into the heavens from the deepest recesses of the Earth, and the recording sound like it's buried underneath a tonne of soil too - not one for loves of fidelity, this is the some of the rawest sounding music in existance; yet as is ever the Truth within the most transcendent strains of the genre, there are skeins of euphoric trance submerged within, the shapes of the riffs oozing seductively through the muck; the transfiguration from Darkness to Light, the co-existance of ugliness and beauty.

15. Wild Nothing –
Evertide (Warmest Chord)/ Gemini (Captured Tracks)
One more solo artist to add to my list of one man bands producing perfectly crafted pop music; every one filtered through a romantic hue of nostalgic (I'm thinking Washed Out, Twin Shadow, Atlas Sound).  Not many albums had as naggingly beautiful hooks as these, with the pillow soft edges of Slumberland shoegaze melted into Cocteau Twins textural harmonies.
Drifter, China Town, Rabbit Feet – Jack Tatum sure can write them.

14. Gonjasufi – A Sufi And A Killer (Warp)
I truly do not know what I would have done without Gonjasufi this year. My summer would have been much darker had it lacked the psychedelic positivity and radiant effervescence of this album..  Really not what I was expecting when I first heard it – from the Turkish garage psych to the drippy hippy lyrics (all of which I can tolerate, even
Sheep) and now so many months and spins later I am still discovering new magic in each listen.

13. Forest Swords – Dagger Paths (Olde English Spelling Bee) / Rattling Cage 7” (No Pain In Pop)
Hypnagogic Pop continued its mutable coalescence across several forms this year, one of which was the characteristically indistinct form of Forest Swords; a producer whose two releases created their own unique space across a venn overlap between H-Pop, dupstep and all manner of atmosphereic genres.  If Dagger Paths felt claustrophobic and murky - underlined by the huge Dead Flag Blues sample imprinting its apolcalyptic overtones into the centre of the album - the 7” shone a beam of light through the fog and burned a bit of clarity into it with one of the most arresting vocals of the year and a shuffling beats that makes my ears prick up on impact every time.

12. Fell Voices –
12” (Human Resources) / Tour Split (Self-Released) / Ash Borer – Rehearsal / Tour Split (Self Released)
Combined here not just because they toured together in the summer, but because both revel in their chosen aesthetics (or lack of) to the same degree and have produced works that co-exist in the same limnal space, slipping from the transcendental Cascadian path during an illuminated peak in the storm, a backlit flash of inspiration that in both cases translates to seemingly telepathic communion in producing music that defies genre and drops jaws to the floor.

11. Dream Boat – Visions / Fevers (Amdiscs)
This band had an incredible year putting out several singles, splits and eps in 2010, culminating in the full album Visions, all of which I could list here together as they are all infallible extensions of the  Dysphoric vignettes of hallucinatory aggression conveying an unease that was Lynchian in tone, twisting a sordid tension up through each track, drum machines building and layering up against synth tones and distorted vocals; voices inciting violence, lust, projecting sexual energy and vibrating with dark malevolence.

10. Salem – King Night (Iamsound)
Nothing this year sounded like
Salem, outsiders even within the scene they helped create, Witch House would be nothing without them but they created an album that stands are above and beyond everything that genre has offered up.  For an album pinned to the mechanical signatures of programmed beats King Night sounds loose and dangerous, those cold kicks and slaps like boots to the head and slaps to the chops, the different voices and vocal styles chopping the album up switching about tone and pace, the overall atmosphere conveying a grim pall of dense, airless and claustrophobic might – an album that sounds like the substantiated form of experiments in black magick.

09. Inquisition - Ominous Doctrines of the Perpetual Mystical Macrocosm (Hells Headbangers)
Transcendental olde school black metal that doesn't fuck with the formula just blazes it up in a towering inferno of perfection. Inquisition are one of the old guard back from hiatus with a new album in years and it's as if the silence charged up their energies and increased their potency.  I've said it before but it bears repeating – why is it so many metal bands get better as they get older, yet all other kinds of rock groups go to shit?

08. Yellow Swans –
Going Places (Type) / Pete Swanson – Where I Was (Self-Released)
Yellow Swans bowed out at a peak; pretty hard to call anything out from their huge catalogue as the definitive high point, but Going Places definitely felt like one final mass expending of energies until it drew the well dry. An enormous overwhelming record of pure sound manipulation.  The story isn't ending there, as Pete Swanson continues to produce commanding performances on his own: 
Where I Was collects tracks from Swanson's first four cassette releases and sews them into a seamless boiling mas of tarpit drone; molasses thick and an equal in every way to his main band's swansong.

07. Deerhunter – Halcyon Digest (4AD)
If this album is not Deerhunter at their creative peak then the only way they can go is with a Kid A style reinvention of style and produce something incomparable. The inextricable link and feedback loop relationship between the theme of this album and the way it is musically realised, the listener's reactions to it and real life invasion are actually mindblowing – the creation of a garage band and the ensuing lifestyle that lets the human slip out of reach, accompanied by soft focus slow motion dream-pop culminating with a song honoring the (pretty torturous) life of a recently deceased garage rocker.

06. A Forest Of Stars –
Opportunistic Thieves Of Spring (Transcendental Creations)
For their second album, the most distinguished and discerning
gentleman of Black Metal created an aggressively dreamy psychedelic trip that blends completely non metal aspects such as woodwind, tribal polyrhythmic percussion, and vocoder, with a more obviously BM blast beat backed virulent spite, bridged by cosmic influence in both outlook and ambiance that wouldn't necessarily have worked if it wasn't for the masterful crafting of the songs themselves. Six movements, sweeping across grand vistas, leading the listener on a merry dance, each traveling further down the rabbit hole that is this album, churning up seismic conundrums in their wake.  It's rare that a black metal album has such a simultaneous sense of joyful abandonment attached to its violent streak, but this is a record so agile and skillful in the conviction of its creation that the only thing left to question are all the old flat lifeless albums you once thought great, staring with mute force at you from your shelves.

05. Gayngs – Relayted (Jagjaguwar)
Their own strapline of 'sex music for sex people' says it all; if this album didn't give your ears a wide-on from the first beats then you're dead between the legs and numb in the head. Get feeling.  Masterminded by dance producer Ryan Olson featuring a lineup of over twenty five of his cohorts and unlikely interested parties this album takes blue-eyed soul and jazz pop and really doesn't do much to them other than replicate the sounds of it's inspirations perfectly; that would be Godley & Creme and
10cc's I'm Not In Love.  There's some mysterious allure sewn into this, the way it is all seductively segued together, the myriad subtle production tricks it employs and the steady pulse quickening, pun intending 69bpm.

04. Twin Shadow – Forget (Terrible)
2010 was the year in which we happened upon the new incarnation of Prince in the form of Twin Shadow, aka George Lewis Jr, the most ridiculously talented solo artist of the last twelve months, if not longer, who with the help of Grizzly Bear's Chris Taylor, produced the album that Pop Music is on a permanent aspirational journey to achieve.  Taking the personal and turning it into something that can be owned by any listener Forget's nuanced vocal performances nonchalantly dropped the heaviest of lyrics into the catchiest couplets, featured the kinds of basslines people build dancefloors for plus the machine beats to match them, reintroduced hedonistic guitar licks and killer glitter-bomb crescendo solos with the foil of a perfect heartbreaking ballad to stop the show.

03. Demdike Stare – Forest Of Evil / Liberation Through Hearing / Voices Of Dust (Modern Love)
A trilogy of albums that conjured a genuinely unearthly trance from a combination of occult hauntology,  radiophonic workshopping and exotica, evoked ritualistic and religious texts and gloried in the musical properties of spiritual mysticism as much as the more physical aspects of electronic manipulation and magic.  A preternatural album that stylised itself best with the third album's cover of a seductively gloved medium casting runes towards the listener; the final play in enshrouding the listener in an umbral world of dark incantation and conscious elevating drone.

02. Agalloch – Marrow of the Spirit (Profound Lore)
Fourth full length from this band surpasses all that has come before and all other metal albums this year; a year in which I would consider Metal to have had some kind of renaissance or illumination, with so much invention and interesting records being released. Above them all stands this album; one that takes the Earth and bends it to its will as the most empowered Black Metal should, and in doing so refracts every element of Nature through it's prism. It features some beguilingly subtle and beautifully finessed instrumentation, overlapping acoustic passages with electrical storms - echoes of the ancients ringing into modernity. The guitar work is slides gracefully between raggedly harsh  intimidating aggression to beautifully evocative tones using an almost never ending supply of luminous riffs; the drumming from Ludicra's Aesop Dekkar expands and contract in perfect synchronicity with the changing moods of the guitars, all complemented by the year's most accomplished vocal performance; The result is a record that already has the well worn warmth and lived in feel of a decades old classic album.

01. Emeralds – Does it Look Like I'm Here? / Mark McGuire – Living With Yourself (Editions Mego)
Two sides to one story which I just cannot separate from each other; Emeralds is part which takes place in the ultra kosmiche, blurred out night world, a psychedelic hall of mirrors that shifts focus from the pulse to the drift, the ebb to the flow; their entire body of work honed in on, zoomed in on to reveal the most finely grained detail.  In reducing the track lengths they have emphasised everything about them, increased the density of the experience by evaporating out the extraneous to leave an utterly powerful elixir. Mark McGuire's solo album is a beautifully perfect foil to the fizzing noise of his full bandl; a lifetime's reminiscence that happens wide-eyed and out in the sunshine, focus pulled out to reveal a range of human drama in huge widescreen encompassing social landscapes and human occasions, personal, and warm. Serving as the bare bones that lie underneath the Emeralds tracks, the music in Living With Yourself comes as a revelation akin to lifting the veil over your brides face and being able to see the raw beauty in the flesh.


  1. I've only heard a handful of these, but it all sounds really intriguing...especially that Solar Bears.

    You're smart to wait until now to do your list.

  2. hey JK. I don't know about smart, it's just an accident of being so slow/too busy that it's taken me until now to finish it, otherwise I probably would throw in with the rest of the pre-Christmas mayhem.

  3. Having heard four or five albums that would have gone on my list had I heard them earlier (including the Solar Bears, Deerhunter and Agalloch albums), I might try and wait 'til a bit later to publish mine next time.

    I've tried a few times with the Emeralds album, just doesn't do it for me.

    Also, as I only discovered Agalloch a couple of weeks ago I've devoured their last three albums quite hungrily and I have to say I prefer "Ashes Against The Grain" to "Marrow of the Spirit" at the moment, I think it's the more post-rock feel to it that appeals to me more.

  4. Amazing; I've actually heard most of the stuff in your top ten! That's a first. Agree 100% with you on Agalloch; that was my number two overall as well. Are you going to post one of your patented best-of mix/playlist thingys this year? I hope so.

    Hope you are well, Meatbreak. This is Cal, in case you haven't seen this avatar/ID before.

  5. Thanks for the list and sharing, picked up a number of new listens thanks to you!