12.28.2010

the glorious one-sided war 2010 year in review - music edition

As I get older, I have less time for new music. So I tend to focus on what I listened to during the years when music was the prime factor in my life. I think everyone does that to some extent. But where I go wrong is when I act like an asshole and say that music today sucks, and it's not worth listening to anyways. So for 2010, I decided to make it a point to listen to more new music. And I'm very glad I did. Turns out, there's a LOT of great music being made. I ended up listening to 70 albums and EP's. Instead of giving you a top ten, I'm going to rank all 70, starting with the best, and ending with the worst.

Much to my surprise, it took until around #55 or so to get to albums I didn't care for at all. That's a crazy success rate. 2010 was an excellent year in music, and I apologize to the years 1999 - 2009 for not paying greater attention.

Holy shit this post took a long time. Alright. You ready? Let's get this bitch started.

1. EXTORTION - LOOSE SCREW
I pretty much had Off! safely penciled into the top spot until I heard this. Now, I consider Extortion to be the best powerviolence band since the demise of Spazz, but even I was not expecting this. The thing that Extortion (and Spazz before them) understands that most powerviolence bands don't, is that you can do hyperfast and still have an underlying sense of  structure and, dare I say, melody? Of course you are not going to be happily humming Extortion songs at work, but it's not just chaotic noise. It's the best album of the year.


2. OFF! - FIRST FOUR EP'S
An immediate classic.  Keith Morris sounds like he is back fronting Black Flag. Short, fast blasts of anger. Awesome.



3. THE ARRIVALS - VOLATILE MOLOTOV
Well, it looks like the wait was worth it. 


4. OFF WITH THEIR HEADS - IN DESOLATION
The fact that some people saw this album as a letdown speaks to how stupid some people are. Is it as good as Hospitals? No. But what is? If you expect OWTH to make a record as good as that again, think again. Perfection is not easy. But In Desolation, while feeling a bit too familiar sometimes, is still an album of the year contender.



5. GHOSTFACE KILLAH - APOLLO KIDS
I don't listen to a ton of hip-hop, but if there is anyone doing it better than Ghostface Killah, you need to let me know like now.


6. DAS RACIST - SHUT UP, DUDE
I thought "Combination Pizza Hut and Taco Bell" was a one-off joke gimmick, and boy was I wrong. Me, who has never danced in my life and has no desire to ever do so, was extremely tempted while listening to this. Fantastic.


7. SWEET COBRA - MERCY
If Karp, Floor, and Panthro UK United 13 had a sweaty bareback three-way, Sweet Cobra would be the bastard child. Crazy good. A fitting final legacy for the late Mat Arluck. 


8. WAVVES - KING OF THE BEACH
Overhyped and reviled and I cannot get enough. This is Exhibit A of what happens when you stop leaning on gimmicky shit like extreme distortion and let the pop shine through. A lot of people called this cleaner production a sellout. I called it a breakthrough. 

9. RAW NERVE - RAW NERVE LP
Skip the scenester hype and drama and just listen. Some ugly, ugly hardcore. People throw the Void reference out, and yea, it's relevant, but this also kind of reminds me of Fuckface. That is high praise, indeed. This is so fucking good, and it's my ninth favorite? Honestly, it has been a great year in music.


10. RVIVR - DIRTY WATER EP
Stupid band name, excellent band. Almost a perfect record. I liked the LP as well, as you see below, but all things being equal, a 7" is the rock to an LP's scissors. 


11. RVIVR - RVIVR LP
See above. Probably my favorite vocals of the year. 



12. YOUNG LIVERS - OF MISERY AND TOIL
Bearded dudes from Gainesville, dualing vocals, sound familiar? It should. Speed up some early HWM, and there ya go. Trust me, I really want to hate this type of scenester-ish beardcore, but with songs this fucking good, I just can't.


13. TORCHE - SONGS FOR SINGLES
Torche manage to make downtuned sludge poppy. Great stuff. Please save your "Floor was better" talk". Yes, they were, but you weren't listening to Floor when they were actually around, poseur (this includes me).



14. LIGHT UP! - LIGHT UP! EP
This came out of nowhere and floored. Great Italian (cliche alert) pissed-as-fuck hardcore. I listened to this late in the year, and didn't get to the full-length, which is free and also available at the link. 


15. DAS RACIST - SIT DOWN, MAN
They had two amazing releases this year. I just thought Shut Up, Dude was a little more carefree and fun than this. And I hate all the featuring so-and-so and produced by so-and-so namedropping. Other than that, this is still top-notch.


16.  TRASH TALK - EYES & NINES
Trash Talk almost mainstreamed powerviolence. That counts for something.


17. KYLESA - THE SPIRAL SHADOW
Kylesa - Spiral Shadow. Punishing riffs abound. Yet, amid all the crushing, there's some real beauty.


18. CROCODILES - SLEEP FOREVER EP
Everything "indie rock" should be. And I'm not saying that because I'm a San Diego homer. Though I totally am. Best version of "Groove Is In The Heart" you'll hear on college radio ever. I liked the LP too, bit like I said, EP's are better than LP's.


19. CROCODILES - SLEEP FOREVER LP
And here's the aforementioned LP. "Hearts Of Love" is one of the best songs of the year. 


20. BISON B.C. - DARK AGES
Didn't dig this as much as the epic Earthbound, but I still dug it. Fans of Mastodon rejoice. 


21. SUPERCHUNK - MAJESTY SHREDDING
I was never a huge Superchunk fan back in the day, but this was a welcome comeback. 100% not embarrassing. In fact, the opposite. Might be my favorite Superchunk album. I know that makes me lame. So be it.


22. NOBUNNY - FIRST BLOOD
Just a good fucking time all around.


 23. LAZY MARY - CRAZY HAIRY EP 
This entire EP is awesome, but 'Hangnail' still stands out.
 

24. FEAR OF LIPSTICK - S/T LP
The world needed another Briefs album, and FOL provided it.


25. DOOMSTAR! - RAINBOW BLOODSUCKER
So, so good. Doomstar mix a bout a dozen influences and they do it successfully. There's a definite Makers influence. Very 60's. Doomstar! is like the East Coast version of Wavves, and since they cut out the little time wasting interludes, possibly better at times.


26. GERIATRIC UNIT - AUDIT OF ENEMIES
Some fine pissed UK Hardcore. Former members of Heresy and Hard To Swallow, so you know where these giys are coming from. Fucking great.


27. NIGHT BIRDS - MIDNIGHT MOVIES TAPE
Stellar punk rock reminiscent of some of the better 80's OC bands.


28. THE GAMITS - PARTS
At the beginning of the decade, I used to recommend The Gamits to my mainstream friends who liked Green Day, but might have been looking for something a little more obscure. At the end of the decade, I think it's safe to say The Gamits are the better band in 2010.  


29. NOBUNNY / JACUZZI BOYS SPLIT EP
Just two songs, both completely infectious.


30. NEON PISS - DEMO TAPE
If the demo is this fucking good, imagine a proper release. Do you realize we're fucking 30 releases into this list and I am still whole-heartedly recommending shit. Cray cray. 


31. PSYCHO - VERTIGO EP
It's like the years between the last Psycho record and this one never existed. An audio time warp. Fuckin' A. 


32. THE INVALIDS - STILL SICK
An unsung 90's pop-punk band regrouping years later is a recipe for disaster. But the Invalids pulled it off, without sounding like a watered down version of their former selves. Too bad singer Scott is a Raiders fan. That shit cannot be ignored.


33. NONE MORE BLACK - ICONS
This didn't floor me. But None More Black is a pretty dynamic band, and there's a lot going on here. Some songs sound downright country influence. While I did not love this immediately, I get the feeling that repeated listens are going to pay off.


34. THE SOFT PACK - S/T LP
More excellent San Diego indie rock. I don't dig the radio track, "Answer To Yourself", but I really like the rest of this. 


35. SLEIGH BELLS - TREATS
More hipster bullshit that I really want to hate, but instead I really like. I don't even know what this genre is called! 


36. SMOKE OR FIRE - THE SPEAKEASY
At it's best, a nice combination of anthemic punk rock in the vein of Strike Anywhere and Avail. At it's worst, mall punk. Also, in their attempts to be political, the lyrics can get a little cheesy.


37. BAD RELIGION - THE DISSENT OF MAN
Not life changing and not among their best albums. But BR could be embarrasing themselves, and they aren't.


38. MISERY INDEX - HEIRS TO THIEVERY
Punishing. Honestly, I'm a bit weary the death metal vocal style, but Misery Index mixes in enough hardcore influence to keep things interesting.


39. IRON CHIC - NOT LIKE THIS
There's about a billion bands doing this exact same thing. Iron Chic does it well, and there's some really good stuff on here (most notably, "Timecop"), but not enough variety to keep me interested for an entire album.



40. LICH KING - WORLD GONE DEAD
Sometimes the retro-thrash thing seems like an excuse to make as many puns with the word "thrash" in them and 80's action movie references as humanly possibly. An Lich King is certainly guilty of that at times. But this release is marked improvement over their older stuff. They seem to be hitting their stride. There are some rippers on here that made me want to toxic waltz in my living room. But, like most things, it starts to all blend together after a while. Proving my point that 7-inches are the preferred mode of music distribution.


41. MERLE HAGGARD - I AM WHAT I AM
I figured this was going to be an attempt to do the whole later Johnny Cash type-thing, but it's surprinsingly true to Haggard's long standing sound, which is good enough for me.


42. Back To The Basement
The Queers are in my Top 10 bands of all time, so it pains me to put them this far down the list. Fact is, they are at their best when channeling the Beach Boys and the Ramones, and not doing the straight up punk rock thing. The sunnier songs on this are excellent, but I didn't care for the rest of it.


43. SWINGIN' UTTERS - TAKE THE LONG WAY
A little more restrained than I was expecting. The addition of Jack Dalrymple makes this sound at times more like One Man Army than the Swingin Utters. But it is still the Swingin' Utters, so it's definitely a decent release. 


44. BLUNDERBUSST - WILL THIS KNIFE
I am not the intended audience for this, but the links to Narcissitic Freds led me to it. I enjoyed it, but I do wish more of the songs had the pep of album closer "Whiskey and Wine".


45. CUM STAIN - S/T 
I don't hold being one dimensional against any band. But Cum Stain offer a lot of attitude but not a lot of memorable hooks. All in all, though, still pretty good though.


46. WALTER SCHREIFELS - AN OPEN LETTER TO THE SCENE
I don't hate this, but I didn't find any of it to be great.


47.MONSTER MAGNET - MASTERMIND
Spine Of God was so good that it bought Monster Magnet a lifetime of my checking out whatever they are doing. I don't expect there to be another S.O.G, and this certainly does not come close, but it is pretty damn good overall.



48. THUNDER BUFFALO - S/T
I was over the whole distorted vocals thing a decade ago. I wish the trend would go away. Makes it impossible to judge an album fairly. This might be good, I certainly heard some promise ("Gloomy In Us All"), but the distorted vocals are too much of a distraction.



49. PALM YARD - CRAFT NIGHT
See Thunder Buffalo. Probably a good album if they quit with the gimmicks.


50. LEATHERFACE / NINJA GUN TOUR 7"
I'm not going to pretend I love Leatherface, because I don't. Their song here is meh, but the Ninja Gun song is fantastic.


51. MADISON BLOODBATH / SUNNYSIDE SPLIT EP

Okay, I'm just gonna say it. I cannot stand fake gruff vocals. If your voice isn't naturally gruff, stop faking a gruff affect.  I can't say for sure either of these bands are doing that, but I have my suspicions. But, even with that disclaimer, the songs here are solid.



52. DEFIANCE, OHIO - MIDWESTERN MINUTES
Has its moments, but I've just never really bought in to Defiance, Ohio. Sometimes their lyrics have that awkward, earnest preachiness (think Operation Cliff Clavin)- too many syllables attacking easy targets - that I cannot stand. And, this may expose me as close-minded, but I do not need cellos or violins or whatever the fuck in my punk, be it folk or not.


53. LEATHERFACE / YESTERDAY'S RING TOUR EP 
Same Leatherface song that appeared on the Ninja Gun split. Yesterday's promise provide a country song that I kinda liked.


54. EXTREME NOISE TERROR / SLANG - HARDCORE ATTACK OF THE LOW LIFE DOGS SPLIT EP 
If you like ENT, you'll like this. If you don't, move along, there's nothing to see here. 


55. HARVEY MILK - A SMALL TURN OF HUMAN KINDNESS
I like Harvey Milk a lot. So I don't like saying that I did not enjoy this. It just plodded along with no dramatic highs, just all lows.


56. BEST COAST - CRAZY FOR YOU
I know they are all the rage, and I get the comparisons to Wavves, but it's just not aggressive or catchy enough for me. 


57. THE THERMALS - PERSONAL LIFE
Maybe I'm wrong, but I've always considered The Thermals to be a punk band. This album shatters that illusion. The Thermals slow things down, add in some new elements, and go full indie rock. It just doesn't work for me.


58. AGAINST ME! - WHITE CROSSES
Ever sense the move to a major label, I've had mixed feelings about AM! I'm no longer a kid, so I don't begrudge any bands decision to move to a major label, UNLESS that band gained it's popularity by EXPLICITLY praising the virtues of the underground. But anyways fuck all that. Too old too worry about that kind of shit, and I'm over it, and I genuinely like Against Me! Fact is, New Wave was an excellent album. White Crosses has some excellent songs, but they are few and far between. Most of the time, they are channeling Tom Gabel's inner Springsteen. Nothing wrong with that, but it feels like an important voice in music has been lost. 


59. LEATHERFACE - THE STORMY PETREL
Probably blasphemous to most, but I just don't get all the Leatherface praise. What are you people hearing that I'm not hearing? I just don't get it. Probably a reflection on me rather on them, but for me, at least, the emperor wears no clothes.
 

60. LUDICRA - TENANT
I only got this because I am such a big fan of Aesop Dekker, former drummer of my all-time favorite band Hickey, and current drummer for Ludicra & Agalloch. I am not, however, a fan of Black Metal, so I cannot properly judge this. I did not hate it, though. 


61. MORSER - 1ST CLASS SUICIDE
Yeah, it's technical and brutal, but death metal is not beyond having soul, and this just had none. 


62. AM TAXI - WE DON'T STAND A CHANCE
Take the most mainstream aspects of Gaslight Anthem, Alkaline Trio, and some (newer) Against Me! and you have AM Taxi. I can't say this is bad. But I can say it feels wholly too calculated and fraudulent for me. Highly doubt any dues were paid.


63. ANAL CUNT - FUCKIN' A
A.C. goes cock rock. This has it's funny moments, but I can't see myself listening to it again.


64. FUCKED UP - DAVID'S PLAN EP 
Fucked Up are great live, but on record I find them incredibly boring at times. This consists of the song "David's Plan" and last year's remake of "Don't They Know It's Christmas". It may mark the first time I've preferred an original Christmas song over the punk rock remake. Style over substance. 


65. SAGE FRANCIS - LI[F]E
A few years ago, I loved Sage Francis, but for whatever reason, when I listened to this I was cringing. Just too heavy-handed and self-important. 


66. Keep This To Yourself [Explicit]
Sometimes I think that the Get Up Kids were the worst thing to ever happen to music, and this album is exactly why. This would sound perfect playing in some edgy place like Tilly's. It's such a fine line between good and bad with this sort of emo-ish pop-punk. This falls squarely on the bad side. 


67. WEEZER - HURLEY
Terrible. I feel like Weezer is Lucy, and I'm Charlie Brown, and every time Lucy sets up that football, I bite and try and kick it, and she keeps pulling back that fucking football. WHY DO I KEEP LISTENING TO NEW WEEZER ALBUMS?  I don't expect another Pinkerton, but Christ, anything remotely close would be fine. 


68. DEAL WITH IT - EYJAFJALLAJOKULL
Let's be honest. I got this because DRI's Dealing With It is one of the greatest albums ever released, and I was hoping against all hope that this would somehow being influenced. It's not. It's just bad metalcore.


69. DUSTBOX - STARBOW
I'm so confused. My friend told me about a Japanese pop-punk band called Dustbox. They were very Hi-Standard-ish. I liked them. So what the fuck is this? Okay,whew,  it's just the first song. I hope that first song was a joke. Seriously one of the worst things ever. The rest of the album is what I was expecting.  A little too slick, some nice guitar work, but no songs that floored me. That first song is so bad, though, it gets the album kicked way down here.


70. ANTONY & THE JOHNSONS - SWANLIGHTS
Are you fucking kidding me? Awfully pretentious. Awful and pretentious. Lesson: NEVER TAKE RECOMMENDATIONS FROM HIPSTERS. The worst thing I heard all year. 
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