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Well I know you’re not going to believe this, because sPikeR(!) and pRocrastinatioN(!) are best buds, but I’m putting out my ‘Best of 2010’ list later than many because I wanted to wait until the year was actually over. No, really. You never know who’s going to squeak through at the last minute. Cases in point: I found Junip’s Fields in early December (rel. Sept 14), and Duran Duran released their latest on December 21. One of these two examples made me glad I waited, the other made me laugh when I saw their publicity shots.
You’re probably not going to believe this either, but so as not to influence my decisions, I have yet to read any ‘Best of 2010’ lists (except for Kevin Bronson’s over at BuzzBands L.A., because his is strictly set to L.A. bands). Thus, unlike almost everything else in my life, this compilation is as pure as my late Uncle Kenneth’s triple-distilled moonshine.
Did you believe any of that? sUckeR(!)
But seriously, my 2010 was one bastard of a year: I lost a brother to heroine, a friend to suicide, and fell into unrequited love. Not surprisingly, music acted as my evil chaperon through these events, providing an outlet while cruelly accentuating the melancholy. Let me tell you, scoring my brother’s death was a precarious dance. Chosen, were bold lullabies which emancipated and characterized the pain that could not otherwise be fathomed. They couldn’t have a ‘hook’ -god help me if I got one stuck in my head and became a slave to it all day, and they had to be songs that I was willing to put away, probably forever. Essentially, they were doomed to become blood-stained towels…not to be re-used. Alas neither the sacrificial songs, nor the records to which they belong will make my ‘Best of’ list, as they’ve been fitted with cement shoes and thrown into deep, cold water.
On a lighter note, let’s look back at some of the great music that happened in 2010. I’ll start with my favorite live shows of the year, because when it’s said and done, the band that can knock me dead in a live setting is the one that steals my heart forever. Following that, you will find my favorite records, my least favorite records, and a flagship piece from an old, dusty corner of my music world that shall never again be left in the dark. From the old comes the new……”and so it goes.” -Kurt Vonnegut
Best Live Shows of 2010 (no particular order):
Menomena (Crystal Ballroom, Portland, Oregon)
Harper Blynn (Troubadour, L.A.)
The Felice Brothers (The Echo, L.A.)
A.A. Bondy (Mississippi Studios, Portland Oregon)
Jim Campilongo (Some bar in New York City)
The Ugly Suit (SXSW, Austin, Texas) (I was recently informed that this incredible band “imploded”. They couldn’t cut the lifestyle.)
Local Natives (SXSW, Austin, Texas; Bootleg Theater, L.A.)
Midlake (SXSW, Austin, Texas)
Roger Waters performing The Wall (Staples Center, L.A.)
The Tallest Man on Earth (Doug Fir Lounge, Portland, Oregon)
Best Records of 2010 (After #1, there is no particular order.):
The Walkmen, Lisbon. Best of the “big” Indie bands. Runners up: Band of Horses, Infinite Arms –Best road trip music; Arcade Fire, Suburbs -Best driving home from work music; The National, High Violet –Best just home from work, first drink of the evening music.
Tame Impala, Innerspeaker. Best background/vacuuming music.
Tallest Man on Earth, The Wild Hunt. Best singer-songwriter.
Local Natives, Gorilla Manor. Bestbreak-out band.
Junip, Fields. Most surprising and exotically beautiful.
Rolling Stones, Exile on Main Street. Best re-master.
Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti, Before Today. Best roller-rink music.
Holly Golightly and the Brokeoffs, Medicine County. Best roots music. Runner up: Justin Townes Earl, Harlem River Blues. Great, but I think he can do even better…waiting.
Dead Weather, Sea of Cowards. Most depressing. I still haven’t been able to listen to this record in its entirety in one sitting. In fact, most of the time I can’t listen to more than about three songs at once, because it nearly kills me. That said, my criteria in a “Best of” is an artist/band who goes for broke. Dead Weather did that with this highly open, infected, oozing piece of agony and beauty.
Best of the Boring in 2010 (music that I’m all kinds of “Meh” about):
Spoon, Transference. Most contrived and disappointing. And yes, I did read about how they made Transference, which should have made the record very UNcontrived, but alas, fail.
Black Keys, Brothers. This just didn’t blow my mind. It sounds like a lot of other things that I’ve heard before, which would be cool if it were really hard or really amazing, but it’s just more of the same really unremarkable stuff. Really.
The National, High Violet. It’s not a mistake that they’re on both the ‘Most boring’ and the ‘Best of’ lists. I couldn’t decide because I think they could have done better. It’s The National for crying out fucking loud! Look, the first time I heard this record, I borderline loved it…and I still like it. High Violet is beautiful, poignant, and it demonstrates the bands’ maturity but….I just don’t feel like they went ‘balls to the wall’ with it. When someone is a brilliant ‘A’ student giving you a B- paper, you feel disappointed. They have the catalogue, the talent, and the fan base necessary to take a huge risk and possibly fail, but at least surprise us. Please. Surprise us(!)
Best Discovery in 2010 (Not by any stretch a “new release”, rather new to sPikeR(!) and very much becoming part of my fabric):
Lee Moses, Time & Place. This recommendation came from a gentleman at Amoeba Records in Hollywood after I walked to the back of the store and asked for something to go along with the blistering summer heat. I told him I needed music that would make me feel like I was back in time -in the deep South -sitting barefoot on a porch stoop -sipping a julep -listening to revelers in the church next door and hoping they were praying for me. This is what he gave me: Time & Place by Lee Moses. Rel 1970 on Maple records. And to this I say, “Holy shit”.
Farewell to 2010 (you son-of-a-bitch!) and a sincere thank you to all of the artists whose life work is to expose and express the imperfections that tie us to one another inextricably. Well done.