January 1, 2011

2010 Albums Of The Year!!!

But first, R.I.P. Captain...

You will be missed. You remain fast 'n' bulbous...

Now on to the spacerock champions! Why wait any longer? Here are BeeDub's Top Ten Albums of 2010!

1. Tame Impala 'Innerspeaker'
2. Black Mountain 'Wilderness Heart'
3. Wolf People 'Steeple'
4. Thee Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra 'Kollaps Tradixionales'
5. Sleepy Sun 'Fever'
6. Nice Nice 'Extra Wow'
7. White Noise Sound s/t
8. Mugstar 'Lime'/'...Sun, Unbroken...' (tie)
9. Liars 'Sisterworld'
10. White Hills s/t

Honorable Mention:
1. The Flaming Lips 'Dark Side of The Moon'
2. Sleigh Bells 'Treats'
3. The Besnard Lakes '...Are The Roaring Night'
4. Woodsman 'Collages'
5. Neil Young 'Le Noise'

Where to begin on 2010? It was a harrowing year for my family, but that's all in the past now, we survived and are stronger for it. But were my listening choices a bit... darker, this year? Or is that just coincidence? I think it was a dark year for most of us. But here's to an auspicious 2011...! Meanwhile the music was rife with heavy riffage, hypnotic repetition, haunting refrains... a whole lotta psychedelicism and altered state-inducing sounz, and dang if it didn't RAWK! Bring it on... all 3-1/2 hours of it!

UPDATE! New! Improved! Transportable! The deluxe take-it-with-you version of this month's "podcast" is ready for the busy spacerockers on the go. Remember: this isn't a true podcast, just an mp3 that you can download:

1. Click on the Kadoo logo instead of pushing the play button.

2. Click "download" when redirected to the Divshare site.

3. Once downloaded drag it to yer iTunes and sync it with yer pod - simple!

We start with a doozy of a new album by Neil Young. Just his ragged voice and inimitable electric guitar, with cinematic production by the master Daniel Lanois (hence the album title, "Le Noise"). It's epic, timely, angry, a balm for our souls' abrasions, and it feels like a great intro to this year-end set. Cuz, lookout! Next up is a leftfield entry from bubblegum punk duo Sleigh Bells, running the needle into the red with blown out beats, scuzzy guitar and little girl vocals, one of the most arrestingly enjoyable guilty pleasures in a long time. And with their nod to modern R&B, we slink into the closest thing to a dance-rock set ever seen on the Continuum, with !!!'s spacey slinky boogie that's equal part NYC no wave and rave-friendly dancefloor workouts, Soft Circle's newfound beat-orientation augmenting his usual ambient mantras, Holy Fuck still living up to their name with another album of ecstatic booty-shakers, and Squarepusher taking a rather rare departure from his spastic breakbeats and bassisms with a stop at the heavy metal disco.

Liars put out yet another album meeting or surpassing their best, and this track is a throwback to their early angsty-young-punk days. Jesu brings the dark metal of his Godflesh past to modern shoegaze dirges resulting in monolithic slabs of sorrow like this one. Serena-Maneesh put out their scattershot second collection exploring everything from saccharine bliss pop to swirling shoegaze to art-scuzz instrumentals recalling midperiod Primal Scream. Abe Vigoda took a departure from their arty afrobeat postpunk to dark anthems in an updated 4AD vein (dang if the singer's not channeling Robert Smith from The Cure!). And Tamaryn released a debut chock full of swooning shoegaze of a vintage variety (Pale Saints, anybody?).

This seemed to be the year for druggy dark & hazy back-alley mantras from bands who worship Spacemen 3 and their ilk, which is a dang fine thing! Crocodiles, Suuns, Royal Baths, Weekend and Moon Duo (the latter featuring members of Wooden Shjips!) could all fall into that category, although each has its own unique take on the template. Texas psychsters The Black Angels continue their homage to all things Roky on their third release. British newcomers Mugstar, who meet in a collision at the crossroads of acid rock and motorik, released two albums this year (hence the tie) of mindsplitting improvisational pyschedelia. And, as a gift to us all, White Noise Sound is like an unholy alliance between Spacemen 3, The Jesus & Mary Chain, and Love & Rockets - proudly wearing those influences on their sleeves, they may be derivative but it's derivative done right!

Among the more exploratory and experimental of the psych/improv realm are Nice Nice, who ventured from the cerebral math rock of their past to a more visceral approach (like in the way peyote is visceral), and two bands featuring members of Oneida, People of The North and White Hills, who expand the blueprint of the Big O's manic motorik sound. Woodsman appeared like forest pixies out of thin air with an album that, despite the separate tracks and titles, is basically one long improvisation, a magically hypnotic one. And The Alps and Citay continue to lead the pack of SF instrumental psych (although Citay balances its albums with songs drenched in soaring harmonies).

Nick Cave is still on a role with his second release as his Grinderman alter ego, where he and some of his Bad Seeds explore how sexual depravity is affected by middle age. Speaking of SF psych, the scene sweethearts Sleepy Sun have done it again with their sophomore album, which doesn't quite live up to the first but could hardly be called a slump. Black Mountain have also triumphed with their third album, more accessible than ever yet just as unabashedly RAWKING as ever.

Two young bands who put out such amazingly mature albums this year that my mind is still spinning (as are their CDs, constantly) are Australia's Tame Impala, whose breezy Floydian psych is like floating in a hammock, swinging in a warm breeze and the bliss of an acid comedown; and Wolf People from the UK who channel their forebears in Cream, Blind Faith, Blue Cheer and British baroque pop as if having been summoned as spirits from the past. If I had to pick three albums from 2010 to be the only ones I listened to for all of 2011 these two and the Black Mountain album would easily be my choices.

A couple weird ones, of the hard-to-classify variety, are Women, an enigmatic band of all men who incorporate 80s jangle pop, 90s indie rock and a load of experimental acts from This Heat to Swell Maps - a very diverse collection, this one; and Parlour, who, despite their sedate moniker, put together a collection of angular and energetic post rock designed to simultaneously confound and delight.

A band who shamelessly borrow from anthemic pop-metal and manage to make it all their own, Fang Island was the surprise sleeper of the year for me. Cloudland Canyon continue their dreamy stream-of-consciousness homage to vintage krautrock, and Deerhunter follow in a similar darkly nostalgic feel that I think is so appropriate for this last year. And The Besnard Lakes have perfected their combination of Canadian post rock and melodramatic torch songs.

And not to be overlooked - ending the set is high praise, don't forget - the band I predicted to take Number One Album... got close, but the first three positions were usurped by some young upstarts. Nevertheless A Silver Mt. Zion outdid themselves and most of their peers in the world of pathos-ridden apocalyptic post rock. All-in-all an AMAZING year for the ol' space rock. I'm just glad it's over, and happy to have all this incredible music as a result.

The following tracks should appear in the player below:

Walk With Me - Neil Young - Le Noise
Infinity Guitars - Sleigh Bells - Treats
AM/FM - !!! - Strange Weather, Isn't It?
First Time - Soft Circle - Shore Obsessed
Lucky - Holy Fuck - Latin
Maximum Planck - Squarepusher - Shobaleader One: d'Demonstrator
Scarecrows On A Killer Slant - Liars - Sisterworld
Dethroned - Jesu - Heart Ache & Dethroned
Blow Yr Brains In The Mourning Rain - Serena-Maneesh - S-M 2: Abyss In B Minor
Crush - Abe Vigoda - Crush
Mild Confusion - Tamaryn- The Waves
Billy Speed - Crocodiles - Sleep Forever
Gaze - Suuns - Zeroes
Needle And Thread - Royal Baths - Litanies
Coma Summer - Weekend - Sports
Motorcycle, I Love You - Moon Duo - Escape
Yellow Elevator #2 - The Black Angels - Phosphene Dream
Sunburnt Impedance Machine - Mugstar - Lime
It Is There For You - White Noise Sound - s/t
Set And Setting - Nice Nice - Extra Wow
Tunnels - People Of The North - Deep Tissue
Three Quarters - White Hills - s/t
Spirit Stone - Woodsman - Collages
Crossing The Sands - The Alps - Le Voyage
Secret Breakfast - Citay - Dream Get Together
When My Baby Comes - Grinderman - Grinderman 2
Desert God - Sleepy Sun - Fever
Old Fangs - Black Mountain - Wilderness Heart
Morning Born/Cromlech - Wolf People - Steeple
Desire Be, Desire Go - Tame Impala - Innerspeaker
Heat Distraction - Women - Public Strain
Simulacrenfield - Parlour - Simulacrenfield
Sidesweeper - Fang Island - s/t
Hope Sounds Dry - Cloudland Canyon - Fin Eaves
Desire Lines - Deerhunter - Halcyon Digest
And This Is What We Call Progress - The Besnard Lakes - Are The Roaring Night
There Is A Light - Thee Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra - Kollaps Tradixionales