Aquarium Drunkard :: Year In Review 2010

I’m scrapping the usual year-end wrap up and instead dropping an old school form letter on you. Just like the kind your granny used whip up and put inside her Christmas cards. So sit down, eat some peanut brittle, and we’ll get right into it after the jump.

In a year that saw a lot of trend-jumping, regrettable 80s synth ripoffs and worse, this is a list of what caught, and kept, my attention in 2010. File under fire. Gil Scott-Heron: you blew minds all over again in 2010 with the seemingly out of nowhere release of I’m New Here. Busting out of the gate last February I’ve devoured the album a little more with every passing month, finding fresh nuance with every listen. Fierce. My long Player of the year = Deerhunter’s Halcyon Digest. While “Desire Lines,” delivered by Lockett Pundt, is (at time of writing) my favorite track off the album, hats off to Deerhunter’s tireless Bradford Cox whose vision continues to push the band. And by push I don’t mean self-conscious experimental wankery, as Halcyon is their most accessible LP to date. In related news, be sure to check out the four (free) Atlas Sound releases Cox dropped around Thanksgiving: Bedroom Databank Volumes 1, 2, 3 and 4. One of my favorite new outfits from 2008, Women, returned in August with their sophomore LP, Public Strain. Women are among a small cadre of bands currently defining what I like best and most about this most recent block of 21st century post-punk. No Age fit this bill as well—as most recently demonstrated by their sophomore album, Everything In Between. More polished, yet still a ripper.

At the other end of the spectrum, Girls (SF) delivered more art-pop confection with their Broken Dreams Club EP, further whetting the collective appetite for their sophomore full-length. The baroque avant-pop that is John Grant’s Queen Of Denmark caught my attention mid-year and has yet to let go. A sound that at once invokes the 70s art pop of Todd Rundgren, the pastoral folk of Heron and, at times, the vocal phrasings of Nina Simone, it’s destined to become a cult favorite. Have you been keeping up with the Walkmen? I hope so. Continuing in the vein of 2008’s You And Me, the group’s 2010 LP (and Fat Possum debut), Lisbon, basks in the same hazy, uptown, New Orleans vibe as its predecessor—all blue cigarette smoke and shadow. The band’s NYC compatriots, the National, delivered High Violet earlier in the year; an LP that defined the word ‘grower’ for me in 2010. Also from New York, Sharon Van Etten, whose debut popped up on last years best of 2009 list, returned in 2010 with the fleshed out Epic. Ditto goes for Blair’s Die Young.

While there were too many outstanding reissues and compilations to fully get into here, the following are some titles currently piled on my desk and leaning against my turntable: Jim Sullivan’s U.F.O., Group Inerane: Guitars From Agadez Vol. 3, Orange Juice’s Coals to Newcastle box set, Ted Lucas’s The Om Album, the complete set of Fela Kuti reissues, the Turkish Freakout 60s/70s psych comp, the Nolan Strong tribute LP, Daddy Rockin’ Strong, Jane Birkin & Serge Gainsbourg’s Je T’aime… Moi, Non Plus, the Next Stop Soweto series, the Exile and Darkness On the Edge of Town redux’s and just about everything Numero Group put out. Moving onwards… The Lenny Kaye approved garage blast that is Austin, TX’s Harlem dropped their sophomore LP, Hippies, in April—their first on the Matador label. Warpaint, who caught their stride last year with the Exquisite Corpse EP, delivered in 2010 with their debut full-length, The Fool—a document that finally matches the strength of their live show. Nick Cave weirdos (raises hand) rejoiced with the growl and snarl of the second coming of Grinderman.   Phosphorescent’s Matthew Houck released Here’s To Taking It Easy in May; his first collection of original material since 2007’s Pride. Borrowing from the sound of his 2009 covers album   To Willie, the record finds Houck and band settling into a comfortable, well-worn, groove that fits them like a glove.

If it seems like I write about and play a lot of Richard Swift tunes on my radio show it’s because I do. Swift continued to unveil music via his blog the year, most notably his collaboration with Damien Jurado, Other People’s Songs Vol. 1, a collection of nine, choice, covers. Swift also released the excellent Walt Wolfman EP that is, among other things, home to the finest song to ever address Drakula. Also in EP news is Kurt Vile’s Square Shells.   Cotton Jones, following up a super strong EP, dropped Tall Hours In The Glowstream, a record that, scratch that, a group that are truly exploring ‘cosmic American music’ in 2010. Mavis Staples released her best album in decades, You Are Not Alone, with production duties helmed by none other than Jeff Tweedy. Pops Staples would be proud, indeed. On the neo-soul tip don’t miss the new Aloe Blacc album out on Stones Throw, Good Things—an album that is exactly that. Austin, TX’s favorite chameleon outfit, White Denim, added a fourth member this year and unloaded a free LP at the tail end of the summer… appropriately entitled Last Day of Summer.

In other news the Jacuzzi Boys, out of Miami, just keep getting better. When it comes to trending music, it’s nice to see the youth of today continuing to embrace the evergreen aesthetic that is garage rock. Keep that shit up, kids! Hey, even did a profile on the ‘movement’. Speaking of, one of my favorite LPs of the year, Ty Segall’s Melted, was birthed out of the incredibly fertile Bay Area garage scene that is also home to the Sandwitches, Hunx & His Punx, the Mantles, The Oh Sees and The Fresh And Onlys (really, I could go on for at least five more bands). Another record, by way of San Francisco, that saw a wider release in 2010, is the Sonny And The Sunsets joint Tomorrow is Alright. Sonny has been banging around, in one form or another for years, but this where it all comes together like some kind of whimsical NoCal supernova. Also from the bay, Berkeley’s Morning Benders made good with Big Echo…produced by Grizzly Bear’s Chris Taylor. This is an album that begs for the decent-pair-of-headphones treatment.

After several years and two albums of being lukewarm on the Black Keys I am fully on board again with the release of Brothers. Shit smokes. (Bonus points: they really let their T-Rex flag fly on the opener). Drive-by Truckers’ tenth album, The Big To Do, stayed in my rental car’s disc changer for two weeks this summer while driving around the South, in a humid haze of 98 degree heat, as did Futurebirds debut, Hampton’s Lullaby, an LP that sounds like the nexus of Neil Young’s Stray Gators and Crazyhorse personas. NC’s Megafaun continued to deliver on the early promise of their Bury The Square EP with this year’s excellent mini-album in Heretofore. Their NC neighbors, The Love Language, also delivered the pop smarts with their sophomore record, Libraries. Up north, New Jersey’s Titus Andronicus made good on the expectations of their debut with The Monitor; a Civil War driven rock & roll record residing somewhere between the Replacements and Springsteen. Speaking of Jersey, Roadside Graves EP, You Won’t Be Happy With Me, built around the epic “Liv Tyler,” has me counting the days/months for their next release, an song-cycle built around S.E. Hinton’s The Outsiders.

Back home, here in the perennial sunshine of Los Angeles, local music has been its typical eclectic and random self. I released the second installment of my local music compilation series in June. This time I chose eight bands to each cover a track off Television’s sophomore LP Adventure, entitled—wait for it—L’Aventure. Like the L.A. take on McCartney’s RAM the year before, L’Aventure is a study in not only the reinterpretation of material, but of the diversity of L.A. music as a whole. It is available for download, for free, here. (Look for my local L.A. and Autumn Tone wrap-ups later).   That’s it for this year’s stream-of-consciousness rundown.   If your eyes haven’t crossed yet, hit up the comments below and tell us what you liked in ’10. Cheers – AD


48 thoughts on “Aquarium Drunkard :: Year In Review 2010

  1. i definately think the BEACH FOSSILS are worth mentioning. i would also tack on MOUNTAIN MAN if you’re into that kinda thing (which i am). and somewhere in between these two, i’ve recently been impressed with GRASS WIDOWS.

  2. I want to hear this John Grant a lot, but the files are dead! And chance of re-upping them?

  3. We have scary similar taste… but I agree with Doug. The Grass Widow album has been unfairly ignored.

  4. Great wrap, man. I’m throwing my hat in the ring for calling Beach House conspicuously missing, but hey, it’s all good. 🙂

  5. @Mark – that Beach House record is good, but that genre of stuff is just too sleepy for me this year. I mostly listened to old/obscure r&b over the past 12 months with squonking saxes and shit.

    @Carter – ya know, I left off a lot of artists I like due to A) disappointing releases (Caribou, Ruby Suns, Here We Go Magic etc) B) uneven albums that don’t hold up as a whole under scrutiny (too many to list). and C) my general disinterest in a lot of new music of late (see opening paragraph).

  6. To me it will be the year of Goner Records. I’m digging just about everything that they released this year: Ty Segall, Melted; Limes, Rhinestone River; Harlan T. Bobo, Sucker; and Nobunny, First Blood…

  7. Great list. Halcyon Digest is my album of the year. Really like that you have Harlem and Titus Andronicus on there, along with the Walkmen’s album. Tame Impala deserve some love though. Agree with Mark on Beach House too. Also, I’m not just sucking up to AD when I say that my most played for the past few months has been your Bomboclat mix.

  8. Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings- I Learned the Hard Way!!!! Give the girl and her crew some love. Not to mention the power of their live act

  9. Joanna Newson? I think she deserves to be in the conversation for album of the year along with Halcyon Digest and Lisbon.

  10. I’ve been loving the Dr. Dog release and OK GO is definitely near the top of my list this year

  11. I’m surprised you didn’t like the Caribou album, I thought it was a return to form after what seemed like Snaith falling off the last few years.
    Also Spoon deserves mention – another solid album with Transference in my opinion. They are still doing the same thing, but they do it so damn well.

  12. @ carter — Tame Impala, like Mountain Man, Radio Dept, Menonmena and some others were on this list until the final draft. I decided I had too many on here. Went for brevity. But to answer your question, I dig it.

  13. Tame Impala – in my top 5 in 2010…missing….and I’d inlcude Lower Dens too.

    Ty Segall – my top 1!!

    Great list, thanks for sharing 🙂

  14. 1. These New Puritans “Hidden”
    2. Local Natives “Gorilla Manor” (Yes, I know it came out in 2009 in the UK)
    3. Fang Island “Fang Island”
    4. Land of Talk “Cloak and Cipher”
    5. Deerhunter “Halcyon Digest”
    6. Arcade Fire “The Suburbs”
    7. Menomena “Mines”
    8. The National “High Violet”
    9. The Poison Control Center “Sad Sour Future”
    10. The Intelligence “Males”
    11. Superchunk “Majesty Shredding”
    12. Spoon “Transference”
    13. Sufjan Stevens “The Age of Adz”
    14. Robert Pollard “Moses on a Snail”
    15. Beach House “Teen Dream”
    16. The Besnard Lakes “Are the Roaring Night”
    17. MGMT “Congratulations”
    18. Broken Social Scene “Forgiveness Rock Record”
    19. LCD Soundsystem “This is Happening”
    20. Phantogram “Eyelid Movies”
    21. Suuns “Zeroes QC”
    22. White Denim “Last Day of Summer”
    23. Vampire Weekend “Contra”
    24. Owen Pallett “Heartland”
    25. Midlake “The Courage of Others”

  15. I’d agree with almost everything, besides the very glaring omission of LCD Soundsystem. This is Happening was killer. Thank you for the shout-outs on The National (one of my favorite groups at the moment, if not my favorite) and the Walkmen (whose growth gets better and better the more stuff they put out)

  16. My favorites this year: Phosphorescent, Deerhunter, DBTs, The Barr Brothers, Of Montreal, Gorillaz and Hacienda.

    Just listened to the Walkmen album recently, and it’s great so far.

    The National, Spoon and Caribou I thought were all pretty boring.

  17. Love that you included The Walkmen and Megafaun. Sufjan’s latest was my favorite of the year, though. He really transformed himself with an incredible album.

  18. Agree with Buzzy that Phosphorescent deserves an honorable mention. Solid release. Delta Spirit’s “History From Below” absolutely HAS to be included. They really delivered with this release. Alejandro Escovedo’s “Street Songs of Love” deserves a little love. As does Los Lobos’ “Tin Can.” Lobi Traore’s “Rainy Season Blues” was outstanding and a fitting soundtrack right now for those of us in the Pacific Northwest. Have to say (and glad to see it make the list) that The Black Key’s “Brother” is at the top of my list, no question. Just grew and grew and grew on me and is no question the album of the year. Mavis Staples (and Jeff Tweedy) grabbed my attention with “You Are Not Alone.” Pete Yorn may have shown he’s got some life left after stringing together another good release in “PY.”

  19. jsf3000 – I spent a lot of this year listening to Dr. Dog records. Fate was still reverberating in my ear, and Shame, Shame just didn’t have as much force as Fate did, nor as much enjoyment as a lot of other things this year. Still a great record and their a touring force, though.

  20. thanks for that dude! awesome idea, interesting read. i been trying to convince my boys that we should have a proper curry night in instead of going out every week, and actually did it last week. effin great success, i can tell you! i found a tasty korma and a few others from this curry recipe site, and even made the naan myself too! who said guys cant cook!

  21. Pantha Du Prince, Beach House, and Avey Tare.

    The rest of the year felt like nothing special, though it’s always right to note any work Bradford Cox is up to.

    Oh, and how about those Robert Wyatt reissues?

  22. Coming in to 2010, I worried that, after a year where multitudinous phenomenal albums were released, there would be a plethora of bad albums made and a dearth of good ones. Man, was I wrong.

    I’m impressed by the breadth of your list. Not only are recently recorded albums included, but compilations and online releases (Atlas Sound and Richard Swift) are represented as well, something I haven’t seen on other year end lists. And though I haven’t made it through the full album, I love what I’ve heard from John Grant, and it’s nice to see Queen of Denmark receive recognition somewhere. The only glaring omissions I noticed were Magic Kids’ Memphis, GAYNGS’ Relayted, and Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti’s Before Today. Thoughts?

    I enjoy reading a year-end list without having to see LCD Soundsystem, Caribou, or Best Coast garnering mention.

  23. yeah no question Deerhunter’s halcyon digest is amazing. The summer album, well for a few weeks at least was Kings Go Forth, The outsiders are back on Luaka Bop. Think Beginning of the End in Funky Nassau mode.
    2010 can’t have a happy ending without some fine release from Excelsior Records:
    Tim Knol, El Pino & The Volunteers, Beans & Fatback, even Belgian’s finest rockers Triggerfinger have outdone themselves.

    In the re-issue dept. Numero Group Syll Johnson’s Complete Mythology can’t be beat not even by Orange Juice.

    Also mythology: Kanye Wests masterpiece

    Greatest disappointment: Belle & Sebastian Write about love, after 4 years after The Life persuit they come up with this dross.

  24. Halcyon Digest took my top spot, too…simply an enjoyable listen. The Menomena record is a beautiful beast of an album! Another one that made my list is from a band called Nothing People from Orland, California. Three LPs for S.S.–all brilliant and noisy. Check them out!

  25. AD, what are your thoughts about The Woods album At Echo Lake? When it came out earlier this year I was obsessed. I did find myself losing touch after the summer months but I’ve since rediscovered and believe it to be a pretty darn good release.

  26. Tame Impala’s Innerspeaker is the only album that I think really deserved a mention that you omitted. Otherwise, great list! I love that you included Aloe Blacc, Grinderman, Harlem, and Cotton Jones.

  27. As a promotor and music lover in cold Gothenburg, Sweden we put on as many shows we can with bands and acts that shows up on Aquarium Drunkard. So here’s my take on realeses during 2010.

    1. Beach House — Teen Dream
    2. Phosphorescent — Here’s To Taking It Easy
    3. Avi Buffalo — Avi Buffalo
    4. John Grant — Queen Of Denmark
    5. Woods — At Echo Park
    6. Band Of Horses — Infinite Arms
    7. Cotton Jones — Tall Hours In The Glowstream
    8. The Fresh & Onlys — Play It Strange
    9. Dylan Leblanc — Paupers Field
    10. Black Mountain — Wilderness Heart
    11. Deer Tick — The Black Dirt Sessions
    12. Blitzen Trapper — Destroyer Of The Void
    13. She & Him — Volume 2
    14. Doug Paisley — Constant Companion
    15. Deerhunter — Halcyon Digest Doug Paisley — Constant Companion
    16. Tame Impala — Innerspeaker
    17. Jason Boesel — Hustler’s Son
    18. The Mynabirds — What We Lose In The Fire
    19. Jenny & Johnny — I’m Having Fun Now
    20. The Morning Benders — Big Echo
    21. The Tallest Man On Earth — The Wild Hunt
    22. Futurebirds — Hampton’s Lullaby
    23. Justin Townes Earle — Harlem River Blues
    24. Midlake — The Courage Of Others
    25. The Strange Boys — Be Brave
    26. Timber Timbre — Timber Timbre
    27. First Aid Kit — The Big Black And The Blue
    28. Mountain Man — Made The Harbor
    29. Magic Kids — Memphis
    30. The Black Keys — Brothers
    31. Arcade Fire — The Suburbs
    32. The National — High Violet
    33. The New Pornographers — Together
    34. Basia Bulat — Heart Of My Own
    35. Belle & Sebastian — Write About Love
    36. Teenage Fanclub — Shadows
    37. The Walkmen — Lisbon
    38. The Dum Dum Girls — I Will Be
    39. Best Coast — Crazy For You
    40. The Duke & The King — Long Live The Duke & The King
    41. Citay — Dream Get Together
    42. Damien Jurado — Saint Bartlett
    43. The Besnard Lakes — The Besnard Lakes Are The Roaring Night
    44. Laura Veirs — July Flame
    45. Harper Simon — Harper Simon

    Keep Up Your Great work!

    /Kim @ Woody West

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