Top 10 Releases of 2010

I generally find that the odd years are far better than the even years in music release quality. If you use the metric of a ‘good’ year, as I think most critics do, as the emergence of massively interesting break-through bands coming out from the ether (like say Fever Ray or The xx from last year), then you can say that 2010 is an off year in relation to 2009. 2010 largely featured the release of several good to great albums from veteran bands that are expected to do just that, and therefore, got roundly ignored for their good efforts as oceans of middling and often derivative upstarts get all of the year-end accolades. Every one of my top 10 here, except Candy Claws, I suspect are victims of being largely passed over due to past successes – but not here. What are included here are my favorite full length albums. Eps and singles, featuring the best work of the new bands that got my attention, are treated separately.

1.Killing Joke – Absolute Dissent
It is pretty shocking what little is out there these days that passes as a solid hard rock album. Outside of Grinderman, I can’t even think of anything that would remotely act as competition. Thankfully, Killing Joke don’t rely on competition for inspiration and remain peerless in putting out intelligent heavy guitar albums with paint peeling vocals.

2.OMD (Orchestral Maneuvers in the Dark) – History of Modern
I admit that I might be placing OMD‘s return to the fray high on the list just as bait for them to tour the US. You see, OMD are a U2 sized band in popularity every where on the planet but here in the U.S. of A. and are not willing to lug their vintage keyboards oversees to play mid-size clubs. This album didn’t change things, but it certainly is a fine keyboard pop record from true masters. There are some phenomenal moments on this record, and yes, it would be on this list no matter what. OMD, if you are reading, Kylie Minogue finally deigned to play to this country of ingrates. I think she enjoyed herself. Think about it. [And, remember kiddies, if OMD do finally come to the US, you have TSOI largely to thank.]

3.Candy Claws – Hidden Lands
Candy Claws are very young and from an unlikely place, Colorado, but somehow have put together this beautiful slab of fuzzed psychedelic dream pop – like Mercury Rev playing from David Lynch‘s radiator with the steam screaming through the pipes.

4.Stars – The Five Ghosts
I have been on the fence about the Stars for quite awhile but damn, Amy Millan vocals are too good to ignore anymore and I think that Ghosts is a particularly strong effort.

5.Front Line Assembly – Improvised. Electronic. Device
FLA have little by way of competition in the Industrial genre, but like Killing Joke are nearly peerless in a sparse field. Every once in awhile Bill Leeb and Co. drops a record such as this one that probably inadvertently sends the message to any upstarts out there: “don’t waste your time kiddies, we got this area covered.”

6.Dean and Britta – 13 Most Beautiful…Songs for Andy Warhol’s Screen Tests
Dean Wareham‘s post Luna outfit, Dean and Britta has been a frequent flyer on my best-of lists. Dean and Britta have spun out another gem pairing songs with 13 of Andy Warhol’s silent portraits of his Factory crew who, for the most part, met a tragic and untimely end like Nico, Lou Reed, Edie Sedgwick, Billy Name, to name a few. Dean and Britta’s songs are perfect depictions of the glamor, the tragedy, and the cracked beauty of each of the subjects.

7.!!! – Strange Weather, Isn’t It?
I love the vocals. Fun album.

8.Jeremy Jay – Splash
This album was released with little fanfare and since there was no accompanying tour it seems to have been forgotten – just not by me. I find Jeremy Jay’s slightly off kilter pop ruminations really arresting and surprised that he hasn’t amassed a massive army of adherents by now.

9.Ruby Isle – Appetite for Destruction
I am pretty sure that this qualifies as the weirdest, or, at least, the most unexpected release of the year. Ruby Isle clearly have a soft spot for the GNR classic as being a fundamental part of their musical dna and give it a lovingly synth and machined rework. I have a bit of a gripe with some of the tempo changes, but the results are as fun and as charming as the album cover indicates. Be sure to read TSOI interview with Ruby Isle on the making of ‘Ruby Appetite’ and take a peek at the killer album cover.

10.Shriekback – Life in the Loading Bay
This was just released late in 2010 and is precisely why we wait for the year to end before we start shooting our mouth off about the best of the year, unlike (ahem) every other knucklehead publication and blog out there.

Here is a list of releases that are honorable mentions but were eeked out of the top 10 slots. Most are from established artists that are worthy and notable but whose albums seemed either as a bit too ‘color by numbers’ to generate a sustained interest or are slow growers and the clock ran out for them to blossom to make the final cut for the top 10 slots. Some, may, over time, if given a few more listens, will end up in heavy rotation for years to come while, others just might be middling outings that don’t hold up to better recent releases. Right now, it is too early to tell. In the case, of Retribution Gospel Choir (Low gone electric), I love some of the tracks but the album isn’t as consistent as I like – a great near miss. Beach Fossils and Beach House are young-ish bands with some great and interesting moments. I will be looking forward to their future releases.

Hot Chip – One Life Stand
Belle and Sebastian – Write Love Songs
Tindersticks – Falling Down a Mountain
Titus Andronicus – The Monitor
The Fall – Our Clutter, Our Future
Walkmen – Lisbon
Retribution Gospel Choir – 2
Swans – My Father Will Guide Me Up a Rope
Apples in Stereo – Travelers In Space and Time
Vaselines – Sex with an X
Beach Fossils – Beach Fossils
Beach House – Beach House
Mathew Dear – Black City
Radio Dept – Clinging to a Scheme

Young bands these days tend to release a few eps or singles before delving into a full album. Since they are not full albums, these ‘mini-releases’ don’t get considered in my top ten of the year. Each of the following are outstanding and I hope are just precursors to full albums to be released in 2011. As such, here are bands that I feel pretty good about landing in my top 10 for 2011, so take note. Some of these bands released eps (Holy Ghost!) or singles (TPoBPH, Alex Winston, FHR) or aired new material at live shows (Celebration). If these 2010 releases are any indication of the 2011 album, then mark my words, keep your peepers on the following bands in the new year:

1.French Horn Rebellion – “Beaches and Friends” + Savoir Adore remix French Horn Rebellion are the new masters of blood rushing synth pop tunes that I was hoping more of from Hot Chip. They put out a few singles as well a face melting remix for Savoir Adore. If Brooklyn based bands have any sense, they will have FHR produce any and all future releases.
2.The Pains of Being Pure of Heart – “Say No to Love” single This single sounds goooooood.
4.Holy Ghost!“Static on the Wire” ep If for whatever reason Cut Copy falters, these guys are there to pick up their crown. Based on what I have heard, these guys are very similar to Cut Copy but an early era Shriekback vibe rather than the New Order rework of the Cutters. I will be keeping an eye on these guys.
5.Alex Winston“Choice Cuts” single

As a feature that will like show up in my future ‘Best Of’ lists, here are some albums that I discovered this year that would have made past Best-Of lists if I were paying better attention:
Wooden Birds – Magnolia
Bossanova – Sugar

Top 10 Concerts of 2010

As in 2009, the best of 2010 is once again filled with veteran bands. If you are a new band, for the love of god, go see some of the bands on this list and see how it is done…or click on the links to at least hear how it is done.

1. Wooden Birds – Rock Shop (see Sept 28 TSOI post)
2. Octant – Southpaw (see Dec 14 TSOI post)
3. Chapterhouse – Bell House(see Oct 14 TSOI post)
4. Unrest, Bossanova, Rondelles – Bell House (see Unrest and Rondelles, etc – Teenbeat Week pt 2)
5. Atari Teenage Riot – Gramercy Theater (see Dec 21 TSOI post)
6. Public Image Ltd. – Terminal 5 (see May 27 TSOI post)
7. Thao and Mirah – Music Hall of Williamsburg (see June 29 TSOI post)
8. Castiotone for the Painfully Alone – Monster Island Basement (see July 22 TSOI post)
9. Faster Pussycat – Europa (see Aug 20 TSOI post
10.Guided by Voices – Mercury Lounge (see Nov 11 TSOI post)


  1. Interesting to see that bands who were shoe-ins for previous best of (Swans, Blonde Redhead, Belle & Sebastian, The Walkmen) didn’t make anyone’s cuts this year.

  2. Well, Jbird did slot The Walkmen, but yeah, the expected big releases seemed to disappoint a bit, (or they may be real slow growers…) and the ones that I weren’t expecting, like Killing Joke, FLA and OMD, ended up being quite good. I am not familiar with all of the bands on your list, but the only ‘veteran’ band, as far as I can tell, is Tender Forever…otherwise there is quite a bit of love going to newish bands. Interesting.

  3. Whoa! I wish I knew about those Chapterhouse shows. I did get to see Unrest though, and they were amazing. Good lists!

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