Wanderlusting's Top 10 Albums of 2010
10. Melvins - The Bride Screamed Murder
This was released this year, right? I feel like it's been slipping people's minds for some reason. Now, it's not the best Melvins album out there, but I find myself listening to it a lot more than Nude With Boots. It's still crunchy, greasy, distorted, grungey, sludgy, swampy, drowsy, angry, fuzzy and a slew of other adjectives. In other words, it's still classic Melvins but there's more of a cohesiveness to Murder. Maybe purists will say that this album is more "mainstream" or "poppy" than usual, but whatever. It works.
9. Kylie - Aphrodite
From Melvins to Kylie Minogue... yep. Hey, I'm allowed to have strange music tastes and I can't help it if Miss Minogue put out one terrific, catchy pop album this year. Of course, I do have a soft spot for her since I first was introduced to her back when I was traveling Australia in 2000-2001 but I can't deny that Aphrodite is pretty solid all the way through. As I said in my Consequence of Sound review, "Minogue isn’t about experimenting on Aphrodite, it’s about bringing back the club-primed beats and frisky phrasings that her fans expect from her and for the most part, it works beautifully." I recommend downloading the title track, "Aphrodite" - it's pure, infectious fun.
8. Bad Religion - Dissent of Man
Ah, my teenage love from 1996-2000. I saw Bad Religion a few times live, had all their albums, had their cross patch on my cargo pants. And though I would still listen to The Grey Race or Recipe for Hate, I hadn't really given Bad Religion all that much thought until I saw them live, again, at the Ilosaarirock Festival in Finland this past July. They were amazing. Just so much energy, and having been around for 30 years, you could tell how much they just love their music.
Naturally, my ears perked up when their new album, Dissent of Man, came up. I was fortunate enough to review it and you know, it's a great album. A lot of the time it does sound very classic BR. You know, quick drums, well-placed guitar solos, Greg Graffin's monotonous voice. But while some BR albums can sound a little too similar, this one had some nice changes, apparent in the songs "Cyanide" and "Wrong Way Kids." I think I'm going to go listen to it right now.
7. Massive Attack - Heligoland
This album was left off of a lot of people's lists, and I'm not sure why. It's pretty freaking good and definitely one of those moody, MA albums that take a while to grow on you. I guess releasing it as an EP first may have taken the wind out of the Heligoland's sails but I digress: it's rad.
"Babel", "Splitting the Atom", "Atlas Air", "Girl I Love You" - these songs all have the drive, the beat, the atmosphere, the sparse electronics that Massive Attack is known for. For a heartfelt change of pace, there is "Saturday Come Slow" which features Damon Albarn. Frankly, it's the best track on the album. Full of yearning, Albarn's raw vocals express the kind of hopeless pain that so many of us have felt. When he sings "Do you love me?" you want to answer yes, if not to just put him out of his gorgeous misery.
6. Gorillaz - Plastic Beach
Speaking of Damon Albarn, the Gorillaz released their hotly-anticipated follow-up to Demon Days. I was one of those people who was obsessively checking their website to see what song teaser trailers were being released so when it finally came out, I was listening to this album on repeat.
It's hard now to think back on what my original thoughts were. I know some songs confused me, such as "Glitter Freeze" which I thought was too annoying, and "On Melancholy Hill" which I thought was too cheesey. But now, I adore "Melancholy" (helps that I had a "moment" while hearing this live at Coachella... I felt so united to all my fellow concertgoers and no, I wasn't on drugs). There really isn't a bad track on this album; the few so-so songs become great with each listen and the great songs, such as "Empire Ants" and "Rhinestone Eyes" become stupendously awesome.
5. The Dead Weather - Sea of Cowards
I don't like female-fronted rock bands. Fact. I just can't listen to them... maybe it has a lot to do with sugary vocals paired against hard music. It's too feminine to me and I just can't do it. Which might explain why I absolutely adore The Dead Weather and Allison Mosshart's gravely-voiced persona. Anyway, here's the excerpt I wrote for CoS when the album made #15 on the Top 100 of 2010 list:
The Dead Weather’s followup to their 2009 debut, Horehound, took Jack White and Allison Mosshart’s “Evil Twin” relationship and ramped it up a few notches. If they were a playful duo before, in Sea of Cowards they’re skirting the edges of madness together, egging each other on in a slinky showdown that’s dramatized by the album’s schizophrenic mix of blues, soul, and psychedelic rock. The album kicks off with the throbbing grooves and twang of “Blue Blood Blues”, while White sings “shake your hips like battleships”.
The album moves on to the dark and vibrating single “The Difference Between Us” and the disorienting thump of the psychotically-tinged “I’m Mad”, where Mosshart gets to show off her convincing cackle. The dizzying showdown culminates with the quickly rattled fuzz of “Jawbreaker” and the haunting “Old Mary”, a track that closes the album with a sense of unease and claustrophobia. At times during Cowards you can’t even tell which one of the two is singing (or yelping or snarling), which makes you wonder if they are indeed mirrors of each other or perhaps two people in one, battling to rise above the fury. If anyone walks away a winner though, it’s the listener, for having heard one of the most interesting and defiant rock albums of 2010.
4. Queens of the Stone Age - Rated R Re-issue
Is this cheating? I don't think so. I reviewed it after all, albeit it was hard not to be extremely biased about one of my favourite albums by one of my favourite bands EVER. But aside from having delicious-sounding remastered classics such as "Better Living Through Chemistry" (can there be a better song?), "Lost Art of Keeping a Secret" and the rolling, rumbling "Tension Head", you get a second disc full of live tracks and B-sides.
The live tracks, “Regular John”, “Avon”. and “You Can’t Quit Me Baby” are all from their self-titled album and a welcome addition to anyone’s QOTSA collection. Also making a live appearance is the muscling “Millionaire” which would later become the first track on their next album Songs for the Deaf as “You Think I Ain’t Worth A Dollar, But I Feel Like a Millionaire”.
The B-sides are like Xmas - some juicy, "new" QOTSA tracks to sink your teeth into until their next album (in 2011): “Ode to Clarissa” is a rollicking, almost poppy beat with a “Yeah, yeah, yeah” chorus, pounding drums, and bassist Nick Oliveri on vocals. “You’re So Vague” is a clever spin on Carly Simon’s infamous song. It’s moody and dramatic with a strong build and stirring guitar riffs and reminiscent of darker QOTSA songs. It's sexy too - you might just take your pants off. ”Born to Hula” sounds like the quintessential QOTSA song – Josh Homme’s soothing voice carries the song over changing but always prominent drumming and wailing guitar solos.
There are covers too: “Never Say Never” is a cover of the 80’s post-punk band Romeo Void’s hit and definitely has that new wave feel as Homme sings “I might like you better if we slept together” over a bouncing bass beat. The Kinks’ 1965 hit “Who’ll Be the Next in Line” is also covered with a keyboard-backed California surf vibe.
This will tide me and other QOTSA fans till next year, and maybe win over some new ones.
3. Mini Mansions - Mini Mansions
I wanted to give this trio a 4.5 star rating when I reviewed the album but was shut down. I'm happy with the 4 stars it got, but the more I listen to this symphonic masterpiece, the more I wish that .5 had stuck. Whatever, what I am trying to say is that this album is awesome, and even more so as a debut.
Upon learning that I interviewed the band while I was in LA (here I am with Michael Shuman and Zach Dawes... you may recognize Shuman from being the bassist in that band I just wrote about in slot #4 ^^ QOTSA)
you might consider me biased. I'm not. I just really think this band is something special and deserves A LOT more attention. Here's a snippet of what I wrote in my song-by-song review:
Composed of Shuman and his longtime friends Tyler Parkford and Zach Dawes, the trio concocted here a winning mix of distortion, psychedelic modernism, and a dreamy shot of nostalgic pop music. The listener will immediately draw comparisons to the post-Revolver Beatles (you know, when they were doing drugs) or The Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds (you know, when they were doing drugs) but the flagrant personal touches of Mini Mansions keep the sound rooted firmly in the present. The album is meant to be listened to as a whole, a journey through sounds and memories, visuals and feelings. It’s experimental, as the best drugs are, but has enough familiarity to keep you grounded throughout the ride.
I don't know. Just go to Ipecac or Rekords Records and buy the thing. Let's help keep Mike Patton and Josh Homme producing awesome bands like Mini Mansions. You won't regret it.
2. Deftones - Diamond Eyes
Ah, my other high school love that competed for my attention when I was listening to Bad Religion. I was obsessed with Around The Fur when it came out in the mid-nineties, went to a few of their concerts as an underage rock chick, got sucked in a few moshpits and then went on to love the clean complexities of White Pony in 2000. Then something happened over the next ten years, I didn't even notice their self-titled or Saturday Night Wrist.
Then Diamond Eyes popped up and I was propelled back into my Deftones appreciation.
Here's what I wrote for their #22 position on CoS's Top 100 of 2010:
In 2008, the Deftones had been in the middle of writing Eros, their highly-anticipated follow-up to the underrated experimental album Saturday Night Wrist, when bassist Chi Cheng was involved in a tragic car accident. Eros was halted indefinitely while the band had the difficult decision of what to do next – disband in honor of the critically injured Cheng, or continue doing what they do best: making music.
The Deftones ended up soldiering on and recorded Diamond Eyes, and we’re glad they did. The result is one of the best rock albums of the year. From the crunchy, melodic waves of the opening title track and the angry, demanding ride of “Cmnd/Ctrl”, to the intense urgency of “Rocket Skates” and the beautifully written push and pull of “Risk”, there isn’t a weak track to be found. The haunting notes and Chino Moreno’s stirring vocals on the last track “This Place is Death” is the perfect closer to an emotional ride. This album is what the Deftones are all about. It may not be too brave in the sense of musical deviation, but the fact that the Deftones were able to put out such an undeniably solid album in the wake of tragedy shows the band’s braveness in a different way. Cheng would be proud.
1. Mike Patton - Mondo Cane
SURPRISE! I bet you didn't see this one coming in a million years.
OK, before you write this off, I've got to say that just because Mike Patton puts something out there, it doesn't mean I like it. In fact, I can probably name at least 5 projects of his that I've just said no way, can't do it, sorry (Adult Themes, Zorn, etc). That's OK. We have different tastes. I like weird... I'm a huge fan of General P and Patton/Kaada, but it doesn't mean I like everything.
Disclaimer aside: I love Mondo Cane.
It's gorgeously produced orchestral Italian pop music from the 50s/60s, sung in Italian by Mike Patton. It's just weird enough to be edgy, just heartfelt enough to be emotional, just loud enough to be Mike Patton. It's unique, different and beautiful. I really can't recommend it or sing it's praises enough so maybe I should just quote the Maestro and say it's for anyone "with a heart in their fucking chest."
That may or may not include you.
Top 5 Honorable Mentions:
The Slew - 100%
(Kid Koala + Ex-Wolfmother Rhythm Section = bluesy, rocky, turntabley awesome)
Guano Padano - Guano Padano
(Technically this came out last year but I think you guys should read my review here for this intriguing album by Mondo Cane's guitarist)
LCD Soundsystem - This is Happening
(catchy, dancey, I'm not ashamed to admit I like this)
Arcade Fire - The Suburbs
(This made me stop hating Arcade Fire just a little bit. Still kinda hate them but this album is redeeming)
Alain Johannes - Spark
(Pretty much reviewing this as I write this. It's gorgeous and exquisite but painfully short)
Now, remember I haven't listened to THAT many new albums this year, so I'm probably excluding a lot or whatever, but this was the best of what I've heard this year and it's pretty much guaranteed that I listen to these albums at least once a month.
So, come now, YOU tell me what I'm missing!