While 2009 felt a little “skimpy” on the album front, 2010 seemed absolutely bursting with great albums. As if the decade flip sparked something major and spawned some wild, un-bridled recordings.
Here’s an un-numbered list, save for #1 which is detailed at the bottom. Be sure to read all the way through to find out how you can win a copy of this year’s #1 on vinyl!
• Concern – Caesarean / Truth & Distance Two excellent LPs from Portland, OR sound artist Gordon Wilson Ashworth came forth in the latter half of 2010. Diverging from much of the drone/ambient records released this year by utilizing actual instruments (shocking!) instead of synthesizers, these albums represent creative uses of tape loops, live playing and sound assemblages. At this point it’s difficult to choose which is album is “better”, so check out both and get inspired!
• Emeralds – Does it Look Like I’m Here?. This monolith of a recording represents the Ohio trio’s best recording to date. Emeralds has their own language which splays across this double LP. The lines between guitar and synth sounds blur and cross curing an intricate muscle fiber which carries the songs. Someone please make movies for these songs.
• Balmorhea – Constellations. This record could scare you upon first listen. A very specific entrance of a very specific musical part might just make you jump out of your skin, but, no spoilers here. This instrumental music is just simply alive, aware and breathing due much in part by the gorgeous piano sound. Worth the price of admission alone. Like a few of the other groups represented here, this most recent album is heads above the band’s other albums.
• Cuddle Magic – Picture. This behemoth of a musical outfit is represented well here in this second full-length album release. Cyclical motifs, kitchen sink instrumentation and double entendre-style lyrical turns are signifying features on Picture. Cuddle Magic’s strengths lie in their musical entrances and exits; deep headphone listens and analysis reveal clever, but highly advanced composition ideas.
• Will Stratton – New Vanguard Blues. Will’s prolific previous recorded output showcases his talent for orchestration and arrangement. New Vanguard Blues strips away all production to push Will’s nimble guitar playing to the forefront. This is an inspiring collection of beautiful songs presented in their most intimate of settings.
• Mountain Man – Made the Harbor. The music that the three lovely women who make up Mountain Man is far from the burl that their moniker suggests. Made the Harbor is simply three voices singing their own songs or traditional songs with at most a spare acoustic guitar as backdrop. Although the album is infinitely pleasing, it feels as if Mountain Man is just getting started. Like their collaboration was a welcome surprise and there is much more to discover. What will be next?
• Jefre Cantu-Ledesma – Love is a Stream. This album is a “game-changer”. Waterfalls of thick, melodious guitar tones rush through speakers while disparate vocal lines meander in the background. It’s out of control, with restraint. It’s searing without pain. And of course it comes on another one of Type Records‘ excellent slabs of elegantly pressed vinyl. An instant classic.
• #1: Benoît Pioulard – Lasted. This record answers so many questions: How can one balance gorgeous field recordings with songs without either sounding out of place? How can home recording sound fussed-over yet still human? What version of Earth does Benoît Pioulard (Thomas Meluch) actually hail from?
Lasted is a rich album which surpasses Meluch’s previous output, at least in spirit if not craft. It’s moments of brilliance such as when the second verse of “Sault” kicks in that listeners are revealed to be deep in a world created by one man. The brief hiss and crackle that kicks off “Shouting Distance” never distracts, but provides depth and context to the song.
The album is a complete picture filled with peaks and valleys, surprises and highly memorable moments. It’s perfect for the winter season and driving around at night, so make sure to get to it before the days are long again.
WIN A VINYL COPY OF LASTED!!!!
GIVEAWAY: 1 new/sealed (vinyl) LP copy of Benoît Pioulard – Lasted.
To enter the contest, one must name a favorite album (or song) from 2010 and a brief explanation on what made that recording special. One entry per person must be entered into the comments section below.
Contest runs from Monday, January 3rd, 2011 through Monday, January 10th, 2011 at midnight.
( This contest in no way insinuates any endorsement of Benoît Pioulard or Kranky Records to this website or my work. I simply ordered an extra copy of the LP which I thought would be nice to share with someone. Cheers! Good luck! )
1/10/11 — COMMENTS NOW CLOSED! WINNER TO BE ANNOUNCED BY THE END OF THE WEEK! THANKS Y’ALL – SOME GREAT PICKS IN HERE!