1) Native - Wrestling Moves (Sargent House) Wrestling Moves was the decade's siren for me. The album sounds like the call to arms to begin a breakout year of young bands, vans and #tourlife Tumblr pages. Of all the great records from all the great blossoming labels (read: close communities), Native nailed it with this release. The songs are not only ordered well in the album's flow - "Backseat Crew" being one of the best openers of the year bookended with the closing title track - they're just passionately executed in both their bite and pedal play (see: "Ponyboy" and "Marco Polo"). The common elements and timbre that ride throughout the record makes it a pretty even ground with little to no mood swings complicating the pick-up on the instrumental techniques and counterpoint to each other. With Daughters, These Arms are Snakes and Botch gone - it's time to welcome one of the next leaders as they help fly a new flag proudly. Silly kids, stop covering up your mediocre talents with make-up, and write something with some substance and passion again.
2) Crime in Stereo - I Was Trying to Describe You to Someone (Bridge 9)
Alex Dunne told Alternative Press that the album "is about being addicted and being in love, and being sold out because of both." As another swan song to another progressively great band this year, I Was Trying to Describe You to Someone never felt predictable at any moment. Songs were layered with outstanding curve balls of creativity ("Young") and articulately arranged pieces ("I Am Everything I Am Not"). Most importantly, Crime in Stereo didn't have you come back for full hooks in their songs (which they had. see: "Drugwolf," "Not Dead," and "I Am Everything I Am Not"), they made you come back for certain elements and parts that stood out not only on the record, but in the hardcore scene in general ("Exit Halo"). Those parts were thought provoking and added substance at every sharp turn. Crime in Stereo made a savagely savant album that flows in a accessible manner. Too bad it was their last.
3) Deerhunter - Halcyon Digest (4AD)
Some people can make great pop music. Nate Ruess. Britt Daniel. Bradford Cox. These guys just radiate great song writing and bright hooks that may not ring "pop" in a traditional sense - but don't kid yourself - it is! "Helicopter" and the slow rise of the opening "Earthquake" are beautiful paintings with distinct textures. Deerhunter still know how to jam with "Revival" and "Coronado." But you're only worth as much as your bandmates are, as proven on the standout track, "Desire Lines." Though much of the album is very self-deprocating in tongue, there's just too much to sink in instrumentally when the band has their way in creating delicate timbre. Deerhunter are one of those bands that have proven themselves worthy past any sort of blog hype. Here's hoping for more in the years to come.
4) Republic of Wolves, The - Varuna (Simple Stereo)
Every few years I unintentionally discover a band thanks to their buzz and execution of a debut set apart from the rest of the expected and satisfied you knew the year would bring. Past treasures include The Snake the Cross the Crown and Portugal. The Man, but The Republic of Wolves sit tall on the top of that list. While bands like The Felix Culpa and Pianos Become the Teeth made dark, brooding and well-textured soundscapes this year, no one laid it out better than this band. With rich instrumental layers and poetic, yet understandable dialogue that is read as some of the best storytelling and execution of emotions in the last five years of this young scene, Varuna delivers the audible paperback of the year. They haven't made - they've crafted - a fight between fleeting hope ("Woolen Blankets," "Monologues," "Grounded, I Am Traveling Light") and the internal struggle against the external grain ("Varuna," "Oarsman," "Greek Fire"). Incoming class of 2011: be sure to falsely label your bands' videos with this band's name - people will be paying attention for more in the coming year.
5) Daughters - Daughters (Hydra Head)
A lot of the best albums from groups are the ashes of compromise and/or disgust flung around in creating the damn piece of art. Many of our favorite bands have created their best albums and then called it a day due to the internal turmoil and aggravation. Daughters didn't even wait for the release of their self-titled before they disbanded this year. Daughters, with no question, will stand out as the band's best album to date - and one worth a return for generations to come. Much like The Number 12 Looks Like You and The Blood Brothers, the band went out on a high point - whether certain members agree or not. An apocalyptic orgasm is what explodes on the farewell to the scene. Who said sounding formidable and a bit more structured couldn't be creative and entertaining all at once. I'd say that between the end of the world siren of "The First Supper" and the digitally orchestral "The Unattractive, Portable Head," Daughters acts as that final money shot for the day after tomorrow.
6) Maps and Atlases - Perch Patchwork (Barsuk)
Dave Davison's voice quivers with both fear and jarring emotion on Perch Patchwork. You can't tell if he's relieved or still haunted by what he's trying to get out of his system. Whether it's the simplicity that crescendos in "The Charm," or how "Solid Ground" is one of the best songs of the year as Davison's voice is only heightened by the talent that him and the rest of his band displays on the track - Maps and Atlases are the real deal. For those pestering about the new "indie/folk" direction, I think tracks like "Living Decorations" and "Banished Be Cavalier" speak for themselves. It's sad to think that Perch Patchwork is the first full-length by the band in the immense time they've been around, but after hearing the closing title track, grand things come to those who wait.
7) Narrative - The Narrative (self-released)
I've kind of out grown my years of pop rock. Sure, I still return to my Straylight Run and Something Corporate records, but it's not really my grab bag anymore. That all changed when I met a little band at SXSW this year. As they played me their newly mastered album and "Fade" came blasting through the van, I was hooked. It made me feel the same way as when I first heard those aforementioned bands. The songwriting is biting ("Winter's Coming") and the instrumentals even more so ("Silence and Sirens"). "Turncoat" is one last exhaustion of energy on one of the best debuts this year. The Narrative are poised as head of the next class with this one.
8) Pianos Become the Teeth - Old Pride (Topshelf)
I never thought I'd hear a record like Old Pride about two or three years ago. I thought there was no hope. I would just spin my Kill Sadie records and put City of Caterpillar on repeat to remember better days that I missed out on. Then Old Pride happened two months before my Warped Tour visit. It was needed. It was that clean wash against the grime of most of the side stages of the punk rock summer camp. The urgency of the guitars meshed against the vocal cries of confusion and outreach blend perfectly ("Filial," "Cripples Can't Shiver"). Breakdowns sound like emotional breakdowns. To me, Old Pride is about letting go of everything holding you back, but it really should be embraced by everyone looking for a damn good screamo album this year.
9) Tera Melos - Patagonian Rats (Sargent House) Tour de force. That's the overwhelming feeling I got just in the first four tracks of Tera Melos' new album. It's like Weezer went on an acid trip at the age of 17 under the influence of a shit-ton of Zappa albums. Insanely vibrant and an educated rhythmic progression that sounds more like a madman on a bender than a boring nerd crunching numbers. "Aped" shines as a mathematical gem amongst the rough this year, but it's the closing session of "Party With Gina" through "A New Uniform/Patagonia," that is the insanity (read: talent) of the band. It's a bucket of water to the face (or two, because I filled two up) as you're falling asleep to the rest of the S.A.T. losers around you.
10) Circa Survive - Blue Sky Noise (Atlantic)
So much hate on this release this year, when it was one of the most uplifting, sonic beatings I heard above the rest. Sure, there has been some progression within the band, and they're not going to sound the same as that debut that captured us. Upon hearing the biting single "Get Out" and quick ride of "Fever Dreams," I don't think Circa Survive lost their touch once with Blue Sky Noise. Admitting, it did take a few listens to embrace the band's vice grip opposite their more spacious sound on past records, but to simply write off the power of this album is quite criminal. The back story of the writing matched to the lyrics alone make it one of the most powerful rock records this year.
11) The Chariot - Long Live (Good Fight)
There's nothing like a Chariot live show. It's about watching a catharsis of energy unfold in front of you. While previous releases have proven the background to the experience, Long Live captures the band in their live presence perfectly on tape. It's sharp, chaotic and exorcising. Josh Scogian lets it all go as he blows his voice out over the thirty minute duration of insanity and an exceptional sermon ripping at your chest. It's enough to want to bang your head against the wall in anguish and serenity. Scogian's rant in "The City" and personal breakdown only minutes into the album make for another - and possibly the most - powerful record from the band yet. No, nothing about Long Live makes me "disappointed" in my love for what these guys create.
12) Dillinger Escape Plan - Option Paralysis (Season of Mist)
This year I was fortunate enough to see the Dillinger Escape Plan twice. Every bit of the hype lived up to the mayhem on stage. Like The Chariot, no disregard for each other, and probably even more so with these guys. The band has made their best album to date with this one. Combining just about every element the band is known for in their songwriting, Option Paralysis not only sets another bar amongst their peers, but it solidifies the Plan as one of the best in the game and with no signs of slowing. The opening "Farewell, Mona Lisa" says enough, then it just hits one after the other, saving some of the best for last with the standout "I Wouldn't If You Didn't." Admit it, most of you can't handle this shit. It's okay. One day you'll be kicking yourself that you didn't. Hopefully Ben Wienman will be hanging upside down over you shredding it out.
13) Norma Jean - Meridional (Razor and Tie)
This might be the heaviest record of the year in my opinion. A brash swing of catharsis and built up frustration lies across one of Norma Jean's best works to date. Excluding a few interludes (see also: Spitfire's Cult Fiction), much of Meridional hits heavy, and on both an aggressive end ("Bastardizer" and "Blood Burner") and a melodic belting ("A Media Friendly Turn For the Worst"). It's the way the band really combine the two on the single "Deathbed Atheist" that shows their true talents. For all the naysayers that were waiting in the shadows for this release, they should still be their with their mouths shut after this one.
14) Trash Talk - Eyes and Nines (Trash Talk Collective)
This year has definitely been the revival of the late '90s D.I.Y. days, but no one took me back to '80s hardcore like Trash Talk did with this album. Viscous and unapologetic in its release of razor sharp madness ("Flesh and Blood" "On a Fix") but also progressing more into traditional songwriting per se ("Explode" "Rabbit Holes"). Besides the trudging "Hash Wednesday," Eyes and Nines never lets you out of the pit for a breath of air. You are constantly pummeled until you can't take it anymore - and then you want more. That's what hardcore albums are supposed to do - not just make you a tough guy with little to no gall.
15) Sleigh Bells - Treats (Mom + Pop)
Of all the hipster stuff I could enjoy, you'd probably think this wouldn't be top of my list. Well, it is. Call it neo-electronica or whatever, but Alexis Krauss' voice is heaven on Treats. "Rill Rill" shines as one of the best pop gems of the year. It may be hard to digest that hardcore veteran Derek Miller is taking his chops and processing them through a more digital-dance means of sorts. If you just sit back, or get on your feet for that matter, Treats is a damn good time that everyone should enjoy, no matter if you shop for your cred or not.
16) Portugal. The Man - American Ghetto (ApproachingAIRBALLOONS/Equal Vision)
It took me some time to lighten up to what was going on with American Ghetto. It was easily a blend of everything the band has embarked on up onto this point. I think what was hard to swallow though was a hint of what we are going to see this year with the release of their major label debut this year. That doesn't scare me in the end, because American Ghetto solidifies the talent and knack of reshaping and remolding the sound that Portugal. The Man can possess as band. Through every turn of the Harlem Renaissance the band takes on this record, there is something that shines brighter within. Bowie was larger than life and constantly reshaped his image and sound. These guys have taken that edge, ran with it, and most importantly, pulled it off yet again.
17) Fang Island - Fang Island (Sargent House)
My name is Rod. I like to party. Everything about Fang Island's full-length debut is a damn party. There's enough excitement to raise the dead and throw a kegger for a week. Who knew quick guitar sweeps could turn into sweeter melodic dances where everyone is throwing their hands in the air and letting their spirit fingers fly. "Daisy," "Life Coach" and "Sideswipper" all make me feel young again. At this age when you're doing what you want to in order to fight the system, and doing what you hate to pay your way through, Fang Island know how to take our minds off the worst and help celebrate the best.
18) Minus the Bear - OMNI (Dangerbird)
Why the hate? Seriously, Minus the Bear may have switched up producers and shifted into a more accessible outfit, but OMNI still rocks with the best of the catalog in my ears. Sure, the GAP commercial of a video for "My Time" doesn't help the image much, but "Secret Country" and "Dayglow Vista Rd." still kill on the chops of groove and love. I think too many people got caught up in the math instead of enjoying Minus the Bear for the good times the band always brings. While a switch in producers is certainly an easy target to pin your animosity, maybe it's just growing up. If OMNI is that "old bastard" sensibility, then considered my ass retired and on the Carnival cruise.
19) Past Lives - Tapestry of Webs (Suicide Squeeze)
Past Lives are bringing the truest form of post-punk back with their debut full-length. It's not something that is easily enjoyable upon first listen, but the timing, hooks and builds of the opening "Paralyzer," "Past Lives" and "Hex Takes Hold" are too incredible and catchy to pass up. Jordan Blillie really came into his own as a frontman on this album, but that's nothing without the backing of his band who breakout all the rhythms and guitar chops on this one. As the jazzy "Hospital White" loses itself there at the end, we're quickly reminded of what once was. But the past is the past, and I'm completely happy with the present and am damn sure looking forward to the future.
20) Wild Orchid Children - ...Are Alexander Supertramp (Equal Vision)
Well, it looks like someone got a little too high and into the documentaries on Woodstock and Monterey Pop festivals. Then after, shotgunned a half keg and watched as many live videos of Rage Against the Machine live on YouTube as possible. Yes, the Black Keys put out a phenomenal blues-rock record this year, but it didn't bite as well as Supertramp did. "Martha Washington Goes to War" and "Ahead of the Secret" are bombs dropped from MC5s. Who the hell opens an album with a seventeen minute song? A band that has the balls to pull it off wonderfully.
(More than) Honorable Mentions
Bad Books - Bad Books Bars of Gold - ...Of Gold Beach House - Teen Dream Black Keys - Brothers Castevet - The Echo and the Light Colour Revolt - The Cradle Dessa - A Badly Broken Code Dig, The - Electric Toys Envy on the Coast - LOWCOUNTRY Felix Culpa - Sever Your Roots Forecast, The - The Forecast Four Year Strong - Enemy of the World Get Up Kids, The - Simple Science Happy Body Slow Brain - Dreams of Water Hostage Calm - Hostage Calm Local Natives - Gorilla Manor Look Mexico - To Bed to Battle Make Do and Mend - End Measured Mile Matt and Kim - Sidewalks Menomena - Mines Murder by Death - Good Morning, Magpie My Heart to Joy - Seasons in Verse Saddest Landscape, The - You Will Not Survive Steel Train - s/t Surfer Blood - Astro Coast Ted Leo & The Pharmacist - The Brutalist Bricks Warpaint - The Fool Wolf Parade - Expo 86 Wonder Years, The - The Upsides Underoath - Disambiguation
also, it came out in Dec. 2009 - but Charlotte Gainsbourg's IRM is amazing!
Touche Amore/La Dispute - Searching For a Pules/Weight of the World (No Sleep) Narrows/Heiress - Split (Deathwish Inc.) Touche Amore/Make Do and Mend - Split (Panic) Harvard - Interpretations (Enjoy the Ride) The World is a Beautiful Place and I Am No Longer Afraid to Die - Formlessness (self-released/Topshelf) United Nations - Never Mind the Bombings, Here's Your Six Figures (Deathwish Inc.) Glassjaw - 7" singles (self-released)
I run a column. If you slang me an awesome idea for it, you can be a part of it too. Thanks to everyone this year that was!