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Kingblind’s Top 15 Albums of 2010 (15-11)

Here is what you have all been waiting for. The top 15 albums of 2010. Broken down into 3 parts. (15 thru 11) – (10 thru 6) -(5 to 1)

Today we will start our first batch.. So enjoy numbers 15 through 11..

15) Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti- Before Today
Surely even normal kids growing up in Hollywood must, at times, feel like they’re missing out on something – transplant the most mundane memories from your youth to a town 20 car minutes south of those famous cinema hills, with all their fun and iconography, and imagine the envy and frustration that’d rot at your gut whenever you had to spend the night at home alone babysitting. Ariel Pink, aka Ariel Marcus Rosenberg, grew up in Pico-Robertson, a town of aforementioned ilk, and his first memories of pop music came from the radio he’d hear every day driving to Beverley Hills High School. Without wanting to play dumb Freud, it’s rewarding to view Pink’s arrival at this point in his recording career through the filter of his Hollywood childhood, and all the associations with Alicia Silverstone’s emerald green eyes the phrase conjures up.
Before Today is supposed to be Ariel Pink’s breakthrough album. Primarily that’s because it was made in a real studio, paid for by a real label with real money – ’til now, all of his music has emerged from his bedroom, where’d he kneel to record albums like The Doldrums and House Arrest, much of the time playing ‘the drums’ with his mouth. These albums sounded like retreat into an own world – they were covered in a thick film of lo-fi noise hum and melodies were evasive, often flitting and strafing through that fuzz as if an infant was mad with control of a car’s AM radio dial. Fortunately, they were also insanely good records – the extent of Pink’s pop nous has been clear for a while now, and much of Before Today does sound like an unleashing of that, particularly lead single Round and Round with its 10cc-recalling synths and bassline stolen from Sade’s Hang On To Your Love. The album’s highpoint arrives in its first bridge, as Ariel ‘answers the phone’ amid guitar waft that sounds like billowing net curtains on a hot summer’s day.
Other highlights arrive in the 70s Bowie funk snark of opener Hot Body Rub, Bright Lit Blue Skies’ quietly euphoric pop radio charge, L’estat’s synth whirl and Reminiscences’ pleasant, aquatic drift. In fact, every track on this superb album is a winner – and, draped in the quiet glamour, fun and stateliness of bygone radio pop-rock, evidence that Ariel has emerged from his bedroom to exact his revenge on Hollywood’s Hills.

14) Tame Impala- Innerspeaker
Tame Impala is a four-piece band from Perth, Australia, that recently released its first LP, Innerspeaker–a collection of airy, groove-based psychedelic rock songs.
Drawing heavily from the psychedelic revivalists of the late ’80s–bands like the Stone Roses, Sun Dial and Happy Mondays–while also pulling from classic-rock acts such as Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin and Cream, Tame Impala sculpt a familiar sound with modern sensibilities. Reverb-drenched vocals, blissed-out guitars, pulsing drum beats and pleasant spaciousness catapult the band into ethereal territory without ever comprising their sense of origin. Tame Impala doesn’t aim for intensity, instead opting for expansiveness and texture. Songs like “Alter Ego,” “Solitude is Bliss” and “I Don’t Really Mind” sway and morph in a very subtle manner. The lyrics mostly meditate on enhanced consciousness, at times coming off as too conspicuous, like on “Lucidity”: “Lucidity come back to me / Put all five senses back to where they’re meant to be / Wandering around like spare time never knew it / I might suck fizzle or I might just float away.” The album flows along with exceptional continuity, each song setting the stage for the next. The long instrumental “Jeremy’s Storm” is stacked with sonic ear candy and interesting bits that become more apparent with each listen. The seven-minute “Runway, Houses, City, Clouds” is arguably the highlight of the album–a rollicking, fervent piece of music that weaves through a range of movements and peaks that will make you happy you went for the ride.

13) Liars- Sisterworld
You are already living in a dystopia. The grind of work, imagined nocturnal terrors and urban paranoia. And what are we offered to help us cope? Every town centre is buried beneath the same retailer neon.

But we also have ‘Sisterworld’ Liars’ fifth album was inspired by Angus Andrew’s return to the US from Berlin. Settling with his bandmates in Los Angeles, Andrew became fascinated by the contrast between the violence he encountered on a day-to-day basis and the white-toothed grin of the City Of Angels’ culture of optimism. The trio have always written albums that create worlds to pose questions: this time they ask how the hell do we find a sense of solace in the face of this horror?

The answer is formed in the shape of one of the nastiest, cleverest and strangest albums you’re going to hear this year. While the contemporary vogue in American music is for washes of euphoria and the pretty, carefree beat, ‘Sisterworld’ is an axe slicing through the neck of an ostrich that has its head buried deeply in the sand. Always known for their constant reinvention and a love of percussive brutalism,‘Sisterworld’ is built awkwardly from constituent parts that clash against each other, creating tension and eventual violent sparks. Therefore each track represents a different element of the LA dichotomy:‘Scissor’ has the terror of failure to save a loved one depicted by yomping riffs and Liars’ first, and superbly integrated, use of strings and piano. In ‘Here Comes All The People’ violin and abstract twanging noise backs Angus’ musing on “counting victims one by one” before a suffocating riff spirals down. ‘The Overachievers’’ Nirvana-esque caterwaul is as scathing as its lyrical evisceration of the middle class yippies who think that weed and a bio car is the right-on response to LA’s harshness. In ‘Proud Evolution’ Liarsreflect the relentlessness of city life with a nodding beat and background hums. Best is the album’s astounding fulcrum, ‘Scarecrows On A Killer Slant’, which sounds like an electrical substation disintegrating and posits a scum-clearing revenge fantasy: “How can they be saved from the way they live every day?” The answer? “Stand them in the street with the gun AND THEN KILL THEM ALL”.

But it’d be a big mistake to interpret the unsettling musical attitude and Angus Andrew’s at times despairing vocals for nihilism. It might be, in these times, that ‘Sisterworld’ is too aggressive a record for ears grown overly sensitive from a diet of drippy musical platitudes, but the key to opening the ‘Sisterworld’ is to realise that escapism isn’t just about raising arms to the god of sonic hedonism: it’s about confronting reality, giving it a violent shake and moving on. When your nightbus home is beset by phantasmagorical drunkards with beady, threatening eyes, when your ears are bashed by mendacious line managers and eyes beset by the violence of news/advert/news, then this incredible album is your passport to a better place.

12) Swans- My Father will guide me up a rope to the sky

For being little more than a blip in rock music’s ever-developing history, the impact of No Wave’s short and abrasive smear across New York’s art scene is a continued and seminal presence heard in many of today’s more inspiring and important bands. As nonsensical and unlistenable as much of it was/is, No Wave warranted Brian Eno’s attention, and has since propagated bands like Liars, These Are Powers and Mi Ami to name a few, noise constructivists that envision No Wave’s boundlessness of sound as opportunity to net aural complaint, or simply blow minds.

As Michael Gira’s Swans have reemerged after 13 years of inactivity, it makes perfect sense that he would want to pursue the opportunities this band has historically offered. Though with My Father Will Guide Me Up a Rope to the Sky, he seems less interested in being unlistenable, and more interested in utilizing its experimental base as a way to bolster a more theatrically composed concept.

Sound lame? It isn’t. Gira has stated that this new album isn’t a reunion record or some bid for nostalgia. Instead, the album is an evolutionary idea that functions under a familiar name and he’s enlisted the aid of many of his past/current collaborators from old Swans line-ups and his newer Angels Of Light, plus Devandra Banhart, Shearwater’s Thor Harris, Bill Reiflin and Mecury Rev’s Grasshopper, (though Jarboe is interestingly absent). As No Wave’s longest surviving offspring, Swans have a history of crafting some very severe odes to industrially charged sound pollutant and esoteric noise-based self-indulgence, carrying on a tradition of non-conforming vision relevant to late 70s NYC. Part mind numbing, part infuriating, part stimulating and always worth discussion, Swans remain a significant force in underground and independent music and this new album sees the No Wave merge with the compositionally avant-garde.

My Father Will Guide Me Up a Rope to the Sky is an advance for Swans, and Gira comes across as less of an eccentric noise-generator, and more of a presence that requires our attention. No Wave has transcended its yearlong dominance in a citywide art scene, and become the basis for high art in a revivalist musical climate.

11) Greenhornes- ****
While eight years separated the Greenhornes’ third and fourth albums, it’s not like the band sat around twiddling their thumbs after 2002’s Dual Mono. The Greenhornes went through some lineup changes, they cut an EP during a short-lived deal with V2 Records, they did plenty of touring, and the rhythm section of Jack Lawrence and Patrick Keeler were recruited by friend and fan Jack White to play in his side project the Raconteurs. But though **** hardly sounds like the Greenhornes have been in a vacuum since the last time they cut an album, it shows the band is still firmly in touch with their strengths, and if some of the rougher edges of their music have gone, the soul and the fire are as strong as ever. Stripping the Greenhornes down to a trio hasn’t thinned out their sound in the studio; Craig Fox’s guitar work is still tough and gutsy while his vocals have retained the cool, bluesy authority of the group’s earlier work, and Lawrence and Keeler remain a strong and versatile rhythm section. The grittier side of their garage rock influences have fallen by the wayside — **** suggests these guys haven’t listened to the Sonics much in a while — but their enthusiasm for British R&B in the manner of the Stones, the Pretties, and the Who hasn’t faded at all, and the opening hat trick of “Saying Goodbye,” “Underestimator,” and “Better Off Without It” confirms these guys can still write ‘em and play ‘em with the same force and conviction as ever. A touch of pop-psych has crept into the Greenhornes’ repertoire, and “Left the World Behind,” “Go Tell Henry,” and “Cave Drawings” show they can do classic-era freakbeat pretty well, too, and the simple but full-bodied recording and production get this music down on plastic at full force. **** brings the Greenhornes back to the spotlight, sounding as good as they ever have, and in many respects, better. They’re advised not to wait eight years before making another album, but if that’s what it takes, the wait seems to be worth it.