So, that’s Christmas done then. Presents opened; meat devoured; copious volumes of wine skulled. With 2011 now looming forebodingly on the horizon, I thought I’d take a look back through my musical catalogue to pick out my ten favoured tracks of the last 12 months.
All in all, it’s been a bulbous musical year. My eardrums seem to have been drowning in glitchy electro that’s incites languid head nods rather than dancefloor limb-flinging. Despite this penchant for mother-board made bleeps and blips, there’s was a deluge of staple guitar-based bands that produced the musical goods, particularly from north of the border.
Anyway, enough procrastinating. Here are the ten tracks that stuck their pistols to my temples and demanded repeat listening in 2010 (click each title for videos)…
Honestly The Beast – John Knox Sex Club
The locally concocted hype that enshrouds Scottish bands can be as off-putting as it is intriguing. So, there was something admirable about a band like John Knox Sex Club quietly stepping into the spotlight with debut LP Blud Rins Cauld. Part demonic throb, part melancholic weep, Honestly The Beast perfectly cross-sections the band’s uncompromising tendencies. The weep of violin juxtaposed against a wild-eyed scree of post-rock is an astonishing rumble that places this thrilling Glasgow outfit amidst the creamy crop of 2010’s best.
Aidy’s Girl Is a Computer – Darkstar
I fell hard for effects board wizardry in 2010. Seriously, I spent most of the year slavering like a doe-eyed teen over any beard-sporting, Macbook-slinging electro-cat that purred its way into my lugholes. Undoubtedly, Darkstar’s North was the head pickling delight of the year’s rhythmically slinky records; a careful concoction of textured soundscapes and emotive songwriting that uncovered fresh rewards on every listen . Oddly, standout number Aidy’s Girl Is A Computer was a strange anomaly on the record’s luscious musical pasture. Awash with textured electronica, the track’s voiceless sprawl of beat-fed repetition creates a hypnotising glare of pinball machine melody that’s impossible to shake.
He Would Have Laughed – Deerhunter
Even if it wasn’t written as a tribute to the sadly departed Jay Retread, He Would Have Laughed would still moisten the most hardened tear ducts. Immersed in a tide of cascading percussion and chiming guitar, Bradley Cox’s strained intone barely breathes amongst the opening notes of this transcendental haze. But as the track’s layers slowly peel away, his pleading crow begs its way to the fore as a wallow of self-pity that gnarls away at any remaining heart-strings. It’s a stunning arrangement that deserves wider airing, but considering how unappreciated much of Cox’s work is (partly down to his own relentless output), this will likely go down as another masterful effort that gets filed away without much notice.
Rachel & Cali – Damien Jurado
Picking a track from Jurado’s masterful LP Saint Bartlett was a tough call, but the ghostly aesthetic of Rachel & Cali just about scrapes it. Built on skeletal acoustic rhythm and Jurado’s echoic, agonised vocal, this shimmering cut is testament to pure songwriting – something 2010 has strangely lacked. Jurado’s always been skilled in picking at the bones of his past and a fug of personal retrospect blankets this lushly composed lament. As tear-jerkers go, you’re unlikely to have heard anything as brittle or honest in 2010.
I Built Myself A Metal Bird – Thee Silver Mt Zion Memorial Orchestra
A rampaging blast of Fugazi-like guitar, this was the stand out cut from Thee Silver Mt. Zion...’s widely overlooked Kollaps Tradixionales. Admittedly, Efrim Menuck’s jarring wail is an acquired, possibly unlovable, taste but here his ear-bleeding wail falls perfectly into place amongst the rapacious whirlwind of violin, riff and percussion. What he’s warbling on about, it’s impossible to say, but this is a serrated affair that cuts its way deep through your nervous system.
The Splendour – Pantha Du Prince
Another electro-bending hypnotist who flooded my ear drums this year was German-based producer Hendrik Weber. Riding under the moniker Pantha Du Prince, Weber’s third full-length, Black Noise, was a remarkably amphibian affair. The Splendour’s arid soundscape may not seem like the most immediate number on a record that contains the infectious Noah Lennox collaboration ‘Stick To My Side’, but unravel its endless layers and you’ll find yourself embedded in a gloriously rich velodrome of perpendicular rhythm.
New Ruin – Meursault
Despite the slavering attention it received elsewhere, All Creatures Will Make Merry (ACWMM) never really clicked with me. Live, Meursault are a formidable beast; yet for some reason that bombast never truly washed through their second full LP. Perhaps my expectations were too high, but ACWMM felt more like a step to the side than a step forward. But embedded within the album was a track that underscored Meursault’s live opulence. Built around a breathtaking framework of pulsing drum and cavernous effects, New Ruin strides airwaves like a gargantuan, massive in both sound and ambition. Carry on like this and Meursault could be frightening.
Girl Named Hello - Of Montreal
Let’s face it Of Montreal are a band made for fornication. Wriggling, pulsing, scratching, writhing, they frequently hit the G-spot of unbridled aural thrills. Girl Named Hello is no different. Trembling like the knees of an ageing sex pest in a backstreet brothel, this slickly coined dancefloor shuffler finds Kevin Barnes in curiously reflective mood. Sure, “If I treated someone else the way I treat myself, I’d be in jail” my not be the most intellectually stimulating line you’ve heard this year, but fed by a gyrating thrust of ass-slapping bass it’s probably the sexiest.
The Wrong Car – Twilight Sad
Where this came from, who knows. If Forget The Night Ahead was an unfocused affair, then these seven minutes see The Twilight Sad re-honing their lens with bombastic aplomb. The thing its, it’s not a new formula; Andy Macfarlane’s glum-pussed guitar still brawls alongside James Graham’s inimitable crow. But instead of churning out the same cave-friendly tumult of 14 Autumns…, this is a driving, seething affair that lacerates your synapses like a Buckfast-swilling barber.
Mexico Wax Solvent – The Fall
Led by the festering oscillations of 2010’s dirtiest guitar riff, this violent urban fuck of a track bears its teeth with typical Mark E Smith rabidity. The stand out on this year’s remarkable Our Future Your Clutter, Mexico Wax Solvent is the most obviously polished gem in the album’s cliff face of jagged, knuckle grating cuts. Not that it’s done The Fall any chart favours, mind; with Smith maniacally quavering about barbiturates, making rice with screwdrivers and governmental coups it was never likely to chime with the lightweight swarms. Still, this is one of the most exalting thumps of industrial post-punk clatter to detonate its way through my speakers in years.