Friday, January 21, 2011


Here we go! Now that sufficient time has passed, as well as the Year being reviewed, we're here to present our annual BIG BEST OF lists! For some of you, if not all of you, the seasonal Best Of lists has passed; everyone and their brothers & sisters rushing to an all-too-swift (imho) rush to pass judgement on a year which isn't even over. Me, in mid-December I'm still running headlong into listening sessions with 2010 albums that just came out or I'm just now getting to. (I was asked if I really thought there'd actually be a release, from mid- to late-December which might supplant a current object of affection; my response: I won't know until I've heard it.) Still, one cannot hear everything, and the following stellar lists prove that yet again. So, without further preamble & ramble, let's get on with it, (alphabetically, by author):

Collin A., of Chatham Rise

(Editor's Note: Collin is constantly hipping me & tipping me to some new band I've never heard of; a surefire go-to guy for what's new & now. 100% trustworthy taste.)

20 releases from 2010
to go back for if you missed them.
(may or may not be in order)

1. rancho relaxo - a new kind of orchide
2. pete international airport - s/t
3. solaram - love & the sweet divine
4. highspire - aquatic
5. the early days - contrairies
6. blue angel lounge - narcotica
7. secret colours - secret colours
8. the besnard lakes - are the roaring night
9. nightworker revival - amanita falls EP
10. the vacant lots - hypnotized

11. crocodiles - sleep forever
12. the upsidedown - the town with bad wiring
13. black angels - phosphene dream
14. adam franklin - i could sleep for a thousand years
15. first communion afterparty - skyline, starlight ep

16. moloko velocet - moloko velocet EP
17. daylight frequencies EP
18. the lovetones - lost
19. 93 million miles from the sun - all you've found EP
20. the demon parade - god said it's legal EP

Kenny Bloggins, The Decibel Tolls

(Editor's Note: Can be cantankerous AND contrarian, sometimes simultaneously; always worth a look & listen on what he's touting and shouting. As diverse a palate for all things music as anyone I know. He contains multitudes.)

Full list, with notes, HERE.

The N.E.C. - Is
NO JOY - Ghost Blonde
WHITESAND/BADLANDS – Seeding the Clouds
SHEDDING – Tear in the Sun
TOTEM POLE – Caves and Tunnels, Mountains and Stairs
DEERHUNTER – Halcyon Digest
DEPATTERNING – The Liminal Farm
THE BLACK ANGELS – Phosphene Dream
THE BESNARD LAKES – …Are the Roaring Night
DEVOLVER – Christs Lane
FOREST SWORDS – Dagger Paths
GHOST ANIMAL – Summertime in Heaven
FOUR TET – There Is Love in You
SERENA MANEESH – Abyss in B Minor
ARP – The Soft Wave
J. IRVIN DALLY – Despistado

lo-fi jr. of Grown Up All Wrong

(Editor's Note: There's no simple explanation for lo-fi jr. He's the anomaly in your breakfast and the guy at the party trying to play Metal Machine Music.)

Lee Konitz - Jugendstil II
Jack Rose – Luck in the Valley
Reading Rainbow – Prism Eyes
Subtle Turnhips – Terd
Idle Times – s/t
San Francisco Water Cooler – II
International Hello (Monoshock) – s/t
Hey Colossus and the Van Halen Time Capsule - Eurogrumble Vol. 1
Deep Tissue – People of the North

Kevin McFadin, a/k/a Mr. Atavist, of Sunrise Ocean Bender

(Editor's Note: A brother-in-arms, and a brother, too. Can I just say cool as fuck?)

The wealth of gems that winged their way through the Sunrise Ocean Bender this year was staggering {even more so to me, being only 6 months old …}. Picking a 'top 10' is a tough call and, to be fair, is … unfair. The bigger picture is the important thing, but you got to draw the line somewhere otherwise we'll go on forever. And we don't want that.

Many thanks to valis for letting me spout off in such fine company.

More importantly, thanks to all the artists from all the years, past and future, for giving me endless reasons to keep spouting, listening and feelin' alright.

These are just a few arrows shot into the ether that hit multiple targets, many of them more than once: subjective, personal and above all else, just an opinion … and in no particular order. Of course.

I can assure you I got another 10 in my other pocket and a couple more in the ashtray …

Ghost Box Orchestra :: The Only Light On
A rich and moody debut from Boston's Ghost Box Orchestra, straddling big 'Western Sky' psych and rural art/post-rock workouts. Putting that peanut butter in that chocolate gives GBO, and us, the best of both worlds. Instead of relying solely on an often sorely overused cavernous sound and avoiding the sometimes trap of post-rock rigidity, GBO drop a unique calling card that can satisfy more than one jones.

Todd Parker & the Witches :: Greetings from the Star Chamber
I'm an unabashed Tadpoles champion. As much as this was certainly a personal achievement for Parker, it was a personal kick for me. Not Tadpoles 2.0 by any means, GFTSC almost inverts Parker's and 'poles' influences to create a solo platter that extends the 'poles legacy as much as sheds new light on it … all the time being very much a "solo" record. Throw in the supplemental Star Club E.P. and you've got an outing running the gamut from psych-rock to pop to electronica tinged workouts and beyond.

Serpentina Satelite :: Mecanica Celeste
If you've heard any of the buzz around this one, trust me, it's all true. An out and out stellar record taking space-rock up to where it truly thrives and forward into the future. Thoroughly modern and classicist at the same time, Mecanica Celeste sets the bar mighty, mighty high. Where we all want it to be. Thick space-rock jams that touch on some stoner-rock and old school guitar flashes, Mecanica Celeste is a smoldering slab in full flight.

V/A :: In Search of Hawkwind
Rabid and rigid Hawkwind purists may find fault with this, but I can't. A fierce tribute to Hawkwind by an insane roster of bands {I'd jump at anything this group focused on, Hawkwind or no}, In Search of Hawkwind achieves what 99% of 'cover' records can't: unquestionable love and respect for the object of affection without resorting to tired rote aping … each band maintains their prime directive and character while keeping the spotlight on target. You not only get a sonic sackful of Hawkwind, but a disc full of top-shelf artists doing what they do best because Hawkwind did what they do best … a lofty and burning love letter.

Mugstar :: … Sun, Broken …
A thoroughly ass-kicking, scalding record, start to finish. And that goes for the quieter workouts, too. Collapsing a wealth of psych and art-rock influences, Mugstar dropped a platter that is as intelligent as it is flat-out exciting. Muscular, agile, throbbing … a scorching juggernaut of a record. They sound like they are ready to go centrifugal any minute and explode … frayed and frantic, holding it together is an achievement in itself.

Mugstar :: Lime
I was going to collapse this with … Sun, Broken … to allow some wiggle room here, but for as much as Lime could have been 'disc 2' in some regards, it is its own beast. Pushing the throbbing and pulsing aspects of … Sun, Broken … to the forefront and stretching out even more {only 4 cuts on this one}, Lime does what you want a follow up to a nut-buster to do: take the creators someplace new without losing one ounce of the fuel that ignited the predecessor.

White Noise Sound :: White Noise Sound
A blissed-out, euphoric nod to the past {Spacemen 3, Velvets, MBV} and a chrome-plated launch pad into the future … Think reinvention or redesign, rather than another rehash. Where all that lush history seemingly came to an end for many at different points is where White Noise Sound gathers it all up and creates their own Ground Zero. From pulsing rockers to gorgeous sonic washes and much more in between, WNS belongs as much to the future as it does to the past. Timeless.

Irata :: Irata
A monster of a record from Irata. Coming on exotically mournful and wounded one minute and burgeoning into a raging Leviathan the next, Irata blisters and burns through a set that, not to be flippant, grabs post-rock by the throat with one hand and shoves the 'rock' back in with the other. There's a raggedy, fraught tension through Irata that sets it apart from other post-rockers who can't break free of an overly stringent, rigorous approach.

Electric Moon :: Lunatic
I just get clued into Sula Bassana's work, and then I get hit by Electric Moon {Sula Bassana, Komet Lulu & Pablo Carneval}. Apparently Sula can do no wrong … and with Lulu and Carneval sharing the pilot's seat, Electric Moon's Lunatic delivers a thick and creamy excursion into the stratosphere. Some cats in the know once told us space is deep. Electric Moon also proves space is gooey: big open vistas with acid-tinged guitars and a bubbling bottom end that carries you up and out … moving like subterranean liquid geography … on another planet. Once you hear what Electric Moon do, go in for where they can go with their other '10 release, Live at Epplehaus: 2 discs, 2 songs.

Brace/Choir :: Brace/Choir
Legendary provocateur/producer Kramer called their self-released debut 'fucking amazing.' That certainly carries weight … and so does Brace/Choir. Brace/Choir embrace a warmer-tinged psychedelia that brings in Krautrock beats and art-rock flourishes that fold in on themselves making for a pulsing, rolling platter that borders on feeling like a road trip … through a half-awake landscape. Approachable without pandering in the slightest, Brace/Choir serve up a thoughtful and welcoming dose of ear candy.

Damien Youth

(Editor's Note: Passionate music-obsessive and an ear for the nuances most miss; I'm always interested in what he's currently diggin'...)

I'm still catching up with 2010 releases. I was a lot busier this last year than I realized or even hoped to have been. But all set ups aside... Here's how my 2010 breaks down:

Calibro 35 - Ritornano Quelli Di...
The Black Angels - Phosphene Dream
Circus Devils - Mother Skinny
The Smiles & Frowns - The Smiles & Frowns
Archie Bronson Outfit- Coconut
Tame Impala - Innerspeaker
Kim Nowak - Kim Nowak
Black Keys - Brothers
Dr. Dog - Shame, Shame
Faun Fables - Light of a Vaster Darkness
Clinic - Bubblegum
The Dead Weather - Sea Of Cowards
Gonjasufi - A Sufi And A Killer
Ted Leo and the Pharmacists - The Brutalist Bricks
Grinderman - Grinderman 2
Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti - Before Today
Wovenhand - The Threshingfloor
Liars - Sisterworld
Adam Green - Minor Love
MGMT - Congratulations

Great guests. Great lists! My sincere thanks to all of the above for participating in this year's edition, and -above all, your friendship & ears.

OK, on to my own list. But first, (yeah, there IS always some preamble,) allow me to share some thoughts on the year that was: still noticing a strong trend to release EPs by new and veteran bands alike. Not quite at primacy, yet, but they're so widespread/prevalent you'd have to be blind not to notice, (that and the number of self-released EPs and albums garnering Best Of mention).
Also, 2010 may have been the year that sounded the final bell on MySpace. It's a virtual ghost town, imho. Bands still cling to it, somewhat, although that leads to the next item: the trend for more bands to have both personal and band pages on Facebook AND music up on Bandcamp or Apollo Audio or other like-minded (FAIR-minded) sites amenable to musicians of every stripe. (Though I still know people who are determined NOT to join Facebook. Their call.)
The last thing I've really noticed in the last year is the overuse of the term "psychedelic" to describe one's music. While I'm fully aware of the nebulous definition of this term it seems anyone who puts a squeak or a blurp or some trifling efx on a track says "slap yo' mama an' call it psychedelic, man." Horse sh*t! I'm tired of scanning facile reviews wherein someone says the band is psychedelic, I go search 'em out to hear said track and scratch my head at what sounds nothing like the advertisement. (Which is why it's a great idea to go back and listen to the original purveyors and work forward. Know your stuff fer chrissakes.) Enough mit der ranting. On with the show:

Top Ten EPs (alphabetical)

1. Bosques - Pleroma Sum (Reverb Worship)
2. The Daylight Frequencies - ST (Self-released)
3. Elephant Stone - The Glass Box (360 Degree Music)
4. Helicon - Requiem For A Dreamer (Self-released)
5. La Fleur Fatale - Share The Love (Killer Cobra Records)
6. The Lucid Dream - In Your Eyes (360 Degree Music)
7. Magic Shoppe - Reverb (Optical Sounds)
8. Moloko Velocet - ST (Skittlebrau)
9. Sendelica - Screaming and Streaming Into the Starlit Nite (RAIG)
10. TV Girl - ST (Self-released)

The Top 25 Albums Not In The Top Ten

01. Anton Barbeau - Psychedelic Mynde Of Moses (Idiot Records)
02. The Black Angels - Phosphene Dream (Blue Horizon)
03. Black Rebel Motorcycle Club - Beat The Devil's Tattoo (Vagrant)
04. The Brian Wilson Shock Treatment - Druid Time Lords (Slutfish)
05. Clinic - Bubblegum (Domino)
06. Creature With The Atom Brain - Transylvania (The End Records)
07. The Dig - Electric Toys (Self-released)
08. Disappears - LUX (Kranky)
09. Magic Lantern - Platoon (Not Not Fun)
10. David Max - Simple Psychedelic Pleasures (Mind Expansion)
11. Mondo Drag - New Rituals (Alive Records)
12. Moving Sounds - ST (Copase Disques)
13. Pete International Airport - ST (Custom Made Music)
14. The Sails - A Headful Of Stars (Rainbow Quartz)
15. The Silents - Sun A Buzz (Self-released)
16. Sky Parade - Intoxicated (Custom Made Music)
17. Solaram - Love & The Sweet Divine (Rainbow Quartz)
18. Kelley Stoltz - To Dreamers (Sub Pop)
19. Tame Impala - Innerspeaker (Modular)
20. Totem Pole - Caves and Tunnels, Mountains and Stairs (Self-released)
21. The Upsidedown - The Town With Bad Wiring (Reverb)
22. White Noise Sound - ST (Alive Records)
23. The Whitsundays - Saul (Friendly Fire Records)
24. Wolf People - Tidings (Jagjaguwar)
25. Zombies of the Stratosphere - Ordinary People (Self-released)

* any one of the above have merits which make them must-haves, in my Sennheisers. Great albums all and special pride of place in my collection for 2010, and beyond.

The Top Ten (alphabetically)

01. The Besnard Lakes - Are The Roaring Night (Jagjaguwar)
Roaring is dead-on. Has stood up to multiple joyful listens and still amazes. Headphone bliss.

02. The Chemistry Set - This Day Will Never Happen Again (Dead Bees)
A rousing return to form by a veteran band seeking to find out if the magic still existed. It never left.

03. Dragontears - Turn Tune In Fuck Off!! (Bad Afro)
Lorenzo Woodrose puts an end to this side project with their strongest statement in the discography. Full of swagger, bluster, and a shake-you-'til-you-understand attack. The teeth of the hydra upon us.

04. Go-Neko! - Los Malos De Verdad (Laptra)
Another trend for 2010 I failed to mention: South America is in full-on PSYCH' Revival! This Beunos Aires band bring a perfect -and palatable, blend of prog' touches with their psych' assault. Amazing front to back.

05. The Grip Weeds - Strange Change Machine (Rainbow Quartz)
Perfect example of when a double LP isn't enough! It had been six years since Giant On The Beach. The wait, friends, was worth it! Amazing depth & scope to their vision. And, if they're vision questing I'm IN!

06. Todd Parker & The Witches - Greetings from The Star Chamber (Bakery)
Ex-Tadpoles leader builds on his past but jets us into a dynamic, entrancing future. The guy just knows how to create aural scapes you want to stay in.

07. Pond - Frond (Hole In The Sky)
Three parts Tame Impala, plus x parts The Silents, + a revolving cast of like-minded strangely strange equals an album made unabashedly for the love of just doing so. This, their third release also shows a tighter focus on the sillyness and an actual sense of taking this Pond thing seriously. (While laughing 'round the water pipe or vaporizer.)

08. The Psychedelic Schafferson Jetplane - ST (Pastabase)
From Chile, and further proof the meme's gone viral all over South America. Get on board! Flies as high as their name advertises. And then further.

09. Secret Colours - ST (Self-released)
I'm still amazed this is a debut! Easily "Rookie of the Year" outta' the entire bunch of 2010 releases. A level of sophistication and nuance belying their young years. Shows both a respect for the genre's forebears while also giving you that sideways glance that says "it's our turn now!" (Their singles are a revelation as well.) Look out Brooklyn, LA, Philly: Chicago's comin'!

10. The Sun Blindness - Far Arden (Self-released)
Tor & Duncan toil away, known to far too few. This one seems like a love letter to the '60s & '70s psychedelic musicians and never ever misses the intended mark. The passion shows from the first note thru' to the last of "Journey Through The Valley of O", itself a cover of a relatively Clean Rivers track,circa '76.

There you go. Hopefully this has provided a road map to where our collective heads were this past year and leaves you wanting, indeed needing, to further explore this wildy creative niche of music and those we salute by making the sounds we just can't get enough of. Best wishes to all of you for a great 2011.
(Got a list..? Post yours in the comments, we'd love to see 'em!)



Doowad said...

Lots to digest, Sir Valis. Gracias...

squire said...

Amazing lists by all. Thanks for sharing. incredible and cool.

Cliff. said...

Phew, my bank account is groaning already in anticipation of setling the bill after I've purchased the myriad of albums I jotted down as I read about them.

2010 twas a fine year indeed, perhaps the only album I'd add to the plethora of esteemed recording listed is 'Who Killed Sgt Pepper?' That said, I'll readily admit that my love of BJM can be somewhat blinkered at times.

Gotta agree with you Valis re your rant about adding the 'psychedelic' tag to just about anything, gets my goat too.

As always mon ami, extending my heartfelt gratitude for all you do for us fellow followers of top psychedelic tunes.

sr-71 said...

An embarasment of riches this year, particularly the releases by Plants and Animals, Lower Dens, Black Angels, Boston Spaceships, the National, Clinic, War on Drugs,Warpaint, White Noise Sound, Dead Confederate, Prince Rama, Quest for Fire, Film School, Delta Spirit, the Bees, Deerhunter, Women, Steve Wynn & Miracle 3, Sweet Apple, Secret Colour, Royal Baths, Cloudland Canyon, Disappears, Minks, Swans, Tame Impala, the Upside Down

Gary said...

Very much agree with these comments; particularly the 'Who Killed Sgt Pepper?' one.

An outstanding year for psychedelic music and a huge thank you to valis for ensuring it (as much as was possible to obsorb) reached my ears.

Keep up the outstanding work.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for letting me chime in in such stellar company … onwards, inwards and decidedly upwards …

Anonymous said...

I look forward to this rundown every year. 2010 brought excellent picks as always. I just sampled through some of your listed albums, and now have a new love for The Chemistry Set.


Papa Bear said...

Hey man!

Glad to see La Fleur Fatale is up there, but they are not self released. I have released everything from them on Killer Cobra Records.

The 23:rd I take them over to NYC for four exclusive shows. The trip will be made intio a documentary so keep an eye out for that one in a few months.



Anonymous said...

Thankyou for your kind words once again! Hope we can get things rolling again soon after our break.

Much Love
Matt Hodgkiss
Nightworker Revival