2010: Patrick Masterson
I wanted to include an introductory paragraph this year. It was inspired by this one line in Brandon Bussolini’s 2009 intro where he mentions that “indie rock’s style wars and partis pris seem more transparently kitschy and meaningless with every news item.” The blurb riffed on that a bit, mentioned how I lost track of these wars and only reacted to release dates, then tied in how I’m always reacting to other Dusted writers by linking to them anyway (meta, right), bragged about how much better I felt about music this year, and eventually lost itself in a bunch of needless namedrops. Small craft on a coil milk sea and cake something or other, that sort of thing. I don’t have to tell you it was terrible, but it existed, and I spent a lot of time writing it before it was thankfully trashed.
These lists are sort of like that, confined as cultural artifacts to the music journalism junk pile once January gets going again. But they exist as we all once did, unfettered and of the moment, transparently kitschy and meaningless and transcendent despite that, a nice way to remember a year now very nearly over. Or, no, I don’t know what I’m saying. It was a good year for music. A really good year.
I’d gotten it in my head pretty much from Day One that Hotflush was always going to be about Mount Kimbie, but the guy who actually runs the show there also had a hand in making it an exemplary year for the label. Paul Rose took the influences of both the London dubstep scene and Berlin’s famous Berghain nightclub (where he’s done a monthly residence), blended them for a full-length as unpredictable as it was invigorating, and in so doing made one of my favorites of the year. Not always easy to listen to, Triangulation is best absorbed in warm apartments on frosty evenings or, you know, at Berghain. We should all be so lucky, but I guess there’s always 2011. Start saving.
As with Baroness and Blue Record last year, Kylesa’s Spiral Shadow is the product of a hardworking Georgia rock band released too late in the year for me to give out the proper plaudits. Psychedelic sludge, swamp-rock, boogie-metal, it’s all the same idea — the difference is that, artwork aside, I actually find Spiral Shadow more appealing because there’s more depth to it. Laura Pleasants gives the band an almost Kim Gordon-like ace up the sleeve; her vocals, coupled with the band’s willingness to deviate from straightforward headbanging riffage in all the right places, ensure this ought to be one to savor for years to come.
The vinyl tracklist is slightly different and arguably better (which depends on how you feel about Chris Knox), but when it came to Chicago artists this year, I kept coming back to Chris Salveter and the quartet accompanying him as Judson Claiborne. Time and Temperature is a beautiful album playing with lightness and darkness in equal measure, and the pacing of his atmospheric folk (always one of my biggest problems with this type of thing) is superb, capped off by the elegant closer “Moonraker.”
I don’t think I’ve loved a trance DJ, or record, or song in my life. It probably has something to do with this or that I’ve never been into uppers, but then I find myself watching it because look at those people, and with the bit about how he’s the best DJ in the world or whatever, capped off by the “Holland, make some noise!” thing… It’s funny and confusing and some perverted kind of awesome. Sort of how I feel about Bird Peterson’s Drankenstein mixtape, then. What seems like a terrible idea — an assortment of Dirty South hip-hop acapellas set to trance samples — in fact plays amusingly, fluidly, awesomely. Who knew you could go ham to Armand van Helden?
I think I read somewhere that Ufomammut was Italy’s best worst-kept secret. Or maybe it was worst best-kept secret, I can’t remember now. Hopefully neither will apply in lieu of Eve, easily my favorite album to eat a burger to this year. That’s a nod to Kuma’s Corner should you ever pass through Chicago, but it’s also a free advertisement for the kind of massive sounding stoner-metal this trio works wonders with, forging titanic riffs out of slow-burning fires, molten chords hanging in the balance, waiting to be formed in Eve the Matriarch’s likeness. Mega.
Gary, Indiana’s brightest musical talent is on here for two reasons. First, he singlehandedly made my Pitchfork weekend worth it – literally, since his non-mic hand was occupied by a bottle of Hennessey for most of the performance. Second, Gibbs followed an uneven Str8 Killa No Filla mixtape with the more succinctly (and accurately) titled EP in August. That bass dropout on the title-track is the best moment of the best beat present, but this thing was always going to be about Gibbs and what he is exceedingly good at, quoting directly here: “rappin’ [my] motherfucking ass off for y’all motherfuckers.”
What was it about this unassuming indie-rock album that actually had me leaving it on my best-of list week after week? Maybe it was that their music seemed like a less ambitious, less annoying version of Vampire Weekend or Veckatimest. Maybe it was the restrained profile the band maintained despite all the positive press and nonstop hype in a year where they could’ve easily exploited it. Maybe it was the strangely engaging live show. Maybe it was just “Sticky Thread.” No, for real though. I seriously could not tell you.
Sharon Jones and her merry bunch of melody makers The Dap-Kings were already established thanks to 2007’s 100 Days, 100 Nights, but I Learned the Hard Way felt more immediate — each song is about as perfect an approximation of great funk from 1967 as one was likely to find this year. It’s hard to say much more beyond falling into rote descriptions of how sometimes you just need some soul and funk revivalism done right and how that’s not always easy with all the heinous claptrap out there, but along with maybe The Budos Band’s III or the most recent JC Brooks & The Uptown Sound 7”, this is your best option.
First impressions went a long way toward culling the list of instrumental drone records this year. Barn Owl, Coil Sea and Emeralds’ group and solo ventures all deserve mention toward the top of an impressive list, but of the whole lot, two in particular felt strongest. This is the first, a collaboration all the more remarkable for being performed live entirely on the fly in front of hundreds of people at the 2009 Big Ears festival. The interplay between Christian Fennesz, David Daniell and Tony Buck is a pleasure to hear despite occasionally tentative meanderings. Super results from a super group (mind the gap).
“Listen to what they’re doing there,” a friend implored as we sat together listening to something from Mount Kimbie’s debut. I had tipped him off to it months before, running my mouth the second I’d finished listening to “Maybes” about how clever I thought Dominic Maker and Kai Campos were and how jealous I was of their enormous – yet understated – talent. We were listening to it in the same room for the first time on decent speakers following an afternoon of trying to imitate their sounds with our own electronic trickery. I paused, squinted my eyes, stared off, tried to hear what was going on, but the moment was already past. “How did they do that?” We looked at each other and I gave him a shrug; like the nature of dubstep itself these days, the answer continues to elude. Their genius exactly.
I said Distilled Yellow Swans when I meant Devastating. Destructive. Definitive. Going Places was the swirling storm Moses made to part the Red Sea, millions of metric tons of meteor sprawling out across a lonely planet, slowly treading past a torched London on the Thames, a sonically awesome endgame, a record that could only have been made by a group that no longer existed. When I think of At All Ends, I conjure swirling desert sands and oppressively hot mirages; when I think of Going Places, I think of that inverted album cover, a grim grayscale grid powered by the endless glow of a strange horizon. Did they get their album titles mixed up? I’d spill yet more proverbial ink for this record, but here’s the idea in 35 seconds. That’s me at the end.
You play tennis at the Burj Al Arab unprotected, I go unemployed after working a menial administrative job for two years. We split time between New York and L.A., making snow angels by Lake Michigan on warm days in December with trips to Korea and Jamaica if we’re lucky. There’s John Stuart Mill and watching Bristol Palin tango to cope with a couple of Kims and L’Homme qui marche, lip rings and Gortex, pine trees and figurines, miles of empty road straightened out by lines of demarcation decades ago. It’s what the what is, visceral and immediate and far away all at once, Jorge Lorenzo as the new Valentino Rossi, spacemen and gaudy get-ups, reading The Joke on a hospital bed in the middle of the night, Bolivian backwoods, feeding the Inuit, the kiss goodnight of a firm handshake, a scrapheap of words to work with, sans serif signage by the highway and a scream to the heavens on an otherwise cloudy day, Afriqiyah Airways Flight 771 or Mount Merapi as the year we make contact. Steal Your Face is all of these things; Steal Your Face is everything. We should all be so lucky every year.
By Patrick Masterson