Best Albums of 2010

Black Bug
Black Bug LP (FDH Records)
My favorite release of 2010. It’s a fiery burst of electro-buzz synth punk that absolutely kills. Blown out production and crackling femme vocals give this slab a brutally dark, fierce sound that pretty much mows down anything else heard in the last year. And it’s not one of those records that loses it’s charm after a few listens. Its pounding industrial-strength synthpunk anthems stick in your noggin and your gut with the force of electrocution.

Disappears – Lux LP (kranky)
Their 2008 singles were solid (two of the tracks appear on this album) and created a sense of anticipation for an LP, since their songs have a laid back Velvet Underground vibe that seems natural for a long format release. Lux smartly mixes up their core sound with a couple speedier tracks and some unexpected grit and effects that subtly textures their otherworldly, chiming tone.

Double Negative – Daydreamnation LP (Sorry State)
Years in the making and overcoming a series of setbacks including the theft of some recording gear, Double Negative’s second LP finally became a reality and it was worth the wait. The snazzy embossed and foil-stamped cover and retina-searing navy on hot pink lyric sheet make it a bold visual statement, but the sounds are decidedly emboldened as well, adding a twisted complexity to their speedy hardcore attack.

Guinea WormsSorcererers of Madness (4rd Year in a Row!) 2xLP (Columbus Discount)
It’s impressive that the Worms were able to save up two records worth of scrappy material and make a double LP that keeps interesting over 4 sides of vinyl. I loved their Box of Records 7″ but the flipside sorta goes on too long, so I was a little skeptical that this release might get a bit gratuitous. But thankfully, they’ve got plenty of unexpected and weirdly incongruent songs that’ll keep your foot tapping and head scratching. Was that a sax bleat? Is this a reggae song? Does that guitar twang make this a country song? Everything is skewed in a Country Teasers or Thinking Fellers Union Local 282 way, where things are almost recognizable but far from normal. The album title alone describes what kinda of insanity you can expect from this double slab of crazy.

Naked on the VagueHeaps of Nothing LP (Siltbreeze)
I casually followed this Aussie group but never really felt they were worth my time until this heap of downer wave slipped into my consciousness early last summer. Their previous releases were intriguing, but they seemed like cerebral exercises in tuneless, droning postpunk endurance. Heaps of Nothing does drone, and the vocals do get deliberately off-key, but this time it really works to create an atmosphere that slowly pulls you in. It’s my new go-to record for when I need a hit of dark, dreamy drone.

Nothing PeopleSoft Crash LP (S.S.)
After becoming a bigger fan of this Sacto band in 2009, and after their excellent 7″ on Permanent Records early this year, this LP was one of the most anticipated releases for me in 2010. And wow, did it ever deliver. While 2009’s Late Night was a slo-mo lithium version of their glam punk churn, Soft Crash goes straight into space with wild Chrome-like tangents and an assortment of synthetically-altered art rock that continues to satisfy after countless spins. Absolutely essential listening for the 2010s.

Pollution®SMUT (C6 Recordings)
Along with Double Negative, this NYC band has raised the bar for hardcore in 2010 with an intensely volatile mix of thrash, math and noise. The rhythm section alone slays 99% of the band’s peers, starting and stopping on a dime, jolting tempos from oppressive dirges to ripping blast beats. Add to that massively chunky guitar and vicious vocals buried in the din and you’ve got a record that will be talked about and referenced for years to come.

Slices – Cruising (Iron Lung)
Pittsburgh has been producing some raging mid-paced hardcore with bands like Kim Phuc and this quartet of pressurized aggression, fitting somewhere alongside hardcore bands like Condominium and Cult Ritual, with creepy experimental tracks sandwiched between tense bursts of powerful hardcore. It’s noisy, jabbing, anxiety-ridden pummeling of the highest order.

Subtle TurnhipsTerd LP (Hozac)
Every year there’s a French band on this list and this year it’s a band who’s been around for a while but under the radar. Their loose and wild take on Swell Maps-style noisepunk always sounds good and remains fresh after many spins.

TyvekNothing Fits LP (In The Red)
Like Siltbreeze label mates Naked on the Vague, Tyvek’s singles and 2009 LP were interesting, but a little too unfocused to demand much time on the turntable. This record, however, plays to all their strengths: spartan songs played with punked-out abandon, sorta like early SoCal punks (TSOL, Black Flag, Bad Religion, etc) covering Wire as amped-up teenagers.

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