This wraps up our lists for the year, and we couldn’t ask for a better closer than Bryan Funck, frontman of the doom powerhouse Thou. Besides having a throat of fire, he’s also one of the most interesting, intelligent guys you’ll ever run into. Here are his favorite albums of 2010.
10.5 Caddywhompus – Remainder + The Callers – Life of Love + Lovey Dovies – s/t + The Gift – Demo
All of these records are great and deserve a mention (or Andy and Mitch will probably kill me). Caddywhompus sounds like members of Braid and Sunny Day Real Estate teaming up and trying to make music that sounds like Lightning Bolt. The LP was released locally on the ultra DIY Community Records label.
I know Sara Lucas and Ryan Seaton from Callers from when they both lived in New Orleans and were playing music together. Callers is the band they put together in Providence (though I think it was just the two of them for a while and now they have a third member). I’ve only heard bits and pieces off the new LP, but it was enough to blow me away. Andy’s been raving about this one.
Lovey Dovies are from New Orleans and their self-released record sounds like the Lemonheads or Gin Blossoms or everything you loved about melancholic 90s alternative. They’ve already toured South America and been around the US a bit, but they haven’t gotten nearly enough attention.
The Gift is the new punk band from Beck from Turboslut and carries on that tradition of punk-/Hole-inspired abrasive hardcore.
10. Celeste – Morte(s) Nee(s)
The newest Celeste record is only so low on the list because I haven’t been able to purchase the actual record on this side of the world and I’ve only been jamming on the mp3s. While retaining the darkness of all the 90s French emo bands I love (Anomie, Jasemine, Fingerprint, etc.), this brings it to a whole new level of heaviness and even incorporates some black metal dynamics. And the cover of this record is easily the best of the year, if not one of the best covers ever. If Andy were crafting this list, I think the record would be a lot higher up, since he listens to this pretty much all the time.
9. Kowloon Walled City – Gambling on the Richter Scale
This band came out of nowhere for me. Just as we were booking dates for last summer’s Thou/Moloch west coast tour, Andy and Chris both starting singing their praises. I started talking to Scott about doing some dates with us. They couldn’t make the west coast dates happen, but I managed to get them to Louisiana for the east coast tour, and they were spot on live. Stylistically, this usually isn’t my thing at all, but somehow they managed to take the heavier side of Torche, the precision of Helmet, the directness of Unsane, the feel of 90s hardore bands like Noothgrush and Jesuit, and create something I love. I’ve often touted Moloch as a stripped down, straightforward version of Eyehategod and Dystopia. In that same sense, Kowloon Walled City is a stripped down, straightforward version of early Neurosis. No frills, no bells and whistles, just punishing, angry music for angry people like me.
8. Why Are We Building Such a Big Ship? – Of Resolution and Resolve
The punkest band in New Orleans releases their second full length on the punkest label Domino Sound. This one is a bit poppier and more uplifting than No Blood No Blooms. There’s less funeral dirge and more sea shanty tribulation, but I still love this release all the same. The records come in chipboard jackets that were each handstamped and have different postage affixed to the cover, so each copy has a unique look. Woodsmoke and the Burial Grounds Kult of Salem nod in approval.
7. Hurray for the Riff Raff – Young Blood Blues
As the west coast California punks have deified Stephen Morrissey, so have the New Orleans punks raised Fiona Apple to god-like stature. And while front woman Alynda Lee is a certainly an amazing vocalist and musician in her own rite, there’s no denying a deep comparison to Fiona Apple (in fact–though this might get me strung up local militants–Alynda’s probably a stronger singer than Fiona). The new Riff Raff album is a little less Bywater and a little more delicate, laid back pop–but there’s no denying the Marigny in those banjo riffs which retain the overall dark folksy southern bluegrass feel.
6. Ghastly City Sleep – Moondrifts
Despite the numerous printing and manufacturing errors that sent Brandon into a fit of wailing and gnashing of teeth that I can sympathize with to the very heights of blood pressure frustration, this record looks beautiful. I loved the simplicity of their first LP, and Brandon’s artwork has always been very striking. This release takes that to a whole new dimension, building on his style in a very clear way. Musically, this one is less Sigur Ros and a bit more Radiohead, a little less melancholy meandering and a little more dreary darkness. I think I prefer the former style a bit more, but even so, the new stuff is incredible. They played a couple of shows in Louisiana recently and in a surprisingly “jack move” traded out their old drummer Pat Broderick for Ryan Parrish (City of Caterpillar / Suppression / Darkest Hour). While Pat is an increible drummer, Ryan is probably one of my all time favorites. So this newest inclusion really had me amped up on the live show.
5. Brother/Ghost – Black Ice
An Austin band comprised of half or more Louisiana natives, Brother/Ghost includes Jesse Key (formerly of Mitch and Josh’s Man Plus Building) and Jasper den Hartigh (of obscure NOLA and Lafayette bands Lanterns and Clawing to China). Their other bands were solid but never quite drew me in completely. But they were longtime friends, so when they came out to Louisiana, we helped get their shows set up and played a comic shop with them in Baton Rouge. In the twenty or so minute set they did, I was totally blown away. Somehow they had taken my favorite elements of Ghastly City Sleep and molded that with the more straightforward, dirginess of later day Circle Takes the Square into something sad, epic, and heavy. It reminds me something of City of Caterpillar if they were more Godspeed/Sigur Ros and a lot less screamo. This is definitely a band to keep on the radar. If someone doesn’t release this EP on vinyl soon, I’m going to have to do it myself.
4. Skagos – Ast
Skagos picks up exactly where Leech left off creating an amalgamation of punk-inspired, magickal, folk-infused black metal–what a few esoteric hermits in the Pacific northwest have deemed “grey metal.” Skagos has pushed the boundaries even further than their Salem predecessors by incorporating elements of shoe-gaze and what some (Wolf from Iskra) might call indie rock. I’m sure a lot of people will level some comparisons to Wolves in the Throne Room or Fauna, though I think their experimentations have taken the music a few steps further. Black metal purists might shudder at some of these musical inclusions, but I find their sincerity and uninhibited development refreshing; and I’m sure their dedication to kultness would even make the Woodsmoke militants crack a shadow of a smile.
3. Fell Voices / Ash Borer – split
These are bands playing black metal exactly as it should be played in the purest sense of the genre: raw, unrelenting, honest. This is as “true” as it gets for me, and I don’t even have to waste time overlooking any satanic religious posturing or overdone pagan revivalism. This is some of the harshest, most epic music I’ve heard in my life. Seeing them live, I was reminded of a time when Wolves and the Throne Room and Threnos were first coming around, playing house shows and basements but still having this amazing grasp on creating the fullest, most realized, perfected sound. If these two bands don’t blow up in a huge way, they’re destined to become legendary after their passing, lamented by some for their obscurity. They are the Catharsis and Zegota of black metal.
2. The Body – All the Waters of the Earth Turn to Blood
I’ve liked this band for a while, but they’ve destroyed all my preconceptions with their newest record. They are pretty much the most crushing, brutal thing I’ve ever seen or heard in my life. Their live show was louder than Page Ninety Nine, louder than the J Mascis / Mike Watt team-up, louder than dirt cars racing in Ponchatoula. They literally had paint peeling off the ceiling, crmbling into our hair, choking our mouths, blinding our eyes. They made me realize that in their midst, Thou will never be considered a heavy band, that we’re indie rock, pop. And all this from two of the nicest guys! This is what happens when you transplant southerners to an art punk town like Providence: experimentation taken to the nth degree and a retention of genteel personality. Incorporating The Assembly of Light Women’s Choir into the album was a bold, incredible move. I just wish we had thought of something like that first. Now adding Gregorian style chants to the next Thou album is going to sound like we’re just aping their style. But who better to mimic?
1. Pygmy Lush – live bootlegs
Pygmy Lush is hands down the best band around right now. Page Ninety Nine is in my top five hardcore bands of all time, and I’ve never thought the Taylors and Sterling compatriots’ subsequent bands came close to capturing that level of creativity. Now I feel like they might have surpassed it. They haven’t released a new record since 2008’s astounding Mount Hope, but there have been a handful of live bootlegs floating around from their somewhat recent tour with Des Ark and some local shows following that. Their newest songs are absolutely incredible, totally mind-blowing. While retaining a deep sense of originality and obviously channeling the melancholic feeling of northern Virginia, there’s something vaguely familiar that will touch anyone who was a teenager of the 90s, weaning their angst off the most depressing songs of the Seattle grunge movement. Indeed, when I listen to these tracks I get the same tingle, the same unrestrained sadness that I remember getting every Sunday watching reruns of Nirvana Unplugged; I get the same end-it-all depressiion of listening to Alice in Chains’ despairing odes to addiction; I have the same contemplations I would get from Pearl Jam’s most wistful musings. This is the beautifully gloom that Mike and Chris always hinted at in their previous bands, the forlornness that beckons transcendence.