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Top Ten

The Year in Music

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We tried something a bit different for 2010. In years past, City Paper has looked to its freelance contributors to vote in its annual Top 10 records poll. This year, we looked to Baltimore instead. The voters consist of several dozen of the finest music heads in the city, including Dan Deacon, Ultra Naté, Cullen Stalin, Lexie Mountain, Bernard Lyons, and many, many more.

The first lesson learned is that our voters listen to a lot of music and a lot of different kinds of music. As in, it looked like we might not even have a list of 10 albums that enough people would remotely agree on. But, as the votes came in, the following started to emerge. And it’s a remarkable mix of everything: underground/extreme metal, pop candy, indieground banner artists, jazz, rap, and “in between.” So, here you are: City Paper’s first locals-only Year in Music. (To view ballots, skip below.) (Michael Byrne)

 

1 Lower Dens Twin-Hand Movement (Gnomonsong)

See “The Year in Local Music.”

2 Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti Before Today (4AD)

Before Today has so much going on, I don’t know where to begin,” Tax Lo co-proprietor and DJ Simon Phoenix says. “It sounds like a really complex and twisted lost pop record from the ’80s, but it’s also one of the most exciting albums I’ve heard in a long time. I wish more people would put this much thought and effort into making records.” Vitally, Before Today also marks Ariel Pink’s leap from the intentional obscurity and bedroom-ness of the earlier records and singles that got the underground hooked on his stuff and into a “proper” studio and comparative hi-fi. Just how well that worked should be some kind of lesson to the small nation of lo-fi pop bands hiding behind four-tracks.

3 Future Islands In Evening Air (Thrill Jockey)

See “The Year in Local Music,”.

4 (TIE) Drake Thank Me Later (Cash Money/Universal Motown)

The biracial Jewish-Canadian former child-actor Drake would seem about as unlikely an entry into mainstream American rap as really anyone we could think of. There’s nothing tough about Drake, nothing particularly boastful. Instead, on this breakout debut, we have a record of minimal R&B qua rap that’s equal parts sad, sexy, and streetwise, songs not for the party but for the late-night lonely drive home from the party. A production ensemble that includes Kanye West, Swizz Beats, and Timbaland doesn’t hurt. Also, you have to dig a record whose boosters include both deep-house diva Ultra Naté and Wye Oak’s Andy Stack*.

4 (TIE) Wavves King of the Beach (Fat Possum)

There was a moment a few years ago when Wavves, purveyor of some of the sloppier, stoned-er slop-punk in a crowded field, looked like the next in line for massive web-hype flame-out à la the Black Kids. But, wouldn’t you know it, Nathan Williams and company actually made good, releasing a sophomore disc that proved the buzzkills wrong. “King of the Beach was my go-to album when driving van tours all summer,” promoter and DJ Emily Rabbit says. “The album is packed with sing-along window-down anthems and the harmonies always cheered up cranky musicians in the morning.”

5 Katy Perry Teenage Dream (Capitol)

“Everyone has their drama in their life,” Mobtown Studios co-owner Mat Leffler-Schulman explains, “and Katy Perry is my drama. She has a good voice, she punctuates, and she works with incredible producers. There’s good music and there’s bad music and within her genre . . . there’s a lot of bad.”

6 (TIE) Das Racist Sit Down, Man (Greedhead/Mad Decent)

“It’s the best parts of MF Doom and Jungle Brothers at the same time,” Sonar booker Adam Savage says. “Lyrically, the most interesting hip-hop record I’ve heard in a long time. I hear a new amazing line every time: poignant, irreverent, comical, and serious, simultaneously.” Also: While the streets may be littered with rap mixtapes, it’s rare that one becomes a consensus favorite. Impressive.

6 (TIE) Moon Duo Escape (Woodsist)

“After a string of 12-inch EPs, San Francisco’s Moon Duo dropped a four-track LP earlier this year that sizzles like an egg in an anti-drug PSA,” Fan Death Records co-owner Chris Berry says. “Motorik drumming, droning synth chords, and walls of guitar noise are nothing new to psychedelic rock, but Moon Duo fuse these elements into a driving, minimal haze, as on album opener ‘Motorcycle, I Love You.’ In a psychedelic landscape cluttered by elderly acid casualties, frilly shirts, and an overpriced and oversaturated reissue market, it’s refreshing to hear a band who’s creating their own trip rather than walking the path dug out by thousands of previous followers over the past four decades. It’s even more interesting to hear a group this energized and willing to take you along for their ride.”

7 (TIE) La Otracina Reality Has Got to Die (Holy Mountain)

“La Otracina’s sound has developed immensely over the past seven to eight years,” Public Guilt founder and Baltimore heavy music vet J.R. Fritsch says. “Reality Has Got to Die is their first album to add metal into their awesome, improv-jazz, space-rock fusion. La Otracina’s songwriting pulls the finest elements from their influences without veering into the simple rehashing that is all too common in the retro-psych scene. NWOBHM riffs and over-the-top metal lyrics sit next to 15-plus minute, spaced-out instrumentals and nothing feels out of place. And it fucking rocks. It’s like a classic, ’70s psych/prog masterpiece, but with really big balls.”

7 (TIE) Michael Formanek The Rub and Spare Change (ECM)

“I cannot imagine a better group for Michael Formanek’s compositions,” Creative Differences curator Bernard Lyons says. “The trust and deep respect between the musicians is apparent and the compositions, while certainly not simplistic, leave enough space for these unique artists to create their own internal dramas. It is a recording without the taint of a leader’s ego, a subtle, highly assured masterwork.”

8 Emeralds Does it Look Like I’m Here? (Editions Mego)

“Emeralds music reconciles opposites. It is guitar music and it is synthesizer music, it is New Age and yet also noise, it has the wide sideways feel of ambient horizons and it has the relentless forward motion of superfast sequencers and riffs chugging on forever,” Matmos’ Drew Daniel explains. “Does it Look Like I’m Here? can be basked in at low volume, but on tour this summer with So Percussion we blasted it in the van and it rocks like a bastard too. I think it’s a huge step forward for them. Songs like ‘Genetic’ and ‘Candy Shoppe’ are undeniable. Plus they’re great live.”

9 Nachtmystium Addicts: Black Meddle Pt II (Century Media)

A baffling record. “Black Meddle” says it all: Nachtmystium went DNA-deep into black metal and achieved the rare feat of liberating it—a monumental task for any of extreme metal’s ultra-specific subgenres—splicing in stoner rock, classic rock, prog rock, and sure, why not, synth-wave futurism. It’s so catchy and so deliciously evil, it makes the head spin. Maybe not the record to turn your parents on to black metal, but it’s enough to suggest that that record might actually exist.

10 Kanye West My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy (Def Jam)

“Kanye’s album is absolutely amazing,” Joe Squared booker, DJ, and Claire Hux member Daren Lake says. “It’s not even hip-hop anymore. He somehow created his own genre. So many people are quick to say he sucks or he’s annoying so they can’t listen to him, but I think that’s taking away from the great artistry that he has. The dude is no Michael Jackson, but he has assembled a team around him to put him on that level. It’s just like one of those classic albums that makes sense the first time you listen and the 50th time. He really created the perfect musical palette. From the lush strings to the bright horns mixed in with his signature Kanye 808 beats and grooves, his sound is still very present. I’m on listen number 23 and I took a break seven days ago.”

* The initial version of this article mistakenly referred to Andy Stack as Andy Cook. City Paper regrets the error.


The Ballots

Bernard Lyons, Creative Differences promoter/curator

Robert Wyatt For the Ghosts Within (Domino)
Tom Waits Glitter and Doom (ANTI)
The Unthanks Here’s the Tender Coming (Rough Trade)
Michael Formanek The Rub and Spare Change (ECM)
Roscoe Mitchell and the Note Factory Far Side (ECM)
Evan Parker Whitstable Solo (PSI)
Nate Wooley and Paul Lytton Creak Above 33 (PSI)
Susan Alcorn and George Burt A and B (Iorram) Decoy and Joe McPhee Oto (Bo’Weavil)
William Parker I Plan to Stay a Believer (The Inside Songs of Curtis Mayfield) (AUM Fidelity)

Mat Leffler-Schulman, Mobtown Studios co-owner

Brooke Fraser Flags (Wood and Bone)
Fang Island Fang Island (Sargent House)
Lands and Peoples EP (self-released)
Prince 20Ten (NPG)
Katy Perry Teenage Dream (Capitol)
Secret Mountains Rejoice (Friends)
N.E.R.D. Nothing (Interscope)
OK Go Of the Blue Colour of the Sky (Capitol)
Trans Am Thing (Thrill Jockey)
Brian Eno Small Craft on a Milk Sea (Warp)

Dominic Romeo, A389 Records founder

Roky Erickson True Love Cast Out All Evil (Anti)
Charles Manson Air (Magic Bullet)
Integrity We Are the End (Magic Bullet)
Danzig Deth Red Sabaoth (Evilive/The End)
Oak II (A389)
Ghastly City Sleep Moondrifts (Magic Bullet/Robotic Empire)
Magrudergrind Crusher (Scion A/V)
Starkweather This Sheltering Night (Deathwish Inc.)
Triac/ASRA/Defeatist split (Deep Six)
Skin Like Iron Descent Into Light (Six Feet Under)

Xeukatre, black metal band

Birds of Maya Ready to Howl (Richie)
The Magnetic Fields Realism (Nonesuch)
Blessure Grave Judged by 12, Carried by 6 (Alien8)
Of Montreal False Priest (Polyvinyl)
Kylie Minogue Aphrodite (Parlophone)
Death Angel Relentless Retribution (Nuclear Blast)
Das Racist Sit Down, Man (Mad Decent/Greedhead)
Accept Blood of the Nations (Nuclear Blast)
Superchunk Majesty Shredding (Merge)
Blind Guardian At the Edge of Time (Nuclear Blast)

Adam Savage, Sonar booker

Die Antwoord $0$ (Interscope/Cherrytree)
Nobunny First Blood (Goner)
Das Racist Sit Down, Man (Mad Decent)
Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti Before Today (4AD)
Moon Duo Escape (Woodsist)
Wavves King of the Beach (Fat Possum/Bella Union)
Happy Birthday Happy Birthday (Sub Pop)
Immortal All Shall Fall (Nuclear Blast)
Black Breath Heavy Breathing (Southern Lord)
Jesu Heart Ache and Dethroned (Hydra Head)

Drew Daniel, Matmos

Emeralds Does It Look Like I’m Here? (Editions Mego)
Twig Harper Intuitive American Esoteric Volume Three (HereSee)
Cyclobe Wounded Galaxies Tap at the Window (Phantom Code)
People Like Us and Wobbly Music for the Fire (Illegal Art)
Keith Fullerton Whitman Generator (Root Strata)
Watain Lawless Darkness (Season of Mist/Soyuz)
Burzum Belus (Byelobog)
Sutekh On Bach (Creaked)
Autechre Move of Ten (Warp)
Swans My Father Will Guide Me Up a Rope to the Sky (Young God)

Chris Berry, Fan Death Records co-owner

Leather Anchorite 7” (Caesar Cuts)
The New Flesh/MLU split (Human Conduct)
Broken Water Whet (Night People)
Moon Duo Escape (Woodsist)
Bill Orcutt A New Way to Pay Old Debts (Palilalia) (2009, not counted in final scoring)
Tamaryn The Waves (Mexican Summer)
Zola Jesus Stridulum (Sacred Bones)
Locrian Territories (BloodLust!/Small Doses)
Demdike Stare Liberation Through Hearing (Modern Love)
Microkingdom Microkingdom’s Threatened Youths CS (Friends)

Brandon Soderburg, City Paper writer

Jim O’Rourke All Kinds of People: Love Burt Bacharach (AWDR/LR2/B.J.L.)
Toro Y Moi Causers of This (Carpark)
Curren$y Pilot Talk (DD172)
Kanye West My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy (Def Jam)
The Foreign Exchange Authenticity (FE+ Music)
No Age Everything in Between (Sub Pop)
Future Islands In Evening Air (Thrill Jockey)
Starlito Renaissance Gangster (self-released)
Mark McGuire Living With Yourself (Editions Mego)
Krieg The Isolationist (Candlelight)

Simon Phoenix, Tax Lo co-proprietor and DJ

LCD Soundsystem This is Happening (DFA/Virgin)
Emeralds Does It Look Like I’m Here (Editions Mego)
Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti Before Today (4AD)
Wavves King of the Beach (Fat Possum/Bella Union)
La Otracina Reality Has Got to Die (Holy Mountain)
Dustin Wong Infinite Love (Thrill Jockey)
Moon Duo Escape (Woodsist)
No Age Everything in Between (Sub Pop)
Cos/Mes Gozmez Land*Chaosexotica (ESP Institute)
Bonjay Broughtupsy (Mysteries of Trade)

Andy Stack, Wye Oak

Lower Dens Twin-Hand Movement (Gnomonsong)
Future Islands In Evening Air (Thrill Jockey)
Beach House Teen Dream (Sub Pop/Bella Union)
Drake Thank Me Later (Universal)
Spoon Transference (Merge)
Shearwater The Golden Archipelago (Matador)
Kanye West My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy (Def Jam)
Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti Before Today (4AD)
Height With Friends Bed of Seeds (Friends) Radar Brothers The Illustrated Garden (Squid vs. Whale)

Andrew Laumann, Dope Body

Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti Before Today (4AD)
Tonetta 777 (Black Tent Press)
Dustin Wong Infinite Love (Thrill Jockey)
Gem Vision Earth Flag (Watercolor)
Jason Urick Fussing and Fighting (Thrill Jockey)
Sick Weapons Birthday Gift (Reptilian)
Delicate Steve Wondervisions (Luaka Bop)
Jake Lingan Labor of Love (Friends)
Lower Dens Twin-Hand Movement (Gnomonsong)
Mi Ami Steal Your Face (Thrill Jockey)

Ultra Naté, Deep Sugar

Kem Why Would You Stay? (Motown) Maxwell BLACKsummers’night (Columbia) (2009, not counted in final scoring)
Sade Soldier of Love (Epic)
Kings of Leon Come Around Sundown (RCA)
Peven Everett Beyond the Universe the Remix Edition (Tribe)
Drake Thank Me Later (Cash Money/Universal Motown)
Usher Raymond V Raymond (LaFace/Jive)
Katy Perry Teenage Dream (Capitol)
Florence and the Machine Between Two Lungs (Universal Island)

Adam Hopkins, bassist and Out of Your Head curator

Michael Formanek The Rub and Spare Change (ECM)
Mary Halvorson Quintet Saturn Sings (Firehouse 12)
Little Women Throat (AUM Fidelity)
Zs New Slaves (The Social Registry)
Frightened Rabbit The Winter of Mixed Drinks (FatCat)
The Nels Cline Singers Initiate (Cryptogramophone)
Sufjan Stevens All Delighted People (Asthmatic Kitty)
The Claudia Quintet/Gary Versace Royal Toast (Shellshock)
Ches Smith and These Arches Finally Out of My Hands (Skirl)
Steve Lehman/Rudresh Mahanthappa Dual Identity (Clean Feed)

Cullen Stalin, Tax Lo co-proprietor and DJ

Glasser Ring (True Panther Sounds)
Zola Jesus Stridulum (Sacred Bones)
Munchi Murda Sound (T&A)
MNDR EPE (self-released)
Roska Roska (Rinse)
Small Black New Chain (Jagjaguwar)
Frank (Just Frank) The Brutal Wave (Wierd)
Gayngs Relayted (Jagjaguwar)
Matthew Dear Black City (Ghostly International)
Hot Chip One Life Stand (Astralwerks)

J.R. Fritsch, Public Guilt Records founder

MRC Riddims w/Oddateee “My Time to Shine”/”All Extended Verses” (self-released)
La Otracina Reality Has Got to Die (Holy Mountain)
Nachtmystium Addicts: Black Meddle Pt. II (Century Media)
J.G. Thirlwell Manorexia: The Mesopelagic Waters (Tzadik)
The Last Electro-Acoustic Space Jazz and Percussion Ensemble Miles Away (Stones Throw)
The Skull Defekts and the Sons of God Received in Studio Dental, Gothenburg (Utech)
On Fillmore/Massimo Pupillo, Uchihashi Kazuhisa, Yoshigaki Yasuhiro PhonoMetak Series # 7 (Wallace)
Noveller Desert Fires (Saffron)
Korperschwache Black Dust (Colony)
Karen Stackpole with Die Elektrischen Machine Shop (Dielectric)

Emily Rabbit, DJ and promoter

Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti Before Today (4AD)
Die Antwoord $0$ (Interscope/Cherrytree)
Male Bonding Nothing Hurts (Sub Pop)
Baths Cerulean (Anticon)
Tanlines Settings (True Panther)
Das Racist Sit Down, Man (Mad Decent
Wavves King of the Beach (Fat Possum/Bella Union)
Duck Sauce aNYway/Barbara Streisand
PO PO Bummer Summer/Teen Dreamz (Mad Decent/Greedhead)
Cerebral Ballzy The GripTape (Mumdance)

Dan Deacon, Dan Deacon

Future Islands In Evening Air (Thrill Jockey)
Dope Body Saturday (unknown)
Womme Rog (unknown)
Lower Dens Twin-Hand Movement (Gnomonsong)
Height With Friends Bed of Seeds (Friends)
Daniel Higgs Say God (Thrill Jockey)
Charanjit Singh Synthesizing: Ten Ragas to a Disco Beat (reissue)
Instant Coffee Instant Coffee! (self-released)
Omar Souleyman Folk and Pop Sounds of Syria: Jazeera Nights (Sublime Frequencies)
Salamander Wool Lunarsophic Somnambulist (Ehse)

Daren Lake, Joe Squared booker, DJ, and Claire Hux member

Kanye West My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy (Def Jam)
Drake Thank Me Later (Cash Money/Universal Motown)
The Dream Love King (Def Jam)
Katy Perry Teenage Dream (Capitol)
Chiddy Bang The Preview (EMI/Regal)
Chromeo Business Casual (Atlantic)
B.O.B. The Adventures of Bobby Ray (Atlantic)
Janelle Monáe The ArchAndroid (Bad Boy Entertainment/Wondaland)
Cee Lo Green The Lady Killer (Elektra/Warner Bros.)
Big Boi Sir Lucious Left Foot: The Son of Chico Dusty (Def Jam)

Lee Gardner, City Paper editor

Lower Dens Twin-Hand Movement (Gnomonsong)
Chris Lightcap’s Bigmouth Deluxe (Clean Feed)
The Dead C Patience (Ba Da Bing)
El Guincho Pop Negro (Young Turks)
Light Pollution Apparitions (Carpark)
Forest Swords Dagger Paths (Olde English Spelling Bee)
Angles Epileptical West—Live in Coimbra (Clean Feed)
Charlotte Gainsbourg IRM (Elektra/Asylum)
Warpaint The Fool (Rough Trade US)
The Whitefield Brothers Earthology (Stonesthrow)

Matt Walter, DJ and City Paper employee

Crocodiles Sleep Forever (Fat Possum)
Weekends Sports (unknown)
Best Coast Crazy for You (Mexican Summer)
Beach Fossils Beach Fossils (Captured Tracks)
Dum Dum Girls I Will Be (Sub Pop/HoZac)
TENNIS “Marathon” (Fat Possum)
The Drums The Drums (Downtown)
Cults 7” (Forest Family)
Gorillaz Plastic Beach (Virgin)
The Like Release Me (Downtown) 

Jason Willett, True Vine owner and member of too many bands to list

Lesser/Matmos/Wobbly Simultaneous Quodlibet (Important)
Twig Harper Intuitive American Esoteric Volume Three (HereSee)
Mulatu Astatke Timeless (Traffic)
Dan Higgs Say God (Thrill Jockey)
Sri Auribondo Cave Painting (Friends)
People Like Us and Wobbly Music for the Fire (Illegal Art)
Group Doueh Beatte Harab (Sublime Frequencies)
Art Department Paperwork/Birdwork (Gen Pop)
Zomes Improvisations 1 and 2 (Imminent Frequencies)
J. Graf Os (Wachsender Proze)

Lexie Mountain, Lexie Mountain boy and Crazy Dreams Band member

Lower Dens Twin-Hand Movement (Gnomonsong)
AIDS Wolf March to the Sea (Skin Graft)
White Denim Last Day of Summer (self-released)

Michael Byrne, City Paper music editor

Reigning Sound Love and Curses (ITR)
Grinderman Grinderman 2 (Anti)
Forest Swords Dagger Paths (Olde English Spelling Bee)
Nachtmystium Addicts: Black Meddle Pt. II (Century Media)
Grouper/Roy Montgomery split (Yellow Electric)
The Ex Catch My Shoe (Ex)
Lower Dens Twin-Hand Movement (Gnomonsong)
Tristan Perich 1-bit Symphony (Cantaloupe)
Matthew Dear Black City (Ghostly International)
Labtekwon Next: Baltimore Basquiat and the Futureshock (Ankh Ba)

  • The Year In News It was the year of the “enthusiasm gap,” and not just as applied to the long-over honeymoon between President Obama and all but his most ardent admirers. | 12/8/2010
  • The Year in Film Though only one cracked into City Paper’s Top 10 list, 2010’s cinematic cup runneth over with top-notch documentaries—and not just the Michael Moore, Errol Morris, An Inconvenient Truth sort of zeitgeist-baiting nonfiction. Instead, smaller, more intima | 12/8/2010
  • The Year in DVDs Max Ophuls’ 1955 Lola Montes endured many of the same heartbreaks and indignities as its title character: misunderstood, manipulated, abused, and abandoned. | 12/14/2010
  • The Year in Television I watch the Hawaii Five-O remake on CBS. There, I said it. Now, don’t get me wrong—it’s awful. | 12/8/2010
  • The Year in Music In years past, City Paper has looked to its freelance contributors to vote in its annual Top 10 records poll. This year, we looked to Baltimore instead. | 12/8/2010
  • The Year in Local Music The record label Thrill Jockey is not based in Baltimore. Nor is City Paper on the Thrill Jockey payroll. | 12/8/2010
  • The Year in Books In years past we’ve polled City Paper’s book reviewers for their 10 favorite books of the year and threaded a list together from their input. | 12/8/2010
  • The Year in Art Unlike last year’s Laure Drogoul: Follies, Predicaments and Other Conundrums at the Maryland Institute College of Art or 2008’s Franz West, To Build a House You Start With the Roof: Work 1972-2008 at the Baltimore Museum of Art, there wasn’t one exhibitio | 12/8/2010
  • The Year in Stage The year in local stage is bookended by a pair of DIY transitions. | 12/8/2010
  • The Year in Food When we try to count our blessings in precarious years, we invariably include good health in our shortened list. | 12/8/2010
  • The Year In... City Paper's writers go beyond the categories and pick even more top tens | 12/8/2010
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