My Best of 2010: Music Picks by Kelly

Posted by Kells, January 13, 2011 08:45pm | Post a Comment
Howdy and Happy New Year, one and all. I've spent about a week and half, that is the first week and a half of 2011, listening only to the music I purchased last year and I've come up with a list of stuff that I am not only not sick of but ready to live happily ever after with. Here's what I love the most, my best picks for music released in 2010, and you know it's gotta be firm 'cause it's all I've been living on. Let's go:

Sun City Girls - Funeral Mariachi (Abduction)

This is the kind of record that you listen to repeatedly, one side at a time. I think I must have replayed side one at least five times before moving on to play side two again and again --- it's just a mesmerizing and solid piece of work, enchanting and haunted by an astounding breadth of world music influences (no doubt culled from field recordings, transmissions and the like Sun City Girls has gifted to the public via their Sublime Frequencies label, which pretty much makes them, alongside Mississippi Records, the Smithsonian Folkways of our generation). This release is held even more dear by the fact that it is the last Sun City Girls record due to the death of drummer and vocalist Charles Gocher Jr. in 2007. It's also a limited release, so get it while you can. In fact, it's the "get it while you can" of 2010.

Sun City Girls - "Blue West" from Funeral Mariachi

Tim Cohen - Laugh Tracks (Captured Tracks)

A decidedly "summer" record released in a year overflowing with "sounds of summer" records, but this one is different. I hadn't listened to this record since the weather turned brisk, but listening to it again now I recognize a pleasant nostalgia for these songs that secure its place in my treasure chest collection of "staying in" records. It also makes me wish I lived in a place with a screened in porch and wooden floors. Not as rockin' as Cohen's Fresh & Onlys, but janky and deft as anything Tim's ever fixed his broadly informed musical influences on, even if this time it sounds like a crazy quilt and a Legend in a rockin' chair. A++

Tim Cohen - "Oh, Oh, Oh" from Laugh Tracks

Joanna Newsom - Have One On Me (Drag City)

Okay, here we go: what is there to say that hasn't already been said about this record? Surely you know by now whether or not this fills your cup, and if it is your poison, well, you don't need me to reiterate how essential this record is because we agree already: it's the bee's knees. If you, like so many others, can't get past this or that to enjoy Ms. Newsom's polyrhythmic instrumental skills or her penchant for weaving rich verbal tapestries with threads of lyrical gold like "I regret / when I said to you honey just open your heart when I have trouble even opening a honey jar" highlighting compositions that clock in at an average of seven to ten minutes, then that's your problem. Funny, that same description could be applied to Iron Maiden's 2010 release, Final Frontier, excepting the sample lyric of course, which just goes to show that music is more alike than different, you know, just like you and me. Anyway, final answer, Have One On Me: masterpiece of the year. [boom, roasted!]

Joanna Newsom - "In California" from Have One On Me

Joanna Newsom - "Good Intentions Paving Company" from Have One On Me

Joanna Newsom - "'81" from Have One On Me

Jeff Eubank - A Street Called Straight (Drag City)

Speaking of Drag City, this is another one of their fine, fine reissues. I'd feel hesitant to include a 1983 reissue on a list of 2010 year end music picks, but I just cannot not count this record in, as it has become so very precious to me. I had no idea how much I needed this LP until I happened to randomly pick it up one day and perceive that eerie, unexplainable gut feeling that enables patient diggers to calmly pull a title that seems to be psychically super-smizing at them. This record is one of those lost 80's soft/"yacht" rock sessions that determined artists end up mortgaging their houses to afford making, perhaps owing to its existence as Eubank's sole recording, thus increasing the preciousness index. The fact that most of A Street Called Straight sounds like better, lusher songs like those America wrote for the Last Unicorn soundtrack confirms my esteem for him, ranking Jeff right up there with my other singer-songwriter boyfriends Jeff Lynne and Todd Rundgren. If only I could include a sample of "For Your Return..." or "Feels Like Me," but I guess "Kamikaze Pilot" will have to suffice.
Jeff Eubank - "Kamikaze Pilot" from A Street Called Straight

Lloyd Miller & the Heliocentrics - S/T

I like jazz, jazz is nice. Stir in a little eastern influence 'n instruments and I could jazz all night. Every track on this joint smolders but none more so in my opinion than those incorporating Indonesian elements and Gamelan scale. Also, the latest Lou Harrison, released in December, Scenes From Cavafy (New World Records), is pretty amazing, especially the tracks that feature the Gamelan Pacifica Chorus --- total swoon --- I die, it's so good!

Lloyd Miller & the Heliocentrics - "Fantasy Pt. 1"

Agent Ribbons - Chateau Crone (Antenna Farm)

A long time fan of the Missus Ribbons, I was delighted to get their new full length LP (!) in my clutches in 2010 at long last. Though their recordings may be only a token of their love compared to the orgy of their frank and frenzied live performances (ahem, do yourself a favor, already) I've played this gem to no end and can but come to the conclusion that Agent Ribbons are one of the best lady bands in the U.S.A. We love them: check out Amoeba's Agent Ribbons video featurette here, Chateau Crone review here and band interview (posted just before the trio became a duo, once again) here.

Agent Ribbons - "Dada Girlfriend" from Chateau Crone

Oni - Sunwave Heart (ハヤシライスレコード) & Afrirampo - We Are Uchu No Ko (Rock Action)

While Agent Ribbons has got me on the subject of awesome lady-rocker duos, Afrirampo released their final album in 2010 which may or mayn't have anything to do with the future of Oni's solo work as a folk artist. Regardless, the point is Afrirampo has broken up [*sniffle*] and delivered a double-disc swan song like none other. Though Oni's preshy earth songs provide some comfort, I'm gonna miss them あふり-red painted ladies and the total chaos of their live shows (reference the video below for a taste). お疲れ, ladies, さようなら。

Oni - "Ajisai" from Sunwave Heart

Afrirampo - "ヤーヤーエー" from We Are Uchu No Ko

Afrirampo's video for "Miracle Lucky Girls" from We Are Uchu No Ko


Beachcomber Trio - Live at Kahiki 1965 (Dionysus)

All Exotica releases should come packaged with a cocktail recipe, am I wrong? This LP only, hand numbered edition of 500 is not a reissue, mind you, but a lost recording of an exotic evening at Columbus, Ohio's Kahiki Supper Club, a legendary though now defunct "Tiki Temple," and includes not only a recipe for the classic Port Light tiki cocktail, but also comes packaged with a digital download coupon --- crazy, eh? Featuring house band The Beachcomber Trio, this record packs the sort of quiet, environmental excitement other live restaurant recordings released in the 60's present: the sound of the bar's waterfall, the tinkling of glasses and muffled voices sometimes offering discernible words like the man with the Jimmy Stewart voice stating "oh, that's 'Yellow Bird'" as the band begins to play Arthur Lyman's "Yellow Bird." An absolute must have for Exotica enthusiasts and theme restaurant lovers alike. And, while you're at it, pick up a copy of that Exotic Dreamers 2-on-1 reissue of Ethel Azama's Exotic Dream and Tak Shindo's Mganga! --- both worth the price of a painkiller #9.
Blonde Redhead - Penny Sparkle (4AD)

I was a little down on this at first listen (I was pining for early BR sounds), but it grew on me slowly, finally overtaking my senses at their live show at the Warfield theater last November. They've rummaged around, re-creating their musical style time after time, but they still manage to sound as beautiful and damaged as ever. The song they opened their show with, "Black Guitar," is proof of that, and, looking back to songs like "Pink Love" from Misery Is A Butterfly, it seems that Blonde Redhead still pull from their tarnished prison-house of a well, no matter how they endeavor to redecorate it. They ought to cover "Pain Cave" someday; I know they could do it right.

Blonde Redhead - "Black Guitar" from Penny Sparkle



Sandwitches - Duck Duck Goose! (Secret Seven)

So dark 'n lovely, this hardly-for-kids, wyrd-pop record continues to take my breath away; there's just no wearing it out. Here's my review of Duck Duck Goose! from June 2010, and please note the Sandwitches will be headlining (!) at Slim's on January 25th as a part of an evening presented by (((folk YEAH!))) and playing a benefit for the Coalition on Homelessness with Thee Oh Sees and Sic Alps at Great American Music Hall on February 9th.

The Sandwitches - "Stardust" from Duck Duck Goose!


Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti - Before Today (4AD)

I think most folks agree that this record is tops, so I'll sa
ve the drawn out, glowing review and say that when I first heard Ariel Pink was to release a record on 4AD I wasn't expecting it to be this good. I mean, it's so good that it, in the words of John Mellencamp, hurts sooo good. If his show at Bimbo's last summer taught me anything it's that Ariel Pink is the wizard spilling caesar salad all over himself behind the curtain and his Haunted Graffiti band is, well, band of the year as far as I'm concerned; they killed it,  picked it up when Ariel was putting it all down. Record of the year? Yeah, and why not? It's locked in from here to eternity as the solid shades-on, roof-off, #1 summer jam of 2010, so there you go, put that in your Discman and spin it.

Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti - "Bright Lit Blue Skies" from Before Today

Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti - "Fright Night (Nevermore)" from Before Today

Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti - "Can't Hear My Eyes" from Before Today

Tamaryn - Waves (Mexican Summer)

Back in Virginia we used to hang out at this once a week goth night called "1708" at club 1708. It was fun, but middling though there were a lot of guys dressed like Trent Reznor. Recently I heard buzzing among fellow Amoeba peeps about a band called Tamaryn; seems they'd made quite the impression with their live show, and everyone was remarking upon their certain success and notoriety. I confess, I rushed to get a listen and found a properly elevated "1708" sound so atmospheric I could almost feel the tense softness of spilled candlewax cooling on velvet cushions. I recognized Tamaryn, the girl and the band, at a local karaoke joint about two weeks after hearing Waves for the first time. As far as I can remember she sang "Killing Moon" in the style of Echo and the Bunnymen, "Silver Spring" in the style of Fleetwood Mac and "Life on Mars" in the style of David Bowie, so her influences certainly check out. It's a shame "Love Will Tear Us Apart" wasn't in the songbook.

Tanaryn - "The Waves" from Waves

The video for Tamaryn's "Love Fade" from Waves
Grass Widow - Past Time (Kill Rock Stars)

Amazing music, amazing art, amazing women, amazing band. What more do you want? (Watch this...)

Grass Widow's video for "Fried Egg" from Past Time

Leland - Feel the Pain (Contempt)

This is a weird one, weird deluxe. A heap of these ended up in Amoeba San Francisco's clearance bins and many of us pounced on them like cats on nip because a.) who is Leland? and b.) how is it that he cooks so chilled? Still on the prowl for more info about Berkeley man of mystery Leland Yoshitsu, who is, it seems, sadly no longer with us but enjoys a flattering afterlife thanks to artists like Puro Instinct and Ariel Pink. Far fucking out, man.

Leland - "I've Got Some Happiness"

Sword - Warp Riders (Kemado)

I don't know if this would have made this list if it weren't for the most triumphant cover artwork and the buzz about this record being a science fantasy concept album inspired by Queensryche's Operation: Mindcrime bearing influences from heavy predecessors like Thin Lizzy, Black Sabbath, Iron Maiden and Nazareth. It's a killer, throwing punches that'll hit L.A.R.P.ers, Trekkies and headbangers alike right between the eyes.

The Sword - "(The Night The Sky Cried) Tears of Fire" from Warp Riders

Die Antwoord - $O$ (Interscope)

I almost forgot to include this one since most of it has technically been around since 2009, but Die freakin' Antwoord's debut received proper release in 2010! I could gush for days about how cool these people are and how folks perplexed by their act need to just chill and take it all in. And if you can, take in a live Die Antwoord show. True, you won't be any closer to understanding what the heck "Wat Kyk Jy?" is all about, but I'd wager a B.P.P. you'll be more than pleased to find yourself fist-pumping with the Ninja and Yo-Landi Vi$$er. Check out the "What's In My Bag?" interview with with Die Antwoord at Amoeba Music Hollywood here, photos from their bombastic live performance at Amoeba Music San Francisco here, and keep an eye out for the upcoming video interview piece to accompany them in-store photos. By far the best in house performance of the year!!! Die Antwoord: yes, please!

Die Antwoord - "In Your Face"

Die Antwoord - "Zef Side" video thingy

Of course there was a ton of other great stuff I could include, but it's 2011 already and I'm excited about new, newer and the newest things too. So, I'm gonna stop here. Except to say how about that R. Kelly, is he classing up his act or what? King of soul 2010: R. Kelly, bitches!


Relevant Tags

Grass Widow (15), Joanna Newsom (36), Leleand Yoshitsu (1), Sun City Girls (1), Exotica (15), Sword (2), Oni (1), Afrirampo (1), Tamaryn (8), Fresh & Onlys (10), Jeff Eubank (1), Sandwitches (17), Tim Cohen (12), Beachcomber Trio (1), Agent Ribbons (5), Best Of 2010 (22), Lou Harrison (1)