Monday, December 20, 2010

My Top 20 Albums of 2010 & Then Some

I totally missed the memo about Agalloch*. And Watain. Instead, I spent my year fixating on ragged gentlemen with vampire obsessions (#2 & #3), a hearty batch of comeback kids (#1, #4, #10), and one incredible guilty pleasure (#10). Without any further adieu, here are my Top 20 Albums of 2010 & Then Some.

[Important addendum HERE.]

*For the record, I don't dislike Agalloch. They just take too long getting to the point.

1. Deftones - Diamond Eyes 
Who would've thought the Deftones, now 20 years into their career, would create my favorite album of 2010? Yet Diamond Eyes is as perfectly familiar as it is tempered and refined. The album reels you in with the velvet fluidity of the eponymous track before moving onto "CMND/CTRL," a song as gritty as anything on Around the Fur. From there, songs like "Sextape" and "976-Evil" soothe the ear, while "Rocket Skates" and "Royal" sting with ferocity. Start to finish, this is it.


2. Dax Riggs - Say Goodnight to the World
On Say Goodnight to the World, the Louisiana native continues to perfect the art of deconstructing slow, bluesy rock tracks and enriching them with his take on Southern Gothic lore. Sultry, lo-fi numbers like "I Hear Satan," "Like Moonlight," plus his rapturous cover of Elvis Presley's "Heartbreak Hotel" resonate with dark sex appeal. Meanwhile, rockers "Let Me Be Your Cigarette" and "Gravedirt on My Blue Suede Shoes" inspire a strut even Lestat would be proud of.
3. Grinderman - Grinderman 2
As if the idea of a stripped-down incarnation of Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds wasn't appealing enough, try throwing in some of Cave's most raw & cheeky stream-of-consciousness narratives to date. Sound tempting? Just wait until "Worm Tamer" kicks in and carries you away with its cinematic grandeur. You won't come down 'til the final notes of Grinderman 2's most elevated number, "Palaces of Montezuma," subside.

4. Ratt - Infestation
Somehow, despite years of animosity following their acrimonious split, Ratt regrouped and captured lightning in a bottle once more with Infestation. And though the harmony may have been short lived, the album remains a welcome addition to their bluesy LA glam rock canon. Superbly sleazy tracks like "Eat Me Alive," "Garden of Eden" and "Lost Weekend" almost negate any unpleasant "Way Cool Jr." aftertaste we may have from the first go around.

5. Integrity - The Blackest Curse
Still as misanthropic as ever, Integrity remains one of the most controversial, polarizing American hardcore bands around. Mastermind Dwid Hellion delivers his dark visions via guttural screams that are set to monstrous, under-produced chugging riffs, paced masterfully for crucial breakdowns. Shades of Haunting the Chapel-era Slayer in the guitar playing only heightens Integrity's already-harrowing sound, particularly on "Through the Shades of Forever" and "Secret Schadenfreude."

6. Black Keys - Brothers
Having built their career on gritty Delta Blues and fuzzy riffs, the most striking thing about the Black Keys' sixth album, Brothers, is just how accessible and poppy it is. There are still plenty of soulful moments to be found, including personal favorite "Next Girl," and the crowd pleaser "Howlin For You." Stompers like "Black Mud" and "Tighten Up" only cement the fact that the Black Keys have truly found their groove.
7. Demon Hunter - The World is a Thorn
I've always had a soft spot for Demon Hunter. The Seattle-based Christian metalcore act have consistently managed to create gloriously heavy music, with plenty of smart electronic flourishes and textured harmonies to keep things interesting. And this album is no different. Infused with new energy after a significant lineup change, The World is a Thorn might be their best work since 2004's Summer of Darkness.

8. Black Mountain - Wilderness Kingdom  
Decidedly more mellow than 2008's In the Future, Black Mountain's latest offering still embodies everything I love about the Canadian psychedelic rockers. The entwined vocals of Amber Webber and Stephen McBean remain, as do the band's trademark grooves and symphonic harmonies; and their Sabbath influence continues to shine on songs like "Let Spirits Ride."

9. Girl Talk -  All Day
While I do admit to having some issues with obvious song choices (both "Single Ladies" and Fugazi's "Waiting Room," really?), All Day is still endearing in so many ways. How can you eff up something that starts off with Black Sabbath's "War Pigs" and manages to work Dorrough's "Ice Cream Paint Job" into the opening track? And while there were certainly ebbs and flows of interesting moments, Gregg Gillis's latest remains a whimsical musical capture for X- and Y-gen'ers.

10. Lil Jon - Crunk Rock
At this point, it's not even accurate to refer to Lil Jon as a rapper. Why bother writing verses when you've developed the leading formula for crunk hits? Balancing Euro-baiting thumping beats, convoluted chants about drinking, dancing and pussy popping, plus random guest appearances by the likes of R. Kelly, Ice Cube and Ying Yang Twins, Lil Jon created a whimsical dance album that's impossible not to shake your ass to. Once you check your brain at the door, that is. Fuck lyrics, get paid.

11. Dead Weather - Sea of Cowards
12. Karma to Burn - Appalachian Incantation 
13. The Bled - Heat Fetish
14. Sade - Soldier of Love 
15. Intronaut - Valley of Smoke
16. Envy - Recitation
17. Titus Andronicus - The Monitor
18. Torche - Songs for Singles
19. Off! - The First Four EPs
20. Mark Ronson & The Business Intl - Record Collection
    Honorable Mentions (in no particular order):
    Early Graves - Goner
    Daughters - s/t
    The Sword - Warp Riders
    Miniature Tigers - Fortress
    Monster Magnet - Mastermind
    High on Fire - Snakes for the Divine
    Coliseum - House With a Curse
    Murder Construct - s/t EP 
    Death Angel - Relentless Retribution
    My Chemical Romance - Danger Days
    The Binary Code - Priest EP
    Melvins - The Bride Screamed Murder 
    Various Artists - Metal Swim  (Adult Swim compilation)
    Brett Detar - Bird in a Tangle 
    Cee Lo Green - The Lady Killer
    Chiodos - Illuminaudio
    Black Cruel Dove - The Myth and the Sum EP
    Jamey Johnson - The Guitar Song
    Murder by Death - Good Morning, Magpie

    H.I.M. - Screamworks: Love in Theory and Practice, Chapters 1-13
    Nachtmystium - Addicts: Black Mettle Pt II
    Black Rebel Motorcycle Club - Beat the Devil's Tattoo
    Yeasayer - Odd Blood 
    Christina Aguilera - Bionic

    Never Got Around to Listening To... (Yet):
    Sleigh Bells - Treats
    The Body - All the Waters of the Earth Turn to Blood
    Kanye West - My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy
    Interpol - s/t
    Dungen - Skit I Allt

    Please, PJ, Don't Hurt 'Em
    What are you doing, lady?

    Written On The Forehead by pjharvey

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