Thursday, December 23, 2010

Top Ten Albums of 2010 Part 2

Part 2 of my 3 part albums of the year list. Enjoy.

10. Sufjan Stevens - The Age of Adz
Pitchfork eat your heart out. Sufjan's never been a stranger to experimentation, and The Age of Adz sees him exploring sonic territories that even he hasn't ventured through. Glitch drums and slide guitar? The os-so-popular indie vocal layers in front of a full orchestra? Fucking harpsichord AND auto-tune? It's a difficult album to digest in one sitting and has its share of missteps, but when it hits, it hits fucking HARD. Just listen to the title track to see why Sufjan trumps his contemporaries.

9. TesseracT - Concealing Fate
TesseracT came completely out of left field for me. Attending a Devin Townsend show recently, TesseracT were the supporting group. I wasn't expecting terribly much, especially after the awful opening band (bad hardcore rap metal bullshit). I've also become incredibly jaded when it comes to metal; most of what I've listened to in high school has fallen by the wayside because of music school and learning more about writing. Thankfully, these lads from across the pond absolutely blew me away. Combining Meshuggah chug with mildly bombastic progressive overtones, not unlike Octavarium era Dream Theater minus the pretension and poor writing, their debut EP is not to be missed. In terms of impact on the scene, eh, there's better groups out there. But TesseracT has been able to do what no other emerging metal group has done so far. They've reaffirmed my faith that the metal scene can produce some spectacular music.

8. The Birthday Massacre - Pins and Needles
A friend of mine I collaborate a lot with summed up this band as "Disney Metal". He's not that far from the mark; The Birthday Massacre combines crunchy downtuned guitar riffs with plenty of twinkly synthesizers and a vocalist who tries her best to appeal to everybody's gothic schoolgirl fantasy. Pins and Needles sees the group toning down their industrial spooky overtones in favor of a much more upbeat, poppy sound. Purists cried foul. I heap praise. The songwriting is infectious; the hooks will get stuck in your head for hours on end and you can't help but bob your head along. Maybe that's why I like it so much. It's essentially a power pop album heavily distorted, downtuned and sped up a bit. And it fucking works.

7. Murder By Death - Good Morning Magpie
Murder By Death is drinkin' music. Not drinking music, like Ke$ha, where you drink Hypnotik, dance at the club, end up in some random dude's house later with your panties around your ankles. Drinkin' music; sitting alone in a wood paneled room with a double of Johnnie Walker and a double barreled shotgun, contemplating your pathetic excuse for a life. Their latest outing sees the now 4 piece group exploring much more gritty territories than they've previously seen. Whereas their previous album, Red of Tooth and Claw, sparkled with crisp and clear production, Good Morning Magpie is muddy, a mess and utterly depressing. Cellist Sarah Balliet shines with some of her best and most prominent performances to date, and the entire band plows headlong into oblivion with nary a thought of well-being. Don't believe me? On The Dark Streets Below should change your mind. Don't miss this.

6. Front Line Assembly - Improvised Electronic Device
It's hard to believe Front Line Assembly have been around since the 80s. A driving force in the EBM scene, the group's output hit a few rough patches in the past decade, due to lineup changes and the fact that they've been around for 30 FUCKING YEARS, give or take. Thankfully, Improvised Electronic Device is the band's best output in years. Atmospheric but still hard hitting enough to satisfy the clubgoers, I.E.D. (get it? get it?) provides plenty of tunes to get you on your feet and dancing. Single Shifting Through The Lens has one of the best main synth riffs I've heard in a long time, and the album isn't afraid to throw in time signatures other than 4/4. Which is incredibly rare. If you like your industrial relatively smart, give this a listen.

Tomorrow - The Final Albums! Who's number one gonna be? Find out soon.

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