In Retrospect; A commentary on 2010’s music

2010 has been a startlingly brilliant year for music, most especially within the various metal and country scenes, though hip-hop, pop, electronica and rock saw their share of impressive albums; new comers and old-timers alike gifted us with powerful albums to love.

I’m going to run down through a LOT of them. This will include ten full reviews, a bunch of one-line reviews, and in closing, a list of every album released in 2010 I felt was good enough to be stored on my precious hard-drive.

Gil Scott-HeronI’m New Here:

You don’t get much more important an ‘old-timer’ as Gil: a spoken-word poet/musician, Gils early works with Brian Jackson helped inspire and influence early hip-hop, as well as leaving us with the legendary track “The Revolution Will not Be Televised”. The man has been making music since the late 60’s with his first released album being in 1970. Yeah, dwell on that for a moment; this is a man who is idolized by many of your favourite hip-hoppers, from Blackalicious to Immortal Technique. History lesson aside, let’s talk about the mans music. Dark, grungy, honest, bleak and shockingly blunt. There’s a strong folk feeling to the album, with elements of early disco fused with later electronic darkness, all completed by Gils rough, spoken-word flow and sharp lyrical content. This is the kind of album that moves along at a lethargic, almost defeated pace, yet it drags you with it inexorably. Must listen music.

Dessa DarlingA Badly Broken Code:

Hip-hop has long been absent enough female voices, (as does metal but that’s another story), with women like Apani B, Jean Grae and a few others carrying the torches of feminine rhymers. Well, Dessa can now be added to that bright crew. Extremely intelligent, musically versatile, a rhyme-sayer with wit and style, and a women with a gorgeous singing voice, Dessa is laudable for rising above most hip-hop. Her songs vary from slow and jazzy, with a sultry lounge-singer vibe, to an acapella heart breaker; there;s a rousing sing-along track or two (in particular, take note of Chinadoll and Dutch.) Eminently high-class, yet not afraid to slug it out, Dessa is one of hip-hops rising stars, regardless of gender.

Ashcan OrchidThe Woods:

Now this is how you start a career. This 6 piece outfit from Portland, Oregon are something amazing. Fusing jazz, gothic americana and other folk influences deftly, they bring you a lush tapestry of brass, strings and perucssions, and some of the smoothest singing for either gender. 2 vocalists, 3 saxophones, guitars, banjos, accordians, even the damn saw gets used. From the darkly melancholy opener, What Would my Mother Think, through the dancy, hip-catching swing of Devils Tango, all the way to the albums gleefully bleak finally, When You’re Dead, Ashcan Orchid keeps youi tapping, shaking and bobbing along. This is the new face of Americana.

Enslaved Axioma Ethica Odini:

Post-black metal, viking metal, succesors to VoiVods genre-bending madness, Enslaved are masters of redefining their sound. Axioma Ethica Odini, is another turn towards the genius. With moments sounding like Pink Floyd writing black metal, to some truly sublime hooks and riffs, Enslaved have created a fucking masterpiece. A flowing landscape of hills and valleys, vocals that flow through clean, almost spoken word, to some truly deep death metal growling, over some of the most head bang inducing guitars and drums you will come across. This album cannot be served justice by mere words. It demands headphones and total attention. So, submit and be awed.

Janelle MonaeArchAndroid:

Let’s talk about dance-pop. Yeah fuckers, that’s what i said. Ass-shaking pop music with gumption, grit and some fucking intelligence. With a flowing almost hip-hop voice at time, Janelle whisks you through a world of dance-able, engaging music that draws from multiple generations of influence: hip-hop, swing, big-band, electronica and jazz are fused seemlessly to bring you one of the most impressive pop-productions you will evetr be fortunate enough to hear. I cannot stress this enough, this is no package of sugary junk, that will rot your mind, but genuinely fulfilling treats and flavours, guaranteed to surprise you.

Solefald – Norron Livskunt:

Once again, Solefald demonstrate how fucking futile it is, to try and define them as…well anything. yes, they are metal. Heavy guitars, riffs and hooks to drop the jaw, black metal-esque vocals and some truly inspiring drumming. Yet, as always there is so much more to the album, from the shockingly harsh female vocalist, to the various other instrumentals brought in (including the first guitar solo on a Solefald album). Sung entirely in Norwegian, this is not the easiest album to digest, especially for those who find rapid style shifts difficult to appreciate. Persevere though, this complex and multi-layered work, is exceedingly dense and ever so gratifying if you take the time to really appreciate the album.

Peculiar Pretzelmen – Innumerable Seeds of Calamity:

As one of the driving forces behind the growing trend of revising Vaudeville and burlesque, the Peculiar pretzelmen also wear their adoration of the legendary Tom Waits on their sleeves. Fusing liquor soaked voodoo-saturated blues with the twangy dark humour of Waits, the Peculiar Pretzelmen have dropped an album of impeccable taste. Boot-stomping, dance worthy, sing-along tunes of decay, despair, and the vagaries of life. Dirty, engaging, delightful and surprisingly intelligent, Innumerable Seeds of Calamity is just what you need in an ugly time.

Blood of Heroes – Blood of Heroes:

I don’t know if I can define this madness enough to entice you. It’s a densely complex fusion of electronica, metal(-core as well), reggae and other esoteric influences. Surprisingly clear, despite it’s multi-layered sound, the album is a wake-up. A startling step away from the usual word of -core fusion, a refreshingly new sound. Never content to deliver what is expected, the albums pacing changes fluidly, taking you from intensely over-whelmed by walls of sound, to almost dub-step like chill moments. Up and down, back and forth, this is one of those albums that demands to be noticed by lovers of good, unique music.

Anathema – We’re Here, Because We’re Here:

When a band evolves as much as Anathema, it sometimes seems futile to explain what you are missing if you start here, or for that matter, if you stopped back when they were metal. We’re Here is one of those album that needs a truly concentrated listen. This is a beautiful, fragile, heartfelt work of art; a glistening banner for agnostic idealism, for artistic integrity and connection between the worlds people. Once one of the founding Doom metal bands, Anathema are so much more now. Covering post-rock, minimalist compositions, ambient moments and some truly soul-catching vocals, all combined with the understanding of walls of sound they developed back in the 90’s. We’re Here is an absolutely beautiful work of art. Fascinatingly deep, and full of undertones, this is a band reaching Masters status.

Collective Efforts – Freezing World:

Live band hip-hop. usually it implies a fusion, a sound that is only barely hip-hop at times. Not so. The musicians gathered togther in Collective Efforts bring you truly smooth hip-hop, that sings of hard life, influences from the Roots to Jurassic 5 resonate deeply, and the album is as smooth as golden whiskey. A hint of a fiery burn left behind after the gold slides down your throat. Humanism and idealism, flow through cynicism and realism. The album pulls no punches, but throws nbo hay-makers. It comes at you, one smooth, catchy track at a time; drawing you in with multiple Emcees, soothing jazz sounds, and the occasional dash of R&B. You can get lost in this album, drawn in and set adrift by its easy touch.
The 8 track mix, listen to it.

Must Listens:
PackFM – I Fucking Hate Rappers: Catchy, intelligent, fun, humorous and very well crafted. This is damn good, if self-deprecating hip-hop.

ArtOfficial – The Payback: ArtOfficial hit you with another album of power-house live band jazz-hop fusion.

Animate Objects – High Notes for Low Life’s: More of that brilliant, soulfull, heartcfelt and thought provoking live band hip-hop.

Dutch – A Bright Cold Day: Slick, well crafted trip-hop, with gorgeous female vocals and a lean towards melancholy.

Lyrics Born – As You Were: This man knows hip-hop, and how to have fun, while still making you think…and shake.

Sons of Perdition – Songs for the Spiritually Dead: Depressingly bleak and soulfull gospel inspired americana. This is not for happy party days, but could be the balm for a bitter soul.

Dax Riggs – Say Goodbye to the World: Grungy swamp-rock, from a man who knows how to make music you have to move to.

Swans – My Father Will guide Me Up a Rope in the Sky: Surrealist music, from a band too awesome to be defined by words. Listen.

Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings – I Learned the Hard Way: R&B/Jazz/Funk/Soul. this tiny woman with her huge voice and awesome backing band, will rock your socks off.

This is part on.

Part two will be finished this weekend.

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About Messianic Rebel
Crazier than expected...

One Response to In Retrospect; A commentary on 2010’s music

  1. lisa says:

    I love the Peculiar Pretzelmen! Glad to see them included here.

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