Sunday, December 8, 2019

Top 30 of the '10s

As was the case 10 years ago when these sorts of lists were making the rounds, it has been fun to reflect on the music I've enjoyed most over the last decade. For reasons that would be obvious to anyone keeping track of my life, I was a lot more up on new music in the years 2010-2013. After that, I was either playing catch-up or discovering the scattered new thing. Frankly too, I still like discovering music through recording shopping, and with the price of new albums often being a bit cost-prohibitive, I find myself more often purchasing used albums from decades long past.
Below you'll find a list of my 30 favourite recordings from the 2010s. They're alphabetical, and I avoided allowing bands to have two albums in the list (some people do sneak in here more than once via collaborations).

Oren Ambarchi - Hubris (Editions Mego, 2016)
Rhythmically fun and densely packed with sound. The third track is a delightful racket.

Battles - La Di Da Di (Warp, 2015)
The album that came before this was also great. Battles consistently gives me a head rush with their sonic creations.

B. (aka Blu) - Jesus (Nature Sounds, 2011)
Blu is a great rapper who has a strong knack for finding the right beats to suit his rhymes. The "No York" and "Good To Be Home" albums were other highlights of his from the past decade.

Clear Soul Forces - Detroit Revolution(s) (Vinyl Digital, 2012)
A rare find these days: a hip-hop group featuring four equally strong (and young) MCs with with a taste for boom-bap style beats. Their first release remains the best of the bunch ("Gold PP7s" is quite good too).

Danny Brown - XXX (Fool's Gold, 2011)
Danny Brown has a bit of a say-anything attitude that might rub some the wrong way. He's an extremely versatile MC and doesn't really sound like anyone else to my ears. Coin toss between listing this or 2016's "Atrocity Exhibition."

Ensemble Pearl - S/T (Drag City, 2013)
Stephen O'Malley project that interestingly bears a striking resemblance to the 21st century incarnation of Earth (whereas his main gig Sunn O))) sounds more like the 1990s version of Earth). Awesome guitars leads on this from Michio Kurahara.

Ex-Cult - S/T (Goner, 2012)
Vocalist Chris Shaw is what makes Ex-Cult special to me. His collaboration with Ty Segall (who produced this Ex-Cult album) in Groggs is well worth checking out too.

Flying Lotus - Cosmogramma (Warp, 2010)
A spacey joy from Steven Ellison, who has released a lot of great music in the 2010s (including his rap album under the Captain Murphy alias).

Freddie Gibbs & Madlib - Pinata (Madlib Invazion, 2014)
Freddie Gibbs is a fantastic rapper with effortless flow, and he melds supremely well with Madlib on this record and the 2019 collaboration "Bandana."  

Gang Gang Dance - Eye Contact (4AD, 2011)
Gang Gang Dance's evolution from an experimental act to an increasingly eclectic electronic pop group paid off nicely with this release. Lot of aural joys to be found here.

Gangrene - Vodka & Ayahuasca (Decon, 2012)
Oh No and Alchemist make a great team for rapping about getting high and taking turns delivering sick beats. Alchemist's "Russian Roulette" was a contender too for this list.

Godspeed You! Black Emperor - Allelujah! Don't Bend! Ascend! (Constellation, 2012)
It was a delight to see my favourite Canadian band return to active duty. All three albums released since phase 2.0 was intiated have been strong.

Golden Teacher - The First 3 EPs (Golden Teacher, 2015)
Fun electronic music from Scotland with disco and dub influences proudly mixed up to create funky sounds.

Hunx and His Punx - Too Young To Be In Love (Hardly Art, 2011)
These songs are super catchy and captured quite nicely on this album. A really fun listen and good for sticking on with company around. Hunx gave me some affectionate attention mid-performance at a show in Montreal years ago (Jay Reatard was also on the bill).

Jonwayne - Cassette 3: The Marion Morrison Mixtape (Stones Throw, 2013)
Jonwayne is an excellent rapper, and this cassette release is packed with great tracks (better than the proper solo album he later put out through Stones Throw).

KA - Grief Pedigree (Iron Works, 2012)
KA is a great wordsmith who paints pictures with his rhymes and perfectly accompanies them with understated, low-key beats. Anything he creates is worth seeking out.

Knxwledge - Hud Dreems (Stones Throw, 2015)
Knxwledge is probably my favourite new beat maker of the decade. Look forward to the results of his next Stones Throw release due to come out in 2020.

La Luz - It's Alive (Hardly Art, 2013)
La Luz are equally skilled at delivering dreamy pop and somewhat-surfy rock. Good songs throughout on this one.

Mac DeMarco - 2 (Captured Tracks, 2012)
I was semi-obsessed with Mac DeMarco for a spell. He has a real way with layering breezy riffs over catchy tunes.

NxWorries - Yes Lawd! (Stones Throw, 2016)
Knxwledge and Anderson .Paak team up on an excellent soul album. Would love to see these two collaborate again at some point.

Oh No - Dr. No's Ethiopium (Disruption Productions, 2010)
Madlib's brother made my favourite instrumental hip-hop album of the decade. He made great use of the source material from Ethiopia.

Thee Oh Sees - Floating Coffins (Castle Face, 2013)
One of my favourite bands. Delivered a lot of great albums this decade. This represents my peak enjoyment for the group. 

Peaking Lights - Lucifer (Mexican Summer, 2012)
Peaking Lights are probably my favourite duo of the past decade. Experts at producing dreamy, dubby pop music.

Karriem Riggins - Alone Together (Stones Throw, 2012)
Diana Krall's live drummer is also a great beatmaker. Followup "Headknod Suite" is just as good as the first album, hard to choose one over the other here.

Roc Marciano - Rosebud's Revenge (Marci Enterprises, 2017)
Favourite MC of the decade. Hard choice between this, debut album "Marcberg" and "Reloaded." Deadly flow and tight bars. Generally, the albums with fewer guest MCs are his best ones (exception being when KA shows up to share the mic with Roc).

Ty Segall Band - Slaughterhouse (In The Red, 2012)
Ty Segall had a great decade. He's prolific, but also full of ideas that deserve to be shared. The two Fuzz albums were great, as were the Groggs records and his two full-length collaborations with White Fence. This record is just a full on banger.

Shannon & The Clams - Dreams in the Rat House (Hardly Art, 2013)
Shannon Shaw was also one of the driving forces behind the Hunx and the Punx album that appeared earlier in this list. This album is equally strong in balancing the 60s aesthetic it goes for with solid songwriting. Fun listen.

Strong Arm Steady - In Search of Stoney Jackson (Stones Throw, 2010)
Madlib's arsenal of beats help Strong Arm Steady reach otherwise unseen heights on what's a sleeper favourite for me within the great Stones Throw Records catalogue.

Sunn O))) - Life Metal (Southern Lord, 2019)
"Life Metal" captures my favourite band at full throttle. Definitely an improvement over their last full-length record "Kannon" and a great elongated-note to ends the 2010s on.

The White Wires - II (Dirtnap, 2010)
A great Canadian pop-punk album. Catchy songs, tight performances, charming vocals. Makes me feel warm inside.