By Nicki Escudero
By Amy Silverman
By Brian Palmer
By Chris Parker
By Troy Farah
By Lauren Wise
By Lauren Wise
Name: Jason P. Woodbury
Most played song on my iTunes: "Shangri-La" by M. Ward
Favorite single of 2010: "Round and Round" by Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti
Favorite album of 1970: Velvet Underground's Loaded
1. Deerhunter: Halcyon Digest — Before their latest album, Halcyon Digest, I didn't consider myself a Deerhunter fan. All my buddies were huge into the group, but their records left me cold. Their last full length, Microcastle, had some sounds I enjoyed, but it reminded me solidly of Christian shoegazer band Starflyer 59's Gold, and what's the use of a record that reminds you of a record you'd rather listen to? Halcyon Digest was another matter entirely. Tracks like "Helicopter," "Desire Lines," and "Coronado" grabbed hold of me, and the album has scarcely left my turntable since. Retrofitting soft psych and '60s pop into garage rock and indie motifs, Deerhunter reminded me that being proved wrong can sound like the best thing going.
2. Kelley Stotlz: For Dreamers — Careening wildly from full-tilt party rock to tuneful power pop, Kelley Stotlz's For Dreamers charmingly blends ELO pomp, Kinks riffs, Beach Boys grandeur, and the melodic intimacy of Nick Drake. Never given to thuggish posturing, Stotlz instead uses the pent-up energy of garage rock to color his sweet observations on love.
3. Strange Boys: Be Brave — Strange Boys frontman Ryan Sambol has one of those voices: a nasal inflection that doesn't exclude him from comparisons to a young Dylan. Like Highway 61 Revisited, the Strange Boys strut and stammer with blues and R&B abandon. I don't think I DJed a single night this year without spinning their damaged, saxophone-laden track "Be Brave." It never failed to get asses moving.
4. Destruction Unit: Eclipse — Destruction Unit main man Ryan Rousseau has got to be one of the most artistically fidgety guys in the Valley. Seemingly minutes after issuing Earthmen & Strangers' instantly classic 45 "Painter" b/w "Space on Our Hands," he switched gears and reconfigured Destruction Unit, a band that once included the late, great Jay Reatard. Whereas older Unit recordings displayed synth-thrash, Eclipse embraces Krautrock, psychedelic leanings, and even spacebound dub (in the album's closer, "Yuman Dance").
5. Gil Scott-Heron: I'm New Here — Touted as Scott-Heron's comeback record after a lengthy stretch in prison for drug charges, I'm New Here finds Scott-Heron utterly naked to his grief, triumphs, and blues. The record also served as a poignant reminder of Scott-Heron's importance to modern hip-hop: After Kanye sampled him, he sampled Kanye and then added needed levity to Ye's own tragic and brilliant My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy.
6. Fresh & Onlys: Play It Strange — San Franciscans Fresh & Onlys open their album with a song called "Summer of Love," and it serves as a flower-punk mission statement, with reverb-heavy spaghetti Western guitars, fluttering percussion, and Doors-style organ lending beautiful grace to their scrappy rock.
7. Moon Duo: Escape — A side project of Ripley Johnson of Wooden Shjips and Sanae Yamada, Moon Duo's Escape pulses like Suicide and grooves like Can, with infinitely fuzzed guitars and sexy keys stretching out in every direction at once in slow motion.
8. Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti: Before Today — "Round and Round" is my favorite song of the year, and I think my second favorite may be "Can't Hear My Eyes." Ariel Pink is capable of making cheese sound intensely genuine, and Before Today is his opus, with odes to Toto, Michael Jackson, and James Brown — all gloriously overblown.
9. The Black Keys: Brothers — Call me crazy, but I think the best thing that ever happened to The Black Keys was the duo getting sick of sounding like two dudes playing guitar and drums. Lush songs like "Unknown Brother" and the band's dead-on take on Jerry Butler's "Never Gonna Give You Up" showcase the band's soul side, while "Howlin' for You" blasts out a nasty slice of glam funk.
10. Vigils: Full of Wild Energy & Endless Potential — Vigils' lone album before their breakup this year serves as a powerful reminder of how great melodic pop-punk can be. Part of the Valley scene that includes likeminded intelligent punk bands like Rumspringer and Good Men Die Like Dogs, Vigils blasted Lookout-style pop that, at its best moments, was undeniably poetic, as on "Riggs Road," in which singer Tristan Jemsek asks, "Do you remember that night in the desert / Screaming naked at our city under stars?"
Name: Mike R. Meyer
Most played song on my iTunes: "Factory" by Band of Horses
Best concert I saw in 2010: A Perfect Circle at Marquee Theatre
Favorite album of 1970: (tie) Black Sabbath's Black Sabbath and Paranoid (I refuse to choose between the two)
1. The Ocean: Heliocentric/Anthropocentric — Okay, so my pick for album of the year is actually two albums, but The Ocean's Heliocentric (released in April) and Anthropocentric (released in November) are clearly intended to be two halves of a greater whole. The German progressive metal collective has created a sweeping, 100-minute epic that serves as an all-encompassing critique of Christianity, from its origins to the present day. Along the way, The Ocean name-drops Ptolemy, Nietzsche, and Darwin. It all could easily add up to a bunch of pretentious tripe, if the music weren't incredible. Influenced as much by Isis' soft/loud post-metal dynamics as Muse's melodic neo-prog, The Ocean deliver post-hardcore breakdowns and piano-driven balladry with equal precision. This is music that requires you to think (and maybe even read). It's a long, demanding journey, but one that's absolutely worth taking.