As a former "music journalist" (and I use the word journalist in the loosest sense possible: the blogging / internet sense), when December rolls around I'm accustomed to compiling a list of the preceding year's best records. Although I don't actively write about music any longer, I still feel the urge to make a list. So, here's a list of my favorite records of 2010, in alphabetical order, and a few records slated for 2011 that I'm especially enthused about.
Best Records of 2010, in Alphabetical Order:
Agalloch - Marrow of the Spirit
I've never seen Agalloch live, so that doesn't factor in at all, but I've always been a fan of their records and this is probably their best effort so far. It's trademark Agalloch, but there's also a little Steve Reich in there if you listen closely. I wonder if they realize that.
Castevet - Mounds of Ash
Super technical-but-in-the-good-way blackened metal. Ian is a ridiculous drummer and a solid dude to boot. Great live band.
Circle of Animals - Destroy the Light
Sanford Parker and Bruce from Yakuza team up with an army of proficient drummers for a solid record of industrial jams. Lots of good stuff going on here, not a dull moment. Best tracks are "Poison the Lamb" and "Destroy the Light."
Coffinworm - When All Became None
Fucking gnarled, misanthropic, soupy metal from the swamps of Indiana (if Indiana had swamps). This record rapes and pillages, don't put it on when loved ones are near.
Cough - Ritual Abuse
More Wizard than Wizard these days. Solid record from solid Richmond dudes. Super good tones and a great overall sound.
Electric Wizard - Black Masses
Not the heavy Wizard that we all know and love, but it's still Wizard. Mid-tempo psychedelic freak out, but in the satanic way. Also one of the most bizarrely-mixed records I've ever heard-- sometimes you can't hear the drums at all, though you know they're there somewhere.
Kylesa - Spiral Shadows
I dug 'Static Tensions' and I dig 'Spiral Shadows' almost as much. Something a little more rockin' and less bleak to listen to while cruising down the highway in the summertime. This band has really upped their game lately.
Nachtmystium - Addicts: Black Meddle Pt. 2
Jake Blood and his band of not-so-merry men strike again. Drug-addled, psychedelic, tripped-out, even dancey at times. It's no 'Assassins,' but it's a good record.
Salome - Terminal
No other band sounds like Salome. When you listen to this record, you'll think you're in the room with Kat, Rob, and Deal. There's no bass, but it doesn't matter. The point is not to be the heaviest, loudest thing ever recorded, but to be nimble, fleet-footed, and inventive in a way only a band with only two instrumentalists can achieve.
Thou - Summit
This record is insistent and passionate, just like the dudes who made it. Solid guys, solid band, solid record. Thanks for the excellent tacos and vegan jambalaya, dudes!
Torche - Songs for Singles
I will always have love for Torche, even though Steve snubbed me that one time I was supposed to interview him for Crustcake.
Twilight - Monument to Time End
This record has almost no sonic connection to the first Twilight record. It's polished and post-rock-laden. Black Metal Kvltists won't like this, but I fucking love it. So well-composed. Just the right blend of evil and epic.
US Christmas - Run Thick in the Night
Probably my favorite record of the year. I love the expansive Americana and the swirling psychedelia. At times the record takes you on an acid trip, and at other times it paints a picture of the vast, desolate American west as the howling wind kicks dust into your eyes and the sun sets over a distant mountain range.
Withered - Dualitas
Three quarters of the Withered that recorded 'Folie Circulaire' are no longer in the band, but you'd hardly know it listening to this. It sounds exactly like Withered, and that's a good thing.
Zoroaster - Matador
Zoroaster aren't really a doom band anymore, but that's ok. This record is a huge step in the right direction as compared to 'Voice of Saturn.' There are a lot of good elements here and I can't help but wonder if Sanford deserves a nice chunk of the credit.
And speaking of Sanford, looking over my list I realize that he's had a hand in seven of the 15 records listed. That's nearly half. It's certainly no accident that we chose him to record 'Furnace.'
Two Non-New Albums That Defined the Year for Me:
Low - Trust
16 Horsepower - Secret South
I have to credit one Mr. Josh Graham for introducing me to both of these records. They're both dark, generally down-tempo, and heavy, but not in the metal sense. There's just a weight to the songs, to the lyrics. Some serious codeine music.
Most anticipated for 2011:
Indian - TBA
Krallice - TBA
Riff Cannon - TBA
A Storm of Light - TBA
Ulver - Critical Geography
Thanks to all the musicians, engineers, label people, and music fans who made these records possible. If I don't see you at the Charleston this Saturday, December 11th for our show with Cough, Naam, and Sea of Bones, I'll see you sometime in 2011.