We’ll be the first to admit this list is arriving, oh, at least a month late. On the other hand, 2010 was an expansive year for Northwest music in many regards and worthy of chronicling one last time with thoughtful and focused intention. So we hope you will see that the extra time we’ve given this piece has led to more in-depth reviews of each release in a way that a December 31st publish date didn’t allow. Hopefully you’ll read one of them and discover a great local record that you missed in 2010 proper.
Unlike some other lists who will cite being on a Northwest label as being a candidate for a “Best of the Northwest” list, ours only includes bands from and making music in the Northwest right now. We’ve expanded to include Vancouver to the north, south to Cottage Grove, west to Forks and east to (at least) Billings, however there’s no denying, our list is heavily Puget Sound area-centered, and mostly Seattle at that. We didn’t pay as close attention to Portland and Vancouver as we should have in 2010, something we plan on remedying in 2011.
With that please enjoy our take on the 25 most significant records we heard from the Pacific Northwest in 2010.
25. Fences – s/t
“Clocking in just over 30 minutes, the long-awaited debut establishes it was worth the wait with the first strums of “Girls With Accents,” whose chorus of “I’m fucking up, I’m fucking up everything” is destined to become a teenage anthem. But this album isn’t just for moody teenagers. Fences sings sad songs filled with snide sweetness, self-deprecation and a confessional honesty that hits home to anyone whose been brave enough to admit they fucked up and flawed enough to do the same thing all over again.” [abbey]
24. Wild Orchid Children – Are Alexander Supertramp
Were you ever young? Nod your head “yes.” What did you do when you were young? I’m not talking elementary school age, that’s real kids stuff. Let’s focus on the beast that is adolescence. What did you do when you were young? Did you do what your parents told you? If so, you probably listen to (insert conventional musician using complex social analysis matrix here). Were you a bookworm or liked to secretly play with action figures even though you were probably too old for it? If so, you probably listened to Hum. (editor’s note: Hum totally rules…I swear I left the GI Joe’s alone.) Did you get inebriated in the woods behind a strangers house on the beer you kept buried in the ground, then had Roman Candle fights in a neighboring cul-da-sac? Did you go skating at night and drink beer out of your own Vans sneaker? Did you do acid and see thousands of David the Gnomes come parading out of your bathroom as you tried to sleep? If so, you probably listen to Wild Orchid Children.
That’s exactly what this album is like. It’s like lighting your friends’ parents roof on fire by accident then instead of calling 9-1-1, you decide to make Smores on the ashes. The insurance company has its eyebrows raised. Are you an arsonist? You tell them to
fuck off go kick rocks. You are Alexander Supertramp. [Phil]
23. Lesbian – Stratospheria Cubensis
Lesbian enjoys buttering up the listener with unassuming riffs at the beginning of their songs. Take the beginning Raging Arcania or Black Stygian for instance. The former being otherwordly while the latter is an obtuse delight. Eventually Lesbian decides your peace of mind is a bad joke and they’re not laughing. Insert weird metal breakdown here. Lesbian does something a lot of metal bands don’t but should. The band will throw in thrashy parts out of nowhere, creating quite the tempo shift. During these “brutal” fits, you would expect conventional usage of blast beats but Lesbian will not cave in to the needs of mundane metalheads across the globe. They stay true to their original outlandish form. After a few minutes of putting your mind in a blender, Lesbian decides that your pain bores them. The magical mushrooms that the band ingested before they decided to fuck-with-you-for-the-fun-of-it have worn off. They decide against taking you to Harborview because you don’t have insurance. They suture your skull back together with rusty, mostly heavier gauged guitar strings. That’s exactly what listening to this band is like. A prime example of this occasionally interrupted mayhem is the album’s title track. [Phil]
22. Language Arts & Def Dee – Gravity
Though it was a tough choice (a really tough choice) between the two full length albums LA put out this year (the other being Roll With The Winners with producer Blu-Ray), it may have been the warm feeling of nostalgia that surfaced while listening to Gravity that kept it on repeat for such a large part of the year. LA is arguably the most lyrically sound MC in the area code, from street-side cyphers to formidable entries on wax, and Def Dee’s classic east coast style, lowest-fi production, the sixteen tracks feel timeless. [Todd]
21. Baltic Cousins – s/t EP
“I’m the same as I was that day…” – Break Bread
It’s like they were there, but they weren’t.
All of us can reach back into our past and select a day. Depending on which day we take hold, the meaning and the outcome of those moments would be different. Close your eyes and think for a second. What day did you choose and would you change anything about it? Did you say the right things? Did you make the right decision? Has anything about you changed from the brief moment you selected? Is regret a shadow that follows you constantly even though we never see the sun around here?
The self-titled demo released by Baltic Cousins resonates heavily with those who hear it. There is not much to their bare approach to songwriting. No bass. No keys. No additional percussionist. This Bellingham supergroup doesn’t need the bells and whistles of the current dog and pony show that is indie rock. What Baltic Cousins lacks in number of members or presentation they make up for with remarkable honesty that is manifested in both lyrical and musical form. [Phil]
20. Frog Eyes – Paul’s Tomb: A Triumph
My husband suggested the following review for this album: “Weird, but worth it.”
Paul’s Tomb: A Triumph is an intricate concerto of noise, Bach for the rock and roll era. Seemingly influenced by everything from Dinosaur Jr. to Baptist preaching, this record is a master class in bringing together a slew of disparate influences into a harmonious – if not particularly melodic – whole. Sometimes delicate, sometimes rushing and rattling like a runaway train, Paul’s Tomb is a howling journey through frontman Carey Mercer’s brain. [Brittney]
Read the rest of our Top 25 Northwest Albums of 2010 after the jump