Top Albums of 2010 – Brian Garcia

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Every day this week, Impact 89FM will post a list of favorite albums from a different member of our music staff.  The author of the list featured today is Brian Garcia, host of Sit or Spin that airs on Sundays from 8 to 10pm. To hear more from Brian, you can keep up with his blog at

1. Flying Louts – Cosmogramma
The true test of a record is what the perceived “life” of it will be. What I mean by that is how you can listen to it before getting sick of it, whether it is two weeks or 5 years from now. There are a lot of records I’ve enjoyed in 2010, some quickly forgotten about after my hard drive crashed last spring or I just heard something else. But if there had to be one record that burrowed deep into my music listening consciousness this year, it is undoubtedly Flying Lotus’ third LP, Cosmogramma. Whether it was driving around blasting it on my crappy speakers in my Ford Focus late at night, waiting on an L stop in Bronzeville, Chicago, or letting it be the background music while studying on the second floor of the library, it fit every situation. This record is 2010.
Stephen Ellison, the Echo Park DJ otherwise known as Flying Lotus, creates a complex universe of space rhythms that loosely resemble what you could call hip-hop. But if you did, that’d be dramatically undercutting it. I like to think of it as the true modern take on Electro-funk, something Afrika Bambaataa could have only dreamt about. The deeply interwoven layers of music in Cosmogramma consist of elements of jazz, dub, funk, dance and hip-hop straight from the school of J Dilla. And if you look at the album cover long enough, you might just “see your entire future in front of you” – or whatever that quote from Almost Famous is.

2. Zola Jesus – Stridulum EP

There is something incredibly simple and undeniable about listening to goth-princess Zola Jesus and her EP, Stridulum. Her songs are constructed around densely layered drones of Moog synths and distorted 808 drum pads, with Nika’s operatic voice soaring over top. Further creating the impression that you have stumbled on something you shouldn’t be listening to. But once you see (listen) past her confrontational soundscapes, you’ll find some of the most tender and tragic love songs you’ll hear all year.

3. Sam Amidon – I See The Sign
Brattleboro, Vermont native and pal to Nico Muhly, Sam Amidon breathes new light into children chants, gospel hymnals, and folk traditionals (with the large exception of a R. Kelly cover) to create entirely new universes for each of I See The Sign’s eleven songs. The songs never stray far from what the instruments a folk band could have used in 1928; six string acoustic, strings, woodwinds, and drums, yet the songs still sound current. Timeless, you could say.

4. Free Energy – Stuck On Nothing
These five dudes from Philly do not just embrace the kitsch that has naturally been embedded in pop music ever since Elvis sang on the Vegas strip, they move beyond it with one swift fist pump to the air. The band’s sound is nothing new: riff-rock. But it’s in the personal affect where this band becomes remarkable, almost like looking at old yearbook photos of yourself, slightly embarrassed but met with a smirk of pride. Maybe this band would sound completely lame to someone who actually lived in the cassette culture of the 1980s, but I was only lived one year in that decade. But who cares? And that’s the point of this band.

5. Gil Scott Heron – I’m New Here
The comeback of the year that no one really saw coming or could predict, myself included. Despite the “revolution not being televised” back in the 1970’s like Mr. Heron had hoped with his rare grooves over socially conscious poetic lyrics, his influence to hip-hop is now fully understood. On I’m New Here, Heron updates his early incarnations of hip-hop with a slightly dated edge of crude synths and simple drum samples, creating something that is undoubtedly raw and innovative. There is something in the analog hiss of the record that places it outside of the trajectory of hip-hop, almost like Diddy flashing his gold chains never happened. The highlight of the record comes when Heron takes Bill Callahan’s “I’m New Here” and turns it into a talking blues that reintroduces himself to modern music. Everything has come full circle, Mr. Heron.

6. Gonjasufi –
A Sufi and A Killer
When I first heard of the yoga instructor turned musician, Gonjasufi, he was described as something like “George Clinton remixed by J Dilla”. I was sold from then on. But after repeated listens to this record, it is so much more than that. The heavily distorted analog sounds of the record range from the 1960’s garage rock nuggets of “She’s Gone” to the space funk of “Candylane” and “Holidays” to the eastern melodies of “Kobwebz” and “Klouds.” The groove never moves from the heart of this record, creating the most memorable debut I heard all year.

7. Drive By Truckers – The Big To-Do
The long awaited major label debut from the best bar band in America finally came out this year. The Big To-Do was released on ATO records, Dave Matthews’ RCA imprint that is also home to like-minded rockers My Morning Jacket. The record is, as promised, a turn towards more straight forward rock and roll, compared to the more alt. country tinged previous outings like Brighter Than Creations Dark or A Blessing and a Curse. The highlight of this record comes from the back-to-back placement of the songs, “This Fucking Job” and “Get Downtown.” The former, written by Patterson Hood, is the recession anthem that you never heard that dramatizes how ‘sometimes your best isn’t good enough’, while the latter, written by Mike Cooley, directly criticizes the jobless. Those two songs could only come from a band like DBT, with their multiple songwriters with varying takes on Southern culture. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

8. Sonny and the Sunsets – Tomorrow is Alright
I like it when things seem to come off as effortless. When I listen to Tomorrow is Alright, the newest record from San Francisco, CA based musician that is exactly how I imagine Sonny playing. He strums his guitar with or without an audience, like every song has been road tested by constant touring, played night after night. The songs never seemed forced but well, effortless.
Brian’s hateyouransweringmachine review of this record

9. Mark McGuire – Living With Yourself
The introspective songwriter has been around a while, dating back to about when Dylan stopped being political. The one thing that all these songwriters do the same is write these lyrics themselves and sing them in real time with the strum of their six-string. But what if you could say something personal about yourself, without having to actually sing it? What a great idea (and cop out) for all those introverted songwriters that have come and past. That is exactly what Mark McGuire does on Living With Yourself when he uses audio recordings from his family videos. On the closing track “Brothers (For Matt)”, McGuire’s father warns his sons to “stay away from girls, you’re better off that way” after he finds out they have girlfriends at the age of five. Every time I hear that song, chills run down my spine. I feel like I share the same exact memory that McGuire does, almost like I know him. I could never say the same about Bob Dylan.

10. Grinderman – Grinderman 2
I don’t listen to metal music, but I imagine most metalheads get some kind of cathartic release any time they band their head. Whenever I listened to the second Grinderman record this year, I felt that same release of frustration. That is to say, when I felt comfortable enough. Most of the time, I was just scared shitless. Nick Cave and his select members of the Bad Seeds create some of the most extreme versions of rock and roll music I have ever heard, with wailing electric guitar and violin that is loud to the point of unrecognizable. And that’s just the music, the lyrics if read separately would create the same kind of reaction when they describe the bizarre takes on Americana tropes. Cave just looks back with a shit-eating grin.
Brian’s hateyouransweringmachine review of this record

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