Although this blog has sat dormant for much of the year, often receiving little to no attention for months at a time, a top ten list is a great excuse to resurrect it. My Albums of 2009 post from last year is chock-full of stellar releases, accompanied by occasionally humorous descriptions to boot. This year was not nearly as fertile as last, and seeing that I don't incredibly dig on LCD Soundsystem, the National, Arcade Fire, and (gasp) Kanye West, it's safe to say my list should at least differ a tiny bit from the onslaught of lists that are currently bombarding my Twitter and RSS feeds. I did a top 15 last year because I was being overly ambitious. Let's just keep it to a top ten this year. Again, these are (for the most part) in no particular order.
1. Black Breath - Heavy Breathing - I can't think of another album from this year that I've worn myself out listening to more than this Seattle thrash/metal collective's debut full-length. Black Breath are the sonic equivalent to a viciously pleasant swan dive off a three-story building into a swimming pool filled with cinder blocks. They play fast, loud, and they hate God. There are no frills about it. Disfear, Entombed, Motorhead, and Tragedy broken down and carefully reformed into a volatile, pissed-the-fuck-off stick of dynamite. Man, I love these dudes.
2. Maserati - Pyramid of the Sun - My recent interview with Maserati guitarist Coley Dennis focused more on the passing of drummer Jerry Fuchs and the band's uncertain future plans. It didn't go into great depth about the Athens, Georgia's outfit's first album of new material since 2007, but Pyramid of the Sun undoubtedly deserves attention. Hypnotic krautrock rhythms swirling through an eerie, drugged-out soundscape rife with sequencers and synths. The grooves melt into your brain before you even realize what's happening. An album that should come equipped with a fog machine and weirdo back lighting.
3. Sleigh Bells - Treats - Candy-coated crack rocks. This duo is comprised of airy, cutesy female vocals gently positioned atop loud-as-all-hell distorted pop beats created by a former Poison the Well bro. Does that even remotely sound like it should work? Well, it does. The album is just so damn infectious, and "Rill Rill" is one of the best singles of the year. Just try and not like it. The holy hype machine heaved a smothering amount of praise on Sleigh Bells in the early going, and according to that new-ish Honda commercial with a clip of "Riot Rhythm," it was well-deserved and accordingly well-received by the masses.
4. Daughters - Daughters - One of the bigger bummers of the year is that Daughters released this gem and promptly broke up (without touring on it, mind you). The band proclaims it's still together, and it may very well put another album out, but primary songwriter Nick Sadler skipped out to join the pretty OK but not as blistering Fang Island. So, as far as I'm concerned Daughters has broken up until further notice. This album runs alongside the phenomenal Hell Songs with chaotic guitar work and thumping shitstorm drumming backed by the sassy drawl of vocalist Alexis Marshall. Only this time, the whole shebang is complimented with multiple flourishes of straight-up rock. It's more mature and generally more awesome. Way to fuck it up, guys.
5. Beach House - Teen Dream - This album is a summer hammock of sleepy, graceful, and beautifully orchestrated indie rock. Maybe due to its release at the beginning of the year, Teen Dream was forgotten by many top ten lists? If that is in fact true, I'm plain confounded by it, particularly because those same lists didn't forget to include Animal Collective last year. Victoria Legrand's vocals are more sultry and soulful than on 2008's Devotion, creating a mosaic that is as haunting and eerie as it is serene. Wading through the album's uber-haze of barbiturates and pixie dust elicits a perfectly pleasant limbo, orbiting somewhere near the blurred line that separates consciousness from comatose.
6. Ted Leo + Pharmacists - Brutalist Bricks - How can anyone not love Ted Leo? He's an absolutely magnetic front man who writes shining, melodic indie pop/rock songs while maintaining a slightly anarcho-punk aura and finding ways to name drop the Flux of Pink Indians into his often politically-charged lyrics. Brutalist Bricks is yet another Ted Leo-sponsored summer picnic of suspicion, an ice cream social of skepticism. I see no reason why he would even think of slowing down. One of the most consistently solid songwriters working in a terribly clusterfucked genre.
7. Dillinger Escape Plan - Option Paralysis - This video may be from 2005, and the lineup may have changed by a guitarist and drummer, but watching singer Greg Puciato literally run on top of heads never ceases to be incredible. I just saw Dillinger this past year, and they have yet to ease their collective foot off the throat when it comes to performing live. Option Paralysis may be my least favorite album of theirs, but it's still a romp or mathematical hardcore/metal genius that's better than 99 percent of the muck that tags itself to the genre. Utilizing Puciato's range was an inevitability, so bitching about sing-songy asides and plodding melodic dirges is nonsensical. Fact #1: Dillinger will never put out an album that doesn't rip. Fact #2: They will always fucking kill it live. Fact #3: I speak the truth.
8. Buke and Gass - Riposte - Reader contributor Jessica Hopper cleverly wrote that the name Buke and Gass "sounds like an Austrian law firm." She's absolutely right. But the name has a direct purpose--the Buke is a baritone ukulele, and the Gass is a guitar and bass hybrid. The duo of Aron Sanchez and Arone Dyer wield these mutated instruments to create a quirky indie pop that spirals its way from demented to mesmerizing in the matter of a measure. Dyer is the charm and vocal talent, while Sanchez (whose day job involves constructing instruments for the Blue Man Group) is the rhythmic backbone. I love them both.
9. Glasser - Ring - This album gracefully shoved its way onto to the list because I've been listening to it a ridiculous amount as of late and because I am required to pay homage each year to at least one mesmerizing female vocalist. Cameron Mesirow aka Glasser is reminiscent of Bat for Lashes and Fever Ray in that she lulls you into a dreamy yet haunting wilderness of electro-pop through her seductive vocal stylings and quasi-tribal beats. Just being her debut, Meisrow will certainly construct other bewitching tropical wonderlands with her siren-like voice. I'm such a sucker for it.
10. Cleric - Regressions - This spot could have easily gone to any of the artists below, but I reserved it for Cleric because they released quite possibly the most outrageously ambitious album I've heard this year. Out of control crazy 19-minute-long Mr. Bungle-ish schizophrenic metal fits. There's an interlude on the album that is made to mimic the sound of an indescribable beastly entity slowly creeping toward you. It's goddamn terrifying. A lot of ego-driven, yawn-provoking metal bands weave their way through exhausting, derivative songs to prove they can write an epic. These dudes are not bullshitting. It's harsh and fucking inspired madness.
Honorable Mention: Strange Boys - Be Brave, Black Mountain - Wilderness Heart, Fresh and Onlys - Play It Strange, Torche - Songs for Singles, Sleepy Sun - Fever, Damien Jurado - Saint Bartlett, Wavves - King of the Beach, Jonsi - Go