As the year comes to a close, it’s time once again for the dreaded look-backs, but the one that I look forward to is the reflection on the year in music, and 2010 was an incredible year for it.  There were many outstanding releases, and, other than ranking them, the only difficult thing about putting together the lists was narrowing each one down to just 10.  The common thread with all of those in my top 10 is that all are wonderfully transportive, whether the record is dark and moody or sunny and cheery, and quite addictive.

 

TOP ALBUMS OF 2010:

1) That Summer – Near Miss (Talitres)

Alternately melancholic and upbeat, yet ultimately soothing, the fourth studio album from That Summer, the musical project fronted by French artist David Sanson, is a refreshing take on post-punk, dark wave and even classical (Sanson is classically trained) influences.  The guitar and piano/keyboard melodies are utterly enchanting, and Sanson’s unusual voice makes it even more pleasing.  The album also contains a lovely cover of The Cure’s “All Cats Are Grey.”

2)  Veil Veil Vanish – Change in the Neon Light (Metropolis)

The debut album from this San Francisco quintet is a completely transportive collection – melodic, mesmeric and brimming with layers of intricate guitars and beguiling vocals.  The songs are a cool blend of post-punk, minimal/dark wave and shoegaze influences.

3)  Oh No Ono – Eggs (Friendly Fire/Leaf)

Sublimely surreal and brilliantly trippy, the sophomore album from Denmark’s Oh No Ono is one of those records that quickly becomes addictive as it demands repeated listening.  The songs are a rather psychedelic blend of varied influences (particularly the more experimental stuff from ‘60s and ‘70s) with the band’s own inventive craftsmanship.  And the album was just nominated for a Grammy (!) for best artwork.

4)  Treefight for Sunlight – A Collection of Vibrations for Your Skull (Tambourhinoceros)

This exceedingly charming debut from Danish indie-pop quartet Treefight for Sunlight is lush and sunny (yes!) with 1960s overtones, lovely piano and guitar melodies and sweet vocal harmonies.  This was my feel-good album of the year.

5)  Warpaint – The Fool (Rough Trade)

Psychedelic, ethereal, awash in gorgeous, intricate guitar melodies, hypnotic vocals and driving post-punk rhythms, this full-length debut from the fast-rising Los Angeles-based quartet is splendidly trance-inducing.

6)  Husky Rescue – Ship of Light (Catskills)

The third studio album from Finnish electro-indie act Husky Rescue delivers catchy, dreamy melancholic songs featuring the wispy, ethereal vocals of Reeta Vestman (Reeta-Leena Korhola) and Marko Nyberg’s signature eerie cinematic compositions.

7)  Trentemøller – Into the Great Wide Yonder (In My Room)

The darkly cinematic sophomore album from Danish electronica artist Anders Trentemøller could be the soundtrack to a David Lynch film but makes for great chill-out music.

8)  Me You Us Them – Post-Data (Triple Down)

Brooklyn-based Me You Us Them’s melodious, up-tempo songs suck you in with wailing guitars, groovy bass lines and driving rhythms — a delicious blend of post-punk, shoegaze and 1990s alt-rock.

9)  Ceremony – Rocket Fire (Killer Pimp)

Rocket Fire, the third album from Virginia duo Ceremony (Paul Baker and John Fedowitz) recalls the Creation Records heyday and the finest of the early 1990s shoegaze bands while being a little more upbeat.  One of the best nu-gaze records.

10) The Joy Formidable – A Balloon Called Moaning (Black Bell)

Another throwback to the early 1990s, the catchy debut 8-track EP from the Welsh (now London-based) trio, The Joy Formidable, rocks with elements of shoegaze (namely the massive feedback) and grunge and the powerhouse vocals of lead singer Ritzy Bryan.

 

TOP GIGS OF 2010:

1)  Oh No Ono (Mercury Lounge, March 2010)

 

Oh No Ono’s packed Mercury Lounge show in March was an absolute delight. The guys were in top form and delivered a brilliant performance in what is my favorite of 2010.

2)  Choir of Young Believers (Pianos, March 2010)

Hailing from Denmark, Choir of Young Believers were completely captivating with an incredible performance of gorgeous, epic indie-rock tunes with folk and orchestral leanings.

3)  Warpaint, Sherlock’s Daughter (Mercury Lounge, May 2010)

 

Warpaint or Sherlock’s Daughter on their own would have been wonderful, but the two of them on one bill made for quite a treat.  Each band complemented the other perfectly well, as both offered a variation on a theme:  Ethereal and psychedelic.   Sherlock’s Daughter’s dreamy songs and playful stage presence made them fun to watch.  Warpaint’s hypnotic effect carried over to the stage as well.  It was difficult to not just close my eyes and get lost in the music, but watching the band perform, sometimes with eyes closed while lost in their own songs, subtle but sexy dance moves and all, was just as captivating. (Photo by Tear-n Tan)

4)  Veil Veil Vanish, Entertainment (Lit Lounge, June 2010)

As impressive as the Coco 66 show was (two days earlier), Veil Veil Vanish’s set at Lit Lounge was even more so. With an onstage intensity equaling that on the album, the set was full of energy, emotion and, at times, singer Keven Tecon’s sexy dance moves to go along with the  catchy, atmospheric songs.  Athens, Georgia-based Entertainment lived up to their name with a set of Goth tunes recalling the godfathers of Goth from the 1980s, even covering “Bela Lugosi’s Dead.”

5)  Ceremony, Screen Vinyl Image, Outpost, 999999999 (The Knitting Factory, March 2010)

 

An impressive line-up with styles ranging from punk and post-punk to Goth to nu-gaze, the show featured fantastic performances from four bands and, with two of my favorites included, it was almost a dream bill.

6)  Me You Us Them, Dead Leaf Echo, Bloody Knives (The Silent Barn, July 2010)

Another great line-up with three intense performances from three awesome bands in one small, sweaty room.  It was my first time seeing two of them, and I was quite impressed.

7)  BRAHMS (Bowery Electric, CMJ October 2010)

 

This Cantora Records Showcase at Bowery Electric was packed beyond capacity, with an atmosphere was … electric.  The final act was Brooklyn band BRAHMS, in one of their best performances yet.  Always fun to watch, the guys were showing no signs of fatigue for this late show and what happened to be their seventh CMJ showcase that week, and they churned out another groovy set of indie-electronica that was well worth the wait and had the crowd moving their feet.

8)  Holy Fuck (Siren Festival, July 2010)

 

The most memorable performance at this year’s Siren Festival was co-headliner Holy Fuck.  The experimental quartet from Toronto was a total blast as they jammed through a remarkable set of very psychedelic and danceable songs with layers of space-rock keyboards backed by a funky rhythm section.  With a lovely backdrop in the form of a spectacular sunset, Holy Fuck made for the perfect close to Siren 2010. (Photo by Carrie Alison)

9)  Efterklang, Buke and Gass, Xylos, ArpLine (Santos Party House, October 2010)

Efterklang’s stunning performance at Santos Party House left the audience completely enthralled. The show also saw outstanding sets from local support acts Buke and Gass, Xylos and Arpline.

10)  The Futureheads, Hooray for Earth (Music Hall of Williamsburg, June 2010)

The highly entertaining show featured a stellar performance from The Futureheads, who were full of humorous hi-jinks throughout the punchy but melodic set.  Also on the bill were New Yorkers Hooray For Earth, whose charming set was somewhere between sunny and psychedelic. (Photo by Tear-n Tan)

 

TOP VIDEOS OF 2010:

1)  Warpaint – “Elephants” (directed by Bruce Muller)

This gorgeous, sexy, minimalist video captures the essence of Warpaint: Ethereal and psychedelic with hypnotic vocals and a captivating performance.  The song, “Elephants” was taken from the debut EP, Exquisite Corpse, and the video was shot before the current line-up was cemented. 

2)  Veil Veil Vanish – “Anthem For A Doomed Youth” (directed by Justin Coloma)

Veil Veil Vanish’s first ever official video, for the catchy but haunting song “Anthem For A Doomed Youth,” has an air of mystery and was beautifully shot in a film noir style. 

3)  That Summer – “The Hues of You” (directed by Valentine Borlant)

While the song is quite catchy, this rather somber video features striking cinematography, nice band footage and an intriguing storyline.

4)  Oh No Ono – “The Tea Party” (directed by Tobias Stretch)

Totally psychedelic and very imaginative, the video looks like a scene from a fantasy film, and it suits the bouncy music quite well.

5)  Treefight for Sunlight – “What Became of You and I” (directed by Andreas Munksgaard)

It’s just darn cute, and brings to mind slumber party fun.

6)  You Say Party! – “Lonely’s Lunch” (directed by Sean Wainstein)

This one from Canadian neo new wave/electro-pop outfit You Say Party! is a riveting and action-packed mini-movie that was filmed on location in Mumbai.

7)  Trentemøller – “Sycamore Feeling” (directed by Jesper Just)

The first video from Trentemøller’s sophomore album is the darkly cinematic “Sycamore Feeling,” with its eerie frozen landscapes and haunting sense of isolation.  It was directed by none other than Danish artist Jesper Just, best known for his somewhat surreal short films.

8) Massive Attack – “Psyche” (directed by John Downer)

Stunning.  Features lovely film footage of the insect world, juxtaposed with water and the human form.

9) The Library is on Fire – “Monkey In My Chair” (directed by Craig Snodgrass)

Much of this was filmed while The Library Is On Fire were playing on a rooftop in Bushwick, so the New York skyline and blue skies add a nice backdrop, and the seesawing camera effect is too cool.

10)  Ghost Society – “Better Days” (directed by Ghost Society/DPC)

A low-key but entertaining video of the band performing in their Copenhagen studio, with a clever, Mondrian effect on the screen.

ARTISTS TO WATCH IN 2011:

1)  BRAHMS

Brooklyn indie-electro band BRAHMS played a number of high-profile shows around New York and toured the U.S. with Passion Pit, all before releasing an album.  They’ve just finished recording and mixing the debut album, so expect to hear more from them in 2011.

2)  Treefight for Sunlight

The quartet from Copenhagen had much success in their homeland of Denmark with the release their delightful debut album in 2010, and they garnered a lot of attention with support slots for Oh No Ono and Bear in Heaven.  The album, A Collection of Vibrations for Your Skull, has just been released in the UK and a U.S. release is likely in 2011.

3)  Frederik Teige

Copenhagen-based singer-songwriter Frederik Teige released his first two singles in 2010 to critical acclaim.  The remarkable debut full-length, a collection of rootsy tunes drenched in multi-layered horns, plucked guitar melodies and Teige’s smoky vocals will be officially released in early 2011, and he has already started working on a second album.

4)  Sherlock’s Daughter

This New York-based group (originally from Australia and New Zealand) will finally release their John Agnello (Sonic Youth)-produced full-length debut in 2011.  With lush, dreamy songs that balance folk flourishes and tribal rhythms with a myriad of influences and that manage to be at once ethereal and psychedelic, the band has already established a following on the strength of their debut EP and their impressive live shows, which in 2010 included a number of high-profile support slots (with The Charlatans, Warpaint, Metric and others).

5) That Summer

The release of the gem that is Near Miss has finally brought That Summer greater attention at home, as well as outside of France, so there’s hope for a tour outside of France as well. (Photo by Quentin Sirjacq)

- Teresa Sampson