My Top End of Year List of Awesome.

The following is my top ten-ish list of 2010. You can see my list over at the 1st Five as well as the rest of our lists and the mixtape right here. Thanks to the ~blizzard~ I’m grounded til Thursday where I take an 0630 flight to Philly, train to Newark, drive to New Brunswick and all to hang out with my brothers. It should be pretty obvious who I’m going to see. THEN. on New Year’s Day..we have…glassJAw and Fran Mark (from From Autumn to Ashes and WarShip)’s new band, Tidal Arms. I’m SO excited to see him back behind the drums again.

Diamond Eyes
Record Label: Reprise
In the face of Deftones’ current situation with Chi, I’m surprised that this record even came out this year. This was, what, the third incarnation of the follow up to Saturday Night Wrist? The eleven tracks on Diamond Eyes, to me, made a complete and cohesive package. The first time I heard this record, I thought that they had lost their edge. The second time through, though, gave me a chance to really digest it and I got it. I mean…I got it. Diamond Eyes is intense. Chino really lays his soul on the table and as a result, we have an emotionally intense, incredibly sexy record that, I can only imagine, is as cathartic for him as it is for the listener.

The Dillinger Escape Plan
Option Paralysis
Record Label: Season of Mist
The Dillinger Escape Plan never ceases to amaze me. I will never understand how they can cram ten minutes of stuff into a three minute song. The fact that they have (hopefully) settled on a line up and the fact that they’re all moving in the same direction at the same time has turned them into a sonic tour de force. The addition of Billy Rymer into the fold has completely reenergized this band, and this record is evidence of that. I think that Greg really pushed himself to his vocal limit; he took a risk in doing so and turned in one of my favourite vocal performances of his: “Gold Teeth on a Bum.” The band brings in elements of other genres (jazz, piano, etc.) and reworks old magic (time trickery, anyone?) into something that’s absolutely brilliant. It’s tightly controlled anarchy. It’s dirty and frenetic and incredibly mature.

The Legendary Shack Shakers
Record Label: Coldl
The Legendary Shack Shakers are one of those bands that I can never truly pigeonhole into one genre. Pandelirium was brilliant and I never thought that they could top it. Admittedly, Agridustrial didn’t quite hit that level of perfection that Pandelirium did but it sure came close. They’ve used everything from washboards to mouth harps to create this record. They’re a little bit country, a little bit rock and roll, a little bit blue grass, and a little rockabilly. What I love about this band is that you can’t pin them down into one musical box. JD Wilkes still performs like he’s preaching hellfire and brimstone, and I think that on this record, they’ve managed to come closer to capturing their live energy. If this record doesn’t make you want to get up and move (or at least drum on the table a little bit), then there’s something not right with you. Standout track? “Hoboes are my Heroes.”

Jesse Malin and the St Mark’s Social
Love it to Life
Record Label: Side One Dummy
You can easily break this record down into a simple equation. Jesse Malin + Ted Hutt (who works with Lucero, Flogging Molly and the Gaslight Anthem) = a gritty, raw, honest to goodness rock and roll record. Hutt took Malin’s past musical incarnations as glam punk rocker and a heart on his sleeve singer songwriter and managed to find a perfect equilibrium. It’s the Clash meets Paul Westerberg meets the Rolling Stones meets the Lower East Side. It’s rock and roll without the shtick. It’s honest, driven and passionate. “All the Way from Moscow” is zippy and fun, but it never veers into kitsch or loses its punk edge. This is one of those perfectly crafted, rough around the edges summer records that manages to be beautiful and gritty all at the same time.

This is Hell
Weight of the World
Record Label: Rise Records
There are two things that I have a problem with when it comes to hardcore. One: the LOOK AT US! WE ARE MEN! LOOK AT OUR CAMO BRO SHORTS! LOOK HOW HARD WE MOSH! Mentality. Two: Chugga chugga chugga rawr rawr rawr I know how to tune to D and C#. Boooooring. That being said, I spent my formative music years in the Strong Island and New Jersey hardcore scene. To be honest, I thought that I had grown out of hardcore and I was ready to pronounce it dead…until I heard this record. Sure they use formulaic hardcore at times, but they never do it gratuitously. There’s a little thrash, a little bit of true punk rock, a little bit of metal and one of my favourite things ever: gang vocals. It’s crunchy and thrashy and frenetic and chaotic. I truly believe that TIH stepped up to the plate and solidified themselves as one of the best, if not THE best, hardcore act out there. From one Long Islander to another…well done boys.

Lonely and the Socialites
Mirrored Diary
Record Label: self released
I kind of stumbled on this band by accident. Lonely and the Socialites are a California band with a very New York sound. It’s Ryan Adams grit with Elliott Smith’s sensibilities. This is perfect acoustic indie pop without any touch of hipster pretentiousness. “Nowhere Without You” is The Band’s “The Weight” made terribly modern; it’s full of jangle and twang and it just barely toes the line of being a full tilt country song. “Never Forgot About You” is Love is Hell era Ryan Adams. This isn’t to say that they’re copies by any means; it’s just that sometimes imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. I don’t know if imitation was the intention, but they know their influences and they wear them well. This very much reminds me of Elton John, if he stayed 25 forever, and performed in a Lower East Side bar or if Jesse Malin wrote The Fine Art of Self Destruction while sitting on Newport Beach. Solid, well written, cleanly produced, and definitely deserves more attention that it has gotten.

Frank Turner
Love and Ire Song
Record Label: Epitaph
I have a confession to make. This cd originally came out in 2009. I can justify it making the cut this year because it didn’t really click with me until this year AND the vinyl came out this year. It’s a bit of a cheat, sure, but this is my list. My first initiation, if you will, to Frank Turner was in 2004. I went on tour with my friend’s band and Frank’s old band Million Dead played support. They were At the Drive-In meets Crass. When I heard that Frank was going to do the solo thing, nothing could have prepared me for this. If Brian Fallon from the Gaslight Anthem was from working class London and wrote acoustic punk songs like Against Me! Did when they first got together, you’d have Frank Turner’s Love and Ire Song.

The Gaslight Anthem
American Slang
Record Label: SideOneDummy
It would have been really easy for the Gaslight Anthem to remake The ’59 Sound. After all, if it isn’t broken, there isn’t really a reason to fix it, right? Following that record would have intimidated any band, but I think that these guys took it in stride and kept on doing what they do. The result is a gritty, roots punk pure rock and roll record. Sure it’s a little bit more polished than the last record, but I think that the working class integrity is still there. I remember first seeing them in 2006 or 2007 and they were good. I saw them again in 2008, right before The ‘59 Sound came out and they were great. I’ve seen them since and they’ve been consistently amazing. I’m excited to see what 2011 will bring because I’m positive that it will be nothing short of mind blowing.

Record Label: XL Recording
“This is a solo record from X person of Y band.” That sentence terrifies me. To say that I was surprised that this cd didn’t turn out to be one huge puddle of ideas would be an understatement. Jonsí, it appears to me, has these grandiose theatrical leanings that he can’t really fully explore within the confines of Sigur Rós, and that’s sad. What he can’t do with the band, he is manage to fully realize here. This disc is so full of jubilation and, dare I say, cheer that I’m kind of surprised that when you open up the cd, butterflies and kittens don’t come tumbling out. Every single track on this disc is a pop gem. When I listen to it, it makes me want to high five strangers and dance down the sidewalk. I think that this disc is really life affirming; the sun always shines a little brighter, the sky is a little bluer and when you drive down the street, every light is green.

The National
High Violet
Record Label: 4ad Records
The National may be based in Brooklyn, but they’re well poised to take over the world. They write sings that are atmospheric and make the perfect soundtrack to walking around a Chelsea street at dusk. This cd is one that I find myself going back to because, like the Dillinger Escape Plan, there’s so much going on in the compositions that I find myself noticing little nuances that I never noticed before and it completely changes the whole tone of the song. On the whole, this is an incredibly complex record; it’s heavy without being overwhelming. It’s full of sadness and pain, but there is never a point in the record where it feels like it’s too much for the listener to bear. There is always some facet in the song that give you hope. The only way to really experience this record is to grab a good pair of headphones and go sit outside on a clear night and let it enfold you.

In pursuing my Masters in French and Francophone Literature, I’ve been exposed to a lot of French music this year. The following are my top ten French discs of this year.

Top 10 French cds of the Year // Les Dix Meilleurs Disques de L’Année 2010

(i will be making a separate post about these tomorrow…possibly bilingually.)

Vanessa ParadisUne Nuit à Versailles
Alain BashungOsez Bashung
Louis ChedidOn Dit Jamais Assez Aux Gens Qu’On Aime Qu’On Les Aime
GrégoireLe Même Soleil
Guillaume GrandL’Amour est Laid
Elodie FrégéLa Fille de L’Après-Midi
La Patère RosePatère Rose
Yann TiersenDust Lane

CDs I fell back in love with this year –
David GrayWhite Ladder
Every Time I DieHot Damn
Circa SurviveJuturana
BaysideSirens and Condolences
I Am the AvalancheI Am the Avalanche

Favourite Discovery of the Year:

Lady Danville – sometimes working with websites like this one allows me to discover music that I would never have found on my own. One of those bands I had the honour to work with this year called Lady Danville. I can’t say enough good things about them. They craft perfect indie pop songs. Even their most “plugged in” performance is still fairly stripped down and it really allows their voices to mix and mingle with each other. 2010 was a huge year for them. They start 2011 with a west coast tour with Dashboard Confessional and that should only be the beginning of good things for them. I’m really excited to see what happens for them in the next twelve months.

Reunions you think will happen in 2011 – I hope that the boysetsfire reunion sticks. I’m excited to see what Vinnie has up his sleeve for the Movielife reunion set in May. I’m crossing my fingers and toes for Midtown to finally do their goodbye show (which might actually happen because Cobra Starship isn’t doing anything at the moment.)


Joe Satriani @ The Aronoff Centre, 7 December 2010

Joe Satriani
The Aronoff Centre, Cincinnati Ohio
7 December 2010


If there’s one thing that I hate it’s going to a show and seeing a musician who looks completely and utterly bored to tears. It’s that they’re there in body, but they’re not there in spirit. It’s that they’re there to just go through the motions and go home or go back onto the bus and hide. Joe Satriani and company, however, embody everything that I love about going to shows. From the moment he stepped out on stage until the moment that he walked off, he smiled. It wasn’t one of those silly cheesy smiles, either. It was a genuine smile from deep down. It is evident that he loves doing what he does and he loves the people he has chosen to share the stage with. I’ll be the first to admit that this show was set up differently than what I am used to. There wasn’t a barricade, security were conspicuously missing and there were…seats. Seats that were numbered and assigned to you. This was all a very foreign concept as I hadn’t been to an assigned seating show in ages. Perhaps this was all a harbinger of what was to come as I was not prepared for what I was about to experience.

Experience: noun. A word meaning the totality of the cognitions given by perception; all that is perceived, understood, and remembered. It is of my opinion that the only way that this tour can accurately be measured is if you experience it. The venue that they chose to play in couldn’t have been more perfect. The Aronoff Centre, most often holding ventures from the fine arts world, is an open space with a ceiling that reaches to the heaven. Perhaps appropriately so, the space itself feels as though you had walked into the sanctuary of a gothic orthodox church. Foreshadowing? In hindsight, it’s very likely that this was the case. Everything felt much larger than it really was, which was perfectly fitting as the band played as though they occupied a space much larger than the largest arena you could ever imagine.

Before anyone really knew what was going on, the changeover had been completed and there was just a split second of calm before the houselights were brought down. Soon, the theatre was washed in a royal blue light. One by one, the band walked out, slowly, unassumingly. Mike Keneally, sitting behind his various keyboard equipment, is illuminated from above and plays something or other on the piano. Keneally, it should be noted, is a mad genius on par with Satriani himself. Having played with everyone from Frank Zappa to the touring incarnation of Dethklok as a guitarist, it was interesting to se him take on the role of keyboardist / pianist. For those who only know him as a guitarist, it was refreshing to see him in a role like this as he was able to truly put his musical virtuosity on display. One day, it will be nice to see both Keneally and Satriani have a guitar battle; there’s always soundcheck and there’s always next time. The closest thing that we were able to see this go around was a keyboard-guitar duel to the death. The line between anticipation and action was a fine one and just as we were all getting comfortable…he walked out. Continue reading “Joe Satriani @ The Aronoff Centre, 7 December 2010”