Scott Heisel is a former news and reviews editor for Punknews.org and is the current Music Editor for Alternative Press. - ed.
2010 was an exciting year for me. My longtime girlfriend moved in with me back in April, and we adopted the world's cutest puppy shortly thereafter. (And of course, she's on Twitter.) But what's really been thrilling for me was officially launching my new record label, Youth Conspiracy Records. I'm three releases in and have already gotten to work with some of my
favorite musicians of all time, and I feel so lucky to be able to finally give something tangible back to the music community that's already given me so much.
Below are my favorite albums and songs of the year. Some you may agree with; others you might not. All of this music moved me this year, and I am fully convinced it can do the same to you if you just give it a chance.
Coming off a career low point in Raditude, Rivers Cuomo & Co. actually rebound rather nicely with their Epitaph debut, even though it's pretty much the same formula (tons of co-writers, diminished input from other band members and not a lot of time spent in the studio). "Unspoken," "Hang On" and "Run Away" are easily in the top tier of the band's post-Pinkerton material.
The Get Up Kids spent the majority of their career trying to write the perfect Superchunk record, so it's almost fitting that the latter's first album in nearly a decade has as much exuberance and energy as the former's best work. I don't know what my gap is, but I'm sure it feels weird, too.
Middle Class Rut: No Name No Color
Imagine the White Stripes covering Rage Against the Machine while Perry Farrell sings. I know it sounds like a clusterfuck, but trust me, it is goddamned awesome.
It can't be overstated how much better the Wonder Years got between their first album, Get Stoked on It!, and this one. It really sounds like a completely different band–and one that's about 20 times better, too. This record is for those who secretly like the Starting Line but pretend Title Fight is better.
They say the greatest art comes out of personal tragedy, and Diamond Eyes is proof. Deftones sound positively bristling with energy on this record, and their live show is the best it's been in years. (I still hope we'll get to hear Eros one day, and I hope even more that Chi Cheng will return to the stage someday.)
Holy overdubs, Batman! Good ol' Paul goes the corporate-sellout direction with his new LP, adding multitracked vocals and multiple guitar parts–one of which is even electric. Way to betray the scene, dude! Oh, wait: None of that fucking matters because the songs themselves are still brilliant.
I saw this band accidentally while waiting for Jaguar Love at South By Southwest this year, and I was blown away by their stage presence, infectious grooves and unique instrumentation (organ, baritone sax, bass and drums–no guitar). Soon after, they're signed to Dangerbird Records and deliver one hell of a butt-shaking debut. Highly recommended if you're looking to get the party started.
Not only is there not a bad song on this album, there's not a bad song on either of the 7-inches they bookended its release with. Talk about a hot streak!
Foxy Shazam: Foxy Shazam
Wildly fun and over-the-top arena rock with tongues firmly pressed in cheeks and fists firmly pressed into the air. An absolutely phenomenal live band, too. Sample stage banter: "I wrote this song to play for God if I ever get into heaven."
This kid went from no-fi loser to pop-punk king, and all it took was Jay Reatard's rhythm section. These songs are crisper, cleaner and all around more interesting and memorable than the past two Wavves records, and when you boil it down, it's really just vintage pop-punk.
The 10 tracks that comprise Free Energy's full-length debut, Stuck on Nothing, come across as effortlessly catchy retro guitar pop. The songs might sound simplistic at first, but each listen reveals new nuances (a bluesy saxophone here; tasteful strings there) as well as surprisingly agile guitar solos. Basically, what I'm saying is it takes an incredible amount of effort to sound this lazy.
An album so immensely powerful, thought-provoking and moving, I shelled out a few grand to put it out on vinyl. (Won't you pick a copy up?)
Sleigh Bells: Treats
Mom + Pop/N.E.E.T.
Sleigh Bells' debut is very much a "now" record–I have no idea how their mixture of Anthrax-heavy riffs, Run DMC-heavy beats and largely gibberish lyrics will hold up in years to come, but I do know that this album is an adrenaline rush from start to finish. Plus, I don't think I heard a louder album all year.
An album so instantly catchy, wistful and anthemic, I shelled out a few grand to put it out on vinyl. (Won't you pick a copy up?)
Terrible Things: Terrible Things
Former members of Taking Back Sunday, Breaking Pangaea, Hot Rod Circuit/Death in the Park and Coheed & Cambria get their modern rock on, delivering an absolutely flawless debut that, in an ideal world, should be selling tens of thousands of copies a week and putting the band in hockey arenas or something. These are extremely well-written songs by three journeymen who have been to the top of various mountains and absolutely deserve to return there once more.
Motion City Soundtrack have been a huge part of my life both personally and professionally for nearly a decade now, so it was thrilling to see them finally make an album worthy of their raw talent level. I truly don't understand why this didn't sell like gangbusters, as it is really a perfect pop-rock album with an awesome dark side.
I came late to the LCD Soundsystem party, but I've since worked my way through their back catalog and determined that I wasn't missing all that much until now. This Is Happening is just an absolutely breathtaking listen each time I play it, with more and more nuances appearing with subsequent listens. Some people call this band "electronic," which is absurd, especially if you've seen them live – the way the band members interact with each other onstage, building massive grooves, is truly organic and astonishing to observe. Much has been written about this being the last LCD Soundsystem album (something which bandleader James Murphy has recently come out and denied, saying his remark was taken out of context); let's hope it isn't... Considering we're all eventually going to hit middle age, it will be nice to already have Murphy soundtrack those years for us by the time we get there.