I was honored to contribute my top 25 albums from the Carolina’s this year to Shuffle Magazine. And while most of my albums didn’t make it, a couple of my top 10’s did. We’ll be posting our Scene SC top 10 albums and our top 10 EP’s of 2010 tomorrow.
Shuffle Magazine is based out of Charlotte and focuses mostly on North Carolina music. Of the top 25 records only one from South Carolina made the final cut, Toro Y Moi coming in at number 10.
Here are the top 10 from the Shuffle Magazine list. Go here to see the full top 25.
Toro Y Moi — Causers of This (Carpark)
Indeed, Toro Y Moi’s breakout LP brims with a sense of longing, built upon murky, psychedelic haze, and heat-stroked endless-summer pacing. But calling it chillwave isn’t entirely accurate. Chaz Bundick doesn’t hide his songs in synthetic smears, and his clear infatuation with dance music and R&B drives this effort beyond mere fad-piece.
Grids — Kansas (Made In Kansas)
Charlotte noiselords’ second LP of 2010 is also their finest musical moment, boasting bold, weighty production from Harvey Milk’s Kyle Spence. But more than the enhanced depth-of-sound captured on this platter, Grids assembles a serving of hardcore-fueled noise rock that never neglects hooks or structure in the name of squall.
In The Year Of The Pig — Jamón (Holidays For Quince)
Five songs. Sixty minutes. You do the math. There’s nothing small or quiet or polite about In The Year Of The Pig, but the monumental music they’ve captured here — a massive construction of Kraut-rock deliberation, doom-metal pacing and heft, and noise-rock energy — carves deep grooves and upwelling momentum for an unforgettable ride. The result drives bodies and minds in equal measure
Stephen Warwick — Talking Machine (self-released)
Each of the 10 songs on this dreamily arranged gem sound like they’re floating in the amber of shifting musical eras. Charlotte native Warwick and his Secondhand Stories players tap into dust bowl balladry, carnival music, 60s Dylan, late-90s Elliot Smith and judicious electronica elements, among others, blending them together so organically that all eras unite under one timeless banner: Solid songwriting.
Foreign Exchange — Authenticity (Foreign Exchange Music)
With typically deft production from Dutch-born/Wilmington-based Nicolay, and Phonte continuing to croon instead of rap, the duo transitions further into sophisticated R&B on its third record. Via shifting, skittering beats both organic and processed, warm synth textures and Phonte’s liquid-smooth vocals, Authenticity doesn’t just transcend the genre’s tropes, it creates its own beautiful language by incorporating electronica and even twang.
Hiss Golden Messenger – Root Work: Live WFMU 2009 (Heaven & Earth Magic)
The daydream folk songs Hiss Golden Messenger captured in this mostly-live recording offer laid-back riddim, soft psychedelics and avant-jazz flourishes that never overwhelm the gentle currents of the music. There’s a distinct feeling of the outdoors in the band’s warm-breeze
Superchunk – Majesty Shredding (Merge)
Hiatus, schmiatus. Sounding nearly as energized as they did during their early 90s heyday, Mac McCaughan and crew tear through the first ‘chunk record in nearly a decade like piss-and-vinegar 40-is-the-new-20-somethings. But add a frisson of well-aged angst to these urgent rails against Father Time — 40 may not be what it used to be, but it’s still heading in the wrong direction.
Black Congo NC – Live In Miami 1984 (FrequeNC)
BCNC exists as an interstate entity these days, but prior to this year their woodshed recordings embodied the joyous, multi-culti blender mix of the ensemble’s music (just like the title hints at their humorous streak): Afrobeats and benga guitar, field recording loops and jazz sax skronk, rock crescendos and ambient stretches, and portable narratives that suit any musical setting.
The Love Language – Libraries (Merge)
Unlike the disheveled party crasher-songs lurching through Stu McLamb’s lush but lo-fi debut, Libraries’ soulful ballads and romance rockers are gussied up with swooning strings and resplendent layers of guitars, keys and percussion, transforming them into the seductive tools of a practiced song-Casanova. We gratefully succumb, and though everybody winds up heartwrecked, song-salve like this makes the ache worthwhile.
Megafaun-Heretofore (Hometapes) Sure, Shuffle’s editorial staff are unapologetic fans, but we are not alone; Heretofore earned Top 10 spots in nine of our voter’s lists. Written in a week and recorded during a brief break in their increasingly busy and far-ranging bookings, the Triangle trio both sharpened their focus and expanded their sonic purview with this 34-minute mini-LP. Concise country rock (“Volunteers”) and breezy folk pop singalongs (“Carolina Days”) serve as straightahead foils to the digital alchemy adorning the insistent title cut riff, the free-form skronk flurries of “Eagles,” and the improvisational centerpiece “Comprovisation for Connor Pass.” One element too often overlooked in all the superlatives for their genre-bending sound are the trio’s fine lyrics, blending the concrete and ethereal into striking images like this “Bonnie’s Song” stanza: “Set it on fire/ let it float away/ everything burns the same/ so take your time/ (the ocean breaks and bends/ the ashes all ascend)”. So, yeah, the complete package. But what Megafaun does here transcends the band’s sonic playground; by honoring its adventurous instincts, Megafaun has proven that Carolinas’ roots music can keep absorbing rare or new elements, and continue expanding its seminal legacy.
As reliable as colder temps and longer nights, Winter finds us music critics trotting out our Best Of year-end lists for music fans to hate on, simultaneously assuring you that this year’s crop was certainly better/worse than the previous year’s godawful/brilliant output. The records, though, should speak for themselves.
And among our voters — 15 Shuffle contributors and select guests (see below) — they did. More than 150 (!) separate Carolinas-based recordings were nominated. They were as varied as the two states’ terrain and people, from hardcore and harsh electronica to old-time music and modern Americana, from skewed indie rock and hip-hop to good old-fashioned power pop and a gaggle of styles in between. Even accounting for the weight of exposure, the cream rose quickly. So, here for your delectation are Shuffle’s Top 25 recordings of 2010.
The Electorate: Editor in Chief John Schacht, Assistant Editor Bryan Reed, regular contributors Fred Mills (also Blurt’s esteemed Managing Editor), Rick Cornell, Jordan Lawrence, Corbie Hill, Chris Parker, Topher Manilla, Ryan Snyder, William Morris, Jesse Steichen, Chris Toenes, and friends Courtney Devores of The Charlotte Observer, Jeff Hahne of Creative Loafing, and David Stringer of SceneSC.com.