Website exclusive: 2010 Top Ten from Daniel of Sorry State Records

February 10th, 2011 by

Alright, folx, here’s another web-only, bonus year-end top ten for 2010 (as seen in the current issue of MRR magazine). This time, from guest writer Daniel of Sorry State Records

Out of seemliness I’ve excluded records I put out on my label from this list, but rest assured DOUBLE NEGATIVE’s Daydreamnation and LIBYANS’ A Common Place would be at the top of my list, were I more inclined to self-promotion. Actually, now I’m realizing that these are at the top of my list am I am self-promoting, but I’m just going to go for it. Onto the goods…

VAASKA – Ruido Hasta la Muerte LP (540) Vaaska’s new LP is, without a doubt, the hardcore record of the year. I’ve loved past releases by the circle of people/bands in Texas from which this originates (stuff like Sacred Shock and Deskonocidos, if I remember correctly), but never has it all come together so beautifully as it does on this LP. It sort of reminds me of Articles of Faith’s Give Thanks LP if it was heavily informed by Discharge-inspired punk, and while the combination would probably be awkward in anyone else’s hands it’s just brilliant here.

PROTEX – Strange Obsessions LP (Sing Sing) I feel weird putting a reissue in my year-end list, but I listened to Strange Obsessions so many times in 2010 that it would feel weirder not putting it here. I’ve always loved Protex’s singles and I was elated to hear that an unreleased LP had been uncovered, but I never could have imagined that the LP would be even better. While their classic “Don’t Ring Me Up” is so straightforward and poppy that it sounds like a long-lost Buddy Holly tune, the raw production on this 12″ means the melodies are buried just a tiny bit deeper, making it all the more gratifying when they inevitably bury themselves in your head.

NIGHT BIRDS – demo, Killer Waves, s/t, and Midnight Movies EPs (Art of the Underground/Grave Mistake/No Way) Yeah, these are four different releases, but they’re all of a piece and I generally listen to them together in one big iTunes playlist anyway, so I think they deserve to be considered together. When I first heard Night Birds my reaction was, “Wow, this band sounds a lot like the Authorities,” but the more I listen to them the more I find them totally original. Sure, you can hear the reference points in surf punk, early ’80s hardcore, and even ’90s pop-punk, but Night Birds weave them all together beautifully. Plus, the hooks on “Killer Waves” and “Midnight Movies” are undeniable!

Night Birds (photo by Eric Rex)

EDDY CURRENT SUPPRESSION RING – Rush to Relax LP (Goner) When a longtime favorite releases something new there’s always a period of acclimatization, and the new Eddy Current album was no different. At first I gravitated toward the spiky, near-hardcore of “Walked into a Corner,” then I got fascinated by the smart-dumb lyrics of “Gentlemen” and “I Can Be a Jerk.” Nowadays “Second Guessing” is my jam, but this is a record where I don’t skip a track. Sometimes I even listen to the 30 minutes of ocean sounds at the end…

KRIEGSHÖG – War for Peace 12″ (La Vida Es Un Mus) This is a record I almost had trouble processing at first because the anticipation and hype surrounding it were, at times, so intense as to affect the way that I heard the music. After a few listens, though, I realized that there’s no denying the beastliness of this LP… I love the burly as fuck bass sound, and if there was a catchier hardcore riff than the one in “Burn” written in the year 2010 then I did not hear it. The packaging on this was also a thing of beauty, particularly if you happened to be sitting by your computer during the 12 or so hours when you could buy the limited edition red vinyl with obi strip.

CRAZY SPIRIT – demo/EP (Toxic State) Crazy Spirit played a house show in Raleigh this past summer and my car broke down on the way there… My blood still boils every time I think of this band playing 30 miles away while I sat in a gas station parking lot trying to figure out how to put in a new battery. Like Kriegshög, Crazy Spirit offers a full aesthetic experience that you’re not likely to get from a simple MP3 download… you need to see those hand-screened sleeves on the 7″ and the crazy artwork on the tape, and you probably need to actually wear one of their weird-ass, Karate Kid-looking t-shirts to get the full effect. I also must say that I like this band’s demo a bit more than their 7″, as the sound collage stuff (which maybe they couldn’t put on the vinyl for copyright reasons?) and weird acoustic number really add to the sense of confrontational weirdness. Hopefully, they continue to move off the deep end on future releases.

Merchandise LP

MERCHANDISE – (Strange Songs) in the Dark LP (Drugged Conscience) This one came out of left field for me… I absolutely love bands like Psychedelic Furs, the Cure, Gary Numan, etc. (and, honestly, I probably listen to these bands way more than any current hardcore band), though it never even occurred to me that a new band could provide me with a fresh update on that style. Well, Merchandise went and did it, taking the big hooks of early ’80s new wave, adding in broad swaths of noise and feedback and a dash of the “mysterious guy HC” aesthetic. This LP would probably make it onto this list for “Worthless Apology” alone, and the fact that the other songs are nearly as good just clinches its place.

INSUBORDINATES – LP (Cowabunga) Way back in 2007 Insubordinates put out a demo proving that they could write extremely capable neo-Californian skate punk, but aside from a teasingly short 2-song single they remained quiet for the next 3+ years. When this magnum opus finally dropped I was aghast at its ambition. You can almost hear the band reworking and refining this set of songs to make sure that each song is its own, singular universe. Most bands eventually find a “sound” with which they’re comfortable and, at best, push themselves to produce variations on that theme, but the songs on this LP barely belong in the same genre together, much less on the same record. Further, I love how it’s the weird, abrasive parts of the band’s sound (like Brett’s vocals and the skronk sax) that tie the sound together and give them consistency… The hooks are fleeting moments of beauty, but the ugliness is here to stay.

White Lung LP

WHITE LUNG – It’s the Evil LP (Deranged) As with the Merchandise record, White Lung play a style of jerky, noodly post-punk that I barely ever listen to (aside from obvious classics like Drive Like Jehu), but this band was so undeniably powerful live that I had to get their records. While the rhythm section kept me transfixed live, it’s the guitar playing that keeps me coming back to this record again and again… it’s just so inventive and melodic in a completely non-obvious way. I’m hardly a proponent of technical virtuosity for its own sake, but I really admire people that can think outside of the box and do something with a song that no one else would think of doing, and this LP provides moment after moment like that.

ROUGH KIDS – “Into the ’00s/So Sophisticated” 7″ (Rough) THE LOVE TRIANGLE – Splendid Living EP (Dire) TOTAL CONTROL – Paranoid Video EP (Smart Guy)
OK, I know this is cheating, but I’m going to justify putting three singles in my #10 position because they each had one song that I could not get out of my head for a huge chunk of 2010. Try starting your next mix tape with Rough Kids’ “So Sophisticated,” followed by the Love Triangle’s “Splendid Living”, into Total Control’s “Paranoid Video.” You’re going to have do some real work to sustain that level of quality and catchiness on the fourth track… or you can just pull the ol’ mix tape trick of changing gears completely and put a song from John Cale’s Paris 1919 next… At any rate, if you are a fan of all that is good and catchy in punk, you are going to need these three songs.

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