Best of 2010: Albums and EPs

I feel as if I’ve read through innumerable Best Of lists this month, as, I suspect, do you (especially if you’ve managed to make it far enough down your googling results to reach my little bit webspace). And, as is usually the case, most of them probably read as a tidy summation of what began the year as the most anticipated releases of 2010 with a few surprises thrown in for good measure. But, as hard as I try, no list I can pull together could hope to effectively encapsulate the music of 2010. Of course, there are the usual gaps in my listening, as there are with anyone. But, more importantly, I think the legacy of this past year, at least in my experience, will be an idea. ‘Beauty is back‘.

With it’s near-flawless litany of releases, the genre-bending and earth-shattering work of New Amsterdam Records is proof enough that beauty is a priority once again. But add to that the utter sweetness of The Secret Sisters, rampant sexual tension of Bitter Ruin, the raw power of My Gold Mask and Dimbleby & Capper, and the sheer joy of Super Desserts and Allo Darlin’, and our rediscovery of the visceral impact of technique and execution is impossible to ignore.

I haven’t ranked the albums and EPs on this list. Their very appearance here will attest to my attachment to them (if you want more details—well, that’s what the rest of this blog is for). Still, despite the ironic egalitarianism of my Best Ofs, there is one album which stands out in my mind as the landmark achievement of 2010. This one.

Allo Darlin’ – Allo Darlin’

Belle & Sebastian – Write About Love [review]

Bitter Ruin – Hung, Drawn, and Quartered [interview]

Dimbleby & Capper – Slick Maturity [more info]

Hooray For EarthMomo

Ivan MoultThe Mine Canary [review]

My Gold Mask – A Million Miles (From Where We Were Last)

Public Service Broadcasting – EP One

The SchoolLoveless Unbeliever [review] [interview]

The Secret SistersThe Secret Sisters

Sarah Kirkland Snider (feat. Shara Worden and Signal) – Penelope [review]

Super Desserts – Twee As Folk [review]

VictoireCathedral City [review]


Cathedral City – at home in the in between

Leaving the majesty of the Modernist and Deco-dotted Chicago skyline behind me, I lived in Columbus, OH for many years before discovering any beauty in its architecture. But I’d cast my sight too high, in search of drama rather than subtlety. It was only three years ago that I happen upon—or rather into—the work of Peter Eisenman, the master of deconstructivism. I walked up an incline that I could have sworn sloped to downhill (to a performance space where, later that night, I would first meet Shara Worden) and was immediately seduced by the paradoxical instability of it all. Later, I would find a book about Eisenman (Blurred Zones: Investigations of the Interstitial) and in it, a new obsession.

interstice – the narrow space between parts
interstitial – the things that live there

It is there, in that crack between genres, where Missy Mazzoli and post-chamber rock quintet Victoire have established themselves. Victoire first drew the attention of critics with an EP, A Door Into the Dark, released exclusively through eMusic in the 2009. Eighteen months later (September 28) will see the official release of their debut LP, Cathedral City, on New Amsterdam.

It is rare that an artist ticks all my boxes—glitchy lo-fi electronics, rhythmic instability, microtones, meandering melodies, ostinato, and sampled vocals to name a few—and even rarer to hear them woven together seamlessly. And yet, with Cathedral City, Victoire have done just that. Eschewing soaring melodies and sudden dynamic contrast, Victoire opt instead for a drama built on subtle variation, rhythmic and harmonic dissonance, and asymmetry. It is music so intricately constructed that it is not until the title track, three songs in, that it becomes clear that Cathedral City has long since firmly implanted itself in your consciousness.

From the brooding opener, “A Door into the Dark”, Cathedral City builds through the title track and trip-glitch “Like a Miracle” to a climax with “A Song for Arthur Russell”. The album draws to a close with the ruminative “India Whiskey”, but not before calling on numerous new music luminaries including Bryce Dessner (The National), Mellissa Hughes (The Little Death, Vol. 1), William Brittelle, and Florent Ghys while evoking the spirits of Philip Glass, Giacinto Scelsi, and a sedated Autechre or Aphex Twin. The result is a distant voice, filtered through a fog of influence and experience—a voice that’s fallen through the cracks.

The Interstitial. It’s one of the most beautiful concepts imaginable: the water frozen in fissures that reduces a mountain to dust—the artists who haunt the cracks and closes of aesthetics. And it is here that Missy Mazzoli and Victoire have been hard at work building a magnificent Cathedral City.

Download: Victoire – A Door into the Dark mp3