An article by The Silent Ballet staff


50) Prins Thomas | Prins Thomas
Norway

Full Pupp

Finally catching up with frequent collaborator Lindstrøm in the solo album stakes, Prins Thomas focuses on the groovy psychedelic aspect of the duo's sound. Where his partner went full-on futuristic space disco by grabbing great chunks of inspiration from Cerrone and Moroder, Thomas looks towards the likes of Can and especially Neu!. On tracks such as "Sauerkraut", the music could scarcely be described as electronic, as it draws on so many organic sounds coupled with a live jam feel that it fits more comfortably with rock. It is not always propelled by an unwavering motorik beat either: "Slangemusik" is all undulating bass and freaky space organ until a shuffling beat kicks in midway through. One man's work from start to finish (save for two guest appearances, it is written and played by Thomas, and released on his label), the album is not quite up there with his work with Lindstrøm, but it is an ambitious, joyous album that sparkles like a glitterball reflecting the sun. (Jeremy Bye)

[Read Our Review]

49) Caribou | Swim
Canada

Merge

The prolific mathematician/musician Daniel Snaith is proving to be quite skilled at making critically acclaimed albums that are also capable of sneaking into the mainstream consciousness. Swim takes a more club/beat-induced style, creating an upbeat, dancey album that is able to engross the listener in its haunting moods and intricate melodies. Songs range from catchy, hook-heavy club tracks like “Odessa” to more esoteric and introspective blasts of emotion and electronics, as heard in “Kaili”. However, the album remains true to early Caribou (Manitoba in early years) indie love song aesthetics with guitars, haunting vocals, and drum kits playing a major role in the overall sound. The brilliant production skills of Snaith are evident, as each track has its own unique sound, yet the album meshes perfectly as a whole. Swim satisfies the listener on so many levels it is difficult to pin down a sound or genre – this is a problem left to the listener. (Greg Norte)

[Read Our Review]

48) John Zorn | In Search of the Miraculous
United States

Tzadik

Zorn is better known for his dissonant and challenging compositions, but In Search of the Miraculous is a reminder that he is a versatile composer, and downright beautiful music is not out of his reach. Already a prolific and groundbreaking artist, Zorn challenged himself in 2010 even further by releasing one album each month. February’s release was this Zorn composition performed by the Alhambra Trio with special guests. Led along by piano and vibraphone, the record is in constant motion, but it lacks the abrasiveness one might expect if only familiar with Zorn the avant-garde sax player. It is important to embrace one’s dark side, but sometimes a return to the light can be even more revelatory. (Joseph Sannicandro)

[Read Our Review]

47) Negura Bunget | Vîrstele Pamîntului
Romania

Aural Music

“Transylvanian hunger” indeed. Arguably one of the most acclaimed bands in modern black metal, Negura Bunget has been steadily churning out memorable records since 2006’s OM, and it dropped two full lengths this year alone. Vîrstele Pamîntului proudly touts the band’s Romanian heritage, courageously infusing folk music traditions in a genre renowned for its bullheadedness when it comes to outside influence. Equal parts sweeping magnificence and tremolo-picked blackened riffage, Negura Bunget has undeniably established its unique brand of metal as much more than a gimmick. The rest of the metal world should be taking notes. (Calvin Young)

[Read Our Review]

46) Zach Hill | Face Tat
United States

Sargent House

Face Tat sounds like this process of discovering one’s self and sound through a series of woozy melees, drunk video game brawls, and rock illnesses. Basically, it is sick. One would never guess that folks like Devendra Banhart, No Age, and Prefuse 73, among others, were involved (ok, Prefuse makes sense). Musically, Zach Hill has always been impossible to box up; he is an artist with many talents, consistently embattling expectations and purists alike. Hill’s vocals are scattered and affected, and their oddity makes this less of a vocal album and more of an intriguing magnum opus to the genre of “what have you.” While Beck ascended with Pegasus to the mainstream, Hill is arm in arm with Loki and passing the bottle ‘round. His signature drumming talents are featured on “House of Hits”, and the album roils with the intensity of a Charlie Kauffman film while tripping with Hunter S. Thompson. Face Tat is a wild ride and one of 2010’s more challenging listens. (Nayt Keane)

[Read Our Review]

45) Jack Rose | Luck in the Valley
United States

Thrill Jockey

What would have been Jack Rose's Thrill Jockey debut was overshadowed by his passing a couple of months earlier, in December 2009. Luck In The Valley went from being the highest profile album of his career to a posthumous release - a tragic twist of fate. With a sizeable discography already to Rose's name, both solo and as a member of Pelt, Luck In The Valley nonetheless presents a master guitarist at the top of his game, as his articulate playing and writing cover a broad range of emotions. The ensemble pieces are often stomping, swinging things of joy and cheer, while elsewhere, the stripped down solo or duo tracks are bluesy ruminations on country folk themes. Aware of the growing expectation and momentum from his previous albums, Rose knew this had to be a great album - and he used every ounce of skill and emotion to make it so. Luck In The Valley is a perfect encapsulation of a brilliant artist and a poignant reminder of a talent gone too soon. (Jeremy Bye)

[Read Our Review]

44) 65daysofstatic | We Were Exploding Anyway
England

Hassle

65daysofstatic sounds like a band at the pinnacle of its talent, and loving it. The band's latest is an explosion of vitality and majesty that combines post-rock and dance styles so smoothly that it sounds like it has been refining its craft for decades. While 65dos has returned to the heights of its previous critical success, the band has shifted its sound somewhat to be more focused on the electronics and synths, but thankfully retaining the “live and loud” ethic. 65daysofstatic has not put down the guitars just yet, though, and these provide some of We Were Exploding Anyway’s best moments, especially melodically, and are essential to the captivating flavor of the music. Cheeky “Piano Fights” and grandiose “Tiger Girl” are certainly crowd favorites. (Matt Gilley)

[Read Our Review]

43) Bachar Mar-Khalifé | Oil Slick
Lebanon

InFine

This year had lots of great debuts in almost all the genres covered here at The Silent Ballet, but for my money Oil Slick trumps them all. An album that serves up an assortment of themes, ranging from growing up, disappointment, love, and the search for freedom, sung in three different languages and portrayed through progressive rock, post-rock, and jazz is tough to beat. Wildly experimental and borderless is the nature of the music here; guitars and drums are mixed with oud and tabla, synthesizers are placed on top of folkloric Arabic singing, and everything seems to fall in its right place and aids each theme in developing and becoming clearer to its audience. With its unique blend of Middle Eastern and Western musical approaches and instrumentation, Oil Slick is an exceptional work of art, one that sets a intimidating precedent for future Middle Eastern artists. (Mohammed Ashraf)

[Read Our Review]

42) Barn Owl | Ancestral Star
United States

Thrill Jockey

A comparison to Earth may seem to ask too much of this rising duo, but Barn Owl rose to the challenge with Ancestral, an Eastern-tinged record that stretches the limits of what we refer to as "drone." A spacey, heavily pedal-processed affair, Ancestral presents listeners with an emotional and mental journey that is as enriching as it is enthralling - one almost cannot help but feel fuller after delving into the record with full attention. In the crowded ambient/drone market, it is often difficult for artists to stand up and find their identity, but Barn Owl has captured the attention of many listeners with this record. No doubt we will be looking for this duo's work with anticipation in the future. (Lee Stablein)

[Read Our Review]

41) Nils Frahm & Anne Müller | 7fingers
Germany

Hush

Take the chamber orchestra, Wolf-Ferrari Ensemble-trained talents of cellist Anne Müller, add in the compositional prowess of the prodigal musician-composer Nils Frahm, armed with his signature piano, and witness a phenomenal partnership of dynamic creativity, a partnership of blossoming musical virtuosity under the title of 7fingers. 7fingers is as much a collaboration between two young emerging talents out to hone their majestic skills as it is a celebration of this generation’s admiration and preservation of classicalism and sound art. The most impressive feat managed by Frahm and Müller on 7fingers is their seamless merger of classically-bound purism and electronic methodology, intertwining classical sensibility of pieces like “Teeth”, "Reminds to Teeth", and the beautiful “Let My Key Be C” with the gorgeous glitch, tech-aided effects of "Show Your Teeth" and “Journey For a Traveller”. Müller’s cello work, taking the starring role over Frahm’s piano, falls nothing short of breathtaking, and the sympathetic amalgamation of the electronic and classical schools is spectacular. 7fingers is a thoroughly engaging, flawlessly executed triumph of contemporary experimentation. (Mac Nguyen)

[Read Our Review]



Top Albums: 100-91 | 90-81 | 80-71 | 70-61 | 60-51 | 50-41| 40-31 | 30-21 | 20-11 | 10-1

Top Tracks: 50-41 | 40-31 | 30-21 | 20-11 | 10-01