Another track crying out for the open road, beer, and a bag of weed. This one comes barrelling down the road a whoopin’ and a hollerin’, wearing a shit-eatin’ grin and its anthemic heart firmly on its sleeve.
And the new ones: we have a taste from Giant Sand’s Chore of Enchantment anniversary reissue in the shape of Music Arcade (which originally appeared on the tour only CD The Rock Opera Years), an epic slice of alternative rock Aussie style from Eddy Current Suppression Ring, a new one from unusual Welsh folkie Cate Le Bon, and punk rock ‘supergroup’ Wild Flag’s single Romance.
Download Giant Sand – Music Arcade mp3 (from Chore Of Enchantment 25th Anniversary Edition)
The album Travels In Lowland by The Migrant was one of those that came out of nowhere last year and ended up being one of our favourites (see our Albums of the Year post for 2010 here).
So we were delighted to find out that The Migrant (aka Bjarke Bendtsen) has returned with a new album Amerika, which gets a release on October 25th. Departing somewhat from the airy Danish seaside of Travels in Lowland, Amerika occupies the spare, vast spaces of the American landscape with beautiful, sprawling, acoustic melodies that faintly evoke America’s rich folk heritage. The album is constantly in motion, freely traversing barren guitar solos and harmonized mountains of instrumentation, navigated by Bendtsen’s unmistakeably heartfelt, lyrical styling.
Given recent events, it is not a little spooky then that the first taste of the record should come in the shape of The Hurricane. Distinguished by a slow blues refrain, handclaps and a mournful vocal, it is one of those tunes that sounds like it has been around forever and there is probably no greater praise that we can give it - Amerika has just leapfrogged to the top of our ‘most anticipated’ lists.
Now that we’ve had the top tens from all the Mad Mackerel contributors, we will give you a definitive overall top ten in a couple of days. Before that is our penultimate top ten list of the year – the favourite new bands and artists that have come our way in 2010 which was perhaps the hardest list of all to compile.
So with honourable mentions to Gaoler’s Daughter, White Noise Movement, Pop. 1280, The Vaccines and White Dress, here we have our favourites. Hopefully we’ll see a lot more of them all in 2011…
Pulled Apart By Horses play hard, and fast, and mean and remind us in a good way of the wonderful Mclusky. They also released one of our favourite singles of the year in Back to the Fuck Yeah and followed it up with a quite excellent debut album. Brutal, noisy, tongue in cheek, marvellous.
Offering the perfect blend of UK indie rock, The Sunderbans meld classic influences like the Cure, the Bunnymen and the Smiths into a modern, fresh sound that first captured our attention with the excellent Roadkill single. They’ve followed it up with a couple of excellent singles and we’re hoping for big things in 2011.
Announcing themselves with the utterly infectious The Ballad of Maynard Noe, Pancake Breakfast served up an album of country songs and folk songs and rock songs – there are songs about truckers, songs about angry birds, songs about magic cards, and songs about unfortunate fish.
With his blend of wonderful psych-folk and tall stories, The Migrant provided one of our favourite albums of the year with Travels In Lowland. Effortlessly drawing you in to a world of his own making, it was somewhere we were happy to come back to again and again.
The songs on Red Clay River’s demo CD Cover Our Faces With Soot And Dreams take a trip through gypsy dances to somber drifting nights. Using string-band instrumentation mixed with creative percussion including an oil drum and bare walls, Red Clay River tell their stories with shadows and characters that slip through the pines and get lost in the night.
Describing themselves as wilfully uncommercial, it didn’t detract from the fact that this duo produced some of the most unsettling and lyrically vicious music we heard in 2010. They simultaneously conjure up the grey, suffocating monochrome of dreary Eastern European streets and the relentless, inexorable decline of our industrial heritage, of jobs lost and hopes evaporating. It is a mix that they seem to pull off brilliantly with each new track we hear.
A late gatecrasher to the top ten. Two Wounded Birds released their EP Keep Dreaming Baby towards the back-end of 2010 and still managed to get two of the five tracks into MM’s Top Ten series (Barry-Sean’s and Mrs Mackerel’s). It’s all menacing twang over a sultry, velveteen croon – Mrs M said they belong to a different era, where women had beehives and men wore hats and chain-smoked. Just fabulous.
From the moment we heard Snake Charmer (No Money In The Bank), we knew Howling Owls were going to be MM faves. A brilliantly named and slightly mysterious three piece from Orlando that trade in the sort of sparse, sinister, dark-hearted folk that resides in the shadows, and all too easily suggests the flickering ghosts of the Everglade swamps. Ominous, baleful, and captivating.
So after much deliberation, head scratching, discussion, and more head scratching, we have MM’s favourite albums of 2010. And we choose our words very carefully here, because we would not presume them to be the best, only those that have given us the most pleasure and enjoyment, records that we have returned to again and again, and for whatever reason have captured a moment or special place in our hearts.
And while we have limited our selection to 25 albums there were many, many more that could have, and maybe should have, featured. But there that’s the beauty of music, entirely subjective and based on individual opinions not fact.
So without further ado, here are our 25 favourite albums of 2010.
25 Sharon Van Etten – Epic
Haunting, ethereal and stunning album from a modern day siren. Sad prairie folk music indeed.
The son of the peerless Steve Earle comes of age with a perfectly judged set of tales that in their honesty and unashamed frankness are worthy of Townes himself.
Listen to Harlem River Blues.
21 Titus Andronicus – The Monitor
With repeated listens the sheer power and passion of The Monitor becomes overwhelming. So what if it is a concept album about the American Civil War, its ambitious, rebellious, and rousing. Just play it loud!
Another perfectly judged record from the perfectly matched duo. Campbell’s lovely whispering tones offset by Mr Lanagan’s threatening growl.
Listen to Snake Song.
19 Lower Dens – Twin Hand Movement
An album of dreamy, unsettling rock melded with freak-folk to provide one of the year’s most unusual and most rewarding listens. At times it sounds like an evil Beach House and at others spare and caustic where hope is slowly, but firmly drowned in a swirling, atmospheric mix of twinkling guitars and alluring voices.
In the vein of the much lauded and genuinely good Tame Impala, Tweak Bird were louder, faster, and simply rocked harder. A superb mix of motorcycle rock riffs with dirty fingernail blues and even a hint of jazz. This was stoner rock for the 21st century and it was brilliant.
Indie rock with a country inflection, Delta Spirit packed History From Below full of dusty, rural Americana and bar room blues boogie. With the impassioned and distinctive voice of Matt Vasquez backed by a rumbling juggernaut of percussion and rhythms, the album was a welcome addition to the long tradition of classic American rock.
Indie gods manage to live up to, and then surpass the hype with The Suburbs, an album full of outstanding tracks that demand they be listened to as a whole – a proper music album.
Watch Ready To Start.
12 Band Of Horses – Infinite Arms
Despite some occasional iffy AOR moments, Infinite Arms was like the girl with the curl, and when it was good (which it mostly was), it was brilliant.
11 Black Keys – Brothers
Authentic blues duo cranked out their best yet and in tracks like Sinister Kid and Howlin’ For You added some more classic cuts to their catalogue.
Watch Tighten Up.
10 Laura Marling – I Speak Because I Can
Showcasing her incredible natural talent despite such tender years, I Speak Because I Can truly marked Laura Marling out as a worthy heiress to Joni, Emmy Lou and the like. Darker, stronger, and more confident than her debut, she is surely poised for great things.
Watch Rambling Man.
9 Liars – Sisterworld
A brilliant collection of crushing guitars, machine gun percussion and soaring vocals that retained its experimental art-noise edge but became much more accessible and much more listenable – welcome to the big league time?
Listen to the superb Proud Evolution.
8 The National – High Violet
Overcoming the music blogger’s ‘big band’ prejudice with ease, High Violet was bigger, better and more affecting than anything the National have done to date.
Listen to Conversation 16.
7 Strand Of Oaks – Pope Killdragon
Having caught our attention with their wonderful Springsteen cover on Hear Ya, Strand of Oaks more than lived up to our expectations with Pope Killdragon. Sparse folk tunes mixed with occasional and abstract guitar wigouts and also showcased Tim Showalter’s ability to grab the attention with some of the best lyrical couplets of the year. Stand out track Alex Kona a case in point, starting “Alex Kona was twelve feet tall, his mother was killed by a bowling ball” – what’s not to like?
Spare, beautiful, mournful and melancholic, the fragile folk of Mathew Sawyer hid whiplash lyrics and biting black humour that revealed and revelled in a bittersweet world where daydreams and nightmares fought to the death for supremacy.
Backwards-looking it maybe, but that’s to miss the point of Black Mountain. This was an album bursting with rock riffs that were so good you thought they must have been invented in the classic age of rock, and in Let Spirits Ride, the band provided the headbanging anthem of the year.
Another wonderful record of rousing, country infused tunes. Each listen revealed more of its anthemic charms and spirited, rugged rock on an album full of top notch tunes from start to finish.
Watch Shadow People.
3 Blitzen Trapper – Destroyer Of The Void
A brilliant and worthy follow-up to the exceptional Furr, and in songs like The Man Who Would Speak True, Blitzen Trapper showed they had worthy successors to classics like Black River Killer and the like. Full of prog-folk, dusty rural ballads, sci-fi synths and more, Destroyer of the Void was a stunning record.
After the sublime To Willie tribute last year came the originals. From the loose, ramshackle rock of It’s Hard to Be Humble (When You’re From Alabama) to cowboy ballads, transcendental homages, and the climactic, Neil Young like, epic album closer L.A.
Despite Wither Thous Goest, Cretin only receiving an initially limited release, and despite it being overshadowed by the subsequent release of (the also excellent) The Death Seat on Michael Gira’s label, Wooden Wand delivered an album of stunning simplicity, in equal parts poignant, heartbreaking, and redemptive.
With lyrics that are the match of any songwriter we know (“He had just enough rope in his trunk to make her nervous”) allied to sparse, plucked folk on the one hand and footstomping barnyard rhythms on the other, there is not a wasted moment, nor a false step on the entire album.
The Migrant’s album Travels in Lowland has been one of our unexpected treasures of 2010, a record of wonderful, pysch tinged folk that draws you in and envelops you in a warm cocoon of simply constructed and beautifully sung songs.
Boston based production company Extraneous Noise do a lot of work producing video content for bands playing in the area, and thought we might be interested in checking out this video they did of the band outside a little castle in Somerville, Massachusetts.
We were and it is superb. Nothing But Clues is a great song in a great setting, watch and enjoy.
Then if you don’t have them yet, download a couple of tracks from the album including the outstanding The Organ Grinder which is sure to feature in our best of lists at the end of 2010.
Today sees the release of two excellent new albums from Denmark’s The Migrant and from North Carolina’s The Moaners.
We have already posted about the former, giving you The Organ Grinder, a quite exquisite slice of catchy psych-folk which has never been far from our playlists ever since. The Migrant’s album Travels In Lowland is an excellent record and to mark the official release we have another track for you, the equally impressive In The Sun.
By contrast, The Moaners are more of a porch-swing singalong mixing an appealing garage stomp with Mississippi style blues into a hypnotic southern groove that is as eerie as it is joyful and as primitive as it is distinctive. New album Nocturnal is aptly named and is filled with mysterious tales and textures that are beautifully balanced by Melissa Swingle’s vocals, the often rockabilly-esque percussion, and Earl Poole Ball’s wonderful piano playing. We have a couple of tasters for you below.
And three excellent new tracks to finish off with: firstly another cover – The Drums doing Arcade Fire, the new taster track from indie-folk God Sufjan Stevens and finally some superb, caustic, drone punk from The Band In Heaven.
In September, Denmark’s Bjarke Bendtsen aka The Migrant will release his first album titled Travels In Lowland. It is an album that beckons you in to a underworld where beautiful pop songs mix happily with psychedelic folk and frankly, if taster track The Organ Grinder is anything to go by, you won’t want to leave!
While visiting Denmark last summer, Bendtsen recorded the album with some of his Danish friends in a summerhouse by the coast. The prelude to this session had been a number of free-spirited concerts where the different musicians joined in on Bendtsen’s new songs. Reportedly, the free vibe from those concerts made it all the way to the record where Bendtsen’s strong vocal is backed up by an exciting mix of nostalgic guitar, violin, drums and kitchenware. Later that year, after the winter snow had covered the entire country, Bendtsen isolated himself in the same summerhouse to mix the album.
Check out the taster track – the gentle, low-key start before it erupts after a minute and twenty seconds – the swelling, insistent guitar strum builds and builds while the plaintive vocals keep pace the whole time. Great stuff.
Sweden have given us the wonderful folk troubadour The Tallest Man On Earth, now we can give thanks to Denmark, because on this evidence The Migrant really could be that good too.