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Herman wins rabbit of the year for maintaining a great attitude about life despite going entirely blind in 2010. You’re a champion, buddy!
A few websites got in touch with me to create a year end best of list. I like making these lists, but I always like going beyond just a “top 10 best records” type format. Here is an expanded version of my list, with lots of words and probably a big batch of typos!
Top 10 of 2010 released prior to 2010 – AKA Old albums I never heard before and fell in love with this year.
– Andrew Jackson Jihad – Can’t Maintain – I had always brushed this off as another folk punk sort of record, when in reality I had never heard it. And although it does have elements of both punk and folk, it surpasses all of the stigmas around that entire genre.
– The Specials – The Specials – I never liked punk growing up, I never liked ska. But working with a dude who refuses to let ska die has changed me, and opened me up to this legendary band that I had never heard before, only heard of.
– Kid Dynamite – Kid Dynamite – Another case of avoiding all things punk growing up. There’s not much to say that hasn’t been said about Kid Dynamite. Brilliant stuff.
– Mogwai – The Hawk Is Howling – I grew fairly burnt out on Mogwai after “Happy Songs” and sort of officially stopped giving a shit. Turns out that was a foolish decision. This record rules.
– 7 Seconds – Live – More punk-o-phobia. Never knew these dudes were basically a melodic posi hardcore band. I had always taken them for some sort of crusts based on the absurd number of buttflap patches with their logo on it that I saw throughout high school.
– Amesoeurs – Amesoeurs – I first heard these guys while on the road with Thou, just a song or two that guitarist Andy Gibbs had been playing in the van. It caught my attention due to their sounding similar to Alcest (and then he went on to tell me they share a member). I finally got my hands on the album in 2010 and was eternally bummed out over how much I’ve been missing. This and Alcest turned me onto all the great music coming out of France recently.
– Altar Of Plagues – White Tomb – Not quite sure how this slipped by me, as it should’ve been something I checked out upon its initial release. Sucks for me.
– Isis – Wavering Radiant – ISIS was one of my favorite bands for many years, no doubt about it. But over time, I guess right around when “In The Absence of Truth” came out, I lost interest fast. I know a lot of people rag on this item, but it’s now one of my favorite ISIS records.
– Peste Noire – Ballade Cuntre Lo Anemi Francor – A perfect example of great music coming out of France. I picked this up when I was on an epic journey for the Amoseurs (believe they also share a member with Alcest) album and was, at first, eternally bummed out. Anyone who’s heard both bands will understand the stark contrast in style, and why I was taken completely off guard. After a couple months collecting dust on my shelf I revisited this album in a new light and fell in love.
– Crippled Black Phoenix – 200 Tons Of Bad Luck – I had always been somewhat mediocre on this band. A friend turned me onto this album and I couldn’t have been more pleased with the discovery.
Best Records of 2010 – AKA The best new albums I heard
– Daughters – Daughters – I was a huge fan of As The Sun Sets, but when Daughters first came on the scene I was less than thrilled, despite the similarity to later ATSS material. There just seemed to be something missing. When “Hell Songs” came out I got way into the band, and I feel like this record took things to a whole new level for the band and for intense, spazzy metallic… stuff. I know half the band hated this record and quit, but I think it’s outstanding.
– Call Me Lightning – When I Am Gone My Blood Will Be Free – You know, I’m not quite sure what it is about this band that they’ve yet to become huge, but I’ve loved every record they’ve released. Although this album differs from their previous material, becoming more focused and anthemic, I feel like it’s their best. The songs are at once stuck in your head. Unbelievably catchy and energetic. In addition to this, their performance at the Get Rad LP release show this year blew me away.
– Black Mountain – Wilderness Heart – I had heard earlier records by this band and been less than thrilled, especially considering the immense hype I had always heard. Rob at Ramalama in Toledo, OH convinced me to pick this up during my two year wedding anniversary road-trip on Halloween weekend. I was convinced when he explained the band had brought in an outside party to handle production instead of doing it themselves. It shows, and it was a great choice.
– Agalloch – Marrow Of The Spirit – What do I even need to say, this is on, like… everyone’s lists.
– Protestant – Judgements – I don’t know what’s wrong with people into hardcore right now. Protestant should probably be one of the biggest bands in the entire “really, really, REALLY pissed off” sort of hardcore genre. Cory describes this record as the band throwing down the gauntlet. That about sums it up. Wisconsin, I love your music.
– Man’s Gin – Smiling Dogs – I didn’t know anything about this guy, I never heard his band, Cobalt, and I didn’t really know what to expect. But Profound Lore released it, it was getting good press and I wanted to beef up my order from the label. I gotta say, I was thrown for a loop at first, but after just a couple listens I was head over heels. This is now one of my favorite work albums. I definitely feel like this guy is channeling some Layne Staley sometimes. Side note: Another band I probably could’ve put on the list of records I got into for the first time this year: Alice In Chains “Unplugged”. Thanks to Matthew Thudium for showing me the light on that one.
– Ludicra – The Tenant – Here’s an album I REALLY wanted to release on vinyl, but due to budgetary stuff I just could NOT justify. Great band that follows through with another outstanding record. Love the diversity in these guys.
– Joanna Newsom – Have One On Me – If any one person on Earth is close to looking like a little wood-elf, it’s Joanna Newsom. I love all of her records for different reasons (despite being unbelievably irritated with her initially while working with my friend Zach at a record store years ago), and this is no exception. It has a different feel, but I love how she really uses her true(er) voice now. Beautiful songwriting.
– Deftones – Diamond Eyes – Yea, I went there. These guys were, hands down, my #1 band growing up in small town Wisconsin. The last couple albums bummed me out and were more or less entirely forgettable. But this record… shit. A real true return to form, but with an updated and evolved sound. Thanks guys, just thank you.
– Fell Voices/Ash Borer Split – So what if I’m releasing this on LP, it’s not out yet and the cassette version came out in 2010! Some great, looong black metal songs from west coast dudes. Both are young bands showing a ton of promise. Can’t wait to see where they both go from here.
Bummers of 2010 – AKA Not records I disliked, just didn’t hit it for me like I had hoped.
-Torche – Songs For Singles – I’ve been telling people for the past couple years that if I hadn’t seen Torche at Dude Fest 2008, then Gilead Media probably wouldn’t be a label anymore. This is a silly exaggeration, but that show came along at a beautiful time. I was burnt out on running the label, and sick of music in general. Over-worked and financially stressed. I had always been in love with the band, in fact I worked for a music distributor that solicited their self-titled album when it was first released. I don’t think a day went by that year where one of us weren’t jamming it in the office. I just expected more. There are great songs on here, no doubt about it. And great PARTS. But it just didn’t deliver the way I wanted it to.
The Books – The Way Out – Come on dudes, were you phoning this one in? You were so damn good, you were my favorite winter-walk band when I lived in Toledo. You can do better.
– Sufjan Stevens – The Age Of Adz – lolwut?
– The Octopus Project – Hexadecagon – Another case of phoning it in, I feel. I understand they may have been trying to go for more of a subdued and stripped down sound, as opposed to the thick and layered feel of past albums, but it just left me feeling unfulfilled. The one time I saw these guys play was in a club, poorly promoted, so hardly anyone was there. Unbelievable show. I want that, on a record… again.
– Dosh – Tommy – Maybe my taste is just changing, I definitely don’t like as much of this style of music anymore. Although I’m not sure how to explain that style. It’s not a bad record by any means, I was just stoked to hear it, and then didn’t really care much for it afterwards.
– Brian Eno – Small Craft On A Milk Sea – I’ll admit, the only Eno stuff I have is Ambient 1 and Another Day on Earth, so I’m by no means a professional. But when you’re considered to be one of the legends of ambient music I feel like you should deliver something with a little more of an impact. I don’t know what that entails. If I did then I’d write the record myself.
– Black Keys – Brothers – It’s the Black Keys, they’re still here and they’re still bluesy.
– Salome – Terminal – I don’t know. I like the split with Thou quite a bit, but this album just didn’t hit it for me. I can’t pinpoint it, I just can’t get behind the songs.
– Grinderman – 2 – Oh shit, here we go. Get ready to hate on me. I just feel like this record is contrived and silly at times. I like the songs, musically, and I know Nick Cave’s thing is to do this sort of stuff. But my favorite album of his, that I’ve heard so far, is No More Shall We Part. So you can probably understand why all the hype around Grinderman doesn’t apply to me so much.
– Iron & Wine – Walking Far From Home EP – I puked in my car on the way home from buying this. Get real. Then I realized it was on a major label and I puked again, although understood the reason for the first puke.
Best Vegan Dining Experiences 2010 – AKA I seriously love eating…
– Palomino – Milwaukee, WI – Toffalo wings. Get into them. If you ever wanted greasy bar food to be veganized then Palomino is the answer to your prayers. Such a great menu, and you get a ton of food. The only difference here is that the bar food is actually REALLY GOOD. Loved this place for years. I will seriously drive 90 miles to Milwaukee on a Friday night with my wife just to eat there.
– Honeypie – Milwaukee, WI – On the rare occasion that I’m toffalo winged out, then this is usually the next stop. They have Rishi tea, which is great, and despite the fact that their vegan menu isn’t huge they make up for that with their supply of huge vegan cupcakes.
– Pick Me Up – Chicago, IL – When I was young and would drive to Chicago frequently to hang out with folks & go to shows I was turned onto this cute little place on Clark. I always loved the atmosphere and I was just a vegetarian when I ate there originally. I hadn’t been back in a long time, up until this past Halloween weekend, when a closed Chicago Diner forced my hand. But holy shit am I glad that happened. I don’t know if I just didn’t pay attention before, but it seems like their vegan menu has options have been increased, and they use Chicago Soy Dairy vegan cheese on a few of the dishes, which is a great substitute. Next time you’re at the metro, or just in that area, definitely stop by. Great value, great food, great atmosphere and the espresso wasn’t bad at all. Oh yea, awesome vegan desserts!
– Chicago Diner – Chicago, IL – These guys. Here’s my spiel… I love this place because I can walk in and order whatever the hell I want. The entrees are a good size and everything tastes really good. But it is expensive. I can eat $40 in food here ALONE. I don’t know if I’ll be going back much since I re-discovered my passionate love for Pick Me Up… but it’s a great place that has been dedicated to being a meat-free establishment since 1983. Gotta love that.
– Seva – Ann Arbor, MI – The entire time I lived in Toledo I made frequent trips to Ann Arbor for record shopping. If you’ve never been there then be sure to check out Wazoo, Encore and Underground Sounds. All great shops, all within a mile or so of each other. Anyway, I always neglected a dining at Seva despite great recommendations from friends and co-workers. Well my two-year anniversary road trip led to another great food experience (on top of Pick Me Up, and the upcoming Vine and Bean). Extensive vegan options, generous portions and a fun atmosphere. Dear Ann Arbor, I love you and I want to move to you. The first of two restaurants on this list suggested by the lovely Dawn Marshman.
– Vine & Bean – Cleveland, OH – While on said anniversary road trip we swung out to Cleveland to visit my great friend Dawn and her husband Chaz. Both ex-coworkers of mine from my life in Toledo, and both people I’ve missed gravely. The morning we planned to leave town Dawn took us to a great little diner in a residential part of Cleveland. I never doubted Dawn’s taste in food, she’s never led me astray, so I knew we were in for a treat. There’s a small menu, but everything we had was fantastic. For me, it’s hard to find satisfying vegan food. This place hit the spot, hard.
– Ipanema Cafe – Richmond, VA – The company I used to work for based in Richmond gave me good reason to take a couple trips out to this lovely city, one I quickly fell in love with. Ipanema was the last place I ever ate in Richmond on my last visit there before leaving that job. What a great way to end the trip. Awesome food and good talk with Sean Rhorer and Alex DiMattesa. Vegan dessert helps every dining experience, big time. Ipanema delivered.
– Funck/McWilliams Residence – New Orleans, LA – Bryan and Emily are some of the greatest people I’ve met over my travels and experiences the past 6 years or so since my life got exciting. To top it off, they love cooking awesome food. Amazing hosts. Also, I ate a LOT of the chocolate chip cookies, I feel bad about that. But they were SO GOOD.
– Ashley Lamers’ Vegan Chocolate Cake – My personal friend Ashley makes the best vegan cake I’ve ever hard, hand’s down. She should sell that shit. Now I want some, real bad.
– Anything my wife, Cari, made this year – This was our first full year trying to maintain a vegan lifestyle. Prior to this I did most of the cooking, and a lot of my recipes called for cheese. I was sort of in the dark after that, whereas Cari blossomed into an amazing cook. She really jumped in head first finding delicious recipes and modifying them to our tastes. Eating at home was never so awesome! I have no qualms doing dishes when there is such an awesome meal that once rested on them.