December 27, 2010:

Top Ten (Plus 5) Albums of 2010

By Johnny Walker (Black)

Here are my Top Ten albums of 2010, as I submitted to the Village Voice's Pazz and Jop poll (in no particular order).

1. Pop Crimes - Rowland S. Howard 

The last will and testament of the legendary guitarist for The Birthday Party and Crime and the City Solution.  Birthday Party mate Mick Harvey mans the drums for this southern gothic (via Australia) tour-de-force filled with Howard's trademark rusty tin can guitar sound and his distinctive baritone vocals.  RIP.  Key tracks: "Pop Crimes," "Nothin'."

2. Grinderman 2 - Grinderman 

Nick Cave and Warren Ellis prove that the first Grinderman album was no lark with an even more deranged follow-up.  As the ferocious shows for this release proved, Grinderman is now overshadowing Cave's long-running Bad Seeds project.  The Birthday Party for grown-ups.  Key Tracks: "Mickey Mouse and the Goodbye Man," "Heathen Child."

3. Deth Red Sabaoth - Danzig

Danzig's "comeback" album delivered the goods big-time and delighted his large cult following.  Heavy, gothic, and bluesy, with Glenn's trademark Elvis-meets-Jim Morrison-in-the-graveyard croon sounding fully restored, it's the album that should have followed Danzig 4Key Tracks: "On A Wicked Night, " "Ju Ju Bone." 

4. My Father Will Guide Me Up A Rope To The Sky - SWANS

Michael Gira never does anything half-assed, and this comeback for the volcanic SWANS is no exception.  Challenging yet accessible, and never less than intense.  Key Tracks: "Jim," "Eden Prison." 

5. I'm New Here - Gil Scott-Heron 

Scott-Heron returns from a drug-induced oblivion and a jail stint to offer up a contemporary-sounding album mixing electronics with his usual provovative spoken-word pieces and that voice, one of the most soulful in all of God's creation.  Key Tracks: a trip-hop cover of Robert Johnson's "Me and the Devil," "New York Is Killing Me." 

6. Absolute Dissent - Killing Joke

The original line-up, including ace drummer Paul Ferguson, returns and shows that if anything, they are even more intense than they were as young men. In a world full of sheep, Jaz Coleman's sheer refusal to go along with the madness (hence the album's title) is inspiring.  Key Tracks: "The Great Cull," "Ghosts of Ladbroke Grove."  

7King Night - Salem 

The Chicago (via Michigan) based Salem mashed-up some discarded Brit styles -- goth, trip-hop, drum 'n' bass -- to come up with something we call "goth-hop."  The most startling and innovative release by a new band in 2010.  Key Tracks: "Redlights," "Killer."

 8. Le Noise - Neil Young 

In which the Canadian musical icon picks up his electric guitar, teams up with fellow Canuck Daniel Lanois, looks back to his early days in the streets of Toronto, and makes his best album in a long time: Key Tracks: "Love and War," "Hitchhiker."

9. Queen of Denmark- John Grant

If the late Warren Zevon came back as a gay man with a better voice, he might sound something like John Grant. This is a perfect album of timeless pop melodies married to some of the bitterest--and most hilarious--lyrics I've heard since the demise of the aforementioned Warren Z.  Key Tracks: "JC Hates Faggots," "Queen of Denmark." 

 10. Mastermind - Monster Magnet 

With leader Dave Wyndorf now fully recovered from an accidental overdose of benzodiazepines, the Magnet let loose on this disc, of which "their best since Powertrip" should say it all.  Stoner-rock extraordinaire.  Key Tracks: "Gods and Punks," "Ghost Story."

5 More From 2010

5 more worthy albums from 2010 that just missed the cut:

1. Who Killed Sgt. Pepper? -- Brian Jonestown Massacre. 

More inspired madness from Anton Newcombe, who got many of the old gang back and then went on (a great) tour without playing anything from this one.  Typical.

2. The Wonder Show of the World -- Bonnie "Prince" Billy and the Cairo Gang.

Musically mellow but emotionally intense, this one rewards repeated listens. 

3. Phosphene Dream -- The Black Angels

More dark psychedelia from California; their third album might be their strongest yet.

 4. The Shine -- Tony Joe White

Still plenty of fire left in the belly of the Swamp Fox, Tony Joe White: this is smokey and simmering swamp rock from the master.

5. Dream Attic -- Richard Thompson

A set of new material recorded live, this one encompasses just about everything that makes Thompson great: fiery guitar playing and impassioned songwriting, plus a comical dig at Sting ("Here Comes Geordie").