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2010: Jon Dale

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Dusted senior staffer Jon Dale reveals that records that brought some joy to a tough 2010.

2010: Jon Dale

My year was good and bad for lots of reasons and here are some good ones...

Label: Ba Da Bing | Release Date: October 12

First few listens of this had me perplexed, which is not my usual response to a Dead C record, but I was completely sold by the time I’d come to grips with the way the final track strips almost everything away from what the group does, and has them at their most literally “elemental.” Alternately, Bruce Russell commandeered the mic for a session and everyone dug the results. Whatever, Patience is witchy.

• Read the Dusted Review

Label: Domino | Release Date: June 29

Snuck in because I think it’s easy to take To Rococo Rot for granted in this day and age, when in reality they are one of the two groups from the ‘90s electronica boom (alongside Mouse On Mars) who have consistently produced the goods. Here they integrate with acoustic instruments (and a member of Faust) and come up with one of their most open, welcome and coquettishly pleasurable albums to date.

Label: Family Vineyard | Release Date: November 9

Henzai consists of 12 slow-breathing, slow-moving, mind-melting guitar and vocal snippets from my favorite Japanese hermeticist since Go Hirano (Keiji Haino doesn’t count, as he trademarked his hair-style 20 years ago). It’s very intimate and involving, even as Hisato Higuchi repeatedly disappears behind the screen of his songs.

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Labels: Minority /Dekorder /12k /Senufo Editions

Kind of hard to pick one of the many great records Giuseppe Ielasi released this year so I’ll plump for all of them. But he’s one of the few ‘experimentalists’ or vanguardists who has an ear toward pleasure, and (Third) Stunt is some kind of alternate-reality scenario, where Todd Edwards cut his teeth on Nuno Canavarro and INA-GRM. Wild stuff.

Label: Vanguard | Release Date: August 24

Pretty surprised to find this one rank so highly, and listened to so frequently, but their previous albums felt like they kinda sorta shoulda but never really gelled, whereas this one’s a bit of a masterpiece — if it plays “steal the genre,” they lift everything perfectly, and from Mark Lanegan’s gospel duets to Isobel Campbell’s gentle Gentry dreams, through two disarmingly tender Townes Van Zandt covers, Hawk is gorgeous.

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Label: Faraway Press | Release Date: February 9

Chalk has been on a roll the past few years, but The Cable House kinda feels like a defining moment, one where he grasps most fundamentally exactly what he is trying to do with his music — slow your heartbeat to its fundamental pulse with echo-heavy, pellucid drops of melody-bliss.

Label: Sub Pop | Release Date: January 26

Still the group to do the most with the legacy of David Roback and Kendra Smith’s unjustly overlooked Opal project, this time by crossing it with the teenage symphonies of ‘60s girl pop, cloaked in an almost occluded layer of reverb. But on Teen Dream they strip away some of the clothing, to reveal the beautifully primed heart at the core of these Spector-ized pop songs. Religious music for agnostics.

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Label: Hotflush | Release Date: July 19

Crept up to become one of my most favorite records of 2010, largely I suspect because there is something incredibly welcoming in its grab-bag approach to modern dancefloor movement. Plus if Philip Sherburne is comparing the guitar to The Durutti Column... Or was it Dif Juz? Either way, I’m sold.

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Labels: Volcanic Tongue & Sonic Oyster | Release Dates: July 25 & August 15

Inceptor is the Volcanic Tongue fantasy of what a Richard Youngs album could be — here he’s at his most focused and streamlined, one man and an overloaded guitar singing the amped-up Venusian blues. Urban Parable teams Youngs with Andrew Paine for a mad, totally punk session of detourned techno, derailed house and demented jungle. Both are perfect.

Labels: Raster-Noton & Editions Mego | Release Date: December 7

A long-time fan of SND, the recent appearance of these two albums from one half of the duo was met with unequivocal ecstatic celebration around these parts, and on hearing their deceptively simple, repetitive frameworks for peeled-back, onion-like electronics, the wait was justified. As my friend Marco Cher-Gibard says, “this guy is on some other level.” Indeed.

Label: Drag City | Release Date: June 29

Alasdair Roberts’ live show in Melbourne was one of the two best shows of the year, and there he premiered some of the traditional material that showed up on Too Long In This Condition. To be honest, it suffers slightly from having its most arresting performance, “The Daemon Lover,” as its frontispiece, but it’s still the album I derived the most listening pleasure from in 2010.

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• Dolly Mixture - Everything And More (Dolly Mixture)
Dreams sometimes come true, which means having Debsey and Co.’s entire recorded output (and then some) collected on three discs made 2010 infinitely more bearable than it had any right to be. This is where I turned when I needed a shot of pure pop pleasure, melancholic melodrama and girl group gossip.

• Saint Etienne - Tiger Bay, Good Humor, Finisterre and Tales From Turnpike House deluxe reissues (Heavenly)
Rather intertwined with the above... But the final four sets in the Saint Etienne deluxe reissue series proved, if it needed any repeating, that they are the greatest pop group extant. Vernacular humor, uber-pop referentiality, mad arrangements, crazy experiments, all cloaked in some of the best songwriting I’ve laid my ears upon. And I reckon their Christmas album’d be miles better than Bob Dylan’s, too.

By Jon Dale

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