There has been so much good music this year – as well as a few stinkers, frankly, but let’s not dwell on those, at least for now – that for the first time ever in a year roundup I’ve stretched this one out to cover 25 songs, and I’ve still had to miss a couple of things out.
2009: Yeah Yeah Yeahs – Zero
2008: Mind.in.a.box – What Used To Be (Short Storm)
2007: Prometheus Burning – Battery Drain
2006: No tracks of the year list
2005: Grendel – Soilbleed /
Rotersand – Exterminate Annihilate Destroy
2004: No tracks of the year list
One thing that 2010 has seen for me is that my musical perspective has been hugely skewed towards electronics – and the result has been a relative lack of metal in this list. It’s not that I’ve fallen out of love with the metal scene, it’s more a case of simply not having the chance to keep up. So I’ve no doubt whatsoever that I’ve missed some very good songs (and albums, of which more about those next week), but I can’t hear everything.
Anyway, without further ado, here’s the list.
Bears, Mayors, Scraps & Bones
Broadly here thanks to it’s brilliant video, it’s basically the original track turned up to eleven (so that little bit heavier), with an inspired take on the original video that manages the remarkable feat of nearly being as much fun as the original was. I’ll admit it, though – I’ve not heard a single other thing this band have done. Perhaps I should.
The Space In Between
How To Destroy Angels
I guess Trent Reznor’s first project post-NIN was always going to gain a lot of attention, and this certainly managed that. It’s not a massive leap, let’s be honest – it’s simply more of the downtempo, experimental side of Reznor’s output in NIN but with a female vocalist. Although the nod to Coil in the band name is clearly no accident, as this is never going to be industrial music that will reach as wide an audience as NIN ever did. It’s slow-burning, measured stuff that is impressively tense, and was made all the more so by the fantastic video.
The Magic In My Heart Is Dead
I can’t say that I was expecting to be including anything from GodMod in a “best of” list, ever. Particularly after the unintentional horror show that was the mess and comedy of Let’s Go Dark. So it was something of a surprise to find that their album-length EP released back in the spring was the best they’d released in bloody ages. and had a couple of particularly cracking tracks, and especially this one. Using an unusual speech sample from Murder Party at the core, this track is a reminder that in the right hands “harsh electro” can actually bring results that don’t involve laughter and ridicule once listened to, instead a sense of awe.
Proving that age is no barrier to brutality and power, Portion Control’s latest album couldn’t possibly have had a more appropriate title. This is heavy, heavy stuff, with track after track having punishingly heavy rhythms, and stabbing synths that make things an uncomfortable listen, particularly when played very loud. But then, that’s the point, surely. Thirty years young this year, this track is the religion-baiting opener to the album that is extremely unsubtle, despite being economical with lyrics, and harder and nastier than anything younger industrial pretenders have released all year.
Lost and Found
A slightly unexpected album this – it pretty much literally fell into my lap from the artist directly, and while I sadly didn’t get the chance to review it in full (pressures of time this year have meant that I’ve written a whole lot less reviews this year than I’d have liked), it has been an album I’ve enjoyed. This track, though, is the standout – an oddly sparse-sounding electro-industrial track with a killer melody and a slightly unsettling feel. Very much an artist under the radar, it seems, but worth your time hunting out.
Hate Everything I Do (The Glitch Mode Mix by Cyanotic)
It’s All A Show
A late entry to the contenders on this list, it was first heard on the much-delayed Gears Gone Wild: Spring Break album that actually ended up being an Autumn Break, thanks to major problems with the source data for the tracks. Unlike the first GGW, however, this compilation is a more coherent beast, and much of that is down to Sean Payne having been involved with remixing just about every song on it. The pick of the songs here – and once again it’s one of a few bands new to me – is this one, though. A roughed-up, punchy industrial-rock-hiphop track with a killer chorus, it’s inspired me to pick up their album from iTunes, and it’s not bad, either.
The best song by miles from their patchy latest album – where for much of it they seem to have lost something of their manic energy, instead going for slower songs that aren’t all that interesting – and this one is, surprise surprise, played at a hundred miles an hour. Needless to say it also sounds fantastic live, and serves as a reminder that Eugene and his crazy horde can still excite rather than bore once in a while.
And this year’s batshit insane breakcore-and-sampling-other-genres artist, following on from the likes of Drumcorps? Enter Lewsor, who released a spectacularly good album earlier in the year, that at points could be suggested as being too much to listen to in one sitting. So it’s a good thing that certain tracks really do stand out – and this one in particular. It’s one of those great tracks where it’s title details exactly what it does. It’s industrial, and it features a brass band (sample), and is such a crazy meshing of ideas that it really shouldn’t work, but it does, and it’s immense fun.
This Is The New Wave
A keenly awaited album during 2010 was this one – Be My Enemy being Phil Barry from Cubanate, of course – which was made all the more notable with the news that Cubanate have at long last reconvened. So this is working nicely as a reminder of just how brutal and dancefloor-friendly Cubanate could be, as let’s be honest – this Be My Enemy album is not a million miles away from the Barry’s original band. Basically this is powerful industrial music, but without the soundscapes and meandering that Cubanate albums were sometimes guilty of, and this track slows things down a little from the breakneck pace of much of the album, and in the end results in the best track on said album by a considerable distance.
Better Than Love
Wow, not in a while has a title been a more deliberate misnomer. Much of this album was an antithesis of the title, and frankly more than a little dull. But that might have had something to do with the two singles that garnered all of the attention in the first place, of which this for me is the better of the pair. Successfully treading a fine line between eighties style and eighties naffness, this takes all the best moments of skyscraping eighties electro-pop and crafts a glorious pop song with a dark, regretful heart. It might be little more than eighties revivalism, but frankly when they release singles as staggering as this they can revive all they like.
This Is Happening
Something of a divisive track from the latest – and last? – LCD Soundsystem album, I absolutely loved this from the first time I heard it, and I still do. It’s silly, knowing and groovy as hell, and has a hysterically funny video that could only have come from the mind of Spike Jonze. It doesn’t overstay it’s welcome, like certain other tracks on the album, and more importantly, doesn’t take itself seriously whatsoever. This is the sound of James Murphy having a whole load of fun, just because he can.
Still mired in legal battles over the name, what remains of FF haven’t sounded this great in years, even if the album does get a little samey at points. Still, the best track remains the first one that was revealed – a stonking industrial death metal blast, that is anthemic as hell and brutally heavy. Demanufacture still remains the yardstick that anything this band will ever do will be judged against, but more than anything tracks like this serve as notice that the band haven’t forgotten just how exciting the industrial-metal hybrid can still be in the right hands.
Never Say Farewell
Electronic Saviors: Industrial Music To Cure Cancer
Fashions come, and fashions go. And frequently, they end up getting recycled. But honestly, who thought that skyscraping “futurepop” aimed at the dancefloor, with a hands-in-the-air chorus from the gods, could return in any quality? Well, here’s our answer – I really didn’t think they made ’em like this any more. I wish they did, though – by the second listen I was happily singing along, and it’s been happily accepted by club dancefloors from the first play. I’d rather have album after album of this than hearing yet another Suicide Commando clone, that’s for sure…
Escape From The Machine
Since the splash that FH2 caused, Sami’s electro-pop project has been hot property, with certain songs now dancefloor staples all over the place, and all this high-profile work continued despite a follow-up album FH3 that was frankly rather lacklustre, and a ghastly EP of ballads that is best not mentioned any further. And I can’t say that I was all that keen on hearing the latest release – breaking the album title habit by having a more usual title – when I heard that it was a concept album. But still, I took the plunge early, waited for it to arrive, and was pleasantly surprised to find that something of the buzz of FH2 had returned. The ballad count has dropped, thankfully, and the concept doesn’t weigh down the album at all – and indeed tracks can be played in isolation without detracting from said concept. Highlight of the album, though, is this sublime pop gem, with a dancefloor-bound funky beat and lyrics wishing the working week away to get to the fun of the weekend, capped off by what has almost become the Faderhead calling card – a wonderfully melodic vocoder-assisted chorus. Anyway, if stuff since FH2 drove you away, it’s now safe to come right back.
One of a number of long-awaited returns, this finally dropped in late-October as the first new song released from the now two-years-late album Modern Ruin (itself at last released next month). As the gigs in 2009 suggested, the new-look Covenant featuring Daniel Myer is a little different. The anthemic qualities are still there, along with the synth hooks that bury themselves in your brain, but Myer’s influence is clear, and the involvement of up-and-coming Swedes Necro Facility too have helped bring a fresh perspective. This is intelligent, engaging electronic pop music, a world away from throwaways like Dead Stars, and all the better for it.
Discovered by chance on a Storming The Base weekly mailout, this artist is an intriguing industrial throwback, one of the now many artists unafraid to be looking back to the “golden” era of eighties/nineties industrial, but with better technology, and perhaps a more stable mind. All this means, yes, it’s got something of a Skinny Puppy feel to proceedings, but really, this track is awesome. What sets it apart from it’s influences, though, is the more human feel to the vocals, and the raw emotion revealed. The album is something of a gem, too, but this track still stands head and shoulders above the rest.
Much has been said about the Deftones’ return this year – and I’m probably not done talking about it, either. But what Diamond Eyes did see in particular was a return to the fantastical lyrical themes that were so effective on White Pony, taking songs out of the mundane and to intriguing corners of the mind. Obviously this was Chino Moreno’s reaction to bandmate Chi Cheng’s ongoing serious medical problems, canning a more personal album for a means of escape. What this also did was to free the band from expectation, and at points the band hit heights they haven’t even come close to in many, many years. One perfect example of this was this track, a short, sharp shock of one of Deftones’ heaviest moments in a while, coupled with a staggering chorus, a soaring vocal and as the short track ends, a feeling that you want to hear more.
Machine Gun (16bit remix)
Machine Gun EP
An absolute brute of a remix, that also does the classic trick of hurling most of the hyperactive original away – 16bit clearly not being interested in most of the robotic, jerking beats and high-end synths, and instead retaining only the synth washes and breakdowns – and slowing the rest down into a monstrous, syrupy bass-led slug in the gut. This is dubstep after a weekend on particularly bad and unpleasant drugs, and it wants to rip your face off with the sheer force of bass alone.
Proof positive that word-of-mouth recommendations still bring some cracking songs to my attention that I might otherwise miss. I know next to nothing about this band other than what I’ve heard – three wonderful songs from a short EP, the work of a female-fronted London band who clearly have been listening to a lot of Curve, electronics and shoegaze. Oh, wait, that’s Debbie Smith, ex-guitarist of Curve, in the band. Somehow this makes rather more sense – but doesn’t detract from the blissful quality of this single, which no matter who was in the band I’d be singing the praises of. Now all I have to do is remember to keep a look out for a live gig that I can actually manage to attend…
The Medication Generation
I’ve done a whole lot of listening to this album over the course of 2010, and have spent some time debating which track to include. The fantastic, roaring thrill of opener Dose Responsive was my initial choice (effectively a tougher, heavier and catchier version of Order Out Of Chaos), but the more I listen to the album my preference has moved to the extensive Palindromes-sampling of these twin tracks (The Same, only a minute or so long, is included as effectively the pair are one track). Taking the themes of the sampled speech – that humans never change, and are instead “programmed” a certain way, and turning them into a critique of those who unquestionably follow the herd, like so many Cyanotic songs this hits the nail on the head brilliantly, while musically providing an industrial-rock anthem for the ages.
København Robotic Youth
How To Enlist In A Robot Uprising [Reissue]
I’ve said it more than once, and I’ll say it again – how on earth was this not on the original version of this album? Unless it was written especially for the reissue, which I find unlikely. Still, it made the reissue an absolutely essential purchase, being as it trumps every single one of the original eleven tracks, not that they were bad at all. The wierd thing is, it’s more of the same, really – this is robotic electronic music to dance to, the kind you throw ridiculous shapes to on the dancefloor, but really don’t care who sees you doing it ’cause it’s just so damned awesome.
Waste of Flesh EP
A band that emerged from the mire of the London industrial scene, with a history in other bands that they quickly set about erasing from focus with a strikingly heavy and focused EP. Owing a debt to older, heavy-duty industrial (Godflesh being a particular reference point), most of the material is guitar-heavy, sludgy industrial – but the most notable exception from the imposed norm was this, the best track on the EP. Built around an incessant, pounding 4/4 rhythm, this successfully fused old-school EBM, muscle and hate if you will, with those slashing guitars. A surprise hit in my DJ sets, too, I do wonder just how many people who dance to it actually know what it is…
Anything That Gets You Through The Night
I’m really beginning to run out of words for just how much I love the seemingly endless stream of near-perfect songs that Frank Spinath is involved in (really, is there a single bad track that he’s ever put his name to?), but this track really is something else. From appearing initially to be sparse, oddly structured electro, suddenly as the chorus arrives the curtains are thrown back to unleash a glorious, wonderous song that I fell in love with the first time I heard it, and countless listens later, I’m still not tired of it. A fixture at the top of the DAC Charts all summer – without being a single – it finally got a single release last week, featuring a cracking club mix at last, too.
Notes From A War
Electronic Saviors: Industrial Music To Cure Cancer
One of the (many) brilliant songs from probably the best industrial compilation ever released, and like many tracks on it destined to remain a totally unique release that will never see the light of day elsewhere. Special also as the first new Stromkern track in a few years, it’s mellow, reserved feel is mainly driven by a prominent piano melody and, as ever, by Ned Kirby’s terse vocals. Clearly an intensely personal and emotional track, I’m so hoping this isn’t the last word from this band, but I fear that it might be, as another year passes without even a hint of more new material.
La Parade Monstrueuse
I was a little nonplussed by the album when it first arrived. Another that I’d waited some time for, it’s predecessor was so extraordinary (my album of the year 2006) that I was perhaps always going to be disappointed. However, it turns out I was kinda wrong. The lead single My Despair was not the best, but the track that follows it was simply sublime. An uptempo darkwave-gothic-rock track with a staggering, soaring chorus and a charging momentum, it’s flat-out In Strict Confidence’s best-ever song, and has been my favourite track of 2010 for months. I’ll hazard my girlfriend might be sick of it by now, though…