30 points, t-365, voted on by Ryan Wasoba
So this is it, I needed seven months to finish my 2010 year in review. That'll be a tough one to top in future years.
Seeing as I've never been impressed by bands who can play complicated, dissonant guitar lines in stop-start 13/8 time, I've never really given much thought to math rock. Bands like Slint and Chavez are sometimes lumped in with the math rock scene, but I've never thought of them as such. Without getting into the fine details of the border between post rock and math rock, those bands' propensity for making loads of noise and borrowing from the urgency and intensity of metal always seemed to fly in the face of the notion that they were oddball nerds trying to become rock stars the only way they knew how. Take away the noise/metal edge and instead infuse the music with a sense of folksy Americana that would effortlessly fit in with any outdoor mountain jam festival west of Chicago, and you've got Maps and Atlases -- the marriage of musical genres I can't help but hate.
And yet, the album isn't half bad. Most of it is quite easy on the ears and the band can write perfectly acceptable melodies when they're not trying to be too clever. The title track is by far the most charming example of this, it seems pre-ordained that it'll appear someday on the soundtrack of a Wes Anderson movie.
I used to shop at a record store that occasionally sold "mystery packs" of ten or twelve vinyl records, grouped together by genre and sold in cardboard packaging. They got to clear out old stock, the we got to enjoy the novelty of paying twenty bucks for music even though we had absolutely no idea what was inside the package. But it was tough to say you weren't getting your money's worth. The package would pay for itself if it contained just one or two great records -- underappreciated or unnoticed gems that you wouldn't have discovered on your own. Anything more than that -- so-so records that you probably wouldn't play out but were nonetheless interesting and worth keeping -- was just gravy, and beyond that, any records that were so intolerable that you had to throw them away were of zero consequence.
The Pazz and Jop "One and Done" experience was more or less like buying one of those mystery packs, right down the distribution of quality of the music. However, I can honestly say that I didn't dislike anything I heard, which is definitely not what I expected at the start (I figured at least two or three albums would outright suck).
I can sum everything up by grouping these ten albums into a few simple categories:
Listenable, but I don't feel the need to hear them again.
Achille Lauro, "Indiscretions"
Matt Boroff, "Reaching for Sparks"
Cathedral, "The Guessing Game"
Worth hanging onto
Maps and Atlases, "Perch Patchwork"
Shinyribs, "Well After Awhile"
Captain Ahab, "The End of Irony"
Mogwai, "Special Moves"
Good album, I will definitely play this from time to time
L'il B, "6 Kiss"
Something of a revelation
Gord Downie and the Country of Miracles, "The Grand Bounce"
Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, "Up From Below"