1. Life with Tamar - This was one of those years where at least for several hours each day I was able to bask in the warmth of continuity, kindly provided by the missus. A very personal relationship over a period of time reveals a presence that you can rely on for warmth, compassion, and a physicality that is truly necessary for a basic understanding of our word “feel.” Her presence is the antidote to the daily claustrophobia the general embrace of stupidity on this world forces me into. She warms the shell and my snail greatly appreciates it.
2. Van Dyke Parks/Clare and the Reasons - The Bell House, October 2 - I love intelligence (see number 1 on this list) and when it charms (see number 1 on this list), as it did on this evening, you realize that some moments will never really leave you. We were sitting behind Mr. Parks, who, intermittently, turned around and apologized to our section of the audience that was sitting behind him. He seemed unaware that we had the best seats in the house. I really enjoyed watching his face reflected in the piano as he pecked at the keys and sang his heart to our ears.
3. The Necks - Issue Project Room, January 27 - 2 sets, 2 pieces by one of my favorite bands. I think of their music as 60 minutes of an aural puzzle, fitting sometimes disparate pieces together, making connections that forge what is most often a circle; not a perfect circle but a hand-drawn one. The second set from this performance is available on the Free Music archive here.
4. Fela - Eugene O'Neil Theatre, February 19 - Best Broadway show I've ever seen (and am likely to see). Great music and acting that pretty much makes you forget the Bill T. Jones Fela talks with his dead mother segment that seems like it belongs in a Broadway show. The only way this could've been improved is if the theater offered better beer.
5. Jim Woodring - Weathercraft (Fantagraphics) - Stick a straw in my brain and suck until there's nothing left but that gurgling sound of air, the remnants of carbonation gathered like patrons in a bar on a Tuesday night “last call” at the other end of the straw; that's how Jim Woodring makes me feel.
6. Omar Khorshid - Guitar El Chark (Sublime Frequencies) - There is great joy in the grooves of this record. To me, the music communicates the manifesto of those who know the now of life and don’t waste time fretting about their relationship to an “after.” The fact that Omar Khorshid was probably killed due to his embrace of Anwar Sadat's ideals adds respect to the appreciation the music earns.
7.Gonjasufi - A Sufi and A Killer (Warp) - The light touch of spent ecstacy emerges from this recording. A feeling that says “I should score Jodorowsky films! I am a moment you can dance (albeit in a very small private circle) to, holding yourself tightly while kicking up some dust! I can play air tambourine and smoke with the caterpillar at the same time!” This is the one that got stuck in my head this year. Thank you.
8. J.G. Thirlwell - Manorexia: The Mesopelagic Waters (Tzadik) - I hear a soundtrack looking for a film/I hear a soundtrack being stalked by a film. The missus? She hears The Nutcracker performed by the Kronos Quartet. (“Her Nutcracker is a dark nutcracker, indeed. Methinks I should be careful about this one.”) Wave and say “hi” to the people, dear.
9. Reines D'Angleterre - Les Comores (Bo Weavil); Lo Jengi - Dans Les Toilettes du Paradis/Elakoon Mummo (Fonal); Kemialliset Ystavaat - Ullakkopalo (Fonal) - Strolling along the edge is how I'd best describe the musics contained on these three records (connected in my mind because members of Reines D'Angleterre and Kemialliset Ystavaat perform as Lo Jengi). A fine balancing act that can easily misstep; it's a stroll that exudes the confidence to run, jump, and stagger along the connecting strings on the way to Point B. And I have to say that my inner geek is very excited that Ghedalia Tazartes and El-G are working together.
10. Michael Ajvaz - The Golden Age (Dalkey Archive) - A fine piece of literature about the process of writing that starts out as travelogue regarding an impossible country and the island's book, a book that is transformed by each reader as each reader is also the author of the book. Yes, it's “meta” but “meta” for the layman and not some specialist in obscure Greek narratives for which only a handful of pages still exist. About 25 years ago I swallowed a great big post-college buffet of fantastic literature (lots of Italo Calvino, Jorge Luis Borges, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Stanislaw Lem, Philip K. Dick, John Crowley, Moby Dick, Catch-22, Wisdom of the Sands, et al.). Since then I've read many books I enjoy and return to (Doctor Faustus, Eliot Weinberger, J.G. Ballard, David Toop, Joseph Campbell, et al.) but none have really captured my imagination in quite the same way that that second burst of literary intake did (first burst, 13 to 16, Doc Savage, H.P. Lovecraft, Robert E. Howard, Harlan Ellison). The Golden Age changed that, reminding me of that period of the great second wave when the pulp fiction that originally dragged my eyes to the page merged with the intellectual training I had digested haphazardly between the melting walls of the days that were longer than they were. I also read another book by Ajvaz this year, The Other City, which I can best describe as a Jan Svankmajer film in waiting.
Read the rest of Rich Hazelton's Top 15 plus other year end favorites below the jump...
11. Sun Ra - Strange Worlds In My Mind; The Sub-Dwellers; The Outer Darkness (Norton) - A motherlode of strange. Earlier in the year, Norton released a 7" featuring two recitations by Sun Ra (“I Am Strange” b/w “I Am An Instrument”). It was a nice single that seemed like a one-off. Then suddenly in November there are three LPs filled with such recitations, taken from various periods of Mr. Ra's career. These are great; philosophy, poetry, minimal musical accompaniment. This makes up for the fact that Sun Ra and his Arkestra never appeared on The Muppet Show.
12. Harris Eisenstadt - Woodblock Prints (NoBusiness Records) - Harris Eisenstadt has been releasing very good records for the last several years (Guewel and Canada Day on Clean Feed among others) but this record moves it up a notch, heading toward Mingus realms. And if you're going somewhere with your music, Mingus realms are a nice place to be heading.
13. John Sangster - Marinetti - Free my mind and I’m more likely to end up with something like this soundtrack to a motion picture happening during the 60s directed by Albie Thoms, who according to the liner notes bankrolled the production with money earned by his “work at the helm of Skippy the Bush Kangaroo” (a show I remember only because of the theme song which cemented itself in my head during a moment of memory building). However, according to the online Skippy the Bush Kangaroo episode guide he only directed two episodes. So, either a) each episode of Skippy paid dramatically well, or b) the liner notes are incorrect. I'm going with b because even though it was the era of animals befriending and rescuing humans surely Skippy would have to be rated somewhat below the stars of similar shows: Lassie and her long-term popularity (name another actor/actress so easily replaced; sure, Darrin on Bewitched, but it gets tough after that); Flipper, falling somewhere between early 60s surf culture and late 60s John Lilly-inspired interspecies communication; and Gentle Ben, because if you have to rescued by an animal wouldn't you pick a large black bear? Skippy obviously falls somewhat short against such heavyweights of the genre, which is why, if I'm remembering correctly, it was shown very early on Saturday mornings; it was like the rescue animal equivalent of Doodles Weaver shorts, something you would come across during your first years of channel surfing that you might leave on because you had yet to develop any concept of critical thinking. The soundtrack to Marinetti though is wonderful, one big sound cloud starting off with cocktail party chatter that begins to fall apart, invaded by a variety of sounds that transform the cloud, wreaking havoc with the established weather pattern, causing the lobes to shift.
14. Makigami Koichi - Tokyo Taiga (Tzadik) - Warning: This is music for animists. Prior to listening, please leave your god behind, shed your skin, and don the guise of bear, bird, squirrel, or any other creature your inner shaman desires. Then let these field recordings from a country that exists somewhere between the imaginations of Sergei Paradjanov and Andrei Tarkovsky feed your fantasy of remoteness, that sparse valley where pantheons engage in the dramas resonating like cancer to consensual reality. Koichi's vocals are the nicotine of such dreams.
15. Hugh Raffles - Insectopedia (Pantheon) - Two books this year, the above mentioned The Golden Age, and this collection of essays regarding human-insect interaction. The book is designed so that there is one essay per letter of the alphabet. The observations within are very interesting and deal with one of my favorite themes: subcultures. This is the book that taught me about the long love affair between the Chinese and crickets. This is the book that let me in on the world of battling beetles in Japan. This is the book that taught me about Jean-Henri Fabre, once famous, now forgotten by a very large portion of the world’s population, except in Japan, where he is popular enough to be a promotional plastic figure available at 7-Eleven.
3 things that just missed the above list“
Jonathan Richman - Music Hall of Williamsburg, February 14 - This came very close to breaking into the upper parts of this list; “You Can Have a Cellphone, That's Okay But Not Me" could easily be my theme song.
King Midas Sound - Waiting For You... (Hyperdub) - 2009 release that I didn't hear until this year. A beautiful record that gets better with each listen. The only reason it's not in the Top 10 is because it was released the year before.
Banksy - Exit Through the Gift Shop - A very entertaining send-up and/or expose of the art world; either way, it confirms a general feeling I sometimes get while gallery-hopping. If the original version of this “documentary” isn’t fake, I want to see it.
More Music - This has been a great year for music. Many of the records listed below could easily be listed above. It just keeps getting better and better from this listener's perspective, as long as I don't obsess over what gets through the cracks.
Joshua Abrams - Natural Transformation (Eremite)
Altar Eagle - “Mechanical Gardens” (Type)
Amen Dunes - Murder Dull Mind EP (Sacred Bones)
Alessandro Bossetti - Zwolfzungen (Sedimental)
Brain Sound - An Attempt To Record Coincidence (Nero's Neptune)
Tristram Cary - It's Time for Tristram Cary (Trunk)
Chicago Underground Duo - Boca Negra (Thrill Jockey)
Aldo Clementi - Works With Flutes (Mode)
Jerome Cooper - A Magical Approach (Mutable Music)
Cosa Brava - Ragged Atlas (Intakt)
Dadawah - Peace And Love (Dug Out)
Dara Puspita - 1966-1968 (Sublime Frequencies)
Dum Dum Girls - I Will Be (Sub Pop)
Fabulous Diamonds - Fabulous Diamonds II (Chapter Music)
Luc Ferrari - Ephemere I & II (Alga Marghen)
Forest Swords - Dagger Paths (Olde English Spelling Bee)
Charlotte Gainsbourg - IRM (Because Music/Elektra)
Kenny Graham and His Satellites - Moondog and Suncat Suites (Trunk)
Hildur Gunadottir - Mount A (Touch)
Mary Halvorson Quintet - Saturn Sings (Firehouse 12)
Peter Michael Hamel - Hamel (Wah Wah reissue)
Hammeriver - Hammeriver (Mikroton)
Horrific Child- "LeTrange M. Whinster" (Finders Keepers)
Hototogisu - Floating Japanese Oof! Gardens of the 21st Century (Important)
ICP Orchestra - 49 & 50 (ICP)
Philip Jeck - An Ark For The Listener (Touch)
Magic Lantern - Platoon (Not Not Fun)
Ava Mendoza - Shadow Stories (Resipiscent)
Messages - Messages (De Stijl)
Szilard Mezei Ensemble - Bot (Not Two)
Jon Mueller - The Whole (+ Olivia Block remix CD) (Type)
Geoff Mullen - Bongo Closet (Type)
The One Ensemble & Sarah Kenchington - Dummy Jim (Unshaped Led)
Ossining - I Will Be Missed (Digitalis)
Parasites of the Western World - Parasites of the Western World (DeStijl)
Michael Pisarro - A Wave and Waves (Cathnor), Hearing Metal vol. 1 (Editions Wandelweiser)
Prince Rama - Shadow Temple (Paw Tracks)
Lee Scratch Perry - Sound System Scratch: Lee Perry's Dub Plate Mixes 1973-1979 (Pressure Sounds)
Rayon Beach - The Memory Teeth EP (Hozac) - contains my favorite song of the year (“The Memory Teeth”).
Wadada Leo Smith/Ed Blackwell - The Blue Mountain's Sun Drummer (Kabell)
Omar Souleymann - Jazeera Nights (Sublime Frequencies)
Sun Araw - On Patrol (Not Not Fun); Off Duty (Woodsist)
Sun City Girls - Funeral Mariachi (Abduction)
Keith & Julie Tippett - Live at the Purcell Room (Ogun)
V.A. - Ecstatic Music of the Jemma El Fna (Sublime Frequencies)
When - Hommage: Sun Ra
Robert Fripp - World Financial Center, December 4
Kemialliset Ystavaat - Issue Project Room, November 6
Jason Kao Hwang/Edge; William Hooker Ensemble - First Street Garden, October 10 (had to leave before the Downtown Horns’ performance, but William Hooker with Dave Ross provided some of the finest music I heard all year)
Peter Evans/Nate Wooley - Downtown Music Gallery, October 3
Chicago Underground Duo - Issue Project Room, September 8
Michael Rother und Freunde/Lichens - Maxwell's, August 3
Omar Souleymann/CSC Funk Band - Issue Project Room, June 28
Chris Knox Benefit - Le Poisson Rouge, May 6
Le Quan Ninh - The Stone, April 6
Amy Denio - The Stone, April 1
Pere Ubu - Ubu Roi - Le Poisson Rouge, March 28
Groupshow, Le Poisson Rouge, Saturday, February 6
Susan Alcorn, The Stone, Wednesday, January 13
Roky Erickson, Maxwells, December 31, 2009/January 1, 2010
Books (not necessarily released in 2010 but necessarily read in 2010)
Rob Young - Electric Eden (Faber & Faber)
Robin D. G. Kelley - Thelonious Monk: The Life and Times of an American Original (Free Press)
David Toop - Sinister Resonance (Continuum)
Jim Houser - Babel (Gingko Press)
Robin Wall Kimmerer - Gathering Moss: A Natural and Cultural History of Mosses (Oregon State University Press)
Akira Kurosawa - Something Like An Autobiography (Vintage)
Werner Herzog - Conquest of the Useless: Reflections on the Making of Fitzcarraldo (Ecco)
Paul Cronin, editor - Herzog On Herzog (Faber & Faber)
Tim Lawrence - Hold On To Your Dreams: Arthur Russell and the Downtown Music Scene, 1973-1992 (Duke University Press)
Nicholas Bouvier - The Way of the World (NYRB)
Unit: Design/Research - Ronald Clyne at Folkways - Not a book but a newspaper featuring the design work of Ronald Clyne. Available here.
Film (not necessarily released in 2010 but necessarily viewed in 2010)
My Dog Tulip
Staring Into The Sun - Olivia Wyatt (Sublime Frequencies), Thursday, June 24, Anthology Film Archives
Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll - Andy Serkis as Ian Dury is great; the movie not so great but still worth watching.
Experimental Works Of Tezuka Osamu DVD (Kimstim/Kino)
Radio On - Christopher Petit DVD
The White Diamond - Werner Herzog DVD
William Klein box set - esp. Who Are You Polly Magoo? (Criterion)
Comics (not necessarily released in 2010 but necessarily read in 2010)
Adam Hines - Duncan The Wonder Dog: Show One (Ad House)
Charles Burns - X’ed Out (Pantheon)
Mike Carey/Peter Gross, et al. - The Unwritten (Vertigo)
Aaron Renier - The Unsinkable Walker Bean (First Second)
Apostolos Doxiadis/Christos H. Papadimitriou/Alecos Papadatos/Annie Di Donna - Logicomix: An Epic Search For Truth (Bloomsbury)
Chris Blain - Gus & His Gang (First Second)
Tiffany Chung - scratching the walls of memory - Tyler Rollins Fine Art (pictured above)
Charles Burchfield/Christian Marclay - Whitney Museum
Yves Tanguy/Alexander Calder - L&M Arts, NYC
Henri-Cartier Bresson, MOMA
Mattress Factory, Pittsburgh, PA