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2010 was great! Maybe too great!! Here's a freeform series of lists of some of the music that grabbed me the most, including some Assorted Awards. Take a look and a listen...
= hear more of the artist's music on the Free Music Archive
♫ = a streaming archive mostly from Talk's Cheap, my radio show here on WFMU
Tim Presley of Darker My Love, Strange Boys, and The Fall album Reformation Post TLC
Joshua Abrams - Natural Information (Eremite Records)
15-year Chicago bass vet of Town & Country & Bird Show Band (below) ...Jazz/composition
Shangaan Electro: New Wave Dance Music From South Africa (Honest Jons)
Palenque Palenque: Champeta Criolla & Afro Roots in Colombia 1975-1991 (V/A) [Soundway]
Booklet describes Colombian Afrobeat, Highlight & Psychedelia...
Happy nearly new year, everyone! Wednesday night DJ e"f"d here. As in years past, I have conducted an extensive computer analysis of my playlists from the past year to see which songs and albums I played the most in 2010. Then, I re-arranged the computerized results based on how much I actually liked everything (since, for various reasons, sometimes the records and CDs that I end up playing the most may not always be the ones I liked the most). This year, though, I found myself leaning on the number of plays per album as a tie-breaker more than in the past . And frankly I could have listed pretty much everything from #10 to #20 in the best full-length list as a tie for #10. Ranking these lists is hard!
Releases are grouped into four categories: new full-length albums; singles and EPs; various artist compilations; and reissues/collections by a single artist. Take a look, and please leave your thoughts and faves at the bottom of this post!
Evan "Funk" Davies's Top 20+10 of 2010
|1. Conspiracy Of Owls
Listen to "Raving Mad"
|2. White Hills
Self-titled (Thrill Jockey)
Listen to "Three Quarters"
3. Adam WarRock
4. Ted Leo & the Pharmacists
5. Electric Six
6. Unnatural Helpers
7. Black Angels
8. Soft Tags
9. Everybody Was In The French Resistance... Now!
(the rest are after the jump, along with singles/EPs, collections and re-issues)
1. Mount Kimbie - Crooks & Lovers - Hotflush
2. Shed - Shedding The Past - Ostgut Ton
3. Big Blood - Dead Songs - Time Lag
4. Weekend - Sports - Slumberland
5. The Fall - The Wonderful And Frightening World Of The Fall (Omnibus Edition) - Beggars Banquet
6. Dettman - Dettman - Ostgut Ton
7. Lloyd Banks & Juelz Santana - "Beamer, Benz Or Bentley" - G-Unit
8. Luke Abbott - Holkham Drones - Border Community
9. The Soundcarriers - Celeste - Melodic
10. Gonjasufi - A Sufi And A Killer - Warp Records
1. Part Wild Horses Mane on Both Sides - All Cows are Sacred (House of Alchemy) / Spurious Animal split cassette w/ Fria Konsellationen (Rayon Recs) / Blew in the Face (Chironex) / Anus Carved into Wood (Chocolate Monk) / Memoirs of a Secret Metal Cave (Bug Incision)
The year of PWHMOBS, I just could not get enough of this zoned out post-Don Cherry flute/drums free ambling. And OK, these are maybe not all 2010 releases, but I just tracked them all down this year, so fleeting is the output, and on some of my favorite microlabels (Bug Incision, Chironex, Chocolate Monk). Hooked by PWHMOBS’s broken Taj Mahal Travelers-like ritual, the free jazz/Skillfullness hints, bizarre grunted vocalizations, rhythm-less drums, the flute floating eerily above it all, detached, headless. It gets into your bones. It’s lasting stuff. This music opens the door to a thousand question marks, a cemetery of lost punctuation for useless questions never worth asking in the first place.
2. Mary Halvorson Quintet - Saturn Sings (Firehouse 12)
Mary Halvorson extends her reach. Dazzling squiggly guitar playing aside, the tunes are fitted with vexing harmonies and unexpected dips that remind me of Out to Lunch and Point of Departure. Many listeners marvel at the rock inside these songs but what about the jazz: chocolate in my peanut butter.
3. Chora - split with Quivers (Ultramarine), Ruined Parabola (Chironex)
Similar territory as PWHMOBS, but Chora almost “rocks.” Clattery percussion devolves into a reverb-heavy drone, then merges with a tribal pounding, like some field recording of an ancient society. The side on Ultramarine is a slab of unrelenting instability, a game of high stakes Jenga.
4. Tom Rainey Trio - Pool School (Clean Feed)
No preening just three exceptional and distinctive players who coax the best out of each other. Tom Rainey is a jazz underdog and it suits him fine.
5. Zachery Cale - “Come Quietly” b/w “The Wedding Party” 7” (All Hands Electric)
Contemporary psych/folk anchored by amazing songwriting. “The Wedding Party” does that old folk trick: mournful and hopeful at the same time. Played on repeat in my head for 6 months.
6. Parting Gifts - Strychnine Dandelions (In the Red)
Reigning Sound + The Ettes = Total crush.
7. Ideal Bread - Transmit (Cuneiform)
Josh Sinton’s Steve Lacy tribute project is oh so much more, as he'll (irritatingly) explain in an interview with himself. Who cares. The music explodes with fervor and love and succeeds as the embodiment of Lacy’s music. "Like a baker makes his bread, I make music. If I make the same bread tomorrow, that bores me. I have to remake it; I have to do better. I'm always looking for... the ideal bread." —Steve Lacy, April 1976
8. Kevin Barker - You and Me (Gnomonsong)
'70s Dead-isms cloaked in well-crafted songs, restrained and beautiful. Must have been the roses.
9. The Hunter Gracchus - The Bolsheviks Shat in my Brain (Chocolate Monk) / Mujeres de la Boca (split with Kommissar Hjular und Frau) (Blackest Rainbow)
The Hunter Gracchus has a switch that allows them to forget everything they know about music and just play from some mainlined desperate space. It’s disconcerting. This quality is best showcased by “Mujeres de la Boca,” recorded on their DIY tour of Argentina in 2009, where, as I understand it, whole sets were improvised on instruments never before played. Not their best release by a long shot, but probably the one I’ve listened to most, such is the allure.
10. Mike Pride’s From Bacteria to Boys - Betweenwhile (AUM Fidelity)
A killer jazz band/brotherhood that drives the post-bop train (Trane?) but can do it all. Betweenwhile is full of knotty songs that radiate with soul.
11. Tiger Hatchery - “Sour Star” (split 7” with Wasteland Jazz Unit) (Gilgongo)
Blown out free jazz that channels the Rev. Frank Wright, et al. The kids are alright.
12. Dawn of Midi - First (Accretions)
This fully improvised piano trio plays music so restrained and deliberate it threatens to unravel and disappear completely.
Barn Owl - Ancestral Star (Thrill Jockey)
Nymph - s/t (The Social Registry)
Love Cry Want - s/t (Weird Forest)
Hospitality - s/t (no label)
Ted Lucas - s/t (OM)
MV&EE - Muy Alto (Celestial Navigations)
Lester Bowie - All the Numbers (Nessa)
Bob Dylan - The Bootleg Series Vol. 9: The Witmark Demos (Columbia)
Chris Forsyth / Shawn Edward Hansen - Dirty Pool (Ultramarine)
Razen - split LP with Sheldon Siegel (Kraak)
Emergency! - Live in Copenhagen (Jutlandt)
Orange Juice - …Coals to Newcastle (Domino)
Moon Unit - Hell Horse and Heady Stratus (Blackest Rainbow)
Cecil Taylor & Tony Oxley - Ailanthus / Altissima (Triple Point)
Hayvanlar Alemi - Guarana Superpower (Sublime Frequencies)
Vermillion Sands - s/t (Alien Snatch!)
The Hototogisu - Floating Japanese Oof! Gardens of the 21st Century (Important)
Luc Ferrari - Éphémère I & II (Alga Marghen)
Arthur Russell and the Flying Hearts featuring Allen Ginsberg - s/t (Presspop)
Jimmy McMillian true American hero, man of the people, DIY funk god! Here's an archive from Listen to the interview on my program.
Crazy alien hippy desert sound dome aka The Integratron (pictured right)
Cut Chemist's "Sound of the Police" one turntable + loop station mix live during CMJ (watch on youtube)
Kids at ATP:
Best Book on the Cultural History of the Vocoder: Dave Tompkins' How To Wreck A Nice Beach (Stop Smiling Books)
Most Based Performance: Lil B's New York debut at Santos Party House
Best Solo Black Metal Record On This List: Horn -Distanz LP (Black Blood Records)
Best E-40 Double Album: E-40 - "Revenue Retrievin"
Best Surprisingly Thrilling Performance: Merzbow live at Issue Project Room
Best Drug Use Anthem: Tonetta - "Drugs Drugs Drugs" + 777 Vol I & II LPs (Black Tent Pess)
Best Comeback Tour and Record: The Swans comeback tour and record (Young God)
Most Happenin Digital Dancehall Crossover Internet Release: South Rakkas Crew - The Stimulus Package Digital Release (Mad Decent)
Best Use of Mens High Heels: Humanbeast - Queer Marriage Cassette (Gross Domestic Product)
Best English Three Song Dance Music EP with Chipmunked Vocals: Girl Unit - Wut (Night Slugs)
Best Opening Credits: The "Enter the Void" opening credits
Best Promotional Mask: The Waka Flocka Mask
Best Chicago Utilization of Italian Synth Rock Influence: Ga'an - s/t Cassette (available for download on Records on Ribs)
Dear music nerds,
While you were thinking about the recent resurgence of tape culture, most of the American public was listening to musicians you've never heard of. In the event that you are among squares this new years, you'll need to be prepared with a completely different set of references. Here's a primer: a reverse chronological chartsweep of the #1 hits on the Billboard adult contemporary charts in 2010, starting with Mariah Carey's "Oh Santa!". But don't stop there! Listen to the current top 15 to really feel hip to the moment.
I made this chartsweep myself and I will be offering this entire chartsweep back to 1961 as part of my marathon premium for my radio show early next year. Oh yes, all your dreams are coming to you soon.
Here. Watch this Shania Twain music video until you figure out mass culture. (seriously though, this is a great song)
Tim & Eric - Father and Son
Every time I think this genius comedy duo must surely be winding down, they come up with a new, mind-blowing slice of pure Ameri-hatred. With no holds barred by the FCC restrictions pinned on their basic-cable Awesome Show, Tim and Eric spun this über-disturbing extended sketch for the HBO comedy program Funny or Die. This is just the kind of content I'm referring to on my personal blog when I employ the phrase, "the horrors of everyday life." Tim plays a widowed slacker Dad, a pizza delivery man, who's inherited Eric, as an overgrown and socially beat-down stepson who plays with toy "whirlybirds." T & E make the viewer squirm without flinching, and even toss in one of their jarring mock commercials for some much-needed comic relief at the very end. A mini-masterpiece.
Handheld POV-camera films having become a horror subgenre unto themselves, the criteria bar is set continually higher for scares, acting, and creepy concepts, and Home Movie delivers like few others of its ilk. A jackass, ugly-American Dad insists on filming every holiday in the household, so caught up in his own bullshit that he's oblivious to the progressive creepiness (and relative silence) of his twin boy and girl. I've always believed obliviousness to be one of life's bigger crimes, and Mom and Dad pay for theirs here in disturbing spades.
Again, more everyday life-horror, not a genre film in the slightest, Crimson Gold is a heartbreaking drama that follows a sad-sack Irani throughout his daily routine of delivering gourmet mini-pizzas to a Whitman's sampler of distressing character types. In a desperate move to raise his station and offer a better life to his fiancée, our lumpy hero courts tragedy and ultimately disaster with an ill-planned heist, in this unforgettable downer of a movie with strong anti-state content, for which the director remains in real-life trouble with Irani lawmakers.
Messiah of Evil
When I think I've pored over every obscure, one-off bizarro horror film Hollywood has produced over the decades, a remarkably off gem like 1973's Messiah of Evil bubbles gloomily to the surface. Eerie synthesizer score-check; normal folks going suddenly mad with bloodlust-check; a Black Albino truck driver that will make your skin crawl-check; weird dialogue and sexual relationships-check; dreamlike, colorful, and haunting set pieces-check, check, check. Messiah of Evil will singlehandedly restore one's faith in obsessive horror-genre caching. The film enjoyed a brief art-house revival this year, and an excellent treatment on DVD reissue.
A discomfiting, high-bar Japanese captivity-and-torture scenario that scores points (with me, at least) for rising above the so-called "torture porn" films, to having an actual point to its existence, coupled with interesting characters, and the requisite high shocks genre films of this type demand. See this post from July, when the film was still very fresh in my mind. Thanks to Eric Ringer of sfindie's Another Hole in the Head film festival for the screener.
This super-satisfying revenge drama (which screened at Hole in the Head 2009) is an instant classic of the genre, following a distressed Australian Dad, a grieving small businessman, on the outback trail, in search of some porn filmmakers who've used his only daughter in one of their grimy productions, and tossed her away to die a slow and degrading death. The Horseman is Soderbergh's The Limey, with power tools, broken bones and buckets more blood.
Another non-genre picture, Gang Tapes (2001) is a handheld POV-camera entry that goes where the camera goes, from hand to hand (and Crip to Crip) until finally winding up in the possession of a young, amateur documentarian (and gang initiate) who breaks up the footage of their gruesome street crimes with loving meditations on his mother. This is pretty much a perfect film (save for the predictable, and perhaps unnecessary ending) that will leave you drained, frightened, depressed and outraged.
Unearthed on DVD by Wild Eye Releasing, Crawlspace (1972) concerns an odd, passively aggressive young man, a gas company employee, who moves in uninvited on a retired couple, who much to our surprise invite him to stay. This household horror/drama, thematically similar to the more well-known Bad Ronald (which it preceded by two years) deals with topics like social psychoses and prevailing loneliness, perhaps surprisingly sensitive for the made-for-TV fare of the era. Brought to you by John Newland, the director that created my favorite made-for-TV horror film, Don't Be Afraid of the Dark (which also finally received its long-deserved re-release on DVD in late 2009), Crawlspace reads more like a stage play, and gentle menace hovers, until things go inevitably very wrong with the makeshift family.
- Hex Breaker Quintet. Briefly existing dream unit all of Grasshopper and all of Telecult Powers, processed trumpets and electronics that turned Zebulon and Goodbye Blue Monday and such into other places, far away. Gone now, with the departure of Witchbeam. Maybe not forever. Hear a live at WFMU session here.
- Prince's Hot Chicken in Nashville. Somewhat legendary, totally amazing. (Also bitchin' from same trip to Nashville: a not-quite-drunk-enough-but-that-might-be-impossible encounter with Phil Hummer and the White Falcons.)
- Jimmy McMillan. Not merely the man (whose policy on mountain destroying I do not support), nor even his emergence as an always-needed classic NYC fringe character and occasional political candidate, but that the internet could so quickly burp up his killer 1975 single, "A Woman Is So Hard To Understand." Big ups to Marty McSorley.
- Their Hispanic Majesties Request (Norton). Double 7-inch of Spanish-language covers of perennially underloved Stones cuts. Brilliant from dumb pun to the artwork to the fact that the sucker totally jams. Got stopped at least twice at the Record Fair by scary Stones collector geeks who thought it might be an obscurity they were missing.
- "Rill Rill" - Sleigh Bells (Mom + Pop). My brain's melodic spackle c. 2010.
- Celestial Navigations: The Short FIlms of Al Jarnow. Perhaps a bias here, since I worked on the project. And also because he's my dad.
- Flower-Corsano Duo at Silent Barn, April 10th: Random night in Bushwick, my mind cracked and spilled into the universe of gorgeous sound created by Michael Flower's 17-string "Japan banjo" (a bubul tarang) and Corsano's equally melodic drumming.
- Byron Coley and Thurston Moore's Ecstatic Peace show at White Columns. Equally gorgeous and historical.
- Chris Knox benefit at Le Poisson Rouge, May 6th: Forgetting former WFMU DJ Jeff Mangum's appearance (or not) the night was basically a two-hour jam between The Clean and Yo La Tengo.
Bob Brainen's program runs on Saturday mornings from 9AM to 11AM.
2010 Favorites / New - New List (in alphabetical order)
2010 Favorites / Old - New List (in alphabetical order)
Purling Hiss - Untitled (Archive) - R-A-W-K | listen
Growing - Pumps! (Vice) - broken, hypnotic electronic pop | listen
Tonstartssbandht - Dick Nights (Does Are) - warped and pretty... this came out in late 2009, I'm a cheater | listen
Emeralds - Does It Look Like I'm Here? (Editions Mego) - bubbly composed magic | listen
Ozzie - The Parabolic Rock (S-S) - nerdy Sacramento proto punk | listen - reissued material
Death Sentence: Panda! / The Dreams - Split 10" (Bibimbap) - fun and loud with girly rage | listen
Procedure Club - Doomed Forever (Slumberland) - fuzzed out singalongs | listen
Low Red Center - Low Red Center (S-S) - minimal synth pop | listen
The Wipers - Out Takes (Jackpot) - unreleased takes, sounds great | listen
Various - Motown Meltdown, Vol. 2 (Gigante Sound) - mutant takes on the classics | listen
King Kong Ding Dong - Youth Culture Index (Dekorder) - rockish but paced | listen
Mantles - Pink Information (Mexican Summer) - garagey feel-good pop | listen
Zuby Nehty - Best of and Rarities (Indies) - Czech lady post-punk revived | listen
Dustin Wong - Infinite Love (Thrill Jockey) - layered guitar fluttering | listen
K-X-P - K-X-P (Smalltown Supersound) - glammy, dark, and synthetic | listen
Aias - A La Piscina (Captured Tracks) - modern Catalonian ye-ye | listen
2010 Music I enjoyed (in no particular order)
The Rebel - Race Against Time Hots Up (Junior Aspirin)
No UFO's - Mind Control cassette (Dub Ditch Picnic)
Sun City Girls - Funeral Mariachi (Abduction)
Aias - A La Piscina (Captured Tracks)
Spiritual Rags - s/t (Unread/Grotto)
Factory Floor - 10" (Blast First Petite)
3puen "So Mean" (3puen)
Hayvanlar Alemi - Guarana Superpower (Sublime Frequencies)
The Mantles - Pink Information (Mexican Summer)
Alastair Galbraith - Mass (Siltbreeze)
The Black Jaspers - s/t (In the Red)
Sightings - City of Straw (Jagjaguwar)
Tony Tears - Voci dal Passato (Tricephale)
Jefre Cantu-Ledesma - Love Is a Stream (Type)
Neil Hamburger - Hot February Night (Drag City)
Form a Log - Digital Duck 7" (Spleen Coffin)
Lemon Dots - Sunrise Surprise (Labor of Love)
Dead Fader - Corrupt My Examiner (3By3)
Sourdeline - Jeanne D'Ayme (Guerssen)
Various - Grind Madness at the BBC (Earache)
Fumio Hayasaka & Masaru Sato - Kurosawa soundtrack box (Doxy)
Mike Rep & the Quotas - Stupor Hiatus (Siltbreeze)
Walter Gibbons - Jungle Music (Strut)
Chris and Cosey - Trance (Conspiracy International)
Robert Turman - Way Down (Dais)
Jacky Chalard/Horrific Child - Je Suis Vivant, Mais J.Ai Peur
The Injections - Lies 7" (Last Laugh)
Sun Ra - 3 volumes of spoken jams (Norton)
Dwarr - Animals (Drag City)
Deviation Social - Compilation Tracks 1982-85 (Dais)
Jon Wayne - Texas Funeral (Third Man)
White Boy and the Average Rat Band - s/t (Roach/Tradewind)
She - Outta Reach (CWR)
Manilla Road - After Midnight Live (Shadow Kingdom)
Lee Hazlewood - Califia: The Songs of Lee Hazlewood (Ace)
Spur - Spur of the Moments (Galactic Zoo)
Les Rallizes Denudes - Blind Baby Has Its Mother's Eyes (Phoenix)
Various - African Pearls: Mali 80 Electric (Syllart)
Jackie Shark & the Beach Butchers - 2nd Generation Rising 7" (Artifix)
The Clean, truckin' across Europe, May
Hallogallo, Lincoln Center, Primavera, wherever
Scientists, ATP Catskills, September
Yoko Ono Plastic Ono Band, BAM, February
Glenn Branca, Le Poisson Rouge NYC, April
The Ex, Butlins @ Minehead, UK, December
Wold, two guys wrestling, woman reading the bible, Matthew Barney's LIC space, August
Magma, Highline Ballroom NYC, September
Tinsel Teeth @ SXSW, Austin, March
Country Teasers, Butlins ATP, Minehead UK, December
WFMU/Aquarius show at Spiro's, Austin in March: Pierced Arrows / Dengue Fever / Iron Man / True Widow / Epileptinomicon / Todd / Drunkdriver / Home Blitz / Shit N Shine / Speedwolf /Sonny & the Sunsets / Headdress
Sightings/Northampton Wools, the Rock Shop, Brooklyn, November
Xenakis' Persephassa live on Central Park resevoir, attendees in rowboats, July
Fabulous Diamonds/Hamburglars, WFMU Record Fair, October
The pleasure of hosting some fine live sets on the radio show through the year:
The Dreams, Legendary Pink Dots, Pissed Jeans, Bill Orcutt, Vialka, Unrest,
Spectre Folk, Mount Carmel, Wolf Eyes w/Richard Pinhas. Thank you for tuning in, and have a great 2011.
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...