Here's what's going to happen. 2010 has been an amazing year for music, so instead of doing my usual top 15, I am going BEYOND THE IMPOSSIBLE and doing a top 20. This should give me the opportunity to talk about most of the music for which I have been wanting to do so. The plan is to countdown in daily intervals; that is, starting tomorrow, I will be posting one album per day, from 20 to 1. If I can still do math, that should have me finishing quite appropriately on the last day of the year.
To kick off the festivities, here are the Honorable Mentions!
BEST ALBUM USING ONLY ONE (1) SOUND
Competor - Kokyu
The award title says it all. This album is 41 minutes of one sound, a sustained electronic tone/hum. The only variations used are the pitch of the note and the number of notes being sustained at any given time. Not much happens rhythmically either--or at least to no discernible extent Imagine a guy sitting at a vibraphone and lackadaisically tapping one or several keys at seemingly random intervals for over 40 minutes, and that is a pretty accurate approximation of Kokyu. And I like it. The harsh minimalism of the piece, combined with its slow and deliberate pace, opens the listener's ears to previously unheard intricacies. You become aware of the warmth of the low tones, and how they are contrasted with the shrillness of the highest ones. You start dissecting the chords and chord progressions. It's interesting precisely due to what makes it boring. This is nothing I am going to put on my iPod or listen to regularly, but it makes for good background music. It's a worthwhile listen, and even more so because it is freely available from Competor's Bandcamp.
BEST USE OF WILFORD BRIMLEY IN A MUSICAL CONTEXT
Venetian Snares - My So-Called Life
This album has a song entitled "Who Wants Cake?" which liberally samples an episode of "Strangers with Candy" which has Wilford Brimley reading a book called Retardation: A Celebration. Just listen:
Actually, listen to this too:
The rest of the album is similarly entertaining breakcore, ranging from the hilarious (see above) to the creepy ("Goodbye9/Hello10"). Come for the Wilford Brimley, stay for the punani.
Satanicpornocultshop - Arkhaiomelisidonophunikheratos
Music in the most avant-garde sense of the word. They strike me as the spiritual successors to After Dinner. Some of the songs here, I like a lot, but about half of the album does not do much of anything for me, which seems to be the case for most avant-garde bands I have heard--they have a few songs I really like, but I need to be in the right mood to sit down and listen to the other stuff.
BEST MASHUP ALBUM
Team Teamwork - Vinyl Fantasy 7
No, this award is not going to Girl Talk. As much as I did enjoy All Day, I like this album so much better, because it is an even more improbable mashup of rap and Nobuo Uematsu's soundtrack to "Final Fantasy VII." There is no reason why this should work, and practically every reason why it should not, but it does work. Oh, it does. A large part of the appeal for me is hearing these all-too-familiar instrumentals overlaid with rappers I mostly know in name only. The flow of the rapping works scarily well with Uematsu's music, and it's not reliant on fast-paced battle themes, either. In fact, my favorite tracks use the slower, more melancholy tracks, like "Mako Reactor" and "City of the Ancients." Seriously, there is not a single track here I don't like. Team Teamwork were forced to pull this from their site, but if you look around, you can still find it, and I recommend you do. These are the same guys, too, who did a similar mashup album with "Ocarina of Time" tracks, called Ocarina of Rhyme. This one's better, though.
BEST MAX TUNDRA SONG NOT BY MAX TUNDRA
Perfume - "ナチュラルに恋して" [Natural ni Koishite]
Listen to this, and tell me that Yasutaka Nakata did not listen to Parallax Error Beheads You.
BEST SEQUEL TO A SEQUEL TO A RETRO-MEDIEVAL SOUNDTRACK
Oh wait, there wasn't a new season of "Spice & Wolf" this year. : (