Best Music Of 2010: BL

author BL date 09/02/11

So the end of 2010 wasn't so well timed for me, it was a time that I felt slightly disconnected with everything around, and so I end up making some loose excuse(s) to explain how I wasn't doing as many reviews I obviously should be (which I apologise for). A lack of actual scene reviews missing at the end of the year aside, I feel like 2010 was an interesting year for a genre that usually receives so much flak from just about everybody for being so inbred, for being full of rips offs of each other, and just generally being stale and stagnant. But like myself, I feel like if you know some patience and where to look and don't set ridiculously high standards (ahem), there's still a lot of things worth hearing and checking out and plenty to talk to about and have a discussion about (which I acknowledge can be difficult with so much of the fanbase being completely idiotic and moronic), and I find in general it's better to listen to what something is like (either terrible and lame, or actually really decent) instead of being totally ignorant about it or blindly following hype, right?

Anyway my 2009 end of year consisted of A Day To Remember and Architects taking my best of spots, which rounded off what I felt was a pretty good year. What was popular in scene music in 2009 only continued to be popular in 2010, and popularity brings more than just fans, but bands doing the same sort of style in increasing numbers (and when they do it sloppily, I feel sad). My main genres of concern post-hardcore and metalcore and even some deathcore continued down a path of overlapping each other stylistically such that I'd stop bothering trying to stay with tried and tested genre limitations and just listen to stuff that caught my ear one way or the other. Without talking too much more, here is how my 2010 is going to look: my top single songs I will have been listening to with one song per band, and then 15 albums of the year that should be remembered with explanations as to why they are there. Then I'll have some picks of the best highlights from all the shows I attended before finishing off with what I and you should expect from 2011 - and yes I know we're in 2011 already.

(Last note: Some of these albums won't have a review just yet, but rest assured that will be taken care of as soon as I can! In fact while you read this, they will probably be doing or done at the same time)

My Favorite Single Songs of 2010

These are the (at least in terms of rock/metal/hardcore) songs that more or less dominated my audio play time at some point throughout the year, and in many cases were the pick out of many more from the same album if I enjoyed that album particularly. The list is unordered because I don't feel any point in saying which songs I generally listened to more - I think they're all here because I listened to them enough and enjoy them enough to feel they should be here. So here we go:(Remember in no particular order)

Greeley Estates - I Shot The Maid Post-hardcore/metalcore

Bury Tomorrow - Waxed Wings Metalcore

The Word Alive - Epiphany Post-hardcore/metalcore

The Devil Wears Prada - Escape Metalcore

Sleeping With Sirens - The Left Side Of Everywhere Post-Hardcore

Of Mice & Men - Second & Sebring Post-hardcore/metalcore

A Day To Remember - If I Leave Pop/Punk/Hardcore

Jamie's Elsewhere - The Lighthouse Post-Hardcore

Yashin - Down, But Homeward Bound Post-Hardcore

Periphery - Jetpacks Was Yes! Progressive/Technical/Djent/Metalcore

A Bullet For Pretty Boy - I Will Destroy The Wisdom Of The Wise Post-hardcore/metalcore

The Amity Affliction - Olde English 800 Post-Hardcore

Bring Me The Horizon - It Never Ends Metalcore

Fightstar - 28k Resolution Post-Hardcore/Rock

Pierce The Veil - Caraphernelia Post-Hardcore

Motionless In White - London In Terror Post-hardcore/metalcore

The Ghost Inside - Chrono Metalcore/Melodic Hardcore

Disfigured Elegance - The Basics Metalcore

Bleed From Within - The Novelist Deathcore

Conditions - ...Made Ghosts Rock

Secret And Whisper - Warrior (Southern Arrowwood) Post-Hardcore/Rock

Four Year Strong - On a Saturday Pop/Punk/Hardcore

Ice Nine Kills - Acceptance In The Waves Post-hardcore/metalcore

Just Surrender - On My Own Rock

Woe, Is Me - [&] Delinquents Post-Hardcore/Metalcore

We Are The Ocean - Lucky Ones Post-Hardcore

You Me At Six - Stay With Me Rock

As I Lay Dying - Parallels Metalcore

Devil Sold His Soul - Frozen Post-Hardcore/Post-Metal

Haste The Day - Dog Like Vultures Metalcore

He Is We - All About Us Pop/Rock

On the whole I think I've covered a fairly decent spread (at least I like to think so) of genres in my listening circle from Greeley Estate's grisly sound of murder to even some very light pop rock there at the end, ofcourse this list won't tell you that I listened to a lot of Japanese pop, 80s hits and hardcore dance/techno/club during the year too.

Top 15 Albums/EPs/Releases of 2010 To Look Back On

Looking back over the year, there were certainly releases that I had wished I had spent more time with, or albums that I wanted to listen to more than just the first initial listen and therefore ended up not thinking about them enough (or the other way around). I'm sure there are a few albums that could have made this list had I just been a bit more organised, but lessons are learnt all the time and there was still a lot of albums I personally enjoyed again and again. Like with the above singles section, I'm not going to have any particular order, but simply present all 15 of them. Deciding which album is better is not something I feel I want to do, I have trouble deciding between them as it is. Instead I will simply list the albums I liked or listened to either the most, or ones I feel I should mention for one reason or another. I will also mention the few that either got away from me, or ones that I would have liked to have listened to more had I gone through 2010 again. Interestingly my criteria for the best-of is more than just high scores (as you will quickly realise), as there is more to liking an album than the review score it got either from the other staff here or me initially (with hindsight scores would look different all the time). I'm going to briefly explain why I've picked these albums. So here we go:(Again, remember in no particular order)

A Day To Remember - What Separates Me From You

I have to admit it, I wasn't overly enamored with this album as much as I was hoping to. "Homesick" was great for me (contrary to all the hate it gets from elsewhere) and I felt underwhelmed with a fair majority of "What Separates Me From You". But then it happened, I just found myself listening to it again and again after the release. Everything started clicking, and all the criticisms I laid out in my review seem to get further and further into the back. It wasn't a matter of reviewing it at the time without listening to it enough, I had plenty of listens to review it, but I found that after reviewing it, I by chance took a less intensive, less meticulous and shall we say less obsessive approach - I just relaxed into it and found that, it was a great album that really grows on you. Sure there are less heavy songs than ever before (despite "2nd Sucks"), but the songwriting is really at the most maturest and accessible without losing what made ADTR, ADTR.

Sleeping With Sirens - With Ears To See and Eyes To Hear

Yeah okay most of what I said in the review I still stand by, it's too short, it's not overly original and Kellin Quinn's vocals are definitely an acquired taste. Still, I listened to the majority of the album, again, again and again. Broadway were nowhere in sight in terms of updating fans on what they were doing and I had already listened to Kingdoms extensively, A Skylit Drive's Adelphia was underwhelming to say the least, and the new Emarosa would not be out for months. I found in Sleeping With Sirens and "With Ears To See and Eyes To Hear" some quality, memorable and catchy as fuck songs that had punch when they needed it, and melodies that sounded sweet and vocals that stood out. I cannot wait to hear what this band has in store in 2011 (as in a new record that is being recorded right now).

Jamie's Elsewhere - They Said A Storm Was Coming

Asking Alexandria took what Attack Attack! started and really turned it into some kind of phenomenon that took the US post-hardcore/metalcore scene by storm. Ofcourse I thought Asking Alexandria's debut album wasn't incredible unlike most of their rabid fans and could use so much improvement on the musicianship and lyrical front, not to mention their questionable band motivations. Still, Jamie's Elsewhere more or less came from a far corner to explode onto this electronic/techno post-hardcore movement, like a storm ("They Said A Storm Was Coming“?). Our other resident scene writer TL, who often scorns at stuff like this usually, even said "I must admit defeat and surrender unconditionally. The production, the melodies, the grooves, the breaks, the composition, it all sounds absolutely bleeding spotless. It's like the most finely refined example of what this style has had to offer so far". He did go on to put down the vocalist for the way he sung, but I didn't see it the same way. A definite highlight of the genre with strong hooks, exhilarating energy and lots of strong and memorable instrumentation.

Periphery - Periphery

Periphery's album has done something unusual - it has made djent popular. Obviously Meshuggah have been around for a long time, and have done some fantastic things over the course of their accomplished career, but they probably never imagined that now all kinds of people in their own homes around the world are now creating and writing djent songs. Periphery was born from Misha 'Bulb' Mansoor's solo guitar work (most of the songs on the album are demos of his) and combined the mind bending approach Meshuggah took to progressive and technical metal, and blended it with electronics, the most hyper melodic kind of lead guitars imaginable and tried to condense the whole package so that it had appeal to a broader audience instead of a smaller hardcore fanbase (which still existed and enjoyed what Periphery did). And boy did it work. This album kicks a whole lot of ass.

Woe, Is Me - Number[s]

I thought I would hate this band, everything about them leading up to their album release seemed to indicate another copy cat band in the making. I wasn't sold on the early demos, or that they got signed without playing a show, or the fact that they had seven members (seven!) and had screaming, electronics, breakdowns and clean vocals and ringing guitars. But then the album dropped and I was surprised. Aside from competing with Sleeping With Sirens with the shortest possible playtime with ten full songs, and yeah there are a lot of breakdowns that can put people off, but Tyler the clean singer really shines with his soulful almost RnB style clean vocals that reminisce so much of Jonny Craig (the two are good friends and Jonny guests twice on the album). The guitarists also manage to weave some intricate tapped guitar leads that are more creative than people would give them for on initial face value. Huge potential for this band, and they're already accelerating forwards.

Yashin - Put Your Hands Where I Can See Them

I listened to this so many times I lost count. It just continued the great work they did on their first EP "Miles Away But Getting Closer" while refining their sound fit taking themselves to the next level. There wasn't as much intense focus on tapped guitar leads, and they started sounding their own instead of trying to get into the shoes of Funeral For A Friend. The choruses in the album were so hook driven and catchy that it hurt, and "Down, But Homeward Bound" became my anthem to cheer my spirits while I was trapped in China during the Iceland volcano incident. Definitely at the forefront of British post-hardcore, it had the attitude, it had the riffs, the occasional heaviness, and lots of sing-a-longs all wrapped up with song writing that shows a deep understanding of popular appeal and how to draw you in and never let you go.

A Bullet For Pretty Boy - Revision:Revise

I came across the band almost two years ago, and the kind of modern post-hardcore/metalcore we see all around us now was nowhere near as popular back then. These guys had a sound that didn't seem unique in ingredients of post-hardcore dual guitars and keyboards, but the results were interesting because they focused a lot on ambient melodies that stick in your mind. Compelling atmosphere that is built with patience and song writing that just sounded more honest instead of thrown together in a blender. But it was just an EP in 2008 - it sounded raw and a little rough around the corners. Now these guys are back with "Revision:Revise" that had a great songs with masterful production, super tight exectution, and some rerecorded songs that sound like behemoths of the current post-hardcore sound. You might think these guys sound like everyone else, but actually these guys have been doing it for longer and earlier, and just embody how this style should be done and done really well. Something I have been listening to relentlessly towards the end of the year.

The Amity Affliction - Youngbloods

Youngbloods in many ways is a simple but great album. It's catchy post-hardcore with clean vocals versus screams, dual guitars and keyboards but that's it - no gimmicks. Also it's Australian and therefore they sound a little more unique than your average I-whatever-the-ocean--alexandria - in fact I still don't know many bands that can come close to sounding like The Amity Affliction. Striking lyrics, well performed vocals, catchy guitars and songs that had a remarkable consistency for turning into something you could come back to again and again, singing to the chorus and nodding to the beats. "Olde English 800" is easily one of the best songs they've ever done and one I've heard all year, but one among many on this album.

Bring Me The Horizon - There Is A Hell Believe Me I've Seen It, There Is A Heaven Let's Keep It A Secret

What else can I say about this that I didn't say in my lengthy review? This is something you should be checking out to see what the fuss is all about. Love it or hate it, it's definitely remarkable to look back at this band's beginnings and to compare them to what they are now, and to think about where they are heading - something that, honestly, I couldn't call. A great step for these guys.

Pierce The Veil - Selfish Machines

Our resident TL gave Pierce The Veil's "A Flair For The Dramatic" a perfect 10. While some many could and have questioned that decision (including myself), I certainly took note when "Selfish Machines" was released and found myself enjoying it a whole lot more than I thought I initially would. Victor Fuentes has a quirky high pitched voice that some people just can't stand - but he sounds stronger than ever on "Selfish Machines" and some of the choruses he sings are utterly fantastic. And we haven't even mentioned the ridiculously eccentric guitars in a style that is post-hardcore but other than that refuses to be tied down.

The Devil Wears Prada - Zombie

I pretty much find Zombies a pretty uninteresting and in my opinion overused concept in all forms of media lately. That said, I found "Zombie" a great metalcore EP. The Devil Wears Prada pretty much decided to write the most heavy, fast and fun songs they could, and yet it was still them in every way. Five songs that illustrate a fairly typical zombie apocalypse, like a cheesy b-horror movie, except it's twice as awesome because The Devil Wears Prada did the soundtrack.

Conditions - Flourescent Youth

I have been a long time fan of Conditions, they put out two excellent EPs before "Flourescent Youth" and I was excited to get my hands on their first full length. Their sound isn't one that is exactly original, the Saosin-esque post-hardcore/alt-rock style, but Conditions added their own flavour to it by incorporating more dynamic song structures, some electronics and just played around the edges somewhat to have an album that was thoroughly enjoyable and exciting to revisit. Including older songs like "In Keeping Pace With Planes" and "Illuminati" was a great way of rewarding the fans who have stuck by from earlier to see this band really starting to blossom out, and let's hope they keep the good stuff coming.

The Word Alive - Deceiver

The Word Alive continued to shine in 2010 like they did in 2009 with their debut EP "Empire". "Deceiver" fleshed out the sound of The Word Alive, and you had more time to get to know the band more intimately through the various blazing guitar riffs, the soaring leads, fast drumming and Tyler "Telle" Smith's somewhat improved vocal work. While it didn't quite have the mindblowing effect the EP had, "Deceiver" thoroughly impresses on almost all fronts, and definitely shoves The Word Alive into the head of the pack of the current post-hardcore/metalcore movement as one of the bands to know and listen to, and rightly so. These are guys are going to get bigger and better.

Devil Sold His Soul - Blessed & Cursed

Devil Sold His Soul's "Blessed & Cursed" is absolutely phenominal and definitely a proud record and milestone for the band that should see them reach new heights soon. The album features the most scarred yet beautiful soundscapes woven together using simplistic, intricately thought out layers of instrumentals, heart-wrenching screams and soothing clean vocals that will swallow you up time and time again, exposing you to the things that Devil Sold His Soul create in their own minds and into your own. Each song is a pure masterpiece in terms of composition, transition, ambience, subtle malevolence and a thick atmosphere and you will find hardly any albums that have such a consistent and fine level of coherence and the ability to stir up emotions and feelings inside you. This is something every music fan should check out and something not to be missed.

Greeley Estates - No Rain, No Rainbow

I maintain the belief that this album was undergraded however I try to look at it. Greeley Estates stepped into the realm of being devilishly heavy and just pure evil sounding post-hardcore that I think no band has managed before (even more interesting considering how they've been changing their sound so much before this). And even now hardly anyone will give me that same feeling of anger relief mixed with dread and unease and subtle horror, partly because vocalist Ryan Zimmerman sounds like he is losing his mind and is filled with ill intent every time he shrieks and screams on the mic. The guitars, contrary to those who just think this album is full of repetitive chugging, have actually become more creative, technical and fluid, incorporating far more buzzsaw style riffs that make less sense to normal minds and delivering complete and utter devastation at just the right moments. I think I've listened to this album enough that it would be the perfect soundtrack to my nightmares, not that I have any these days.

And the ones that just slipped by but definitely still worth mentioning and checking out:

Comeback Kid - Symptons + Cures

65daysofstatic - We Were Exploding Anyway

Stick To Your Guns - The Hope Division

Conducting From The Grave - Revenants

A Hope For Home - Realis

Norma Jean - Meridional

Tides Of Man - Dreamhouse

Me Vs Hero - Days That Shape Our Lives

Live highlights of 2010

The year started with The 'Mo Club Launch where Bury Tomorrow headlined an event filled night featuring numerous acts including the excellent Burn The Fleet. It was here that really marked the beginning of Bury Tomorrow's incredible 2010 that saw them do multiple US tours and even crossing over to Japan and playing Sonisphere. The show itself was great and Bury Tomorrow debuted their excellent new single Waxed Wings.

I remember Underoath at Koko, in London, as being a huge show for me. I have been a big fan of Underoath since I was in school and now I've finally been able to at last, see them live. Aside from the crowd being packed and going mental in the sold out venue, the atmosphere was electric as I heard some of my favourite songs played live. I could then hear them again when Underoath released a live DVD of that night - they even started selling them as soon as the show was over, that was fast. The next day I went to see A Day To Remember at Forum in London. And aside from Architects doing an excellent job supporting, my justifications for liking A Day To Remember seem finally vindicated when they put on one hell of a show and played pretty much all their best songs, and just sounded as good as I could have hoped for.

The Chariot at Joiners, in Southampton was just insane. I have had The Chariot hyped to me countless time by our resident and former Southampton fellow student AP who had previously been witness to The Chariot and their live show ways. Suffice to say I was not disappointed, the show was both intense and thoroughly entertaining (musically it was just static and noise and sounded pretty bad). More people should play their bass guitars backwards and strings facing the wrong way, or climbing the light dangling perilously from the ceiling - just for amusement.

Trigger The Bloodshed, Bleed From Within, The Dead Lay Waiting at Rainway Inn, Winchester was a show were AP was sure that we'd get wailed upon because of the whole controversy surrounding our review of The Dead Lay Waiting's (ahem, rather bad) album. But when we got there we were given a pretty amusing show and even managed to somehow get forced into crowd participation (hell they even called us out), that at least deserves some credit, they seem to know how to have fun - even if their music kinda sucks.

Yashin at Joiners, Southampton and Bury Tomorrow at Joiners, Southampton were within a week of each other and I had just finished the summer holidays so it was a great way of getting ready for heading back to University with such great shows in sucession. Incidentally both bands played sets that ended on cover songs, not something I overly approve of (in the case of Bury Tomorrow also because it was in a shorter set). Bury Tomorrow had been gone for only some months and already seem worlds more seasoned than they did when I saw at the start of the year, how times move fast.

I will probably remember Architects at the Academy, Bristol just about for the show being pretty really good that featured Norma Jean and Devil Sold His Soul as well, and not for the fact that I had to spend the night outside the train station in the freezing cold. Architects had played some of their new songs though and that would hint at their new direction - something I was hesistant to say I fully backed.

The Dillinger Escape Plan at Southampton University, Southampton was another band I had long been wanting to see, and I managed to catch them playing at the very institution I was studying at, so I thought it was a lucky break. That said the band played a fine but somewhat muted performance. Sure they climbed some of the speakers and there was a lot of intentional static, but like The Chariot all I have heard about Dillinger is AP's experience of getting hit in the face by one of the band members during the set (by accident...probably), or in other words, a set filled with chaos, wanton destruction and a lot of craziness in general. What I got instead was a pretty clean competent musical performance, which is good as well. I guess I can't have expected them to trash the university though.

I saw Deftones at KB Hallen, Copenhagen during the one time I left the UK for a short period to visit Denmark and the rockfreaks crew. We managed to go and see them play with Coheed & Cambria who were a band I used to be really into as a younger me and it was great to finally see them. The others seem to have had issues with the sound but I thought it was good enough to enjoy the relatively short set that they had. Deftones on the other hand played one of the longest sets I've ever seen. Had it not been my legs and my back suffering from ache due to the cold weather I wouldn't have been whining about it so much, but in retrospect the headliners were excellent and really were a class of their own.

Asking Alexandria at Wedgewood Rooms, Portsmouth was the final show of 2010, and it happened to be the most scene show I would go to all year. The lineup was The Amity Affliction, Miss May I and Asking Alexandria. I didn't get into the venue to see Amity from the start, but they played pretty well and I saw the last three songs though they didn't play either of my favourite songs from their new album. Miss May I were surprisingly fun to watch despite Levi the lead vocalist and Ryan Neff not having the best of days in terms of screaming and singing respectively (they blamed it on the fact that they had to go straight from the airport to the venue). There was so much energy in their presence and the crowd loved it, which really must have made them feel good as much as anybody in the crowd who must have been a big fan. There was even a short guest spot for Jason from Bury Tomorrow on one of the songs. Asking Alexandria must have taken the cake for surprising me though, I didn't expect all their half-assed thrown-together songs to translate so well onto a live stage but the sound was great and the execution of the songs was tight without a hitch, except ofcourse once in "A Prophecy" that made them restart - almost ironic as that's one of the only songs I like by them. The techno also works well live and I must say that even if you dislike the music, they put on a bit of a fun and amusing show that's bound to be entertaining on some level except for the really hardened hater.

2011

We are already moving through the days of 2011 as I write this, but there is plenty on the horizon to look forward to. Some interesting releases have already graced us such as Decoder's full length debut which we reviewed here. Other full length releases over the next month or two I'm going to be looking out for are, and here are a lot of them:

Protest The Hero - Scurrilous - I have heard three new songs and on the whole they sound good, I expect my mind to be blown.

A Skylit Drive - Identity On Fire - again I have heard three new songs at least two of them sound really good as well, definite improve on the unimpressive Adelphia

Darkest Hour - The Human Romance - It takes a lot for these guys to put out something that isn't any good at all, and always a big name to look out for in terms of American Melodic Death Metal

D.R.U.G.S - D.R.U.G.S - It's Craig Owen's new band, and people seem to be obsessed with this guy, so I'm just curious if anything to see if this whole hype project will deliver

I See Stars - The End of the World Party - They're a bigger name in the electronic/post-hardcore scene. So far heard two songs, one okay and one not so okay, so will have mixed feelings most likely about this one

Go Radio - Lucky Street - I grabbed the last EP of these guys before the end of the year, and it was pretty good, a definite pop-punk release worth checking out - from the guy who used to be in Mayday Parade, sounds a bit like them too.

Adept - Death Dealers - These Swedes everybody from these parts seem to know sure can do the American post-hardcore/metalcore sound, though I am curious to see if they can add anything to it

The Color Morale - My Devil In Your Eyes - Their last album was a decent foray into more ambient/melodic hardcore/Misery Signals territory while having that super scene post-hardcore approach that keeps the kids happy. Should be interesting, new songs so far seem decent enough, though nothing too wild just yet.

Dance Gavin Dance - Downtown Battle Mountain II - It's Downtown Battle Mountain part II! Part I was just great and I'm definitely interested to see what this will sound like.

We Are Defiance - Trust In Few - These guys are good friends with A Day To Remember and you can definitely hear the influence, though there is far less of a pop-punk side and just more of a straight up post-hardcore act. Some of the new songs do sound pretty good and they don't always rely on having gimmicky breakdowns.

Born Of Osiris - The Discovery - Everybody should check out the new song "Follow The Signs", it is just awesome, melodic/technical/deathcore with electronics and lead guitars that reminisce of Periphery? Nice.

Emery - We Do What We Want - I remember thinking the last album was pretty good ever since I stopped listening to these guys a long time ago, would be great if I could get back into them again.

Yellowcard - When You're Through Thinking Say Yes - Everybody my age would have at least listened to these guys once I'm sure, and no doubt a lot of people are excited to see if these guys can continue the magic, and bring back those teenage years.

As always check out our release dates section to see the exact dates these will be hitting. Lastly, let's hope for plenty of more live shows, great album releases, and a good year!

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