I generally don't like to do year-end best of lists, for the simple fact that I didn't listen to everything that was released in the past year, so there's very likely something out there that is much better than anything on my list. I can say that this year has musically been one of the most exciting I've experienced in a long, long time, and that the list below represents some of the most exciting musical moments for me during this year.
It's obvious that this blog has taken on a heavier, less locally focused tone lately. That wasn't really deliberate. It's just that recently I've realized that I'm a lot less passionate about local music than I once was. Don't get me wrong: I'm extremely thankful to live in an area where there are so many amazing musicians, and a growing number of venues and small labels willing to take a chance on them. But these days the local bands that have me most excited are the heavier ones, and the shows that are most likely to get me off the couch and out to the show are the touring ones.
That means that my blogging is likely to change, but how it will change, I can't really say. I've toyed with the idea of scrapping Mann's World altogether, and starting a heavy music blog with a friend of mine who also goes to a lot of shows, including many shows in Europe. The big hold up there, believe it or not, has been coming up with a name. My friend Ken came up with Reign in Blog, which is awesome, but since we would be writing about a wide variety of heavy music, including a lot of European stoner rock and doom, I'm not sure how appropriate that would be.
I've thought about just dropping the idea of Mann's World being a local music destination and just letting other people post here. Triangle Music and Music.MyNC.com both do a better job of local music news than I do, and more local music blogs keep popping up. Obviously this blog will continue to be somewhat local because this is where I live, and this is where I go see shows. And shooting video and photos has always been much more fun than reviewing records.
I guess I'm not really sure what I'm going to do at this point, and I'm looking for advice from anyone who happens to read this blog on a regular basis. Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below.
Now, here's a wrap-up of some amazing shows I saw, and albums I listened to this year.
Hopscotch (Sept. 9-11): I'm just going to lump all of Hopscotch into one big group, because if I didn't, every show on this list would be a Hopscotch show. Dungen (most especially), Fucked Up, Best Coast, Cannabis Corpse, U.S. Christmas, and Max Indian's final show would all have been contenders for show of the year. Seeing them all in a concentrated dose was totally amazing, and made Raleigh actually feel like a real city. Kudos to Grayson, Greg and the Indy for putting this together. I'm already looking forward to Hopscotch 2011.
My day party at Hopscotch (Sept. 11): Putting this show together was a lot more challenging than I imagined, and plenty of times I questioned why I'd ever wanted to do so. But as soon as it was over, I was already planning the party for 2011. Next year's show will also concentrate on heavy music, hopefully with a few out-of-town bands in the mix.
The return of COC as a trio at the Pour House (July 31): Like a class of '85 reunion for Raleigh's hardcore scene, this show was exciting for me personally because my video got picked up by Blabbermouth and ended up going viral. Mike Dean's wife, Sue Sturgis, told me that she kept seeing a link for "COC in Raleigh" on various metal sites, and that the link would always go to my video.
Bandway at the brand new Kings (Aug. 28): ... but believe it or not, COC was not the most-clicked video of the year. That honor went to my video of Bandway, reforming and breaking in the new Kings. That's a testament to how much you guys missed both the band and the venue.
The Love Language at the Pour House (April 15): An amazing, joyous show for everyone -- except for soundman extraordinaire Jac Cain, who had about three heart attacks when the entire audience jumped up on the stage.
Batillus, Kowloon Walled City and Machete! at Dive Bar (Sept. 28): A great show Tuesday night show by three bands I knew little about. Thanks to my friend Keith for talking me into going. It was very exciting to see my photos from this show used on Invisible Oranges. That, more than anything, made me decide it was time to go in a heavier direction with the blog.
Kylesa, High On Fire and Torche at Cat's Cradle (Oct. 27): Yes, I know that High on Fire was the headliner for this show, but for my money Kylesa totally stole it and made it their own.
COC and Double Negative at Dregs Grotto (Dec. 10): If the Pour House show was the high school reunion, the house party show was the ultimate after party.
Kylesa, "Spiral Shadow": Here's an example of a pretty amazing album kicked straight into greatness on the strength of one song: "Don't Look Back." Any song that can make me feel like I'm cruising around the Circle in Atlantic Beach, back when the Circle was actually a destination for people who loved loud music, surfing and cheap beer, is automatically a great song. "Don't Look Back" captures that moment perfectly.
High on Fire, "Snakes for the Divine": I probably listened to this more than any other release this past year. And I'm not ashamed to say that the majority of the time I was listening to it, I was on the elliptical trainer at the gym. I don't think anything has ever inspired me to throw myself into something and go full blast the way the opening riff of "Snakes for the Devine" does.
U.S. Christmas, "Run Thick in the Night": USX's latest was released on a night on which we had a rare autumn equinox that corresponded with a harvest moon. I'm not a pagan, so I can't discuss the significance of this astronomical event, but I can tell you that listening to this ominous, organic-sounding record under such a beautiful moon was a magical experience.
Ufomammut, "Eve": Never had a band so perfectly lived up to their name. Ufomammut, which means UFO mammoth in Italian, really does sound like a mammoth being chased by a bunch of UFOs. That combination of crushing heaviness and weird spaciness made this one of my favorites of the year.
Filthybird, "Songs for Other People": Renee Mendoza has the most gorgeous, slightly loopy voice, and a wonderful ability to spin a heartbreaking yarn that's more sweet than bitter. And she wrote a song about one of my Joycean heroes, Stephen Dedalus, which is just awesome in itself.
Cough, "Ritual Abuse": I described Cough's show at Nighlight as being like all the good things about drinking too much cough syrup without the sickness that usually follows (at least for me). That description also fits "Ritual Abuse," which is slow, oppressive and distorted. The last 1:16 of "Crippled Wizard" was probably my favorite crushing riff of the year.
Black Tusk, "Taste the Sin": Imagine leaving an overturned bong and a half-eaten Hardee's chicken biscuit in a broke down Camaro in a swamp in 95-degree heat. If the smell inside of that car had a sound, it would be "Taste the Sin": fast, hot and nasty as hell.
Zoroaster, "Matador": When I interviewed Dan from Zoroaster, I thought the band might be heavily into Eastern philosophies and religion, because "Matador" is so exotic, so psychedelic and so otherworldly. Turns out they just like to party. I guess that'll lead to an exotic, psychedelic, otherwordly experience too.
Horseback, "The Invisible Mountain": When I was about 12 my cousin and I had a serious discussion in which we decided that the Devil really should have won the Golden Fiddle because his solo was clearly more rockin' than Johnny's corny solo. But the fact that he brought in the Band of Demons meant that he cheated, so he couldn't have won anyway. If the Devil had just played "Invokation," with its weird, funky groove and gnawing vocals, he would have won despite the cheating.
Black Thai, "Blood from on High"