Five Years In: My First Year as a Crate-Digger, Reviewed


Because I can’t just review the normal stuff like records and movies, I have to review myself reviewing stuff like a chump. But hey, we started Critical Masses in 2010, and it’s 2015, so five years seems like a good semi-arbitrary number on which to hitch the nostalgia wagon. I don’t even know what 2010 felt like anymore. I wasn’t a dad yet (that was in 2011), so it seems like this weird transitional year that nothing super important happened, or at least nothing that was more important than the things that happened in the subsequent years after our son was born.

But you’re not here for my life story – why would you be? You’re here because I project some kind of weird voodoo onto the music you love with my mind-words, and I’ve somehow hypnotized you into thinking that those words were important in some way. Well, some of you think so. Google Analytics doesn’t lie. Does it?

Readership aside, and you know I love all you guys, I thought this would be a fun exercise to wrap 2015 up with. Because everybody loves a bit of unsolicited nostalgia, don’t they? That’s why I write half my reviews of spacey synth records – there’s some nostalgia in those for me. (Just kidding, it’s way less than half – although I listen to that stuff an awful lot.)

Here’s my top 10 list from 2010, along with honorable mentions and three records that disappointed me. I’m not going to delve too deeply into anything here, just a couple brief comments, then moving on. How’d my criticism hold up? You decide! No, wait – I’m deciding. Let’s see how this goes.


  1. Daughters – Daughters (Hydra Head)

This feels like some sort of pity metal addition to the list to beef up the non-indie rock cred I was scrabbling so desperately for. I think. I dunno. It was good, it wasn’t best-of-list material.

Verdict: Probably shouldn’t have made the top 10. Haven’t listened to it since.

emeralds does

  1. Emeralds – Does It Look Like I’m Here? (Editions Mego)

In the recap I mention that I’ve just discovered Emeralds. And in the subsequent years I’ve fallen desperately in love with them. Did you hear that universe? Desperately in love with them!

Verdict: Probably would be top 2 or 3 on this list now, or in any year really. Great album.

sit down

  1. Das Racist – Sit Down, Man (Mad Decent / Greedhead / Mishka)

I was doing pretty good here – I still love Sit Down, Man. El-P’s verse on the title track is amazing. Das Racist tunes have been mainstays on my jogging playlist for the last five years, that’s for sure.

Verdict: I have no qualms with this placement.


  1. Freak Owls – Taxidermy (Sing Engine!)

This is my friend Josh’s band, and I love it. End of story.

Verdict: Bad case of nepotism. Still a good album.


  1. Wolf Parade – Expo 86 (Sub Pop)

This was around the end of my fascination with Wolf Parade, and in fact it was the end of their run as a band (before the inevitable reunion shows/album, of course). It’s not their best work, but it’s OK. I’d never place it on a year-end list now, though.

Verdict: Grasping at one last moment of glory. This would not be on this list had I made it today.


  1. Liars – Sisterworld (Mute)

Oh, that’s right! 2010 was the year I saw Liars play live. They were really great. Sisterworld is really great, still. And they’re still cranking out quality tunes (although I think Mess > WIXIW).

Verdict: #5 is right where this belongs.

paul's tomb triumph

  1. Frog Eyes – Paul’s Tomb: A Triumph (Dead Oceans)

I’m such a Frog Eyes nerd.

Verdict: #4 is right where this belongs.


  1. Forest Swords – Dagger Paths (Olde English Spelling Bee)

This is a great album, and something I’m more apt to listen to now than in 2010. I’m surprised it’s on here, and as high as #3. I don’t know if it warrants a placement that high on a list, but it’s certainly top-10 material. Bottom line: we need more Forest Swords music in our lives. All of us.

Verdict: Still fresh; you should probably listen to it right now if you never have before.


  1. LCD Soundsystem – This Is Happening (Virgin)

 I still love this album too. James Murphy’s entire discography has pretty much remained, along with Das Racist, on my jogging playlists over the years, so the man’s been at the forefront of my consciousness for the past five years. He keeps my pace up when I’m pounding the pavement, what can I say?

Verdict: Still OK – I might shuffle around 2 through 5 on this list, with Liars higher and Forest Swords lower, but all in all, this is pretty strong.


  1. Future Islands – In Evening Air (Thrill Jockey)

I was ahead of my time. Future Islands hooked me from second one of their Thrill Jockey debut, and haven’t let go since. Singles was my favorite album of 2014. So, uh, I’ve been listening to them every year for the past five years, and enjoying every minute of it.

Verdict: I didn’t embarrass myself!

So there you have it – my top 10 is pretty good, save for a couple minor misses, and even those aren’t too bad. I’m going to give my 2010 self two thumbs up for excellent music taste, so say I, 2015 me.

Here’s my list of honorable mentions, in no particular order, and a comment or two on the albums’ continued (or not) existence in my consciousness as a music listener. I’m very brief, so if I say something’s good, trust me and just go with it, OK?

The Besnard Lakes – …Are the Roaring Night: Not bad; this isn’t totally my bag anymore, but nothing to sneeze at either.

Ceremony – Rohnert Park: Probably haven’t listened to this since 2010. I must’ve liked it better then. It’s still probably good. Guess I’d have to be in the mood.

Clipd Beaks – To Realize: I like the idea of Clipd Beaks maybe more than the execution. Still, a good record, just one I haven’t returned to.

COOLRUNNINGS – Buffalo EP / Babes Forever EP: These are fun EPs. I have nothing but love for the COOLRUNNINGS brand.

Frightened Rabbit – The Winter of Mixed Drinks: I haven’t listened to Frightened Rabbit since 2010, and although I recall really liking the first song on this album, not much of the rest of it sticks with me.

Here We Go Magic – Pigeons: Yeah… This one’s still a good honorable mention, even though I haven’t listened to them much since then. I liked this one for some reason. Let’s call it a “good honorable mention to my life.” That’s a worthy description.

Mumford & Sons – Sigh No More: … Um … Do I even … What to say? … Am I wrong? … I don’t … Let’s just leave the discussion there…

Photophob – Urban Dialectics: I don’t recall much about this album, although I LOVE Photophob; his discography is just so vast. There’s no reason why his albums shouldn’t be mentioned in conjunction with an end-of-year list.

Pop Winds – The Turquoise: I don’t even remember what this sounds like. I probably wouldn’t put this on a list again. It might be good, but life is short.

Reading Rainbow – Prism Eyes: “It might be good, but life is short.” I heard that somewhere before…

Sea Oleena – Sea Oleena: I’m a Sea Oleena fan. Her newest album Shallow came out last year, and it’s really good. This was my introduction to her. No qualms about its inclusion here.

Suuns – Zeroes QC: Another I haven’t listened to in a long time, but I liked it enough in 2010. I believe this made the workout playlist at one point. It’s since been removed for some reason.

Superchunk – Majesty Shredding: Although I think this was a token placement in honor of Superchunk’s return after a nine-year hiatus, it’s still a good album, and there are really good songs on it. Superchunk, in general, stands the test of time.

Tobacco – Maniac Meat: Haha! Tobacco. He’s great.

The Walkmen – Lisbon: This would likely challenge for top 5 status were I to make this list now. It’s been my go-to Walkmen album for a year or two now, especially after seeing Seven Psychopaths. One of their best, and the Walkmen are one of the best. End of discussion.

Believe it or not, there were a couple records I didn’t like. I know, right? Positive ol’ me, not enjoying some records that were actually released! There are a lot of people out there – OK, a lot of fans, I’m not gonna lie – whose jaws would drop with incredulity at the mere mention of negativity. Aw, heck, that’s not totally true – I’m not some j-hole homer. But in the end, I found it important enough to mention these records for NOT making me happy in some way. Let’s dive in a little bit – without spoiling too much, one of the three I listed is still not good, the second is still not great/not bad/not on my radar, but the third – the THIRD! Let’s just say I’ve come around. So, without further delay, I recall the records of 2010 I didn’t like at the time. To quote Max Power, strap in and feel the Gs!

Arcade Fire – The Suburbs: Ugh, fuck off, Arcade Fire.

Broken Social Scene – Forgiveness Rock Record: “I wasn’t expecting an amazing record, I guess, but I can’t even remember what this one sounds like.” I stand by that. You Forgot It In People and Broken Social Scene are still amazing records in my book. This one just didn’t stick.

Captain Ahab – The End of Irony / The Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts: Wrong. Wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong. Forget Propagation for now, that was just a live album. I’m here to preach the amazingness of The End of Irony until my dying day – I even redeemed it somewhat in a podcast. It’s so good. It’s so good. Apparently, I just didn’t understand in 2010, I just didn’t get it. From front to back, The End of Irony is a masterpiece. The great part? It’s impossible to tell whether or not it truly is an ironic artistic statement, or if it’s meant as a serious skuzz-rave record. That’s the beauty – it doesn’t commit to one or the other, and you’re guessing the entire time. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll freak out – jump on the Captain Ahab bandwagon before it’s too late! (Oh, right, it is…)

Wait… I recapped TV in 2010 too? First and last time, I guess. Enjoy the trip down memory lane!


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