Editor Ken’s Top 10 of 2010

20 Years of Highwire Daze Madness

In November, Highwire Daze celebrated an major anniversary.

20 Years!

I never thought we would make it this far.  I mean, who stays with anything for 20 years?  We may not be publishing the paper edition on a regular basis, but the website is updated several times a day.  I remember our Tripod/Geocities years when the website did not look so good.  Many thanks to Jason Mageau at Malus Clothing for bringing Highwire Daze into the 21st Century when it came to the world wide web.

There has been so many changes in the 20 years we’ve been doing this.  We have an interview resume that would rival any writer on The Rolling Stone, but that tends to happen when you’ve been around as long as we have.  A sense of irony is that a lot of our readers weren’t even born when the idea of Highwire Daze was conceived in a dark Hollywood apartment back in September of 1990.  The first issue arrived in November 1990 and here we are now, 119 paper issue and countless web posts later.

One thing I would like to do is update my column Sketches By The Editor on the 1st of every month instead of once or twice a year.  Make it more of a blog about the behind the scene happenings here at the Daze.  Expect that to start when the New Year arrives.  In the meantime, here is why we are all here – for the Annual Highwire Daze Top Ten List of 2010…

(By the way, pictured above is Issue #1 of Highwire Daze magazine dated November 1990)

The 10 CD’s of 2010

For those who think 2010 was a dismal time for music, I beg to differ!  This was the toughest compilation yet, and many I thought all year were going to make the grade on my list simply didn’t.

I have decided this year to not list runner ups, but I am doing an article for my Top Ten EP selections, because there are a lot of new bands whom I think deserve the attention.    So after a few weeks of thought and repeated listening to a lot of music that came in over the year, here is Editor Ken’s Top List of 2010…

Favorite Fix by Artist Vs Poet (Fearless Records)

One of the highlights of Warped Tour 2010 was the appearance of Artist Vs. Poet, a band that has come a long way within the past few years.  Their debut full-length Favorite Fix is jammed packed with melodic pop/punk anthems that should have been played all over the radio airwaves!  Definitely one of my favorite music fixes of the year, with top songs being Adorable, Damn Rough Night, and We’re All The Same.

The Good Years by Backseat Goodbye (Self-released CD)

Why Chad Sugg and his project Backseat Goodbye isn’t signed and as huge as acts such as Elliot Smith and The Rocket Summer is way beyond my comprehension!  There is so much heart and soul to be found within The Good Years.  A sheer triumph all around, from the dazzling melodies to the intelligent, compassionate lyrics.  This is an album about truth and discovery and is easily one of the most overlooked releases of 2010.  Poignant selections on the disc include You Are The One That Will Be By My Side, 1996, Letdown Of The Year, Moons, and the wonderfully titled Elliot Smith Is Still Alive.

Universal by Borknagar (The End Records)

What would the Black Metal incarnation of Rush sound like – maybe a bit like the mighty Borknagar from Norway.  It’s been five long years since we’ve heard from Øystein Brun, Vintersorg and the crew, but Universal was a release that was well worth the wait.  Intellectual thought and complex melodies abound, mixing the extreme with a cosmic sense of grace and wonder.  Here’s hoping Borknagar make it out here to the States for a tour in the New Year – the last time they played in the US, they were touring with Emperor and that was way too many years ago…

Circle The Wagons by Darkthrone (Peaceville Records)

Who would have even imagined that the best punk rock album of the year would have been made by a legendary Black Metal entity named Darkthrone?  Mix Motorhead with The Damned and you are only beginning to imagine the harsh and glorious compositions to be found on Circle The Wagons.  It’s light years away from their classics A Blaze In The Northern Sky and Transylvanian Hunger, but Nocturno Culto and Fenriz still manage to unleash compelling material.  Top circle pit inducing tracks include I Am The Graves Of The 80’s and These Treasures Will Never Befall You.

American Hell by Destruction Of A Rose (BlkHeart Group)

Destruction Of  A Rose may be metalcore, but these guys are absolutely metal TO the core!  Breaking out of Las Vegas in a big and glorious way, this hard working band has unleashed American Hell to an unsuspecting public at large.  The best thing about the album is that it successful captures the energy of their dynamic live shows, presenting studio cuts that are nothing short of genre classics.  Evan Foxx is one of the most charismatic frontmen on the scene today, and the musicianship found within is absolutely top notch.  Expect these guys to destroy everything in 2011 – they are fierce to the extreme!  Proof positive tracks include Suck Out The Poison, Open Your Eyes Not Your Legs, and Rise And Shine.

Axioma Ethica Odini by Enslaved (Nuclear Blast Records)

Nuclear Blast Records has released so many astounding CD’s this year – my whole list could have included all bands from the much revered metal label.  One such entity that has consistently made my Top Ten List is the mystical Enslaved from Norway.  Combining shade of Viking Metal with walls of progressive rock, Axioma Ethica Odini is an absolute stunner!  Throwing influences such as Rush and Pink Floyd into the mix, Enslaved bring a sense of adventure and intrigue to the extreme metal arena.  These guys can do no wrong!  Tracks that stun that senses include Giants, Night Sight, and The Beacon.

Mosaik by Frames (SPV/Steamhammer Records)

Have you even heard Frames?  This is a release that has surely surfaced under the radar, and it’s easily one of the most challenging, fully realized efforts of the year.  Completely instrumental and always nothing less than thrilling, shades of Kraut rock and progressive dynamics send the entire material soaring into the stratosphere.  Based out out Hanover, Germany, Frames and their masterwork Mosaik will take you on an unforgettable journey of sound that you’ll want to revisit time and again.

A Promise To Burn by Framing Hanley (Silent Majority Group)

A Promise To Burn by Framing Hanley is THE rock and roll album of the year.  A powerful collection of songs that present the rise and fall of spirit and integrity.  Emotionally intense and musically dynamic, A Promise To Burn is filled with a fiery passion and is nothing short of mesmerizing.  You Stupid Girl should have been a number one hit single for these guys and is my pic for song of the year!  Other selections that strike a persuasive note include Bittersweet Sundown, Photographs and Gasoline, The Promise and especially The Burn – where they do indeed promise to “Burn Hollywood to the ground.”  A promise thoroughly fulfilled!

Hoodoo by Krokus (Sony Music)

80’s hard rock and metal return with a screaming vengeance as the classic Krokus lineup reunites for the rollicking Hoodoo.  Easily measuring up to their trademark albums such as Headhunter and The Blitz, Hoodoo was jammed packed with fantastic tracks such as Hoodoo Woman, Rock And Roll Handshake, and Drive It In.  They even made the old chestnut Born To Be Wild sound vivid and full of fire and energy.  A blast from the past ready to leave an indelible stamp on a whole new generations of rockers!  And vocalist Marc Storace sounds in top form as does the rest of the tremendous lineup.

Ascending In Triumph by Nox Aurea (Napalm Records)

Another label who keeps the magnificent releases coming is Napalm Records.  One of the very best of the year was Nox Aurea, a doom/death metal band from Gothenburg, whose mighty anthems are staggering to behold.  Ascending In Triumph is a classic, featuring ferocious male and tender female vocal leads, meshing in with the dark melodies to create an aural experience that transcends both time and genres.  There is a dim yet powerful light to be found in even the most depressive of places, and Ascending In Triumph by Nox Aurea is a compelling experience from beginning to end.  Well worth checking into on those dark and lonely nights…

THE 10 BEST EP’s OF 2010

Let The Sun In by Aaron Shanley (Love Gum Records)

Aaron Shanley is a remarkable singer/songwriter from Ireland whose expressive voice and wondrous compositions are both stunning and melancholic.  Check out the picturesque Cotton Fields, the wistful Today I, or the ballsy rocker Anna Came Along to see just how effective and diverse Shanley’s music is.  Let The Sun In is truly indicative of greater things to come!

Hello World by Amely (Fearless Records)

One of the newer bands on the Fearless Records roster, Amely from Orlando, Florida has presented a debut EP entitled Hello World that shows a good deal of promise.  From Petie Pizarro’s strong, emotive vocals to the wildly infectious tunes, fans of bands such as Anberlin, All Time Low, and even the Goo Goo Dolls are sure to enjoy what Amely has to offer.

The Wonder EP by Backseat Goodbye (Self released EP)

Serving as a precursor to The Good Years, The Wonder EP by Backseat Goodbye was a short collection of songs that shined brightly as the New Year 2010 began.  A grand return to form for Chad Sugg, clearly demonstrating just how beautifully effective of an artist and entertainer he clearly isThe Breakfast Club was wide eyed and thoughtful with a killer “yeah yeah yeah” chorus and The Great Unknown shimmered with its sweetly sentimental lyrics and memorable melodies.

The Reckoning by Burning Twilight (BlkHeart Music Group)

The debut release for the BlkHeart Music Group, The Reckoning by Burning Twilight is a relentless assault to the sense.  Metalcore at its finest and most impassioned, song such as The Resolve Of Cowards and The Runaway are destined to gain these guys a good deal of fans.  Heavy and wildly impressively for both the band and its record label.  Definitely looking forward to a full length from this Washington state based collective.

Between The Lies by Memphis May Fire (Bullet Tooth Records)

Memphis May Fire hit a home run with Between The Lies, showing that they definitely have what it takes for a long and glorious career.  Be Careful What You Wish For is a revelation and Action/Adventure is filled with passion and conviction.  It will be exciting to hear what Memphis May Fire unleashes with their upcoming full length.  These guys burn bright and remain a music force to be reckoned with.

Anthems by Messengers (Strike First Records)

Facedown Records has presented us some truly great bands over the years.  One such collective is the mighty Messengers from Dallas, Texas, presenting thrash and hardcore metal in its finest hour.  With references ranging from Pantera to War Of Ages, Messengers is an unstoppable beast that should gain a good deal of respect and acclaim in the years to come.  A sledgehammer of a debut to be sure!

Goodbye To Sunny Skies by Mikey Sawyer (Self-released EP)

Based out of Tulsa, Oklahoma, singer/songwriter Mikey Sawyer presents music filled with passion and remarkable depth.  Amazingly unsigned for now, Sawyer’s powerful voice and deeply moving tunes are wondrously effective.  Big choruses abound, with title cut Goodbye To Sunny Skies and the introspective BeLIEve in Me timeless classics in the making.  References to Jacks Mannequin and Owl City only scratch the surface when it comes to the sheer beauty of Sawyer’s poignant songs.

Love Enough by My Genuine Find (Self-released EP)

If you like Breathe Electric and The Ready Set with a dash of The Starting Line thrown in for good measure, My Genuine Find from Las Cruces is your treasure trove of music.  Positive and memorable, sole member Bobby Mares possesses great tunes and charisma to spare.  Still self-releasing his EP’s, Love Enough‘s highlights include Gentlemen, A Lot Like Love, and 1-2-3.  A probable breakthrough for this hard working artist who may find himself being courted by record labels in no time.

The Opportunity To Be by My Ticket Home (Rise Records)

Rise Records fearlessly signs what they truly believe in, and has gained massive success with bands such as The Devil Wears Prada and Drop Dead, Gorgeous.  One of their new collectives showing a massive amount of promise is My Ticket Home from Columbus, Ohio.  The Opportunity To Be is a powerful debut from a young band destined to take the crown in 2011.  The melodic and the extreme mesh well together, with songs such as Surroundings and Desertion being sonic favorites.

What Has Been Done Will Be Done Again by Sleep For Sleepers (Self-released EP)

While the future of LA’s own Sleep For Sleepers may be in question, there is no denying the beauty and majesty of their EP What Has Been Done Will Be Done Again.  Now on their own after a partnership with Facedown/Dreamt Music, the spiritual indie rock found on their new EP is absolutely brilliant and ambitious.  The Heights We’ve Come To Fear is the most heartfelt love song of the year and Of What I Have, Let It Be Enough is a testament to ones faith that is grand and sweeping.   It is hard not to moved by the sentiments heard on this truly great EP.

In Conclusion

Well that’s 2010 in a nut shell.  Looking forward to all the great releases in the New Year.  Happy Holidays to all from the staff at Highwire Daze magazine!

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