If you’re anything like us, the holiday season has long been a period of great mental anguish, not only due to the hard task Christmas shopping, essentially emptying your wallet for the loved ones in your life. But recalling your favourite albums released within the relatively arbitrary boundaries of the 12 months that make up the year that just passed can often cause confusion and self doubt. Do I limit the rankings to 10? Do I focus on one genre or many? DO I POST IT ON MY TUMBLR, BLOGGER OR FACEBOOK PAGE? Does anyone really care?

Luckily for Mike and I, there were enough excellent releases from acts in the Bird’s Robe Collective family that all these stupid questions just evaporate and we’re left with a burning desire to just make sure that everyone knows about them all. There are no rankings here, alphabetical order will decide the layout. No genre limitations either. We’re even committing the Internet-music-list-sin of including both full lengths and EPs! Shock and awe.

Click each of the covers to be redirected to a page where you can stream, buy or download all of these albums. Please, do yourselves a favour and hear all of these bands. Australia’s progressive/experimental output was actually completely phenomenal this year and this list is undeniable proof.

Adrift for Days – The Lunar Maria

Adrift for Days’ debut album feels like a somnambulist serenade, a brutally beautiful nighttime trip through dark recesses and caverns. Cinematic stoner/psychedelic/sludge/doom/drone that manages to focus, which is a rarity in the genre. The sounds here are thrilling too; lower than low guttural growls with enough breathing room for a slew of soaring effects both recognisable and veiled. Simply put, this album showcases the kind of band that, until Adrift for Days came along, Sydney lacked and severely needed.

Bird’s Robe Collaboration Band, The – Musodynamics

BRR-001. Representing the beginning of the next stage of BRC, Bird’s Robe Records, those 6 characters right there would be enough to make this release special to us even without the music being as truly thrilling as it is. A multidimensional high concept killer of an EP featuring members of Pirate, Squid, Fuji Collective, Squat Club, Slimey Things, The Bznzz and Captain Kickarse & the Awesomes, musically based on the laws of thermodynamics, though you don’t need to be a physicist to feel the propulsion of these pieces. Fans familiar with the aformentioned bands will hear their influence melded perfectly. This ensemble has set a high standard for future Bird’s Robe Collaboration projects.

Bright Quito Spring – Bright Quito Spring EP

Despite so far existing for less time than any other act in this list, Bright Quito Spring have carved out an assured niche in the Sydney scene. Lyrically cryptic, yet direct. Musically adventurous and subtle, yet confident. A band of extremes, this one, and the songs on the EP reflect this – the opening track”A Role In An Ad” jumping from yelped ecstacy to tidal washes of chords with unexpected turns throughout. They wear their influences on their sleeve, certainly, but instead of mimicking, it sounds like Bright Quito Spring are joining in on the conversation. An approach which many bands ignore.

Shanghai – The Battle for Mount Analogue

Long live the cassette tape! Sydney’s staple lounge/metal/prog crew Shanghai pay tribute to the 80s in spectacular fashion with this 2010 tape (!) release, expanding on the unparagoned vision they’ve perfected over the years. Genres and subgenres clash absurdly here, yet somehow the whole package makes sense. Maybe the glorious synth on opening track “The Birth of the Odyssey” just disorients me to the point that everything that follows naturally and beautifully, but even MORE likely is that the members of Shanghai are crazy-genius enough to pull off whatever they attempt and that I can’t help but question my sanity when I listen. I guess, hopefully, I’ll never know.

Slimey Things – Quantum Reality TV

Slimey Things are one of the most experienced and polished acts on the BRC roster. Considering, also, they are a band with such a unique musical perspective, it’s a treat to observe how they continue to grow artistically. This album builds on their earlier work, with an exploration of sounds and structures never before seen by the group. Taking cues from both Zappa AND Devo seems sacreligious, though Slimeys have never been a band to exist for anyone but those that really GET IT. If Sci-fi surf-prog, intergalactic-evil-genius-rock and ray-gun-new-wave sound like appealing descriptors then you may be among that group. And really, who isn’t?

Squat Club – Corvus

Better to burn out than to fade away? The boys in Squat Club thought so. Officially together for only 8 short months before disbanding, this group felt truly momentous. As anyone who had the opportunity to see them live would agree, it seemed incredibly important that these four gentlemen existed at just the right time to collaborate together and it’s a damn shame they couldn’t have wowed more of the world in doing so. Luckily, within this period of time, they recorded a spectacular full length album. Equal parts Secret Chiefs 3, Can, Battles and King Crimson, their songs are sometimes heinously complex – yet achieve a level of melodicism rare in most numbers-and-effects focussed groups. In two words: very special.

Ten Thousand Free Men & Their Families – MKE or BRK EP/Another EP

“Most Likely to Gain a Fervent Cult Following and Then Get Beaten Up By Them at His Own Show”. Tom Gilmore (aka ten thousand free men and their families aka 10k aka etc.) straddles the line between entertainment and harassment perfectly, consistently owning a stage by himself better than most “real” bands do with 4 or 5 people and dominating crowds the nation over with his painstakingly constructed yet brutal gameboy compositions. The two EPs Tom wrote and recorded this year only partially capture the damage that this guy can do live, yet they are still unmatched in terms of experimentation within not only the Sydney scene but also chip music in general. Done did it.

Toehider – 12 EPs in 12 Months Project (January – April)

What a project. What a band. What a songwriter. The singular vision of former Template frontman Mike Mills that began in May last year reached its spectacular conclusion over the first four months of this year. Releasing merely one EP is a task many artists find taxing, but the energy required to produce 12 EPs and have all of them be, well, actually really fucking good is just beyond me. Chronologically, “Untitled”, “Do You Believe in Monsters?” “Never Mind the Hallux” and “Done and Dusted” each traverse a rich musical landscape that is sure to enrich the existence of all who hear them. This is a 2010 list, so the spotlight here should really be on the EPs released this year, but honestly go back and buy all 12. This is important.

Vampillia – sspears

The only non-Australian act on this list and the first (of hopefully many) Bird’s Robe Records imports, Japan’s Vampillia probably deserve a special mention for definitely being the strangest band we’ve yet had to deal with, both musically and otherwise. When Mike first told me about them he described them as “freak circus monkey metal”, which written down is hilarious, but its the best descriptor of this album that I can imagine. Occupying the same theatrical and musical territory as Sleepytime Gorilla Museum, Mr Bungle and Oingo Boingo, but with a healthy evil slant, this album will make you smile while rocking the fuck out of you. Oh and Protip: check out their videoclips.