It's bloody cold outside so what better time to wrap up warm at home, flick on the stereo, crank up the volume and take stock of the past year in music. Over the last few days I've done exactly that and compiled my top 30 (and bottom 5) albums of 2010.
Why not have your say too by clicking here >>>. Once all the votes are in I'll compile a definitve albums of the year list from Recordstore customers and everyone who completes their list by December 19th 2010 will also receive a £2 voucher to spend on the site. Early Christmas present to say thanks - nice eh? The only rules are that the albums have to be released in 2010 (so no XX or Mumford & Sons) and you can't just put the same album 10 times (Manics fans, I'm looking at you....). Get voting!
Not sure you can think of 10 great albums from 2010? Check out my Top 30 which may give you a few ideas.....
It may have dropped at the very start of the 2010, but every other release systematically failed to surpass it over the following months. With a delicate wash of sound that occasionally ventured into off-kilter queasiness to keep you on your toes and with vocal melodies to melt the coldest of hearts Beach House produced an album equally at home warming your cockles on a cold winter’s day as it was keeping you chilled on a sun kissed beach. For anyone who fell in love with Fleet Foxes or Animal Collective over previous years, this was the perfect gap filler.
Opening with ‘Odessa’, a tune Hot Chip would have killed for on their underwhelming ‘One Life Stand’ album, ‘Swim’ was without a doubt the dance album of the year. Add in the psychedelic groove of ‘Sun’, the 3am floorfiller ‘Kaili’ and the otherworldly magnificence of ‘Found Out’ and you’ve got an opening quadrilogy of songs that piss over pretty much everything else released this year. The genius didn’t stop there though and the remaining tunes consolidated ‘Swim’’s ability to straddle bedroom, club and festival with ease.
Just when you thought they wouldn’t top the psych-pop world-beater ‘Hissing Fauna, Are You The Destroyer?’ Kevin Barnes and his merry band of weirdos roped in R’n’B superstar-in-waiting Janelle Monáe and Beyonce’s sister Solange Knowles to create the standout pop album of the year. The relaxed funkiness of the songs detailing tales of mental girlfriends and surreal perversions add to the overwhelming feeling that Barnes may yet grab the “new Prince” tag he is blatantly striving for as ‘False Priest’ proved that there’s still space for the weird and inventive without compromising the ability to write a catchy tune.
2010 proved a landmark for experimental pop with not only Of Montreal’s tenth album but also Yeasayer’s astonishing second giving the world a host of catchy anthems a million miles away from the Cowell-sponsored karaoke that has been giving pop music a bad name for the past decade. Flitting between a multitude of genres and styles including synth-pop, Balearic house, New Romantic balladry and R’n’B beats ‘Odd Blood’ harked back to a time when Tears For Fears, Pet Shop Boys and New Order ruled the airwaves.
Whilst not quite as awe-inspiring as 2007’s ‘Let’s Stay Friends’, Les Savy Fav’s fifth album still punched a hefty art-rock uppercut with the epic ‘Sleepless In Silverlake’ proving to be an anthemic highlight of their career. And whilst the tunes were still huge enough to take down entire cities it was the band’s continued excellence in the live arena that truly marked them out above their peers. Where else is it acceptable to rub your face in a sweaty fat-man’s belly other than a Les Savy Fav gig?
The best soundtrack to hurtling down an orange-lit motorway in the dead of night to emerge in years, ‘There Is Love In You’ is the sound of Kieran Hebden at the peak of his powers. Blissed out beats and haunting vocals combine to bring nostalgic yearnings for the mid 90s but this is no simple history lesson, instead Hebden offers up another envelope pushing collection worthy of dance canonisation.
A band with an enviable live reputation who actually, for once, managed to transfer their unfettered energy onto record, Pulled Apart By Horses proved that it’s not just the US producing radio-friendly punk rock. Standout tracks ‘High Five, Swan Dive, Nose Dive’, ‘I Punched A Lion In The Throat’ and ‘Yeah Buddy’ balanced like a professional gymnast between inventiveness and stupidity and never once let you forget that there was ANOTHER BIG RIFF just around the corner.
Pretty much what the word ‘stunning’ was invented to describe, ‘The Besnard Lakes Are The Roaring Night’ took the simple pop hooks of The Beach Boys and grafted them onto a prog-pop soundscape that sent shivers down the spine with every crashing melody. With Band Of Horses dropping a disappointing third album and Arcade Fire still unable to reach the heights of ‘Funeral’, the Besnard Lakes strode purposefully into the spotlight to grasp the indie-rock crown.
Lo-fi garage-pop doesn’t come more perfect than this, the debut album from LA’s Best Coast. Songs of such simple naivety and fun can often come across as grating but ‘Crazy For You’ manages to not only avoid the pitfalls but also have you coming back for more, time and time again. In a year when going fuzzy was the new going Goth Best Coast were oceans apart from the crowd.
Seven albums in and Built To Spill are still to be mentioned in the same breath as their peers Pavement, Guided By Voices or Sebadoh. All that really should change now because ‘There Is No Enemy’ is a return to form for the Idaho band and easily a match for their trio of classic albums ‘There’s Nothing Wrong With Love’, ‘Perfect From Now On’ and ‘Keep It Like A Secret’. US indie at its very very best.
Sub Pop just never let you down and their finest offering this year came from the little known Jaill who, after signing to the veteran indie label and adding an ‘l’ to their name, produced a stunning slice of US indie pop reminiscent of The Shins, Spoon and Apples In Stereo.
The title track alone warrants inclusion in any end of the year poll but thankfully Wavves managed to back it up with a whole album chock full of fuzzy lo-fi garage gems. From the opening assertion that “you’re never gonna stop me” it’s clear that Nathan Williams has his sight set on becoming noise-pop royalty.
Pitched somewhere between M.I.A., Crystal Castles and Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Sleigh Bells produced a debut album brimming with more noise and clatter than a family of Tasmanian devils trapped in a kitchen utensil factory....during an air raid. The actual songs were pretty fucking special too.
28 albums in and no sign of losing the snarling wit, intensity or sheer song-writing chops for Mark E Smith and his ever changing line-up of minstrels. ‘Your Future Our Clutter’ marked the first time in 15 years that The Fall line-up had remained unchanged for two albums straight and the resulting collection was one of the band’s most consistent and heavy in years. They should’ve been nominated for a Mercury over that ridiculously coiffured indie granddad Paul Weller too.
They didn’t include their brilliant ‘Groove Is In The Heart/California Girls’ mash-up but it didn’t diminish the impact of Crocodiles second album. A close cousin to The Horrors critically acclaimed ‘Primary Colours’ and taking influence from Jesus And Mary Chain and Spacemen 3, ‘Sleep Forever’ was a swirling, jangle-pop treasure.
Actress and all round indie pin-up Zooey Deschanel teamed up once again with M Ward for a second collection of beautifully realised indie-folk love songs. The lush production and exquisite melodies on every single song are so captivating that you soon forget the Hollywood ties and immerse yourself in the soothingly effecting songs.
Pussying out and changing their name from the potentially controversial Muslims to The Soft Pack really should have instigated a complete hatred for this band but somewhere around the second listen to second track ‘Down On Loving’ I completely fell for their charms. A very simple but effective collection of garage rock nuggets that recalled The Replacements and The Modern Lovers.
Never shying away from a new side project Jack White returned to the drum stool for the second album in two years with The Dead Weather, his supergroup featuring The Kills’ Alison Mosshart, Queens Of The Stone Age’s Dean Fertita and Raconteurs’ bass player Jack Lawrence. A massive leap forward from their underwhelming debut, ‘Sea Of Cowards’ was a riff heavy, 70s rock stomp of an album that ranks alongside the best of White’s projects to date. Still can’t tell the difference between Jack and Alison’s voices though....
A name which suggests some Chris Morris faux-band featuring Goths with terminal illnesses and a cover of the Beastie Boys ‘Sabotage’ (a stone cold classic that doesn’t need touching) wouldn’t normally peak my interest but thankfully this primal scream of a hardcore record is one blistering thrill ride that you never want to end. The Beastie’s cover is pretty fucking special too (and the video rules).
Read a story today about Chino Moreno bemoaning his son’s love of current emo and hardcore with their “one growly vocalist and one melodic vocalist” line ups because he, in fact, can do both and on ‘Diamond Eyes’ he really does prove it. An absolute belter of a record from the former nu-metallers who have survived the breakups and breakdowns of their peers to become the most influential and acclaimed American metal band since Faith No More.
London’s underground DIY scene is producing more and more bands who can take on the big boys of US and European hardcore and Silent Front are at the forefront. Mixing the dynamics of post-hardcore and the complexities of mathcore to produce an uncompromising assault on the senses that is as thrilling as it is progressive. If you buy one deep, noisy head-fuck of an album this year, make it this one.
If Spector-esque dream pop is your bag (and thankfully it is mine) then The School are gonna be right up your street. One listen sweeps you into a nostalgic world of 60s discos and 80s indie where strings swoon and cymbals tinkle like falling snowflakes. We’ve been here countless times before with Belle and Sebastian, The Pipettes and Saint Etienne but rarely has the finished product been so utterly perfect.
As with pretty much everything Warp release ‘Oversteps’ is another genre defying and consistently challenging journey into the dark depths of electronic music. As Autechre are the complete antithesis of a singles band it’s hard to pick out individual tracks that stand out, instead, better to immerse yourself in a record that is mesmerising, tense and an undisputed masterpiece.
Glasgow’s Errors’ sophomore effort owes as much to the post-electro tag that the Battles comparisons have placed upon them as it does to the dance anthems of LCD Soundsystem. The 10 songs here are pop anthems with a level of intelligence rarely seen in such blatant floor-fillers. The pun-tastic ‘Come Down With Me’ is an underappreciated gem.
Always an exhilarating live proposition, Rolo Tomassi had never truly captured their essence on record until they roped in M.I.A. producer Diplo to work on ‘Cosmology’. The awkward math-core complexities remain intact as does the impressive roar from front woman Eva Spence but on their second album Rolo Tomassi not only improve their songwriting (there’s proper anthemic tunes here and Eva even sings!) but also the depth of their sound. All that remains is for the general public to finally “get it”.
One of the best bands ever so any new material is gonna make my albums of the year list. Not quite as impressive as recent efforts ‘(A) Senile Animal’ or ‘Nude With Boots’ but with the Big Business boys still on rhythm section duty it was still gonna be an epic onslaught of killer riffs and pounding drums and so it proved. The cover of ‘My Generation’ is both confounding and genius all at once too.
It’s not as good as ‘Sound Of Silver’ and it is a bit overlong but still, the third album from LCD Soundsystem is a remarkably consistent, often funny and always enjoyable collection. This is dance music made by and for the art-school, and for once it’s all the better for it.
Instrumental, riff laden and groovy metal from London’s awesomely named Astrohenge that throws in prog, thrash, stoner and possibly a kitchen sink across its 11 immersive tracks. A head nodding work of immenseness that deserves your attention.
A much more dance floor friendly electronic vibe prevails on the latest from spell check bothering 65daysofstatic. From the opening onslaught of ‘Mountainhead’ it’s clear that this is a band rejuvenated and ready to move beyond post-rock into glitchy, drum’n’bass fuelled avenues of experimentation.
Sometimes you just want your punk straight ahead. For all the post, math and grind prefixed hardcore doing the rounds ‘Eyes And Nines’ proves that sometimes simplicity is best. Anyone who doesn’t want to leap around like a demented chimp with a sore head to the mighty ‘Explode’ needs to check their pulse.
But less about the good stuff, there's also been some absolute dross this year and here (just for a bit of fun you understand) are the worst five albums I've had the misfortune to let pollute my ears this year:
After all the hype I was dead excited to have a listen to this with its promise of dubstep darkness with a pop sheen. Unfortunately, the resulting album just sounded like the same tired old r'n'b that litters the chart with some, quite frankly, awful guest vocalists lacking any trace of originality or genre-defining sparkle. A wasted opportunity.
The pedigree is certainly there and it's certainly refreshing to hear a band revel in the joy of playing pure rock'n'roll but something here just doesn't feel right. For all the gushing plaudits 'Burning Your House Down' is just not as exciting and visceral as it thinks it is. If a band of teenagers made the same record we'd be bemoaning the lack of originality in plundering the past so why excuse this? Pub rock for the Mojo set.
How very, very disappointing. After the brilliant 'Only By The Night', Kings Of Leon returned with this, an album that sounded like a bunch of tuneless offcuts from their previous sessions phoned in whilst they ducked bird shit, indulged in groupie shagging and made videos so cheesy you'd think they were the house band for Butlins. Moreover, the public bought it in bucketloads. Truely disturbing.
Dreadful by-numbers indie that I really struggled to even listen to once. Punk came to destroy shit like this but it appears there's still work to be done. Avoid.
French hip-hop infused pop should, by all accounts, be quite interesting. Unfortunately this lot sound like a shitter version of 3oh!3 (you know those twats that sing about "daisy dukes" whilst cavorting with Katy Perry). A dreadful skidmark on the underpants of pop.
That's it for another year folks and don't forget to have your say by clicking here >>>.