My favourite albums of 2010


31 Dic 2010, 0:22

I imagine my friends have fallen off their chairs in shock. I promise to do one of these every year then wimp out at the enormity of the task. How on earth do you choose?!

I listened to about 500 new releases this year, not counting the ones I didn't like, so the actual figure is higher. 500 down to 10?

I saw a little sentence the other day - good music will always surface. If this is so, then all I have to do is look at what drifted to the top.

This journal is in three parts: albums I am not counting in my top 10 but deserve mention, albums that turned my head, and my top 10.

You don't mess with the masters

What's interesting about seeing your stats and charts in is they are not always what you expect. I am maintaining a few collections, Massive Attack and Gorillaz for instance. I have both their new releases, but I didn't make the time to listen that often. These albums are meant to be played over the course of a lifetime, to return to next time you're in the mood or want a break and just want to relax. So if I am to make a list of albums that gained my utmost respect, they would be:

Massive Attack - Heligoland
Gorillaz - Plastic Beach
Badly Drawn Boy - It's What I'm Thinking Part One: Photographing Snowflakes
Rufus Wainwright - All Days Are Nights: Songs For Lulu

Eels - the trilogy: Hombre Lobo, End Times, Tomorrow Morning
Arcade Fire - Suburbs
Blonde Redhead - Penny Sparkle
Bruce Springsteen - The Promise
Bryan Ferry - Olympia
Röyksopp - Senior
M.I.A. - /\/\ /\ Y /\
The National - High Violet
Nick Cave & Warren Ellis - The Road - Original Film Score
Scissor Sisters - Night Work
Sufjan Stevens - The Age of Adz
Laura Marling - I Speak Because I Can
Robert Plant - Band of Joy
School of Seven Bells - Disconnect From Desire
Isobel Campbell & Mark Lanegan - Hawk
Neil Young - Le Noise

Breakthrough artists and albums that turned my head:

Maps & Atlases - Perch Patchwork
Experimental math rock that doesn't alienate the listener. Favourite track: The Charm

Anaïs Mitchell - Hadestown
A re-release, this is a concept album: a folk opera based on the ancient Greek myth of the poet Orpheus. Sounds vile on paper. And then you listen. Theatrical, lush, and you can actually hear Bon Iver, she tells you the story and you see it all in your mind. Wonderful. BBC review

Robyn - the trilogy: Body Talk Pt. 1, Body Talk Pt. 2, Body Talk
Where the Eels trilogy had the theme of met the girl, was with the girl, broke up with the girl, Robyn's trilogy is more along the lines of style and tempo. Remarkable for the story-telling in the lyrics and pop perfection.

Janelle Monáe - The ArchAndroid
Prince adores her and she is already acting the star she is yet to become. Whether she will reach the dizzy heights of Prince's fame or remain a critic's choice remains to be seen. Her music and delivery are brilliant, incorporating orchestral, opera, rock and high energy disco, soul and funk. The range in this album is breathtaking, and this is just the beginning.

Flying Lotus - Cosmogramma
We go from one intriguing work to another, this one difficult and dividing even fans. Depends how you approach it. I came to it with tired ears after way too much jingly jangly indie. This was an oasis. Something completely different. It's demanding and hard work, you never get a moment to rest, and yet you get a break from the run-of-the-mill.

The Knife in Collaboration with Mt. Sims and Planningtorock - Tomorrow, In A Year
If you thought that was hard, you know nothing. This is another concept album, commissioned by Danish performance group Hotel Pro Forma to write the music for their opera based on Charles Darwin and his book ‘On the Origin of Species’. Even I struggled with this. When I relax and let it play, I can take it in, but if I try to listen, it escapes from me. A combination of electronica and opera, the music is challenging and highly experimental. At times it is uncomfortable, it is never rewarding, and yet there is something there that is simply incredible. BBC review.

Dutch - A Bright Cold Day
From one collaboration to another, this time an unlikely one between Stoupe of Jedi Mind Tricks and the relative unknown Liz Fullerton. It's like beauty and the beast as her gorgeous voice contrasts against the urban sounds. Favourite track: 2,000 Leagues Under My Keyboard.

Oddjob - Clint
Nu-jazz. Clint Eastwood. Ennio Morricone.

Jesca Hoop - Hunting My Dress
She was nanny to Tom Waits' kids. Then she moved to Manchester and Guy Garvey (Elbow) became her best friend. With so much support, she wasn't going to disappoint, and she doesn't. Another 'weird woman', Björk, Kate Bush et al, this album is a re-release. Freak-folk, great lyrics and her incredible range make this a standout album. My favourite track: Murder Of Birds

Matthew Dear - Black City
There were a lot of albums and artist names with the word 'black' in them this year that were good, it was almost a guarantor of success. My pick is this dance album, with the track of summer 2010, Little People (Black City). And it has a cowbell!

Mountain Man - Made The Harbor
American folk. Three girls with gorgeous voices go back to the source, inspired by wildlife and their natural surroundings. Something sweet and a break from the world. Favourite track: Animal Tracks

Warpaint - The Fool
Shoegaze, dream pop Cocteau Twins-like, dark and ethereal.

Wolf People - Steeple
Hippies! Jethro Tull honest to goodness.

Sa Dingding - Harmony
The Chinese Björk, this woman brings together east and west, heaven and earth, past and present and all within. Ingenious. Favourite track: Ha Ha Lili

Villagers - Becoming a Jackal
Indie magical realism is what I liked about this album. A cut above.

Foals - Total Life Forever
Ok not really a breakthrough artist, but they broke through my staunch prejudice against them. Favourite track: Spanish Sahara

Vampire Weekend - Contra
The same applies to these guys. Couldn't stand them before. Won't hear a word against them now. Favourite track: Cousins

The Glitch Mob - Drink the Sea
The sound of the future. Glitchy, hard to describe IDM. The right words haven't been invented yet. In the same league as Yeasayer for ingenuity and originality.

And now for my top ten:

10. Yeasayer - Oddblood
I adored All Hour Cymbals (2007) and lapped up the hype in the run up to the release of Oddblood. I was prepared to be disappointed after I heard Ambling Alp, because I didn't like it. But then I heard O.N.E and that was me sold. I still think the debut is the stronger album but this band have such a unique approach, the difference is neither here nor there. They are wacky and original with a positivity that's infectious.

09. Broken Bells - Broken Bells
This is a collaboration between The Shins frontman James Mercer and Brian ‘Danger Mouse’ Burton. It's the stripes on your chips turned gourmet. If indie can be dead classy, this is it. On one level, it's good radio music for everyman, unchallenging and pleasant. Go up a level, and the music is exquisite. Clever, subtle, with little splashes of colour and detail that don't go unnoticed, yet don't interfere either. The next level up and you're looking at how it's put together, the composition and arrangements. The pace, tone, the sense of familiarity even though you know you're listening to something very special and different. The Shins but better.

08. Midlake - The Courage Of Others
Hippies! Lovely, hippy dippy stuff, skipping through fields of flowers type of thing. Tight harmonies and acoustic instruments carefully controlled and guided, though the progression sounds effortless and free. This couldn't have been made in the 60s, there are ideas that could only have come from indie and space rock and bands such as Radiohead. Though the reference to Jethro Tull is there, it's just a peg in the ground. There is much more going on. I have listened to this album nearly twenty times and I feel I have barely scratched the surface.

07. Deerhunter - Halcyon Digest
The one with the creepy album cover. The music is pure Cocteau Twins and My Bloody Valentine. Beautiful, shimmering shoegaze dream pop, tranquil and transporting, underpinned by a Manchester flavour. The first track to jump out at me was Helicopter, followed by Desire Lines. It's like coming home.

06. Kanye West - My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy
Nutter! Nutter alert. One cover wasn't enough, and one of them was rude anyway, so he did a few just to be getting on with. The first listen went way over my head. The next few kind of hurt. The reviews were 10/10, what wasn't I getting? Then it clicked, one day when I was out walking and it was chugging away on my iPod. It's funny, but in a slightly cruel and vicious way, but even that's not straightforward, it's up one, up there with poetry that comes from stream of consciousness. I've played it about ten times and I've only just started. The humour is razor-sharp. And he wasn't kind to his collaborators either. Bon Iver features twice, but you wouldn't know it. What's he doing there? The gentle beardy folk bloke and this foul-mouthed insane genius? The lyrics are obscene. NSFW. Lyrically, musically, you name it, this is the album of 2010. Favourite track: Monster (feat. Jay-Z, Rick Ross, Nicki Minaj & Bon Iver)

05. Gonjasufi - A Sufi and a Killer
I haven't seen the figures but I think this year saw the highest number of new releases ever. Sounds impressive, but with so many sounding the same, there's not actually that much new music out there. So when you stumble across albums like this one, you can't help but notice. Here we have another original for 2010, helped by his friend, someone we're watching, Flying Lotus. If Flying Lotus is a key figure in avant-garde hip-hop, Gonjasufi is inventing some new path of his own. Trippy psychedelic, spliffed out and high. Listening to this, it's like you're in his head, hearing what he's hearing, seeing what he's seeing, all mushed up and mangled. Somehow, your IQ doesn't drop. With so many references from so many sources, as if he's sat there channel-surfing then turning the dial on the radio, the music keeps your interest piqued. Favourite track: Kowboyz&Indians featuring Las Grecas.

04. Joanna Newsom - Have One on Me
We go from devils to angels. For me, this is by far her best album. Previous works left me challenged but intrigued. This left me blissed. Intricately embroidered with tiny details, the music is grand and opulent, her distinctive voice reigned in and better controlled. My favourite track is the first, Easy. From thereon in, I fall into her world and stay.

03. Glasser - Ring
Last year, we had Bat for Lashes and Fever Ray. This year, it's Glasser. From the school of Björk and Kate Bush, this girl did all this herself on her laptop with GarageBand. Weird, outlandlish, dreamy, otherworldly, all the words you would apply to the women above. Glasser didn't break any new ground, but considering she did all this on her own, what will she do next? One to watch.

02. Beach House - Teen Dream
I know. It's just indie-pop and not that remarkable either. But I just loved it. Couldn't get enough. Good and honest, like home baked bread. The lead singer's voice caught my attention first. I thought it was a bloke. I don't know what she's done to wreck her voice, but Victoria Legrand has something very special. Favourite track: Walk in the Park

01. The Besnard Lakes - The Besnard Lakes Are The Roaring Night
And my number one. Feel slightly emotional now. This album crept up on me from out of nowhere and blew everything else aside. I had heard The Besnard Lakes before, wasn't their greatest fan, so when I first heard this, I thought yeah, great, next. It wasn't till a little while later that I noticed I kept going back to it. Why? This is what the BBC said, I couldn't put it better myself:

Long-time stars of the Canadian indie-rock firmament, at The Besnard Lakes’ core is husband-and-wife duo Olga Goreas and Jace Lasek, creators of 2007’s …Are The Dark Horse album, an alternately intimate and grandiose set which clocked in at a svelte 45 minutes. With …Are the Roaring Night they delve deeper into the glittering soundscapes that have become synonymous with their sound; sacrificing something of the warmth that marked their previous work, they nonetheless emerge with a thoroughly impressive, coherent whole.

Opening in two parts with Like the Ocean, Like the Innocent, the ease and confidence on display is remarkable. Lacek’s falsetto spirals and dives over a tense, static fuzz which finally breaks into bracing power chords a few minutes in, heralding the arrival of Goreas’s echoing, husky vocals – the perfect foil to Lacek’s sharp, distinctive style.

It’s a sense of the elemental The Besnard Lakes aim for on …Are the Roaring Night, and for the most part they nail it. The mood is almost overwhelmingly sedate at times, but caterwauling highs bubble under throughout – peaks such as those found on Albatross may seem rare, but they’re all the more effective for it, delivered with the kind of gusto that peers such as Arcade Fire and Broken Social Scene revel in.

The vision they present the listener is admittedly a dark one, perhaps best epitomised by its centrepiece: in Land of Living Skies, Goreas takes the spotlight with a tale of losing oneself to the vagaries of nature, swelling oceans and rugged landscapes forming the backdrop to – and manifestation of – deeply personal quandaries.

As it draws to a close, Light Up the Night constitutes the record’s most outright beautiful moment, washes of strings and piano surging towards a serene climax that does much to allay all the fear and confusion preceding, only for final track The Lonely Moan to recede in ghostly, suggestive whispers, indicating that for The Besnard Lakes, things aren’t that clear-cut after all. --James Skinner


Reco of the Week archives

Happy New Year !!

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  • pppppedram

    This is an amazing list. I love Besnard Lakes and from this album my favorite track was "And This is What We Call Progress". TBH Not as much as I enjoyed "The Besnard Lakes Are the Dark Horse". It's also great to see Gonjasufi and Janelle on your list. I have so many friends on and just recently started writing journals. I wish I could find a way to keep updated with journals like yours. Happy new year and all the best. p.s. check out my favorites as well:

    31 Dic 2010, 11:53
  • CvaldaVessalis

    You've got an End Of Year blog up?? Surely the end of days is soon to be upon us then? At least we got some killer tunes to ride it out though... ;) Good to see a rather excellent list here, Babs! Would you believe I haven't even heard of your #1 album?? Feel very sheepish and will get on the case shortly... A shout out to your readers though, feel free to check out my Top 100 (tee hee!) on my journal: Good work, friend! Happy New Year!!! x

    31 Dic 2010, 14:30
  • Babs_05

    Thanks for the comments and compliments, guys! :) And thank you also for the links back to your journals, was going to grab them myself anyway. hehe 'end of days'. I made myself sit down and write it. I'd been thinking about it for ages. Once I decided on 'favourites' rather than 'best', it was a bit easier. Can't wait for you to hear my number one. Let me know what you think.

    31 Dic 2010, 14:34
  • Orange_Anubis

    BLOODY HELL. How nice to see a list from you! I'll check out that Bernard Lake album, definitely.

    31 Dic 2010, 16:14
  • Babs_05

    Surprise!! :D hehe Bernard Lake. Let me know what you think.

    31 Dic 2010, 17:43
  • ionbulgar

    Yep, it was a good year :D

    1 Ene 2011, 17:47
  • Babs_05

    Thanks for the comment : )

    1 Ene 2011, 18:51
  • Nialloleary

    Well they said it would never happen...and here it is an end of year list! It's an excellent list as well-seems very well balanced and considered imho. I'm inclined to agree about lastfm stats-they are rarely what you expect. Also I've found that the order of a list shifts every time you look at it. On the masters, with you on Massive Attack, Gorillaz, Vampire Weekend, The National, Fly-lo, Mia, Sufjan-though the latter two are personal favorites of mine & the first three suffered for me because they were released last January. (& I've played them to death) Maps & Atlases is excellent imho. I need to find The Glitch Mob & Dutch-both sound really interesting. On the main top 10-100% on Deerhunter & Kayne West-I haven't heard The Besnard Lakes-so I'll head straight for that next I think. I feel a little foolish making recs in the light of the 500 album listens-however Wild Nothing Best Coast & LA Vampires might be worth a punt! Happy New Year Babs-thanks for posting!

    2 Ene 2011, 12:50
  • Orange_Anubis

    Thanks for the link Babs - glad you liked it! :)

    2 Ene 2011, 15:31
  • Babs_05

    Bertie's year end journal

    2 Ene 2011, 15:37
  • Babs_05

    Thanks, higgsvis.

    2 Ene 2011, 20:46
  • Babs_05

    StudleyUK's journal - Introduction to Top 50

    2 Ene 2011, 21:02
  • Soundhog

    Wow, that's a well considered list! Thumbs up for Gonjasufi and I'm going to check out Midlake and re-listen to Warpaint now. : )

    5 Ene 2011, 22:32
  • Babs_05

    Happy New Year, Niall! Thought I'd surprise you all. :D I replied sooner but zapped myself when I clicked on a Spotify link. :s Listened to all three albums - all excellent, thank you for that. I had only heard the Boyfriend song from Best Coast before, thought I'd listened to the rest of the album already. Recs are always appreciated. Thanks for kind compliments and comment. :)

    6 Ene 2011, 2:29
  • Babs_05

    Hi Soundhog! Thanks! I knew you'd appreciate Gonjasufi in there. Let me know what you think of Midlake and Warpaint. Oh and you really should check out Wolf People. Trust me. ;)

    6 Ene 2011, 2:31
  • nothingham

    I love your list! thanks for sharing :)

    7 Ene 2011, 18:50
  • Babs_05

    Thanks for your comment! :)

    7 Ene 2011, 19:03
  • the_red_shoes

    Fantastic taste! I love your write-ups.

    15 Ene 2011, 12:26
  • Babs_05

    Thanks! You're very kind. :)

    15 Ene 2011, 12:46
  • sunnychick

    Nialloleary suggested I have a peek at your list, and It has some lovely stuff. Why Teen Dream isn't near the top of every list is quite beyond me :) Nor The Age of Adz, come to that. But, before I become too gushing, The Knife In Collaboration with Mt. Sims and Planningtorock - Tomorrow, In A Year, got my vote for best Christmas Turkey! Cheers!

    16 Ene 2011, 19:26
  • Babs_05

    Aww! Thanks Niall, thanks sunnychick :)

    16 Ene 2011, 19:44
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