Monday, December 20, 2010

Albums of the Year, 2010

Bonnie Prince B and his funny folk.
The following are in no particular order, a glance at previous years’ lists having confirmed that allocating a number next to any one album results in an arbitrary ranking of no long term significance. Fewer ‘reviews’ this year too, as finding fresh rhetorical ways to convey a pleasure in what are often the same bands (reflecting an increasingly static taste) becomes an annual challenge I’m losing the will to confront. Also, when I read a year-end list at a worthy, knowledgeable website like The Quietus, I get the feeling that, in any case, I’ve probably been listening in all the wrong places. Or maybe there really is nothing much of note released nowadays that can impress a mid-life indie-pop. After all, my favourite release of the year isn’t on this list because it was the boxed set re-issue of the entire Orange Juice back catalogue from the early 1980s, Coals To Newcastle. So it’s a rough Top 11, followed by a list of secondary choices.

Bonnie “Prince” Billy & The Cairo Gang - The Wonder Show Of The World (Drag City)
Another year, and another wonderfully realised record of melodic narratives cloaked in raw, emotive beauty. Track to try: Troublesome Houses.

Sun Kil Moon - Admiral Fell Promises (Caldo Verde)
Shhhhhh... Soothing gorgeousness now comes with sporadic flamenco guitar riffs. But they work wondrously, as do most things created by a man in a perennial audition to play the soundtrack to Eternity. Track to try: Third and Seneca

Gayngs – Related (Jagjaguwar)
A gift box of styles and surprises built on a glowing fire-bed of compelling hooks. Track to try: The Gaudy Side of Town

Phosphorescent - Here’s To Taking It Easy (Dead Oceans)
Wins the award for least agit-prop album title since Black Lace’s last party LP. This record also more than makes up for the absence of any Jason Molina/Magnolia Electric Co. output this year, though it’s inspired enough by the latter to stand alone as an Americana landmark. Track to try: Los Angeles

Laura Veirs - July Flame (Bella Union)
Seventh album of fluttering, quirky brilliance could even be her best yet. Track to try: Life Is Good Blues

Natalie Merchant - Leave Your Sleep (Nonesuch)
Who makes double concept albums in a time of quick-fix downloads? Fatboy Slim and David Byrne tried with their musical opus on the theme of Imelda Marcos, but there were way too few highlights. Silver-toned Merchant bewitches us by trawling the annals of English-language poetry and setting its lyrical peaks to a mix of musical mannerisms. Endlessly delightful. Track to try: The Man In The Wilderness

The National - High Violet (4AD)
The critical backlash was long overdue, but in no way warranted. The avid listeners still know this is music to sink into for the aural equivalent of ongoing mild electrical shock. Like a prickly fruit that makes you work to get to the sweet centre. Track to try: Sorrow

The New Pornographers – Together (Matador)
Another terminally rewarding instalment of uplifting popular song. Track to try: Your Hands (Together)

Pantha du Prince - Black Noise (Rough Trade)
When German men realised they were not born to fight after all, they were re-born messing around with electronic instruments to produce earnest, understated symphonies that are all the more outstanding for their deceptive simplicity. If you’ve the temperament to ease yourself into this lush, synthetic world, you’ll rarely want to leave. Track to try: Abglanz

The Besnard Lakes - The Besnard Lakes Are The Roaring Night (Jagjaguwar)
Sprawling, epic song-blankets that sheath you in crystal guitars and dreamy voices, helping you to close your eyes and mentally sail to better places. Track to try: Land Of Living Skies Pt. 2

Positions 11-41:
Sierra Leone’s Refugee All-Stars - Rise & Shine (Cumbancha)
A riveting, life-affirming hotchpotch of reggae and African style that makes you want to get up and do something. Anything. Track to try: Dununya

Maximum Balloon - Maximum Balloon (Polydor)
Track to try: If You Return

Belle & Sebastian - Write About Love (Rough Trade)
Track to try: I Want The World To Stop

Caribou – Swim (City Slang)
Track to try: Leave House

Dawn Landes - Sweet Heart Rodeo (Cooking Vinyl)
Track to try: Money In The Bank

Innocence Mission - My Room In The Trees (Badman)
Track to try: The Leaves Lift High

Kristin Hersh – Crooked/Crooked Beginnings EP/Crooked Remainders EP (self-released)
Track to try: Glass

Tift Merritt - See You On The Moon (Fantasy)
Track to try: Never Talk About It

Tracey Thorn - Love And Its Opposite (Strange Feeling)
Track to try: Late In The Afternoon

Josh Ritter - So The World Runs Away (Pytheas)
Track to try: Change Of Time

Isobel Campbell & Mark Lanegan – Hawk (Vanguard)
Track to try: You Won't Let Me Down Again

Lissie - Catching A Tiger (Fat Possum)
Track to try: In Sleep

Horse Feathers - Thistled Spring (Kill Rock Stars)
Track to try: Belly of June

Bettie Serveert - Pharmacy Of Love (Second Motion)
Track to try: The Pharmacy

Edwyn Collins - Losing Sleep (Heavenly)
Track to try: All My Days

Cheikh Lo - Jamm (World Circuit)
Track to try: Sankara

Sufjan Stevens – All Delighted People EP/The Age of Adz (Asthmatic Kitty)
Track to try: Enchanting Ghost

Goldfrapp - Head First (Mute)
Track to try: Rocket

Azure Ray - Drawing Down The Moon (Saddle Creek)
Track to try: Larraine

Damien Jurado - Saint Bartlett (Secretly Canadian)
Track to try: The Falling Snow

Charlotte Gainsbourg - IRM (Because Music)
Track to try: Time Of The Assassins

Flying Lotus – Cosmogramma (Warp)
Track to try: Zodiac Shit

Donna Regina - The Decline Of Female Happiness (Karaoke Kalk)
Track to try: The Decline Of Female Happiness

Eels - End Times/Tomorrow Morning (E Works)
Track to try: In My Younger Days

Four Tet - There Is Love In You (Domino)
Track to try: Sing

Wildbirds & Peacedrums – Rivers (The Leaf Label)
Track to try: The Wave

Half-Handed Cloud - As Stowaways In Cabinets Of Surf, We Live-out In Our Members A Kind of Rebirth (Asthmatic Kitty)
Track to try: Sonar Sends Bells To And Fro

Josh Rouse - El Turista (Bedroom Classics)
Track to try: Valencia

Ryan Bingham & The Dead Horses - Junky Star (Lost Highway)
Track to try: Yesterday's Blues

The Weepies - Be My Thrill (Nettwerk Records)
Track to try: Be My Thrill


nathan3e said...

Ian -

Although my car and headphone music tends toward what my wife would call crazy ass shit (Swans, Autechre, Demdike Stare, etc.) I genuinely loved many of the records on your list, particularly the Natalie Merchant. We went for the whole shebang - double CD hardcover with the signed picture and have not regretted it for a moment. A new record from Tracey Thorn is always welcome as well. I feel like I have grown up with her.

By the way, have you ever given CocoRosie a listen?

Stay-At-Home Indie-Pop said...

Never heard of it/her. Can you point me in the right direction? The new Authechre didn't do much for me. though it probably requires more concentration than I've yet been bothered to devote to it.

nathan3e said...

CocoRosie - Grey Oceans, out now on Sub Pop. Ignore the inexplicable cover art.

Autechre released Overteps and Move of Ten this year. Oversteps is the more accessible of the two, although I adore both.

AMD said...

I am impressed by your determination to seek out in such large numbers new album (even by acts you already know). For much of the year, I almost exclusively listened to old stuff.

The more I hear Ryan Bingham, the more I love the album. And Tift Merritt's song about making a mix-tape tells the story of my life.

I would have had you down as a fan of Lloyd Cole's new album, which tops my list.

I've just got the Justin Townes Earle album. After the first spin, I'm suitably impressed. Pity I've already done my year-end list.

Stay-At-Home Indie-Pop said...

AMD - didn't even know Lloyd Cole was still recording, haven't bought anything by him since Rattlesnakes...
I'll definitely Give Earle Jnr. a try.

Nathan - ta for the tip.