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Things Of The Year 2010: Albums

by on Jan.01, 2011, under The Rest

As space year 2010 winds down to a drizzly end, it seems only appropriate to tell anonymous people the things I liked during its reign. Sausages ranked highly. Other things were more specifically associated with the year. They include:


It’s been a funny year for me with albums (which is exactly what I said last year). My go-to artists are all on off years, but for Cloud Cult. No Mountain Goats, no new Nick Cave (I’m pretending the Grinderman album didn’t happen), no new Rural Alberta Advantage nor Rock Plaza Central. But fortunately there was lots that was great. Here’s the ones I can remember because Spotify doesn’t have a stinking memory, and I accidentally switched off scrobbling.

Please comment with whatever albums you think I should have included.

Links are to Spotify.

Sleigh Bells – Treats

There exists a special category of music that only appears during the correct alignment of the planets at the correct temperature at the correct barometric pressure. It’s an album that both Kieron Gillen and I like. He tends to like bleepy-bloopy music with shrieking girls, or boring over-produced pop. I tend to like nice music with nice singing. But then there comes a band like Sleigh Bells, who combine the two, without letting either side down. It’s bleepy and bloopy, shouty and poppy, and it’s brilliant. Its brilliance peaks with Infinity Guitars, whose hyperbole doesn’t end with the title. Then Rill Rill sounds like a Motown R&B cover combined with a girly indie single from 1993. It’s oddly hardcore, and yet incredibly delicate. It understands the importance of a heavy bass pound sat behind chirpy J-pop ditties. It can’t be forgiven for spelling a song “Straight A’s”, but that ignored it’s an utterly splendid album that unites the world in disharmonious harmony.

The National – High Violet

I rediscovered The National this year by hearing their unmatchable 2007 track, Fake Empire. They then politely released a new album just as my interest was peaked. It’s certainly more of the same – Tindersticks with a touch more optimism. But their talent for a tune, matched with the almost oppressive theatrics, creates a beautiful listen. Conversation 16 stands out, with surprisingly fast drums, although Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks sounds like it’s trying a bit too hard to be the final track on the album.
It’s gentle, seeming to imply orchestral rather than ever really delivering it. And it works.

Pagan Wanderer Lu – European Monsoon

This may well be my favourite album this year. Passionately singing about using crustaceans as castanets (which contains the lyric, “Why do you bother going on tour when there’s a band that sounds like you in every town?”) makes me happy. Done in cheerful one-man-pop with just the right amount of electronica, and track names like “God in his wisdom and compassion spares the Mona Lisa from being engulfed by the dying sun”, it’s also smart, sarcastic, and incredibly interesting. (That track is about whether the Mona Lisa can survive entropy, in case you were wondering, and spectacularly swims from ultra-simplistic keyboard poking to Manics-like sensationalism.) The track I love the most is Self Doubt Gun. Opening line, following melancholy mouthorgan: “I wish I had a self doubt gun, with which to mow down everyone.” A tale of wanting everyone else to suffer the same self doubt that plagues him. Then Version 5’s eight minutes goes on precisely the journey it should, with three minutes of the quietest mumbling building into an electronic cacophony, before splintering down to a space-bloop-ballad. It’s a truly splendid thing.

Kyle Andrews – KANGEROO

I don’t watch adverts, so I’ve no idea how many commercials have tainted You Always Make Me Smile. It’s pretty sad that as much as I love that song, and even though I avoid adverts at all costs, I can’t help seeing it as a Vodaphone advert, in which pretty people take videos of each other while giving piggybacks and spinning in a field. But that’s best ignored by watching the official video for the song:

Of course it’s ludicrously cheesy, but it doesn’t stop it being an absolutely excellent pop song. And I like a chorus that begins in confusion, and then has a realisation. Each time. And it’s not the only great track on the KANGEROO EP. Sushi (Slow Dancing At The Prom Mix) is a lovely thing, and Don’t Feel Left Out is a well-delivered Owen-like ballad. So yes, it all looks like a Bravia commercial, but get over it.

Laura Marling – I Speak Because I Can

I love how popular Laura Marling’s suddenly become, this fab album appearing in very many top 10s. Folk wins! It’s a fantastic album, and one I thought I was loving all on my own (although I’ve just noticed it was nominated for the Mercury). I loved her previous Alas I Cannot Swim, and this is just as lovely. Her gentle voice, with an edge of husk, has a real Scandinavian sound to it – comparable with Hello Saferide and Ane Brun – despite her being born in England. (If only there’d been a new Ane Brun album in 2010.) It’s a stunning album, and one I’m delighted to realise everyone else was listening to too. However, I do take issue with her being born in 1990. That’s ridiculous.

Cloud Cult – Light Chasers

I’m not sure why it’s taken me so much longer to explore Light Chasers than 2008’s Feel Good Ghosts, or 2007’s The Meaning Of 8, which I have probably listened to eighty million times. Including this year. Because it’s a great album, preceded by the gorgeous Running With Wolves EP. I don’t think the album is helped by a cover that looks like a home-made relaxation CD. And I don’t think it is as good as the previous two, which makes them far more tempting to return to instead. Cloud Cult’s strings and beats, their plaintive lyrics that eventually offer deep hope, and the sense that they’re always focused on creating something beautiful, makes them one of my all-time favourite bands. But this doesn’t rank as one of my all-time favourite albums, in the way that Feel Good Ghosts undoubtedly does. But maybe I need to give it more of a chance.

The Rest

I’ve only just discovered that there’s a new Matt & Kim album, but I’m guessing that’ll be something I’ll love soon enough. And for reasons I can’t explain, I’ve still not listened properly to the new Sufjan Stevens (not on Spotify). Annika Norlin’s album this year, Facit, was released as Säkert!, so in Swedish. While great to listen to, it means missing out on her brutally brilliant lyrics, and leaves me feeling a bit on the outside. Hopefully she’ll be back as Hello Saferide next year. Weirdly the new Anni Rossi album, not due out until next year, and even denied by label 4AD as being out, turns out to be on Spotify. But sadly it seems pretty awful, offering none of the charm that made Rockwell such a great album, and entirely ditching her trademark violin. A real disaster. Owen only put out a two track single this year – Abandoned Bridges – which sounds exactly the same as everything else he’s ever sung. I love his song, but he’s really pushing it at this point. It doesn’t deviate in any way, right down to singing “fuck” in a peculiarly aggressive way in the middle of a sickly-sweet ditty. I still love it, but I think my patience for loving it is getting thin. The Hellsongs album has some great tracks, but doesn’t quite hold up overall. I haven’t yet spent enough time with the new Forest City Lovers album, Carriage, but it’s sounding pretty tremendous. Seabear’s We Built A Fire is another excellent album I’ve not listened to enough. And the Girl Talk album, while clearly a work of genius, just doesn’t delight me like Feed The Animals. It’s too slow, too lingering, and while it’s better constructed and more smartly selected, it doesn’t make me laugh with pleasure. And then there’s the dozen or so I’ve inevitably forgotten.


5 Comments for this entry

  • alonzo

    That’ll be High Violet I’m guessing ;) But well done on loving it, it seems to have been hugely underrated by most year-end lists, except PopMatters who went crazy and put it ahead of Kanye West along with Janelle someone or other and a recording of some electronic circuitry breaking down. You obviously just forgot Frightened Rabbit, The Tallest Man on Earth and Gorillaz.

  • Josh Brandt

    I really liked Light Chasers, and it’s great to see them doing a HAPPY album– Feel Good Ghosts is amazing, and is one of my all-time favorites too, but man. I can’t listen to it very often… That might be part of being a fairly recent father. “When Water Comes to Life” makes me sniffly every time I listen to it. “You Were Born” does too, but in a different way…

  • Dolphan

    Alonzo – It was second on the Drowned in Sound list.

  • Alex

    Shouldn’t that be “piqued”?

  • Xercies

    Albums I loved this year: Vampire Weekend’s Contra, Beach House’s Teen Dream, Yeasayers’ Odd Blood, and James Blunt’s Some Kind of Trouble.

    Albums i tried but just didn’t like: Arcade Fire’s The Suburbs, LCD Soundsystem’s This is Happening, Gorillaz’s Plastic Beach

    The Award for still not liking and not getting why he is so popular and critically acclaimed even when his sound doesn’t sound that spectacular goes to Kanye West.