Thursday 23 December 2010

Albums of the Year, 2010

It's that time of year when I feel compelled to add to the mass of end-of-year lists that you can't help bumping into. I'll keep it brief then, and only list ten. These are the albums that I got most from in 2010. Not the "best" as that makes it sound like my best has to be your best, and of course it doesn't. They're my favourites, the ones I'm likely to return to during 2011 and beyond, but I'd be keen to hear if you think I missed something truly great. There's a Spotify playlist containing one track from most (not all) of the albums.

(Links are to BBC artist pages and Metacritic album review pages)

Arcade FireThe Suburbs
To anyone who says that albums are dead and now it's all about single tracks, this is the best response. A sprawling, 16 track affair which took multiple listens to start to make sense. Strange the way that AF songs have a habit of sounding, well, disappointing, until something clicks and they become your favourite songs ever. I wasn't sure how they'd come back after Neon Bible, but they did, with something even stronger. I can honestly say I think I'm in love with this record.

MidlakeThe Courage of Others
Strange, this one seems to have missed out on many end of year lists. I think I can see why: it's dark, serious and retro-sounding. To be honest it doesn't really fit into 2010 in any obvious way. But those songs! Beautiful melodies, and incomprehensible lyrics. It's an album for cold winter nights.

GorillazPlastic Beach
Another long 16 track sprawling album (is this a theme to my musical proclivities?) which took quite a while to really appreciate. Ambitious and eclectic, Damon delivered another masterpiece, mixing styles and guest vocalists, but always keeping great tunes at the heart of it. This is one of those albums that I can play where the children don't complain.

Broken Social SceneForgiveness Rock Record
I have to be honest, until this album came out I didn't know much about BSS. But if there was one album I listened to most this year it would probably be this. It didn't get rave reviews, but I don't know why. There isn't a mediocre song on the record, it's all good. Most under-rated band of the year for me.

US singer songwriter's 7th album. I missed the first six, but when Guy Garvey played a track from July Flame I knew this was something special. She really does have a great voice, and these songs are in the main outstanding. Perhaps a little long, but lovely nonetheless. And named after a variety of peach, which has to be good.

The NationalHigh Violet
I was already a big fan of The National, but this is my No.1 album by the Ohio art-rockers. The combination of baritone vocals and tuneful guitar does it for me, but the songs really hold their own on High Violet.  

Jonsi Go
Sigur Ros make the most beautiful and atmospheric music you could imagine, so it's not a surprise that their lead singer - Jonsi - made a superb solo album. It contains what is probably my favourite track of the year - Go Do - a truly mesmerising mix of sounds with vocal melodies that seem to come from outer-space.

Sufjan StevensThe Age of Adz
I'm still getting to know this album in truth, but it's clear to me that it'll be one of the records released this year that I'm still listening to in say 5 years time. Quite a break from his first two much loved "states of America" albums, it's complex, broad and not an easy first listen. But worth it.

Laura Marling I Speak Because I Can
How can someone this young (still only 20) write such mature songs? Not as "poppy" or obvious as her first stunning album, but after many listens it comes to life - there are some beautiful sad songs here.

Flying Lotus - Cosmogramma
Flying Lotus, AKA Steven Ellison, released a hugely ambitious mash up of musical styles in 2010. A distant relative of John and Alice Coltrane, the jazz influences are there, but so are many other genres. The most future looking album of 2010 for me.

If I'd allowed myself more than ten albums I'd have no doubt mentioned Bombay Bicycle ClubThe Tallest Man On Earth and Beach House, but I haven't so I won't.

Lists for 2009 and 2008.

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