December 30, 2010
Herewith another end-of-year compilation and, like every year, good in 2010 doesn’t represent a definitive countdown of the best tracks of the last twelve months: it’s a track list for a compilation that covers some great music released across that period. (CD-Rs in the post to those on The List soon.)
You can listen to all of it in sequence here…
… or dip into it track-by-track below. Tomorrow I’ll publish a mix of deeper, darker stuff from 2010. Enjoy.
1. Lay In A Shimmer by Pantha Du Prince
The opening track of close to 94‘s sixth favourite album of the year (Black Noise), Lay In A Shimmer does what it says on the tin.
2. Odessa by Caribou
Opener and single from Swim, 2010’s fourth best album by this blog’s estimation, Odessa is kooky disco par excellence.
3. We Want War by These New Puritans
Bold baroque pop from Southend-on-Sea from the #10 album of the year according to close to 94.
4. Aminals by Baths
Baths, a.k.a. Will Wiesenfeld, broke through this year with his debut album, Cerulean, a highly-praised mix of hip-hop beats and sun-drenched Californian song-writing.
5. Tracers by Scuba
With Triangulation Scuba served up one of a small handful of thoughtful dubstep releases that appeal as much to the head as to the feet. Full album review here.
6. Move On by Lali Puna
A highlight from the so-so album released back in April by the German electro melancholists. Full album review here.
7. Mirrorage by Glasser
Glasser is Cameron Mesirow, a one-woman orchestra who performs on conventional instruments and those of her own invention. She also writes and sings beautifully. Can someone have too much talent? Check out her debut album, Ring, to find out.
8. Losing My Patience by Shit Robot
Great band name, though Shit Robot isn’t actually a band. It’s the alter ego of Marcus Lambkin, an Irish DJ, producer and member of James Murphy’s DFA stable of acts (see track 10). This track features Hot Chip vocalist Alexis Taylor, which is nice.
9. Vessel (Four Tet Remix) by Jon Hopkins
This year, as ever, Four Tet gave as much to listeners as remixer as he did as creator (his There Is Love In You album was a welcome return to form). This beautiful re-rendering of a track from Jon Hopkins‘ 2009 album Insides is what you hear if you look up with word sublime in the dictionary.
10. Home by LCD Soundsystem
The last LCD Soundsystem album? That’s what I call quitting while you’re ahead. From close to 94‘s #02 album of the year, Home is just one of a brace of James Murphy’s immaculately loose electro-punk cuts on This Is Happening. After listening to it you feel younger but wiser. Weird, huh?
11. Afraid Of Anyone by The National
Grown-up rock can either be grippingly stirring or crushingly dull. The National, naturally, stay firmly on the side of the former. From their universally lauded album High Violet, this track shows why the band, ten years in, are as strong as ever.
12. We Used To Wait by Arcade Fire
Arcade Fire were back in 2010. Back as in they released their first record since 2007’s Neon Bible, and back as in The Suburbs (from which this track is taken) more than made up for the (relative) disappointment of that release after the revelation that was their debut LP Funeral.
13. The Mall And Misery by Broken Bells
Broken Bells is name of the collaboration between Brian Burton (the producer-star better known as Danger Mouse, one half of Gnarls Barkley) and James Mercer (lead singer of US indie band The Shins). As such it could either be spectacularly good, or spectacularly bad. It is not bad at all.
14. Enchanting Ghost by Sufjan Stevens
Sufjan Stevens indulged the world with not one but two substantial releases this year. The first, the hour-long All Delighted People EP – from which this track is taken – was a wonderful blend of Stevens old and new (full review here). The second, the dizzying album The Age Of Adz, I haven’t yet fully digested.
15. The Course by Wildbirds & Peacedrums
It’s becoming an annual tradition to include something by Wildbirds & Peacedrums on this compilation, though last year they made it there via an administrative error. No such nonsense this year: their album Rivers, itself comprised of two EPs – Retina and Iris – was 2010’s seventh best. And that’s official.
16. Natural Tune by Efterklang
The quiet compilation closer is this year provided by Danish art-indie ensemble Efterklang, whose latest album, Magic Chairs, saw them return to a more intimate staging of their music following their triumphant tour of previous album Parades accompanied by full orchestra.
December 29, 2010
Another bountiful 12 months for the open-minded listener, and a great first year of music for this blog to dip its toe into. Below I list my top ten long-players of 2010. Tracks from each of them will be featured on my annual compilation or mix, both of which will be published before the bells ring in 2011.
A welcome sign that British pop has not lost neither its ambition nor its precociousness. These New Puritans reached far beyond their Southend-on-Sea origins with their second album, Hidden, somehow weaving art-pop, dancehall rhythms and orchestral interludes into a coherent listening experience. The juxtaposition of a forlorn clarinet harmony with 8-bit toms on Drum Courts-Where Corals Lie is one of many sublime moments.
For his fifth album on Kranky Scott Morgan (a.k.a. Loscil) continued his exploration of crackling drones, this time animated by an almost organic heartbeat. Its moment of truth occurs at the last, the breathtaking The Making Of Grief Point, in which Dan Bejar’s (singer-songwriter for Destroyer, for whom Morgan drums) dystopian stream of consciousness finally gives voice to Locsil’s brooding soundscapes.
Stark, crystalline, minimal electronic music supplemented with deep (and deeply satisfying), booming synth bass pulses. In Pong – an homage of sorts to the seminal computer game – Jens Massel (a.k.a Senking) has created what should become the reference standard for any musician looking to take dubstep into darker ambient territory – paying attention to the stunning V8 in particular. A work of unnerving beauty.
Rivers in fact brings together two EPs released earlier in the year. On the first, Retina, the Swedish husband-and-wife duo (who also made my end-of-year compilation for 2009) were joined by a chamber choir, adding a sacred dimension to their primal purity. Though less adorned, Iris (the second EP) is no less powerful. Wildbirds & Peacedrums also provided one of my most memorable live experiences of the year. Truly special.
Pantha Du Prince: Black Noise (Rough Trade)
£8.99 from [Boomkat]
The opening track title – Lay In A Shimmer – says it all. German techno musician Hendrik Weber’s (a.k.a. Pantha Du Prince) third album is minimal, sure, but it’s also rich with atmosphere and soul. Its potency lies in its accumulative use of layered, ringing chimes as a call to meditation. On Black Noise Weber offers to lead you through rituals simultaneously ancient and modern. My advice: submit.
From my album review back in September: “It is everything it should be, and nothing more: melancholic but melodic, intricate but intimate, contemplative but concise… Richter’s unerring ability to allow his music to communicate meaning with the minimum time and effort, with no unnecessary repetition or waste, is the key to Infra‘s rewarding coherence. True minimalism.” It is yet more affecting in a live setting.
Another immaculate set from Dan Snaith (Caribou née Manitoba), who hasn’t really put a foot wrong in ten years. Swim is at least equal to his last album, 2007’s Andorra. No mean feat. Stylistically ploughing a similar furrow to Black Noise (see #06 above) – minimal-techno-with-chimes must be one of this year’s micro-memes – but warmer, freer and more lyrical, Swim sounds like something Arthur Russell would have produced had he been at his peak today. That’s high praise indeed, by the way.
From my album review published, um, the day before yesterday: “On Generator, Whitman creates the conditions for the machine to direct proceedings… It’s mesmerising. In some ways it’s not useful to dissect tracks individually, though there’s ample variation among them to warrant it. From the blissful arpeggios of 1 to the atonal space communications of 3, from the minimal techno of 7b to the white noise of 8, the constant is a purity of expression – a vacuum into which you can pour your own meaning.”
LCD Soundsystem: This Is Happening (EMI)
£7.49 (deluxe edition) from [Amazon.co.uk]
Reportedly James Murphy’s swan song as LCD Soundsystem, part of me didn’t want to love This Is Happening. It’s just too inevitable, almost as if it is a duty not a choice. The knowing Heroes pastiche on All I Want was, I thought, the perfect opportunity to scoff that Murphy was all out of hipper than thou post-punk references. He had finally Lost His Edge. No such luck. Like his self-titled debut and follow-up Sound Of Silver, this album is another collection of perfectly pitched post-post-punk. Music for now and forever.
You know those times when you’re caught in the rain but it feels like the most wonderful thing? That’s what listening to Does It Look Like I’m Here? is like. It has something to do with the way notes cascade down like synthesised water droplets, glancing off you but adding, particle by particle, to the gathering euphoria. On their umpteenth recording in just five years Cleveland, Ohio-based Emeralds have wrought their sometimes untamed blend of Kosmische, minimalism and drone into an hour of intense but harmonious oblivion.