Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Top 10 Albums of 2010

It’s Top 10 time. It’s been a sweet little year music-wise, with Brisbane’s gorgeous pop-driven sunlit sound dominating the ear-holes early on, but some new sounds thanks to my new surrounds have started to creep in. As expected, live music and reviews have dominated my charts as I’ve boned up on artists so I can write at least half-way intelligible critiques. The reviews have also opened my ears to stuff I probably wouldn’t expose myself to ordinarily (Gareth Liddiard and Edwyn Collins, for example). So, here’s what I reckoned was good sounds in 2010. What say you?

10. The White Stripes, Under Great White Norther Lights.

There’s nothing like a great live album, is there? The Stripes never quite grabbed my fancy on a recorded setting - something to do with my natural aversion to overbearing fan-boys which tend to cloud the issue dramatically - but in a live sense, this duo is seriously powerful. This was a duel CD/doco release following the group on a Canadian tour, and it highlights a band keen on presenting its music as honestly as possible: crunchy, loose and with enough rough edges to make it endearing.

9. The Vasco Era, Lucille.

Aw, love a cool concept album. This group’s second offering is solid, with a dominating narrative following the break up of a couple by the names of Sam and Lucille. Importantly, the music has infinitely more depth than it’s first album and relies less on gritty guitars and front-man Sid O’Neil’s screech. Some people have found this appalling (this great review here, for example), but I love a band willing to break the mould so early.

8. Edwyn Collins, Losing Sleep.

One of those reviews which somehow made its way to my top rotation list. The former Orange Juice leader came back from the brink of death to record this star-studded affair and it’s a corker. The themes deal with those awful truths of aging and relevance, which seems weird coming from an artist as accomplished as Collins, but its done so with compassion and tenderness, rather than fear and loathing. Oh, and it’s chock full of some of the most irresistible pop hooks of 2010.

7. Gareth Liddiard, Strange Tourist.

Another review album which wormed its way in under the radar. I really didn’t think I’d get into this initially and actually wanted to dislike it (part of that anti-fanboy thing... I’ve really gotta work on that cynical resistance to some music), but what’s not to like about a laconic story-teller who can weave a yarn about a French tight-rope walker at one end of an album, and book-end it with a 16-minute verbose biography of David Hicks which turns itself into a spittle-flecked diabtribe about modern living?

6. Sharon Jones and The Dap Kings, I Learned The Hard Way

Soul/funk revival in all its refinery. Don a fedora and a white wife-beater and get your mofo groove on, bitches. This is the real deal.

5. Cordrazine, Always Coming Down

Time to take it down a notch or three. After going to ground thanks to freaking out at the reaction to the band’s first album back in 1998, Hamish Cowan finally got the band back together to record its follow up. The decade-long absence has not wearied them one bit, with the dreamy ethereal soundscape just as lush and inviting as ever. And honestly, who couldn’t be soothed by Cowan’s detached falsetto?

4. Glenn Richards, Glimjack

So Glenn broke up Augie March and formed another identical band featuring a couple of dudes from The Drones, his brother and some other bloke. Who the hell cares? This is an Augie March album in the vein of pre-One Crowded Hour. It’s only criticism could be that it’s very conscious of not producing another OCH, which seems to have become a talisman for Richards and co. Still, good to see their live show is less irritating.

3. Gorillaz, Plastic Beach. shit. There is so much packed into this supergroup’s new album that it’s almost too much to comprehend. The Clash’s Paul Simonon and Mick Jones teaming up with Blur’s Damon Albarn should be enough to smack you in the gob with its awesomeness, but with cameos from artists such as Snoop Dogg, Lou Reed and Mos Def this has turned into a spectacle of spectacular proportions. The music is thumping and huge and is genuinely exciting in its delivery. I cannot wait to see where this is eventually heading.

2. Two Door Cinema Club, Tourist History.

How can a trio of pasty Northern Irish lads with foppish fringes, tight jeans and angular guitars sounds so fucking French? There’s an irreverent lightness in touch and an almost arrogant approach to the hook that it sneaks up on you and bites you fair on the arse before you can implement the cynical old dude gene and discount it as pure kiddie pop. Sure it’s that, but it’s also strong and with a driven undercurrent. This is head and shoulders above the throw-away hipster guff out there.

1. The Gin Club, Deathwish.

I wrote this group off a couple of years back as nothing more than a curious piss-around for a couple of serious musos looking to blow off steam before getting back to their other work and a healthy rotation of part-timers getting their pound of stage-flesh before returning to their day jobs... yeah, so how wrong was I? Where 2008s Junk tended to be a large wielding mess, Deathwish provides a tight direction and a consistent vibe. One of resigned optimism and reflective contemplation which, while navel-gazing in all its refinery, never loses itself up its own arse. The dichotomy woven amongst these tracks is intriguing: it’s understated, but grand; it’s simple but dense; it’s accomplished, but also allows enough breadth for a first-time singer-songwriter (Ben Salter’s brother-in-law and farmer Gordon Stunzner) to shine through. Most importantly, it’s built of a straight-forward, no-nonsense song craft of which classics are made.


beeso said...

Well mine is no surprises, a hip hop album. Ozi Batlas solo album just took the scene in a bit of a different direction, a bit more thoughtful perhaps. Love the Gorillaz album, great fun.

I'll be checking out a few others from this list though.

Albion Love Den said...

Certainly is no surprise, Beeso. Must admit, I've turned my back on Oz hip hop after it became way too Hilltop Hoods-ish (sorry, know you like them). Have always found The Herd to be exciting, though, so I'll have to check out Batla's.

beeso said...

Sharon Jones - good album!! Thanks for the tip.

Albion Love Den said...

Glad you liked. Her gig was abso-fkn-lutely insane. She can move well for a squat 55-year-old. If you're digging the whole soul/funk revival thing, also check out the Poets of Rhythm, The Mannish Boys and Black Joe Lews & The Honeybears

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