2nd January 2011
I used to write often about music for this journal. Those days of turning sounds into words have slipped by, but I still consume new music as eagerly as I did at any other time in my life. Like many, I cannot help but compile lists, and I shall not apologise for it either. Here, for your pleasure, are my top albums, songs, and performances of 2010.
My apologies for the lack of links or samples, but it won’t be too difficult to dig around on Last.fm, iTunes, YouTube or whatever if your ears are inquisitive. You can’t have everything on a plate, dear reader.
Aside from Surfer Blood (my album of the year by light years), the albums I played the most through the year were The Antlers Hospice and the eponymous album from Real Estate (both from 2009) and the Ryan Adams classic Love Is Hell from 2004. Plus a lot of Shins albums, as usual.
Not quite making my top ten include solid offerings from Sufjan Stevens, Deerhunter, Best Coast, Beach House, Belle & Sebastian, Avi Buffalo, Cymbals Eat Guitars, and Blakroc (the last two actually released 2009).
Most disappointing release by a million miles was the crap third album from Band Of Horses. Boring, forgettable dogshit. Such a shame.
I could pretty much just list all ten songs from the Surfer Blood album, truth be told. It was perfect in every way. Still, let’s try and spread the love.
I’m sure there were others, but my brain is struggling with this one. Besides, Last.fm does not lie, right?
In 2010, I tended to see bands in short blocks, such as at Glastonbury, or a week of gigs in New York. There were many highlights, but I think this ten is about right. Despite a fairly disappointing fourth album, Interpol are always incredible live, and their Rock City show in November was sublime.
My biggest error of the year was arriving at Terminal 5 too late and missing the Ted Leo And The Pharmacists set. I also missed Minus The Bear a few days earlier due to a cumulative hangover of epic proportions. Getting too old for this.
Nice and simple. All in all I think it was a tremendous year for music across the board. Hell, I even heard some amazing pop music in a New York cab this year. It may have been Katy Perry, I’m not sure. It was fucking good. At the time.
Anyhow, feel free to moan at me, tell me I’m wrong, or do the classic “Hey, you forgot bla bla bla…” as if you know my mind better than I do. Alternatively, share your best of 2010, if you have the time. I’m always interested in new stuff that I might have overlooked.
You’re obviously going to get a very subjective response here depending on music taste…
But considering you seem to have similar music taste to me I’m surprised you haven’t even mentioned Vampire Weekend with their excellent second album, Contra. They’ve managed to build on the sound of their first album, whilst making an extremely consistent listen; not a bum track on the album.
The other album that would make it on the list for me would be Jonsi’s album (the lead singer from Sigur Ros). As much as I love Sigur Ros, Josni is much more fun on his own.
Other food for thought:
The Wild Hunt by The Tallest Man On Earth
Postcards from a Young Man by the Manic Street Preachers
Treats by Sleigh Bells (admittedly a very acquired taste)
My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy by Kanye West (yes, he’s a prick but it’s an incredible album).
# Simon Collison responded on 2nd January 2011 with...
Jay George: Some good stuff there. Thanks for the tips.
I’ve long been a loyal fan of the Manics (but Know Your Enemy was the last thing I really liked from them) and I’ve written about Sigur Ros many times here (read this one in particular) but didn’t get too excited by Jonsi’s solo albums.
As for Vampire Weekend, I really, really, really don’t like them. Not sure why, but never have. Maybe it’s all a bit preppy, a bit lightweight, a bit US college nerdy, or whatever; and their clothes are ridiculous. And they stole the picture of the pretty lady. Some of their first songs sounded stupid to me. Sometimes I don’t find the spark in a certain band, and that’s the case with them.
Glad you like the Manics at least! Their new album is the closest they will get to Everything Must Go again.
I’d not heard of Astro Coast - checking them out now and loving them.
If you use Spotify you can check out my public playlists:
The A list is often new / experimental music
The B list is definite thumbs up music :-)
As Jay said, you’re going to get a subjective response but you have a few of my firm favourites in there Beach House, The Besnard Lakes and Broken Social Scene all producing excellent records this year (IMHO of course). Personally I rate the Sufjan Stevens–Age of Adz and Deerhunter’s–Halcyon Digest in my top ten. I’m looking forward to catching Deerhunter live in March. Bradford Cox is such a character.
# Adam Robertson responded on 2nd January 2011 with...
For me the Album of the year was: Beach House - Teen Dream, with the stand out track being Silver Soul.
Beachcomber’s Windowsill by Stornoway. A lovely slice of English folksy pop, unfortunately much underrated. Thanks for the tip about Surfer Blood as well, I’m going to take a listen now.
Some nice choices Simon, quite amazed no Midlake though! I’m compiling my top 10 as we speak and it’s a hard task! I think John Grants album for me was the standout release of 2010, also Beach House and Belle and Sebastian came out with some real gems too!
One band I think you will like is a Swedish band called Loney Dear who released a lovely album called Sologne. If you like Arcade Fire, Sufjan Stevens I think you will appreciate Loney Dear.
Happy new year!
Obviously Mr. Collison, you’ve made your feelings about Vampire Weekend perfectly clear, but just to defend them a little further, I got the chance to see them in London earlier this month, and I have to say, they were fantastic. Any previous reservations I held (including that they were too lightweight) are absolutely gone, and Contra is now one of my favourite albums. They had such great energy, they made such a huge sound, they filled the entire Alexandra Palace and there really was such a great vibe at that gig. If they ever play again and you get the chance to see them, I strongly, strongly recommend you do.
Aside from this, you’ve missed Sky at Night by I Am Kloot. Bloody brilliant. So many clever lyrics, well written melodies and great arrangements. Produced by Guy Garvey of Elbow fame. I’ve had the pleasure of seeing them live too, and they really are fantastic.
I second Sky at Night. Never really liked I Am Kloot’s previous albums - but this one is brilliant. Cross between Elbow and Badly Drawn Boy.
Nice choices, Colly. I made a top ten list as well, The National’s High Violet was my favorite of the year.
I believe the Katy Perry song was this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=98WtmW-lfeE. Wait for the chorus: fucking badass.
# Simon Collison responded on 2nd January 2011 with...
Lots of love for Beach House. You’re a classy bunch. Thanks for the other recommendations. I’ll check out Stornaway, Loney Dear, etc.
John: I loved the first Midlake album (most of it anyway), but the new one left me a bit cold. Not disappointed, just didn’t bother playing it much.
Jamie: You are not going to win me over regarding Vampire Weekend. I have yet to catch up with the latest I Am Kloot stuff, but I keep hearing good things. I loved their first album Natural History way back when you were about five. Excellent band.
Tory: Just checked out your list. I didn’t realise the latest Black Keys album and The Broken Bells album came out in 2010. I think I must’ve had dodgy early releases of those last year.
# Simon Collison responded on 2nd January 2011 with...
Greg: Yep, that’s the one. I don’t care what any snobs might say, that’s a class pop tune. I’m glad you recall us all dancing to that in a yellow cab. Good times. Also, she kissed a girl, and she like tit.
Katie Perry has some very good singles. It’s just a shame her album so unbelievably shit. “I wanna see your Pea-cock cock cock cock”.
@Simon I guess Courage of Others is not that an immediate album to get into. I have known the Midlake guys personally for a number of years and I remember Tim Smith telling me that it was a hard album to make and that they scrapped the original version as it sounded too much like Van Occupanther their previous release. I’m going to give The National a whirl on spotify as I have not heard much so cheers for the heads up!
Here is my top 10
It’s always been really hard for me to put music into lists, as a big part of my enjoyment of it all is made up of unique moments. Moments of clarity, inspiration, realisation, extreme happiness or sorrow, moments connected to a specific time & place.
I think I’d have to make a top 10 list consisting of every kind of moment if I’d want it to be representative. That being said, I have some that made me feel & think more than the rest.
There’s hours & hours of interesting things to be said about Wildbirds & Peacedrums, but simply, they make up both one of most beautiful albums of 2010 (Rivers) and one of the most wonderful concerts I’ve attended in my life. During the whole thing, I felt chilly, only to realize later that I was getting goose bumps the whole time. There is such a strong energy, honesty & rawness in this wonderful couple’s music, and the way they follow and interact with each other is crushingly beautiful. They said in a interview that they play at least 100 different versions of a song to find it’s true form (soul).
Why? has been consistently becoming more & more important to me, so 2010 has been a good year for getting to know them more. Yoni Wolf makes up such great moments with these fantastic lyrics of his. For some, I guess it’s an acquired taste, but it’s really worth exploring.
They also made one of my favorite music videos: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6ikWDmCatKA
Jim Bryson & The Weakerthans together made a little beauty of a suble & honest album. This has got me thinking & feeling many times during the year. Interestingly enough, i’ve been waiting for or standing on the subway, watching people.
The Weakerthans is one of my favorite bands, and few write such profound & honest lyrics as they. 2010 has also been about getting to know them more, which I have.
Meursault released the sonically beautiful & really awesome album All Creatures Will Make Merry. If you got Spotify, they’re here: http://open.spotify.com/album/7ub5SIXfecaqfUt7ynddqK (but if you like them, they got a neat album package worth buying).
Mimas! Wow, it’s kind of stupid that I hadn’t heard about them somehow, somewhere, before this year. The Worries, which came out in 2009 has kept me smiling A LOT.
Peter Broderick made a nice, little album called How They Are. The guy is young & extremely talented, and I also hear that he’s the kindest guy people have ever met. I hope to meet him myself in 2011. Especially this track resonated with me: http://open.spotify.com/track/14gd0ilBzA77t011yrtKrV
The last few months was both awful & great, with it’s contrasts, it’s way of making time blast by, but mostly, I found this fantasticly soulful album by three great jazz musicians. They made these “christmas songs” their own, and they made those months bearable: http://open.spotify.com/album/5u2GAofvCyXNDFpJ3CvYGq
I wasn’t as attentive as I feel I should have been due to many reasons, so music is one of the things I didn’t quite enjoy as much as usual. I’m really looking forward to being more mindful & involved in 2011.
Thanks for sharing, Simon. Hope my “list” makes you find something new you enjoy.
Some great picks! Given your selections here, I think you would really enjoy the Morning Benders, if you haven’t already checked them out. Big Echo is definitely one of my favorite albums of the year.
Thanks for sharing!
Oh, totally forgot about The Antlers. I remember back in 2007, when I was sitting on the top of a mountain, just listening to their first album & taking in the view. I was kind of amazed & sad no one had else had heard about them.
Suddenly, they released Hospice & blew up. That kind of sudden change surprised me, but I’m really happy about that. Now, Hospice is great, but what really stand out as one of the greatest moments in 2010 was when did a concert in Oslo.
I didn’t quite know what was awaiting us, and I was kind of unsure about the audience. At first, they seemed too chatty, while the band seemed kind of unsure. Suddenly a massive wall of sonic bliss hit us, and everyone got into the same state of mind. Together with Wildbirds & Peacedrums (w/ choir), that’s certainly two of the happiest moments I experienced.
Looking back, I now realize that these fantastic moments are more than enough to be content about!
I didn’t “get” Spoon’s Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga when it came out a couple of years ago, but Transference was an immediate hit for me. The track Written In Reverse is fantastic—the bouncy piano, the scrapy, raw vocals (“Aaaaaaaaah’m not standin’ here!”)... brilliant.
Then there’s Oceansize’s Self Preserved While The Bodies Float Up. It takes some getting used to, but sweet jeebus, what a band. The song Silent / Transparent is just epic, building up to a huge climax which ultimately doesn’t come. Listen to it loud with the lights off.
My final fave of 2010 would be Savoy Grand’s Accident Book. They’re a Nottingham (!) based slow-core band. Slow, empty songs, but oh so beautiful. You could say their music contains lots of white space, I guess. Listen to Last Night On Earth. Mesmerising.
# Ryan K responded on 3rd January 2011 with...
Mumford & Sons are getting a lot of play here in the States… for those enjoying the occasional folk fix.
It’s always nice to see someone else’s music choices for a whole year especially when they’re completely different to your own.
I posted some of my highlights the other day.
Barely listened to any indie/alternative stuff in 2010 so will be checking some of these out. Thanks for sharing!
Not sure if you’ve listened to the Dogs at all? Little bit similar to Titus Andronicus. I’ve only really listened to ‘Tall Stories From Under The Table’ and ‘Turn Against This Land’ myself, but both are good albums and worth checking out.
I forgot to add Black Mountain as one of my favourite gigs this year. Noisy and brooding, but epic.
Fred: Nice one, my friend. Thanks for the essay.
Chris: Ah, yes. I do have the Morning Benders album. haven’t played it much, but yeah, I like it.
Ryan K: I think most of us in the UK have had enough of Mumford and Sons as that one song has been played on every advert and TV show for twelve months. Catchy though, I admit.
Low: I have some Spoon stuff, but not really a fan. His voice gets on my nerves after a few songs. I’ll definitely check out Nottingham’s own Savoy Grand though. Good tip.
Matt: Blimey, a lot of stuff I don’t know or don’t like on your list. Some great stuff however. I’ll try a few.
Richard: The only Dogs album I think is worthy is Turn Against This Land, which I’ve played a 1000 times because it is absolutely bloody brilliant.
I was thinking about posting it somewhere, but I recon here is as good as any place.
Oh yes, check out Surf City, The War on Drugs and Kurt Vile.
Bear Hands I discovered in december, thanks to this fantastic video by Cyriak: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C4xEvfBrTGw
Their album Burning Bush Supper Club is really good, and I’m enjoying it a lot.
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