BEST ALBUMS OF TWENTY10 – PT 1. Nathan’s TOP TEN
It’s that time of year again. The end of year lists are already cropping up so I thought it’s time for me and Lewi to chip in. This year, we’re doing individual lists, as you could probably assume from the title of the post. So here it is, my top ten albums of 2010.
And I still do. Fang Island’s self-titled debut is probably the most positive album released all year. You’ll definitely find it hard to feel depressed after listening to their record. The first three songs of the album totally exemplify this, “Dream of Dreams”, “Careful Crossers” and “Daisy” build into each other to set the tone for the rest of the record, songs full of energy and vocals that just need to be screamed at the top of your lungs. The latter mentioned, “Daisy”, with the lyrics, “Ooo That’s alright, Hey, That’s okay, Ya, that’s alright, Ya, that’s a woah woah” gushes forth nothing forth but happiness. The power-playing of the guitars and the energy on the songs is hard to repress. It’s an extremely listenable album, to an extent it sounds motivational, hell, it helped me out when I had exams and such-like earlier this year and, it’s one that just flows from track to track, the choric singing, the happiness and energy seeming to pass through and transcend as it’s main motifs. I imagine they would be a joyous riot to witness live, one I also assume would be incredibly faithful to the sound captured here. Listen to Fang Island and feel the blues just wash away.
9. Gorillaz – Plastic Beach
What I wrote in the orignal review: “If this is truly the final crescendo of Gorillaz, what a note to go out on.”
Damon Albarn’s third album under the Gorillaz moniker was touted as possibly a conclusion to the cartoon alter-egos escapades. However, Albarn, already has a follow-up, recorded on an iPad, in the works. Yet, let’s not distract from this brilliant album, the culmination of prior work has effectively carved a profile, a collective psyche of the Gorillaz and this concept-within-a-concept album builds upon what has already been prior established into a brilliant album that is hard to ignore. It features guest spots from a diverse range of artists including a fantastic spoken word cameo from Snoop Dogg, Lou Reed’s broken drawl and the comedy of De La Soul. But even with a mix of so many contributors, I felt that the best parts of the album came from Albarn himself, listening to tracks devoid of guests like “Rhinestone Eyes” and “Pirate Jet”, you cannot help but feel that Albarn has reached a point in that Gorillaz have become fully realised, a facet to the man’s music, amongst the many others, that has constructed itself a legacy much wider in scope to his reason for success, Blur. His ambitious work has built up to Plastic Beach and it’s an album that duly delivers. You’d be a fool to miss it, and as far as I’m concerned, the album, as he sings on “Pirate Jet”; “It’s all good news now…”
8. Big Boi – Sir Luscious Left Foot: The Son of Chico Dusty
What I said in the original review: “…[the] album has most recently been incredibly over-hyped. But…it proves deservedly so.”
Big Boi’s first true solo album outside of Outkast, is a true tale of triumphing over adversity. Met with many delays over the three year period it was made, stemming from disputes with the rapper’s former label Jive Records, it finally saw release earlier this year. The song that easily gets everyone talking about Big Boi is the sublime “Shutterbugg”, the lead single that is easily my favourite song from the album, it’s a brilliant, brilliant rap, it samples Soul II Soul, and simply astounds me every time I hear it. Big Boi is on fire on this song and across the whole album, he seems almost irrepressible. It’s as if the several delays revolving around the album have translated directly into his lyrically fury. There’s hilarious interludes mentioning tea-bagging and guest appearances from Janelle Monae, B.o.B and Yelawolf amongst others, songs that borrow R&B elements and production work that never fails to impress. Although Kanye stole the Hip-Hop crown for 2010, Big Boi was never far behind, making a debut that has undoubtedly set the bar for any future work (a follow up has been dated for late 2011) incredibly high.
7. Mount Kimbie – Crooks & Lovers
London-based duo Mount Kimbie’s 11-song debut album, Crooks & Lovers, is an amazing collection of tracks mostly labelled as “Post-Dubstep”. It’s clear why, with these kinds of killer beats, it’s hard to ignore their music. The album, for me, really kicks off with third track, “Before I Move Off”, a song featuring a wood-block-like beat amongst a guitar that sounds like it is wrapping itself around your ear drums. Topping this off with a glitched-out vocal sample and you have Mount Kimbie’s recipe for success. The album is coherently filled with songs that combine broken vocals, organic-sounding beats and tiny noises that could be handclaps, the combination of this with the over-riding electronic construction of the album makes for something beautiful and in a way, quite original. Songs like “Carbonated”, which to me has a sound like someone bouncing a basketball in a gym near a tropical waterfall, and “Mayor”, kind of like someone playing air-hockey whilst robots have epileptic fits, totally defy any kind of mould. It speaks volumes for Mount Kimbie’s material that I feel a yearning for more, for more of the ambiguity and feeling of total apprehension that their music inspires, not because of ill feeling towards it but because it inspires a curious love that will only have ever me dancing like I’m freaking out. A fact proven at this year’s OFFSET festival where I and several others present did so. I think it will make you feel the same.
6. Titus Andronicus – The Monitor
This year saw the release of ragtag punk outfit Titus Andronicus’ second record, a concept album that mainly revolved around the american civil war. It’s a truly brilliant, energetic and spirited record that never seems to falter. Of course attention is brought to those more riotous songs, the opening “A More Perfect Union” being a prime example of the band on top form, but even the slower segments fail to hamper the overriding sense of uproar that this album conjures. From cries of “Rally round the flag” on the prior-mentioned song to the closing historical-referencing 14 minute epic closer “The Battle of Hampton Roads” you also get the sense that Titus Andronicus didn’t fail the album’s concept in it’s production, The Monitor was an iron-clad USS warship during the Civil War, even with song titles like “Theme from Cheers”. Across all 10 tracks the band will keep you hooked and it is one, a lot like the rest chosen here, benefits greatly from being heard as a whole. I’ve gone back many a time to this during the year, an adoration for The Monitor that culminated in me seeing the band perform last week at the London Scala. It was mind-blowing. This is album is, and forever will be, astounding.
5. Kanye West – My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy
What I wrote in the original review:”…Kanye again proves that he is fucking brilliant.”
Kanye West dropped his fifth album with the usual hyperbole associated in the build up to it’s release. Leaked singles. An MTV awards appearance. Free songs every Friday. A 35 minute masterpiece. Wait, free songs? And a music video/short film that bests “Thriller” at it’s own game? West has out done himself. A 13 track album that got rid (thankfully) of the autotune from 2008′s 808s & Heartbreak and put West back where he belongs, at the forefront of the rap game. He’s on top form, filling songs with absurdist humor, “…so much head I woke up in Sleepy Hollow,” and rhythmic flows that better those supporting him. It’s a showcase for his talent first and foremost. The production is top-notch and it’s hard to find fault in an album that flows so well from track to track. The highlights for me are, namely the Bon Iver-sampling/featuring “Lost in the World”, “Devil In A New Dress”, “Gorgeous” and the opening “Dark Fantasy” but, saying that, no track on the album goes wrong and My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy is most definitely enjoyed best as a collective. West’s triumph is one that everyone should enjoy.
MP3: Devil In A New Dress (G.O.O.D. Friday Version)
4. LCD Soundsystem – This Is Happening
What I wrote in the original review: “It’s music to celebrate to, and join in with his happiness, this is the way it should end,”
Although it may not yet be the end for James Murphy and LCD Soundsystem, as teased with the release of this album, he has still made the greatest record of his career. Ok, both the self-titled debut an 2007′s Sound of Silver were brilliant albums, “All My Friends” from the latter is arguably my favourite song ever. But, what This Is Happening has that is better is the fact that every song is a winner. Every single track make this album utterly sublime, from the slow-burning opening of nine minute epic “Dance Yrself Clean” to the end notes of the last, and best, song “Home” you’ll be hooked. Murphy does as he sings on the latter “Just do it right, make it perfect and real,” and that strive for perfection that you can detect in his music is so omnipresent here that I think anyone would feel inspired by listening to this record. On tracks like “I Can Change” the beats sound like they are glistening, juxtaposed with Murphy’s singing that is soulful and ofttimes, full of regret. The music fits together like a difficult jigsaw, elements that come together, to make something so brilliant. Seeing a ton of these songs live also confirms Murphy’s genius, his show at London’s Brixton Academy was the best gig I think I’ve ever been to. Who knows, maybe LCD will end after this year, after the monumental tour they’ve been on, catch them if you can.
3. Arcade Fire – The Suburbs
What I wrote in the original review: “Take a step back and you see that yet again they have created a work of beauty,”
Arcade Fire have consistently put out good work. This year though, I think they’ve outdone themselves. A concept album that soundtracks the album’s namesake perfectly. It’s like reading John Cheever short stories, you feel immersed in The Suburbs, every song feels like it could represent a thousand stories, and soon will visualise one thanks to Spike Jonze. Even with the opening, country-like drawl of the titular track, which initially feels a kind of departure for the band, you are filled with the apprehensive feelings against suburbia that the album seems to conjure. It’s not so much an attack, but a nostalgia-filled, venomous snipe. Songs like “Suburban War” and “We Used To Wait” conjure up senses of pain and love, longings to break free of suburban humdrum. It could be an attack on the conformity, the tight-knit communities, a lack of privacy, any niggling feeling that develops to hatred of the suburbs. I think I only read into the concept so much because it’s one that the album fully realises, it is fully fleshed out and relatable, a true success of 2010.
2. Wavves – King of The Beach
What I wrote in the original review: “[Nathan] Williams…is, without a shadow of doubt, King of the Beach.”
I’ve already gushed forth my love of Wavves in countless prior posts since the release of his second album Wavvves but, in all seriousness, this year, a change of decade, was also a major change for Nathan Williams, bringing out a studio album that chucked out the bedroom-recorded distortion but kept the energy and vivacity that brought his prior songs to life. The same youthful, almost naivety, of Wavves’ music permeates throughout King of the Beach but in a very good way, it’s mostly a hard and fast album, intermixed with slower, AnCo-reminiscing songs. The titular opening song is a prime example, both lyrically and musically of Wavves’ songwriting, “Let the sun burn my eyes, Let it burn my back,” comes the opening line, before a descent into what seems an obsessive beach and surf culture. Listening to the rest of the album you’ll realise that skatboarding, drugs and paranoia are also major themes for Wavves. Why choose King of the Beach in my Top Ten? Because it’s an addictive album, first and foremost. It literally requires a repeat listening and clocking in at just over 35 minutes long, it’s kinda of hard not to listen to it more than once all the way through. Songs like “Idiot”, “Post Acid”, “Super Soaker” and the ethereal “Mickey Mouse” really show off the progression of Wavves, it’s a progression that makes this album essential. It is an album that is energy-filled and self-deprecating, it’s happy and doesn’t care who knows it. It’s pure brilliance, that even the absurd, but still great, tracks like “Converable Balloon,” don’t ruin or diminish the album. King of the Beach is an album of perpetual summer, that will come in handy, especially in the winter months and it’s an album that finally does the lo fi-leading frontman justice.
1. Male Bonding – Nothing Hurts
What I wrote in the original review: “It’s basically pretty rad.”
That’s an understatement. It’s definitely a grower and the whole time I’ve had this album I can’t really remember a day that I didn’t listen to at least one song. Over 16 tracks, Male Bonding prove that they are one of the, if not the, best bands of the lo-fi wave. As soon as “Year’s Not Long” begins, with an unmistakable opening, you realise that you are in for a treat. The album is fast, unrelenting and energetic, it carries with it an intensity and most importantly a sense of fun, qualities that are missing from too many of today’s albums. It’s the kind of music that you can’t help but get up and dance to, but not in any co-ordinated manner. I really mean the kind of dancing where you flail your limbs, shout the lyrics and throw your head back and forth. For me it totally epitomises this whole year, I’ve listened to it so much I feel, in a way that it is ingrained into my subconscious, but how could I pick anything else? It’s the one album that over the year I’ve gone back to, again and again, it’s something truly exciting and importantly, coherent. If I had to choose one highlight it would be, nine times out of ten, the seminal “All Things This Way”, the fast and frantic second track of the album that, almost by the fact alone that it struggles to reach 90 seconds, is nothing short of amazing. Nothing Hurts has been, excuse the cliche, soundtrack to my year and probably will remain to have a distinct impression on me for years to come.