Monday, December 6th, 2010
Ten for '10
Chromewaves’ favourite albums of 2010
Well this was certainly a better year than last year, on pretty much every level. Of course, it would have required something on the scale of low-yield nuclear detonation in my bathtub – while I was in it – for it to have been worse, but I’ll take it. Musically, it was actually something of a banner year with what seemed like every active artist that I liked not only putting out new records, but good to great records. More hiatuses ended than started and despite intending to slow down the show-going, I ended up going to even more life-affirming, if not -changing, concerts than in any calendar year I can recall. In short, 2010 brought it.
So you’d think that with such a wealth of great records to choose from, assembling a short list of ten faves should have been easier than a year without as many worthy candidates but if anything, it’s tougher. Acts that release records that meet expectations, however high, are held to extra scrutiny; it’s like, “yeah this record was good but so was the last one – where’s that next level?” which of course is completely unreasonable. And conversely, acts heretofore unknown to me had the element of surprise on their side when it came to triggering the ineffable “wow” reflex. All of which is to say that, like past years, there’s nothing scientific nor quantitative about these selections – they’re alphabetical by artist and represent what I could get behind as of the first weekend of December, 2010, and strongly motivated by a desire to get this list over and done with.
So here they are, after the jump, or if you want to peer closely at my little photoshop project above (click for a bigger version) you can try and guess who made the cut before seeing the answers. Because I know the suspense is delicious.
The record I’ve been waiting Land Of Talk to make for the past four years is not the one I was expecting. Instead of being Canada’s next great rock band, they – or she, since Land Of Talk is now essentially Liz Powell – is proving to be so much more than that, offering rich melodicism, emotion and, yes, plenty of rock. Maybe just Canada’s next great band.
I’m not normally late to the party – I tend to be annoyingly punctual – but I only caught the tail end of the LCD experience, finally “getting it” this year and making up for lost time before the lights came on and they kicked everyone out. So while I probably listened to Sound Of Silver more in 2010 than Happening – which I also listened to a lot – their current record gets to come up to the podium to accept the prize on behalf of their entire catalog.
A little bit of cheering for the underdog here – these staunchly independent Brits remain criminally overlooked both at home and abroad – but I also maintain they’re also one of the most perfect pop bands operating today, expanding their ’50s influence of their debut to seamless incorporate all eras of song on their second outing. If it’s catchy, they do it and do it well.
There’s an unspoken agreement between The National and I – they keep putting out records and I keep ranking their efforts amongst the very best of the year. High Violet keeps this compact intact, not reaching the same heights as Boxer but aspiring to different ones, just as lofty. A band so at the top of their game, I feel lucky to be around to witness it.
Three hours of anything is usually enough to test my patience, but somehow this epic-length collection of harp and piano songs not only doesn’t feel that long, it makes me want to go right back to the start of side A when it’s over. Magical and immersive in a way that you can’t quite articulate, but can’t deny either. It can be hard to find the time to listen to it all in one go, but when I do I’m in my happy place.
The one selection that I haven’t actually written up or even talked about before. Even though I’ve only been listening to it for about a week and a half, it demands constant listening and becomes more rewarding each time through, a trend I don’t expect to stop. It’s ostensibly a folk record but Olenka Krakus and company draw influences from everywhere and everywhen to make something new, yet so familiar.
A record that after countless delays, most didn’t think would ever actually come out – it probably would have gotten consideration for the year-end list by sheer virtue of its existence. Clinging earns its accolades fairly, though, by being another inimitably Radio Dept collection of gleaming melodies and downer sentiment, recorded with an ’80s-vintage drum machine and wrapped in a warm cardigan sweater.
Usually records that catch your ear immediately don’t find ways to keep surprising you, but the debut from this Oxford outfit is like fractal folk-pop, where the more you listen the more you discover. This record was on the bubble until I saw them live and discovered that as good as it is – and it’s great – it doesn’t capture nearly all the talent in this band.
I didn’t expect this year’s list to tilt so heavily towards the gentler side of things, but this gloriously loud Civil War tirade/allegory should more than balance things out. Unfeasibly ambitious, unrelentingly angry and catchy-as-hell, The Monitor makes me want to jump around and go out and smash stuff. In the very best way.
MP3: Titus Andronicus – “A More Perfect Union”
MP3: Titus Andronicus – “A More Perfect Union” (radio edit)
MP3: Titus Andronicus – “Four Score And Seven” (Part One)
MP3: Titus Andronicus – “Four Score And Seven” (Part Two)
Sharon Van Etten’s voice has always had an express lane into the most bruised parts of the heart, but the move from solo artist to bandleader has given her songs even more force such that their power will not be denied. Slight in terms of length but so gorgeous and heavy that if it were any longer, the world might well have cracked in half. Beauty made sound.