Top Albums of 2010: Editor’s Picks

By on Monday, 13th December 2010 at 11:00 am

Another year has gone, which means with the whole load of albums released in 2010, your faithful editor has gone through and chosen what she considers the best of the year. Agree? Disagree? As always on TGTF, comments are welcome.

1. Delphic‘Acolyte’ (Polydor/Chimeric) – It’s always dangerous to say an album released so early in the year is wonderful, because you leave no room for anything else that comes after it. But after minimal internal debate, it was obvious which album I would choose as #1. The timelessness of this album wasn’t immediately apparent until I started listening to it, from start to finish and voraciously, for the first 3 months of 2010. It’s one of those debut albums that I know I’m going to look back in 10, 20 years and wonder how it was even possible for three guys to write such a sonic masterpiece in a cottage in the Lake District. (And later realised with producer Ewan Pearson, of course.)

The first time I heard ‘Submission’, still my favourite song on the album with its clean electronic sounds, the ever so funky bass and drums and crashing guitar, I was near tears. (As I wrote on the official Roskilde blog in May 2010, “…I consider [this] to be one of the best songs ever recorded. It’s that good. Should I run into them at the festival, I want to give them all hugs and weep on their shoulders.”) I’ll be honest, I’m a little scared about where the band is going for their sophomore album, but I’m confident in the band’s talent that whatever the three of them agree on for the new release will be great.

2. Two Door Cinema Club‘Tourist History’ (Kitsune) – It was a real struggle to figure out which of my top two albums would have to be the runner-up. The only reason why I put Two Door Cinema Club’s in at #2 is that there are two songs on here that feel like filler that I could do without. (I will say however that these two as live versions are a different story, because having seen the band twice this year, I actually liked the live versions a whole lot better than the ones committed to disc.) These are songs that will never leave your brain, because they’re so damn catchy. You can read my review of the album here. Definitely looking forward to the next album, bring it on boys.

3. The Hundred in the Hands‘The Hundred in the Hands’ (Warp) – Sleigh Bells? Overhyped. LCD Soundsystem? Good but ‘This is Happening’ pales in comparison to this. Sorry. The Hundred in the Hands: now this is the sound you should be listening to. This is 2010 synthpop with guitars, the way ’80s New Wave bands did it and did it right. This couple from Brooklyn have taken the best from New Wave and added emotional fragility with Eleanore Everdell’s beautifully expressive voice. Brilliant. You can read my review of the album here. I kick myself every time I remember I missed seeing them at teeny tiny DC9, headlining Liberation Dance Party.

4. Broken Bells‘Broken Bells’ (Columbia) – James Mercer’s voice couldn’t be beat. He’s just cool. And Danger Mouse? Put two cool cats in the same room with their ‘toys’ (all those wonderful instruments they can play and electronic gizmos aplenty) and let them go to town. The instrumentation is chill, dude. This is lounge music for the masses with a touch of sci-fi thrown in there for good measure. Good stuff to relax to. I hope this is one of those ‘side projects’ that turns into something more permanent, because not only are their recordings great, they’re pretty good live as well.

5. Villagers‘Becoming a Jackal’ (Domino) – The UK market has been saturated with indie folk pop acts. Some of them will be one trick ponies, never to be heard from again. And then there’s Conor J. O’Brien. You can’t teach someone how to write a good song. You either have it or you don’t. And without a doubt, O’Brien has it. He sings with the experience of someone decades older yet he’s not even 30 yet. After leaving me near breathless live this summer, I’m expecting great things from this ‘kid’ from Malahide.

Under the cut: albums that almost made the top 5…as well as some albums that disappointed.

Honourable mentions:

Goldheart Assembly‘Wolves and Thieves’ (Fierce Panda) – If you don’t start crying after hearing the brilliance that is ‘King of Rome’ or ‘So Long St. Christopher’, get your ears checked. While I appreciated Fleet Foxes for what they did (bringing back old style harmonies to the mainstream), I find the chaps of Goldheart Assembly more real. I can’t wait for them to get over to the States and play some shows.

Groove Armada‘Black Light’, ‘White Light’ (review of the latter here) (Cooking Vinyl) – There are some really strong tracks on the latest album(s) from GA. It makes me really sad that Andy Cato and Tom Findlay have announced they won’t be touring ever again, as thanks to me skipping Ultra Music Festival this year, I’m never going to see them live (sob). Let’s hope they change their minds at next year’s Lovebox. ‘Paper Romance’ – quality choone.

The Futureheads‘The Chaos’ (Nul) – Powerhouse of sound and swagger. I feel bad, because I gave them a less than glowing review in May, but upon further reflection – and seeing them live a month later – I changed my mind completely. ‘Jupiter’ still feels like a curveball, though.

Mystery Jets‘Serotonin’ (Rough Trade) – It was with some relief that the boys from Eel Pie Island returned with a fun new album, and one better, they named it after a neurotransmitter (chemical) in the brain that induces pleasure. What else could be better while we’re trying to cope through a credit crunch and deep government cuts? (Read my review of the Jets’ latest here.)

Jenny and Johnny‘I’m Having Fun Now’ (Warner Bros.) – I’m over the surf pop, “let’s all go have a barbecue / have a party / make love on the beach!” movement. This album from real life girlfriend/boyfriend Jenny Lewis and Johnathan Rice does have occasional carefree undertones similar to surf pop. And most people will be happy to enjoy what lies above. But scratch below the surface and the lyrical content indicates there is something much more thought-provoking. Definitely my surprise of the year.

The disappointments:

Vampire Weekend‘Contra’ (XL) – I was really, really looking forward to this just based on the early release of ‘Cousins’. It’s not a horrible album, it’s just not what I expected it to be. Give me their debut album anytime.

Hot Chip‘One Life Stand’ (EMI) – Again, one of the albums I expected to completely blow me away this year when I received my review copy. I wasn’t a fan of the slower groove of ‘Brothers’ or ‘Alley Cats’. Disappointed. When you see them live, it’s obvious people still prefer and will go mental for ‘Over and Over’ and ‘Ready for the Floor’ – and with good reason.

Chemical Brothers‘Further’ (Parlophone) – I expected usual badass-ness from the grandaddies of electronic delight, but instead I got soundtracking for nature films. (Read my review here.)

Solo albums from Brandon Flowers (formerly of the Killers), Kele Okereke (formerly of Bloc Party) and Paul Smith (formerly of Maximo Park) – Every month this year that went by, I would wonder which band would be the latest to fall victim to losing their frontman to a solo career. We know what these three men in particular are capable of when they’re part of a group. When they tried to go solo? Okay but not spectacular efforts. In terms of touring on this side of the pond, only Flowers (now currently on tour in North America) is on the good side of fans: Okereke cancelled an autumn tour this year, and Smith’s band never rescheduled a 2008 tour. Maybe I’ll be gobsmacked with delight the next time any of these three release another solo album, but I’d be surprised.

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4 Responses

7:03 pm
13th December 2010

What about Avi buffalo?, such a stunning album even as an honourable mention! and Stornoway?, quite possibly one of the most beautiful albums of the year!

1:53 pm
14th December 2010

Stornoway is a good point. I really like ‘Beachcomber’s Windowsill’, it’s a good album. probably somewhere in my top 11-15 albums of the year. Avi Buffalo, I’ve only heard two of their tracks so I can’t really make a good judgment there, and I’m not really a fan of the Beach House-y, dream pop genre.

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