And here it begins, the official countdown of the best albums of 2010. For those missing the post yesterday, numbers 20 to 11 will be listed here before the top 10 is listed day by day over the Christmas period, with the album of the year being announced on its traditional date of New Year’s Eve.
20. Dr. Dog: Shame, Shame (Anti) [8.3]
I’m not sure if I’m coming to Dr. Dog eight years late due to being a bit slow or due to this being their Anti debut, Anti being a record label I follow, due to a certain Tom Waits.
There is much to like on the album and I’m trying to decide which of the ten bands they remind me of, and more importantly, why that is important.
It’s a very well put together album, with some decent tunes, decent lyrics and it puts me in a good mood when I hear it (which is maybe why it’s not as high up as it could be).
If you’ve not heard them, then I’d give them a listen. They might not blow you away on initial listen but they are a grower.
19. Laurie Anderson: Homeland (Nonesuch) [8.3]
I’m unaware of how much of an introduction Laurie Anderson needs, so I will point any curious individuals to the Nonesuch website for more info. I would have actually totally missed this one if it wasn’t for Steve Duffy, and it’s one of the main reasons I do this and one of the main reasons I ask for tips through the year, as I miss so much.
This album has some real strengths and some powerhouse tracks (Falling, Flow) but like many experimental albums doesn’t work as a whole. I find two tracks on the album a little irritating: Only an Expert has a nice message but I feel it ultimately suffers from a dated melody and Another Day in America is easily one of my least favourite tracks of 2010.
However, the album is well worth a listen and extremely well put together.
18. Eels: Tomorrow Morning (E Works) [8.3]
Not having double checked my stats (I will later) I think this is the lowest the Eels have ever finished in the album of the year reckoning for me, usually within the top five and once (1998 and Electro-Shock Blues) a winner. This album is the third in a trilogy project for the man called E, the first being Hombre Lobo (finishing at number five last year) before being followed by End Times six months later (February this year) and finished off with this, six months on (August).
It’s a very well put together album and has that distinct Eels sound that I have come to love. There are some very enjoyable songs on the CD: Oh So Lovely, Baby Loves Me, That’s Not Her Way but I have to admit no classics. This will be the first year that the Eels have released an album (in fact this year, as mentioned above, there are two) where no tracks will feature on the year’s best CD.
17. Broken Social Scene: Forgiveness Rock Record (Arts & Crafts) [8.4]
You know I’ve been trying to nudge this album out of the way since I got hold of it, and it just won’t budge. It’s so determined to be in the twenty, and at seventeen finishes rather highly thank you very much.
It’s because it sounds very superficial and boppy and happy but in truth is more than that, Art House Director being a classic example of that. It moves along, drags you in, makes you tap your feet and smile, and it’s then you realise what is going on behind the song, the intricacies of the instruments and the whole collaborative feeling. There can be between six and nineteen people in the band at any one time and the similarities with Lambchop don’t end there.
16. Eels: End Times (E Works) [8.5]
And here is the other Eels album of the year, only a couple of places above Tomorrow Morning. I don’t know if I feel like it was just an overwhelming of Eels stuff or if other stuff was affecting me this year but I feel like the three releases in a short space of time was maybe not the best idea.
Don’t get me wrong, it is fantastic and there are some very Eels sounding tracks on here: In my Younger Days, End Times and Apple Trees being particular favourites.
If you haven’t heard the mastery of the Eels, then this album is actually a good place to start.
15. Deerhunter: Halycon Digest (4AD) [8.5]
If 4AD release an album you can be pretty sure it will find its way into my year’s best of somewhere and so it should be no surprise that those who know me and my music tastes to learn that there is another 4AD release coming up soon. What may be a surprise is not only that I’ve missed a 4AD release in 2010 but that it’s also an Efterklang record. Oh man, I’m going to be kicking myself for that one!
Anyway, Deerhunter are a band I have struggled with a tad over the years but seem to have come into their own with this, their fourth studio album. I admit it takes a little while to get into and was much lower in my charts before the cut-off point for the stage two selections. I’m almost tempted to go through their back catalogue now to see if I was over hasty then too…
14. Julian Lynch: Mare (Olde English Spelling Bee) [8.5]
I was ready to dismiss this one immediately, before the full first listen and that would have been one of the crimes of 2010! I read a review the other day which commented that you could enjoy this simply, just letting it wash over you, or you could go deeper and fully explore it. I don’t actually agree with the comment as I don’t think it can be listened to as a background album at all. I think it’s very complex and requires many listens before its geniality comes through – of which there is much.
Ruth, My Sister is a good example of the album, as it is a really simple sounding tune but not easy to get into unless given a few listens. It’s this kind of complicated style that will mean Lynch is missed off several best ofs this year, I fear.
13. Natalie Merchant: Leave your Sleep (Noneshuch) [8.6]
And, at the risk of sounding like a broken record (ooh clever there eh?), I can state that, even taking the fact that I am a Natalie Merchate devotee into account, I still nearly booted this off the chart much earlier than it deserved. It’s because this is one hell of a difficult early listen, given as how Merchant decides to mix up so many different styles in an examination of childhood through music. Roots named this as the best packaged album of the year.
Once you get over the styles and give the album its due, it’s rather beautiful and a return to form for Merchant, who I feel has not been at her best over recent years.
Interesting to note on this album that whilst I was playing it the other day, my wife commented that this wasn’t the sort of thing I listened to. I understood what she meant on the one hand but merely replied with “I listen to everything, me” – eloquent and succinct to the last…
12. Bombay Bicycle Club: Flaws (Island) [8.7]
An artist and album I would have missed entirely if not for my friend Ian Stackhouse, who hasn’t mentioned it yet in his year’s best (and I fully expect it to finish high up his chart) and I have been very impressed since the first listen.
Very reminiscent of Devandra Banhart and Vetiver for me, in fact, I had to check the sleeve to look for Banhart’s involvement, as the voice of the lead singer (Jack) is so like Banhart’s it is untrue.
But it is its own sound and it’s a really lovely album, a cracking little debut from four teenagers who can definitely go a long way. Merely listening to the opening two tracks Rinse me Down and Many Ways gives you an idea of what a gem this album is!
11. Erland and the Carnival: Erland and the Carnival (Butterfly Recordings) [8.9]
This really does feel like the start of the top ten, especially as I was having so many problems choosing between this and the album currently sitting at number ten.
A group formed by Simon Tong (Blur, The Verve, The Good and Bad, and the Queen), these guys have released a very competent debut and this is an artist I’ll be following with interest over the coming years.
I love the mix of alternative music with the smattering of old Scottish and English folk songs and whilst this is a very easy album to get into, the more you listen to it the better it gets.
Look out for the middle section of the album and Disturbed this Morning and Was You Ever See: excellent stuff!
[Keep an eye out for Sunday (19th December) when the top ten begins…]