‘The year of Anxiety, Shoegazing, Lost Innocence, Afro-Beat makes the West End and Folk, Folk, Folking Folk’

The 2010 choice list – (Compiled from my reviews on Monolith Cocktail, God is in the TV and Vessel).

Every album/EP is featured in alphabetical order to stop the squabbling.

Click on the accompanying album image to read the full review.

PART I

Arcade Fire – ‘The Suburbs’ (Mercury)

The Canadian’s third opus is a loose narrative masterpiece, based around Wim and his brother’s miss-spent youth in the nonchalant sprawling cocooned suburbs of Houston. A more simplistic approach from the group perhaps, yet their best effort so far; they mix the storytelling pinning of Neil Young (‘The Suburbs’), with dabbles of proto-disco Blondie (‘Sprawl II’) and even the sombre timbre stirrings of Ennio Morricone (‘Sprawl I’), to produce an almost dystopian swansong to the age of innocence and youth.

That Archie Bronson psychedlic cover in full glory

Archie Bronson Outfit – ‘Coconut’ (Domino)

Our distorted blues trio add space-rock and ESG post-punk funk to there disturbed fuzzed-up carnage wrecking sound, as DFA records in-house producer, Andy Goldsworthy, opens up the band to a more expansive wilderness. They regurgitate and spit back out the Talking Heads, Captain Beefheart, Alabama cosmic slop and Josef K fidget pop, creating some pretty unique raucous results.  Cruelly underrated, ‘Coconut’ is an omnivorous work of miscreant genius, and by far the best LP out of the UK all year.

Beach House – ‘Teen Dreams’ (Bella Union)

Victoria Legrand, the shoegazers Stevie Nicks, laments and rasps over ethereal, encapsulating songs of pulchritude; dreamily resigned to her fate in between a state of loss and remembrance.
The production for this ambitious songbook of cinematic rich layered hymns is stepped up, with a display of transfixing and diaphanous startling memorable melodies and full electronic symphonic sound.
Intoxicating and evocative, ‘Teen Dreams’ will wrap you up in its beguiling evocative charm.

Besnard Lakes, The – ‘The Besnard Lakes Are The Roaring Night’ (Jagjaguwar)

Channelling the spirits of Dennis Wilson, Mike Love and Jeff Lyn, The Besnard’s Jace Lasek’s vocals serenade us, as they twist and turn through a richly ethnographical landscape of unidentified wars, sorrow and pained lose; following the antics and tribulations of a pair of mysterious spy’s.
Lushly spun Axlerod-esque compositions are immersed with inventive bouts of shoegazing (yes that old genre again!) and sophisticated progressive rock. Dare I say it, but this could indeed be an improvement on their last majestic suite, ‘…Are The Dark Horse’.

Blonde Redhead – ‘Penny Sparkle’ (4AD)

The New York trio reach their ninth album release, taking their inspiration from a horse that Kazu learnt to ride on. An almost shapeless shifting sound, with empyreal dwelling layers of effervescent music, and sweeping swooning vague vocals; ‘Penny Sparkle’ evokes both Fever Ray’s atmospherics and Beach House’s allure to produce a vaporous soundtrack.

Eno, Brian – ‘Small Craft On A Milk Sea’ (Warp)

Eno returns to the label set-up, crafting (see what I did there!) a series of improvisations with the wisened collaborations of both Jon Hopkins and Leo Abrahams. Effortless vistas of sound that traverse the more sophisticated textures of his fellow Warp stable mate Richard James, and familiar ambient highlights from his impressive back catalogue, inform this landscape shifting opus. A little lacklustre in parts, it’s still an accomplished and evocative suite of present-future soundscapes.

Matthew Dear's chalkly cover.

Dear, Matthew – ‘Black City’ (Ghostly International)

Sharing a similar musical palette as his fellow erudite dance music compatriot, James Murphy of LCD SoundSystem, Dear takes a more sombre and morass tone. Gentle and taut looped house music mingles with Bowie, Eno, Bryne and 80s EBM, as a low octave vocal laments scribbled lyrics about fame, innocence and anxiety.
Captivating, congruous and stripped, ‘Black City’ addresses the darker and more emotional mature side of electronica.

Foster, Josephine & The Victor Herrero Band – ‘Anda Jaleo’ (Fire Records)

The deftly handled talents of Colorado troubadour Josephine Foster and the authentic sounding Victor Herrero band, bring bygone folklore tales from Spain’s storytelling past to us on the songbook ‘Anda Jaleo’. Originally a traditional collection of Iberian lamented tomes brought together by the tragic figure of Federico Garcia Lorca (who was believed to have been murdered during Spain’s civil war), this eloquently faithful album is a saunter through tales of Moorish loose women, lovelorn morality and rival siblings, all sang in the mother tongue. Foster fills the body of a swooning senorita perfectly on this subtle, but moving album.

Higamos Hogamos – ‘Sorcery’ & ‘Atomized Pt.1’ (All Time Low)

Higamos Hogamos laugh in the face of bands such as The Soundcarriers and there ilk, as they mash future cosmic funk and the whole Krautrock musical cannon into a glorified growling antagonizing soup. Both mini-albums could theoretically qualify for this list, as they sing from the same hymn-sheet, though ‘Sorcery’ is slightly more brooding Teutonics and pumping electronic beats, with its fleeting glimpses of Holy Fuck, Juan Atkins and The Equalizer!
‘Atomized Pt.1’ on the other hand, unashamedly expropriates Bowies ‘TVC 15’, Bootsy Collins and Spaceman 3 for a right old futuristic pop shindig.

Holy Fuck – ‘Latin’ (Young Turk)

‘Latin’ is hardly a carnival-fuelled escapade, but more a launch pad for the colder clime Canadians to unleash enthusiastic analogue twiddling jams from. A more grown-up sound is in evidence, as the wind-up four-piece rattles through some funked-up infectious rhythms, pounding bass lines, filtered vocals and ‘Hallogallo’ inspired Dinger motorik drumbeats.
Deeper and more sophisticated, ‘Latin’ still drops those teeth-shattering breaks when needed, even if they do hold back on the throttle this time around.

Honeytrap – ‘Petrushka’ (Crooked Teeth Recordings)

Empirical fairytales from Russian folklore, gypsy campfire jigs and spiky art/indie, all furnish the London group Honeytrap’s marionette inspired ‘Petrushkia’ album. Evoking tender moments of early 90s art-school Pulp, the Baltic influenced group gallop through an enchanting and beguiling eastern fuelled set of esoterically themed songs. Their brand of entertaining story telling has already drawn the attention of Bowie, who rates them most highly.

Klaxons – ‘Surfing The Void’ (Polydor)

A long time coming, and yes it didn’t exactly live up to expectations, yet ‘Surfing The Void’ is still a worthy suite of astral travelling, enlightened rhetoric and psych-now, that still sounds startling bright and ahead of its contemporaries.
Yes the ‘nu-rave’ tag hasn’t entirely been shaken off, but this mix of space-rock, Floyd aspirations and multifaceted spread of influences delivers the goods, a perfect example of future-pop.

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