Wednesday, 6 January 2010

Albums of the year etc....

Top 10 albums

1. Merriweather Post Pavillion – Animal Collective

Possibly not even my personal favourite album of the year (although certainly the most listened to) – bits of it annoy me sometimes (the whinny vocals and the lack of bass) but without a doubt the most forward looking and important. It was released in January and I knew straight away it would be hard to top. One of those albums where I can never decide which is my favourite song because there are about 10 contenders. This album works in spring, summer, autumn and winter and could just be one of the most important albums of the decade.

2. Phenominal HandClap Band – Phenominal Handclap Band

I love this but don’t really expect anyone else to – its exactly the sort of music I like – psychadelicly inflused disco with a twist. Take a Loft classic, sprinkle with Primal Scream, Rotary Connection and Malcolm McLaren and viola – an album for a party or home listening. No other album sounded like this this year (although a few from 1977 might!)

3. Mos Def – The Ecstatic

In a year where once again hip hop offered very little (OK Raekwan’s album I accept but Doom was dull, NASA was cluttered and the commercial side of things was just depressing) it was left to one of my old favourites to show us the way. Brilliant production and brilliant rapping is all you need for a great hip hop album and this had both. Starting with really imaginative use of Turkish Psych goddess Selda, shortly followed by the best hip hop song in years in Auditorium (his rapping on this track is immense) and still room for a Spanish love song – this was bursting with fresh ideas and made me think I should search out his mysterious third album as the other three are all brilliant. Well done Mos – stick to the music!

4. Biblio – Ambivalence Avenue

My first impression of this was ‘hey, another singer songwriter folktronica album’ but after a while it really got under my skin. Hints of Trumpton and Camberwick Green, Badly Drawn Boy and then, rather unexpectedly, Sly and the Family Stone. A couple of the tracks in particular have a really funky groove. One to watch and proof that Warp have still got it.

5. XX – Self titled

Contrived yes and ultimately the sort of indie I hate (miserable blokes with black eyeliner with guitars – see also the Horrors) but what set this apart for me was two things. First, the production – it lifted these songs so they really spoke to you (and sounded great on the radio). Almost an R&B production for an Indie album – interesting. Second, the fact they had both a male and female vocalist – the interplay and combinations kept this really interesting sounding. I unexpectedly liked this as I really wanted to hate it!

6. Bill Callaghan – I wish I were an Eagle

Fucked up singer songwriter (see also Mark Laneghan, Johnny Cash). I’ve not actually heard any of his previous work (he used to be in Smog apparently) but read a review of this and downloaded it (I don’t actually buy CDs any more). It is truly excellent – the same sort of mature songwriting you might associate with those named above or even Lord Cave. Lyrics about love and nature set to simple guitar and beautiful string arrangements – sounded really good as the leaves turned on the trees...

7. Yeah Yeah Yeahs – It’s Blitz

Again, I’ve not heard their previous work and probably should have. This is basically LCD soundsystem with a female vocalist e.g. great synths, strong hooks and the feel of downtown Manhatten. At least two classic singles (Zero, Heads will Roll) and a really beautiful tender ballad (Runaway) – Karen O is clearly one of the most charismatic front men (sic) in popular music and would eat that little twat Casablancas for breakfast.

8. El Michaels Affair – Into the 37th Chamber

A simple idea well executed – funk versions of Wu Tang Clan Songs. Little kids singing shimmy shimmy ya was the track everybody navigated to but Cream and Duel of the Iron Mics were just as good. I increasingly like albums that are kept simple if the quality can be maintained (Nicole Willis springs to mind from a few years back).

9. Staff Benda Bilili – Tres Tres Fort

All the hype was about the fact they are all disabled and that the young fella had invented his own instrument but this is an album that stands out on its own merits. A number of songs the sort of tempo of Buena Veista Social Club (suggesting potential crossover) and then some great afrobeat numbers including instant classic J’taime. These sort of acts (e.g. African) should be getting a lot more media coverage given the constant quality they provide...

10. The Phantom Band – Checkmate Savage

An annual list from me would not be complete without an album the sounds like the Beta Band and this is this years entry. Somewhat ironically I saw them precede the Aliens at the Green Man festival and I thought these guys edged it. Interesting guitar music – simple as really...

Best 3 songs:

Harry Patch (In memory of) – Radiohead

The only band in the world who could have done this and pulled it off (could you imagine the idea in the hands of U2 or Coldplay fer kristsakes!). The first time I heard it I cried. Johnny Greenwood’s arrangement is beautiful and a fitting tribute to an extraordinary man.

2. Mos Def – Auditorium

The best hip hop track in years – a Madlib production, a mellow groove and the best analysis of the post 9/11 world in a song so far – perfect.

3. Baby – Phenomenal Handclap Band

This reminded me of Rotary Connection – I had a vision of a huge black man with white robes and an afro singing this until I saw PHB live and realised it was actually sung my a skinny white guitarist with a soft perm...

Close but no cigar – Sea within a Sea-The Horrors, Aidy’s got a computer - Darkstar

Fave film released this year:

The Hurt Locker – powerful drama telling the story of ego driven American bomb defusers in Iraq and the best Iraq War drama yet.

Honourable mentions – Let the Right One in, Looking for Eric

Best Rediscovery of the year:

Found this really hard – I rarely go back to old stuff, preferring to find new..two I discovered for the first time (which were in my collection) were Deja Vu by Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young and The Who by Numbers.

Best Compilation:

In a very strong year, I have to go for the Huge Psychadelic compilations by Amorphous Androginous. Every form of psychedelic music put through the blender to create something new and directly responsible for the end of Oasis – ask Noel! Buy these CDs...could be two of the best DJ mixes of all time...

Honourable mentions – Hyperdub 5 – quality Dubstep, Legends Of Benin - Analogue Africa 5 – you might have noticed I like African Music!

Best Re-issue:

Kraftwerk’s back catalogue – not that I bought any of it!

Best artwork / packaging

For packaging, the aforementioned Legends of Benin – nicely put together, I’m a sucker for a booklet! For artwork, there was something about the Dirty Projectors album I really liked – simple but it stood out...

Best mix

Andy Votel – B Music Mix – weird music from around the world... but hung together well

Best old music discovered this year:

Manfred Mann – Chapter 3

I’d been aware of the proto-primal scream ‘One way class‘ track for a few years from various compilations but it was great to discover that the whole album is a winner. Progressive psychedelic jazz rock from (some of) the people who previously bought you do-wa-diddy.

Mingus Ah Um – Charles Mingus

I got proper into jazz this year following watching a documentary on BBC4 which featured this heavily – subtle but powerful. John Coltrane’s Crescent was another favourite...

Nina Simone compilation made by my amte Will

I think Sinnerman might be the greatest song I’ve discovered since Les Fleurs...

Best magazine:

Wax Poetics but I have increasingly been enjoying Songlines – a world music mag with excellent design values.

Hero of the year:

Massive props to Barack for sticking to his guns on healthcare but I think its got to be Harry Patch, world war 1 veteran, for dying with real dignity and refusing to be seen as the brave soldier the media wanted him to be...

Villain of the year:

Nick Griffin and the Cunts of Leon – let em fight it out I say...

Most hyped:

Beatles – Rock band – I mean its a computer game for fucks sake..does it really need a 10 page feature in every magazine?!

Runner up: True Blood – yeah its fun but some of the acting is hopeless! (I still watch it every week...)

Best gig of the year:

1. Baaba Maal – Warwick Arts Centre

In a year of fantastic African gigs (Mariam and Amadou, Staff Benda Bilili) this was the stand out. It started as an acoustic jam and ended with the whole audience dancing like madmen. Maal has such charisma and like Goldfrapp last year, he understands how to perfectly pace a set. Go see some African acts people, they are fantastic (at least the ones I saw were!)

2. Spiritualized – Barbican

A wonderful performance of what must surely be one of the best albums of all time. I honestly can’t think of another record that packs the same emotional punch. Thirty people on stage to create a dysfunctional, smack addled symphony and then finished off with Silent Night of all things! Wonderful

3.=The Horrors – Camden

Great to see a band still on the way up rather than already playing Brixton Academy (although surely that awaits). Shades of My Bloody Valentine, Psychadelic Furs and Primal Scream but full of charisma and a guitar band that ‘mean it’. Oh to be fifteen (although then I’d probably like My Chemical Romance!)

3.= Metallica – O2 arena

I took my 15 year old son and we both loved it. Suitably bombast but the best bit was the very end where they played punk covers in a boxing ring in the middle of the arena – they still rock better than bands half their age.

Fave DVD watched:

It has to be Mad Men – great storylines and beautifully shot. Every man in marketing wants to be Don Draper (maybe)

Fave book read:

Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantell – I actually wanted to know more about the life of Henry VIII after reading this – brilliant characterisation and a well deserved Booker winner.

Best TV:

Really enjoyed the Thick of It

Best website:

Loving Spotify but it means I will buy very few CDs ever again...In terms of content websites I really enjoyed Fact magazine’s best of features and still loyal to Very Good Plus...

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