Best of 2010
2010: Officially great
How do you pick the best 50 albums of the year? It can be tough. But this year we did it by testing every release with equipment specially designed by the Eggheads, the superior beings from the daytime TV show Eggheads. We didn’t even have to listen to anything! Here are the results.
Slaves to fashion, the staff at 7digital feverishly compete to sport the latest sartorial trends first, which meant this year sashaying through the office in an eye-popping array of jeggings, playsuits and capes (and that was just the men). In face based fashion, however, the real success story of 2010 was the moustache, which proved a smidgeon too adventurous for us - even for Hipster Henry, our hamster. Hurrah for Twin Shadow, then, who captured the Zeitgeist with a lip-caterpillar worthy of Tom Sellek and an album of superlative lo-fi, synth genius that had us pining for Movember all year long.
When this album came out early 2010, The Fall were hailed as the best new band in Britain, by those that had never heard of them. Those that were familiar with them, and their 472 other albums (dating back to when they played mostly to halls of waltzing gentry), went wild for it and declared it to be up there with their best. With a solid line-up – indeed, it’s the first time in fifteen years that the same personnel have recorded consecutive albums – snarling grumpus Mark E Smith has forged an album that is vital, cohesive, Daft Punk sampling and out-right rocking – hell, it might even be up there with their best.
Sometimes the biggest show-offs are actually those who are least self-assured. Take Kanye: when not noisily basking in his own hyperbole he can be found, for instance, weeping in his dressing room, wondering if the lady in the bakery was lying when she said she had all his tapes. Four Tet, on the other hand, has spent years quietly crafting serene, glitched electronica, growing in confidence with each release. On There Is Love In You he straddled the line between experimentalism and the dance floor so expertly, he ought to be thrown a parade: as it is he’ll probably just release another brilliant album instead.
Boasting an unsurpassed pedigree of cool, it seems that Charlotte Gainsbourg excels in whatever task she turns her skilful hand to. So, after greedily gathering plaudits for her acting in 2009, this year the chameleonic beauty once more took on the role of belle chanteuse, to release the follow up to the acclaimed 5:55. For IRM she’d enlisted the production wizardry of a certain Mr Beck Hansen and together they took us on an expansive sonic adventure, equal parts surreal and enchanting. Fashion, cookery, welding… nobody knows where she’ll go next, but we’re going to be luxuriating in these songs until she returns to the mic.
As it’s Panto season, here’s a Cinderella story to warm your cockles. Whilst on Animal Collective’s record label, Ariel Pink spent years banished to his bedroom by his jealous guardians, recording lo-fi albums with only an 8-track, homemade bongos/empty Pringles tubes and a rudimentary guitar comprising of elastic bands stretched over a shoe box. In 2010, Pink was rescued by Fairy Godmothers 4AD, and given the means to do justice to the voices in his head. Before Today lunged wildly at psychedelic pop, freakish-new wave and MOR soft-rock, yet hit the mark every time and succeeded in making Panda Bear sound pedestrian. Oh yes it did…
An album that can make snow disappear and restore the sunshine doesn’t exist. It really doesn’t. As much as we try to tell you that when we put this on the snow scarpered sharpish back to hell and the sun was released from house arrest, you are unlikely to ever believe us. And good for you - no woolly flies on your eyes, clearly. But if there ever were such an album, this would be it. Whippersnappers they may be at only 19, but Californian Avigdor Zahner-Isenberg and his band mates have crafted an album of Wilco and Shins-esque indie that’s delicate, beautiful, naïve, odd, filthy and more warming than the contents of our standard issue 7digital whisky flasks
Ever wondered what fills the mind of the average sleeping adolescent? Well, if Beach House’s third album is to be taken literally (and why wouldn’t it be?), it’s packed with ethereal tales of zebras, snow-kissed landscapes and lost love. All wrought by Victoria Legrand’s glorious Nico-esque contralto, atop a shimmering blanket of undulating synths and blissfully fuzzy guitars, obviously. And how lucky for Beach House it is too, because more banal subjects like exams, acne and furtive snogs wouldn’t have been in fitting with their heavenly, dream-pop aesthetic. Gorgeous stuff.
Caribou proved he was miles ahead of the pack once again with Swim, which defied simple genre typecasting to produce, in his own words, “dance music that sounds like it’s made out of water”. Its cavernous, liquid beats were less psychedelic than the intricate multiple-drum attacks of previous albums, Andorra and The Milk of Human Kindness, but equally irresistible. Lyrically too, Snaith had progressed, with his focus shifted to crumbling relationships and indecision, adding a disquieting potency to what was one of the most inventive, compelling and spellbinding albums of 2010.
Back in the early 70s, Gil Scott-Heron’s legendary, soul-jazz polemic ‘‘The Revolution Will Not Be Televised’’ scathingly derided America under Nixon and Reagan, his proto-rap style inspiring a generation of hip hop artists. In 2010, after years in limbo and prison, he returned, as world-weary and caustic as ever. I’m New Here saw Scott-Heron’s voice set against an unfamiliar backdrop of industrial beats and trip-hop on the one hand and simple blues on the other, to effortlessly prove that, 30 years on, the veteran of the industry remains more innovative and relevant than most of the newer kids on the block. Eat that Bieber!
With the reputations of British tourists left in tatters by stag parties, the Foreign Office sent part-time envoys These New Puritans to Prague on a special mission to repair the PR of the nation. In the downtime between meetings with government officials, the resourceful art-rockers retired to a top-secret bunker and laid down the foundations for Hidden, using only the resources to hand. Fortunately for them, that included a children’s choir, a 13-piece brass/woodwind ensemble and six-foot Taiko drums. And fortunately for us, this jaw-dropping album means we’ll be welcomed back to the Czech Republic with open arms. Na zdraví!
The rest of the best