Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Records Of The Year, 2010

Forest Swords - Dagger Paths (Olde English Spelling Bee)
Sensational psychedlic hip-hop/dubstep/drone, made from processed guitars and bass, fragmented vocal samples, dubbed-out drones and David Lynchian atmospherics. A widescreen vision of an indefinably bleak yet lovely late-night England. This one-man project from the Wirral has constructed one of the finest albums the UK underground has heard for a while- imagine Burial crossed with the Velvet Underground crossed with Aphex Twin crossed with Ennio Morricone and produced by Timbaland and you're getting close.

Various - The World Ends: Afro Rock & Psychedelia In 1970s Nigeria (Soundway)
A compilation of some of the most exciting music from one of the world's most exciting places, and its most exciting time. The audible nods to Jimi Hendrix, Jefferson Airplane and James Brown ensure this collection is going to be appreciated across the board, and not just by the crate-diggers. Afro Rock and spaced-out funk like you've never heard, these tracks from forty-ish years ago are an astonishing hybrid of the psychedelic sounds of San Francisco and London at a time of genuine musical revolution. 

Darkstar - North (Hyperdub)
It's easy to love the Hyperdub label but this, Darkstar's debut long player, truly is exceptional. Like a mixture of the synthesized sound of seventies Sheffield or Berlin, the trio have created the perfect accompaniment to the dark skies and rain outside. Blissfully melancholic, this will appeal to fans of the Human League as much as it does to fans of Burial and Radiohead. An instant classic.

Grinderman - Grinderman 2 (Anti)
Nick Cave has been paying more attention to his Grinderman 'side project' than to anything else since its 2007 self-titled debut. Scuzzy and schizophrenic, this album explores the same themes as it's predecessor- love, life, fear, death and sex- and forces you to take the side of the unhinged sociopathic storyteller. Intense, lurching and savage. Like a good film sequel you don't need to know the first part to love this. And you should.

Errors - Come Down With Me (Rock Action)
Gorgeously textured and layered to perfection, these ten mind-bendingly brilliant instrumental tracks from the Glaswegian art-rock four piece make LCD Soundsystem look about as much fun as an album of Jereme Rogers B-sides. This is fizzy, pulsating dance music made from the heart, by humans. A beautiful, soaring, joyous record that will sound as good on headphones at four in the morning as it will booming out of a PA in a sweaty club.

Salem - King Knight (IAMSound Records)
Menacing, narcotic atmospherics laced with other-wordly, disjointed raps. Like a mixture of southern hip-hop and early shoegaze, Salem have released one of the most truly unique albums we've heard all year. Tinny percussion simultaneously holds the music together and pulls it apart, crushed beneath abrasive distortion and over-driven bass.

Quantic presenta Flowering Inferno- Dog With a Rope (Tru Thoughts)
Will 'Quantic' Holland has always had a bit of a gift for blending rhythms and breaks from an enormous range of genres, usually ending up with the kind of soul/funk grooves the average crate-digger could only imagine. Thankfully this latest project is no different, and mixes Columbian musicians with his own innovative beats, creating a South American hip-hop dub-funk masterpiece. Totally unique, and utterly essential.

The Drums- The Drums (Moshi Moshi)
Never mind the hipster hype, The Drums' debut album is genuinely excellent. Although hailing from Brooklyn, the four-piece make jittery post-punk that's so melodic you'd swear they were California born and bred. Reverb-soaked guitars, Jesus and Mary Chain drums and lyrics that could pass for Morrissey's own mean there's a lot to like here- if you can get past the aforementioned hipster stigma. Whether they can follow it up remains to be seen, but this album will secure them a place in a lot of 2010 best-of lists.

Watain- Lawless Darkness (Season of Mist)
Steering closer to the crust-punk and thrash sounds that were always underlying in Watain's previous three albums, 'Lawless Darkness' sees the Swedish black metal band turn out their most immediately-accessible record so far. And access it you should. Don't be confused into thinking black metal is all about painted faces and sheeps heads (only some of it is), this is as melodic as it is malevolent and as dynamic as it is demonic. Watain banish any preconceptions to hell - yet this is a hard-hitting, relentless, complicated, precision-crafted piece of work.

Caribou- Swim (City Slang)
Intended as "dance music that sounds like it's made out of water", Dan Snaith (Caribou) has- probably by accident- created an album that's going to stand tall as a benchmark in electronic music production for years. A distant, melancholic album about loneliness employing elements of minimal techno, space-rock and house? If 'post-electronica' existed, this would be its most important album.

U.S. Girls- Go Grey (Siltbreeze)
Raw, lo-fi tape and vocal manipulation. Warm currents and complex beauty, like a 23rd Century Brian Eno.
Best Coast- Crazy For You (Mexican Summer)
Classic indie-pop with honey-glazed female vocals. Shimmering, melodic and charming.
Flying Lotus- Cosmogramma (Warp)
A synthesized retro sci-fi view of a futurist LA. Fractured hip-hop from another dimension.
Liars- Sisterworld (Mute)
New York art-rock made to charm and confuse.
Lali Puna- Our Inventions (Morr)
Lo-fi electronic pop at it's finest, and in 2010 it has never sounded more relevant.
Big Boi- Sir Lucious Left Foot The Son Of Chico Dusty (Island/Def Jam)
The solo album from the, err, 'other one' in OutKast is quite an achievement. It's not often the boundaries of hip-hop get pushed any further- they're almost about to burst as they are- but 'Sir Lucious...' does exactly that.
Darkthrone- Circle the Wagons (Peaceville Records)
14th album of crust/black metal from Darkthrone, and quite a polished production. Essential for fans, or a great place to start for anybody else.
Four Tet- There Is Love In You (Domino)
Burbling synths, detached vocals, clicks and cuts. Effervescent and exhilarating
Richard Skelton- Landings (Type)
Ambient modern-classical post-rock. Expressive, haunting and beautiful.
Strong Arm Steady- In Search of Stoney Jackson (Now Again)
Heavyweight west-coast hip-hop from modern-day musical mastermind Madlib.
Gnaw Their Tongues- Rend It Each Other Like Wild Beasts (At War With False Noise)
Harsh shrieking noise colliding with detuned symphonic strings and horns, and piano. A bad trip in a John Carpenter movie.
Tricky- Mixed Race (Domino)
Haunting, melancholic and tough. An absolute return to form, this is Tricky at his best. Up there with Maxinquaye.
Deerhunter- Halcyon Digest (4AD)
Mind-boggling, intricate and technical. Exhilirating experimentalism from Boston.
Mount Kimbie- Crooks & Lovers
(Hotflush Recordings)
Smart, spooky dance music with pop sensibilities that mixes hip-hop and R&B, drone and dubstep.
Wavves- King of the Beach (Fat Possum)
Major-key party-punk that owes as much to the Beach Boys as it does to 70s and 80s skate-rock.
Aloe Blacc- Good Things (Stones Throw)
Absolutely authentic 1970s-soul sounding record, from LA's answer to Gil Scott-Heron.
Brotha Lynch Hung- Dinner and a Movie (Strange Music)
Concept horrorcore hip-hop. BLH has been in the game for 13 years now, and this is his finest moment. Not for the faint of heart.
How to Swim- Retina (Or More Fun Than a Vat of Love) (Personal Hygiene Records)
Dizzyingly thrilling orchestral indie nine-piece, sounding like the offspring of Pavement and Vampire Weekend

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