Saturday, 25 December 2010

2010 Best Albums Part 1

Is that time of year again !!!! Charts time, here is the part 1 of some of my favorite 2010 records, the order is irrelevante.

Disappears - Lux / Kranky
Listen | Disappears - Gone Completely

"It's not often that Kranky gets excited enough about a straight-up rock band to agree to put out their album, but there is no denying the fact that Disappears fit that bill. Sure, there is a stripped-back aesthetic which you could call "minimalism" and fondness for repetition that could easily be described as "krautrock", two terms that would set the bat-senses tingling in that label's offices, but in essence the Chicago outfit are punk rock'n'rollers at heart.

Disappears are a quartet led by ex-90 Day Man and current Pony Brian Case, and have already earned themselves support slots with bands as diverse as Tortoise and the Jesus Lizard. Their Myspace page lists the band's influences as "reverb, delay, drums, heavy, tremolo, feedback, guitars, repetition", and all of these elements are there in spades, resulting in a heavy psychedelic stomp that joins the dots between the chugging rhythms of Neu!, the gauzey garage of Spacemen 3 or the Jesus And Mary Chain, and the throbbing drones of Suicide. They also describe themselves as "CCR via Minor Threat", a jokey claim perhaps, but it takes a lot of hard work to make such tight, focused playing sound so loose and Disappears pull it off with ease."
The Quietus

No Age - Everything in Between / Sub Pop
Listen | No Age - Fever Dreaming

"Recorded in Los Angeles from the end of 2009 and into 2010, Everything in Between is the new album from No Age, the duo of Dean Spunt and Randy Randall. They emerged from former band Wives in 2005, to become No Age, worldwide glowing talismans for the DIY art-punk scene in LA, now famously known as having its epicenter at The Smell, a clubhouse where art-life/music-life welded and inspired a creative movement and attitude which has fertilized a purple patch of likeminded punkers and artists around the globe. Since the release of Weirdo Rippers, their 2007 debut album (on FatCat Records), through Nouns, the band’s 2008 follow-up on Sub Pop, and beyond, No Age has earned enthusiastic notice from an incredibly wide array of sources; from Pitchfork to The New Yorker (“Let It Rip,” Nov. 19, 2007), and found themselves unlikely Grammy nominees (for Best Recording Packaging in 2008). No Age have risen from sweaty basement shows and art galleries to having their songs blast off the walls of the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), to performing at unconventional spaces both close to home and abroad. " Sub Pop

Las Robertas - Cry Out Loud / Art Fag
Listen | Las Robertas - Street Feelings

"Formed only a year ago, Costa Rican all-girl garage rock band Las Robertas has all the essential traits of a girl gang from the movies. The band's epically named members Lola Miche (vocals), Monserrat Vargas (bass/vocals), Mercedes Oller (guitar/vocals) and Ana M. Valenciano (skins) make fuzzy, buzzy, straight-up rock and roll with a perfect mix of teenage sunshine and gritty, fearless attitude. Running the streets of San Jose in their car "Juancho" with their band-hound Perrito Caliente (Hot Dog, obviously), a black daschund who also frequently appears in band photos and videos, the four coltish teenagers simultaneously inhabit the youthful, innocent romance of their girl-group style harmonies and the feisty, off the cuff rebellion of their fast burning, guitar-driven sound. Just make sure to get out of the way if Mercedes is behind the wheel, as she, according to the rest of the group, "drives more like a Costa Rican cab driver" than a demure young lady, but nobody said anything about being demure" Hangout Altsounds

Deerhunter - Halcyon Digest / 4AD
Listen | Deerhunter - Revival

Across two pairs of full-lengths and EPs into which the mainstream indie rock press thrust its winner-picking prongs, Deerhunter reverse engineered the typical fate of darling newcomers. Rather than using up its quota of inspired songwriting then veering into sonic experiments to mask writer’s block, the group began enshrouded in elaborate instrumental textures then came forth through the thicket bearing the gift of memorable pop. The next step in this pleasantly surprising path, Halcyon Digest is Deerhunter’s most accessible and best effort to date — a magical little universe where novel, distinctive sounds enliven classic pop structures.

If likening Halcyon Digest to a world unto itself seems hyperbolic, consider the opening sounds of “Earthquake.” An arpeggiated, harp-like synth part resembles the soundtrack to an underwater world in the galaxy of Super Mario. Yet it’s paired with a plodding rhythm track — suction sound on the one, drum machine snap on the three — that sounds like Massive Attack is slowly invading. Hovering atop it all, Bradford Cox’s heavily distorted vocal becomes just one piece of the elaborate architecture. Dusted

Dark Dark Dark - Wild Go / Supply and Demand
Listen | Dark Dark Dark - Daydreaming

"That's frontwoman Nona Marie Invie naked on the cover of Dark Dark Dark's second full-length, Wild Go, her back to the camera and her face turned toward the viewer with a subtle scowl. Simultaneously defensive and defiant, she seems to rebuke you for seeing her in this state of undress, hips and tattoos exposed. We get other band members' asses, too, but Invie's is front and center, which is only appropriate: The band's songs are cleverly arranged and expressively performed, but Invie's vocals remain the focal point. While it's tempting to suggest she lays herself similarly bare in her lyrics, in truth she is slightly more guarded, writing songs whose meanings must be puzzled out and singing them in a voice that sounds refracted, as if we're hearing her through a mirror." Pitchfork

Mux Mool - Skultaste / Ghostly
Listen | Mux Mool - Get Better John

Brian Lindgren lends himself to "via"s pretty well. His homebase is Brooklyn-via-Minneapolis, his label affiliation is Ghostly-via-Moodgadget, and his music is hip-hop-via-electro-- or maybe vice-versa; you know how lines get blurred these days. Lindgren's career as synthesizer-fidgeting beatmaker Mux Mool has been defined more by sounds than styles-- one of those widescreen genre-absorbing approaches that's made "bass music" the vague but fitting descriptor of choice for instrumental post-hip-hop. And in keeping with the approach of a generation that finds electronic sounds to be not only natural but familiar, he tends to bring out the loose, humanistic side of waveforms and electronic keyboards in all their idiosyncrasies.

That's probably one of the more cohesive ways to pin down the personality of Skulltaste, an album that's a hell of a lot harder to define in terms of scenes or categories. Floating through Boards of Canada wooziness one moment, churning out Tobacco-esque bass filth the next, Mux Mool has put together an album whose sonic multiple-personality disorder could be aggravating if it wasn't so consistently engaging. And for all his weirdo fronting-- eccentric song titles, a Tron-gone-metal visual aesthetic, sparsely doled-out party clichés and braggadocio as the only prominent lyrical content-- his work transcends its mild jokiness to reveal the adventurousness of a musical scholar.Pitchfork

Zazie Von Einem Anderen Stern – Regen:Tropfen
/ Drifting Falling
Listen | Zazie Von Einem Anderen Stern – Regen:Tropfen

"The first time I heard this I thought it was ace. I rarely get that these days. My attention span is so short that by the time an album is half way through I forget what I'm listening to. Maybe that's an age thing though? I'm gonna call her Zazie for the rest of the review as her name is a bit of a gobful and it's gonna save my fingers a bit of typing. This is Zazie's debut and it was recorded in Berlin in a small little room with a garden view and in Nils Frahm's studio (I presume with the help on Nils). Instruments on the album are piano, voice, cello, glockenspiel, field recordings, found sounds and also silence as an equivalent form of sound though it's essentially piano based. It's an astonishing debut as well. The music here is really powerful and emotive and whilst it's doing all of that heavy stuff it's also completely beautiful and absorbing! There's loads of weird little noises and sounds that punctuate the music. Sometimes you'll get the sounds of doors opening or random bits of German speech just firing through one speaker. Also silence plays a heavy part in the creation of the music with it cropping up in certain pieces adding a little of the less is more approach. Zazie's sporadic vocals are delicate and fragile and they remind me of the pixie elf woman from Mum. If you're into Yann Tiersen. Max Richter and Hauschka then this album has elements of all of those guys in and you should more than likely take note of this amazing album!" Norman Records

Flying Lotus - Cosmogramma / Warp
Listen | Flying Lotus – Do The Astral Plane

The third album from Los Angeles-based producer Flying Lotus (nee Steven Ellison) is an engrossing exploration of sonic possibility. Featuring contributions from Thom Yorke, vocalist Laura Darlington, bass producer Thundercat and jazz instrumentalist Ravi Coltrane, it’s a study in contrasts: provoking but reassuring, kinetic but focused, clean but clattering.

Ellison belongs to an international collective that stretches from the depths of L.A.—where he, Daedelus, Nosaj Thing and Gaslamp Killer, lit by the glow of their laptops, host a weekly club night known as Low End Theory—to the industrial heights of Glasgow, the territory of experimental production queen Mary Anne Hobbs. The magnetic live experience of Low End Theory is writ large on this album, which draws both from those complex layers of sound (so different from the measured hip-hop beats dominating the airwaves) and from Ellison’s family history. His aunt, the late Alice Coltrane—that great jazz multi-instrumentalist and swamini of a California ashram—gave him the freewheeling vocabularies of both jazz and space-conscious East Indian spirituality, heirlooms on which Cosmogramma banks heavily. Paste

Beach House - Teen Dream / Sub Pop
Listen | Beach House - Norway

Beach House have always been associated with subtle brilliance, which is what Teen Dream applies well. The opening track, “Zebra”, is reminiscent of old Beach House tracks like “Saltwater” where brilliantly constructed mood reigned most. The chorus itself is not capable of much variation, unlike the explosive choruses in “Walk in the Park” or “Better Times”, but it remains a very strong effort. It does well to establish a new methodology for the group, which clearly involves crisper and less rigid efforts that rely less on droning reverb and more on melody and instrumentation. It is not waving its arms in your face, but “Zebra” quietly plays like a gem of an opener with the warmth of Legrand’s mixing cohesively with Scally’s guitar tremolos to create a trademark Beach House performance. Singles like “Used to Be” and “Norway” are richer in their sound and instrumental intricacy, specifically in the backing vocal harmonics used in “Norway” over the quickly paced guitar arpeggio. The backing vocals are very light and caressing, which makes the arrival of Legrand’s leading voice as a musky and powerful enigma that much better. “Don’t you know it’s true,” she sings, dragging out the “true” with her vocal versatility to touch nearly every pitch on the scale. The melodic variation on each track is also breathtaking; it is usually heard in the last minute or so of every track. When “Norway” succumbs to an alternate bridge in its final minute it is one of the many chills this album will place upon your spine. Like the sudden shift in the organ’s melody during the conclusion of “Lover of Mine”, the transition is so welcomed because of its precise and valuable addition. Obsucured Sound

Best Cost - Crazy For You / Mexican Summer
Listen | Best Coast - Boyfriend

"Scene-famous boyfriends, a quote-generating Twitter feed, scuffles with bloggers, and the most meme-generating feline since Keyboard Cat got carpal tunnel: Yeah, it's safe to say Bethany Cosentino, who writes and records with cohort Bobb Bruno as Best Coast, is a long way away from her days as a member of drone/psych outfit Pocahaunted. Best Coast's full-length debut, Crazy for You, serves only to increase that distance from the outré-music scene; the brief record delivers on the promise of a strong string of singles released over the past year. Just as Pocahaunted loosely capture the basic feel of dub and reggae, Crazy for You is a meditation on the stickier hooks of classic indie pop, with slight detours into surf-rock ("Bratty B") and countrypolitan balladry ("Our Deal"). While Pocahaunted cover their signifiers under piles of static and delay-triggered noise, Best Coast take the opposite route, slathering honey over every song and letting them drip-dry in the sunshine." Pitchfork