Hi folks. It’s been a wonderful, insightful and sometimes strange year in the life of Spotisfaction, and it’s now time to wind-down and get ready for the Christmas period. We’ll be taking a bit of a break until the New Year, but will be back in full force come January! Before we leave you, though, here are our staff picks for 2010’s best albums.
Have a lovely, safe and relaxing holiday and catch you next year!
Dave and the Spotisfaction team.
Perfume Genius – Learning
It has been a toughie to pick the album of the year. There were so many brilliant releases, some of which I still haven’t digested properly, but also nothing that really changed my life. So it had to come down to which album I loved from start to finish and for me, Perfume Genius Learning was pocket aces. It’s a hauntingly beautiful record. Learning has an honesty and fragility which, even after months of obsessive plays, hasn’t lost its poignancy. It wouldn’t win feel good hit of the year by a long shot, however it more than deserves to be a contender for album of the year.
I’ve put a lot of thought into what I think is my album of the year as there are some very strong contenders with albums like High Violet by The National, Spirit Youth by The Depreciation Guild, Forgiveness Rock Record by Broken Social Scene, Infinite Arms by Band Of Horses and The Suburbs by Arcade Fire, to mention just a few, all released this year.
However the one album I find myself keep going back to time and again is Broken Bells by Broken Bells. When I first heard about a collaboration between musician and producer Danger Mouse and The Shins front man James Mercer I was intrigued. Danger Mouse has a bit of a history of getting the most out of an odd mix of musicians but would he be able to do the same with the notoriously introverted Mercer? The answer is quite simply yes as it turns out that these two are a perfect match. What you end up with is something a bit livelier than The Shins and has some of the standard Danger Mouse touches which pushes Mercer’s sumptuous yet melancholic songcraft forward to create a haunting yet captivating experience. It’s rare that you can find something so brooding that is so appealing. It’s an odd mix but it works together so well to create one of the most outstanding debut albums I have heard in years.
Sleigh Bells – Treats
Well this qualifies as my album of the year mainly because it is the only one from this year that I’m still consistently listening to. My one year old seems to like it too. Anyway onto actual reasons. The whole Noise Pop thing is new to me and I think I like it. That distorted, fuzzy style best heard at absurdly ear bleeding levels mixed with Alexis Krauss’ frequently delicate vocals creates a highly pleasing mix. The album is all good, if not especially varied, but stand out tracks include Riot Rhythm and Crown On The Ground. The first because of the feeling that someone went to an American high school pep rally and turned it up till the speakers broke and the latter for its remarkable catchy tune. All in all I think this album is the mutts nuts. Well if someone kicked the buggery out of the poor dogs nuts.
Foals – Total Life Forever
2010 has, I feel confident in saying, being an exceptional year for releases. Indeed I had a ‘short’list of 25 albums that I found it very hard to choose between. The album I decided upon, Foals’ Total Life Forever, was for me an album that edified the potential I knew this band had, but felt they’d failed to capture on their debut album. The maturity and songwriting chops on this album, and the amount I’ve listened to it, meant it had to be my album of 2010.
Embracing a warmth they deliberately shunned on the first album – when their first choice producer Dave Sitek made their songs, apparently, sound like they were ‘in the fucking Grand Canyon’ – reverb is conspicuously present on their follow up. A deeper sound, subtler textures, maturity in songwriting (double header ‘Black Gold and Spanish Sahara’ showing their ability to control flow and dynamics in a way robotically obliterated on their first release) shows a band growing into themselves calmly. They’re also still a phenomenal live band, including an electrifying performance at this years Glastonbury, so for me, it’s Foals this year.
Deftones – Diamond Eyes
For me, Deftones hit the ground running with Diamond Eyes. It’s no secret that the band have gone through some really rough times in the recent past, particularly since unreleased album Eros was shelved following bassist Chi Cheng’s horrific car accident in 2008 (an accident which has left him even now barely conscious). This rocked the band in a massive way, making the decision to carry on recording undeniably tough. So, the raw energy which is apparent in Diamond Eyes is a statement – the band are focussed, as one, and playing to their (considerable) strengths. It might be seen by some as a band playing it safe (there’s none of the experimenting in soundscapes that has been prevelant since White Pony), but for me this album is brutally heavy, intelligently written, well put-together and a massive triumph.
Reading the liner notes for Hooray! for Happiness (that feel more like a prologue to a book) quickly tell you the conditions of the recording and that, importantly, a computer had no place in the process. Opener ‘Every Second Is A Second Chance’ builds on reverbed guitar, fragments of saxes coming out of the distance and hushed voices that build into mess of melody, choral shouts over a flurry of instruments. It’s the perfect opener and in this respect sets the tone for what’s to come. Part song/part instrumental, never staying within one genre, the band seem to posses a wide range of influences, even throwing in some elements of swing time and prog jazz.
But it’s the moments of calm that stick out for me, like the pairing of ‘Gusts Of Wind Blowing In Different Directions’ leading into ‘Home’. The later gives us simplistic but emotive lyrics, delivered in a dart like melody, building towards a layered crescendo, accompanied in part by the gentle clicking of fingers and heavy breathing, here used as percussion. The former is staggeringly bare leading way to a hunting piano part twinkling over gentle strings, gushing with feeling. It’s the moments like this that truly reflect the warmth of this LP. You get the feel for a recording that was a spur of the moment, late night sessions that went into the early hours of the morning, a series of ‘takes’ never to be repeated; happy accidents that sound intentional. You get a sense of just a group of people getting caught in creating this sound, a group not concerned with a clinical production.
It’s creatively working within the self imposed limitations that make this such a triumph, in this case sparking from an inventive solution round a problem, not simply throwing more money at it until it gets solved. Who needs Abby Road when you have a 16 track, a loop pedal and a few late nights in a quiet suburban town?