The Best Albums Of 2010 So Far
, July 1st, 2010 11:04
Continuing our Glass Half Full Week, here is our top 30 albums of the year so far...
Not content with the sleep deprivation and eye-meltingly long shifts producing our once-yearly best albums list, just to endure a torrent of abuse from fans of Wavves, Coldplay and Mumford and Sons, we decided we weren't punishing ourselves enough...
Quietus pilots Luke and John, with much essential moral support from staff writer Ben Hewitt and knowledgeable visitor Angus Finlayson, have produced this, our best albums of the year so far list. This reflects little other than what we've been listening to this year and takes into account initial impact and how often we've gone back to them since.
Watch this space early next week for compilations, lives and reissues...
30. Celeste Morte(s) Nee(s)
"When listening to the anguished Black Metal produced by the prolific French outfit Celeste you could be forgiven for presuming that they don’t have a sense of humour. In fact listening to their third album Morte(s) Nee(s) which matches unrelenting brutality with distressing angry lyrical protest against the ill-treatment of women in modern life, you would think theirs was a bleak existence. But whether as a coping mechanism or not, singer Johan is quite a funny guy. He recalls one gig: 'Once I saw a guy asking the front man from the opening band to take a picture of him holding our LP. He thought he just saw CELESTE but we hadn’t been on yet. I didn’t have the heart to tell him. Then, someone else asked me to autograph the CD of the same opening band. He knew that I wasn't from that band, but said that our records were too expensive for him.' When we ask if he’s ever had any good heckles he sighs and says: 'No, but someone threw a big metal chair at me once.'”
29. Autechre Oversteps / Move Of Ten
"And in line with a sense of economy the duo seem to have developed in recent years, everything’s more concise, more pinned down; gone is the protracted, ultra-compressed percussive barrage of, say, Confield (their 2001 ‘difficult album’), replaced with layer after luscious layer of detail and daubs of bright, synthetic colour."
28. Konono No.1 Assume Crash Position
"Assume Crash Position wiles out the sound of Konono's first, their long-spanning rhythms honed into eight tracks of hip-shaking whistle-making fanfare, relentless riffs and the kind of African rhythms now once again appropriated by contemporary avant-rock music. The music dips and dives like bodies through a crowd, clearing to lulls in which field recordings of children's chatter and community carnival populate what-would-be quiet, before giving way to another round of clattering drums and folk verse."
27. Chrome Hoof Crush Depth
"The band realized that the idea of unimaginable pressure and stress at depth is a useful metaphor for how they combine different strands of music into one well-formed acid disco metal prog whole: without exploratory bravery, Chrome Hoof’s astounding oeuvre could just be another daytrip into joyless and technical proficiency for the sake of it. They construct something that is immensely sexual, funky, gripping, dramatic, frightening (if you’ve had the right sort of drugs anyway), imagination-fuelling, dance inspiring, spiritual and hilarious, however."
26. Black Breath Heavy Breathing
"During my life there have been times, as I'm sure there have been for most confirmed metal heads, where I have questioned why it is that I love metal so: during the random acts of bullying at high school for having long hair and Sepultura on my Walkman, seeing Motörhead t-shirts on sale in Topman and the level fame afforded to Fred Durst. Every once in a while though, a band comes along that re-affirms exactly why it is that I love metal, and right now that band is Black Breath."
25. Future Islands - In Evening Air
"Highlights here are so plentiful it would be quicker to comment on the dull parts, but standout moments are the New Order pulse of opener 'Walking Through That Door', the catchy 'Tin Man', the slow-motion 'Inch Of Dust' and album closer 'As I Fall', with its looped, angelic choirs and droning string outro. Overall, the album mines similar territory to bands like TV On The Radio and Junior Boys, an 80s-inspired world of darkened discotheque corners and doomed romances, but like those albums the mood here is defiantly upbeat. In Evening Air easily holds its own against the year's other crossover alt-pop hits, Hot Chip's One Life Stand and Yeasayer's Odd Blood, without resorting to the knowing irony of the former or the trying-too-hard trickiness of the latter, relying instead on simplicity and sincerity to keep feet tapping while hearts melt."
24. High On Fire - Snakes For The Divine
"Ignore the fact that Snakes For The Divine is largely influenced by the work of Grandstand anchor turned new age conspiracy theorist David Icke, because it kicks ass, plain and simple. A rhythm section like a woolly Mammoth's bowel movements and riffs you'd sell your cannabis factory for."
23. Flying Lotus - Cosmogramma
"Cosmogramma is a sprawling, post-Web 2.0 cacophony. It's like hurtling through the digital darkness of Spotify with everything blaring at once. At some points it's perplexing, at others it's thrilling."
22. Lonelady - Nerve Up
"It’s time we forgot about the myth of Manchester. So many people come from towns where stormclouds gather and brew, where storeys of concrete tower and loom, where indiscretions and improprieties take place in the shadows. Lonelady – Julie Campbell from Hulme – has been slotted into her city so thoroughly, in both interviews and profiles, that the music she makes has almost been forgotten, vanishing into a vortex of associations and echoes, splattered with rain, wrapped up in long overcoats. Playing Nerve Up for the first time, I’d expected its rhythms and rhymes to be carved from Ian Curtis’ corpse at the very least; perhaps nuzzled with the fuzz of the Buzzcocks; or at least polished politely with the sheen of Sumner and Hook. In fact, the only Grim Up North flavours I could taste were the odd bursts of Ludus and a tiny hint of A Guy Called Gerald. Nerve Up often sounds a lot more American, as well as more female."
21. Janelle Monáe - The Archandroid
20. Mathew Sawyer And The Ghosts - How Snakes Eat
"In Mathew Sawyer's world, love is important, but seems less important than the circumstances and details of itself. Just because Mathew Sawyer's voice is odd, doesn't mean he'll fall back lazy on sung melodies. Originality squared is something infinite. Mathew Sawyer says and does things that feel right at the time. In this way, his work belongs to moments and as such renders regret illogical. Crucially, perhaps, Mathew Sawyer's honest about what he wants to happen, rather than just a walking, mewling activity log reeling off reports of broken glass and kebabs. His lyrics and music are evocative of those desired futures to the extent that they worm their way out of being really truthful, because The Universe Means They're Bound To Unfold Differently."
19. Blood Of The Black Owl - A Banishing Ritual
"Chet W. Scott, who looks remarkably like Obelix, Asterix’s tubby and exceedingly mighty, plait-wearing friend, has outdone himself again. His third - designed to act (literally) as a latter day cleansing ritual – is so thoroughly abrasive and cathartic, you can’t help but wonder what exactly it is that he thinks we’ve done wrong. In a crepuscular arboreal lair a spider has hung all the metal possessions of its hundreds of victims by threads of silk, so they clatter together in the breeze. Nameless Lovecraftian things bang out rhythms on petrified tree stumps. In the distance Gregorian monks too afraid to enter the forest chant, and then after quarter of an hour the guitars kick in for one moment of sweet relief before solipsistic ruminations on sin find voice in Tuvan throat singing. Just brilliant. "
John Doran in Metal Hammer magazine
18. Gil Scott-Heron - I'm New Here
"Scott-Heron offers sound advice (literally) on the sleeve notes, asking the listener to 'turn off your cell phone, turn off everything that beeps, rattles or whistles'. Good advice indeed and, in my darkened flat, with only a candle for comfort, the ghosts and echoes were duly teased from the edges of this recording. It only lasts 25-minutes but that matters little. For it has not true beginning or end and you could allow the cycle to spin round two or three times without realising. This is a artist who deals in the 'real'. On that point, you can be truly assured. Unworldly and beautiful, even when he sings about pulling on his socks."
17. White Hills White Hills / GNOD & White Hills GNOD Drop Out With White Hills II
[Editor's note: We couldn't decide between these two albums. It's like asking an insect mum to choose which child she's going to eat first... just not fair. Actually we'd prefer it if you just stopped talking and passed us the bong. Now find us some Ventolin or call an ambulance.]
"It's grown cold and dark and the wind is picking up. And then, the thunder breaks, AND THE SKY IS FULL OF WHIRLING SCREAMING THINGS WITH MILLIONS OF EYES..."
16. Jane Weaver - The Fallen By Watchbird
"Perhaps most intriguing of all…this is - that old beast - a concept album. Imbued with a mystical thread that sits closer to The French Lieutenant's Woman than it might to a Kate Bush album. Ancient passages of estrangement and, eventually a bereavement eased only by the taking of somewhat dubious milk concoction. Therein lies a tale that, itself, seems at once, familiar and aloof."
15. The Shining - Blackjazz
"Blackjazz is an exhilarating, exhausting experience – the heaviest, most tumultuous moments of Grindstone were only mild foreshadowing of this dark future. For all the cathedral-bounding leaps they've made in terms of attack, physicality and intensity, Shining have ditched some of their playfulness and unpredictability. But they've also lost their sense of questing uncertainty, their slightly dilettantish air of experimentation. They now sound cohesive, focused, reborn in corruption, driven to disintegrate."
14. Pansonic - Gravitoni
"On Gravitoni Pansonic use track titles as a GPS to their imaginative landscape, gifting their followers an unprecedented insight into their modus operandi. Gravitoni is the Italian plural for graviton - a non-proven quantum particle related to the force of gravity and the definition of spacetime. This, alongside the chemistry and physics symbols inside the cover, should tip the listener to their preoccupations: electricity, magnetics, radio waves, planetary spin, brain waves. Their creative scope has been focussed onto the very fabric of their art as they document the final countdown to splitting the Pansonic atom."
13. Tamikrest Adagh
"I never really understood Bob Marley's words, but the music was so powerful that it made sense to me. If I was asked to sum up my purpose and my dream, it would be to help the Tuareg obtain the freedom, independence and respect that all the other Malians enjoy."
Ousmane Ag Mossa, Tamikrest
12. Pantha Du Prince Black Noise
"As taxonomy goes, though, minimal techno is the wrong term to use when attempting to describe Black Noise. Weber's bio offers the phrase, 'Sonic House.' The world may not need another sub-genre of electronic music, but in this instance, it works. Black Noise is, minus a few stumbles, a solid piece of sonic architecture. Collating sounds and textures, including field recordings taken from the debris of a Swiss village that had been destroyed by a landslide, Weber marries acoustic tones with pulsing beats, throwing on splashes of static ambience and in the process creating a record that at its peak, produces the spectral, machine psychedelia of 'Welt Am Draft' and its beat-free cousin, 'Im Bann'."
11. Oneohtrix Point Never - Returnal
Review coming soon...
10. Cathedral - The Guessing Game
"Cathedral have never been, or proclaimed to be, the heaviest or gloomiest or most innovative or virtuosic band on the circuit. In the main, they have intentionally walked a tightrope between hailing their forebears (check the list of dedications on their 1991 debut, Forest Of Equilibrium) and zoning into their own unique mini-universe. In a limited but genuine way, this has rendered them an institution of heavy metal, which explains 'Journey Into Jade', the 85 minutes, and the twenty years."
9. The Fall - Your Future Our Clutter
"Truth is, and I am typing this under the hypnotic spell of the concluding track, 'Weather Report 2', I had wanted to escape the clutches of Mr Smith. Would have liked to but, as he chants, 'You gave me the best years of my life' I am simply drawn back. Not by weary nostalgia either, but by the sheer blinding brilliance of every second here. Of every mad explosion. There are many, many surprises too... and seemingly on every track. Only a buffoon would offer a weary critical sigh. After all this noise, it ends in a murky whisper. A wry smile. The Fall sail back gently back into the fog and, I have to report, after all that has transpired (a fucking lot, frankly), a deep love of this racket remains intact. God damnit!"
8. Walls - Walls
"[Walls] is a combination of Alessio Natalizia's buzzing, serrated, treated guitars counterpointed with Sam Willis's synths, in which malevolent backbeats and warmer electronic climes combine. As such they are very much on the outer edges of the Kompakt empire but a very fine addition to it, not least since most of Kompakt's roster are on its outer edges. Opener 'Burnt Sienna' reminds of the first few moments of Faust's first album, a slow-burning act of premeditated analogue arson, which then swirls up into a fuzzy Phoenix of a riff."
7. These New Puritans - Hidden
"Three tracks in particular emphasise the awesome scale of These New Puritans' ambition. The first is 'Attack Music', which ropes in a group of Hackney schoolchildren to join Jack in delivering a baffling chorus: 'It was September, harmful logic/It was September, this is attack music…' Young minds duly corrupted, the Puritans later outdo themselves with the flabbergasting 'Orion', a choral epic that could serve as an ideal soundtrack for a remake of 'Ben Hur' shot in space. Completing the album's envelope-pushing triumvirate, 'White Chords' comes equipped with Jack's best and most surprising vocal to date, one that's simultaneously wracked, tender, coy and solicitous."
6. The Besnard Lakes - Are The Roaring Night
"Certain morsels of information received this end attempt to explain Are The Roaring Night as some kind of apolocyptic vision. A twisting chronicle of spies, double agents, of coded messages to fight a war that may not be real. Sometimes it can feel that the ideas are stretched a little thin, becoming lost in the hazy riffs. But like those great Canadian artists who have gone before them the Besnards deserve to break free from the constrains of the northern territories that they evoke. They certainly have the tools, the craft and indeed the know-how, American or otherwise. This album is a blinding listen, interesting, deep and indeed beautiful to behold."
5. New Young Pony Club - The Optimist
"It's clear NYPC are onto a winner, though, from the very moment the shimmering chords of opening track 'Lost A Girl' breathe into life. Hurtling along at breakneck speed before screeching to an abrupt halt a split-second before the piercing staccato synthesisers of the chorus kicks in, it lurches from giddy excitement to stomach-churning nausea just like the tale of doomed love Bulmer's lyrics recall. While Fantastic Playroom often seemed to be stuck in an early 80s time loop, permanently rooted in a New Wave disco, The Optimist encompasses a broader, brighter musical spectrum. The straight lines have been replaced by a glorious wooziness, such as the eerily discordant vocals and thumping drum beat of the title-track. The playful instant gratification of 'Ice Cream', for example, is eschewed for tastier morsels, such as the irresistible allure of 'We Want To' or the bewitching adrenaline of 'Dolls'. Both are every bit as delectable, but with a darker, more persistent flavour."
4. Lindstrøm & Christabelle - Real Life Is No Cool
"Lindstrøm's expanded his portfolio to include some new old elements: hints of Scritti Politti in '88 ('High & Low''s sustained swoon), Jones/Jackson in '82 (the itchy 'Baby Can't Stop') and the kind of handclap-strafed mid-80s club tracks that routinely announced themselves as “fresh”. But with dance music history having been so thoroughly worked over in the last decade — not least by the man himself — dividing the brand new from the retro is all but impossible, even misleading. Lindstrøm's still one of the best exemplars of refinement replacing revolution on the dancefloor: one of his signature tricks is to take an indelible moment from a classic dance track and work it into a new, authentic world of its own. So while you might recognise the bass spine of 'Lovesick' from Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five's 'Step Off' or the O'Jays original, you won't have heard it lope through digital molasses like this before. He also revisits his enduring muse, the precise point where the giddying strobe pulse of Donna Summer's 'I Feel Love' takes you into hyperspace, and grants it another gleaming life on 'Let's Practise'."
3. UFOmammut - Eve
"Italy’s best-kept worst-kept secret, the criminally underappreciated UFOMammut, reach album number five with Eve, a single piece separated into five distinct movements, dedicated to the first woman to ever walk the Earth. Stylistically there’s little departure from the formula shown on ‘08’s Idolum. Which means they essentially continue to sound like what Hawkwind playing Barrett era Pink Floyd (but with more riffs) sounds like in the head of a man that’s been kicked in the face by a horse. If you buy anything off this list, buy this!"
2. Gayngs - Relayted
"The cover of Godley & Creme's 'Cry' exacerbates the inkling that Gayngs are on a mission to channel the spirit of 10cc, the long-unfashionable, cleverly inflected waterfall MOR of 'I'm Not In Love' et al. But while that's a perfectly laudable venture in these tolerant times, Gayngs expand way beyond homage. Relayted is an epic procession that hoves in and hoves out like a heavenly weatherfront, morphing from one track to another, never falling silent, never touching down, never deviating from around the 69 bpm mark. Its stately opener, the epic, ever-descending 'The Gaudy Side of Town' bleeds into 'The Walker', whose opening lines, 'been walking for days/worn out my shoes' speak epic volumes about Relayted as a whole – an album that doesn't just take you on a long, strange trip but whose makers have been on one in order to bring you this."
1. Liars - Sisterworld
"[Sisterworld's] twisted melodies are constantly shadowed by the paranoia-laced threat of possible violence; a violence that periodically comes crashing through the album's warped orchestration with the chaotic blasts of ear-splintering aggression heard on highlight 'Scarecrows on a Killer Slant'. The song's jagged guitar attack and industrial drums are answered by [Angus] Andrew's screams of 'Stand them on the street with the gun AND THEN KILL THEM ALL', his throat-shredding wailing racking up the tension, bathing the subdued opening bars of follower 'I Still Can See An Outside World' in a harsh, post-traumatic light."
And the top 30 in full...
30 Celeste Morte(s) Nee(s)
29 Autechre Oversteps / Move Of Ten
28 Konono No.1 Assume Crash Position
27 Chrome Hoof Crush Depth
26 Black Breath Heavy Breathing
25 Future Islands In Evening Air
24 High On Fire Snakes For The Divine
23 Flying Lotus Cosmogramma
22 Lonelady Nerve Up
21 Janelle Monáe The Archandroid
20 Matthew Sawyer and the Ghosts How Snakes Eat
19 Blood Of The Black Owl A Banishing Ritual
18 Gil Scott-Heron I'm New Here
17 White Hills White Hills & GNOD and White Hills Drop Out With White Hills And GNOD II
16 Jane Weaver Fallen By The Watchbird
15 The Shining Blackjazz
14 Pansonic Gravitoni
13 Tamikrest Adagh
12 Pantha Du Prince Black Noise
11 Oneohtrix Point Never Returnal
10 Cathedral The Guessing Game
9 The Fall Your Future Our Clutter
8 Walls Walls
7 These New Puritans Hidden
6 The Besnard Lakes Are The Roaring Night
5 New Young Pony Club The Optimist
4 Lindstrøm & Christabelle Real Life Is No Cool
3 UFOmammut Eve
2 Gayngs Relayted
1 Liars Sisterworld