Thom’s End Of The Year Round Up

24th December 2010

A funny thing happened to me this year. I rediscovered a passion for discovering new music. Thats not to say that I’ve spent recent years before now solely listening to The Eagles or something and not hearing any new sounds at all. The odd thing did filter through, but a lot of new music has passed me by whilst I’ve been stuck listening to Archers Of Loaf, Superchunk, Pavement and other such old favourites. I guess I’d fallen into the ‘things just aint as good as they used to be be’ bracket, and plus arguably I was far more preoccupied with cinema (hence this appalling excuse for a blog).

I spent my formative years from the ages of about 13 upwards being a new music obsessive. Starting off with metal (Slayer – still a favourite to this day, Pantera et al), I then made a completely about turn during the era of britpop, idolising the likes of Blur and Marion. But still found time to foster a love of the burgeoning skate-punk scene (NOFX, Bouncing Souls etc etc). It was at the age of 15/16 though when I discovered the likes of Arab Strap, Pavement, Jonathan Fire*Eater, Urusei Yatsura and of course Mogwai that something really clicked and I suddenly found myself spending most of my weekends trawling through the 7 inch racks on the counter of Rough Trade (Neals Yard) or Selectadisc (RIP) and trying to find the latest and of course most obscure stuff I could possibly get my hands on. More often than not, particualrly at the easy on the wallet price of 7 inches I’d buy something just because it was there, and if I really liked it I’d buy it on every format. Sounds absurd now, but it had its benefits and took me in all sorts of taste directions as I hit my 20s running. I remember arriving at university with the rather bizarre twin totems of my record collection being Chicago post-rock and avant-jazz and UK hard house and trance. Weird.

Anyway I could rabbit on how my musical tastes matured and developed over the years but that would all be a bit self-indulgent and I’ll save that for the inevitable autobiography. Safe to say at some point over the last two or three years I stopped being such a new music hound – I stopped buying records (or downloading them as is the way these days), stopped going to gigs for the most part, and even when DJing would rely mostly on the tried and tested. As I say, odds and sods would still filter through via friends and occasionally when something caught my ear on last.fm, but for the most part I was happy with the pile I’d accumulated up to that point.

Something happened this year though – whether it was just me paying more attention for whatever reason or just a wealth of great stuff out there, but for the first tie in afew years it hasn’t been a real struggle to complete my end of year list – the only struggle is trying to keep it down to ten. Here we go in ascending order:

 

1o. School Of Seven Bells – Disconnect From Desire


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I was a big fan of SOSB’s previous incarnation as On! Air! Library! so have followed their career with interest. The thing with this record is… its not exactly anything massively groundbreaking. SOSB have obviously been listening to loads of Cocteau Twins, Slowdive and the like. But really in the realms of lisetenable music there is so little new under the sun these days, that sometimes you just have to accept something on face value. That may sound like a slightly depressing attitude, but really when there is something truly original it stands out for what it is and its all the more special for it. You can also look at records this year from the likes of Wild Nothings and Twin Shadow that unashamedly ape previous styles, but for me weren’t really able to stand apart from their reference points. Disconnect From Desire just about manages to put its own spin on its influences and highly original or not there are some fantastic songs on this record.

Stand out tracks: Windstorm (one of my songs of the year), I L U, Bye Bye Bye. Listen for yourself:

 

9. S. Carey – All We Grow


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I first heard this when Lauren Laverne played the track the title track of this record on her radio show. I was completely floored, and pre-ordered the album straight away. Sean Carey is of course Bon Iver’s percussionist but he completely steps out from that shadow with this record and creates something utterly beautiful in its own right. Its at points introspective and steeped in nostalgic longing, but what it was for me as the perfect end of summer/start of autumn record. Released with impeccable timing in the last week of August this was without a doubt my September record (September normally being my favourite month of the year so thats a very good thing!).

Stand out tracks: the aforementioned All We Grow, and In The Dirt (perfect autumn song). Listen for yourself:

 

8. Big Boi – Sir Lucious Left Foot… The Son Of Chico Dusty

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As good as music seemingly was this year, I didn’t find a wealth of hiphop that I loved. Big Boi’s latest stands out by a country mile though. Eclectic, perfectly paced, some great guests and at all points just brilliant. A personal highlight of this year also happened to involve sharing a light with Boi and his entourage and was touched close to tears at the sight of Boi getting comfy in his seat with a a cuddly crocodile travel pillow. Bless.

Stand out tracks: too many to mention but General Patton, Tangerine and the unavoidable Shutterbug. Listen for yourself:

 

7. Hot Chip – One Life Stand

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One of my favourite bands of recent years, and if this record is anything to go by they just keep getting better and better. Its been a long long time in British music where an artist that garners mainstream attention (as Hot Chip do not that they’re a mainstream outfit per say) has been this good, and its utterly refreshing. My one faint criticism of this record is that it peters out ever so slightly towards its close IMHO, but before that they’re are some massive moments, and as Hot Chip always manage to do the songs are much more than just hands in the air classics. ‘Brothers’ feels like a hymn to fraternal friendship and an instant mixtape opener for a musical gift between male friends. ‘Alley Cats’ on the other hand is one of the most beautiful songs they’ve written to date. The bit where it drops in ‘I Feel Better’ and the steel drums (STEEL DRUMS!) come in is just huge. SO many moments, again do yoursefl a favour and listen for yourself:

 

6. Zola Jesus – Stridulum II


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I first became aware of Zola Jesus via her championing by the likes of Xiu Xiu, and then suddenly she’s being played on Radio 1. A weird year indeed when an outsider incarnation of goth gets mainstream airplay but why not eh. This album (strictly speaking an expanded version of a former EP) provided a stunning soundtrack to the darkening early winter nights. Introspective but strangely anthemic, its just grown and grown on me and I still can’t stop listening to it six months on.

Stand out tracks: Trust Me, I Can’t Stand, Run Me Out, Sea Talk. Hear for yourself:

 

5. Yeasayer – ODD BLOOD

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Down to the nitty gritty now. I love that popular indie music is now this oddball and eccentric. ODD BLOOD has found plaudits across the spectrum this year. It was a slow burner for me, and one of those instances when it takes a live performance for you to tape into its brilliance. They completely blew me off my feet at Primavera this year and from then on I was completely hooked on this record and literally listened to it every day for about two months on end. I tend to do that when I fall for a record. Admittedly I got a little bored of it by the end of that period, but returning to it now I’m easily reminded why I feel for it so hard. The effortless flow veering across wildly eclectic styles through ‘Ambling Alp’, ‘Madder Red’, ‘I Remember’ and the floor filler ‘O.N.E’ still floors me with its brilliance, even after so many listens. If you haven’t already stick it on:

 

4. Emeralds – Does It Look Like I’m Here?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I only heard this for the first time about two months ago, and arguably if I’d heard it earlier in the year it would take the top spot. Its simply an unbelievably wonderful record. I never really got to the point in my own life where I was in a band making music or anything like that, but if I did this is exactly the sort of music I’d want to be making. It’s a record that just seems to take all the cultural reference points I love (musical and otherwise) and lay them out in the most perfect way. Its the sort of record that just makes you want to sit down and absorb every possible note and intonation. Its easy to talk about what it reminds me of – at certain points I’m hearing Popol Vuh, NEU! and other heavily rhythmic krautrock moments; other times it sounds like the eeriest John Carpenter and Alan Howarth soundtrack moments; and then I’m thrown into 80s/90s video game soundtracks – for some reason I’m continually reminded of Turrican when I listen to this record. Inevitably though this Emeralds record is its own monster, and I simply can’t wait to see what they do next.

Stand out tracks: Candy Shoppe, Genetic, Goes By but seriously this needs to be listened to in its entirety. Again and again and again. (And again).

 

3. Caribou – Swim


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What to say about this? Dan Snaith has been doing amazing stuff seemingly for years now from the Manitoba days onwards. He seems to reinvent his styles constantly, but never in a jarring manner. The introverted disco stylings of this record may seem a world away from the 60’s psychedelic pop feel of his last record Andorra, but somehow its still instantly recognisable Caribou.  And when it comes down to it, this record is nothing short of seminal. Clearly Dan Snaith is a man who is constantly honing his art, and this record seems like the pinnacle of those efforts because its so tight and so polished (although never in an over produced manner). Yet I couldn’t call it a pinnacle because it seems like he still has so much more to give. A special mention should also go to the beast that is Caribou live. One of the tightest band performances I’ve ever witnessed. Just brilliant in every single way.

Stand out tracks: Sun (sound of the summer), Kaili, Leave House, Bowls…. oh fuck it, every single song on here is a stand out track you damn know it:

 

2. Delorean – Subiza

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Of the records I’ve listed so far, most have featured somewhere in the myriad of end of year lists across the presses. I’ve not seen this record in any of them though oddly. Its maybe not everyone’s cup of tea – blissed out balearic beats that really only the Spaniards can do properly. Indeed, when I first heard this record I remember describing it on Twitter as how Animal Collective would sound if they were produced by David Morales – and that probably sounds like a nightmare to most people. For me though its a waking dream, and these lists should be an utterly personal thing and not just the rehashing of other lists, so fuck it if noone else liked this record – I absolutely love it. I’ve never really had a proper Euro club summer beach holiday (apart from a forgettable trip to Aiya Napa at 18 – the less said the better), but this record would be the soundtrack if  I did. I almost want to call it a modern day Screamdelica, but again that’s probably wide of the mark. What it really is, is very Spanish, and indeed encouragingly Delorean seem to be leading a resurgence in Spanish (and specifically Catalan) sounds. The likes of John Talabot and Triangulo De Amor Bizarro also sounding great at the moment.

Stand out tracks: Real Love, Simple Graces, Grow, Endless Sunset, Come Wander, all of it!

 

1. Fang Island – Fang Island

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Just unbe-fucking-lievable. Again, I’ve not seen this in many end of year lists. I can’t for the life of me understand why though because it is that good. It manages to sound like everything I love and something utterly unheard of before all that the same time. In a similar manner to the Emeralds record it seems to just takes all my favourite styles and plays around with them to come out with something thats completely original and completely its own thing. There is a bit of eveything here, at one point even veering  towards NOFX-esque skate punk (Welcome Wagon), but on the whole it boils down to huge Iron Maiden-esque riffs, driving towards euphoric chant along choruses. There’s not been a band since the likes of Archers Of Loaf or The Fucking Champs that makes me want to punch the air as much as I do when listening to Fang Island. It is simply the most euphoric metal music you can imagine, and its great fun, but never trite.

Again this is a record that speaks to me on a very personal level, but in quite a straight forward manner – I love metal, I love euphoric chanting: therefore I love this record. Album of the year.

Stand out tracks: Sidewinder (wow. just wow. sounds like the theme tune to the best saturday morning cartoon ever), Davey Crockett, Welcome Wagon… just everything.

 

What Just missed out:

LCD Soundsystem – This Is Happening

Swans – My Father Will Guide Me Up A Rope To The Sky

Superchunk – Majesty Shredding

Robyn – Body Talk

Pantha Du Prince – Black Noise

Broken Social Scene – Forgiveness Rock Record

Magnetic Man – Magnetic Man

Titus Andronicus – The Monitor

 

Songs of the year (in no order)

Fang Island – Sidewinder

Ariel Pink’s Hunted Graffiti – Round And Round

LCD Soundsystem – Home

Titus Andronicus – A More Perfect Union

Caribou – Sun

Broken Social Scene – All To All

Magnetic Man – I Need Air

 

Shows of the year:

Caribou in Helsinki

Magnetic Man in Helsinki

Liquid Liquid @ Primavera

Pavement @ Primavera

Superchunk @ Primavera

Major Lazer everywhere

 

Oh and seeming as this is a film blog… my favourite film of the year bar none:


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bad Lieutenant: Port Of Call – New Orleans

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One Response to “Thom’s End Of The Year Round Up”

  1. Andrew Says:

    Excellent choices every one. Several of your picks made my top 10 albums as well and I’m with you regarding Fang Island.

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