Tuesday, December 21, 2010

EPs of the year (International)

Fair bit of overlap with the Irish list here, summing up how strong domestic releases were. Big up Nialler9 ( , from whose blog i discovered the excellent Beat Connection EP

1 - James Blake - The Bells Sketch / CMYK / Klavierwerke

"While the three tracks contained on this 12-inch are a little more morose and sparser than Blake's breakout remix of Untold's "Stop What You're Doing," they're still just as fiercely inventive. Reminiscent of his work with Airhead—the sublimely minimal "Pembroke" and "Lock in a Lion" saw a release on Brainmath recently—"The Bells Sketch" flickers with the echoed shrills of delayed strings contorting behind low end palpitations that stretch and slice their way up into a slow stomp, decorated with playfully pitched vocals, erratic jazz piano basslines and flecks of pure G-funk synthesizer." - (Resident Advisor Bells Sketch review -

"Blake’s Burial-esque manipulation of vocals and unique and imaginative use of space is incredibly soul-stirring and affecting in ways that are unlike anything I’ve ever heard. Nowhere is this more evident than on the mournful, fairly mindblowing “I Only Know (What I Know Now),” which sounds like being born/dying, or as P4k’s David Bevan put it, “like infinity trapped inside of five minutes.”" - (GorillaVSBear CMYK/Klavierwerke end-of-year blurb - )

02 James Blake - Buzzard & Kestrel by elpretentio2

2 - Memoryhouse - The Years

"From an oft-used drum machine, to endless looping, to somberly chilling beats, The Years uses simplicity to their advantage...spacey nuances and sobering, breezy murmur-like vocals...the closer (is) a wavey, haunting, and graceful song like no other. With elegant twangs spread evenly underneath the pacific vocals, Nouvion’s tender lyrics reach a new plane of comfort as she sings of dreams, of houses in the sky, of continuously drifting slowly and, oddly enough, “His lungs filling with water from the tide.” - (Sputnikmusic review )

3 - Beat Connection - Surf Noir

"Seattle duo Beat Connection make sun-soaked, dance-infused sounds under the cover of cloudy skies. Surf Noir, the University of Washington pair’s free EP, programs beats that run the gamut from ambling tropicalia (“Sunburn”) to house-derived rhythm (“Theme From Yours Truly”) and ’80s synthpop (“Motorway”). The eight tracks contained on the EP float lightly, sometimes drifting carefree, and at other moments picking up the pace, caught up in the patterns of the wind and waves of their fictional beach setting...The warbled computer speech of “Fresh Touch”, the bright, simplistic casiofied background over which the Peter Gabriel-esque vocals of “Silver Screen” sit and the (perhaps) Kraftwerk Autobahn-referencing “Motorway” are all amongst the EP’s more interesting offerings. These are the sounds through which Beat Connection prove they have more to give than sunshine and summer vibes." - (Mishka Bloglin review - )

4 - Wildbirds & Peacedrums - Retina / Iris

"Sweet, fluttering vocal hooks and soulful breaks are here in abundance, and Wallentin sounds more sentimental and sultry as she works over Werliin’s clean, punchy grooves...On songs like “Under Land And Over Sea,” “The Drop,” and “The Lake,” it’s easy to hear not just Wallentin’s voice, but also the way her mouth and tongue form each word, and to get a sense of just the sort of force with which Werliin strikes every drum. It’s unusual to hear songs and sounds that so directly implicate the human bodies that produced them, and it demands a creative leap to pursue such intimate exposure. By the force of their musicianship on Rivers, however, Wildbirds & Peacedrums manage to own that risk as one of their greatest assets." - (Tiny Mix Tapes review - )

5 - Angkorwat - Early EP

(see Irish list )

6 - School Tour - Yes Way

(Irish list

7 - Joy Orbison - The Shrew Would Have Cushioned The Blow

"...'So Derobe' follows with a more experimental construction, reminding of James Blake's special drum arrangements but fashioned in a slow-burning deep house sense with sparing use of a fat square bass and soul-singed vocals percolating up through the groove. Actress completes an exceptional record with his strutting electro-acoustic house mix on the flip, strangely devoid of any discernable bassline but full of effervescent electronics constantly evaporating into the higher registers while the rhythm effortlessly stops and starts at will. Imagine Bernard Parmegiani jamming with Anthony Shakir at 4am on Mir and you're up there. Vital." - (Boomkat - )

8 - FUR / Coyote Clean Up - Lackadaisical

"The Lackadaisical EP is a split with Denton, TX's FUR and Detroit's Coyote Clean Up. Both artists make the sheen of lounge house, less about mannequins and runways, more about off kilter edits that prevent the hypnosis of snap breaks lulling your senses into impulse. The label could not have selected a more fitting album cover, as this is an EP that has me dreaming about breathing and hearing underwater. Oh, how I long for the lackadaisical days to return. Oh, how I long for a water-proof Ipod." - (Impose - )

9 - Pariah - Safehouses

"‘Railroad’ is more conventional modern garage, but extremely good with it, tear-streaked heartbreak synth melodies riding shuffling 2step beats with the occasional Amen break rearing its welcome head...‘C-Beams’ is wonky computer hop heard through a peyote haze, a psychedelic Zomby / FlyLo derivative. Lastly, the final number and title track is a beautiful ambient synth emission, like staring from the deck of a space station into the engulfing, terrifyingly beautiful infinity beyond. Safehouses is the announcement of an extraordinary new producer, and proves that R&S remains a force to reckon with." (-FACT - )

10 - Lake R▲dio - Blair / The Weather

"‘VCR Operation’ is chilled, delightful Gold Panda-esque electronica, while ‘Martin Hannett’s Ghost’ takes Joy Division’s haunted, desolate ‘The Eternal’, subtracts Ian Curtis’ vocals, and adds distant but soulful female ones: the bleak backdrop drives home the desperation of the “i need someone” refrain. Overall, Blair and The Weather have enough sonic similarities to the witch house pack to be regarded as kindred spirits at least. Not that any outside validation is necessary: taken on their own terms, these two records are eclectic, strange, atmospheric and frequently compelling. Well worth investigation." - (State)

11 - Pangea - Pangea

"Pangaea's vision can sometimes start to sound a bit bleak, thanks in no small part to his talent for fusing sprawling chords with layers of atmospherics. But with a quick smattering of winding synth on "Dead Living," he immediately manages to lift the track and take it somewhere drastically different, playing up the awkward riff and amplifying its impact. And on closer "Because of You" he does things that completely contrast the preceding bars, as if he's feeding himself deeper into the recesses of his late night recording sessions...Much like the way Pangaea chooses to irk out his music slowly, his productions take that extra bit of time to creep up on you, gradually becoming more and more infectious." - (Resident Advisor - )

12 - oOoOO - oOoOO

"oOoOO's skewed take on commercial electro-pop celebrates its decadent glamour while going out if its way to expose its rotten core. From the stuttering, fractured R&B wasteland of "Mumbai" to the barren faux-funk of "Hearts", oOoOO is a beautiful still of urban yearning and mindlessness captured through the stained glasses of a romantic outsider, a guttural fairy tale orchestrated by delayed vamps and diseased synth tones." - (Altered Zones - )

Hearts by oOoOO

13 - Logikparty - High Risk Narcissist

(Irish list - )

14 - BALAM ACAB - See Birds

"It wouldn't be fair to mention Ithaca, New York's young Balam Acab without first saying something about goth crunk merchants Salem. Both rely on the same lugubrious slow-mo formula of pitched-down vocals, pitched-up vocals, heavy bass drums and spooky echoes of Three 6 Mafia, Burial, Boards Of Canada and Dead Can Dance...opener, "See Birds (Moon)," is a dream, skittering over an underproduced bassline and a bizarre vocal phrase that could've been culled from an old Goblin soundtrack. Haunted Tokyo synth-clatter rises and fades somewhere in the middle. We're met with dizzied glossolalia and chopped-up samples of a riverside. (Think Green River Killer in this case, not a babbling brook.)" - (Resident Advisor - )

See Birds by BALAM ACAB

15 - Children Under Hoof - A Collar Can Become A Noose

(Irish list -

16 - Laura Sheeran - Music For The Deep Woods

(Irish list -

17 - Summer Camp - Young

"Sure this is woozy bedroom pop, and these six songs artfully weave a twenty minute sonic hammock that you’d happily lounge in all day, but there’s something darker and more alluring at work here...Young is incredibly likeable, and by the time the chorus of ‘Ghost Train’ comes around the band have established themselves a sound that’s so genuine and pretty it dispossesses you of any cynicism and pulls you into their world of fuzzy bewilderment." - (Drowned In Sound -

'Ghost Train' by Summer Camp by seaninsound

18 - Ramadanman - Ramadanman

"There’s often a bracing austerity and sparseness to Ramadanman’s music. Here, that’s accentuated by the woody tones he uses, as well as the absence of bass. There’s also so much going on in these tracks, so much painstakingly executed work, that it’s easy to get lost in the detail. I have to almost think myself out of thinking when I hear this record; to consciously abandon all the cerebral stuff and let these supremely funky virtual drum-circles wash through me. Right now, Ramadanman is quietly becoming a master at work." - (FACT - )

19 - Games - That We Can Play

"Tackling a decade’s worth of music is a huge task, but Lopatin and Ford, having spent a large portion of their youth as friends jamming on synths and wigging out to prog-anything, have no trouble in locking down references sonically and stylistically. Everything is present and correct: rubber basslines, sawtooth strings, keytar wailings, arpeggiators, FM flutes, crystal pads, power drums, the lot. However, what makes the results more than mere referencing, and what gives That We Can Play its character, is the way the songs are all slightly unfamiliar...The results are referential, but never reverential, and quite explorative, everything being bent and shaped and snapped subtly. ‘Strawberry Skies’, for instance, is their contribution to history’s vocal pop canon, featuring Laurel Halo’s dreamy singing over synth panpipes and marimbas, a bouncing boogie bass and stomping disco drums underpinning it all. The song is solidly constructed, but the vocal is saturated with reverb throughout, reminiscent of OPN’s cloud-like textures, pointing the song in an unexpected direction." - (FACT - )

Games [ft. Laurel Halo]: Strawberry Skies by alteredzones

20 - Forest Swords - Dagger Paths

"Forest Swords is one man, The Wirral’s Matt Barnes. With his dubwise predilection for gauzy textures and sensual fuzzy gasps, Burial and Fennesz are immediate reference points, but the more you live with the record, the more a distinctive, brutally minimalist aesthetic comes to the fore. The way Barnes arranges his sounds and rolls out his beats betrays his love of jagged R&B and hip-hop, but that pop sensibility is distended by his penchant for distant, anguished vocals, punishing drones and martial percussion sourced from the devil’s own dancehall." - (FACT -

Miarches by Forest Swords

Saturday, December 18, 2010

top Irish EPs of 2010

Edit: the Angkorwat EP is free to download, Bandcamp are confusing me with their DL limits

1 - Angkorwat - Early EP

Strictly speaking, all of this material was released before 2010 as far as I know. But the collection of all Angkorwat's off-kilter lo-fi pop experiments on one free-to-download EP provided yet another reason to love Bandcamp. 'My Three Beautiful Children' is the purest example of her craft, the central music box-like melody playing off her vocals to create an intangible sense of magic, but elsewhere the woozily hypnotic hooks of 'Gatecrasher' or 'Kidgloves' marked her out as a kindred spirit of sorts to Nite Jewel, although even that comparison doesn't do justice to how unique this all sounds. With brand new material imminent, it's going to be fascinating to see where she takes things from here.

2 - School Tour - Yes Way

Utterly bewitching sounds from Gerard Duffy (also a member of Children Under Hoof and Patrick Kelleher's Cold Dead Hands). Minimal, quietly entrancing electronic drones that quiver and subtly change shape. 'You Killed Me (Arpeggio Version)' recalls the strangely-haunting music box-melodies of Radiohead's 'Kid A', while 'Ylimaf Sdnas'' backward tape loops are hypnotic despite its brief running time.

3 - Logikparty - High Risk Narcissist

With their abrasive, No Wave-influenced sound, Logikparty are one of the finest live bands in the country. They're also no slouches on the recording front, with High Risk Narcissist being the follow-up to the excellent 'Good Hood/Iodine' 7" from earlier in the year. 'The Number A' and 'Dead Machines' are characterised by caustic, white-hot guitar lines, pummelling drums and shrill, belligerent vocals. 'Japanese Flag' on the other hand grooves instead of pummelling: it's driven by an irresistible, elastic bassline, sporadically punctured by shards of piercing guitar. (State)

4 - Children Under Hoof - A Collar Can Become A Noose

A supergroup of sorts, but as self-effacing as they come, Children Under Hoof have a loose, experimental approach to their craft. The tracks on A Collar Can Become A Noose share a certain witching-hour vibe, but are quite varied at the same time: there's the title-track with its scratchy, wire-scrub guitars, krautrock groove and sax blasts; the shadowy electronics of 'Ted Maul Tango'; the ambient spoken-word piece 'Entropy'; and the slowly undulating sine waves of 'Repeat Brake', which is similar to Gerard Duffy's School Tour material.

5 - Laura Sheeran - Music For The Deep Woods

Supremely creepy and atmospheric, there's shades of 'The Carny'-mode Nick Cave or the eerie, supernaturally-tinged sounds of Grouper or Fever Ray on Music For The Deep Woods. An uneasy sense of dread and menace pervades tracks like 'Lupine Rot' and 'Suspension Belt', bowed saw and warped-sounding electronics creating a haunting, impressionistic sound, with all manner of unnerving background sound effects.

Lupine Rot by Laura Sheeran

6 - Hunter-Gatherer - Fingerprint Series

Bending the rules slightly here, this isn't an EP, but a series of tracks given away free throughout the year by the enigmatic and ever-prolific Hunter-Gatherer. If widely-acclaimed 2009 album I Dreamed I Was A Footstep In The Trail Of A Murderer was something of a shadowy mood-piece, the Fingerprint Series saw him experimenting with different forms and tones, from the chiming, airy 'Peace Shrine (Marian Year)' to the menacing digital shimmers of 'Community Alert' and the filmic, dreamy, piano-led vibes of concluding tracks 'Hide and Seek' and 'Show and Tell'. Plenty more to come from this guy, too.

7 - Sacred Animals - Welcome Home

There's a wintry, evocative quality to the Welcome Home EP. Grizzly Bear, Thom Yorke, Bon Iver and Midlake are reference points, but Sacred Animals' sound has its own unique aura. With immaculate attention-to-detail and subtle instrumental flourishes, these songs are superbly crafted: 'Chosen Seed' is a quietly addictive, lingering tune, while the title track features dramatic, swelling strings and hypnotising glockenspiel melodies.

8 - Milan Jay - To The Sea And Swim

"Opening with fuzzy, wall-of-sound guitars and crashing drums, the intro of ‘With The River Flow’ is certainly far from mellow, but it segues neatly into a kaleidoscopic, shimmering slice of off-kilter pop that calls to mind The Beta Band or the Super Furry Animals. The title track follows, a swelling, superbly layered track lent a pastoral touch by strings and piano. ‘Jupiter Falls’ is a hypnotic, supremely chilled tune, its gently pulsing loops producing a floating ambience. ‘We Believe’, meanwhile, previously released as a single, ups the tempo with lively synths and treated, buoyant vocals; towards the end, it verges on being a full-on electronic rave-up." - (State)

9 - Adultrock - Adultrock EP

One of two 'solo-project' EP's released by Super Extra Bonus Party guitarist Gavin Elsted in 2010 (not to mention his wildly successful mash-ups), Adultrock is the electronic alternative to We Are Losers' fuzz-rock. This is pretty faultless stuff, expansive in scope and characterised by pulsing mid-tempo rhythms. The space-themed artwork was a pretty appropriate visual association: there's a sci-fi soundtrack feel to tracks like the excellent 'Adventures Part 2' and 'I Can't Tell You Why', while 'Hermione' lays down a shimmering, chunky-but-mellow groove.

10 - Niamh De Barra - Cusp

Layering her incantation-like vocal loops, cello and shadowy electronics to create ominous-sounding mood-pieces, De Barra shares a number of sonic similarities with Laura Sheeran, not least the eerie visual associations this music puts in your mind or the voodoo-like chill that pervades it. Hypnotic, compelling stuff.

11 - Visionair - Autumn/A Vision

Recently the subject of some glowing write-ups by Altered Zones and XLR8R, Richie Egan and Niall Byrne of The Redneck Manifesto dropped two EPs in quick succession that were characterised by sleek edges, robotic Kraftwerk-like grooves, and vintage synth tones. This music may be looking back - with shades of Tangerine Dream and Can - but only in order to push forward. 'HYPNOM', from the second EP A Vision, is a particular standout, climaxing in a flurry of flickering synths and a New Order-like central hook.

03 HYPNOM by VisionAir

12 - The Gorgeous Colours - The Creatures Down Below

Varied and absorbing, The Creatures Down Below begins with the title track, a deceptive little number with all manner of off-kilter harmonies, hooks and backing vocals that play off each other. It's intricate stuff, calling to mind the vintage pop-craft of the Super Furry Animals among others. Elsewhere there's 'Animal', an enchanting folk number with warm harmonies reminiscent of Fleet Foxes, as well as the galloping rhythms of the sweeping, skiffle-tinged 'No Man's Land'.

13 - Solar Bears - Inner Sunshine

Kaleidoscopic, cinematic synthscapes that were in much the same vein as the full-length She Was Coloured In (which Inner Sunshine preceded), there's also perhaps a heavier post-rock influence at play on the tracks 'Photo Negative Living' and 'Kill On'. Letherette and Lone provided some nifty re-interpretations of 'Crystalline' and 'Twin Stars' respectively, with the latter having more than a touch of 808 State's 'Pacific State' about it.

Crystaline (Leatherette remix) - Solar Bears by fresh_air

14 - The Holy Roman Army - Desecrations

A covers EP, Desecrations sees the brother-and-sister duo bring their dreamy, textured sound to bear on songs by Pavement, Bon Iver and more. Two tracks in particular stand out: 'Wave Of Mutilation' replaces the kinetic energy of the original with a delightfully gliding arrangement, while a spine-tingling take on Rollerskate Skinny's classic 'Speed To My Side' unearths hidden reserves of melancholy.

15 - My Pilot - Spiders

Ranging from the infectious shuffle of 'Self-Medication Blues' to the mellow, Americana-tinged 'Paddy Sez' (with harmonious vocals reiniscent of Iron & Wine's Sam Beam) and the beguiling melancholy of closing track 'Spiders', this was a delightful EP from the Dublin four-piece.

Honourable Mentions

I wanted to leave this at a neat 15, if 15 is neat (is it?), but the following shouldn't go without mention:

The Ambience Affair - Patterns

We Are Losers - We Are Losers

O Emperor - Reverie

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

top 20 Irish albums 2010

1 - The Redneck Manifesto - Friendship

(see main list, #3

2 - Jogging - Minutes

(main list #4

3 - Nouveaunoise - Paraphrase Accolade

(main list #7

4 - Solar Bears - She Was Coloured In

(main list #18

5 - Thread Pulls - New Thoughts

Gavin Duffy and Peter Maybury are 'only nearly a rock band', utilising a sparse though powerful stylistic approach that's dominated by pounding percussion and deep, throbbing basslines. The sinister-sounding grooves and hypnotic patterns they create are occasionally leavened by synths or trumpet loops, but overall it's a minimal, skeletal sound. Think Drum's Not Dead-era Liars or These New Puritans without the rubbishness.

Weight by thread pulls

6 - Adebisi Shank - This Is The Second Album Of A Band Called Adebisi Shank

"Developing and fleshing out their already distinctive sound with all manner of extra instruments and flourishes, the Wexford trio pull off the deftest of balancing acts: dazzling, dizzying experimentation co-exists with infectious hooks and rhythms; punchy, gargantuan riffs collide with electronic pulses; atmospheric numbers rub shoulders with adrenalized thrashers. ‘Genki Shank’ builds superbly from a rumbling, floor-shaking bassline to a full-on tour de force featuring winding guitar lines and possessed-sounding vocoders. ‘(-_-)’ is a mellow, hypnotic pause for breath with all manner of ambient sound effects and an insistent, looping drum beat. Closing track ‘Century City’ ends with an ace electronic freak-out, while if there’s anything on Battles’ next album that’s as jaw-dropping as ‘Logdrum’, we’ll eat our hats." - (Ragged Words)

7 - Cathy Davey - The Nameless

The Nameless is a gripping, engaging album from start to finish. Davey has a truly inimitable, idiosyncratic aesthetic and style of delivery, and the song-writing on her latest record glows with self-assurance and confidence. Ranging from the pure pop thrills of 'Little Red' (which, despite its hook-filled immediacy, seems to sound better and better with each listen) to the dazzling baroque flourishes of 'Army of Tears' to the deceptively jaunty 'Happy Slapping' and the grandstanding sweep of 'Universe Tipping', this is the Dublin songwriter's first truly great album (although the first two weren't far off).

8 - Popical Island - Popical Island #1

Road Records labelled it 'Ireland's very own 2010 version of the legendary C86 cassette'. On their first compilation, the Popical Island collective provided a treasure trove of pop delights: Tieranniesaur's breezily funky and infectious 'Sketch!'; the vintage minor-chord indie vibe of Koalacord's 'Hell Bent On It'; the elegant, drowsy sweep of Pantone247's 'Maybe Tonight'; Land Lovers' off-kilter, Coral-recalling 'Is Nowhere Far Away Any More?'; the colourful, spiky 'Compete and Wrestle' from Feed The Bears (now sadly defunct): the list goes on. An eye-opening, dazzling compilation.

9 - Halves - It Goes, It Goes (Forever & Ever)

Echoing the orchestral dynamics of Sigur Ros in places or the vocoderised melancholy of Rock Action-era Mogwai in others, Halves produced a haunting, hypnotic record that utilised an array of instrumentation and vocals, from brass, strings and harp to 27-strong Kilkenny choirs and cult indie heroes. It was all in service of their own brand of intricate atmospherics, though: witness the soothing, lullaby-like 'Only Safe Landings' or the eerie horror-movie vibes of 'Don't Send Your Kids To The Lakes'. The bleak, barren-sounding 'Growing & Glow' was a song worthy of the vocals of Amy Millan, which is just about the highest praise you can give.

Growing & Glow by halves

10 - Strands - Strands

"...mellow and low-key, but neat instrumental flourishes and absorbing dynamics grab you and reel you in...It may be electronically influenced, but it sounds utterly organic, glowing with pastoral ambience. There’s many a highlight: ‘Chow Bell’ features a looping, lulling vocal hook and gradually overlays it with layer upon layer of meticulously-judged instrumentation. The effect is trance-like, and it’s a recurring feature on Strands. ‘The Alamo’ throbs gently, chiming hooks intertwining with strings and piano. The aptly-named ‘Tremor’ is a masterclass in minimalism; it’s shimmering, quivering pulse like taking an aural bath...The more you listen to this debut, the more its title starts to make perfect sense: there are so many threads here waiting to unravel that with every listen you notice a little touch or well-placed effect that had previously passed you by." - (Ragged Words)

11 - Shit Robot - From The Cradle To The Rave

Referred to by James Murphy as 'the godfather of DFA Records', transplanted Dubliner Marcus Lambkin came up with the dancefloor-slaying goods on this, his debut long-player. It mightn't come as a revelation for anyone familiar with the music of LCD, Hot Chip, The Juan MacLean et al (all of whom contribute), while some of these tracks have been around for as long as four years, but as an extension of the DFA sound this is pretty faultless, infectious stuff. Highlights include the smouldering workout 'Grim Receiver', the sprawling, guitar-infused 'Triumph!!!', and the Nancy Whang-featuring disco house track 'Take 'Em Up'.

12 - Meljoann - Squick

" appealingly stripped-down, subtly infectious sonic brew. Opening track ‘So Academic’ is a perfect scene-setter, overlaying earworm percussion with beguiling vocals and wonky synths. ‘E.X.I.T.’ follows suit with chiming, slinky hooks seemingly invading every part of the mix; the understated chorus sweeps in perfectly, and it’s as if all the intricate touches and tics are in perfect harmony... ‘The New Thing’ features cooing, almost-whispered harmonies and an all-round chilled, hypnotic vibe; while ‘Forward Dream’, essentially the closing track if you discount the short instrumental piece ‘Regeneration Plug’, is a soothing, strangely poignant and lingering piece." - (Ragged Words)

Forward Dream by peteranthonycorway

13 - Melodica Deathship - Doom Your Cities, Doom Your Towns

Taking hip-hop techniques down some weird, compelling avenues in much the same way as Buck 65 did on his classic Talkin' Honky Blues, Doom Your Cities, Doom Your Towns is a sinister, atmospheric, sprawling album (conceptually based around the elemental force of the sea) that takes in a number of influences, musical and otherwise: dub, sea shanties, pirate imagery, electronica, traditional Irish folk music, John Carpenter's The Fog...Despite the seemingly incompatible elements, it's a surprisingly coherent record, with the titular melodica proving a crucial, haunting element.

14 - Windings - It's Never Night

"Opening track ‘Lil’ Hands’ emphasises the different terrain Ryan is mapping out here: mellow, understated and wistful, its lyrics reflect on the passage of time while its chiming guitars create a warm, lulling atmosphere. Elsewhere, ‘Apologia’ is a hushed, wracked confessional that sporadically gives way to bursts of guitar squall, while ‘I Can’t Breathe’ tells a tale of gentle infatuation over gently-plucked acoustics. It’s not all in that kind of vein, however...The terrific ‘Poor in the Mouth’ is a furious riffer that could easily pass audition for a Giveamanakick record. The centrepiece of the record is ‘These Horses Also Ran’: initially a mid-tempo affair with soothing, quietly absorbing harmonies; over the course of its seven-minute duration it grows and builds to an expert crescendo...a record that proves Ryan is just as impressive a songwriter when he turns the volume down." - (State)

15 - Enemies - We've Been Talking

While nothing else on We've Been Talking quite reached the majestic level of 'Nag Champa', this was intricate, restrained and surprisingly melodic instrumental post-rock, and a welcome addition to the Richter Collective catalogue. Enemies proved themselves adept at building atmosphere steadily and patiently, frequently interjecting flurries of guitar noise.

16 -
The Cast Of Cheers - Chariot

Taking everyone by surprise when it was released free of charge on Bandcamp, Chariot was a spiky, energetic, urgent record where Foals-like math-rock guitar lines collided with hardcore pounding, yelping vocals and frenzied electronics. An almost overwhelming whirlwind of sound that was even more powerful when you saw them live.

17 - Drunken Boat - Concrete Canyons

Dealing in fuzzy, grunge-tinged alt-rock, Concrete Canyons revelled in guitar texture, with the songs frequently marked by violent squall or slowcore tones. Beneath it all were some aching melodies and a subtle emotive heft.

18 - Ann Scott - Flo

A record that passed under a lot of people's radars this year (it could have done with a bit more promotion, in fairness). Scott's vocals, reminiscent of Beth Orton, sound as terrific as ever, whether on the dark, gothically tinged 'Killerman', the dreamily atmospheric 'Universe' or the gorgeously weary-sounding 'Lost'. There's impressive attention to detail here, with subtle instrumental touches and flourishes throughout, whether it's cello, piano or backing vocals from Gemma Hayes.

19 - Not Squares - Yeah OK

"‘Smith & Carlos’ hits on a liquid, irresistible groove, overlaying it with sleek synths and a vocal hook that calls to mind The Rapture at their peak. It’s the first in a string of tracks that show why the band has been getting so much positive attention. The aforementioned ‘Asylum’ is propelled along by dancefloor-slaying bass and Foals-like guitar lines, while ‘Don’t Do Nothing’ is a throbbing, cowbell-flecked number reminiscent of James Murphy’s punkier moments...Closing track ‘53’ is a seriously impressive parting-shot, its shimmering slow-build giving way to a sinister bassline and frantic electronic coda." - (Ragged Words)

20 - Ham Sandwich - White Fox

After the loss of a founding member of the band and the death of their beloved manager, it was good to see Ham Sandwich return with a second album that sounded as vibrant and assured as their striking debut. Less gothic and heavy this time around, tracks like 'OH OH' and 'Animals' showcased breezy pop hooks and chiming guitars. However, it was the slower-tempo tracks that really impressed: the superb 'Ants' and 'Models' called to mind the twilit, world-weary atmospherics of The National, while Niamh Farrell's vocals sounded more sublime than ever on the swooning closing track 'Floors'.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Top 30 albums of 2010

1- Mount Kimbie - Crooks & Lovers

Mount Kimbie had already established themselves as an inventive and exciting act with their two superb 2009 EPs, Maybes and Sketch On Glass. Crooks & Lovers saw them conquer the full-length format with tunes that ranged from the glitchy, trippy funk of 'Before I Move Off' to the mournful ambience of 'Ode To Bear' to the pulsing, bass-driven 'Blind Night Errand'. A sublime record.

Mount Kimbie - Carbonated by subraw

2 - Sun Araw - On Patrol

One of the most unique, brain-frying releases of 2010. Drawing comparison to stuff like Spiritualized, Sun Ra (naturally), Lee Scratch Perry or Fela Kuti, it's an intoxicating, swampy brew of dub textures, slow hypnotic guitar riffs, stoned grooves, tribalistic conga-led percussion and reverbed, chant-like vocals that float in and out of the mix.

3 - The Redneck Manifesto - Friendship

On tracks like 'Smile More' and 'Rubber Up', the group exhibit an almost-ADD approach to their craft, nailing a bass or guitar-led groove and running with it for a while, before stretching out, changing the tempo, setting some atmosphere, and then again hitting on a groove that sends the tune down another alley. It's as enjoyable as it is impressive, and that's why the Rednecks are so feted: it's a considerable achievement to make complex, multi-layered instrumental music that courses with vitality and demands your attention to the extent that Friendship does. - (Ragged Words)

4 - Jogging - Minutes

Was there a better opening track on an album this year than the amazing 'Threadbare'? That killer tempo change halfway through = a thing of beauty. Fans of Dischord Records or the late Giveamanakick found much to love on this frenetic, pulverising collection; driving riffs and powerhouse drumming met irresistible hooks and unstoppable tunes.

5 - Demdike Stare - Voices Of Dust

The third and final part of a trilogy of albums released in 2010 by Miles Whittaker and Sean Canty, it's a dark, sinister-sounding trip, taking in unsettling drones, tribalistic drums and chants, techno-tinged electronics and deep, cavernous (The) Bug-like bass ('Desert Ascetic'). Haunted and haunting.

Desert Ascetic by modernlove

6 - Sleigh Bells - Treats

Described as a pop Times New Viking and compared to The Go! Team, Sleigh Bells mixed speaker-destroying in-the-red production with irresistible pop hooks. There's no denying the direct, straight-for-the-jugular thrills of Treats.

Crown On The Ground by Sleigh Bells

7 - Nouveaunoise - Paraphrase Accolade

Invigorating, fluid electronic music, the default comparison was Four Tet, but this west-of-Ireland based duo also called to mind artists like Flying Lotus with their mellow, layered tunes. Be it the hazy 'Giron', the subtly propulsive 'Cinnte', the shimmering soundscapes of 'Panaka' or the exuberant 'Psychasonic', this was a record to lose yourself in.

8 - Scuba - Triangulation

Founder of the influential Hotflush Recordings, London-based Paul Rose followed up his Sub:stance mix - release early 2010 - with the second Scuba long-player, Triangulation. Dark, cavernous and atmospheric, it combined techno, ambient, dubstep and house influences. Standouts include the skittering 2-step percussion and coldly pulsing rhythms of 'Latch', the trip-hop-inflected 'Before' with its cut-up soul vocals and the bass-driven subterranean vibe of 'Minerals'. Essential.

9 - Women - Public Strain

"...a record that’s every bit as coherent as it is compelling, and as fine an example as you’re likely to find of a band taking things to the next level... its overall sound and aesthetic is murky, distorted, and abrasive, and at times it sounds like they’re using the same guitar tunings as SST-era Sonic Youth. The knockout one-two punch of ‘Untogether’ and ‘Drag Open’, in particular, utilise the kind of harsh, scratchy tones and driving rhythms that wouldn’t have sounded out of place on Confusion Is Sex. Standout track ’China Steps’, meanwhile, lays down a motorik-like rhythm before puncturing it with piercing guitar stabs to create an anxious but undeniable groove..." - (Ragged Words -

Women - Eyesore by Ragged Words

10 - Surfer Blood - Astro Coast

There's not much higher praise I can give an album than saying it reminds me of The Blue Album. Astro Coast reminds me of The Blue Album, from the slacker/geek vibes to the irresistible indie-before-it-was-a-bad-word hooks to the fact that almost every track is as strong as the one before. Despite what you might have heard, 'Swim' is actually about the sixth-best song on the record: there's also the attitude-drenched 'Harmonix', the sweeping rush of 'Fast Jabroni' and the utterly wondrous (as in listen to it right now) 'Anchorage'. I don't want to spin my wheels, I ain't got no wheels to spin.

Surfer Blood - Anchorage by user8317739

11 - Gorillaz - Plastic Beach

Environmental woes may have influenced the thematic concept of Plastic Beach, the third Gorillaz album, but if the earth really is dying you wouldn't be able to tell from the vibrancy of their music: with stellar guest spots from Gruff Rhys, De La Soul, Mos Def, Bobby Womack, Little Dragon and the Hypnotic Brass Ensemble, Plastic Beach is the strongest Gorillaz record yet.

12 - Owen Pallett - Heartland

He may have changed his Final Fantasy moniker, but Pallett's latest effort - a concept album about an ultra-violent farmer under the command of an all-powerful narrator - was as striking and impressive as what had come before. His ornate, string-led compositions were remarkably rich in their attention to detail, but what really stood out was the dramatic and tuneful sweep of tracks like 'Lewis Takes Action', 'Keep The Dog Quiet' and 'Tryst With Mephistophelis'. A masterful arranger and musician at work.

Lewis Takes Action by DominoRecordCo

13 - Caribou - Swim

Dan Snaith spoke of Swim as being an attempt to make 'dance music that sounds like it's been made out of water', and the hypnotic, swirling, shape-shifting textures of the album reflected this. The frequent lyrical references to disintegrating relationships lent the record a melancholy tone, with the narrators sounding almost helpless at times, drowning not waving. Boasting endless sonic detail and danceable, entrancing rhythms, these waters ran deep.

Bowls by Caribouband

14 - Teebs - Ardour

"For just under an hour, Teebs sustains a vibrant mood of contemplative bliss, the only sense of tension coming between the airy arrangements and patches of plodding trunk rattle. It’s all that keeps a few of these tracks from floating away... More direct than FlyLo and earthier than Lorn, Teebs’ sound is set on the present. He matches precisely offbeat flourishes with a delicate beauty. Tones gleam and drift like a river at daybreak, as drum patterns switch course or gradually stall...Teebs gets his synthesizers to act like seagulls on “My Whole Life” and the soaring textures reach new altitudes. This is no street level shot; it’s a rooftop view..." - (Dusted -

Teebs - 'Arthur's Birds' by BRAINFEEDER

15 - Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti - Before Today

"Whereas Worn Copy and House Arrest buried their 70s and 80s soft-rock lineage under a blur of hiss and noise, Before Today presents them with laser-disc clarity; listen no further than single "Round and Round," with its Police-style verse and gigantic, Peter Gabriel-esque chorus...Before Today finds Pink and crew oscillating between a bounty of influences..."Menstrual Man" walks a taut line borrowed from "Psycho Killer" and embellishments on loan from Thriller..."Beverly Kills" and "Fright Night (Nevermore)" mine 80s R&B veins with buttery synths coursing beneath Pink's echoed, muffled melodies." - (Tiny Mix Tapes -

Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti: Round and Round by theharro

16 - Teeth Of The Sea - Your Mercury

"a dark, dense record, a steamy, light-starved jungle of tangled electronics and feral distortion occasionally punctuated by startlingly lucid bottom end...the bulk of Your Mercury probably should be viewed as one seamless unit, something huge but sleek, technological but organic, laced with murmurs of human voices, fleeting passages of birdsong and those celestial peals of trumpet, set against machine tones, both dissonant and driving." - (Drowned In Sound -

17 - Actress - Splazsh

"It’s a common aesthetic theme that runs through the album, this corrupted techno picking up transmissions from other places, melodies being tuned in on some occult radio. It feels like you can zoom in forever on fine-grained sonic details – like when the vocal samples get stretched into some grey, rainy haze before the beat comes in, mechanical limbs perforating the track with holes that blister with noise." - (OneThirtyBPM -

Actress - Lost by subraw

18 - Solar Bears - She Was Coloured In

"She Was Coloured In is a stunningly accomplished work, and in these times of attention deficit and free mp3s it’s important to stress that this is an album in the truest sense: from the kaleidoscopic opening track ‘Forest of Fountains’ to the ambient, pastoral strains of closer ‘Perpetual Meadow’, the listener is taken on a sonic journey that never stalls too long in any one place...The peak is reached late on: the superb ‘Dolls’ carefully and gradually layers instrument upon instrument, including some solemn choir vocals, to create a dramatic climax that skilfully avoids bombast; it’s followed by ‘Neon Colony’ which sounds like a post-battle victory march for the sci-fi film of your wildest dreams." (State -

Solar Bears - Crystalline (be again) by Soundsgoodtometoo

19 - Grimes - Geidi Primes

"...a Montreal-based musician and visual artist...who makes music out of all sorts of unwieldy found and original sounds, rendering them into creepy, otherworldly mid-tempo weirdo-pop that takes on a lot but manages to pull its own weight...The winding melodies and slightly off-kilter samples play off of one another to create eerily beautiful popscapes. The vocals come straight through the nose, the beats alternately scritch and stomp, and the delay sounds like it’s coming out of a wet cave, with occasional stalactitic arms of blatant electronicism reaching down and wobbling the otherwise steady-going shuffle." - (Cokemachineglow -

20 - Autre Ne Veut - Autre Ne Veut

"While drawing on numerous sources for inspiration, ANV handles each of them in a seemingly un-ironic way, retaining a sense of innocent mischief which ensures that each song is as unpredictable as it is enjoyable. A perfect example is ‘Drama Cum Drama’, which announces itself with pleading moans over sparse beats before ascending into a mumbled Prince-influenced ballad, while recent single ‘Wake Up’ sees him melting down the spirit of ’90s slow jams into a puddle of analogue bubbles over which his heartfelt screeches are allowed to roam unrestrainedly." - (FACT -

Autre Ne Veut - Two Days Of Rain by ashesofcolor

21 - The Ruby Suns - Fight Softly

The Ruby Suns - Cinco by therubysuns

22 - Mountain Man - Made The Harbour

Mountain Man - Animal Tracks by Bella Union

23 - U.S. Girls - Go Grey

24 - Worrier - Source Error Spells

25 - No Age - Everything In Between

26 - Emeralds - Does It Look Like I'm Here?

Emeralds. candy shoppe by sleepsleepers

27 - Thread Pulls - New Thoughts

Weight by thread pulls

28 - Starkey - Ear Drums And Black Holes

29 - Deerhunter - Halcyon Digest

30 - Glasser - Ring