With Christmas now behind us for another year we can all pick our selves up, shake of the excess wrapping paper and chocolate and resume our normal routines. Being just days away from the new year it'll soon be time to look towards the future, but for now it's time for a nostalgic look back at the year past; it's list time, folks! While this might be the correct moment to write a retrospective look at the whole decade, I think I'll limit myself to the more manageable task of listing my favourite 10 albums that 2010 had to offer.
It's been an interesting year for music, but strangely it's been one that has thrown up fewer "new" musical passions than previous years. Looking back at my Top 10 from 2008, 7 of those albums were debut LPs by new artists, and while I didn't publish my "best of 2009" the ratio of new acts to established ones was much the same. This year, however, only 4 of the albums are debuts. It seems to have been a year for great albums by well loved bands, but this in itself took me a little by surprise as there has been a whole slew of albums by bands I already loved that didn't live up to expectations at all. There was a certain element of schadenfreude in seeing the mediocre efforts by darlings of the HypeMachine (Vampire Weekend and MGMT) sink without trace, but Dan Le Sac vs. Scroobius Pip, Jim Moray, Band of Horses, Johnny Flynn and We Are Scientists should all have been capable of much better. This rather dismal showing from such highly anticipated records has had the effect of clearing the way for less obvious successes, and has made for a much more varied list than previous years have thrown up.
So without further ado, here is the moment you've all been waiting for since January; the official Eaten by Monsters blog Top Ten of 2010:
Remember, there wasn't a year zero, so the new decade starts on the 1st of January 2011... ↩︎
By including this record I'm aware that I'm in danger of undermining any credibility I may have, particularly at this early stage in proceedings. Hopefully you'll have the fortitude and strength of character to continue reading the next 9 entries, where you'll learn that I'm not actually the manipulated pop hound that this entry would suggest. This one is most definitely a "guilty pleasure", to co-opt an expression from the tabloids. Goulding topped the BBC's sound of 2010 list back in January, and as a result I gave the record a listen. Although I despise everything it stands for, abhor all the production tricks and pour scorn on the poor quality of the songwriting I just can't stop listening to it! Like a pernicious virus it has managed to infect most of the past twelve months of my listening, so in the interests of full disclosure I can't help but include it here, albeit with plenty of caveats.
Total Life Forever
I quite liked Foals' last record, but didn't really think it was anything all that special. It was a little bit too "trendy", and it goes without saying that any band that can be described as "darlings of the NME" probably aren't going to be my cup of tea at all. And with their latest effort, Total Life Forever, they're still just as achingly hip, but this time it's tempered with an earnestness that just about overrides the hipster aspect. No band that cares this much can ever be truly cool, so now I feel I can enjoy their music with impunity.
All Creatures Will Make Merry
Meursault's 2009 EP, Nothing Broke, seemed to be the moment when vast swathes of the public realised that the band were actually rather good, but strangely enough it didn't have that effect on me. While the new-found acoustic sensibilities were well meaning and competently executed, I found myself missing the electronic elements that made their debut LP so bewitching. Thankfully All Creatures Will Make Merry has fused the best bits of both of their "sounds" to great effect, and heralds a stunning return to form.
This LP is alone on this list for being the only record that I don't feel works properly as an album. All the other entries here are records that have mastered the exquisite pushing and pulling of tension and the sense of an overarching vision that are essential when crafting a bona-fide album. So why has it made this list? Quite frankly, solely on the strength of the individual songs themselves. Much like Ellie Goulding's Lights, Odd Blood has wheedled its way into my affections by simply having great songs. And as a festive bonus the band are giving away a rather impressive live album (in exchange for nothing more than an e-mail address) over at their website.
This LP is an example of that rare and mythical beast, an album that is clearly great from the first few seconds of the first listen. Much as I expected at the time, repeat listens have revealed it to be slightly less than the instant classic that first impressions suggested, but it is nonetheless still a very good record indeed. Home-recorded albums often have an intangible, but instantly recognisable sheen to them that identifies them as the work of just one person, and while that is certainly in evidence here, the record still manages to rise above the morass of other self-produced efforts.
Becoming a Jackal
I came rather late to the Villagers' party, and being as I like to pride myself on being ahead of the curve, my ego wouldn't let me like this record for a good long while; if all these people started to pay attention before I did, then it's clearly not going to be any good, I told myself. Thankfully I've now come to my senses and accepted the fact that this record is so popular purely because it is, indeed, excellent.
As it was the full-length followup to 2007's Boxer, the expectations were high for The National's fifth studio album. In many ways it's conformed to this years trend in that it didn't quite live up to my expectations, but being as my expectations were so high it's no great failure on their part. Despite not being the life changing opus I was hoping for, High Violet is an exceptionally consistent album. There are no real stand-out tracks, but that's only because the whole record is of a uniformly high standard.
This is the record that Vampire Weekend should have made. Instead, the baton of rhythmic exuberance has been passed to this four-piece from Chicago, who are more than up to the challenge. I had my misgivings on the first few listens owing to the overly cheerful atmosphere, but it turns out that this album does have the punching power to hold its own amongst the more heavyweight releases of the year. "In vogue" and yet never derivative, Perch Patchwork makes for a worthy number 3.
The Winter of Mixed Drinks
If anything, my expectations for this release were even higher than for High Violet. Very rarely does an album capture my attention as thoroughly as Frighten Rabbit's last studio album, The Midnight Organ Fight, did. With a string of fantastic singles serving only to heighten my sense of anticipation, The Winter of Mixed Drinks may not have actually exceeded the standard set by their last record, but it has at least lived up to it, while at the same time moving the band's sound forwards. One of the highlights of this Christmas was getting the vinyl box set of all their recent singles.
Bang Goes the Knighthood
I've always been a firm fan of The Divine Comedy, but it's always been off the back of individual songs; a large percentage of my all-time-favourite-songs lie within Neil Hannon's back catalogue, but I've never been enamoured of an entire album of his stuff. So it was quite a shock when I discovered, almost by accident, that he'd released a new album, and that furthermore it was exceedingly excellent from start to finish.