Posted by: Nick Walters | January 20, 2011

Albums of 2010

Tammy and a load of CDs

A bit late due to mongflu and other priorities, but here’s my overview of the new music I bought during 2010…

Sade, Soldier of Love
Reviewed in full here. Very nice. Title track outstanding.

Massive Attack, Heligoland
Reviewed in full here. (And that was the last full review I posted last year! Mustn’t be such a lazy git this year). A briliant album from start to finish marred only by the pointless Damon Albarn track. Highlights are the amazing opener Pray for Rain, Splitting the Atom, the weird Flat of the Blade and the achingly beautiful Paradise Circus, which turned up in Episode 4 of Series 2 of Misfits.

Charlotte Hatherley, New Worlds
This came out in 2009 but slipped under my radar until March 2010. Chaz used to be in Ash but her solo albums are better than all of Ash’s most recent albums (except A-Z Vol 1 – see below) and this is her best. Quite simply an amazing and diverse set of songs ranging from the chugging funk of opening track White, through the insanely beautiful single Alexander (which bears comparison to Robyn Hitchcock – it’s THAT good!), the mental Firebird and the bizarre title track. How Florence and the Sodding Machine gets all the attention and Chaz doesn’t is criminal – Chaz is the best female singer songwriter in the UK and deserves support!

Robyn Hitchcock and the Venus 3, Propellor Time
I wrote a review of this which I never blogged – here it is:

This is slippers. Cosy old slippers, albeit with a surreal pattern and the tendency to turn into fish. Recorded in 2006 between Ole Tarantula and Goodnight Oslo, it’s to these ears better than both, despite lacking a killer tune like Adventure Rocket Ship. Robyn’s with the Venus 3 again and has brought in some other mates, including John Paul Jones and Johnny Marr. The result is a very laid back selection of gently psychedelic rock songs.

It opens with Star of Venus, an inauspicious opener which gradually reveals itself on repeated plays, much like the album as a whole. Telling a tale of lovers remaining united after death, a theme familiar to Hitchcock most memorably from Underwater Moonlight, it’s a woozy sea shanty set to a lilting melody. The Afterlight is next, a traditional jangler with a wonderful bit where Robyn sings menacingly, “Welcome to our living room /  Where the iguanas loom.” Typical Hitchcock wordplay there, I feel like a trainspotter. Up next is Luckiness, whose lyrics are intentionally superficial and daft (“Luckiness in love / lucky cos she loves you”), in the style of other songs such as Beautiful Girl and Alright Now. It’s a strange little trick Robyn pulls of well and in this case supported by a gentle mandolin riff, and only when the applause comes in at the end of the track do you realise it’s a live performance.

Ordinary Millionaire follows, and the music for this was written by Johnny Marr. Can I imagine Morrissey singing it? Yes, but I can imagine Morrissey singing almost anything. That’s beside the point, because this sounds nothing like The Smiths though there are some bits that sound unmistakably Marr. A melancholy number,  it somehow sits at an obtuse angle to the rest of the album, sounding more polished and with a completely different ethos. Perhaps that’s why it’s the standout track of the album, it sounds so different from the rest.

John in the Air closes what I still like to call Side 1, and it’s a short little psychedelic piece. Is it about John Lennon? I don’t care. I like to think of my friend John Rivers floating in the air when I listen to this.

Propellor Time, the 6-minute title track and centrepiece is next. No, I don’t know why they’ve spelled Propellor that odd way. It’s very slight, almost not there, but is lovely enough. Next up is my favourite track, Primitive, which is simply sublime. A wonderful melody supported by beautiful harmonica interludes, and a vocal delivered by Robyn in that menacing baritone he does so well, rising to clear and dizzy heights. Impossible to describe adequately, as you’ve just seen.

Sickie Boy follows and is the album’s only real rocker, and it’s a good one. Born On The Wind is a Dylan-esque number that sounds similar to about ten other Robyn songs yet manages to hold its own identity. There’s about 30 seconds of silence at the end of this track which is annoying, I’ve no idea why they did this as it leaves an awkward pause before the closing track, the horridly titles Evolove. It’s a fitting closer, with plangent guitars supporting Robyn’s thesis of evolution, and it’s probably not intended as a dig at creationists, but it will serve very nicely as one. “We evolve, and thank love for that / We evolve, is the world still flat?” sums up Robyn’s entire philosophy very neatly.

Overall, then, slippers. Lovely. An excellent counterpoint to the previous two records. If you’re a Robyn fan you’ll know and have this, if not – give it a try, come on in, the water’s lovely, but watch out for the fish.

Goldfrapp, Head First
Easily their worst album, a tired sounding collection of totally unmemorable tunes that sound, for once, as if Goldfrapp are following trends rather than setting them.

The Fall, Your Future Our Clutter
Didn’t bother writing a review of this, as such an act would be pointless. Simplest to say, this is one of the very best Fall albums (and therefore albums) ever. Album of the Year, without a shred of doubt.

Paul Weller, Wake Up The Nation
In the same maverick, meandering, mental style as 22 Dreams only shorter, more focussed, crunchier collection with added Bruce Foxton and Kevin Shields. It’s utterly bizarre in places – such as the 4-minute rock opera Trees – and bursting with ideas, not all of which work. Can’t accuse Weller of running out of steam and one can only wonder what the hell he’s gonna do next!

Ash: A-Z Volume 1 and 2
Bloody brilliant! Almost every song on Vol 1 is a masterpiece, Ash at their best.  They have discovered a new epic sound and it works really well, especially on Joy Kicks Darkness and Arcadia. And they still have amazing pop tunes like True Love 1980 and Space Shot. Balls to this not being an album, only a collection of singles, what does that matter? I listened to this all over the summer and were it not for The Fall it would be Album of the Year. Vol 2 is more of the same but somehow less good, but you can hardly blame them for running out of steam – the same thing happened to The Wedding Present in 1992 when they decided to release a single every month.

Lonelady, Nerve Up
Lonelady aka Julie Campell is a Manc songwriter and this is her first album. It recalls Joy Division in places which drew me to it, and the comparisons are valid; this has a stripped-down, bare, jittery sound, but it’s not all doom and gloom as there are some top tunes here, such as Immaterial. Overall though, a little one-dimensional; – but Lonelady is one to watch and her next album should be amazing.

Underworld, Barking
The first three tracks and Moon in Water are  brilliant, the rest of it, meh. And in places – like the painful Diamond Jigsaw –  quite horrible. Getting others in to fiddle with their music seems like a weird choice, if anything it has diluted the Underworld sound and made it LESS interesting.

Belle and Sebastian, Write About Love
The first B+S album I have ever heard, and sad to say I won’t be bothering with the others. A dull collection of meandering dirges and sixth form poetry, in some places – especially the opening track I Didn’t See It Coming – seeming to blatantly rip off Saint Etienne.

Marsheaux, Lumineux Noir
This came out in 2009 but I only got hold of it last year. If you like synthpop, you MUST buy this. It is an excellent collection of the most beautiful, sinister, electropop, recalling New Order in places, but with a meaty modern production and analogue synths you can almost feel. Marsheaux are two Greek ladies with statuesque good looks and the most beautiful, dark, sinister vocals which really fit the music. Standout tracks are the amazing Ghosts which still sends chills down my spine after umpteen listens, and the wondrous electro death ballad Destroy Me. Seriously, if you like this sort of thing, check them out!

Yello, Touch Yello
Again this came out in 2009 but only on import so only managed to get a copy last year. It is the soundtrack to an amazing live/digital show which I wish I could have seen. Yello are of course the pioneers of the sort of music Marsheaux practice, and maximum respect is due, which is why I am willing to forgive this album a couple of lame tracks and a pointless, 9-minute world music instrumental. Oh and a pointless remix of early track Bostich. Aside from these flaws, it’s fantastic – classic Yello with a jazzy twist. Opening track The Expert is sharp as anything they have ever done as is Part Love. Towards the end there is an incredible balled called Stay which is one of the best songs they have ever done. Need I mention that the production is utterly fantastic? Well I just did. Boris Blank is a genius.

***

So what does 2011 promise? A new Coldplay album, probably. Boo, I hear? Well, I have a soft spot for them. A new Fall album – I hope. The gap between the last two was too long! Half Man Half Biscuit have some new songs which should mean a new album soon. A new PJ Harvey album, Let England Shake. REM’s Collapse Into Now which had better be an improvement on the turd that was Accelerate.  A new Radiohead album could pop fully-formed onto the Internet at any point this year. Unbelievably, there are rumblings of new Kate Bush songs if not a complete album! Blimey. Oh and – FFS! – THE NEW BLUE AEROPLANES ALBUM, PLEASE, GERARD!!!

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