MusicRadar review of the year
It’s New Year’s Eve, which means that there are just a few hours left of 2010. What better time then, to take a quick look back at some of the events, happenings and news stories that have defined MusicRadar’s year?
Almost a year ago today, at the end of 2009, we at MusicRadar brought you 52 predictions for 2010. We must say, we’re fairly proud that we got a good number of these spot on (alright, so we got more of them completely wrong than right, but we’ll gloss over that).
So let’s take a quick jaunt back through the year now to see what we predicted, what took us by surprise, what’s been good, what’s been not-so-good and make a few predictions for next year…
January - March
As ever, January was all about NAMM 2010. As is always the case, there were plenty of exciting new products unveiled at this year’s NAMM show, but a few highlights in particular spring to mind.
TC-Electronic’s PolyTune achieved the unlikely task of getting us all excited about a guitar tuner, with its revolutionary ability to tune all of your guitar strings at once - a skill that later in the year was put into an excellent iOS app.
We also got a little (prematurely) worked up about Teenage Engineering’s mini-synth/controller the OP-1. Despite being one of the coolest things we saw at last year’s show, here we are a year later still waiting for this excellent little box of tricks to be released. We also got our first glimpse of Ableton/Serato link up The Bridge and saw The Batmobile (above).
To look back at everything from NAMM 2010 check out our full coverage, meanwhile, hold tight from NAMM 2011, as we’ll be back there in less than two weeks.
January - March
NAMM isn’t the only big date in the first quarter of MusicRadar’s calendar, however, as March means Frankfurt Musikmesse.
On this year's trip to Germany we had our first encounter with our favourite bit of gear of 2010: the Korg Monotron. The first completely analogue synthesiser to be produced by Korg in donkey’s years, the Monotron is an affordable, pocket-sized ribbon-synth that can produce all sorts of lovely, old-skool squelchy noises - it was love at first sight.
Musikmesse 2010 was also our first glimpse at Line 6’s new all-improved Variax super-guitars. Plus we got our first taste of Roland’s Lucina AX-09 ‘shoulder-synth’ (i.e keytar) a product that we would later have the (we say it ourselves) genius brainwave of handing to our favourite contributor Brett Domino. Oh, and there was a drum kit made of vinyl records (above), very cool.
Check out our full coverage from Musikmesse 2010 here, and of course we’ll be back out there this year.
April - June
Looking back now, easily the most significant event of the second quarter of 2010 (if not the whole year) was the arrival on these shores of Apple’s touch-screen, tablet computer the iPad.
When the iPad was first announced back in January we were, like most people, curious and tentatively excited. Although, back then, most of the hype focused around how the iPad would revolutionise the way we consume online media, books and newspapers, it was clear from early on that anything with a nice, big touch-screen interface had plenty of scope for music making apps.
Well, over the last eight months the iPad has really won us over. The vast, ever-growing wealth of music making apps that have appeared for the device over the course of 2010 have turned Apple’s tablet from a curiosity into a serious option for computer-based musicians. All leading to the iPad picking up the award for ‘best computer’ in our recent gear of the year lists.
April - June
Every June brings with it the start of festival season, and here in the UK the biggest date in the summer festival calendar is always Glastonbury.
This year’s Pilton Pop Festival (as they called it back in the day) saw rock behemoths U2 pull out at the last minute thanks to Bono putting his back out. Damon Albarn’s band for the web 2.0 generation, Gorillaz (above), stepped in to fill the slot. Audience reviews may have been mixed for the band’s performance, but from our point of view they certainly brought a lot of interesting looking instruments, cool guests and pretty visuals to the table. Plus, if nothing else, it meant there was a moment that members of The Clash, Blur and The Fall’s Mark E Smith were all on the Pyramid Stage at once - and there’s no way that can be a bad thing.
Elsewhere in June, we caught up with internet sensation ‘drummer at the wrong gig’ Steve Moore. A man who, in the words of USA Editor Joe Bosso: “is an entire performance unto himself - arms flailing like a baton twirler after too many Red Bulls, yet he never misses the beat. Long may he reign.”
July - September
July saw the re-emergence of one of our favourite bits of kit from NAMM 2010 - The OP-1, as Teenage Engineering’s cool little synth/controller played a staring role in the video for Swedish House Mafia’s summer hit One. A fact that only made us even more excited for the day when we can finally buy one…
August’s Reading and Leeds festivals, as Guitar Editor Chris Vinnicombe predicted, saw a reunion set from The Libertines (above). (Although before we give Chris too much credit, he does seem to predict that every year, so he was bound to get it right eventually.)
On the weirder side of things, we discovered that slowing down the music of teen sensation Justin Bieber creates an epic, atmospheric masterpiece, which is cool in so many ways.
July - September
In gear news, August brought the release of Propellerhead’s latest DAW updates Reason 5 and Record 1.5. Needless to say we were big fans, eventually awarding the products ‘DAW of the year’. To celebrate we rounded up a whole week's worth of tips, tutorials and coverage, which you can check out here.
September saw the annual Mercury Prize awarded to London-based three-piece The XX (above). A well deserved win for their excellent 2009 debut album. Nominees also included other MusicRadar favourites Wild Beasts, Biffy Clyro, Foals and Paul Weller.
October - December
At the start of 2010 Hi-Tech Editor Ben Rogerson predicted that 2010 would see dubstep making big waves in the mainstream, and he wasn’t wrong.
After a string of increasingly popular dubstep chart hits over the summer, the arrival of the debut album from Magnetic Man (above) - a supergroup of sorts made up of genre originators Skream, Artwork and Benga - saw the dubstep crossover well and truly completed. Ahead of the album release MusicRadar caught up with the band to talk through their setup and about the changing face of dubstep.
As for product releases, late October brought the unveiling of Gibson’s divisive digital-modelling guitar the Firebird X. We were in New York to see it in action for the first time.
October - December
So we come to the end of the year. Once again Facebook campaigns tried to deny the X Factor finalist the Christmas number one, but not even minimalist composer John Cage stop Matt Cardle’s cover of Biffy Clyro’s Many Of Horror.
We don’t normally go on about films here at MusicRadar, but the release of Tron Legacy gave us reason to get excited - any film sound-tracked by Daft Punk is bound to be worth a look. News that the French duo were to make a cameo in the film - in full Tron themed suits (above) - just sealed the deal.
December also brought the release of what is bound to be the first of several posthumously released Michael Jackson albums. We gave Michael a full track-by-track review here.
Finally, we received a fantastic Christmas present from our favourite internet sensation Brett Domino.
Best and worst...
So that's 2010 - as we remember it at least. Here are some of our team's favourite and least-favourite things about the past 52 weeks...
Ben Rogerson - Hi-Tech Editor
Favourite thing about 2010: Brett Domino consolidating his position as the most entertaining and inventive musical performer on the internet.
Least favourite thing about 2010: The ‘new’ Michael Jackson album. What makes it even more depressing is that it was surely just the first of many.
Joe Bosso - USA Editor
Favourite thing about 2010: Katy Perry. What's not to like? Try as you might, her tunes are simply irresistible - after half a listen, you're hooked. And she's not very hard on the eyes, is she?
Least favourite thing about 2010: That Katy Perry married noted toolbox Russell Brand. The man is unfunny, is in desperate need of a shower, and for that he gets HER?! Something is wrong with the world.
Chris Vinnicombe - Guitar Editor
Favourite thing about 2010: Discovering that hardly ever watching mainstream television or listening to Radio One anymore means that I'm so dislocated from popular culture that whole musical genres have passed me by, and I've had only limited exposure to X Factor contestants mauling pop classics.
Least favourite thing about 2010: Discovering that the above means that I don't know what anyone is talking about when I go to the pub.
Si Truss - Production Assistant
Favourite thing about 2010: Olde English Spelling Bee. OESB is a small, independent New York-based record label that has been responsible for a string of lo-fi, often bedroom-produced records that have defined 2010 for this writer. Check out this year’s stunning records by Forests Swords and Autre Ne Veut for a couple of examples why.
Least favourite thing about 2010: Indie-step. From the man behind Reverend And The Makers, landfill-indie meets the worst kind of entry-level, watered-down wobbly pseudo-dubstep. With shit lyrics. Unforgivably awful.
Predictions for 2011
And finally, in time-honoured tradition, we at MusicRadar make our predictions for 2011. Here are twelve things that our editorial team believe will happen in the next twelve months. Each prediction is labelled with the name of the relevant team member so we can enjoy the kudos/wallow in the shame when our predictions come true/are proved spectacularly wrong.
Online music making will become big news. Ohm Force’s Ohm Studio is waiting in the wings, and if it works, other developers will surely release rival platforms. Ben Rogerson
Apple’s iTunes-based social network Ping will continue to flounder in the face of public indifference. Until playlists can contain our own songs or, better still, full streaming playback, Ping will always feel like a shop. We’ll stick with Spotify and Facebook, thanks. Will Groves
Anna Calvi will win the Mercury Music Prize. Chris Vinnicombe
James Blake is going to make big waves in the ‘cooler’ end of mainstream music culture when his (utterly brilliant) album drops in February (expect a rise to fame similar to The XX, Burial or Portishead and a definite Mercury Prize nomination). Si Truss
The 2011 X Factor series will be different. Instead of voting by telephone, Simon Cowell will sign every act on the shortlist to a temporary contract and ask the public to buy a download of their favourite contestant’s song after every live show. Tom Porter
Expect artists at all levels to release added-value standalone apps for iOS and android for both new and re-released material. Digital packaging could finally make sense in 2011. Will Groves
Guitar manufacturers will abandon 'robot'-type guitars that most human beings simply can't afford and will concentrate on doing what they should do: building well-made, user-friendly priced models and accurate reproductions of vintage and historical axes (the latter will still hit you hard in the wallet, however). Joe Bosso
The Beady Eye album won't be as badas people might expect, but it certainly won't live up to Liam's "better than Definitely Maybe" hype either. Noel Gallagher's first post-Oasis solo material will also see the light of day. It'll be better than Beady Eye. Chris Vinnicombe
SoundCloud will have another strong year and continue to become the essential online service for music makers wanting to share their tunes. MySpace, however, is only going to continue its nosedive towards total irrelevancy. Si Truss
The launch of the Mac App Store will lead to the release of more affordable iOS-style music-making software for OS X, though this will complement rather than replace our existing DAWs. In fact, we may see direct ports of some iPhone/iPad apps to Apple’s desktop platform. Ben Rogerson
Robbie Williams will quit, or be pushed, from Take That. The band will also call it a day six months later. Each band member will pursue various acting and solo careers, but Robbie’s will be by far the most successful. Tom Porter
Now that Apple has scored the ultimate coup in securing The Beatles' catalogue, they'll nab the last holdouts: AC/DC, Garth Brooks and Kid Rock. (Hell, even Fugazi are on iTunes!) Joe Bosso