MusicRadar's albums of 2010
The end of 2010 is rapidly approaching, which means it's time to reminisce about everything that’s been great over the past twelve months. Over the last fortnight we’ve already let you know our favourite bits of guitar, tech and drum related music making gear, and now we turn to the music itself.
To that end, each of MusicRadar's staff members has chosen an album (along with a few contributions from our sister magazines) that they would like to highlight as something that's been dominating their stereo in 2010. Each album on the list has something about it that we - as a diverse bunch of musicians and music-lovers - think deserves an extra special bit of recognition and kudos.
This is all in no particular order - no top ten countdowns here - just personal selections from the people behind MusicRadar. Plus, we’ve added in plenty of sound clips so you can have a listen and see what we’re making a fuss about. Enjoy.
What do you think of our selections? Disagree with our choices? Think we’ve missed out something big? Want to recommend something we might like? Leave a comment, or let us now via Twitter or Facebook.
Phosphorescent - Here's To Taking It Easy
Phosphorescent are an alt-folk band from Athens, Georgia. Here’s To Taking It Easy is the band’s fifth album since forming in 2003.
Will Groves says: Comfortably unconcerned with 2010's cutting edge, Here's To Taking it Easy's regret-fuelled hybrid of Neil Young-esque songcraft and Exile on Main Street feel makes it that most functional of holiday season items - a great hangover album.
Listen: Phosphorescent - The Mermaid Parade
Janelle Monáe - The ArchAndroid (Suites II & III)
Janelle Monáe is a Kansas-born, Grammy-nominated songwriter and performer signed to Sean ‘Diddy’ Combs’s Bad Boy Records label. The ArchAndroid is her debut full-length album, consisting of Suites II and III of her futuristic, android-fixated Metropolis concept series (Suite I was released as an EP in 2007).
Ben Rogerson says: Monáe’s influences aren’t difficult to spot - James Brown, Outkast and Prince (who’s made a point of endorsing her) immediately spring to mind - but her first album proper (following the Metropolis: Suite 1 (The Chase) EP in 2007) is almost impossible to pin down. Hugely ambitious in both size and scope, The ArchAndroid is funky, endlessly inventive and utterly beguiling.
Listen: Janelle Monáe - Tightrope (live on The Late Show with David Letterman)
Adam Haworth Stephens - We Live On Cliffs
Adam Haworth Stephens is a guitarist, singer and songwriter better know as one half of the Californian duo Two Gallants. We Live On Cliffs is his debut solo album.
Chris Vinnicombe says: Two Gallants mainman Adam Stephens is a precocious talent and, for this writer's money at least, the most articulate and passionate songwriter of his generation. Taking time off from the desolate beauty of his main band, Stephens's debut solo LP features more expansive arrangements and instrumentation and some of his most accessible and downright pretty songs to date.
Listen: Adam Haworth Stephens - Heights Of Diamonds
Buy now from Amazon.
Mount Kimbie - Crooks And Lovers
Mount Kimbie are an experimental electronic duo based between London and Brighton with loose roots in dubstep. Crooks And Lovers is their full-length debut.
Si Truss says: Mount Kimbie have produced an album that blends an appreciation for space and texture taken from the more ambient ends of dubstep with classic songwriting craftsmanship. The duo combine inventively used real-world samples with warped instruments and pitch-shifted vocal lines to create a truly unique sound-palette. Crooks And Lovers is a wonderfully layered, slow-burner of a record that shows off an accomplished level of songwriting and production skill that it's rare to find on a debut album.
Listen: Mount Kimbie - Mayor
Surfer Blood - Astro Coast
Astro Coast is the debut album from Floridian indie band Surfer Blood.
Tom Porter says: With a title like Astro Coast and, indeed, with a name reminiscent of a shark attack, those unfamiliar with Florida’s Surfer Blood will be forgiven for lumping them in with the rest of the American scuzzy beach pop invasion (The Drums, Best Coast, Beach House, etc).
They’d be wrong, though. For one thing, unlike the aforementioned, Surfer Blood won’t be topping anyone’s Cool List this year. They’re far too busy writing unashamed reverb-drenched, hook-laden rock ‘n’ roll to chase a scene. But that’s a good thing.
As is the fact that Astro Coast channels the not dead spirit of Frank Black, Rivers Cuomo and Stephen Malkmus without apology. It’s not big, it’s not clever, but - musically at least - it’s the most fun I’ve had all year.
Listen: Surfer Blood - Swim
The Black Keys - Brothers
Brothers is the sixth studio album from Ohio-based blues-rock duo The Black Keys.
Joe Bosso says: The best damn rock duo (guitar and drums) since Local H (also a Midwest act - what's the deal with fly-over States and blazing, minimal combos?), the Keys' Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney holed up in the legendary Muscle Shoals Sound Studios and pushed their soul-stirring blues attack to the max.
But there's also transporting moments of trippiness (The Only One) and heartbreaking soul (a knockout cover of the Jerry Butler/Gamble & Huff classic), with smart, catchy hooks coming at you from ever corner.
Listen: The Black Keys - Tighten Up
Fenech-Soler - Fenech-Soler
Electro-pop four piece from Northampton who have worked with Groove Armada and provided remixes for the likes of Marina And The Diamonds. Their self-titled debut has seen them praised by the DJs Annie Mac and Zane Lowe.
Sam George says: Fenech-Soler has been the soundtrack to this writer’s 2010, I’ve been hooked ever since hearing the Alex Metric remix of their track Lies at the end of 2009. The sharp, distinctive vocals and danceable beats are something totally refreshing and addictive. It’s hard to think of a single weak track on this album, and it just grows stronger with every listen.
Listen: Fenech-Soler - Lies
Kanye West - My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy
Surely Kanye West needs no introduction? My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy is the fourth record from the critically acclaimed/controversial rapper, and is by far his most ambitious to date.
Daniel Griffiths - Editor, Future Music says: Every beat feels like an experiment and if that means deliberately leaving elements rushed, distorted, and badly recorded then so be it. Besides, there’s always something lush, complex and jaw-dropping going on around it to prove that the mistakes are anything but.
Vocals throughout are amazing. Kanye sounds spontaneous and passionate and contributors such as Rihanna, Jay-Z and Nicki Minaj are extra dry, all given the ‘turn me up’ treatment their status demands.
It’s overly long yet simultaneously a whirlwind. It’s taxing and demanding but successfully emerges as a new commercial, Hip-Hop that dodges both old-skool raw and Peas-style Pop. Best (read: maddest) record of the year.
Listen: Kanye West - Runaway
Eric Gales - Relentless
Bonobo - Black Sands
Bonobo (real name Simon Green) is a British producer and DJ who releases music on legendary electronic label Ninja Tune. Black Sands is his fourth full-length LP.
Tim Cant - Multimedia Editor, Computer Music says: Though likely to be pigeon-holed as a chill-out album, Black Sands takes in everything from up-tempo party funk to plaintive aquacrunk slow-jams while maintaining its world music vibe and polished hi-tech sheen. Combining funk and emotion in a way that electronic music all too rarely does, Black Sands is fantastic achievement.