As reliable as legitimised gluttony and a jolly fat man, year end also brings with it the usual slew of lists, reviewing the music that filled our ear holes over the past twelve months. I'm sure there's a more inventive way to do this (with a snarky glance at everyone else counting down their best of's, no doubt) but, truth is, there's a certain amount of sadistic fun to be had in agonising over what to include and what to boot come December time.
My personal take on this musical year is a mixed bag; some established greats pushing their form to new heights, others falling short of the mark by seeming to tread water. Then there are the new faces. Plenty of unknown artists surfaced in my inbox with great albums this year, boding well for the digital emancipation of musicians from the traditional major label manufacturing line.
So kicking off with albums over the next three days, the soundtrack of 2010 here at Heavier ~ Than ~ Air....
30. Sleigh Bells - Treats
29. Yeasayer - Odd Blood
From the psychedelic promo video for Ambling Alp to the artwork and music itself, the previously only slightly progressive Brooklyn indie group certainly made a sharp stylistic right hander with this one. Despite some missteps and copious genre-hopping, Odd Blood ends up being one of the most enjoyably eccentric indie listens of recent years.
28. She & Him - Vol. II
Released right on the cusp of spring turning into summer, Zooey Deschanel and M. Ward timed the brightly shining indie-pop of Volume 2 perfectly. Listening to it seemed to will the sun from behind the clouds, with easy on the ear melodies breezing by and catchy choruses playing over in the mind long after the record has stopped spinning.
Few bands capture the essence of their environment so effectively and consistently as these Alaskans. Starker and more bleak than ever before, the hostile metallic hardcore is tinged with slivers of hope and beauty, developing once again their impressive discography.
STREAM: Collisions & Castaways at Tunelab
26. Azure Ray - Drawing Down The Moon
Returning after several years away, Orenda Fink and Maria Taylor combine once again on this quietly elegant record. The subtly potent harmonies of the singers inquire and guide in equal measure, reaching few conclusions but placing a reassuring hand on your shoulder that somehow makes everything alright.
25. Spoon - Transference
As one of 2010's first highly anticipated releases, Transference had to satisfy an indie-rock world ready to dig into the new decade after noughties review overload. Melding the many facets of previous Spoon records into one cohesive, enigmatic whole, it provided more than enough musical nooks and crannies to excitedly explore.
MP3: Spoon - Mystery Zone (Demo)
24. The Dillinger Escape Plan -
After skirting the edges of accessibility with last album Ire Works, Dillinger's new album fears no territory, knows no boundaries. Though less immediately engaging than its predecessor, Option Paralysis displays all the tightly-wound fury and musical experimentation for which the band are now renowned. Increasingly exhilarating with each spin, this is hands down one of the most adventurous listens of 2010.
23. Bad Books - Bad Books
Adding Kevin Devine to Manchester Orchestra might seem like a no-brainer but it took long time singing mates Andy Hull and Devine a few years to actually make it happen. Switching between contemplative acoustic numbers and catchy upbeat rockers, the results are exciting enough to hope that Bad Books is more than a one-off endeavour. Not to mention offering up one of the most most enormous hooks of the year in Holding Down The Laughter.
22. Black Tusk - Taste The Sin
Summoning fellow Georgians Baroness in both their artwork and driving riffs, the similarities end there as Black Tusk eschew any inclination towards accessibility. Instead they channel all their energy into brutal rhythms and outright aggression, resulting in by far the most unashamedly violent record you will see in this or any other countdown of 2010.
21. Arcade Fire - The Suburbs
Of course Arcade Fire were already established as kings (and queens) of the indie world, after almost a decade of releasing critically adored albums. The Suburbs seems to be raising the band to the next level again, with sold out shows at Madison Square Garden, #1 spots around the world, and major award nominations continuing to pop up. An ambitious, grand album that beautifully captures the influences from which it springs.