Top 10s of 2010 (so far)

It’s been a while between blogging. But lots of writing being done – just not so much the publishing.

So hence, a quick intermission.

Top 10 albums of 2010 (so far)

1. Laura Marling – I Speak Because I Can
(Virgin)

A huge leap from her already pretty great debut. A mournful album about growing up and womanhood, wrapped up in stories of timeless darkness. She mixes old time-y weirdness about husbands, devils and letters with stunning guitar playing and vocals. The name Joni Mitchell is bandied about a lot in reviews.

‘Women’ is not a genre, but it seems of late even the gals have forgotten that, with so many carbon copy pop stars out there. And here we have someone who doesn’t use her image (or her body) to sell her music. As she says herself – “There’s a mind under this hat“. That maturity is even more impressive when you take into account she wrote and recorded this album at age 19.

My favourite track by a long way is Goodbye England (Covered In Snow), and the singles so far are Devil’s Spoke and Rambling Man.

2. The Soft Pack – The Soft Pack
(Kemado/Heavenly)

This is turning into a year of great rock ‘n’ roll records, coming off several years of slim pickings. For me, the Soft Pack are leading the charge. Their sound is a perfect storm – short, catchy rock, great riffs, great voice, no excess. At 35 minutes, the album whizzes by at a pace, but the choruses and the hooks stick with you. It’s punk-y, it’s garage-y, it’s pop-py, it’s rock-y – it’s perfect.

This is a really easy album to fall in love with. It’s immediate and easy. Most people I play it for love it. Crackers like C’mon, Down On Loving and Answer To Yourself are hit songs. Then they even up the aggression on Pull Out. And then they pull it all back on the penultimate track, the laid back, sweet Mexico.

This still could be number 1 at the end of the year. I’ve been playing this non stop since February. Time will tell.

The film clip for Answer To Yourself features some of the cast from the movie Kick-Ass.

3. The Hold Steady – Heaven Is Whenever
(Vagrant)

The Hold Steady have made themselves one of my favourite bands in the last few years. They do that “rock and roll can save you” thing better than anyone else around at the moment. Craig Finn is a believer – spouting lyrics mainly about rock, drugs, girls and other important things like that. Their 5th album is as good as their past works – just listening to it makes me feel alive, and that life will be ok.

Heaven Is Whenever is a different beast than their earlier albums. The loss of the keyboard player brought the guitars forward, and with them come some stunning slow moments. We Can Get Together is the absolute highlight – mixing songs about heaven with the band Heavenly, and how that drummer died. But ending with the most quoted lyric in reviews this year

Heaven is whenever we can get together
Close your bedroom door and listen to your records

It’s poetic, it’s romantic and it rocks. It’s what these guys do best. From the opening kiss of The Sweet Part Of the City throughout a healthy portion of rockers (Hurricane J and Weekenders are the best of them), it shows a slightly new sound but the same old heart and soul. And I think of this band, and Craig Finn, and the more I think he’s right about everything.

4. LCD Soundsystem – This Is Happening
(DFA)

For me, Sound Of Silver was one of the 5 greatest albums of the last decade, and I wasn’t the only one. So the pressure was on for James Murphy, main man for LCD Soundsystem, and their 3rd album. They do an admirable job. Although it lacks some of the highs of Sound Of Silver, it’s still a fantastic record.

Drunk Girls divided people, but it was fun bubblegum garbage like Song 2. But the depth of Murphy’s songwriting is better expressed elsewhere. I Can Change, All I Want, You Wanted A Hit – sort of crap titles but Murphy is totally in charge of these dance pop numbers. The sounds, the lyrics, the moods, the feel – all spot on.

There’s the stuff that has made LCD Soundsystem so legendary – chaotic messes that somehow stick together like Pow Pow. Beautiful ballads like Home. It’s all here, and again, I’m still listening to this record, discovering new things.

5. Hot Chip – One Life Stand
(EMI)

I don’t know what happened in the lives of Hot Chip since their last record, but they are in love and not afraid to show it. Two great records so far were full of humour and cheeky fun. This record is something new – it’s straightfaced and affectionate. Sometimes you are waiting for the smartarses to reveal themselves but they never do.

In a way, the songs are the simplest they’ve ever been. It’s a pleasant record. If the beats weren’t just a little too hard, and the synths weren’t a little too loud, these could be teen pop songs. As they are, they keep that Hot Chip-ness. It’s just that it’s Hot Chip, the love balladeers.

And to boot – video of the year so far.

The rest of the top ten so far are:

6. Spoon – Transference

7. Vampire Weekend – Contra

8. Teenage Fanclub – Shadows

9. Dr Dog – Shame Shame

10. Surfer Blood – Astro Coast

Obviously a lot more will be written at the end of the year. And some of my favourite artists are coming up to bat – Belle & Sebastian and Darren Hanlon amongst them.

It’s been a great year so far. Many records are just bubbling under, and still have six months to prove themselves as well…

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