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2010 part 1: the story so far

19/06/2010

As the Very First Official Post, handily released around the halfway to the year, it makes a rather nifty sense to talk about the year at hand. This first part of this 2010-so-far post duo briefly (as not to bloat things too much) touches upon some noteworthy releases already… released. The second part will focus on what’s still coming ahead.

THE GOOD

FYFE DANGERFIELD

The Guillemots frontman had the honour of opening the 2010 stream of albums with his solo release. Considering Guillemots are all about emphasising the various tastes of the four-person collective that makes up the band, it’s no surprise that Fyfe’s solo release turned out to be quite different from the works of his main band. Fly Yellow Moon envisions Dangerfield as a lovelorn troubadour as it takes warm, acoustic tones and stylish string embellishments and marries it to Fyfe’s massive charisma and cheesily lovey lyrics. That charisma ends up being the saviour of the album – most of Fly Yellow Moon is perfectly pleasant but if it wasn’t for Fyfe’s fantastic voice and suave charmer personality, they wouldn’t leave much of an imprint. It’s somewhat telling that it’s the songs that stray away from the album’s general style that turn out to be the best of the bunch: “When You Walk in the Room” and “She Needs Me” are stunningly great A-class pop songs made of gigantic melodies, huge hooks and joyous bombast that lights up the room the second they start. Oh, and the britpop-anthemic “Faster Than the Setting Sun” and synthpop frolic “Any Direction” are quite cool too.

Flawed, but swell.


She Needs Me

HOT CHIP

I used to be of the opinion that there was very little to Hot Chip outside their singles – the album track sampling I had done didn’t really reveal much interesting, whilst they seemed to have a wealthy collection of good singles with great videos. When the title track of One Life Stand was released, I thought history would repeat itself again – great song, brilliant video, but the album’d be naff.

Whoops there’s me and my horrid pre-determinist misconceptions kicking me in the arse again. Turns out One Life Stand is nothing short of excellent. Synthpop with a big, big, big, big heart – music for the lovelorn and hopelessly romantic who also, conveniently, enjoy infectiously smashing songs. The geekified autotune-club banger “I Feel Better”, dance euphoria “Thieves in the Night”, the warm and soul-soothing “Brothers” and “Alley Cats”, infectious thump of “Hand Me Down Your Love”, etc. A wonderfully vibrant, human album.


One Life Stand

HUSKY RESCUE

After two albums of ethereal, dreamy floating straight from the nature, Husky Rescue changes gears slightly for Ship of Light. The dreaminess is still there, but this time it’s got a backbone. The rhythm section is pronounced more than ever in the Finnish band’s history, adding a strong beat and drive to the beautiful soundscapes – in a most memorable way as well, with some extremely well-crafted bass and drum parts backing Reeta-Leena’s quiet whispers and the atmospheric melodies. It’s the same wonderful Husky Rescue but with a new thrust. Music to sink into and let it comfort. And this time, to groove to.


Sound of Love

JONSI

Take the last Sigur Rós album, emphasise those amazing pop moments they experimented with on it, remove the half-arsed pretty-pretty moments that bogged down that album and replace them with actually nice pretty-pretty moments. There you go, Jónsi’s Go. Probably the most life-affirming album of the year that flutters and frolics with all the colours in the spectrum.


Go Do

LAURA MARLING

Sometimes you a very weird sort of album in front of you. It’s a clear evolution for the artist, you can easily hear they’ve learned a lot and are now applying their new musical tricks successfully to their music. And it sounds good and you’re really happy for the artist. Buuuuut you still prefer what they actually did before.

I get that with Marling’s I Speak Because I Can. She’s matured up, her songcraft has far more finesse and she’s definitely destined to one day release something phenomenal. And I Speak Because I Can offers a glimpse of all that – she sounds like she’s in a whole different league to the young girl who released Alas I Cannot Swim a few years ago. But I still prefer Alas. It seemed to have more standout songs in it – I Speak Because I Can is stylistically very lovely and Marling is as gorgeous of a singer as she ever was, but it also lacks the plethora of immense stand-outs of its predecessor. When it hits, it really hits – “Blackberry Stone” is a gorgeous reply to Noah and the Whale‘s The First Days of Spring, “The Devil’s Spoke” is fiercely bold, “Rambling Man” touches upon a very fragile sort of beauty, “Goodbye England” is simply lovely, etc. But then there’s also, I don’t know, a bit too much subtle acoustic prettiness and bit less confident, witty songcraftsmanship.

But it’s still one of the year’s highlights.


Rambling Man

MIDLAKE

There was such a major stylistical gap between Midlake’s fuzzy synth-rock debut and their pastoral folk rock sophomore that it was under a lot of puzzled guessing what their third one would be like. Surprise – the same as their second one. Except replace the pastoral with melancholy, somber, moody and all around downery. Melancholy lyrics yearning about freedom and mourning for death backed by warm, low-key acoustic notes, evocative vocal harmonies and the bittersweet beauty of a lone flute. It’s this year’s #1 autumn album (despite its springtime release), its sound perfectly reminiscent of the death of nature as it begins to prepare for the cold, dark winter. There’s little hope in the beautiful bleakness of The Courage of Others, but it’s filled with moments to die for.


Acts of Man

THE NATIONAL

Basically a band that’s been blowing minds with their last two albums have done it again. Speechlessly amazing. Bryan Devendorff continues to be one of the best drummers around, Matt Berninger does the same regarding frontmen and the Dressner brothers have a magical touch on guitar textures. Detailed; evocative; emotional; intimate; universal. High Violet is one of the Events of the year.


Bloodbuzz Ohio

PARIISIN KEVÄT

If there’s a great example of the classic case where the artist has a forever to work on the debut and then the second album ends up rushed, Astronautti is one. Their 2008 debut Meteoriitti really took me by surprise recently with its colourful, quirky and eccentric super-hooked pop and knowingly naïve, witty lyrics. If that was a brilliant dish fresh from the oven, Astronautti is like the same dish the next day after you’ve heated it up in the microwave – it’s still got the same goodness that made yesterday’s meal so lovely, but it’s lost that special something and feels a bit more ordinary. The main building blocks and the style are the same, but there’s no tunes as marvellous as half the debut had in it – and the lyrics seem a bit forcedly quirky now.

Which leaves us with an album that’s still enjoyably basicgood, even if nothing revelatory.


Invisible Man

VIOLA

The Finnish pop duo Viola decided last year to abandon the album format and instead release a song every 1st day of every month, for free. The Viola Music Club (as it is dubbed) approach has been an uneven but a good one – last year there were a fair few fantastic songs released monthly, enough to make you kinda feel bad that the duo’s not doing albums anymore. This year so far the results have been far, far erratic in quality (with things like the April Fool’s metal foolaround ranking as probably the group’s worst song in their history, humorous or not) but the dreamy 2010s (Maybe the World Won’t End) and the wonderfully 90’s Leave It All Again should be a part of any self-respecting Viola collection.

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