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Top 10 of 2010 – part 2

05/01/2011

The incredibly exciting second part of this year’s musical good stuff!

5. HOT CHIP – ONE LIFE STAND

Synthpop love songs written by a bunch of nerds who just want to cuddle and gently love you for the rest of their lives.

The second best thing in One Life Stand is that Hot Chip have finally crafted an album. Not a random collection of songs that were thrown on the wall and then picked regardless of whether they stuck to it or not, but a cohesive entity with a sonic theme, musical flow and most importantly no filler fluff. On One Life Stand you have a matured version of Hot Chip that know how to turn sentimental feelings into heartfelt music, but the thing is that side had always been there – you just forgot about it when a track after track of sonic fiddling was clustered among the heart-in-sleeve pieces of prettiness found before. But on One Life Stand they’ve finally passed that obstacle.

The best thing naturally is the song selection. Whether they’re up to their usual tricks of working with brilliantly crafted pop songs and pseudo-dance anthems or trying something different such as presenting their version of autotune-pop or delivering a mushy, knowingly corny ballad (appropriately titled “Slush”), Hot Chip deliver time and time again. The production is lush, the melodies strong and the vocal interplay between the two completely different and wholly unique voices is working better than ever. One Life Stand is an album that has clearly been delicately crafted, and for all the better of it. The wry humour is still there but this time lets the wistful beauty take the center stage. The result is easily Hot Chip’s greatest to date.

Put it this way: the past three albums had Hot Chip acting like unruly computer class kids who had found synthesizers and were hosting a secret party in the class room after dark. Fast forward several years, like in the cheesy before-credits epilogues of a-many teen flicks about growing up, and you have those same five kids now as grown men who created unbreakable bonds during those silly private parties and now go out to enjoy that friendship, knowing that no matter how much the new-found complexities in lovelife might complicate their lives, they’ve always got eachother to hang around and party with. One Life Stand is a grown record, full of timelessly hopeful moments to cherish and sing along to whether when reflecting upon your life during a quiet moment or gathering up a feel-good vibe before going out with friends. And it’s got heart.


One Life Stand

 

4. ULTRAMARIINI – YDIN

Hey look, it’s not only another Finnish album I’ve neglected to mention here before but also yet another melodic pop album. This year certainly has a running theme! And much like #9’s Magenta Skycode, Ultramariini are a band with a history and who returned from a long hiatus in 2010 with a lush, melody-rich album.

Ydin is captivating. Almost hypnotic in its grasp. It’s the album I’ve owned for the least amount of time out of all the ones on this list, but it’s been captivating me endlessly throughout that time, with not a day passing without a listen. It has no super-special secret weapon behind that – all it does is offer a great selection of songs with marvellous production. It’s music that allows the listener to sink into its verses and choruses, to float amidst all the dreaminess and tender happiness it offers. Many of its songs offer a great sense of feeling content: for 3-5 minutes, everything is perfectly fine in the world and there’s nothing to do but enjoy that moment. Repeat this for the duration of an entire album and you can start to see why Ydin deserves a place here.

For me music is all about the feeling it raises in me. Ydin is an album all about feeling. Its sound is evocative and the songs seem to be downright designed to act as a channel for whatever you get out of them. Ydin is a 40-something minute trip of absolutely gorgeous melodies covered in a thick morning sunshine atmosphere, ready to welcome the listener in its embrace and invite them to stay there for a while. And it’s a good place to rest in.


Sydämet

 

3. ARCADE FIRE – THE SUBURBS

For the first time, Arcade Fire do not sound like they’re on a mission. They’re not unleashing pent-up sadness and mourning through jubilant, life-affirming anthems nor are they preaching about the end of the world. And for the first time, they don’t sound like they’ve got the largest sound in the world. Instead, The Suburbs presents an Arcade Fire that feels relaxed, free of worries and who aren’t standing at the top of the world. And yet it still sounds just as important and grand as the band has always been. If anything, The Suburbs further cements Arcade Fire’s status as one of the best and most important rock bands of the past decade. The band brush away the tricks they’ve been known for and ignore their messianic status that the debut Funeral gave them and which has burdened them ever since. And they’re still amazing.

The Suburbs is a long sprawl of an album but one crafted with love. Sometimes it goes a bit amiss but never bothersomely so and the grandiose size actually works to the album’s advantage. It’s a long journey that passes through stadium anthems, noisy punk blasters, bittersweetly longing ballads, disco belters and subdued miniature-epics, all knit together perfectly and presented in a fashion that makes the album sound like an experience. A warm, inviting one – due to the band taking the sound from the stadiums back to the practice room, the sound has a new air to breathe. Look at that promo picture posted up top – they’re actually smiling. And that relaxed feeling is evident everywhere on The Suburbs. Now don’t get me wrong, I absolutely adore both Funeral and Neon Bible, but The Suburbs has a wholly new reinvigorated feel that sounds wonderful. The sound of band simply doing whatever they enjoy instead of worrying about all the pressure put on their backs.

It’s not perfect, but there are moments to it where it feels like nothing else in the world matters but that one song.


Ready to Start

 

2. BEN FOLDS – LONELY AVENUE

I believe in the power of the lyric. My main musical growth happened with bands whose lyrics were praised and who often put them in a noticeable role, which left an imprint on me. I don’t demand great lyrics of my music, but music with great lyrics will always feel superior to my ears. One of music’s most wonderful things is its power to resonate and evoke thoughts, and lyrics deliver a great deal of that power to me.

Folds has always been a great lyricist, but the words for Lonely Avenue were written by the novelist Nick Hornby. The two men seem to be inspired by the same muse – if the album didn’t outright tell on its cover who wrote what, the character tales on Lonely Avenue would be extremely hard to distinguish from Folds’ own output. But there’s something new in the mix. Hornby’s writer background approaches the same process through a different point of view, and all the unused creativity on Folds’ part seems to have been all channeled into the music. The result is one of the year’s best albums that musically blossoms with vitality and energy and which is backed with some of the year’s best lyricism that approaches each story almost like a, well, story rather than a lyric.

But while Hornby is a brilliant lyricist, the main kudos for Lonely Avenue definitely belong to Folds himself. The man is on fire. From the ballads driven by Folds’ trademark piano skills to the grooved-up pop masterpieces, Lonely Avenue is an album that constantly offers something completely different and often leaves you thinking just how brilliant that one particular passage, musical idea or tiny tidbit that just passed was. Even the under two-minute intro could be classed as one of the best, and most hilarious, pieces of music of the year because of its quick turns and twists and how well it flows.

Whether or not we have Hornby to thank for it, Lonely Avenue is Folds’ best album yet.

 


From Above

 

1. THE NATIONAL – HIGH VIOLET

There are two reasons High Violet is on the top of this list, and is far in the lead from anything else mentioned here.

For one, the obvious fact that it’s a fantastic album. It’s the boldest, most confident album from The National yet. It takes every single thing that made the past albums so fantastic and not only brings them together but improves upon them. From the undisputable charisma of Matt Berninger, his croon and his sadsack lyrics to the immense instrumental team, from the style to the sound to the songs themselves, High Violet is the crowning glory of The National. It’s the album that’s been waiting to burst out of them ever since they started. It is majestic. It is an album that only a band at the very top of their game can create.

But most importantly it’s become an incredibly personal album for me. During 2010 ever since its release, there has not been a week where High Violet hasn’t been around somehow. It started out as a merely great follow-up to the marvellous Boxer but as the weeks passed each song began to open its nuances and as they did, they began to soundtrack my days and, as horribly corny as it sounds, my feelings. Perhaps it only lucked out by appearing at the right time, but something in High Violet’s sound clicked perfectly with what I was going through at the time and that left a lasting imprint. It’s become one of those rare albums that only appear once in a blue moon which perfectly resonate with every single cell in one’s body. One of those albums that once it’s finished it makes the world seem like a different place for a moment – like your vision had just clarified for the first time in your life.

And that’s why High Violet is the undisputed number one. Despite that it’s only been around less than a year, it already feels like a friend (as much as a recording can be a friend) that’s been with you for several years. One of the most special things I’ve heard. Seriously.

 


Bloodbuzz Ohio

———————————————–

And that’s it!

(P.S. Fuck you VEVO and your WAH WAH YOU CANT WATCH OUR THINGS EMBEDDED WAH)

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