Monday, December 6th, 2010

Ten for '10

Chromewaves’ favourite albums of 2010

2010Image via WikipediaFrank Yang

Well this was certainly a better year than last year, on pretty much every level. Of course, it would have required something on the scale of low-yield nuclear detonation in my bathtub – while I was in it – for it to have been worse, but I’ll take it. Musically, it was actually something of a banner year with what seemed like every active artist that I liked not only putting out new records, but good to great records. More hiatuses ended than started and despite intending to slow down the show-going, I ended up going to even more life-affirming, if not -changing, concerts than in any calendar year I can recall. In short, 2010 brought it.

So you’d think that with such a wealth of great records to choose from, assembling a short list of ten faves should have been easier than a year without as many worthy candidates but if anything, it’s tougher. Acts that release records that meet expectations, however high, are held to extra scrutiny; it’s like, “yeah this record was good but so was the last one – where’s that next level?” which of course is completely unreasonable. And conversely, acts heretofore unknown to me had the element of surprise on their side when it came to triggering the ineffable “wow” reflex. All of which is to say that, like past years, there’s nothing scientific nor quantitative about these selections – they’re alphabetical by artist and represent what I could get behind as of the first weekend of December, 2010, and strongly motivated by a desire to get this list over and done with.

So here they are, after the jump, or if you want to peer closely at my little photoshop project above (click for a bigger version) you can try and guess who made the cut before seeing the answers. Because I know the suspense is delicious.

Land Of Talk / Cloak And Cipher (Secret City/Saddle Creek)

The record I’ve been waiting Land Of Talk to make for the past four years is not the one I was expecting. Instead of being Canada’s next great rock band, they – or she, since Land Of Talk is now essentially Liz Powell – is proving to be so much more than that, offering rich melodicism, emotion and, yes, plenty of rock. Maybe just Canada’s next great band.

MP3: Land Of Talk – “Quarry Hymns”
MP3: Land Of Talk – “Swift Coin”
Video: Land Of Talk – “Quarry Hymns”

LCD Soundsystem / This Is Happening (DFA)

I’m not normally late to the party – I tend to be annoyingly punctual – but I only caught the tail end of the LCD experience, finally “getting it” this year and making up for lost time before the lights came on and they kicked everyone out. So while I probably listened to Sound Of Silver more in 2010 than Happening – which I also listened to a lot – their current record gets to come up to the podium to accept the prize on behalf of their entire catalog.

Video: LCD Soundsystem – “Pow Pow”
Video: LCD Soundsystem – “Drunk Girls”

Lucky Soul / A Coming Of Age (Ruffa Lane)

A little bit of cheering for the underdog here – these staunchly independent Brits remain criminally overlooked both at home and abroad – but I also maintain they’re also one of the most perfect pop bands operating today, expanding their ’50s influence of their debut to seamless incorporate all eras of song on their second outing. If it’s catchy, they do it and do it well.

MP3: Lucky Soul – “A Coming Of Age”
MP3: Lucky Soul – “Whoa Billy!”
Video: Lucky Soul – “Whoa Billy!”
Video: Lucky Soul – “White Russian Doll”

The National / High Violet (4AD)

There’s an unspoken agreement between The National and I – they keep putting out records and I keep ranking their efforts amongst the very best of the year. High Violet keeps this compact intact, not reaching the same heights as Boxer but aspiring to different ones, just as lofty. A band so at the top of their game, I feel lucky to be around to witness it.

MP3: The National – “Afraid Of Everyone”
MP3: The National – “Bloodbuzz Ohio”
Video: The National – “Terrible Love”
Video: The National – “Bloodbuzz Ohio”

Joanna Newsom / Have One On Me (Drag City)

Three hours of anything is usually enough to test my patience, but somehow this epic-length collection of harp and piano songs not only doesn’t feel that long, it makes me want to go right back to the start of side A when it’s over. Magical and immersive in a way that you can’t quite articulate, but can’t deny either. It can be hard to find the time to listen to it all in one go, but when I do I’m in my happy place.

Video: Joanna Newsom – “’81” (live on Jools Holland)

Olenka & The Autumn Lovers / And Now We Sing (Open House Arts Collective)

The one selection that I haven’t actually written up or even talked about before. Even though I’ve only been listening to it for about a week and a half, it demands constant listening and becomes more rewarding each time through, a trend I don’t expect to stop. It’s ostensibly a folk record but Olenka Krakus and company draw influences from everywhere and everywhen to make something new, yet so familiar.

MP3: Olenka & The Autumn Lovers – “Odessa”

The Radio Dept / Clinging To A Scheme (Labrador)

A record that after countless delays, most didn’t think would ever actually come out – it probably would have gotten consideration for the year-end list by sheer virtue of its existence. Clinging earns its accolades fairly, though, by being another inimitably Radio Dept collection of gleaming melodies and downer sentiment, recorded with an ’80s-vintage drum machine and wrapped in a warm cardigan sweater.

MP3: The Radio Dept – “Never Follow Suit”
MP3: The Radio Dept – “Heaven’s On Fire”
MP3: The Radio Dept – “David”

Stornoway / Beachcomber’s Windowsill (4AD)

Usually records that catch your ear immediately don’t find ways to keep surprising you, but the debut from this Oxford outfit is like fractal folk-pop, where the more you listen the more you discover. This record was on the bubble until I saw them live and discovered that as good as it is – and it’s great – it doesn’t capture nearly all the talent in this band.

MP3: Stornoway – “Fuel Up”
MP3: Stornoway – “On The Rocks”
MP3: Stornoway – “Zorbing”
Video: Stornoway – “Zorbing”
Video: Stornoway – “I Saw You Blink”

Titus Andronicus / The Monitor (XL Recordings)

I didn’t expect this year’s list to tilt so heavily towards the gentler side of things, but this gloriously loud Civil War tirade/allegory should more than balance things out. Unfeasibly ambitious, unrelentingly angry and catchy-as-hell, The Monitor makes me want to jump around and go out and smash stuff. In the very best way.

MP3: Titus Andronicus – “A More Perfect Union”
MP3: Titus Andronicus – “A More Perfect Union” (radio edit)
MP3: Titus Andronicus – “Four Score And Seven” (Part One)
MP3: Titus Andronicus – “Four Score And Seven” (Part Two)

Sharon Van Etten / Epic (Ba Da Bing)

Sharon Van Etten’s voice has always had an express lane into the most bruised parts of the heart, but the move from solo artist to bandleader has given her songs even more force such that their power will not be denied. Slight in terms of length but so gorgeous and heavy that if it were any longer, the world might well have cracked in half. Beauty made sound.

MP3: Sharon Van Etten – “Love More”
MP3: Sharon Van Etten – “Don’t Do It”

By : Frank Yang at 8:30 am
Category: Year-End List

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

RSS Feed for this post27 Responses.
  1. Reid says:

    So glad to see Lucky Soul on here. You’re right that they’re criminally overlooked. Maybe it’s just that this kind of indie pop just isn’t fashionable anymore? Whatever. I’ve loved it. “Up In Flames” is one of the best songs of the year.

  2. Joe says:

    Glad to see Stornoway on your list…they were excellent last night in DC.

    Have you heard the Lower Dens album?

  3. Frank Yang says:

    @Joe – I have been listening to the Lower Dens record and like it, but haven’t managed to wrap my head around it yet, at least as far as being able to write anything about it. it’ll come though

  4. Greg says:


    How close was Richard Hawley to cracking the top 10?

  5. Frank Yang says:

    @Greg – he’d have had a better chance if he released a record this year – “Truelove’s Gutter” came out in September 09. And being generally awesome year in year out only gets you so far.

  6. Greg says:

    Doh good point!! Boy does time fly

  7. Jen says:

    Olenka! I love that album so much.

  8. Bang Potential says:

    Thanks for the NOT boring list. I’m also glad to see Lucky Soul up there.

  9. boris says: thats a really uninspiring top 10.

  10. Mike says:

    Boris, what exactly is uninspired about Frank’s list?? Let’s see yours then.

  11. boris says:

    gee thanks for asking.
    my list- in no order and not really putting a lot of thought into it:
    Grinderman – grinderman 2
    manic street preachers – postcards from a young man
    jay bennett- kicking at perfumed air
    cordrazine – always coming down
    eddy current suppression ring – rush to relax
    violent soho – violent soho
    hoodoo gurus – purity of essence
    black keys -brothers
    no age- everything in between
    arcade fire – suburbs

    best reissues
    Earth – A Bureaucratic Desire for Extra Capsular Extraction
    Boris – Amplifier worship
    wilco -kicking television box set

    why is frank’s uninspired ? lack of diversity and just a severe lack of genuine quality albums.

  12. Mike says:

    In case you failed to notice all those albums are quite diverse from one another. I also disagree about the lack of quality. Thanks for the list though, but I think it is the height of douchebaggery to slam someone else’s just because it doesn’t conform to your own personal preference.

  13. Brawley says:

    I still don’t get LCD Soundsystem. I don’t know why.

  14. joe says:

    Boris, talk about diversity…there’s no electronic album on your list…Frank does.

  15. Boris says:

    Sorry for not listing any Electronic but didn’t realize all genres must be included . I thought it was a top 10 list of the year. No electronic albums were worthy of top 10 status for me.

    By your reasoning – where are the metal records on franks list? I list them.
    My list is extremely diverse with metal, grunge , Brit rock , oz rock , alt country listed just to name a few .

    My issue with diversity is also here’s a list of top 10 records that I’m sure a lot of sites and magazines would have similar – but why not be out there actively
    Trying to find different music than what the masses like?? Why not be importing vinyl or CDs in here as no store will carry them. Why not show diversity by listing a band maybe you and 2
    Other people have heard of in the city ? Why just list the same stuff as everyone else ??
    Music blogs and stores that really don’t seem to care about finding new albums / bands before they are told to like them by NME or pitchfork are uninspiring .

    So yeah I listed Arcade Fire which I am Sure a lot of people would. But who else has Cordrazine – orWho else has even heard of them.

    Top 10 lists should totally be your opinion- but just dont cave and list all the same Albums as other people

  16. stu says:

    yikes, it’s starting to smell a little douchy in here…

    personal taste people… personal taste. jesus.

  17. Mike says:

    Boris, if you read this blog regularly you would realize that Frank’s taste is far more dynamic than cherry picking the latest “It’ band from Pitchfork or NME. I can’t even count the number of local and international artists that he’s championed before anyone else has jumped on board. So you know what I find uninspiring? People that put forth an opinion without having a clue.

  18. Davis says:

    >>but why not be out there actively Trying to find different music than what the masses like?<<

    Read this blog much Boris? Clearly Frank's list lacks diversity for not having "grunge"on his list like you.

    Sure all lists are subjective, but how can you listen to Sharon Van Etten and Radio Dept records and claim that Frank's list has a lack of geniune quality albums?

  19. Bruce says:

    Loved the PS graphics – the negatives are cool, and the drying prints even better! Anyone would think they were done by a guy who’s spent time in a darkroom! (Good to see you included a shot of Brian Briggs and the Amazing Brick Shirt.)

    The list itself is also a fine one, and for the enlightenment of certain individuals, it’s your list; not claiming to be The List, an ultimate list, or anything other than a list of your own personal favourites. So pay no attention to that troll under the cyber bridge!

    As usual, I have (and love) a few of these, but will make an effort to explore some of the others that are less familiar.

  20. Katie-Betty says:

    Oh Frank,

    Of course you always manage to pull together artists/albums that resonated so deeply with me this year like Land Of Talk. Along with putting something iv yet to hear but loved immediately like Olenka & The Autumn Lovers!

    You never purported to select songs to fill some fabricated ‘diversity’ card (aka albums no one has heard of) but selected albums that resonated with you.

    Kudos on your bitchin list!

  21. Katie-Betty says:

    so deeply with me like this year’s Land of Talk* (its late)

  22. William says:

    I tried to love LCD Soundsystem, but I haven’t made it past distant like.

    The National, on the other hand, I have to agree with you on. High Violet is such a lovely record. I rank it higher than Boxer and Alligator, but just slightly.

    I’ll check out the other entries for which you have so conveniently supplied sound links.

  23. Another top ten, this time from the pen of Canadian super blogger, Frank Yang. says:

    […] Another top ten, this time from the pen of Canadian super blogger, Frank Yang. […]

  24. Matt Kelly says:

    “but why not be out there actively Trying to find different music than what the masses like??”

    I must have missed Lucky Soul’s sell out stadium tour, which is a shame as I would have really loved to have seen them. They’d currently struggle to sell out my front room but they’re brilliant.

  25. Quick Before it Melts » Blog Archive » The year in lists… so far says:

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