Top 10 Tracks of 2010 (not from my albums of 2010)

One last little list, and then I’m out. Because these are all great pieces of music from great records, and you should listen to them.

2nd 5th Heavy – Luke Abbott – Holkham Drones
A little repetitive bleepy thing, I find this to exist in the lovely hinterland between mesmerizing and pretty, which is one of my favourite places for music to live. It’s the opening track on Luke Abbott’s debut album, which, if you’re into that kind of thing, is on the Border Community label, where lots of other music a little bit like this – the noise of computers happily connecting to each other, and occasionally melting – exists. The rest of Holkham Drones is a little more groovy, a little more direct, a little less like Zuckerzeit-era Cluster, and a little more punchy.

Ready To Start – Arcade Fire – The Suburbs
I’ve grown less and less fond of what one might call ‘rock’ music as I’ve got older, but occasionally a beat and a chugging guitar can still capture me. This has, for certain. The guitars float above a railway line, sometimes chiming like a spooky doorbell, and Arcade Fire, so often guilty of shouting at you, instead choose to woo you by singing and, just a little bit, exhorting you to action rather than bellowing at you. And the drumbeat! It makes your bottom wiggle and your feet tap.

Colouring of Pigeons – The Knife – Tomorrow, In A Year
Tomorrow, In A Year is a collaborative affair that purports to be an opera about the life and work of Charles Darwin. I can’t say I can tell. It has been performed live, in full, like an opera. This particular song is one of the more normal moments on the album, almost shorn as it is of cackling ululations and experimental techno sonics, and instead embellished with weirdy electropop echoes. However, it is still 10+ minutes long, operatic, experimental, strange, and awesome. Their best ever drum sound. Long may it continue.

Girl I Love You – Massive Attack – Heligoland
A deep, heavy bassline, deadening drums, and Horace Andy’s tremulous, spooky vocals lead up to a maelstrom of guitars and brass, echoing the heaviosity of Massive Attack’s mid-90s peak. Many have tried, but few have managed to sound quite like this – ominous, magisterial, cavernous.

Cry, Cry, Baby – Nina Nastasia – Outlaster
Far more reserved is Nina Nastasia, an alternative American country-chanteuse with a guitarful of heartache and an aching string-section. This is gorgeous, swooning, and slowly dramatic. And if those enormous drums sound familiar it’s because they’re recorded by Steve Albini, legendary grunge producer who made Nirvana sound so ineffable. The juxtaposition is odd, but works.

Life Prowler – No Age – Everything In Between
No Age are a weird little noisy concern, a two-piece comprising just a guitarist and a drummer who epitomize the idea of making music with your best friend in a garage. Their second album starts with this kooky slice of repetitive, swirling psychedelia, part My Bloody Valentine, part annoying teenagers next door learning to play drums.

Happy For You – Polar Bear – Peepers
Time now for some jazz, of the modern British variety. Polar Bear were one of the Mercury Prize’s token jazz nominees a few years ago, and their tuneful, playful, team-working instrumentalism is thrilling and beautiful in equal measure. There’s no room here for honking experimentalism, but at the same time this is a million miles away from the easy-listening grandma-jazz of Jamie Cullum. Listen, there are even some guitars!

White Sky – Vampire Weekend – Contra
Vampire Weekend are privileged Manhattanites who have inherited their parents’ Paul Simon records and a disgusting amount of talent too. This is swooning, sophisticated pop – catchy, accelerant, and youthful. I have a tendency to yelp along with the wordless chorus whilst cycling; I suspect you will too.

Undertow – Warpaint – The Fool
Who doesn’t like girls with guitars? Especially when they groove and harmonise as insouciantly as this? There’s a hint of (very) early Verve, The Stone Roses at their baggiest, the sadly-departed Electrelane, Suzanne Vega (a snatch of melody), Nirvana (another tiny melodic theft), and maybe the shimmer of the Cocteau Twins, too, in this gorgeous, and surprisingly powerful tune.

Fire-Power – These New Puritans – Hidden
The album this is from, of course, would be in my top 10 LPs of the year had I got it together in time. Oh well. Nonetheless, this is bonkers, clattering, angry, fiercely intelligent and borderline apoplectic too. Dizzying drums, electronic buzzing, nonsensical vocals and an undertow of streaming, subversive guitars are slowly subsumed into an enormous, ponderous brass band cavalcade. These New Puritans have just been awarded NME’s coveted ‘album of the year’ award, which for the last few years was enough to out me off listening to something, but seems now to mark out interesting, challenging, rewarding records. At least this year.


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