Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Best albums of 2010: Just missed the top 10

Here we are again, almost the end of another year and time to rundown the best albums (in GoH's humble opinion) of 2010. But first! As a special bonus (and to heighten the already uncontrollable excitement) I thought it would be fun to start off today with some of the albums that just missed out on the top 10. Tomorrow we'll do my favourite albums that were actually released last year, but if I had heard them earlier would probably have made the 2009 list. And then once that's out of the way we can start on Thursday with number 10 on the list, counting down one a day after that to arrive at the number 1 album at precisely 2.55pm on Christmas Day. (Although the time zones will muck it all up, that is of course the time that Top of the Pops traditionally reveal their number 1 single of the year. Do they still do that? Does Top of the Pops still exist?)

So, anyway, in no particular order here are five albums that just missed out on the top 10 albums of 2010.

Malcolm Middleton – Long, Dark Night
Malcolm Middleton – Live in Zurich!
I have to admit these haven't actually arrived yet. I think Malcolm has been snowed in or too busy watching X Factor or something to send them. Anyway, thanks to the wonders of modern technology I have listened to them both on his bandcamp page and can confidently guarantee that this will be the best full-band and solo live album package released in 2010 by any 36-year-old Scottish bloke who used to be half of a critically acclaimed but under appreciated indie duo. Or as it says on the cover of Long, Dark Night, 'Scotland's second favourite arch-miserablist.'

If that intrigues you click one of the links above and have a listen. If you are quick and order your own copy before the 25th you might even get a Christmas card from the great man himself.

Venice is Sinking – Sand and Lines
Recorded live to two microphones over five days this sounds like a band out of time, some sort of AM transmission lost in the ether from anytime over the last forty years. There is a laid-back, deep-south feel that sounds like a stately afternoon wedding reception; full of faded glamour with a wistful longing for glory days long gone. In short it is beautiful and wonderfully affecting set of songs that transport you to a different place and era, and one which you may not want to leave.

The Morning Benders – Big Echo
In the tradition of hazy west-coast American surfer pop – full of sunny hooks, big choruses and a loping easy-going rhythm backbone. It's one of those joyous albums that you put on and immediately feel better about the world. There are some downbeat and melancholy tracks lurking towards the end, but they are lovely as well and provide to balance and anchor that stop it from floating away over the sea depicted in the sunny beach scene on the cover.

Manic Street Preachers – Postcards from a Young Man
An Everything Must Go to Journal for a Plague Lover's Holy Bible? It isn't surprising that everyone has made the comparison, but it isn't quite that simple. Everything Must Go had a desperate, cathartic, need to find an escape from the gravitational pull of Richey. Postcards from a Young Man is far more at ease with their history and, although this means that it doesn't have the dizzying highs of Everything Must Go, it does sound like a band having a lot of fun, oozing confidence and happy to be still writing and playing these songs. The politics and social commentary is all present and correct, but I have always found their moody Welsh Manics versus the world works so much better when it is combined with a belting chorus and soaring string section ...

Frightened Rabbit – Winter of Mixed Drinks
It is definitely a step forwards from Midnight Organ Fight – the tendency to schoolboy, yucky lyrics are toned down, the music is more sophisticated and there is a lot more happening in these songs. There are plenty of moments of pure beauty and joy, but mostly the tempo has dropped a notch and their new-found maturity has definitely meant the loss of some of their charm. When I do put it on, I remember how good it is, but not having standout tracks like a Fast Blood or a Heads Roll Off it probably doesn't get as many plays as it should. I am not doing a very good job of selling it, but have a listen to Nothing Like You, Living in Colour or the heart-wrenching Yes, I Would if you need convincing.

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