Saturday, December 25, 2010

Top 10 albums of 2010

1 For a Minor Reflection – Höldum í átt að óreiðu

Hailing from Iceland it is inevitable that For a Minor Reflection will get compared to Sigur Rós. There are plenty of similarities – the beautiful quiet passages which build-up into a wonderful rush of melody and rhythm. Like a more melodic and approachable Mogwai, there are no vocals and this means that you get totally immersed in the music without any words to distract you.

The roaring and rumbling guitars are there, but often counterpointed by sparkling piano runs and strings to produce a remarkably mature and self-assured sound for a bunch of twenty-year-olds. The album opens on a far-off drone which gradually resolves itself into a whirling guitar riff and constantly crashing cymbals, fading back for a moment into a howl of feedback and then careering off back into all out guitar and cymbal overload. One of the best opening tracks I've heard for a long time.

They follow this up with the short, spare and surprisingly gentle Fjara with its beautiful piano base and cello over the top. Flóð then starts out deceptively quietly with some more piano and gentle guitar, later joined by the drums which drive it into more menacing terrain. It is like being caught in a violent storm on summers day.

Dansi Dans is whimsical and poppy in a very Icelandic leftfield way and it seems slightly out of place sandwiched between Flóð and the similarly powerful Andlega Veðurtepptir.

Tómarúm is another delicate piano interlude before we reach Sjáumst Í Virginíu which is the magnificent fourteen and half minute centrepiece of the album. Again it builds from a simple and sparse beginning into a flurry of guitars, drums and piano, before receding back again and then once more intensifying back towards the final crescendo. The music is constantly shifting, but gradually and imperceptibly: like watching the light fade on a landscape at the end of the day.

Next track Átta is what Sigur Rós would sound like if the were a punk band. A Moll returns to the earlier template of quiet start building to a raucous and glorious zenith. Finally he album closes with the almost pastoral Séð til Lands with what sounds like slide guitar over the squeaking of a cart wheel.

The only downside is that you'll probably be hearing all these songs on nature documentaries for the next few years, but at least you'll be able to tell everyone who the music is by, even if you can't tell them what any of the tracks are called.

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