Sunday, December 19, 2010

Top 10 albums of 2010

8 Efterklang – Magic Chairs
I have always had a soft spot for Scandinavian pop and rock. I believe it can be traced back to Abba's The Album in 1977, but over the years it has encompassed a variety of bands, styles and genres (almost everything apart from Norwegian death metal). Most recently it has been The Concretes, Hello Saferide, Sambassadeur, Casiokids, Slaraffenland, The Shout out Louds and now Efterklang. And that's without even counting all the Icelandic nut jobs.

Efterklang are Danish, but seem to sing mostly in English, and they make a wonderfully bizarre mix of post-rock, electronica and chamber pop (not sure if that is a real genre or possibly I just made it up). There are trumpets, strings, gentle ebbs and flows, and moments of whimsy, drama and urgency. A bit serious at times, but never overthought or emotionless. It is hard to find any other band to compare them to and I guess that is a major part of their charm. For Magic Chairs, their third album, they signed to 4AD which is probably the most helpful piece of information I can give to explain what they sound like.

The album starts with Modern Drift – rolling piano high notes, a bit of cello, the drums kick and then fade out. This repeats for a couple of times before everything locks into a lolloping groove, powered along by strings and a chugging trumpet. Alike is more restrained, but with a joyous refrain of 'and it made us feel alike,' which I always mis-hear as 'and it made us feel alive' and some wonderfully improbable wooo-oo-hoos. It's probably my favourite track on the album.

I was Playing Drums runs on a stuttering, sliding bass riff that underpins an eerie story about machines, monsters and faded polaroids. Then sliding into Raincoats and onwards through another seven tracks to end up with the easy going The Dream in Which I Flee it is an album of lush, stately, fascinating music that keeps revealing its treasures and surprises over many listens.

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