Thursday, 16 December 2010

Albums of the Year #20 - #11

20) Janelle Monaé – The ArchAndroid

It's not surprising that Janelle Monaé has cleared up critically this year. Bending genres when not disregarding them completely, she's created a fresh sounding album wrapped up in a fantastic concept. It's not perfect by any means but it's faults come from reaching very very high. Soulful vocals meeting funky beats and epic guitar parts, it still leaves room for perfectly placed guest spots from artists as diverse as Big Boi and of Montreal.

19) Sky Larkin – Kaleide

I've said before that I've not connected as much with Kaleide as I'd hoped, considering my love for last year's The Golden Spike. Nonetheless there's moments of pure pop perfection ('ATM', 'Year Dot') and a showcase for how far the Leeds three-piece has come as a band and individual musicians. I'm not alone in thinking that Kaleide could be a bit of a sleeper for the band, ensuring them a cult status in years to come. When they build from here they'll be unstoppable.

18) Foals - Total Life Forever

The surprise of the year for those of us who couldn't stand their debut was 'Spanish Sahara' landing. Spectacularly it wasn't a one off and Total Life Forever cemented itself a place in our hearts. Emotive, considered and with depth, songs such as 'This Orient' and 'Alabaster' were everything that 'Cassius' wasn't. Even re-visiting their older jittery template paid dividends second time around with shimmering single 'Miami'.

17) Manic Street Preachers - Postcards From A Young Man

There's always going to be a place for the Manics in my CD library. Gobshite/bassist Nicky Wire described this as their “last shot at mass communication” and it's easy to see where he's coming from. The Holy Bible fans didn't take to the gloss, string sections or gospel choirs in the way they did to Richey Edwards lyrics on Journal For Plague Lovers but the Manics at their stadium humping best are really hard to beat. '(It's Not War)', 'A Billion Balconies' and 'Auto-Intoxication' ensured that Postcards From A Young Man was a winner in my book

16) We Are Scientists – Barbara

Although we sorta spotted it at the time, it's become clearer since that Brain Thrust Mastery was a bit of a mis-step for WAS. So with album number three (or four, if we're being pedantic) they went back to the formula that won them fans initially. The indie disco hits came thick and fast on Barbara – 'Rules Don't Stop', 'Jack & Ginger', 'Nice Guys' etc etc. With Andy “used to be in Razorlight” Burrows on drums they finally became the shit-hot live act that rocked KPLs uni days once again.

15) Laura Marling - I Speak Because I Can

It's all been said about Laura Marling already, hasn't it. Amazing voice, amazing talent, really young, Mercury nominated, you've heard it all before. Hopefully you should have heard the album as well by now. Through headphones the musical swells really astound and the lyrics always strike home

14) Mystery Jets – Serotonin / Vampire Weekend - Contra
The 2010 KPL Joint Spot. It's my list and I can cheat if I want. Serotonin and Contra are fantastic pop records that always hit their marks. Vampire Weekend proved that they were much more than one-album-wonders with a collection of songs that was as good as their debut. Mystery Jets meanwhile released by far their best LP yet and backed it up with some great shows. The gloss present on both may have been offputting for some, but it's a bit different at KPL, where smarts and hooks goes a long way.

13) Frightened Rabbit - The Winter of Mixed Drinks

Bringing the emotional intensity this year was Frightened Rabbit who really broke out of the indie ghetto with their third album. Gripping lyrics concerning death, illness, drink and drowning always managed to give way to a faint glimmer of hope and a string of strong singles guarantees that Frightened Rabbit are only going to get bigger and bigger from here. I'll drink to that.

12) Blood Red Shoes - Fire Like This

The all out ROCK album of the year. Blood Red Shoes kept the British end up when it comes to two piece guitar-and-drums outfits. The quiet-LOUD-quiet-VERYLOUD thing may have been done to death by lesser bands but BRS keep the Pixies dream alive. Boy-Girl vocals and the ever present sexual tension between the two made Fire Like This a winner that I returned to throughout the year.

11) Paul Smith - Margins

A solo album from the Maxïmo Park man was seen as highly unnecessary by some but with a record of subtle intimate tracks Paul Smith put a very good argument up. From the barely-there-ness of 'Improvement/Denouement' and the gently plucking of 'While You're In The Bath' to the more cinematic 'North Atlantic Drift' and 'Our Lady Of Lourdes' Paul found the perfect showcase for his voice. Definitely a good back-up plan if the day job doesn't work out.

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