Review Of 2010 – Songs, Gigs, Gubbins

So here we are then. The last part of my review of the year. Hope you enjoy. (Parts One and Two are here, and over there)

Songs of the year

Avi Buffalo – Truth Sets In

On first hearing, I thought this song was pretty good. On second, third, fourth, all the way up to the hundredth, I thought this song was the best I heard all year. I adore it. The lines “Witchcraft seems to unload and say\That you don’t love me anymore” are just wonderful. Truly, if you don’t like this, you don’t like music.

MP3: Truth Sets In by Avi Buffalo

Buy “Avi Buffalo”

Bright Spark Destroyer – They Already Know

A song of the year from an unsigned band? Off their first EP? How come? Because it’s great, that’s why. The moment, about 2 minutes in when singer James Ellis suddenly sings an impassioned “And if you say you love me”1, tears my heart open each time I hear it. If it doesn’t do that to your heart too, then truly it is made of stone.

MP3: They Already Know by Bright Spark Destroyer

Buy their stuff here.

The Morning Benders – Excuses

Borne aloft on a wave of hype, I expected big things of this record. The album didn’t quite reach those expectations, but this song did. Even more lovely in its acoustic form, here:

MP3: Excuses by The Morning Benders

Buy “Big Echo” (CD)

Local Natives – Wide Eyes

Borne aloft on a wave of hype, I expected big things of this record. The album didn’t quite reach those expectations, but this song did. What? Oh. “Airplanes” is damn good too, in case you’re interested.

MP3: Wide Eyes by Local Natives

Buy “Gorilla Manor” (CD/MP3)

Paul Thomas Saunders – The Death Of A Sports Personality

Haunting and quiet. I want to hear lots more from this chap. How he’s not got himself signed to Big Evil Record Company is beyond me.

MP3: The Death of a Sports Personality by Paul Thomas Saunders

Check out more of his stuff here.

The Songs Off The Disappointing Albums That Made You Remember Why You Loved The Band To Start Off With

Broken Social Scene – All To All

There’s always one truly great song on every BSS album (think “7/4 (Shoreline)”, “Churches…”). “All To All” is this year’s incarnation. Lisa Lobsinger comes of age.

MP3: All to All by Broken Social Scene

Buy “Forgiveness Rock Record” (CD/MP3)

Band Of Horses – Older

Saw them perform this live back in 2008, and hearing it again wonderful surprise. Hokey, sure, but marvellous. If only the rest of Infinite Arms had been so good.

MP3: Yeah, right, do I look that stupid?

Song of last year that I didn’t hear till this year (1)

Neko Case – People Got A Lotta Nerve

Great enough, and then the ascending vocals on the middle eight propel this song into whole new worlds of brilliance. So it came out last January. That’s January 2009. So?

MP3: People Got A Lotta Nerve by Neko Case

Buy “Middle Cyclone” (CD/MP3)

Song of last year that I didn’t hear till this year (2)

James Blackshaw – Cross

Astonishing. That’s the only word I can use for this song. Watch the video below of him playing this live, in a dusty park in Spain (possibly), and wonder how much time he’s spent learning to play this well.

Cross by James Blackshaw

Buy “The Glass Bead Game” (CD/MP3) (And you should)

Song Title Of The Year

Swans – You Fucking People Make Me Sick

Brilliant. The song’s not half bad either.

Gigs of the year, in reverse order

3. Russian Circles at Underworld, Camden

Small, packed out club – check. Devoted, slightly mental fanbase – check. Astonishing post-rock, post-metal music from just three blokes, who seem to have channelled the sound of the coming apocalypse to greater effect than anyone before, even Godspeed You! Black Emperor.

2. Swans/James Blackshaw at Koko, Mornington Crescent

Ow, my ears. And please stop staring at me like that. Preceded by oh blimey, how is he doing that? And can you all please shut up and listen?

1. Tortoise at Koko, Mornington Crescent

My word, I wish I’d been to see this lot in the past. I had a stupid grin all through the set, and still having it now typing it. The sound that aliens would make if you played them jazz.

Honourable mentions: Mastodon, Iron and Wine, Jason Lytle, The Xx, The Besnard Lakes, Joanna Newsom. I’ve been to a lot of great gigs.

Albums from 2010 That I Haven’t Really Listened To Yet And Might Be Good

The Walkmen – Lisbon
Shearwater – The Golden Archipelago

Considering I’ve loved albums by these two bands in the past, I really should listen to their new ones, shouldn’t I?

John Grant – Queen Of Denmark

Only given this one listen and am slightly intrigued, but having Midlake in full-on Minor Key Flutey Doomy Bollocks Mode has put me off a bit so far.

Which brings me to:

Albums From 2010 That I Was All Disappointed With, You Know (Redux)

Oh, Midlake, how could you?

And that’s it. If you’re lucky/unlucky, I’ll post something after the food and drink extravaganza that is Xmas in L&L&Family Towers. Hope you all have a great one, and don’t forget – a turkey isn’t just for Christmas, it’s for Boxing Day too, so stop stuffing yourself, eh?

1 Yep, I know that the first two songs are about broken love and all that, but aren’t the best songs?

Review Of 2010 – Albums, Two

So, following on from yesterday’s first part, featuring all the records I was disappointed or just a bit meh-d with, here’s my list of ones I liked. Like I said yesterday, no absolute favourites, but some of the songs on these albums will live with me until my brain finally dissolves through alcohol abuse and Alzheimers.

(Part three is here)

The Best Album Of The Year By A Band Half My Age Making Music For People Half My Age


Avi Buffalo
Beach House


Avi Buffalo – s/t

Now this one came as a surprise. On the first couple of listens, Avi Buffalo seemed to be one of those records that had a couple of good songs and one absolutely great one (“Truth Sets In”). The rest was, frankly, a bit annoying, from the stupid song titles to Avigdor Zahner-Isenberg’s annoying yelp. But with more time, the record slowly unravelled to show itself as being a work of a rare talent. A great example being “Remember Last Time”, a seven minute long track that feels far too short, growing and swelling and suddenly shrinking again, before one final, two minute long cascade of guitar solos and general wigging out. It’s clear to me that Avi is a brilliant guitarist with a huge talent; if he can produce a more focussed record next time, and gives his bandmates more time on the mic, he could produce something very special indeed.

MP3: What’s It In For by Avi Buffalo

Buy “Avi Buffalo” (CD)

The Best Album By Kerazy Kanadians

The Besnard Lakes – Are The Roaring Night

2010 the year of The Return Of Half-Decent Shoegaze, and this record was more than half-decent. I wasn’t expecting great things after “…Are The Dark Horse”, but my word, did this lot deliver. “Albatross” demands to be played loud, loud, loud, and the rest of the album follows suit. Superb stuff.

MP3: Albatross by The Besnard Lakes

Buy “The Besnard Lakes Are the Roaring Night” (CD/MP3)

The Best Albums by Previously Unknown Bands

Bullets in Madison – We Became Your Family When You Died

Came across this lot whilst just browsing some good music blogs. Lovely, and a brilliant example of how you can find music in the most random of ways. The way “Animals” slowly coalesces into lovely, glorious dream-pop is still wonderful, nearly a year after I first heard it.

MP3: Animals by Bullets In Madison

Buy “We Became Your Family When You Died” here.

The Best EP by a Previously Unknown Band

Bright Spark Destroyer – Holy Yell EP

Previously Unknown, because this is their debut. And what a debut. Thrilling, evocative, exciting, with just the right amount of that The Bends-era Radiohead stadium bombast to make them a dangerously promising tip for the future. If they aren’t on everyone’s 2011 end of year lists, I’ll eat my hat1.

MP3: A Feeling of Health by Bright Spark Destroyer

Buy “Holy Yell” EP here.

The Best Scandinavian Album (combined with the Nice Dinner Party Album award)


The Tallest Man On Earth
The Radio Dept
The Kissaway Trail


The Radio Dept – Clinging To A Scheme

Lovely. This year’s Bibio. Saying that a record is great to have when you’re doing the washing up is a major compliment, by the way.

MP3: Heaven’s On Fire by The Radio Dept

Buy “Clinging to a Scheme” here (CD/MP3)

The Best Indie-Pop Album Unfairly Maligned By The Meedja

Freelance Whales – Weathervanes

Soundtrack to the first few months of the year, I was convinced this lot were going to hit the big time, Arcade Fire style. But no. Some harsh reviews, some intimations of lack of imagination, and their fate, if not quite sealed, was made far harder. Shame, as this really is a charming and beguiling record that deserved a far, far larger audience.

MP3: Hannah by Freelance Whales

Buy “Weathervanes” Here

The Best Female Singer-Songwriter With An Obsession With The Natural World

Laura Veirs – July Flame

Just had to be, didn’t it? This one nearly slipped me by and I’m glad it didn’t. Perfect at gazing out of a window at drizzle whilst a roaring fire roars away in the background, as your loved one roasts a chicken.

MP3: I Can See Your Tracks by Laura Veirs

Buy “July Flame” (CD/MP3) Here

Albums From 2009 That I Identified In Last Years End Of Year Review As Might Be Good And Were

Twilight Sad – Forget The Night Ahead

Ok, so it’s only half a good album. But its heights – “I Became A Prostitute”, “Interrupted” and “Reflection of the Television” are as good as anything on their debut. Well, almost.

MP3: I Became a Prostitute by The Twilight Sad

Buy “Forget The Night Ahead” (CD/MP3)

Yo La Tengo – Popular Songs

Identified last year as something I’d listen to this year, and nice to see I was right. Great album, this, and it’s got me to search back into their catalogue and find all those gems that have passed me by. And thanks to all the readers with suggestions of which albums I should try next!

MP3: Avalon Or Someone Very Similar by Yo La Tengo

Buy “Popular Songs” (CD/MP3)

The Yo La Tengo Award For A Band I’d Previously Discounted As Twee Nonsense Before Realising Belatedly That They Were, Like, Great

Belle And Sebastian – Write About Love

Just had to be, didn’t it? The first thaw in the huge icy wall around my heart came with Stuart Murdoch’s “Another Saturday” on 2009’s Dark Is The Night compilation. Realising that a man that could write something of such gentle, enormous beauty must be quite the talented sort, I gave Write About Love a go. Doesn’t quite reach the heights of “Another Saturday”, but now I’ve melted that iceberg of disdain I’m going to enjoy running through their back catalogue.

MP3: I Want The World To Stop by Belle And Sebastian

Buy “Write About Love” (CD/MP3)

That’s it for this post. Join me tomorrow for songs, gigs, and other gubbins.

1 Hat may be made of cake.