From Tuesday November 30 to Friday December 3, we’ll be counting down our 40 favourite albums released this year.
We’ll be listing them in groups of ten, so today it’s entries 40 to 31, on Wednesday it’s 30-21, Thursday 20-11, and finally 10-1 on Friday.
Next week, we’ll be ranking our 100 favourite tracks of the year, and we’ll end the year on a list of our favourite reissues. If you’re still yet to read our rundowns of the best record labels, breakthrough artists and soundtracks of the year, then they’re collected in the bottom left of the FACT homepage, along with the rest of our end of 2010 features so far.
40: ARIEL PINK’S HAUNTED GRAFFITI
‘Round and Round’
Few artists’ legacies loomed larger over 2010 than Ariel Pink’s. A huge inspiration on the hypnagogic pop/chillwave wave of US indie artists, this year Pink, along with his band Haunted Graffiti, signed to 4AD, recording their first ever album with a proper studio set-up. The results were inconsistent, but as ever, when Ariel gets it right there are few pop songwriters close to his level.
39: MOUNT KIMBIE
CROOKS & LOVERS
Mount Kimbie’s relationship to dubstep was, from the off, a tangential one; their music, though often attuned to the needs of the dancefloor, rarely prioritises them. The duo’s considered, painterly approach to music was always going to suit the wide canvas of the album format, but on Crooks & Lovers we would have liked to have seen fewer wispy watercolours and more of the lively oils that characterised their unassailable debut EP, Maybes. Still, when it’s good, this record is very good: a kind of garage-swung, R&B-sugared update of early noughties Kompakt.
38: DYLAN ETTINGER
NEW AGE OUTLAWS: THE DIRECTOR’S CUT
(NOT NOT FUN)
The American underground spewed out an unbelievably high volume of lo-fi synthesizer records this year, most of them the worst kind of charlatan dross – especially when compared to Dylan Ettinger’s elegantly wrought New Age Outlaws. Originally released on cassette last year, this year’s “Director’s Cut” on vinyl and digital saw its maker return to his master tapes, adding new parts and altering the final track sequence. What makes Ettinger’s spaced-out analogue friezes so compelling is their jazz inflections, with Hassell-esque horns and sitar-like sounds adrift amid oscillating synth sequences in the tradition of Vangelis, Tangerine Dream et al. Hallucinatory and emotionally affecting, we won’t be surprised if the appeal of this LP outlasts that of more widely acclaimed offerings from Emeralds and Oneohtrix Point Never.
37: DJ RASHAD
JUST A TASTE VOL. 1
2010 was the year that juke and footwork broke the (relative) mainstream, mostly due to efforts from the UK’s Planet Mu. Back in Chicago, hometown label Ghettophiles released a steady supply of singles, and will close the year on a pair of albums from scene staple DJ Rashad. Just a Taste, due out on December 14, is our pick, sporting Rashad takes on Bobby Caldwell, Gil Scott-Heron and more with those ultra-padded basslines that you feel before you hear.
36: FRANK (JUST FRANK)
THE BRUTAL WAVE
One of the year’s most unexpected and durable delights, The Brutal Wave is the debut album by Parisian duo Frank (Just Frank), released on Peter Schoolwerth’s Wierd. Though crucially steeped in the aesthetic influence of both cold wave and black metal, F(JF)’s own music is richly romantic post-punk pop, sung in both English and French and based around song-structures and galloping guitar parts that consciously reference – among other things – The Cure circa Seventeen Seconds and Pornography. But there’s more than mere pastiche going on here: on songs such as ‘Mr Itagaki’ this band hit as hard, if not harder, than their heroes ever did.
35: THESE NEW PURITANS
Ambition appears to be all but dead in British “indie”, so These New Puritans’ Hidden instantly piqued our interest. Working primarily – and improbably – with dancehall-inspired rhythms and, er, woozy colliery brass, this was the sound of a young band trying, shock horror, to make something original, and going about it with a commendable air of seriousness and self-importance. Frightfully earnest – and beautiful – instrumental opener ‘Time Xone’ sets the scene, and the sheer baroque gumption of ‘Orion’ is astonishing, but elsewhere the dense, fussy arrangements can mask a paucity of real songcraft, while the overall production sheen too often softens the hard edges that are, for us, the source of the record’s appeal.
One of the year’s first “big” albums, Odd Blood saw Brooklyn’s Yeasayer in gracefully psychedelic form, shot in higher definition than ever before. Some, such as FACT reviewer Joe Muggs couldn’t stomach the album’s glossy finish, but for us few records soundtracked the beginning of the year with the same combination of power and poise.
33: URBAN TRIBE
URBAN TRIBE [AKA PROGRAM 1-12]
Returning with their first collective album release since 1998′s Mo’Wax classic The Collapse Of Modern Culture, Sherard Ingram’s Urban Tribe – featuring Carl Craig, Kenny Dixon, Jr. and Anthony Shakir – effortlessly affirmed their superhero status with a set of gritty, laconic beatdown futurism. Special mention goes to ‘Program 7′ and ‘Program 1′, two tracks that formed a kind of unwitting diagonal between Detroit house and UK funky, grime and dubstep.
A milky dream of hip-hop, Boards of Canada-style electronica, ambient and indie, Will Wiesenfeld’s debut album as Baths was far from a perfect record, but in its imperfections lay its strength. This is an album where self-consciousness doesn’t exist; Baths frequently giving everything, good and bad, to his listeners.
A new album from this consummate Berlin producer was always going to rank among the best released this year; the real question would be how it compared to his remarkable 2008 debut, Shedding The Past. While even more impeccably sculpted, it must be said that The Traveller lacks – perhaps inevitably – some of the outsider passion and impertinence of its predecessor (Shed’s reappropriation of the breakbeat, for instance, now feels like a familiar part of his sonic signature rather than a radical gesture). But as suggested by the title, our man isn’t interested in analysing his music, and never has been, he just gets on with making it. And, when all’s said and done, who else on earth can build a beat as itchily compelling as ‘Keep Time’?