In alphabetical order…
1. Louis Armstrong – Hot Fives and Sevens (JSP, 1999)
Came back from New Orleans and the South wondering why I didn’t have more jazz, blues, country and early rock ‘n’ roll in my collection – of my subsequent forays into rootsy music, nothing got more plays than these late twenties recordings from Louis Armstrong. The joyous foundation stone for jazz, tracks like favourites ‘Potato Head Blues’, ‘West End Blues’ and ‘Basin Street Blues’ got played over and over and over.
2. Beach House – Devotion (Carpark, 2008)
I watched the first two Beach House albums go by, until this year’s Teen Dream turned me on to their melancholic sound. Then I went back to their previous record and found even more to enjoy. ‘Gila’ and ‘Heart of Chambers’ are my go-to tracks.
3. Alfred Brendel – Beethoven: Favourite Piano Sonatas (Phillips, 1994)
This year found me binging on piano music, while also reaching further out into Beethoven’s oeuvre – two trends that come together on this Phillips release. These exquisite renditions by Alfred Brendel of Ludwig van’s most famous solo piano music (along with Maurizio Pollini’s accounts of his late sonatas on the Deutsche Grammophon label), found themselves in regular rotation.
4. Emil & Elena Gilels; Karl Böhm: Vienna Philhamonic – Mozart: Piano Concerto No. 27 (Deutsche Grammophon, 1973)
I familiarised myself with Mozart’s late piano concertos via an excellent double disc by Vladimir Ashkenazy, but perhaps the biggest impression was made by this version of No. 27 by Emil Gilels, backed by Karl Böhm and the Vienna Philharmonic. The first peals of ivory in the opening movement (at around the three minute mark) are just perfection.
5. Glenn Gould – Bach: The Goldberg Variations (Sony, 1981)
More keyboard works. This was the year that I listened for the first time to the work of legendary Canadian pianist Glenn Gould, in particular both recordings (1955 and 1981) of Bach’s Goldberg Variations. I came to prefer the latter for its slowed, autumnal quality – a recording of infinite complexity and sublimity.
6. Jascha Heifetz; Fritz Reiner: Chicago Symphony Orchestra – Tchaikovsky/Brahms: Violin Concertos (RCA Victor, 1955/58)
I started collecting the vintage RCA recordings of conductor Fritz Reiner with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra this year and this was my favourite, mainly because these two all-time-classic violin concertos were both new to me. Behind the piano, in 2010 I craved violins, so this Jascha Heifetz workout hit all the right spots.
7. Carlos Kleiber: Vienna Philharmonic – Beethoven: Symphonies No. 5 and 7 (Deutsche Grammophon, 1976)
Carlos Kleiber was another conducting discovery for me this year. I bought all three of the major orchestral, non-opera releases from his minimal recorded output (I loved the Schubert and Brahms discs too), but this electric recording of Beethoven’s 5th and 7th symphonies both breathed new life into a lifelong favourite and introduced me to the majesty of the 7th, a symphonic ode to dance.
8. Ricky Nelson – Greatest Hits (EMI, 2005)
9. Roy Orbison – For the Lonely: 18 Greatest Hits (Rhino, 1988)
Ricky Nelson and Roy Orbison were my major discoveries from the canon of early rock ‘n’ roll. I already knew and loved their most famous songs, but this year spread out into their back catalogues, discovering ballads of heartbreak and teen melancholy that I couldn’t get enough of.
10. Washed Out – Life of Leisure EP (Mexican Summer, 2009)
This EP almost got included in my list of new releases for the year, on the basis that it only got released in the UK this year, but it felt like a cheat so it’s here instead. One of chillwave’s most immediately intoxicating releases, I wrote about it here.