In descending order of preference…
10. Rangers – Suburban Shore (Olde English Spelling Bee)
I only wish I’d known about this Spelling Bee release prior to the time I spent driving around LA and Malibu on the Pacific Coast Highway this year: this sludgy, enervated dream pop would have been the perfect soundtrack for nocturnal drives in the Hollywood Hills. The first of several fuzzed-out, 80s-fetishising chillwave releases to make the grade this year…
9. Deerhunter – Halcyon Digest (4AD)
Not quite up to the standard of Microcastle for me, but one more solid album from Bradford Cox. Another nostalgia-drenched record – not really chillwave, but growing up in the same neighbourhood.
8. The Books – The Way Out (Temporary Residence Limited)
The use of wacky cut-up voice samples seemed a wee bit dated and out of step in this fourth album by New York found-sound collage masters The Books, even a bit reminiscent of Lemonjelly. But this was still perhaps the duo’s most cohesive record to date, and often utterly hypnotic in its reappropriation of mantras from New Age self-help tapes – never more so than in the blissful ‘Chain of Missing Links‘. In other words, another great Books record.
7. Flying Lotus – Cosmogramma (Warp)
A spaced-out, skronking, free-jazz-inspired trip to the outer limits from California’s Flying Lotus, for me a big step up from his debut Los Angeles. This is forward-thinking stuff, even as it self-consciously recalls the classic LPs of Warp’s glory days.
6. Toro y Moi – Causers of This (Carpark Records)
A key chillwave release, this minor classic of fuzzed-out bedroom pop from South Carolina’s Chazwick Bundick just kept growing on me, as one song after another revealed itself through the production’s sweet haze.
5. Joanna Newsom – Have One on Me (Drag City)
Unwieldy but brilliant, this triple album from folk’s brightest star took some getting into – a process that’s still going on. But even if it didn’t have quite the impact for me that her masterpiece Ys did, I enjoyed the less-mannered, warmer-sounding direction that Newsom takes here. And ‘Good Intentions Paving Company’ was undoubtedly one of best song songs of the year.
4. Autre Ne Veut – Autre Ne Veut (Olde English Spelling Bee)
An artily bizarre refashioning of 80s cheese pop, I’ve returned to this addictive album countless times to try and work out whether it’s as weird as I think it is, or whether in fact I’m just embracing a straightforwardly cheesy R&B throwback album. But line up ‘Soldier’ or the just plain creepy ‘Wake Up’ and there can be little doubt that there’s something strange going on here, and while ‘Demoneyz’ is wedding-party naff, it’s also indefinably off-kilter.
3. Beach House – Teen Dream (Sub Pop)
Irresistibly dreamy pop from Beach House, naggingly middle-of-the-road and yet intoxicating. I wrote something more about it here.
2. Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti – Before Today (4AD)
‘Round and Round’ (admittedly the most direct song on here) was by far my most played track of 2010, and I’ll admit that overkill has set in now. Instead I now can’t stop playing ‘Fright Night’. That’s the joy of Ariel Pink’s bizarro tribute to MOR 80s radio rock, each and every song slowly reveals itself to be as catchy as the next.
1. Caribou – Swim (Merge)
The first thing I bought after coming back from the States, and therefore the first new music I’d heard (other than streamed online) in eight months, Caribou’s incredible Swim endured as my favourite record for the remainder of the year. I wrote something about it here.
Near misses: Forest Swords – Dagger Paths (Olde English Spelling Bee); Jaga Jazzist – One-Armed Bandit (Ninja Tune); Mount Kimbie – Crooks and Lovers (Hotflush); Pantha du Prince – Black Noise (Rough Trade)
Favourite classical release: Harmonia Ensemble New York – Gershwin by Grofé: Original Orchestrations & Arrangements (Harmonia Mundi)
Great mixes: Ewan Pearson – We Are Proud of Our Choices (Kompakt); Michael Mayer – Immer 3 (Kompakt); Shackleton – Fabric 55 (Fabric)
Killer compilations: Classic Appalachian Blues (Smithsonian Folkways); Deutsche Elektronische Musik: Experimental German Rock And Electronic Musik 1972-83 (Soul Jazz); Nigeria Special Volume 2: Modern Highlife, Afro-sounds and Nigerian Blues 1970-6 (Soundway); The Sound of Siam : Leftfield Luk Thung, Jazz And Molam From Thailand 1964 – 1975 (Soundway)
And what iTunes reliably informs me are my year’s most played songs:
1. Round and Round – Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti
2. Used to Be – Beach House
3. Fright Night (Nevermore) – Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti
4. Kaili – Caribou
5. Leave House – Caribou
6. Good Intentions Paving Company – Joanna Newsom
7. Zebra – Beach House
8. L’estat (acc. to the widow’s maid) – Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti
9. Menopause Man – Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti
10. Demoneyez – Autre Ne Veut
11. Lover of Mine – Beach House
12. Better Times – Beach House
13. Bright Lit Blue Skies – Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti
14. Loveline – Autre Ne Veut
15. Silver Soul – Beach House
16. Real Love – Beach House
17. Odessa – Caribou
18. In California – Joanna Newsom
19. Minors – Toro Y Moi
20. Imprint After – Toro Y Moi
21. Beverly Kills – Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti
22. Reminiscences – Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti
23. Drama Cum Drama – Autre Ne Veut
24. Walk in the Park – Beach House
25. Found Out – Caribou