I didn’t listen to enough albums to make a "Top 10 Albums of 2010" list, but I did listen to lots of new music, so instead I’m making a list of my 10 favourite bands or labels or musical things that I found out about this year. These are things that I’ve really enjoyed, and hopefully you might not have known about and will enjoy too. So, in no particular order:
H. Hawkline kind of came out of nowhere for me. One minute I’m listening to some brilliantly spooky weird folk songs on Huw Evans’ (H. Hawkline’s) MySpace to write a blurb for the Swn Festival programme, the next I’m watching Huw plus 2 friends play some brilliant psych surf pop in Cardiff Arts Institute almost ending the show in a scuffle with an audience member, and then in barely no time I’m listening to a beautiful full-length album (released through the wonderful Shape Records, who also released Islet, who would have been on this list had I not seen them live in 2009) of weird instrumental folk meets driving psychedelic krautrock. He’s just finished touring the UK with Gruff Rhys, and apparently might be doing some more recording soon. Seriously good.
H. Hawkline - Gelly
Art Is Hard Records
Only a recent discovery, Plymouth-based independent label Arts Is Hard, but certainly a significant one, especially for me as Plymouth is my home town. There isn’t a great deal of stuff going on here, music-wise (or at all, to be honest), but Art Is Hard really have got me excited and made me believe that the country doesn’t stop at Bristol. Their most recent release has just come out on iTunes (and they also have some vinyl available) – a split with Falmouth’s The Black Tambourines and Exeter’s New Years Evil – and they also released a compilation of some exciting ‘local’ artists. So, so glad I found these.
The Black Tambourines - Tommy
Cycling Season - 1943
Probably one of my first new band discoveries in 2010 and possibly my favourite, too. ‘Georgia’ gripped me on first listen way back in January and Yuck have been a brilliant, if a little teasing, ride since then. More songs have slowly trickled out throughout the year – the sludgey drone of ‘Rubber’, the melancholy jangle of ‘Suicide Policeman’, the driving fuzz of ‘Sunday’ – and they played a great set at Latitude. With a full-length is expected towards the start of 2011, and having recently being named on BBC’s Sound of 2011 list, next year could be an exciting year.
Yuck - Georgia
Yuck - Rubber
As tragic as it is, I (and probably lots of other people like me) only ever listened to a Jay Reatard song after the news of his suicide in January of 2010. I didn’t realise what a talent the world of music had lost before it was already gone, but, although I am obviously sad about the his death, I do feel privileged to be able to listen to some of the fantastic music he left behind.
Jay Reatard - It Ain't Gonna Save Me
Barely Regal Records
The second new independent label on this list, Barely Regal are Cardiff based and are doing some mighty fine things. I interviewed Matt and Isaac ages ago (word of warning to potential employees: an interview I still haven’t actually transcribed) and we quickly became good chums, but that’s not to say that they appear on this list for that reason alone. They released a compilation a good few months back featuring bands either from or with a link to the city, have put on a good amount of good gigs (including taking over Irish pub Dempsey’s for a night of Swn curating), and have some exciting releases upcoming from the likes of Among Brothers (who Isaac and Matt both are part of) and Strange News From Another Star.
Among Brothers - Montgolfier
Strange News From Another Star - Bullets (Crop)
Okay, so technically I first heard about Leeds (ish)-based (and blog post cover star)Spectrals in 2009 after a blog post in November by The Pigeon Post, he only properly became stuck in my mind in early 2010 so I think Louis Jones (the one young man behind Spectrals) still deserves a place on this list. First came some fuzzy demos, then came some more fuzzy demos, and then came a brilliant show at Latitude, and finally a month or so ago came the wonderful and surprisingly clean 60s wall of sound inspired debut EP, A Spectrals Extended Play (and then came not seeing him at Swn Festival, but I wont focus on that). It must have been an exciting year for Louis, starting it fairly innocuously, and ending it casually Tweeting Best Coast after a string of support slots. Two-thousand-and-ten truly would have been a far more dull and drab year without his music, and I hope there’s much more to come in 2011.
Spectrals - Peppermint
Spectrals - Keep Your Magic Out Of My House
Manchester’s Mazes were just about the only redeeming factor of 1234 Shoreditch festival lazy summer, but they alone made the price of the tickets and the journey from Cardiff to East London via Egham and the very nearly missed last train from Reading worth it alone. Like Spectrals, I found out about Mazes from The Pigeon Post and, like Spectrals, Mazes also take influence from the 60s, only add a little extra rock and roll rather than pop. Putting out material on the brilliant Suffering Jukebox (which is part run by Jack of Mazes and puts out stuff by lots of other good bands), I’ve been really enjoying their stuff and am excited to hear lots more.
Mazes - Painting Of Tupac Shakur
Mazes - Don't Worry Baby
London’s Beaty Heart first grabbed my attention in Loud and Quiet magazine, not for their description of the band, but for the trousers worn in the photo of the band by one of the drummers (notice the plural – they have three drummers altogether). It was nice to find, once listening to their stuff, the band’s sound was as Afro-influenced as the trousers. The fact that they have more than one drummer comes across in their sound, and with a focus on drum beats as well as harmonic vocals, it’s difficult for me not to mention Animal Collective. They’re far from a plain old covers band though, which I reckon they’ll show in style next year when hopefully we’ll get to hear a whole lot more other than the few tracks up on MySpace.
Beaty Heart - Cola
Beaty Heart - Lekka Freakout (demo)
What kind of moron only discovers Killing Joke in 2010? This kind of moron. I’ve so far only managed to Spotify their debut 1980 self-titled release, and it is incredible. The number of bands that I love that they have clearly had a strong influence on is ridiculous (including a fair few of the bands my Dad has played in over the years) - the riffing, distorted guitar; the angry, harsh vocals; the synth-y buzz; the tight, driving drum beats. I’m disgusted at myself for only listening to these now, but excited to gradually work through their extensive catalogue.
Killing Joke – Requiem
This list would be a lie without Best Coast. As much as I wish I found about Bethany Cosentino’s brilliance before Best Coast, and as much as I wish I found out about Best Coast before 12 months ago, I didn’t. The early, scruffy demos had me incredibly excited, her live performance at Bristol’s Louisiana (where Surfer Blood were also in the crowd) confirmed that they were definitely something special, and then the debut album managed to live up to and exceed all expectations. Much cleaner than the demos but still 60s pop inspired, it allowed Bethany’s fantastic voice to really take centre stage. Her Christmas song with boyfriend Nathan Williams (Wavves) may be a bit pants, and her bratty lyrics combined with her weed consumption may make her a little irritating, but the music is wonderful.
Best Coast - When The Sun Don't Shine
Obviously there was much more in 2010, but these are the 10 that stand out, and that will probably continue having an effect on me well into 2011. Narrowly missing out on this top 10 list were: Twin Sister, Pheromoans, The Racket, The Human Race, Human Hair, and Effort, so check out these, too.