Incorporating The Music Fix
15th December 2010 06:00:00
Posted by Gary K

The Music Fix Albums of 2010

To paraphrase the late, great Phil Spector, here it is - our Christmas gift to you. 2010's musical headlines were writ as large as they ever were: Lady GaGa crushed people's initial wariness and became a genuine superstar; Barlow and Williams kissed and made up and Take That emptied people's wallets with Sykes-like ease. And just bubbling under, the mainstream had its belly tickled by an irresistible tide of leftfield innovators, wayward souls for whom pop is far more important than mere life and death. We sought them out, we swooned to their artful endeavours and we spent the year sharing our joyful discoveries with you.

The world is still full of people who don't know how lucky they are, who bemoan the lack of talent around; people who have the affrontery to say "There's not that much good music around these days, is there?" Hell, even Simon Cowell, the puppet master himself, dares to say that music has got a "bit boring" these past few years. The irony of an observation like that makes you spin. Show this list, lovingly compiled as ever by the TMF team, to friends who agree with Cowell. Make it your Christmas gift to them. They can thank you later.

6 Day Riot - On This Island
6 Day Riot's previous two outings were solid but largely unremarkable collections of lightweight folk, but they struck gold with On This Island which managed to successfully combine mariachi horns, pounding drums and punchy vocals courtesy of Tamara Schlesinger. Album highlight has to be lead single 'Take Me' - an opening track that signals the bands intentions from the get-go. Brilliant. (Colin Polonowski)

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Arcade Fire - The Suburbs
Magnificent. Epic. Glorious. You could traverse the globe studying every language and still not find enough superlatives to lavish on the extraordinary third album from Arcade Fire. Each track paints a universal picture of the trials and tribulations of growing up, all supported by their trademark wall of sound. Exceptional. Majestic. Flawless. (Ian Sandwell)

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Blood Red Shoes - Fire Like This
The duo’s second album kept the physicality of their debut but added wholly more substantial songwriting chops. The likes of ‘Don’t Ask’, ‘One More Empty Room’ and ‘Light It Up’ saw Laura-Mary Carter and Steven Ansell lift the creativity several notches and while one feared they’d come to rely on their image or their sound, the songs are a class apart. Phew. (Gary Kaill)

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Detroit Social Club - Existence
Superb debut from Newcastle’s DSC that had many critics thumbing their thesauruses to find new ways of describing fabulous. But don’t take our word for it, if you don’t own it yet...WHY NOT? The songs are lush and generous, driven by bandleader David Burn (who's in danger of elbowing his way to the frontline of great British frontmen). The epic ‘Kiss The Sun’, sumptuous ‘Northern Man’ and out and out masterpiece ‘Prophecy’ are but a few of the highlights. (Olivia Schaff)

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Delphic - Acolyte
Delphic were one of the first bands out of the traps with a debut record in 2010 and one gets the impression they didn’t quite make the impact they should have; rather a mystery given this euphoric set of songs, all helped along by producer Ewan Pearson, a man who, it is blatantly clear, is no stranger to the dancefloor. The likes of 'Counterpoint' and 'This Momentary' sound like the thrilling result of splicing together New Order and Orbital. What’s not to like about that? (John Donnelly)

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Foxy Shazam - Foxy Shazam
There have been a number of good time rock and soul bands coming out of America in recent years but surely none are better than Foxy Shazam. It may be camp in parts but this self-titled debut is 2010's most infectiously brilliant and joy-filled effort. If you can listen to the likes of ‘O Lord’ and ‘Bye Bye Symphony’ without singing along then truly you have granite for a heart. Party album of the year? You better believe it. (Greg Belton)

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The Futureheads - The Chaos
Listening to The Chaos all the way through may make you feel like you’ve just been involved in a high speed car chase. The pace is frantic and unforgiving. Keep up or get left behind. The trademark vocal acrobatics are all in place, the delirious harmonies and the spitfire lyrical poetry will have you grinning from ear to ear and singing your heart out. ‘Struck Dumb’, ‘Heartbeat Song’ and ‘I Can Do That’ are but some of the gems in this treasure trove of pop-punk glory. (OS)

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Gorillaz - Plastic Beach
With the release of Plastic Beach, surely Gorillaz can no longer be considered a mere side project? Having Snoop Dogg share a CD with Mark E. Smith might sound an odd prospect, but the various guest vocalists and styles are satisfyingly tied together by a loose environmental concept, not to mention a sense of high musical adventure. After listening to the sharp electro-pop of 'Stylo', the knockabout hip-hop of 'Superfast Jellyfish' and the gorgeously wistful 'On Melancholy Hill', you have to ask yourself if there’s anything Damon Albarn can’t successfully turn his hand to. (JD)

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Grinderman - Grinderman 2
The second outing from Nick Cave’s garage rock side project mixes the raw energy and lyrical madness of The Birthday Party with the work ethic and maturity of the The Bad Seeds to startling effect. Laced with references to Mickey Mouse, Montezuma and the Loch Ness Monster this is an album that one would expect from a bunch of manic young turks - not a quartet of men well past the supposed prime of life. ‘Evil’ they may be but Grinderman show that life really can begin at 50. (GB)

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LCD Soundsystem - This Is Happening
Hopefully not (as threatened) their last LP, This Is Happening is another LCD Soundsystem marvel. The reference points – early 80s electro, Talking Heads, David Bowie – remain the same but, even when obviously influenced, James Murphy manages to mould something that’s his own. The lyrics are by turns witty and resonantly heartfelt. Disco-punk-funker 'Pow Pow' has a sense of momentum unbeaten by any electronic dance track I’ve heard this year. In an age when many albums are three decent singles plus filler, it says something that only the 'Nightclubbing'-aping dirge 'Somebody’s Calling Me' is skippable. 2007’s stone-cold classic Sound of Silver still nudges ahead. Just. (JD)

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Lucky Soul – A Coming of Age
Lucky Soul returned to deliver another blast of their artful soul pop. Andrew Laidlaw continues to populate his tremendous three minute diamonds with all manner of heartbreak confessionals and pint size chanteuse Ali Howard carries on knocking them straight out of the park. The six piece frame their artworks with a more refined production this time around but ‘A Coming of Age’ still sizzles and the immense title track offers undeniable evidence of a growing, far-reaching ambition. (GK)

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The Magic Numbers – The Runaway
The surprise, and the delight, of the summer. If you had them down as just a bit worthy, think again. Out go the jangly guitars, in comes lush orchestration and a more arrangement-led methodology. Sure, the hooks still soar and Romeo and Angela’s harmonies are as silky sweet as ever, but the almost psychedelic sweep of ‘The Pulse’ and the late night heartache of ‘Why Did You Call?’ underline a growing maturity (a good thing, in case you were wondering.) (GK)

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Manic Street Preachers - Postcards From A Young Man
The Manics return with this stunning labour of love. Sweeping arrangements, stellar guest stars and twelve cracking tunes that tell it like it is in the most beautiful way possible. How sad and desolate the world would be without these guys composing the soundtrack to our lives. Standout tracks include the title song, the wistful ‘Platitudes’ and rock behemoth ‘A Billion Balconies Facing The Sun.’ (OS)

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Marina & The Diamonds - Family Jewels
Mixing catchy hooks with quirky introspective lyrics was a recipe for success, and as we predicted in our review, The Family Jewels rewarded repeat listens. There's a lot of self-doubt and introspection underneath the shiny tunes, along with some sharp digs at deserving targets. (Mike Gray)

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Laura Marling – I Speak Because I Can
Delicately cradling the soul with the warm remains of her own, Laura Marling managed to prick up even the ears of the most musically misguided with her Mercury Prize nominated second album. Standing the hairs on the back of your neck to attention, tracks such as ‘What He Wrote’ and the ‘Rambling Man’ provided so much melodic sorcery that they could enchant the pants off Prince Charming. It seems that whatever your metaphor of choice, 2010 has proven that Marling certainly ain’t no flash in the pan. (Jade Tullet)

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Mount Kimbie - Crooks & Lovers
This year was pretty good for British electronica, with returning heroes like Four Tet and Bonobo delivering some of their finest collections. But it was the new kids on the block who really got everyone excited, and none more so than London's Mount Kimbie. Their debut weaved looped guitar melodies, aquatic beats, lo-fi fuzz and catchy sampled vocals to create a cohesive collage of what has been called 'post-dubstep', yet is really so much more. Plus it helps that they can pull it off live, and with shows announced for next year there really is no excuse not to go catch them. (Freddy Palmer)

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The National - High Violet
As one of rock's greatest secrets, The National, had, over the course of 10 years, produced four albums of understated brilliance and the hopes were high for their fifth, High Violet. Boy, does it deliver. The fuzzed up intro to ‘Terrible Love’ pulls you in to the slightly warped mind of singer/lyricist Matt Berninger and you are carried on a swarm of bees though an album of love, despair and uplifting beauty until the astonishing finale of ‘Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks’. A secret no longer, The National are one of the best bands on the planet and High Violet is their masterpiece. (GB)

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Joanna Newsom - Have One on Me
Following 2006's orchestral masterpiece Ys, otherwordly talent Joanna Newsom once again displays her talent for imbuing an ambitious project with universal emotional truths. Over three discs of luxuriously paced and masterfully crafted epics, Newsom showcased new depths to her vocal range, clever and affecting wordplay, and - of course - her way with a harp. Oustanding on all levels. (Luke McNaney)

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Oceansize - Self Preserved While The Bodies Float Up
When a band can move effortlessly between crushing doom-laden blasts of distortion to delicately formed and beautiful post-rock ambience, and then infuse it all with a sense of melody that is second to none, you know you've got something special on your hands. Oceansize did just this with their fourth album, creating easily the best truly progressive rock album from a British band this year. Never ones to let trends dictate their vision, SPWTBFU is a majestic, visceral and ear-opening addition to an already impressive catalogue. (FP)

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The Owl Service – The View From A Hill
An album of traditional folk songs might sound a little antiquated for 2010, but with The View From A Hill, The Owl Service have delivered an absolute treat, marrying the fine craftsmanship of yore with a modern sense of experimentation, the band have very successfully made the old very much the new. Folk guitars weave between drones whilst the acoustic playfully melds with the electronic; and with Jo Lepine’s sparse version of the murder ballad ‘Cruel Mother’ to finish the album, The Owl Service have graced us with the most perfect, beautiful, painful song this year. (Dominic Hemy)

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Phantom – Smoke & Mirrors
It is a rare treat when an album catches you by complete surprise, and that feeling is even more special when it is a debut album; Phantom’s Smoke & Mirrors has haunted me since the summer, a gem of such fine beauty with the ethereal vocals and drawn out aural textures leaving a lasting mark upon the listener. Heartbreaking melancholy has never been as uplifting, the dreamland unfolds courtesy of waves of swirling e-bowed guitars underpinned by ingenious samples laying pulsating, riveting beats. This truly is a unique album of the highest quality. (DH)

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Grace Potter and the Nocturnals - Grace Potter and the Nocturnals
Grace Potter managed to sneak up on the TMF team and take us all by surprise. Ballsy vocals and a real rock sound make for one of the most exciting female-fronted rock albums since Liz Phair's debut. The out-of-the-blue 'Tiny Light' guitar solo really blew us away, but it's the sexy, sultry, 'Paris (Ooh La La)' that really made us fall for Ms Potter's charms. Grace Potter and the Nocturnals remain a complete unknown to most listeners, but for grown up femme-rock there isn't anyone doing it better right now. (CP)

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Caitlin Rose - Own Side Now
As strong a debut album as you were likely to hear in 2010, and probably the year's best country album, Caitlin celebrates the traditional country themes of heartbreak and drinking in a way that belies her 23 years, and if tracks like 'Own Side Now' and 'For The Rabbits' don't melt your heart, check that you've still got a pulse. (MG)

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She & Him - Volume Two
The soundtrack to the summer, this. So much more than a Rimmel poster girl, kooky indie actress Zooey Deschanel teamed up for the second time with guitarist buddy and 'Monster of Folk' M Ward for more hazy, retro-inspired blasts of sunshine. Deschanel's honey-sweet vocals are the focus of songs that possess an easy charm and will fill you with that 'young love' feeling. (LM)

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The Tamborines – Camera and Tremor
They are Lulu Grave and Henrique Laurindo, names to conjure with indeed. Their superfuzz, big tough twist on the riffola carnage of the early 90s shoegazing epoch comes garlanded in shimmering monochrome. As, of course, it should. The likes of ‘31st Floor’ and ‘Come Together’ punch holes in the clouds. Even Johnny Nice Painter would have found it all too “black!” for comfort. It’s far from ground-breaking, but the élan with which this duo fashion their influences is undeniable. (GK)

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Teenagersintokyo - Sacrifice
Only ten songs but you'll have it on loop after the first listen. Sacrifice's dark indie-pop charms lie in wait to seduce you on every track, marking it out as not just one of 2010's best, but also one of its most consistent. While picking a highlight seems almost futile, it's hard to believe there's anyone who won't fall in love with 'Long Walk Home' where Samantha Lim's vocals take on a practically hypnotic quality, perfectly married to the dreamy synth-filled backdrop. (IS)

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The Corin Tucker Band – 1,000 Years
It didn’t sound like Sleater-Kinney. Okay? Can we move on now? Good. Corin Tucker’s debut, her first recording since her former band split unexpectedly in 2006, was a pared down, homespun delight. Out go the jagged kinetics of old, in come loose grooves, strings, bass guitar (!), the reverse of the strictures of the S-K MO. It works like a dream. We knew she could sing, we knew she could play. We didn’t know she was a gifted band leader, a leftfield troubadour with a poet’s soul and a clutch of songs to die for. We do now. (GK)

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Rufus Wainwright - All Days are Nights: Songs for Lulu
Following the death of his mother, esteemed folk singer Kate McGarrigle, the usually opulent textures of Rufus Wainwright's records are stripped right back to the two core components: piano and voice. The result is a stunning, complex, occasionally hard-going and always emotionally wrenching collection of songs that is the closest we've come to a Rufus soul record. With no room to hide behind lavish orchestral arrangements or flamboyant Judy Garland bits, Songs for Lulu gives us a chance to hear that voice soar during its bearer's most personal of struggles. (LM)

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Paul Weller – Wake Up the Nation
Spouting his punk-funk rhythms like a nihilistic waterfall that refuses to obey gravity, Weller uses umpteenth album in a bid to defibrillate the arrested apathetic heartbeat of youth. ‘Fast Car/Slow Traffic’ and ‘7&3 is the Striker's Name’ deliver a short, sharp shock to the system, attempting to at least awaken a sign of life in someone, anyone. Skillfully done in a way without lurching into Grumpy Old Man model, Weller surely cements his position in yet another decade. (JT)

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Kanye West - My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy
Overblown, egotistical, insane, intense - all valid descriptions of Kanye West's latest album. He may be a bit of an arse, but this album is utterly enthralling. Collaborations are the order of the day with everyone from Jay-Z to Elton John joining the throng. It sounds like the result of someone being given far too much freedom, but in reality West has created an album that deserves to be compared to Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, Exile on Main St. and Blood on the Tracks. My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy gives Kanye his keys to the all-time hall of fame. (CP)

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