My Pick of the Year's Best Albums
- A music feature by Charis
- Published on December 19th, 2010 at 2:26p.m.
Bombay Bicycle Club- Flaws
If there was a prize for most beautiful album of the year, 'Flaws' would win it hands down. This sublime set of eleven songs from the London-based boys finds its roots away from the rocking splendour of last year's 'I Had The Blues But I Shook Them Loose' and deeply entrenched in the folk tradition.
But Mumford and Sons they most certainly are not- these are not rollicking pop songs with a fiddle twist, they are understated and subtle and gentle in all the right amounts- and leave the listener with a contented and thoughtful aftertaste.
Radio-friendly 'Ivy and Gold' is a toe-tapping sing-a-long feast of fiddle folk- like the soundtrack to an overslept mid morning after the night before, whereas 'Jewel' is a bittersweet ballad thoughtfully proclaiming 'I'm just some mortal, you are so divine'.
Covers of Joanna Newsom's 'Swansea' and John Martyn's 'Fairytale Lullaby' cement 'Flaws' firmly in its folk furrow.
Other reviewers have had much to comment on the album and its move away from the rock edge of 'I had the Blues' as cowardice, but in my opinion it shows great bravery in releasing an album so stylistically different- a bold move which certainly pays off.
Laura Marling- I Speak Because I Can
So strikingly wise (or maybe, perhaps, wisened....) is 'I Speak Because I Can' it is hard to imagine Laura Marling is anywhere near her tender age of 20 - the album shows a maturity in subject and song writing far, far, beyond her years.
In finishing track 'I Speak Because I Can', eponymous with the record's title, Laura claims that "I speak because I can, to anyone who cares enough to listen, you speak because you can, to anyone who'll hear what you say", which surely could be a reference to ex boyfriend Charlie Finks' deeply personal (and public) songs about their relationship in 'The First days of Spring'???
This being said- Ms Marling has proclaimed that she often writes at an arm's length, so who knows whether the songstress feels more akin to the downtrodden wife in the last track, the confused mother in 'Made by Maid', or the naive, lost and flighty soul of 'Rambling Man'.
Either way, the album is a tremendous achievement of songs of colour and of heart, which guides the listener on a journey through so many confused thoughts and feelings- so much unsurity and indecision- it's just great to hear the solid 'Let it always be known that I was who I am.'
Whoever you may be, Laura Marling, that much is sure.
Dum Dum Girls- I Will Be
The LA based Girl-band of the Dum Dum variety broke onto the scene in 2010 in a flurry of eyeliner and attitude- with tales of trying to escape from prison, songs of everlasting childhood sweethearts, and of copycat enemies, all delivered with gusto and vigour of the highest calibre, especially for a debut effort.
Dee Dee et al provide catchy sixties based pop songs with a shoegaze twist, tongue in cheek and with a rock ethic to put many of today's male bands to shame (ahem, Kings of Leon....)
'Yours Alone'- has my single most favourite lyric of the year, "Met him in the school yard six years old, told him I would love 'til I'm old, we held hands, we took walks, my first kiss was at the docks'....
Single 'Jail La La' is a stunning piece of song working magic, complete with pure hook and riff perfection, which has to be a single of the year.
A breath of fresh air to the alternative scene, with tenderness, snarl and energy in equal measures, 'I Will Be' deserves far more recognition and appreciation than is currently has bestowed upon it. One to watch, me thinks.
Arcade Fire- Suburbs
Almost a concept album, 'The Suburbs' provides stories of growing old and growing up, where the 'business suck my blood, like the kids in Art School said they would...'
There is so much of reminiscing in the album, and it almost feels like the limbo between being young and hip and between settling into being a family man... both looking back at a youth in the suburbs, and possibly a future there, too.
Still a document of the classic Arcade Fire dreamy, spacious and elegant style, with 'Roccoco' and 'Sprawl II' really standing out, the record provides a good hour's worth of memories, dreams, and haunting echoes of the past... and a far vaguer future.
Cherry Ghost- Beneath this Burning Shoreline
The single most underrated album of the year. The haunting beauty of this record is something else completely- a mixture of beautiful melodies with a maudlin subtext- 'All is closing in'... 'They found her cold, a bottle by the bed'... 'Be my cold blood killer, I will be your fingertips'... and yet true beauty in it all.
It's hard to describe the effect the record has over one without actually listening to the album by the Bolton five piece, it seems to capture a dark and dreary land of past, and a less than cheerful present, yet does it with so much musical beauty that it's hard to tell the song themes are so melancholic.
It's no surprise that the band picked up an Ivor Novello for previous single 'People Help the People', in Kissing Strangers when they mention the very poetic 'Well-groomed weakened brute' anyone can picture the kind of man they are talking about- you'll have seen him in a suit jacket arguing in a taxi rank after nine pints of premium lager.
'The Night They Buried Sadie Clay' seems to encompass all these qualities with a sixties twang and dramatic strings, and 'Kissing Strangers' is an instant indie classic. The track ten gem 'Black Fang' is an unexpected upbeat high point in the album, and surely deserves the band at least another Ivor Novello.