Saturday, January 15, 2011

2010 Honourable Mentions: Part 1

Honourable mentions, in which we return - for the last time - to the music of last year. To pay tribute to those albums, artists and tracks that didn't quite make the Top 20 cut. Hell, maybe it'll even help you with your Triple J Hottest 100 voting (you are voting right? It's every Australian's right and duty to vote, and vote strongly Australian). I've tried my best to group the tracks into pithy little categories, so you can skip straight to the stuff you like.

Australian New Wave
What can I say about Kimbra, that I haven't already said time and time again. Just listen again, 2011 may finally see her much-anticipated debut, Vows, see the light of day. I, for one, cannot wait.Till then relive the brilliance of her soul-pop curio
Easily one of Aus music's most brightest hopes and their most unique, the lead single from the final part of their trilogy of EPs exhibited their breathtaking abilties in a suitably widescreen setting. 
The Kids' robust debut, Escapades, proved more than worth the long wait, full of sunny guitar pop and diversity - not least on the seventies rock influenced China Will Wait. 
Leaning heavily on the setting marked 'singalong ditty' Little Red crafted a near-perfect moment of pop exuberance, with a follow-the-bouncing-ball bassline, jaunty piano and a killer chrous. 

More Homegrown Picks
Forced to change their name (by dropping the vowels from Pivot), it also saw the band take a dramatic shift in their sound towards darker electronic shading and Blade Runner-worthy soundscapes.
Perhaps the best unsigned 'theatrical rock' act going around, one half Queen's bombast, one half Muse's guitar histrionics and all parts pomp and circustance with Danny Elfman orchestration. Deliciously ambitious.
2010 saw the Augie March frontman releasing his first solo album Glimjack, with Long Pigs proving that he wasn't all dour faces and rustic poetry. A nimble cut with an irresistible energy and Richards' characteristically insightful lyrics still intact.
Boy/Girl duos continue to offer some unique surprises: Sleigh Bells, Crystal Castles, Big Scary - we can now add Young Heretics to that list. Cue swelling dramatics with equisite harmonies and a dash of electro grandstanding.

Pitchfor-savvy-picks to keep the hipster contingent happy
A short preamble of crackling vinyl, and soo the ear is treated to a breezy strum - flecked with orchestral flourishes and harmonies befitting of Pet Sounds, all under the suitably hazy production of Grizzly Bear's Chris Taylor. The audible equivalent of a deep, relaxing sigh.
Still restlessly inventive and peerlessly distinctive three albums in, the experimental trio take their 'cut-and-paste' aesthetic and bend it to a more poignant will. A-shimmer with splendour.
The string arranger extraordinaire (whose lent his services to everyone from Arcade Fire to Last Shadow Puppets and even Pet Shop Boys) dropped the Final Fantasy solo moniker for his third solo record, a concept album about a murdering farmer backed by the full force of the Czech Philharmonic, built to impossible anticipation here.
The closing track to the hazy Halcyon Digest, a hypnotic seven-and-a-half minutes dedicated to the recently deceased Jay Reatard. Brimming with ambiguity and atmosphere in equal measure.

probably filed under 'Urban' in JB Hi-Fi
If it wasn't for Kanye, André Patton most certainly would've taken away the title of best hip-hop album of the year. As it stands he still offered a party-savvy alternative, the flashy hooks of Shutterbugg are an undeniable crowd-pleaser with neon synths, beats what are phat and Big Boi's nimble delivery.
No one inside of the hip-hop universe would dare question the chops of the scene's own Legendary Roots crew, but the group's tenth(!) studio album How I Got Over, contained enough cross-over appeal to prove it to everyone outside of hip-hop too. 
The beat poet forefather looked and sounded every one of his grizzled sity-one years, his lived-in experience dripping off of every croaked word on this version of the blues standard. Given a modern transformation with claustrophobic trip-hop beats, cinematic strings and rumbling bass all adding to the foreboding tone.
Though it wasn't exactly a stretch from his day-job with funk-indebted art-punks TV On The Radio, the side project for one Dave Sitek was no less enjoyable for it. Not least on the sexy Tiger, all grinding synths, cowbell and spidery guitar with newcomer Orraca-Tetteh giving it his best soul-provocateur shtick.

Let's get euro-continental!
The simplistic title of Go perfectly communicated Iceland's most famous frontman's intentions to keep it simple and direct. Animal Arithmetic's clattering rhythms and exuberant cry that "we should all be alive!" was equally straightfoward and life-affirming.
The Belgian troubadour's acoustic-centric folk is heavily reminiscent of Bon Iver, but it was no pale imitation. Built around a fancy bit of guitar plucking, Reunite spirals outward into an introspective masterpiece. All brooding intensity and cathartic melodies.
The group once dubbed 'the Danish Radiohead,' continue to push and re-invent themselves without sacrificing the sonic ingenuity and mercurial songwriting that made them so compelling to beign with. The chugging Pursuit of Misery showcases their muscular drive and Kaiser Estrup's yearning voice.
Similar to the cult success of Wild Beasts in 2009, the Manchester-based four-piece proved that intelligence and eccentricity weren't dirty words in the post-punk sphere of guitar rock. Schoolin' is the prime cut from an album full of willfully high-brow numbers. 

You've got your pop in my electro and vice versa
Bloc Party frontman drops surname and goes it solo, the result: furhter investigations into his electro and dance fanscinations. Rise defiantly gels a xylophone loop, sawing bass and dancehall beats into an ever-building crescendo that climaxes with a female-led breakdown straight outta 90's R&B. 
Just when it seemed that people had had a gutful of fashionable guitar bands, along come three polite Irish lads armed with a spry electronic-flecked-indie-pop and more hooks than a fisherman's tacklebox. Come Back Home buzing of its winnning somersault from anxious verse to crowd-rousing chorus.
Disguised beneath his geri-curled mop-top and pencil moustache may well pulsate the brain of a genius. It's not the kind of perfect pop song that storms the charts; and yet its tight structure, well-manicured delivery and naggingly catchy nature may well trick you into believing it is. Just give in, and give it another spin.
The pop starlet it's OK for rockers to like. The acoustic origins of her songwriting are unrecognisable beneath the glossy enhancements of the studio production: crisp dance-floor beats, starstruck synths and layered overdubs. Wish I Stayed is just one of a parade of big, sparkling choruses in Goulding's glistening armory.

Stick around for Part 2 peeps.

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