I have loved 2010 in music. I have listened to more great music this year than in any other year of my life. There's some obvious reasons why: It's what I do for a living - I get to listen to music most days, somedays all day long. I have a wider, more accessible network of friends and colleagues - through twitter and facebook especially - that throw up new links to new tunes every day. I can jump on Spotify or search on hype machine or bandcamp or soundcloud in ways that make limewire and the likes of peer to peer mp3 sharing look prehistoric (and in limewire's case, indeed, obselete). There's more people recording and able to circulate their music than ever before. It's all good.
So here's some of my favourite albums of the year with some comments on each...
JUNIP 'FIELDS' (CITY SLANG)
Quite possibly my favourite record of 2010, and certainly the album I've listened to the most. Elias Araya, Jose Gonzalez and Tobis Winterkorn have crafted something joyous. It unwinds like an open road in front of you, Jose's remarkable voice underpinned by a groove and all wrapped in a brilliant production from Don Alstherberg which roughens the edges. Fields is a gorgeous record and one of 2010's essential listens.
H HAWKLINE 'A CUP OF SALT' (SHAPE)
A brilliant, brilliant, record. It felt like it came out of nowhere. Huw was known as an occasional player with Cate Le Bon's band, and a guitarist in the fun krautrock ensemble Meanz Heinz, but I didn't expect him to step out on his own and I certainly wasn't expecting this. With some customary finger picking throughout, and the crackles of old cassettes and barking dogs and Welsh language TV shows, it's essentially a folk record, but it also reaches out to suck in some far away Eastern rhythms and an observance that folk music can and should tell a story of its time. Just 150 copies pressed, and only on vinyi, it's worth buying a record player just so you can own this.
DEERHUNTER 'HALCYON DIGEST' (4AD)
Deerhunter are building a back catalogue of material that is marking them as one of the decade's great bands. On Halycon Digest they effortlessly offer up more infectious hooks - take 'Desire Lines', Coronado' or 'Revival' or 'Fountain Stairs' and the equally blissful washed out trips '- Basement Washes', 'Sailing'. They really can do no wrong.
PERFUME GENIUS 'LEARNING' (TURNSTILE)
If you want to know how great a year for music 2010 was then all you need to do is listen to this record. It's pretty much a masterpiece. Heartbreaking, honest and truly brilliant. My biggest regret of 2010 was programming Perfume Genius during SWN Festival which meant knowing how the weekend unfolds I had no chance of seeing him play live. I still haven't seen him play. Gutted.
WILD NOTHING 'GEMINI' (CAPTURED TRACKS)
Right now Captured Tracks are one of my favourite labels on the planet, and an argument, if any were needed, as to why labels play such a vital role in filtering music and drawing attention to new bands and sounds. Consistently high in quality with their choices, Wild Nothing was their ace in the hole for 2010. 'Gemini' looked like an early 90s Creation record, and at times sounded like one with echos of Slowdive haunting an album that was, at first, clumped with the 'chillwave' bands that emerged at the start of the year. 'Gemini' stood head and shoulders above the rest.
SWEET BABOO 'I'M A DANCER' (SHAPE)
According to itunes I've listened to more songs by Sweet Baboo than by any other artist. I won't argue with the data. On this, his third album, he's lessened the support of his band, though they accompany him throughout, with echos, shout backs and some wonderfully atmospheric noises. As ever he mixes heartbreak with humour, usually in the same lines, always with an adept melody, and without a dull moment on a record that shines. Arguably the finest songwriter working in Wales, and with it a national treasure.
BEACH HOUSE 'TEEN DREEM' (BELLA UNION / SUB POP)
Three out of three. 'Teen Dreem' surpasses their excellent debut 'Beach House' and its equally brilliant follow up 'Devotion'. 'Teen Dream' is a beautful record - elegant, dreamy, blissful. It's remarkable to think back in Feburary my friend Jen and I put them on in the confines of Cardiff Arts Institute.