Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Top 10 albums of the year- and a few more

Album of the year lists are always a bit tricky for me, as I am pretty crap at listening to stuff in the year it comes out. I tend to shy away from stuff that’s being hyped up, then ‘discover it’ on my own terms a few months or years down the line when everyone has moved on. Kind of like the music-nerd equivalent of an urban fox raiding a bin in the dead of night. This year I was a bit more on-point than usual but there was another complication in that 2010 was the best year for music in a long time. Frankly, there was too much stuff for someone as lazy as me to keep up with. To that end I have included a list of honourable mentions for records which I am almost certain I would have loved, but have only heard parts of, or haven’t heard at all yet, and so can’t work out if would be better than the top 10 I have selected. In the case of the Basia Bulat and Roots/John Legend records I gave them a lot of attention and enjoyed them a lot, but not quite as much as the final 10 I picked.

Gorillaz РPlastic Beach РA clear standout for album of the year for me, expansive, daring, stylistically diverse and yet at heart an amazing pop album. Damon Albarn now surely deserves the clich̩ of national treasure.

Caribou – Swim – I read somewhere about this record that it is both the perfect Saturday night and Sunday morning record. That sums up the thing better than anything else I could say.

Gil Scott Heron – I’m New Here – Astonishing reinvention from Scott Heron, aided by the head of XL records Richard Russell. I gave the record 9/10 in my review for DiS here http://drownedinsound.com/releases/15097/reviews/4139058

Pantha Du Prince – Black Noise – The best electronic record of the year for me, in a year with tons of outstanding examples of that genre. The thing I loved most about Black Noise was that although minimal and cerebral, warmth radiated from every second of it.

Strong Arm Steady – In Search of Stoney Jackson – My favourite hip-hop record of the year, and part of a vintage year of releases for Stonesthrow.

Mount Kimbie – Crooks & Lovers – Brilliant exploration of the further reaches of dubstep, and very user-friendly for those uninitiated in the ways of bass music.

Big Boi – Sir Luscious Leftfoot: The Son of Chico Dusty – This album would almost be worth including in the list for the fact that it contains one of the songs of the year in Shutterbug alone, but the fact that the rest of the album is awesome seals the deal.

Scuba – Triangulation – Really, there isn’t more than a thin and curly hair between this and the other electronic albums in this selection, but purely in terms of the fact that Triangulation has spent slightly less time on rotation in my stereo it has the lowest position of the four.

Deerhunter – Halcyon Digest – Deerhunter’s latest record is a mysterious trawl through the fog of hindsight and loss. Definitely my favourite guitar album of the year.

The Ruby Suns – Fight Softly – This album didn’t get a lot of love across the music press/blogosphere, but I thought it retained all the fun and charm of previous Ruby Suns records while ditching the world music for electronic influences. For more wise words on why this record was great read this

Honourable mentions
The Phantom Band – Wants
Janell Monae – The ArchAndroid
Kanye West – My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy
The Acorn – No Ghost
Gangrene – Gutter Water
Basia Bulat – Heart of My Own
The Roots, John Legend – Wake Up

Tuesday, 2 November 2010


Welcome back to my malnourished blog. Today’s entry partly explains why I haven’t written anything in while, only partly though. Much larger factors in my radio silence are The Wire, Halo: Reach and my general laziness. Anyway, today I want to talk about one of the few things that Alastair Campbell and I have in common, to wit, depression.

While I often though of Campbell as a horrible figure during the Blair era, his charity work and the publicity he has brought to mental health issues has gone a long way to redeeming the man in my eyes. I am sure he is very glad of this partial turnaround from a blogger that no-one reads. Anyway, now that we have negotiated the tricky proposition that AC is not entirely a force for evil, we can consider the significance of a man of his stature in politics confessing to having a history of depression- at times severe. Despite what the Janet Street-Porter’s of this world would have you believe, (http://www.dailymail.co.uk/debate/article-1278510/Depression-Its-just-new-trendy-illness.html) depression and other mental illnesses are not the trendy new accessories of the middle classes, they are a problem which affects 1 in 4 people regardless of wealth, race, gender or any other dividing line in society. The attitudes of people like Street-Porter ensure that there is still a huge stigma around mental illness and many people are too frightened of what people will think of them to admit they need help.

In this climate, it is hugely admirable of Campbell to be so candid about his own experiences. The donation of half the proceeds from his new book to mental health charity Rethink is also a fabulous gesture. This is not meant to be a rant against anyone or any problems in society, I do far too much of that on here as it is. This post is more what came to mind during a recent flare-up of my own brand of depression. Like Campbell, I am probably closer to having this thing licked than I ever have been- although such a total victory probably doesn’t exist for depression sufferers. It still flares up from time to time though, without explanation or reason, like the attentions of a selfish lover. When it does, all of the numerous blessings and privileges in my life seem to shrink in the shadow of the dark cloud above them, and me. Society is much more tolerant when dealing with mental illness than it used to be, but those hateful few who still believe that its all put on, or people suffering from mental illness could get better if they ‘chose to’ will never appreciate the crushing weight people feel on their shoulders when they are in the grip of mental illness.

It is hard to know how to round this one off, probably because I didn’t have the luxury of an enemy to structure a diatribe around this time, but I guess all I really wanted to say with this blog entry is that I have a fairly tough week or so. To put my name out there as someone who knows what it is like to have the black dog hump their leg from time to time, so to speak. But also, as someone who is in the fortunate position of knowing that the cloud will pass, some people don’t have that luxury. If there is anyone out there who reads this and wants to talk to someone about a similar experience, please feel free to send me a message on here. Or, for anyone suffering but unsure of where to turn for help, please check out the link below to the Rethink charity. They do excellent work.

Rethink: http://www.rethink.org/

Alaistar Campbell’s blog: http://www.alastaircampbell.org/