Best of 2010: Albums and EPs

I feel as if I’ve read through innumerable Best Of lists this month, as, I suspect, do you (especially if you’ve managed to make it far enough down your googling results to reach my little bit webspace). And, as is usually the case, most of them probably read as a tidy summation of what began the year as the most anticipated releases of 2010 with a few surprises thrown in for good measure. But, as hard as I try, no list I can pull together could hope to effectively encapsulate the music of 2010. Of course, there are the usual gaps in my listening, as there are with anyone. But, more importantly, I think the legacy of this past year, at least in my experience, will be an idea. ‘Beauty is back‘.

With it’s near-flawless litany of releases, the genre-bending and earth-shattering work of New Amsterdam Records is proof enough that beauty is a priority once again. But add to that the utter sweetness of The Secret Sisters, rampant sexual tension of Bitter Ruin, the raw power of My Gold Mask and Dimbleby & Capper, and the sheer joy of Super Desserts and Allo Darlin’, and our rediscovery of the visceral impact of technique and execution is impossible to ignore.

I haven’t ranked the albums and EPs on this list. Their very appearance here will attest to my attachment to them (if you want more details—well, that’s what the rest of this blog is for). Still, despite the ironic egalitarianism of my Best Ofs, there is one album which stands out in my mind as the landmark achievement of 2010. This one.

Allo Darlin’ – Allo Darlin’

Belle & Sebastian – Write About Love [review]

Bitter Ruin – Hung, Drawn, and Quartered [interview]

Dimbleby & Capper – Slick Maturity [more info]

Hooray For EarthMomo

Ivan MoultThe Mine Canary [review]

My Gold Mask – A Million Miles (From Where We Were Last)

Public Service Broadcasting – EP One

The SchoolLoveless Unbeliever [review] [interview]

The Secret SistersThe Secret Sisters

Sarah Kirkland Snider (feat. Shara Worden and Signal) – Penelope [review]

Super Desserts – Twee As Folk [review]

VictoireCathedral City [review]

Ivan Moult and The Mine Canary

The last time I saw Ivan Moult, he had just played his fourth ever show with The School at the Wee Red Bar in Edinburgh. We’d been lamenting the proposed closure of BBC 6 Music, and the generally sorry state of the music industry. Five months and 4000 miles now separate me from the Wee Red Bar. Since then, 6Music has been granted a reprieve and Ivan has released his debut solo EP, Mine Canary, through Cardiff’s Bubblewrap Collective.

Mine Canary is a far cry from The School. Though there may be a dash of the 60s swirling around in the mix, you’ll find no Phil Spector or Brill Building sounds here. You can trace Ivan’s musical DNA through the folk scene and even deeper, dipping into the Delta blues. The songs are quite stripped down, Ivan’s smoky vocals accompanied almost exclusively by his own guitar playing, their colour enhanced by generous use of open chord voicings and rare, minimal piano fills.

For a disc like Mine Canary, choosing a standout track is an exercise in futility as any one of the last three tracks could be your favourite song on any given day. But, for purely melodic reasons and the sheer unforgettability of it, “Fetch me a bucket” has got to be the high point of the collection. Like any good folk song, it has the ring of something you’ve loved all your life with no distinct point of origin. I cannot tell you how long I’ve heard “So fetch me some water, and some bread and a bucket. / Leave me to sleep it off and send me to my bed. / And tell me in the morning how I ended up corrupted. / And then I’ll realise that you go straight to my head.” going round in my head, because, as far as I know, it’s always been there. What I can be sure of is this: when it is gone, it will be all too soon.

For years, miners in the UK and US would take canaries deep into the mines with them. So long as the birds remained healthy, the miners knew they were free from the immediate danger of toxic gas. And like its namesake, if Ivan Moult’s Mine Canary is any indicator, the world is still a safe place for music.