Is it a crime / to live inside every emotion

I promised, swore to, myself that I’d not both­er with this in 2010.

For over twen­ty years I’ve either pro­vid­ed or sim­ply pub­lished a best of the year list. In the late 1980s and into the ear­ly 1990s, when I con­tributed a dance­floor col­umn to Rip It Up mag­a­zine, I was tasked by Mur­ray Cam­mick with the best dance and hip hop records list each year. I was also, most years, asked to give oth­er mags a best of the year list, most­ly a top five.

When I did bFm, between 1989 and 2002, our ten best records of the year was an annu­al fea­ture, and indeed, twice we were actu­al­ly offered a one off spot out­side the ghet­to that the sta­tion gave elec­tron­ic and hip hop back in those days, to broad­cast the chart to a day­time audi­ence.

On George FM I com­piled and broad­cast the best of the year in 2003, 2004 and 2005.

Since then the list has been blogged only and, to be hon­est, I only did it last year out of habit.

How­ev­er, here I am this year again writ­ing a list. I’m doing this not so much in the belief that what I list here real­ly mat­ters (although I was chuffed at hav­ing my list last year picked up by at least three US com­pil­ers of the year’s charts) but as a way of doc­u­ment­ing to myself what I real­ly enjoyed this year.

And with that, it’s not a best of in any sense — in 2010 with the mas­sive amount of music now released each year (yep — music is dying folks) such would not only be impos­si­ble but some­thing that reeks of ego. The oth­er bar­ri­er I now have is that I’m old­er. I may love and be enthralled by all sorts of music, but I know there is much that I don’t quite get in the same way a 19 year old would. I guess I have to accept that. That said, I get to have a his­to­ry that a 19 year old doesn’t have and hence I’m able, with some com­fort to toss in a cou­ple of records by old folks. It’s a bonus I enjoy.

So, yes, not a best of 2010 — I have no idea what that would look like — but instead a list of the records I’ve thrilled to this year.

house music all night long…

Teen­girl Fan­ta­sy – 7AM

Have you heard Cheaters? Of course you have — every­one has. Or at least it’s one of those songs that drills itself into your head and you assume every­one thinks it’s an anthem for the ages — like Joe Smooth’s Promised Land, Ten City’s Right Back To You, or Ster­ling Void’s It’s Alright. Cheaters is one of those. Big, Big, Big and soar­ing. I love it even if it sounds like it was made some 25 years ago. The album though is absolute­ly noth­ing like it. Yes it has anoth­er ‘song’ — Danc­ing In Slow Motion — which is love­ly rather than huge and per­fect­ly placed two thirds of the way through an album that, as much as you would expect, from Cheaters, would explore the roots of house, does quite the oppo­site and takes you on a trip through a post min­i­mal dub infused vista. If that sounds sil­ly and pre­ten­tious, it is and that, I think, is the point of plac­ing Cheaters at the end — it wash­es that all away and you are, or at least I am, back on the floor of a big ear­ly 1990s dance­hall again at 5am.

Altered Natives — Ten­e­ment Yard Vol 1

If the last album promised to look back­wards and yet didn’t, Altered Natives, real­ly one guy, Dan­ny Yorke’s, first album of 2010 (he did two) did quite the oppo­site. Read­ing the reviews I don’t think every­one quite got the ref­er­ences in this album which point­ed back, per­haps unin­ten­tion­al­ly but I doubt it, to so many clas­sic house records so faith­ful­ly. It works because that’s all it does — in a warm affec­tion­ate way it ref­er­ences rather than par­rots or relies on those roots, and then strips those ref­er­ences into a record that sounds sur­pris­ing­ly con­tem­po­rary. From Todd Ter­ry on Body Gal and Oh My Zip­per, The Bur­rell Broth­ers on After­life Rid­dum to tracks which echo Lar­ry Heard, Wayne Gar­diner, Tenaglia and mid 1980s Chi Jack­ing loops, you get the start­ing point almost imme­di­ate­ly but then have to go where Yorke takes you with that. Killer track: I’m Just A Crush, all bang­ing keys and 808s on a record that sounds like it should have an ear­ly Strict­ly Rhythm cat­a­logue num­ber. Bliss­ful but noisy.

DJ Nate — Da Trak Genious

DJ Roc — The Crack Capone

Whilst the com­mer­cial cen­tre was going all gaga over Kanye’s album (which I quite liked even if it was far less adven­tur­ous than oft claimed to my 30 year jad­ed hip-hop ears) out on the edge the Chica­go cut’n’pasters in the briefly hip as hell Foot­work / Juke scene were turn­ing out discs that made that album sound as rad­i­cal as a Ger­man schlager col­lec­tion from the late 1960s. The first of these two albums was a com­pi­la­tion of inde­pen­dent sin­gles from the still-in-his-teens Nate, going back over the two or three years, whilst the sec­ond is an album in its own right. Both how­ev­er were sim­ply astound­ing. The dra­ma, raw brava­do, sheer audio inven­tive­ness and the gall made me smile repeat­ed­ly. The dis­re­spect shown for just about every­thing that passed in front of the sam­pler and the fusion of hip hop, bootie house, rave and the whole damn kitchen sink of sounds avail­able to any­one with a com­put­er shows there is life in this creaky old thing called house still. The sort of records that Iggy Pop or George Clin­ton would be mak­ing if they were 18.

Paul Ran­dolph – Echoes (of Lone­ly Eden)

I reviewed / plugged this a few months back. I had a love­ly mes­sage from Paul Ran­doph as a result. I’ve found no rea­son to make any changes to the words in that post.

the smoke machine…

Jim­my Edgar – XXX

This was fun. It gets the most fun award and also the best album Prince Should Be Record­ing of the year award. I’ll toss in the the best butt wag­ging basslines of the year too, not that I do huge amounts of that — so lets make it the best chair wob­bling basslines award.

Mount Kim­bie – Crooks and Lovers

I watched a BBC doc­u­men­tary on Krautrock last night and felt an urge to play this god­child of that move­ment (or series of move­ments) imme­di­ate­ly after­wards, which I did. House music and tech­no, dur­ing their first cre­ative surge in the 1980s and 1990s pro­duced so few wor­thy long play­ers so it comes as a sur­prise that the dub infused heirs of those years are now, year in, year out, pro­duc­ing so many. I’m guess­ing that’s because the dis­co roots are now almost sub­sumed by things like Neu! and Can via Bri­an Eno and the dub that has been part of the urban Euro­pean aur­al land­scape since the 1980s. What­ev­er ana­lyt­i­cal cast you put on it, this is a pret­ty aston­ish­ing album which, as the cliché goes, takes you on some jour­ney.

Pari­ah – Safe­hous­es EP

Prism, a love­ly song which wrapped an ethe­re­al diva-ish vocal around a flit­ting acid bassline was the key track on this but the bal­ance of it was rather glo­ri­ous, and yet anoth­er point­er that the divi­sions between house, tech­no of old and dub­step­py type things are now irrev­o­ca­bly blurred. Vague­ly epic stuff.

Ikoni­ka – Con­tact, Love, Want, Have

I keep on com­ing back to Cybotron when I lis­ten to this, per­haps because, by nature I have trou­ble leav­ing so many records I grew with behind as we all do. How­ev­er despite the con­tem­po­rary smart-kids nature of this album the ghost (or aur­ra — he is, after all, still with us) of Juan Atkins looms large, and also, despite the words that sur­round­ed its release, this is hard­ly the first record to use old game nois­es to make music. But it made me smile a lot and six months on it still does. I do dig the way the very best elec­tron­ic records draw in so many dis­parate threads and then, unlike tra­di­tion­al rock’n’roll when it does the same, irrev­er­ent­ly rein­vents rather than just restat­ing as gui­tar-bass-drums inevitably does. Sara Abdel-Hamid does that by strip­ping back the Kraftwerkian ele­ments and adding a light­ness that Mag­ic Juan missed. Or maybe I’m read­ing too much into it all. I do that. I love this record.

James Blake — CMYK EP

James Blake — Klavier­w­erke EP

I guess these should real­ly be in the pop part of this, below, but they found them­selves moved up the page for two rea­sons — first­ly because they appear on the jus­ti­fi­ably famous (revived) Bel­gian tech­no label R&S — and sec­ond­ly, because the sec­ond EP is a jump back to a sound that fits that clas­sic label’s tra­di­tion rather the appeal­ing almost crossover pop-esque of the title track of the first. Regard­less, both EPs were big stuff and the guy is going to find fame and for­tune in 2011.

the pop machine turns you on…

Phoenix Foun­da­tion – Buf­fa­lo

Ok — best album I’ve heard from New Zealand in years. Seri­ous­ly. I fell in love with Buf­fa­lo in a way I haven’t with a New Zealand release for many a year. I like many NZ records on their own mer­its (although I’m aware there are some I give extra lee­way to sim­ply because of where they come from) and every now and then one plonks itself in front of me and I play and like it a lot. Giv­en its rel­a­tive­ly low inter­na­tion­al pro­file I have to work real­ly hard to find New Zealand music. How­ev­er few have had the impact this has had on me — I’d hap­pi­ly list it in my five great­est New Zealand long play­ers ever. It’s a Men­tal Notes of its time and, for me at least, that praise doesn’t come high­er. I absolute­ly dug the way it seemed to ref­er­ence back to our psy­che­del­ic past and per­fect­ly built on that — lis­ten to The Fourmyula’s UK ver­sion of Home then this album’s Gold­en Ship and tell me they don’t share blood even if the lat­ter is some­what more epic in design. I’d not played the album for a month or two and went back to it when I was writ­ing this. It has grown in stature. Fault­less.

I swoon to this record.

Cari­bou –Swim

It’s the record that every­body seemed to talk about for a month of two and if I’m being hon­est I’m thor­ough­ly sick to death of it at the time of writ­ing- or at least I thought I was until played it again just now and under­stood yet again why Kali and Sun are two of the most affect­ing and time­less pop records I’ve heard this year. I liked the live album too and liked just as much how it con­fused US review­ers who’s first expo­sure to Sun Ra was the PR sheet that came with it.

Autre Ne Veut

Wow this is an odd, won­der­ful record. A pop record drenched in (lots of) soul, dub, elec­tron­i­ca (Pitch­fork called it rit­u­al­is­tic avant-pop which works for me although I’m still not sure quite what that exact­ly means, but then I’m often not sure what this long play­er exact­ly means) and the kitchen sink. There are times I think I’m lis­ten­ing to a record Jim­my Jam & Ter­ry Lewis made at the tail end of a ben­der in the ear­ly 1980s — the next moment I’ve got Arthur Lee bang­ing into Sylvester Stew­art and yet none of this could real­ly have exist­ed even a cou­ple of years ago. A gamer chang­er? Sure, but there is a lot of that going on right now.

Dark­star — North

Pop, pop, pop — and from a much hyped under­ground label (Hyper­dub). How­ev­er pop it is and as that it is quite some­thing. I’ve played and played this and still do, but was for­ev­er bemused by the end­less reviews telling me that the album was draw­ing heav­i­ly on the pro­to­type elec­tron­i­ca records of the ear­ly 1980s. Real­ly, it has a Human League cov­er but that’s about it. Noth­ing here sounds like the League’s albums, or oth­ers by Numan, OMD, BEF, Foxx or any oth­er act from the era I can think of. I guess one writer tags it thus and the sheep fol­low. Ten per­fect­ly formed airy songs that if any­thing owe a slight debt to the fragili­ty of sound­tracks by the great Roy Budd, although they’re more con­cise than Hudd’s grim North­ern land­scapes were ever allowed to be. They have words too.

For­est Swords — Dag­ger Paths

An odd and eccen­tric release that I’m still com­ing to terms with (it came to me late in the year) but strikes me as the con­fused sib­ling of the afore­men­tioned Dark­star. Wow — there are some fab­u­lous sound explo­rations under­way as we head into the sec­ond decade of the cen­tu­ry. The removal of the dis­trac­tions of record label pres­sure by the implod­ing indus­try has just, as I hoped, loos­ened the ties in the same way arrival of labels like Rough Trade and Small Won­der did 30 plus years back. Like the Autre Ne Veut above (with which it shares an indie imprint, NYC’s Olde Eng­lish Spelling Bee) I real­ly don’t feel ever feel total­ly com­fort­able with or under­stand exact­ly what this is but it intrigues every time I play it. And I real­ly love the way albums have become con­cise again. It is quite bril­liant. I think.

Gui­do — Anidea

When put next to many of my favourite records in 2010 this is a very easy record to like or even love. Bristol’s Guy Mid­dle­ton has gath­ered twelve heav­i­ly melod­ic com­po­si­tions which, often obvi­ous­ly but nev­er over­whelm­ing­ly so, blends mod­ern r’n’b, the more spa­cious jazz of the sev­en­ties, the deep mood­i­ness of the likes of Fin­gers Inc, and best of all refers strong­ly to his city’s native tra­di­tions most espe­cial­ly one of my favourite bands ever, Smith & Mighty (this is on the same label, Punch Drunk, as that duo’s Rob Smith). And the gor­geous Beau­ti­ful Com­pli­ca­tion should make a hell of a radio sin­gle. But of course it won’t.

Tame Impala — Inner­s­peak­er

My rock’n’roll album of the year. As I touched on above, I think rock’n’roll in its tra­di­tion­al forms has long since stopped rein­vent­ing. Instead it restates now and has done for twen­ty plus years. But, hell, this is fun and as much as it adds noth­ing new to an oft restat­ed idiom which seems to go in cir­cles, it’s a great record with huge slabs of just about every late 60s UK psy­che­del­ic band you can name mixed in there — as The Guardian said it’s as if no new music has reached West­ern Aus­tralia since 1969. I doubt this will be a record for the ages, or even 2011, but I liked it in 2010.

slow and low…

Aloe Blacc – Good Things

Aloe Blacc fills the same hole that May­er Hawthorne did a year ear­li­er which, giv­en that they are on the same label, is hard­ly sur­pris­ing. There isn’t a rad­i­cal nor a rev­o­lu­tion­ary moment on this record, but that’s the point and it’s all the bet­ter for it.

José James – Black Mag­ic

James’ name appeared on two albums in 2010, this very con­tem­po­rary rework­ing of the idiom he’s work­ing in, bring­ing in the likes of Fly­ing Lotus and Moody­mann, and cov­er­ing (with added vocals) Ben­ga; and the much slighter (and lat­er) For All We Know with pianist Jef Neve, which revis­it­ed Amer­i­can stan­dards with less suc­cess than the ven­er­a­ble Bri­an Wil­son (below). You have to hope that that sec­ond album wasn’t the begin­ning of a retreat back to the safe­ty (and, I guess, bucks) of the Norah Jones mar­ket, but it’s con­cern­ing. I don’t begrudge the guy the dol­lars but one can but sense that the lush mod­ern sound he was find­ing on the two Brownsville albums (this and the 2009 album, The Dream­er) offered a career path that would not only have more longevi­ty but would arguably be more reward­ing not just for the lis­ten­er (mean­ing me) but Jones. I get the feel­ing I’m assum­ing too much.

The col­lec­tions…

Wal­ter Gib­bons – Jun­gle Music

You’ve not a heard a dis­co record until you’ve heard Gib­bons mind­blow­ing 12” mix of the first record ever to appear com­mer­cial­ly in that for­mat, Dou­ble Exposure’s Ten Per­cent on Sal­soul. Lush, swirling per­cus­sive sex on vinyl that nags at you and toss­es you around for the best part three min­utes before drop­ping into a cho­rus and then draw­ing you back away from that. There are times when I think it is the finest record ever made, although oth­er times I con­clude that the bal­ance of this com­pi­la­tion is even bet­ter.

Bob Blank — The Blank Gen­er­a­tion — Blank Tapes NYC 1975 — 1985

Mon­ster selec­tion. I guess I could live with­out yet anoth­er copy of Fon­da Rae’s Fat Rat, and the Gladys Knight is also on the Gib­bons comp (albeit in a longer mix) but the Sun Ra, Lydia Lunch, Aur­al Exciters (ear­ly August Dar­nell) and James Blood Ulmer tracks are worth the price of admis­sion to this killer comp doc­u­ment­ing a small part of the exten­sive cat­a­logue of pro­duc­tions by this huge­ly impor­tant but most­ly unhailed NY producer/engineer. And if those tracks aren’t enough, the com­pil­er has been clever and used the B side mix of the much com­piled Wax The Van by Lola. Orig­i­nal­ly on Jump St in 1986, every oth­er comp this appears on uses the A which is fine, but any DJ who’s ever filled a floor with it knows the wigged out Jon’s Dub is the killer. It’s here.

The elder­ly….

Gil Scott Heron — I’m New Here

Why is this so short? 28 min­utes and you are left won­der­ing where the rest is. The mas­ter, who few would have believed would last this far into the next cen­tu­ry, returned with an album that may have been slen­der time wise but was mas­sive any oth­er way you mea­sured it and is, to my ears at least, his best since the mid 1970s. Wrapped in con­tem­po­rary urban flavours, the UK sort, track by track — this has to be played as a sin­gle work like the Wil­son below — it’s an album that almost a year after it’s release, I still find myself find­ing new things in every­time I play it, despite its length — and I play it almost every day. Giv­en his per­son­al past and record­ed his­to­ry, you’d for­give the guy for sim­ply walk­ing through this. I guess he doesn’t know how to do that.

Elvis Costel­lo — Nation­al Ran­som

Every year I list an Elvis Costel­lo album and every year I realise that I’ve not played last year’s one for a year. That said I like a habit and I have a habit of not want­i­ng to break it. An album that rewards in places. The best bits are, with one excep­tion, the slow tracks but per­haps that’s just me — I’ve not ever real­ly enjoyed a hoe­down but I’ve always melt­ed at the Mac­manus bal­ladry that used to fill his B sides in the ear­ly days but slipped onto the albums them­selves as time passed. That’s Not The part of Him I’m Leav­ing is maudlin, depress­ing and all the bet­ter for it. Five Small Words, the only up track I like, shim­mers like The Byrds do Mersey­beat. You Hung the Moon is the song your grand­moth­er lis­tened to on the Sun­day after­noon request ses­sion, and quite love­ly for it. Bul­lets For The New­born King, just bass, voice and gui­tar, is an heir to those ear­ly 7” flip­sides, that made those sin­gles so desir­able. Best of all is the dev­as­tat­ing­ly beau­ti­ful All These Strangers . Its ini­tial slight­ness belies the fact that it’s the key track on an album, once I’ve pro­grammed out a cou­ple of those less attrac­tive stom­pers and rock­ers,  I’ve played and loved a lot this year.

Bri­an Wil­son — Reimag­ines Gersh­win

This shouldn’t work. It sounds hor­rif­ic on paper and I’ve had to put the thing on again to reas­sure myself that I’m not mak­ing a fool of myself by tout­ing it. It works. It’s charm­ing, it’s love­ly, the two new songs, co-writes from half fin­ished Gersh­win works, are gor­geous and are the best thing Wil­son has done since the ear­ly 1970s (allow­ing for the fact that 2004’s Smile was a record­ing of an ear­li­er suite), the voice which has been a weak­ness in recent years is just fine and he brings new life to songs you thought you’d like­ly nev­er want to hear again, sim­ply by open­ing up and accen­tu­at­ing with a very soft touch their native melodies. Not once does he over­play and yes well… a sim­ply won­der­ful album which demands that it’s played in one sit­ting from begin­ning to end. Who would’ve thought…

6 Comments

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Tweets that men­tion Is it a crime / to live inside every emo­tion :The Opin­ion­at­ed Din­er — Topsy.com
December 17, 2010 at 03:12 PM

[…] This post was men­tioned on Twit­ter by Peter McLen­nan and Simon Grigg, blue­vibestu­dio. blue­vibestu­dio said: seri­ous list for 2010, and heaps ive not heard yet RT @Opdiner: Opdin­er: Is it a crime / to live inside every emo­tion http://bit.ly/hwpkvf […]

Jen
December 18, 2010 at 11:12 AM

Cheers simon, look for­ward to hunt­ing down a few of these

Chad
December 21, 2010 at 10:12 PM

You’re the only per­son I know who’d list Teen­girl Fan­ta­sy *and* Bri­an Wil­son. Thanks Simon — fuck­ing great list. Googling now…

Antho­ny
December 24, 2010 at 04:12 AM

Nice list, I’ll be check­ing lots of those out but where’s Paul Weller’s album? I know you’re a fan.……

Simon
December 24, 2010 at 09:12 PM
– In reply to: Anthony

I like the Weller album but I tend to find they grow over years. Yep, I’m a huge fan.…

Nigel
January 23, 2011 at 01:01 PM

I’m glad you are still doing a list, Simon. Thanks
It’s cru­cial for some of us to make sure we haven’t missed some­thing — but I always do. It’s get­ting hard­er to find annu­al best of lists that you relate to.
Gib­bons, Mount Kim­bie, Dark­star, Bob Blank and the odd Autre were also among my most played.

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