2010 has seen a huge number of albums land on its doormat, but which would should you welcome in for some eggnog and which should you direct nextdoor to that pesky neighbour of yours? Here’s our top ten albums of the year…
10. Vampire Weekend – Contra
The New York quartet always knew that it would be tough to top their self-titled debut, but they took the tack ‘if it ain’t broke don’t fix it’ and in doing so came up trumps with a sophomore album packed to the rafters with quirky, kinky tunes chockfull of knowing lyrics. Strings, ska, reggae, Africana – it’s all here. If you hate songs that rhyme horchata with balaclava, this is not for you. For us though, the more horchata the better.
9. Foals – Total Life Forever
Oxford quintet Foals were uber-hyped when they released their first album back in 2008, but Antidotes was a bit too fiddly for most. However, their second attempt hits all the correct marks two years later, 11 tracks that provide a sweet musical swell, best played loud and proud. Foals have moved on from their chaotic, post-punk sound to an altogether more polished, alt-dance blend that’s easy on the ear – plus, their live shows never fail to impress. Listen to the opener Blue Blood and swoon, while Miami transports you to a blissed out vista.
8. Plan B – The Defamation Of Strickland Banks
Plan B, aka Ben Drew, truly hit his stride this year, mixing up his rapping skills with those of soul singer and in the process producing an album that could have sprung out of Motown, although the rapping might have surprised Berry Gordy Jnr. Proof that his fame has indeed spread came anew this week, when it was announced that She Said was the most-played song in shops in 2010 – buying that sequinned number never sounded so good.
7. Lady Antebellum – Need You Now
You could say that 2010 has been a great year for Lady Antelbellum and you’d be right. Their second album has sold by the truckload around the world and with good reason – it’s a nu-country feast, full of tight songwriting and harmonies so delicious, you want to smother them with ketchup and park them in a bun. Live, the chemistry between lead singers Hilary Scott and Charles Kelley crackles just as it does on record and their two lead singles from the album – Need You Now and American Honey – are simply world class. The future looks bright for this Nashville trio.
6. Arcade Fire – The Suburbs
The Canadian collective were lauded for 2008’s Neon Bible, but with The Suburbs their sound transferred to the masses and this is up for album of the year in January’s Grammys. Arcade Fire could care less about awards and accolades so they say, but the fact that this album further smeared their brand of baroque indie pop onto the world’s collective consciousness must cause them to break into something approaching a grin. So long as it’s not caught on camera.
5. Gorillaz – Plastic Beach
Damon Albarn’s a clever bugger isn’t he? Leaping gracefully from Blur to opera to Gorillaz, whatever the enigmatic frontman seems to touch is flecked with gold – and this latest slice of monkey business didn’t disappoint. The Gorillaz’ third album was a standout release this year, mixing electro with hip-hop, reggae and no little amount of strings. Reigning in the talents of collaborators like De La Soul, Snoop Dogg, Mark E Smith and Lou Reed is no mean feat, but Gorillaz pulled it off with aplomb.
4. Groove Armada – Black Light
A stalwart of the dance scene for over a decade, Groove Armada’s albums never fail to impress with their hand-picked selection of collaborators and instinctive knack for a tune. Black Light was somewhat of a leap into the unknown for the Londoners, embracing as it does electronica and 80s stylings, eschewing their normal dance vibe. However, the fellas managed to bring clubbing to the 80s, and with stand-out track History they also cajoled a beautiful cameo from Will Young.
3. Robyn – Body Talk
When did Robyn turn into a disco-popette on acid? 2010 is the answer. With her three-parted Body Talk series of albums, the Swedish diva vamped it up, going dancey-electro and telling us exactly what was killing her and instructing us not to fucking tell her what to do. OK love. Cool vibes and crisp execution, Body Talk also has a number of highlights including the chillingly fabulous Dancing On My Own. In the abscence of Roisin Murphy, Robyn filled an aching void in 2010 and for that we salute her.
2. Hurts – Happiness
Hurts won the award this year for glitziest album launch party – in these recession-hit times, Sony blew the budget on fizzy wine and posh canapes – no sausages on sticks for this Manchester duo. It seems though that Sony knew what they were doing, because Happiness truly is a killer album, carpetted wall to wall with beautiful, aching pop laced with a hint of arsenic. Hurts’ USP is melancholic pop with grand, roof-lifting choruses and these are sewn into the seam of the album on the likes of Wonderful Life and Better Than Love. They wear a suit well, too.
1. Two Door Cinema Club – Tourist History
The Irish threesome had a storming 2010, spending it in a touring whirlwind and amassing a huge fanbase along the way thanks to their energy-fuelled live shows, dynamite guitar riffs, hazy keys and lilting, swaggering vocals that evoke the likes of Blur in their pomp. We reckon Tourist History might truly explode in 2011, but for now, these are three ridiculously likeable lads on the edge of glittery stardom. To the basement, people…