We’re already halfway through the first month of 2011, so you probably don’t want to hear about my favourites of 2010 – and I usually don’t either. Still there are two reasons for this post. First, the previous year had an amazing output of great new music. And secondly, I took it kinda slow last year, writing not many reviews or other special features. So let me take one last look at 2010.
Before we start, I want to point out I don’t list these in any particular order, but I created these categories.
I. The Unquestionables
Four Tet – There Is Love In You (Domino)
The year started with the release of Four Tet‘s fifth solo album There Is Love In You, in my opinion his best to date. That is probably because it both works on headphones and the dancefloor. Accompanied by remixes from Joy Orbison, Floating Points, Mosca, Caribou and Jon Hopkins, it should have been hard to miss the album. The overall quality made it clear instantly: this would remain a top spot by the end of the year.
Actress – Splazsh (Honest Jon’s)
Alright, if I had to pick just one favourite I’d have to go for the second album by Werk Disc founder Darren J. Cunninham, better known as Actress. Released in May, Splaszh leaves me with all kinds of weird feelings. It’s sinister and depressing at times, and it puts me in a state of hunger or sleeplessness. I can’t really figure it out , but I keep listening to it over and over again.
Flying Lotus – Cosmogramma (Warp)
There is a whole generation now inspired by the music of Flying Lotus and 2010 saw quite some good attempts to stay in his vicinity. But with Cosmogramma Steve Ellison not only raised the bar, he changed the entire game. He could’ve continued just making beat instrumentals or work with any MC he likes. Instead he chose to make his music broader and richer on all sides. It’s maybe not as easy to get into, but once you’re there you know it was worth it.
II. The Unexpected
Gonjasufi – A Sufi and A Killer (Warp)
One might argue that sampling a bunch of old records and having a guy sing over them can hardly make a good record these days, I give you that point! Still, Gonjasufi’s debut on Warp has been on rotation for months. It kinda came out of nowhere and it’s the first Gaslamp Killer production that really got me. A great choice of samples and fitting vocals are the simplest ingredients imaginable, but they work terribly well.
Lone – Emerald Fantasy Tracks (Magic Wire)
Already the fourth album by Matt Cutler, but the first to be released on his own Magic Wire label. It’s a rather mellow dance album with strong links to late 80s/early 90s house music. However, the overall sound benefits from modern production techniques, so you won’t end up with a set of bleeding ears. Instead you will use the repeat function.
Teebs – Ardour (Brainfeeder)
The debut album by Los Angeles based Teebs had a perfect timing, for me anyway. At the time I was making my own experiences with the wonders of Northern winter. The bells, harps and other wonderful twinkles on the album seemed to be the perfect soundtrack while walking through snowed in European cities. Probably my favourite Brainfeeder release to date.
III. The Underrated
Ital Tek – Midnight Colour (Planet Mu)
There were probably a handful of albums that hit into a similar vein as Ital Tek‘s second album Midnight Colour. Ultimately, it was its melodic nature that made the difference to other strong records in the field – say Scuba’s Triangulation or F’s Energy Distortion. The album was also accompanied by a fine set of remixes by Ikonika and FaltyDL.
Sotu the Traveller – Left (self-released)
Probably the most overlooked record of the year, partly due to the bad timing (summer holidays) and for being self-released. To me it was a great relieve to hear the record, as I was suffering from an overdose of dark gritty beat albums. Along came Sotu the Traveller to deliver a super smooth record, stroking your ears at every minute. You can buy Left for a fair price at Sotu’s Bandcamp, where you’ll also find remixes by Daisuke Tanabe, Dynooo and Portformat.
Of course now that I got started, I could go on an mention the albums by Ikonika, Caribou or Shackleton’s Fabric 55. But then I’m quite happy with my selection and I already told you I take it kinda slow these days.