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Cork, Ireland
An Irish based alternative music blog. Music news, gigs, live reviews, album reviews... You'll find them here. If you want anything featured or removed, please shout. I hope you'll discover something new to love on this little experiment of mine. Currently editing the Music Section of the UCC Express and contributing to Motley magazine on campus, as well as writing for PopCultureMonster and 4FortyFour. Always looking for new projects so please get in touch if interested. Thanks for reading.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

2010: Best International Releases

And so we reach that time of year again...

This is a short(ish) list of my favourite releases from international acts since January last. Check back in a few days for my 'Best of Irish' post too.

20. Broken Bells Broken Bells [Columbia]
19. Darwin Deez Darwin Deez [Lucky Number]
18. Hot Chip One Life Stand [EMI]
17. Peter Wolf Crier Inter Be [Jagjaguwar]
16. Warpaint The Fool [Rough Trade]
15. Caribou Swim [City Slang]
14. Arcade Fire The Suburbs [Merge]
13. Beach House Teen Dream [Sub Pop]
12. Perfume Genius Learning [Matador]
11. Avi Buffalo Avi Buffalo [Sub Pop]

10. Yeasayer Odd Blood [Secretly Candian]
Fantastic sophomore release from the Brooklyn natives that saw them blend the psychedelic tendencies of the debut with more accessible pop hooks. Danceable, infectious and irresistable.

9. The Black Keys Brothers [Nonesuch]
The Akron, Ohio duo shook off the shackles of the "other blues duo" on this record. Touching on the best of the blues rock that epitomised their sound thus far, they also pushed into new territory with motown and hip-hop notions featuring strongly. A fantastic work.

8. Foals Total Life Forever [Transgressive]
Foals took a huge step forward on their second album. Gone was the staccato guitar and the stop-start vocal of the debut and in its place was a fluid, rhythmic sound. Emotionally sound, the album won me over having never particularly liked the debut.

7. Laura Marling I Speak Because I Can [Virgin]
Britain's most talented songwriter continues her incredible rise. Composed with the craft and guile of a veteran, the fact that Marling is scarcely into her twenties is startling: this is a folk album that screams experience. Robbed at the Mercury Awards this year, Marling is easily the most talented musician of her generation.

6. LCD Soundsystem This Is Happening [DFA/Virgin]
A stunning epitaph if Murphy sticks to his word, LCD Soundsystem's third album takes the best of its predecessors and melts it with the best of the 1970s and 1980s - think of this as an encylcopaedia of musical happenings gone by: Bowie, Talking Heads, the Pixies... It goes on. If it is the end of an era, at least it ended well.

5. The Tallest Man on Earth The Wild Hunt [Dead Oceans]
Swedish folk musician, Kristian Matsson, has always drawn comparisons with Bob Dylan throughout his short career to date. This album confirmed that the two share more than just a vocal similarity. A stunning mesh of blues and folk offerings, Matsson allowed the picturesque Swedish countryside to flow through this lyrics to create this beautiful work. Intimate and delicate, The Wild Hunt is not to be missed.

4. Kanye West My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy [Roc-A-Fella Records]
On his highly anticipated fifth album, West finally reached those incredible heights that he always claimed to be capable of. A rich and enchanting tapestry, ...Fantasy features more guest appearances than the Never Mind the Buzzcocks presenter's chair and is all the better for it. Bon Iver, Gil Scott Heron, Chris Rock, Rihanna, Nicki Minaj and Jay-Z among the best, though none take away from the man at the centre of it all. Free from petty ranting (almost), the album explores the emotional catastrophe that the death of West's mother was and is a deeply personal and blatantly honest work - all the better for it. Kanye's finest hour, and one of the best hip-hop albums ever released.

3. Janelle Monae The ArchAndroid (Suites II and III) [Bad Boy Records]
One of the year's most endearing break-out stars, Janelle Monae put out her first full-length release. Alledgedly it "Incorporates conceptual elements of Afrofuturism and science fiction, The ArchAndroid continues the series' fictional tale of a messianic android and features lyrical themes of love, identity, and self-realization"... Yeah... The record combines the best of modern and older hip-hop, soul and funk to produce an absolutely fantastic sound. Engaging, poppy and damn catchy - Monae is easily the most original debut artist to grace the scene this year.

2. The National High Violet [4AD]
Yet again, the Brooklyn based quintet struck gold on this, their fifth album. High Violet shows all the reasons why the current ideal of dropping a new act at the first stumble is all wrong - the National have perfected their craft in their ten years of plugging away. The first two albums made little or no impact, numbers three and four changed the tide and number five has been accompanied by swirling hyperbole and comparisons to Automatic for the People era REM. This album has announced the National on a wider scale than ever imagined. It retains the subtle beauty of its predecessors, while developing a broad, widescreen sound. A triumph.

1. John Grant Queen of Denmark [Bella Union]
Joined by all members of Midlake for this ethereal and haunting debut. Dealing with Grant's tortured upbringing, his difficulty confronting his sexuality, the role of religion and his father in his life and drug abuse, the album took so much from Grant that he spiralled into depression and admitted himself to rehab following it's completion. A deeply personal record, it touches on traditional folk styles, bridges a little of the Beatles in parts and, ultimately, results in a unique and diverse album. Quite simply, one of the most beautiful and powerful albums you will ever hear.

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