I've found myself with some free time recently due to having completed the traumatic process of revising and then subsequently completing my end of year exams. Thus, I've managed to compile a list containing twenty-five full-lengths and a further five EP's that I deem to be the best of this sensational year for music. I apologise in advance for the length.A
1. Angus and Julia Stone - Down the Way
Put simply, this is a brilliant record in every facet imaginable. Initially released in March, Down the Way essentially held the illustrious number one position on my own personal list for the remaining duration of the year. It's a sincerely beautiful album that captures intimacy, luscious harmonies, breathtaking melodies, and it's unmistakable delightful and enchanting. Down the Way possesses something remarkable and special because despite the overwhelming number of plays it has received since its release, the instrumentation is still delightful, I'm still as engrossed within the lyrics as I ever have been, the dual vocals are just as gorgeous as the very first occasion I heard them. This is one of my favourite albums in years, and it's such a big call, but I see this having timeless qualities ingrained into it. Down the Way is deserving of the title, album of the year.
The back story behind this record is extremely fascinating. Julia and her brother Angus had been on tour overseas promoting and performing songs from their debut, A Book Like This, to the point where Angus was thoroughly exhausted. They had also written and recorded what was to be their second album and my number one record of the year, Down the Way during this time. Alas, with Angus returning home to Australia indefinitely, Julia was forced to cancel the remaining dates of their tour overseas. Julia had no idea if Down the Way would ever see release or even if they would ever play music together again. It was that serious.
Instead of returning home herself, Julia remained overseas for a few months living with close friends in a two room apartment where she would write what is predominantly her debut solo full-length, The Memory Machine. It's candidly honest, saturated in sincerity and cascades with profound beauty and elegance within every note played and lyric sung. It's an enthralling and equally breathtaking debut where Julia's unique vocal delivery provides the purest of illumination even in the darkest and most insecure of lyrical settings.
Perhaps an unpopular selection if the all too frequent negative reviews that The Five Ghosts received upon its initial release are anything to go by, but I feel they're unjust because this record, at least in my view, is simply delightful. Amy Millan's stunningly gorgeous vocals burn and soar with patient regret in the superb "Changes" whilst Torquil Campbell takes the lead during the verses in the dynamic up-tempo "We Don't Want Your Body". The Five Ghosts is inspiring and its true beauty and complexity is found in its ability to render listeners temporarily incapable of diverting their attention from an album that is wonderful and charming.
Sally Seltmann released her third full-length, Heart That's Pounding in April of this year, and if you like indie-pop music and this somehow slipped completely under your radar, then I would highly recommend taking a listen. It's instantly loveable, Sally's vocals are absolutely beautiful and breathtaking, and it's a record that's so optimistic and contains luscious melodies throughout its forty minute duration. It's buoyant at every turn, vocal harmonies are everywhere and it thoroughly deserves a spot in my top five.
We Built a Fire is the second album from Icelandic septet Seabear and features indie-folk-virtues and subtle intimacy. “Fires Dies Down”, and the full-bodied “I’ll Build A Fire” plump with rumbling drums, violins, and female vocal harmonies whilst my personal favourite, “Lion Face Boy” is a a mid-tempo, string-filled pop number that builds and escalates into an enthusiastic chorus full of horns and easy melodies. Unfortunately, We Built a Fire was often overlooked upon its release, but for those who had the distinct pleasure and fortune of stumbling across it, we were able to decipher all its intricacies and quietly delivered lyrics. I don't know about you, but I immediately fell in love with the effortless charm that Seabear possesses.
When I sat down last December to write a most anticipated list, this was definitely my number one. Nobody had heard of them, perhaps nobody still has, but they created a debut containing atmospheric indie-rock with a touch of ambiance thrown in for good measure. Tracks such as the absolutely stunning "Years, Days, Months" explore cinematic, post-rock soundscapes to captivating effect. "Answers" contains the band's catchiest chorus with lead vocalist Edd Simpson conveying a sense of dramatic urgency over the band's signature cryptically complex lyrics. It may not have reached the top position despite it being my most anticipated of the year, but it's a thoroughly fantastic record regardless of its position.
A few months ago, this probably would have been sitting second on my list, but as it turned out other records continued to have a far greater impact on me when it came to revisiting them. Upon its release, I Believe You, Liar had me instantly hooked from the moment I heard songs such as "1997", "Underground" and "Spanish Temper". The latter track being the highlight of this wonderful album. There's not a lot more I can say except that it's actually quite harsh to have listed this album so low. It was a wonderful year for Australian music, and Washington is an enormous reason why that statement should be believed.
After having leaked late in 2009, this still had the lasting appeal to make my top ten of this year. Originally it took a fair while to connect with me lyrically and musically, but when it did, it had an enormous impact. It's one of those records where the lyrics are so expertly crafted that it's effortless to picture them vividly and immerse yourself within them. The instrumentation is beautiful, the production could potentially take a little time to get familiar with, but once Teen Dream is able to weave its magic, there's no way of resisting its charm and the unmistakable passion it conveys.
I feel as if this record didn't get the attention it deserved. After the publicity and exposure jj no.2 received before and after its initial release, somehow this managed to go vastly unnoticed. I manages to improve upon its previous effort in every facet explainable and contains soothing vocal melodies and a remarkable sense of positivity and optimism scattered throughout the lyrics. The music and instrumentation is both carefree without carelessness, and self-aware without being self-conscious. With it, they build an ice bridge arching from Gothenburg into the heart of Melbourne, Australia, and everywhere in between.
Bright Lights and Bruises took me completely by surprise. Prior to its release I had no idea about its existence but the emotion and passion within Jay Malinowski's vocals is just so unique, distinctive and inspiring. The record itself contains enthralling piano melodies and prominent acoustic guitars that help to make the vocals soar with momentum and cascade with vulnerability. Honestly, I can't praise this record enough. The vocals alone make Bright Lights and Bruises a must listen. The song below is titled "Santa Monica" and one listen should be enough to utterly captivate you into wanting to discover more of this wonderful talent.
Another release that happened to come out of nowhere, certainly I wasn't anticipating it or expecting anything remotely like it delivered. I feel the beauty within this record is that it's emotionally conflicting yet it feels so natural, precise and complete. The lyrics are simplistic yet fascinating, and the beauty behind them is that they show the listener what's occurring within these tracks, never actually telling them which is powerful because these lyrics have the ability to relate themselves to any situation the listener interprets. The Agreement has somewhat of a melancholy, mellow vibe coursing through it feel, with only a few deceptively upbeat songs with catchy rhythms. Alas, Lakes was an under appreciated release, but pleasantly surprising all the same.
Young The Giant have enormous potential and their self-titled debut album did nothing to convince me otherwise. It's fabulous and completely blew me away. "My Body" is absolutely brilliant and would have to be one of my contenders for song of the year. The reason why it's listed so low is because I just haven't been able to spend enough time with it, but from the somewhat limited opportunities it has had to win me over to this point, it's well and truly succeeded. It's very unlucky not to be placed higher. It's phenomenal.
The Autumn Film's debut full-length, The Ship and the Sea reminds me ever so slightly of a female fronted Copeland. "Mended" and "Sirens" are perfect examples of exemplifying that statement. It has literally had no talk or promotion on AP which is quite disappointing, but for anyone who reads this and loves indie-pop music, then this is a great record to purchase. It doesn't have any special qualities about it, but everything it aims to achieve, it does extremely well. The melodies are very good, the lyrics focus upon a variety of topics and themes including love, heartbreak and through adversity, finding our true selves. The piano is prominent in the majority of the songs which is another nice and appreciated touch.
This is the perfect indie-folk spring seasonal record, and in a way it reminds me of Seabear. Humbly understated and under appreciated, Peasant spends 10 tracks trying to bring you into his world where you’ll need to slow down in order to appreciate the immersive beauty. The entire record is brimming with brilliance and its poetical thoughtfulness; it's addictive and thoroughly intriguing as well as being one of the better singer/songwriter releases of 2010.
I stumbled upon this from a thread Eda created in General, and I'm so glad that she recommended it because it's sensational. From what I can gather from the people who have implied that they like it, it tends to be a grower, but for me personally this was able to immediately connect and have an impact with me. The Procession continues the dark and moody style of her first release with moments of exaltation while her vocal work on this album is amazing along with the symphonic backing arrangements. The Procession projects feelings of isolation and occasionally elation whilst on certain tracks vocal crescendos add to the ambiance of this album. Overall, The Procession features songs of aural and ambient beauty. Dreamy, melancholy, and momentum building emotion.
What's Fair are the only genuine pop band on my list, and their debut Fill This Space is another one that I was fortunate enough to stumble across merely by chance. Female fronted lead vocalist Jo Pollock has a simply gorgeous and beautiful voice that fits the instrumentation perfectly. The band's biggest asset is their ability to write and perfect a quality, catchy and infectious chorus seemingly at will. It really gives each individual song tremendous accessibility, but also their own personality and charm which is always crucial for a relatively unknown band when looking to obtain and develop a sizable fanbase. I have no doubt that if AP had caught onto this, it would be a well received, widely adored release. If you're reading this, I urge you to give the track below a moment of your time.
Initially I had Leche by Gregory and the Hawk sitting comfortably in this position, but as recently as a couple of weeks ago I discovered Puzzle and was completely blown away by the intricacy of the instrumentation and the breathtaking vocals. Icelandic orchestral poppers Amiina used to be part of the string section for Sigur Ros, so that's definitely a noteworthy comparison and there are certainly resemblances and distinct similarity in their attempts at the cinematic, the sublime and the quiet-loud dynamic. Regardless, Puzzle is a beautiful listening experience from beginning to end, and what it lacks in originality it just about makes up for in sheer resolve. There is never a sense that the band is anything less than sincere, and when making music this unashamedly emotional, sincerity is pretty much the most important ingredient. Lovely, beautiful music.
I certainly didn't expect Early Summer to make my end of year list because my initial response to the record wasn't negative, but it was far from ideally positive. I'd never before heard of Amaya, but the song that really turned it all around was "This World Can Make You Happy". The song does an excellent job at showcasing how enchanting her vocals are throughout the duration of the record. I can definitely sense a little bit of folk, a whole lot of pop and a minuscule portion of country influencing the creation of Early Summer. Amaya's vocals are definitely the highlight and reason for the lengthy lasting value and staying power. It's a fabulous record and another terrific Australian release.
Listen to: [button=http://mpegmedia.abc.net.au/triplej/newmusic/amaya_laucirica/this_world_can_make_you_happy.mp3]"This World Can Make You Happy"[/button] Myspace Official Website Purchase
19. Rocky Votolato - True Devotion
This is such a touching and emotional album. Rocky battled and struggled through depression and severe bouts of anxiety throughout the writing and production of True Devotion, and perhaps that's why it's so heartfelt and sincere. Rarely does an album reach such enormous heights when the creator himself was predominantly at his lowest. It's a beautiful album and in hindsight should have made it higher on my list, but alas, at least it still receives its well deserved recognition. Below is a track titled "Sparklers" and every single time I hear it, it still sends and delivers shivers and chills down my spine. Absolutely breathtaking.
This was fortunate to be on my list because I'd given it that many listens to no avail, but whilst I was compiling my list I fell head over heels for "O.N.E" and that was the real turning point because once I was hooked, it wasn't about to let go. Consequently, I now essentially adore this record. Yeasayer was fighting for this last spot with such other bands and artists as Jonsi, Efterklang, Corinne Bailey Rae, Silent League and Los Campesinos.