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The Year In Review

#top 75 international records 2010, part I: from 75 to 51

The Year In Review #top 75 international records 2010, part I: from 75 to 512010 has been a great year, so with the list below we want to note for the record the agitated and creative moment the music we find important is living right now. The crop has been excellent and varied, and the 75 records to come –divided over three parts: tomorrow we’ll post the numbers 50 to 26 and on Friday 25 to 1– are a reflection of what has drawn our attention and touched our nerves the most. With these last 3 lists we complete the extensive overview of the past year we’ve given you over the last three weeks. Who will be on the highest steps of the stage? The countdown starts now.

75. Mount Kimbie: “Crooks & Lovers” (Hotflush Recordings)

The yin and the yang, life and death, light and darkness and, why not, dubstep and post-dubstep. It couldn’t all be bassline, suffocation, darkness, sub-bass, violence and wobble. The universe needed to balance out with a dose of light, friendliness, melody, calmness, sweetness, attention to detail, and that’s why it put Dominic Maker and Kai Campos (and others) on the face of the Earth. Furthermore, “Crooks & Lovers” has a special function. With the genre still developing, this could be the first important LP, one that makes history (if this post-dubstep thing will last) not because it’s the best or the worst, but simply because it is one of the first. Mónica Franco

74. Delphic: “Acolyte” (Polydor)

First, here’s a warning that the Delphic formula isn’t anything new nor will it blow us away. Hot Chip, Klaxons and Cut Copy have been there and done that. But thanks to the help of Ewan Pearson as producer from his Berlin HQ –an untouchable, whose CV includes everything from producing Tracey Thorn’s latest album to a list of remixes even Carl Craig would be proud of -, “Acolyte” offers a fistful of tracks that, at one fell swoop, break the perfect 3-minute pop song rule, infinitely deforming the better part of their tunes via overexposed effects and reiterative loops. Sergio del Amo

73. Guido: “Anidea” (Punch Drunk Records)

“Anidea” is an album with meticulous production, which leaves fragmented bits behind in your memory. You have to listen to it again to see whether the ending, “Tantalized”, is closer to harsh grime or to luxurious garage; the strings and something like a noise guitar blend together to create an angry, pushing effect that is unusual. You also have to listen again to thoroughly enjoy the ecstasy of the beginning, the dub symphony in two parts that begins with “Anidea” and ends with “Orchestral Lab”. This is, in summary, a musician’s album –if you say that he is only a producer, it’s as if you are saying very little of his abilities. He has plenty of talent and he has just shown us the first results of his enormous potential. Javier Blánquez

72. Francesco Tristano: “Idiosynkrasia” (Infiné) “Idiosynkrasia” “Idiosynkrasia” is like the sum of Tristano’s first two albums. It sounds neither as basic nor graceful as the first, nor as technically complex as the second; he keeps the best of both to advance along a third route in which the piano and techno connect without any harmful friction. It is also the confirmation that Francesco Tristano is effectively one of the truly idiosyncratic creators of the moment, a man with a unique language, a mixture of innate genius and divergent tastes, and with sufficient skill to extract art and extremely delicate emotion where others would have only created a ridiculous pastiche. JB

71. Wild Nothing: “Gemini” (Captured Tracks)

“Gemini” is an album that exemplifies most of the good and bad of today’s underground pop: it’s an album that manages to sound sufficiently contemporary, despite its clear fixation on the past; its imperfection and spontaneous air give it a supposed freshness that serves to keep out of sight the pages of what is obviously a style manual. In the end, it is Jack Tatum’s melodic talent that makes these songs somewhat believable (with life and impact aside from their influences). Luis M. Rguez

70. Luke Abbott: “Holkham Drones” (Border Community)

Luke Abbott’s music is analogue, primitive, ingenuous, and delicious. Like Four Tet , and also like his boss James Holden, he is interested, and maybe even obsessed, with the possibilities of the analogue synthesiser, 70’s German kosmische recording techniques, and with the hypnosis that a good album on the Brain label could cause. And maybe this, Luke Abbott’s first album, will finally be an important piece on the current hypnagogic map; it’s not too different from Oneohtrix Point Never, deep down, but with the difference that the first is substantially close to Klaus Schulze, while the second is closer to Michael Rother and Harmonia. JB

69. ceo: “White Magic” (Sincerely Yours)

Eric Berglund’s (the human half of The Tough Alliance and one of the creators of the Sincerely Yours label), with “White Magic”, skips three or four steps on this stairway to heaven and he positions himself in a dimension that is totally respectful towards modern pop, tribal and the Balearic aesthetic, in a couch discourse, some kind of therapy of which the slogan is I Want To Be Happy. Something like what we hear on “Love And Do What You Will” –little screams of what appear to be women in swimming suits splattering each other and a pleasant, almost mainstream production: keyboards and guitars share the starring role over a mid-tempo rhythm. Are you disappointed in the latest jj effort? Destiny always hands you a solution, and this is one. Jordi Guinart

68. Pan Sonic: “Gravitoni” (Blast First Petite)

“Gravitoni” is Pan Sonic’s last album. Literally. Seen with perspective, it can’t be denied that the Finnish pair is leaving behind a lovely corpse. Because “Gravitoni” is, above all, a living work. Nervous and fierce. Like all of theirs. “Voltos Bolt”, opening, already puts listeners in their place: a crushing drop hammer of rhythm and noise. A lot of noise. And they don’t come down from this level of paroxysm until the seventh cut, the ambiental one (as ambiental as Pan Sonic can be), “Vainamoisen Uni”, which acts as a hinge between two clearly different parts. Oriol Rosell

67. Clubroot: “II : MMX” (Lo Dubs)

“II : MMX” implies another change with respect to the previous album—here a factor that distinguishes Burial from Clubroot is accentuated, which is rave psychedelics. If Burial makes subtle references to musicians like Todd Edwards or Omni Trio, Clubroot makes them to that absorbing, coastal house that defined the radiant version of dance music in the mid-90’s, the one that seemed to shine with a pale intensity, seeming to reproduce the point of extra perception that comes with taking ecstasy. If names like Rabbit In The Moon or Scott Hardkiss don’t ring a bell to you, start looking for the albums. The way that the synthesisers cascade in the opening of “Orbiting” or in “Toe To Toe” describes the experience of being outside oneself. JB

66. Gold Panda: “Lucky Shiner” (Notown-Ghostly International)

Gold Panda’s music sounds enchanting and familiar because what he does doesn’t cease to be a peculiar and very personal evolution of what used to be released on labels like Morr Music –in other words, it’s Manual or Styrofoam school indietronic in it’s most stripped-down form–, but at the same time manifests a much deeper preoccupation with rhythm rather than melody, and, above all, it sounds familiar because it paradoxically sounds exotic. He is one more in an invisible saga of producers of British cyberdelica who have reached the other side of Asia and come back with exciting material with which they can enrich their own music. JB

65. Baths: “Cerulean” (Anticon)

Built on a frame of dreamy electronic poly-rhythms, IDM made of joints, fire, and Dilla-like hip-hop, “Cerulean” exhales a melodic breeze that caresses the listener’s skin. Without falling into fickle sentimentality, the album exudes tenderness, charm and a delightful playfulness. You automatically soften up. It’s special for its particular approach to indie-tronica and pop, with both genres present on almost all of the cuts on the album. The sounds are foreign, but treated with a silk glove. The beat is futuristic and introverted, but has an emotional spark that traps you. Óscar Broc

64. T win Shadow: “Forget” (Terrible Records-4AD)

Extracting the best from soft-rock –here vocal aspects and red-hot riffs rule, over and above synthetic additives, taking it out onto the dance floor; in “Forget” you sense an ambition different from that of other heirs of chill-wave, a destination that is different when it comes to catching a glimpse of where Twin Shadow wants to go with his music. Unlike the bohemian air that so many hypnagogic producers like to put on, he assures that he created this project in order to make a living from it, understanding it as a well-oiled memory machine that will earn him money. He wants “Forget” to face off against so much mediocre music that is circulating on radios all over the world. And he can do it, because he has written a wonderful album. Cristian Rodríguez

63. Akira Rabelais: “Caduceus” (Samadhisound)

There is the pollution of static beneath it all, which is sometimes subtle, and sometimes not, depending on the moment, and improvisations on guitar that can add to the noise or calm the waters. With this palette of sensations, concise yet malleable if in the right hands, Akira Rabelais releases another album in which as you listen, you feel as though you are tired and can’t sleep, or you are sleeping but sleepwalking through hallways, tripping and falling over objects. The album is erratic yet calm, innerving yet soul–soothing, always taking into account Rabelais’ own moods, trapped between reality and limbo. JB

62. Perfume Genius: “Learning” (Matador)

On the album we find songs that seem like they have always been there, waiting for someone to find them, the classic of the “bearded young man” (the musical genre where we put other sad men such as Damien Jurado or J.Tillman). This is the case with the song “Learning” and its very sad piano, “You Won’t B Here” (built on arpeggios in basic scales and a chorus that seconds a dreamy melody), while the cathartic late-night song could be “No Problem” or the gospel sadness of “When”. Of course, it’s not only piano and voice, but we’re not talking about Rufus Wainwright either, although the semi-electronic arrangements have a more atmospheric than strident mission. JG

61. John Roberts: “Glass Eights” (Dial)

In the first seconds of “Dedicated” we hear rain falling on the street, raindrops beating against the glass. Although it might sound idiotic, the resource is fundamental for determining the scope of an album that knows nothing about light mornings or tacky euphoria. The claps and drums are faded, it is autumnal deep house, the zenith of which arrives among synthesisers that sound like a phantasmal organ. When the beat drops and the song ends, the rain comes back. This is one of the most exciting songs on the album: it scorches your soul, making you dance with your glassy eyes glued to the window. “Glass Eights” is one of the best dance music albums of 2010. OB

60. Hype Williams: “Untitled” (Carnivals)

It’s easy to fail when you’re trying to explain what Hype Williams is with words and transparent prose. They have installed themselves in a sound territory in which the moment and the impossible come together explosively. There is a fog of disfigured memory, and an obsession with the 80s in black and white—hypnagogia with something of 4AD, perhaps a touch of the instrumental songs of The Cure, the obligatory salute to AOR pop—but beyond this, Hype Williams are a labyrinth and a trap. It’s worse than deciphering hieroglyphics without a Rosetta Stone: there’s a disintegrated hip hop undercurrent sliding in among drone loops and chopped-up voices, at times with the pinch of helium of an R&B diva, and at other times dragged through a guttural tonality several octaves below what would be a normal voice. But that’s not all: a fine synthetic pop and proto-Gothic punk production falls like a spring storm, sounding like a Cocteau Twins album produced by Swizz Beats and remixed by some witch house stylist like Balam Acab. JB

59. Vampire Weekend: “Contra” (XL Recordings)

Vampire Weekend are always one step ahead, and their repertoire never collapses. Au contraire. Always uplifting, they only confirm their virtues: dedication, style and a shockproof singularity that’s not very common these days. Likewise, you get the feeling that everything works as well on the outside as it does on the inside. It’s not hard to imagine our boys working as a perfect team in which all give it their all, the ideas flowing in all directions, natural, shared and responsive. An extremely well-oiled machine, with complexes (and almost no nuisances at all) that makes brilliant music. CR

58. Nottz: “You Need This Music” (Raw Concept)

In close competition with Ski Beatz for the title of the most inspired and prolific producer of the year, Nottz has been anticipating his debut LP for months on Twitter, and appears here as beatmaker and also as MC. “You Need this Music” has no commercial or popular aspirations, but rather it seems to be one of so many albums released in recent years that are looking more earnestly for respect on the streets than for major ring tone success and the unconditional support of XXL, MTV, and BET. With one qualification: this awesome album isn’t just one of the crowd, it’s one of the most compact, intense, and spot-on exercises in neo boom bap that yours truly has had the pleasure of hearing lately. David Broc

57. Zola Jesus: “Stridulum II” (Souterrain Transmissions)

What Zola Jesus had offered so far, especially on her first album, “The Spoils” (2009), was the more dark-wave, experimental, lo-fi and Gothic-appreciation part. Especially because of her voice, which sounds ultra-cavernous and howling, as if she had been closed in a partially-empty crypt and her voice were escaping through the openings between the niches. “Stridulum II”, which is the European version of the already-released “Stridulum EP” is the pop part. Her voice sounds much clearer, more luminous. The verses, still notably dense and complex, are more direct. It’s hypnotic, sad, and moving. Especially because of how exposed the voice is. Marta Hurtado de Mendoza

56. Deepchord presents Echospace: “Liumin” (Modern Love)

The one thing that seems different from “The Coldest Season” is the intensity. “Liumin” plays at a higher bpm rate and doesn’t conform to suspension in a turbulent levitation, which then becomes an insistent bass line that gets buried in the album. Just like the first album by Kaito without arpeggios, or like the homonym and instrumental sound of Rhythm & Sound (2001), “Liumin” is at first dense and hypnotizing, then later small details take it in one direction or another. These details point towards a romanticism – the cyberpunk of a hesitant megapolis, somewhere between tradition and the impassive future, a mix 80s Detroit, complete with its severity, and modern Tokyo. JB

55. Lone: “Emerald Fantasy Tracks” (Magic Wire Recordings)

“Emerald Fantasy Tracks” is a shapeless, semi-vaporous mass of house, techno and rave euphoria that Lone shapes on his digital wheel as if it were hallucinogenic clay. The magical touch continues to be the same as his more hip hop constructions –whiffs of ambient, waves of IDM, Martian psychedelics, melancholy punctures, 90’s video console glitter– but this time the bpm’s are head for your feet, not your head. Lone is one of the names to be followed with a very close eye: with this exciting album he has managed to forge an apparently revival, but very fresh album, impossibly bringing together time lines that drink from the past to reinvent the future. OB

54. Oval: “o” (Thrill Jockey)

Markus Popp follows his own rules and they are still very, very far from popular orthodoxy. Sketches and “finished” tracks don’t exist together on “o”. You can’t speak of outlines of noise, melodic oasis, of improvisation, or –because there are none– songs, either. Everything has its own meaning. And yes, where there used to be glitches and electronic noise there are now guitars and drums. But that is the least important thing on “o”. What is truly relevant, his distinguished past aside, is that Oval has done it. Again. He has given birth to a record that could and should change the route of modern music. OR

53. The Books: “The Way Out” (Temporary Residence Ltd.)

This is their most long-lasting, insatiable album, the longest and most profuse in elements and movements, the one with the greatest unfolding of the band’s creative flow. As on their other titles, the script plays with different levels of reading, configuring its own semantics. The sound matters as much as the word, and the word becomes melody until without warning, everything turns backwards, and the melody becomes word. The same thing happens in terms of rhythms and structures. Over the fifty minutes of “The Way Out”, not even a pothole appears in the road. CR

52. Shit Robot: “From The Grave To The Rave” (DFA)

This is a celebratory record that communicates passion for an era that can only be recovered with exercises as meditated as this one, and that’s why there is “Simple Things (Album Edit)” and its acid outbreak, between Lil’ Louis and Tyree, the boogie-disco of “Answering Machine” and the mutant hybrid between punk and disco, very LCD Soundsystem. An album that encourages us to look back and shows that, even though the base is nostalgic, there are always reasons to look ahead. And so, situated in a hypothetical 1990, having reviewed and uncovered everything we could, maybe this is the start of the real 90’s revival. Richard Ellmann

51. Owen Pallett: “Heartland” (Domino)

Drenched in a cinematic kind of language that allows him to move with more ease than in a video game, the music of Canadian Owen Pallett is in a panoramic tracking shot that fills it with oxygen and displays its plumage fully. Without wanting to halt the unstoppable adventure his artistic life has turned into, “Heartland” shines like his most important work, as accessible as “Has A Good Home” (2005) but less florid than the cerebral “He Poos Clouds” (2006). It’s his most complete and best written work to date. CR

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