Sam McLoughlin & Alison Cooper – Natural / Supernatural Lancashire (Disposable Music)
This is the sort of record that just makes you stop in your tracks whenever you put it on. Sounding in parts like a lost Roger Eno session, an instrumental Vashti Bunyan album and an obscure twin record to The Wickerman soundtrack, Disposable Music has released something that truly violates the label name in the most criminal way. This is in short Indispensable Music. A stone cold classic and my album of the year.
Sophie Hutchings – Becalmed (Preservation)
Australian pianist Sophie Hutchings’ pearl of a debut album was put out by the ever reliable Preservation label. Anybody who takes even the slightest interest in modern classical music and solid songwriting skills should stop doing whatever they do and hunt down a copy of this magnificent album, which I will be returning to for years to come… Head and shoulders above so much else out there.
Roll the Dice – S/T (Digitalis)
Ever wondered how it would sound if Emeralds did an album with Eric Satie? Try rolling these dice then… A sublime exercise in analogue synths carefully treated (without computers) and merged with mainly piano creating absolutely wonderful melodies. This self-titled debut album from Peter Mannerfelt (of Fever Ray fame) and Malcolm Pardon makes it THE synth album of the year for me – picked out from a sea of many other great 2010 synth adventures.
Anna Rose Carter – Silver Lines (Schedios Records)
In an almost solo piano oversaturated market, this fairly compressed opus from the Welsh Anna Carter proved a stand out release within the genre. Bold instantly agreeable melodies, which could at first be mistaken as being perhaps a bit too lightweight, are here done in a timeless – and quite brave – manner. You need to really believe in your materials in order to spell it out this specifically. Anna more than gets away with it, leaving me destroyed in the best possible way every time I listen. Solo piano album of 2010.
Originalljudet – S/T (Kalligrammofon)
This Swedish band is the only band I know which actively seeks gigs in order to play for animals living in barns…! Rather sympathetic if you ask me. And when you take the quality of their music into account, there has to be some quite discerning creatures tucked away in the barns of Sweden. Coming across like the soundtrack to a part obscure circus movie /part Eastern European film noire with hints of Jan Johannsson and Moondog, Originalljudet has orchestrated a life-affirming warm selection of tunes that sit in perfectly with – well – I assume the secret record collections of barn animals everywhere.
Tape & Bill Wells – Fugue (Immune)
Tape happen to be one of my absolute favourite Swedish bands and this collaboration with Scottish composer Bill Wells just oozes of slippers, red wine and an open fireplace, in a strictly non granddad way mind you. Four sublime pieces of music that would never dream of insulting you but which do their best to gnaw their way into your heart. This heart succumbed rather swiftly and is all the better for it.
Julian Lynch – Mare (Olde English Spelling Bee)
Olde English Spelling Bee has been on a serious roll in 2010 and this second album from Julian Lynch is no exception. Landing somewhere between pop, jazz, ambient, collage, narcotics, folk… and then some, it’s one of those albums that defies genres and pigeonholes and just simply demands to be listened to. If you like your Ducktails and Real Estate, Mare is a double must.
Hauschka – Foreign Landscapes (Fat Cat)
Volker Bertelmann is out on a mission. On every release he seems to build carefully on his previous endeavours and this – his third album for the esteemed Fat Cat imprint – is in my book probably his best body of work yet. His trademark prepared-piano is still at the centre of things but with the addition of a twelve piece string/wind orchestra, Foreign Landscapes proves richer and more realized, seeming to be the natural progression from its beautiful predecessor Ferndorf. At times recalling Flemish composer Wim Mertens, Foreign Landscapes is quite frankly not to be missed.
Eluvium – Similes (Temporary Residence)
Similes sees ambient artist Matthew Cooper venturing into new territory, as Mr. Cooper puts his voice to work gracing his well-crafted sensitive soundscapes. The album seems to divide his faithful followers into those who think he should have stayed silent and those who welcome this step. I belong to the latter…
Autre Ne Veut – S/T (Olde English Spelling Bee)
Probably the strangest and most infectious pop record I have heard in ages. Think Prince, Alexander O’Neal and Lionel Richie in the studio of Oneohtrix Point Never and you might (perhaps) get a clue about what this is all about. Even at its most baroque it remains insanely addictive.