It's not so long ago that my lists of new albums purchased during a year would be around 20-25 a year. In 2008 it was down to 16, in 2009 14 and in 2010 ? Just 9 (and one of those I could only find 1 track*** on the album I liked). I think that says something doesn't it?
So the question is do I choose a top 5 from the year or list all 8 ? Ahhh hell, let's go with all 8.
The Universal - The Universal
OK this one is something of an acquired taste of mine. I've seen The Universal live twice now and they never disappoint. But if you're looking for something totally original, something you've never heard before, then this may be the wrong place to look. Their sound is VERY Small Faces/Paul Weller, to the point where people regularly ask "is this Weller ?" when I play it. But it's like Weller when he still had some fire in his belly and it sounds great to me.
Paul Weller - Wake Up the Nation
Speaking of the Modfather...ya know I don't really like this album. There are 2 reasons why it's here; 1) it would be an even shorter list without it and 2) "No Tears To Cry" is one of Weller's best ever songs. I loved the video's that appeared on YouTube from this albums tour featuring Bruce Foxton playing with Weller at The Royal Albert Hall, it's been a long time since I've heard that sound, but honestly, this album did pretty much nothing for me. It sounded like a bunch of half finished ideas.
Natalie Merchant - Leave Your Sleep
I would have first encountered the joys of Natalie Merchant's beautiful voice in 1989 when she was still a member of 10,000 Maniacs. If you don't know them may I suggest you avail yourself of a copy of their 1987 album "In My Tribe". I have to admit to have not taken a lot of interest in her solo stuff. This was offered to me by a journalist friend after he was sent it as a review copy. It's an interesting record, not a classic, but it is thrilling to know that that voice can still leave you speechless.
Killing Joke - Absolute Dissent
I've never been a huge Killing Joke fan. We have crossed paths many times over the years and I've enjoyed those occasions, especially the live experiences, they can be one of the most devastating live bands. Earlier this year some people whose musical tastes I generally respect really began talking this record up in posts on Facebook so I bought it. First time through I really didn't think it was anything special but on repeated listenings I've begun to like it a lot.
Johnny Barlow - The Fosse Way
Introducing you to Johnny Barlow, guitarist, singer and soul brother in the Liverpool phenomenon that is Amsterdam. Last year saw him striking out alone and releasing this, his first (?) solo album. What does it sound like ? Well you can tell he's a scouser ;-) but overall it puts me in mind of Ronnie Laine's stuff with Slim Chance. Very much worthy of your attention and you can get yerselves a copy and have a little listen here
The Divine Comedy - Bang Goes The Knighthood
I occasionally get obsessive about an artist and have to go and get everything. 4-5 years ago it was the Drive-By Truckers, a couple of years ago it was Nick Cave (& The Bad Seeds) and this year it was The Divine Comedy. My friend Brian asked me if I'd heard this album when we were having a beer (or two) in a very sunny Belfast earlier this year. I hadn't, so I rectified that. I already was a fan of their/his (The Divine Comedy is after all just Neil Hannon) album "Casanova" and my liking this prompted me to spend the rest of the year acquiring for myself all of the other Divine Comedy albums I didn't have (that was another 9 in all). For those that don't know this sits somewhere around the 60's Bowie, Scott Walker, British Music Hall area, great songs with intelligent lyrics and all delivered with a Wodehouse-esque sense of humour. "A Secret History: The Best of the Divine Comedy" would be a good place for the beginner to start.
Dirty Ray - Big World For A Little Man
Well after all that pussyfooting around, here it is, the one genuinely GREAT album of 2010. Dirty Ray, formerley know as Kevin Weatherall of The Immaculate Fools. They had one hit single in the UK in 1985 and then got kinda lost in the wake of The Waterboys/U2/Psychedelic Furs et al. Ray went solo, had quite a lot of success in Spain and earlier this year bestowed this magnificent thing on an undeserving world. Songs crafted in a one man one guitar setting have been expanded upon in places and left as they are in others, but all are magnificent. "Cherry Tree", "Bury Me Standing", "Devil's Dream" and the simply stunning "Rain Song" are highlights but it's unfair to separate them from the other songs on this album. The sound ? An English Seasick Steve with a nod to Spanish Flamenco guitar and Tom Waits would be a fair but very simplistic summary. You can buy it here, go on, you know you want to...
So that was 2010...2011 has started badly (goodbye Pete Postlethwaite, Gerry Rafferty and Mick Karn)...it's gonna be a tough ride this year kids, good luck !
***"Like the Ocean, Like the Innocent Pt. 2: The Innocent" by Besnard Lakes from the album "The Besnard Lakes Are The Roaring Night"
1 day ago