2010: My Final Thoughts

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Gen 1 2011, 22:49

I'm always keen to point out that as far as music is concerned, there's no such thing as a bad year, but sometimes you just have to trawl a little deeper to get to the good stuff. Fortunately, 2010 was all too ready to deliver a wealth of goods. Whilst 2010 perhaps wasn't the best year for flourishing new talent (just two of my top 20 albums were debuts), it was a great year for young bands realising their full potential, both critically (Titus Andronicus, These New Puritans) and commercially (Arcade Fire, Vampire Weekend). It also saw a number of highly dependable artists (The Walkmen, Spoon, The National, Menomena, Deerhunter) add commendable releases to already-impressive discographies, but if those records felt like safe bets, it was encouraging that equally established artists such as Sufjan Stevens, Joanna Newsom and Caribou were willing to take risks that were no less rewarding.

It was an excellent year in particular for electronic music, with a clutch of imaginative and varied releases from the UK (James Blake, Four Tet), US (Emeralds, Flying Lotus, Oneohtrix Point Never) and everywhere else (The Knife, Pantha du Prince). Indeed if I have any complaint about my favourite releases of 2010 (and it's something which could equally be applied to the last few years, to be fair) it's that the music tended to appeal more to the head than to the heart; plenty of songs blew my mind, but ultimately few were able to send a tingle down the spine.

2010 saw mixed fortunes for some of music's biggest egos. M.I.A went to war with everyone, but her highly anticipated third record /\/\ /\ Y /\ failed to win her the wider audience she clearly craved for, and alienated much of her existing fanbase to boot. But the year ended on a high-note for the equally confrontational Kanye West, who after another wildly eventful year, was given an ecstatic reception for the release of My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy (including a perfect 10.0 score on P4k, the first time that's happened for a new release in eight years). And then there was Bono falling off the stage. That was pretty funny.

Every year we have to say farewell to a host of musical names, and we were struck pretty hard in 2010. We lost highly influential legends such as Captain Beefheart and Alex Chilton, and big personalities such as Malcolm McLaren. There were also the untimely losses of Jay Reatard and the perenially troubled Mark Linkous. Perhaps the most personally affecting loss to me was that of Slits founding member Ari Up who died rather suddenly of cancer in October; just a few months previous I'd spurned the opportunity to see The Slits play effectively on my doorstep, something that I will rue for some time to come.

But it was also the chance to say hello again to some old friends. There were high-profile re-unions for Pavement and Godspeed You! Black Emperor, whilst the original Britpop scene turned full-circle with the acrimonious departure of Oasis, and the returns of Suede and Pulp (Blur too suggested that last year's successful run round the block wouldn't be the last we'd hear of them). But arguably the year's most unlikely success was that of Michael Gira's Swans who, 14 years on from the gaunt Soundtracks For The Blind returned with the fire burning bright in their bellies once more with the tremendous My Father Will Guide Me Up A Rope To The Sky.

So yes, if there really is such a thing as a good year in music, 2010 is a strong contender for that accolade. Roll on 2011.

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