2010 has spoiled us with a succulent smorgasbord of new music. The sheer eclecticism which has flooded the scene this year has certainly been something to celebrate. For me, the rebirth – or, better, rejuvenation – of great American rock and indie has been the most exciting trend of the last twelve months. Bands such as Best Coast, Avi Buffalo, and Wild Nothing have breathed new life into a genre which, across the pond, had just been showing signs of wilting.
Grimy, growling blues-rock saw a mini-revival this year as acts like the Black Keys, the Dead Weather and Black Mountain all released captivating new material. Meanwhile, The Strange Boys illustrated the timeless appeal of back-to-basics rock-‘n’-roll on Be Brave, while the country-infused Hawk, by Isobel Campbell & Mark Lanegan, and Laura Marling’s I Speak Because I Can, were both examples of great songwriting. Indie-poppers Foals and Kisses also concocted an instantly identifiable sound for themselves on their respective new LPs. However, the best album of 2010 from my point of view came from Beach House.
It’s hard to imagine Alex Scally and Victoria Legrand making a more perfect record than Teen Dream. The album blends woozy, swaying guitar riffs, delicate synth work and haunting vocals into songs of mirage-like fragility. Tracks such as ‘Norway’ and ‘Zebra’ are indicative of the little dream-pop niche that the Baltimore duo have carved for themselves; meanwhile, the skeletal ’10 Mile Stereo’ swells with gradually mounting euphoria. Teen Dream is mature, clever, and astoundingly beautiful.
My favourite individual track of 2010 was the stunning ‘Bloodbuzz Ohio’ by the National. The Cincinnati melancholists released it abck in March, ahead of their fifth album, High Violet. It’s a heavy, smoky, whiskey-soaked number which creaks with almost unbearable loneliness and submission. Matt Berninger’s rich, slow, Johnny Cash-like drone is constantly tugging back at the propulsive cocktail of drum, piano and brass, while the lyrics ache with a palpable hardship.
While an acknowledging nod should go to the likes of Two Door Cinema Club, the Drums and Yuck, in my opinion the best new act this year was Villagers. The Irish folksters’ debut album Becoming A Jackal was released to almost universal acclaim in May; frontman Conor O’Brien shows an adroitness of composition, and an eloquence of lyricism, which place him head and shoulders above this year’s other emerging singer-songwriters.
So another year has almost passed, and it’s time to look forward to the next. I’ll be interesting to hear the long-awaited new LP from The Strokes, the recording of which has been teeth-grindingly lengthy at times. My favourite lo-fi garage-rockers, Smith Westerns, have a new album out in January called Dye It Blonde, while there’ll hopefully be a second record from teenage Dutch two-piece, The Death Letters, who play a stripped-back, White Stripes-style brand of rock. Roll on 2011.