Saturday, December 25, 2010

The Musical Advent Calendar - The Overall Top 10

Merry Christmas!

And welcome to the final door of the 2010 Musical Advent Calendar...the overall top 10. Using our patented, multi-layered and highly sophisticated rating system (one point for a No. 24 nomination, 24 for a No. 1, and everything else in between), we've calculated what the panel rated as the best 10 albums of the year. You can see just how many points each one got under the album name.

And here, without further ado, they are.

1. The National - High Violet (4AD)

150 points

Track - England

It didn't appear on the calendar at all until door number 20, but once it had arrived, it came in a flood - seven nominations in all making High Violet our runaway No. 1 of the year.

"High Violet is a world weary, intellectual record, battered by the pressures of modern middle class life and perfect for a faceless commute across the city" - Steve Pill

"This is an era defining band, who continue to outshine their peers with effortless ease and deserve a place in everyone's life" - Guy Atkinson

"High Violet is not Alligator. But it is damn close, and it reminds me what I fell for in the first place, the aloofness, the quiet power, and the assuredness of touch" - Ian Parker

"Each time I listen to High Violet I seem to discover something else lovingly stashed down there in the thicket of the mixing desk and the onset of the English winter seemed to place the whole thing in its aptest context" - Rory Dollard

"The National could release their shopping list rapped over a soundtrack of Elmo bashing his bin lids together and be hailed as the saviours of rock" - Matt Collins

"Tender but still forceful, downtrodden but also euphoric, it is an unrelenting triumph and sits proudly amid the lineage of sweeping blue collar rock that Americans tend to do so well, while we get stuck with The Enemy and some other such rubbish" - Dom Farrell

2. Laura Marling - I Speak Because I Can (Virgin)

90 points

Track - I Speak Because I Can

Like the National, she left it late, but Marling's sophomore effort came steaming through with a string of high nominations.

"I love everything about this album; the wider issues such as her transformation from delicate nu-folk flower to devastating, Greek-mythology-steeped heroine, to smaller nuances like the “We will keep you” refrains of Goodbye England that sound like the Bagpuss mice" - Andy Welch

"She played a part in one of 2009's stand-out records when her break up with Noah from Noah and The Whale resulted in the latter's uncomfortably heartbreaking The First Days Of Spring. But Marling's response smacks more of an unflinching defiance, assurance and no little devilment" - Dom Farrell

"The switch in backing bands from Noah and the Whale (no going back there now, of course) to Mumford & Sons is clearly in effect, with Mumford's pounding rhythms powering these songs along (except, that is, for Goodbye England) and creating a very different sound, but what stands out is Marling's own songwriting, establishing her as an artist to be reckoned with" - Ian Parker

"It’s a definite step up from Alas I Cannot Swim, and there are some absolute stunners here – the huge Alpha Swallows, the exquisite Goodbye England and breakup track Blackberry Stone, which could teach Charlie Fink a thing or two about restraint" - Ali Mason

3. Best Coast - Crazy For You (Wichita)

64 points

Track - When The Sun Don't Shine

"Surf-rock, doo-wop and smirk-inducing dorky teenage lyrics are a fun mix, though they may not hint at longevity" - Rory Dollard

"Best Coast make that sort of breezy, lo-fi west-coast pop that I pretty much find it impossible not to like" - Ian Parker

"With the nursery rhyme lyrics of social media junkie Bethany Cosentino to the fore, elements of surf and sixties girl group chic are also thrown into the mix to produce a honey-sweet debut effort" - Dom Farrell

"Bethany Cosentino knows good love. Whether it’s for her cat, her boyfriend, or her weed, she’s either smitten or she’s smarting. And if you can tolerate those lyrical obsessions, you’re halfway to going crazy for Best Coast" - John Skilbeck

"Bethany Consentino sounds like a simple character – she’s heartbroken and she likes smoking weed, but nowhere on this record does she get boring" - Andy Welch

4. The Arcade Fire - The Suburbs (Mercury)

63 points

Track - Month of May

"The Suburbs is Arcade Fire's most varied effort to date, although the lack of a common thread over a sprawling 16 track collection is sometimes to its detriment" - Dom Farrell

"The Suburbs has a handful of tracks that still set the pulse racing and would be highlights of any Arcade Fire collection. Month of May still burns with a little of the old righteous fire, The Suburbs takes a stab at Kinks-ian pop and even Rococo manages to be irritatingly addictive" - Steve Pill

"If Arcade Fire’s career had gone in reverse, they’d probably be the best band in the world: you’d’ve been impressed by the ambition of their sprawling debut The Suburbs, you’d’ve noted the definite improvement and increased coherence of follow-up Neon Bible and seen The Funeral as a perfect, glorious realisation of their potential" - Ali Mason

"Yes, it’s about four songs too long. Yes, it’s got some filler. Yes, it’s not as good as Funeral. But when the tunes are this good who the hell cares?" - Guy Atkinson

"I admire the passion, the energy and thought that’s gone into this album. I admire that Arcade Fire show they’re keen to recognise the album as an art form as opposed to a mere collection of tracks. The marketing and execution was inspired (different album covers, a Google chrome video, interactive download). It could be a handful of tracks shorter, but it’s a grand folly of an album featuring my favourite closing track of the year" - Pranam Mahavalli

5. = LCD Soundsystem - This Is Happening (EMI)

61 points

Track - Home

"LCD Soundsystem make me pull shapes so obtuse they’d even be disowned by Ann Widdecombe. So while those who associate with me might be heartened to hear that this album could be LCD’s swansong, me and my malcoordinated limbs will miss them dearly" - Pranam Mahavalli

"Following Sound of Silver was never going to be an easy task and so it proves because only rarely does James Murphy touch upon those dizzying highs again. But when he does, he shows the countless imitators how this 'dance-punk-electro' shit is done" - Guy Atkinson

"This Is Happening apparently marks the end of James Murphy’s indie-dance monster. If so, it all goes down in a stunning blaze of glory. From Bowie to Byrne, the influences are all worn proudly on a vibrant sonic sleeve that is euphorically invigorating throughout" - Dom Farrell

"James Murphy is a guy who loves downbeat British music but comes from uber-cool New York, who frequently stumbles over his words but regularly finds genuine poetry, who loves dumb frat-rock but can’t play guitar, who fronts a hip dance band but whose age and waistband passed the mid-30s mark some time ago. The combined effect is by turns exhilarating, nostalgic, romantic, reckless and righteous" - Rory Dollard

= Anais Mitchell - Hadestown (Righteous Babe)

61 points

Track - Hey, Little Songbird

"The whole thing also works as a pin-sharp allegory of the financial crisis, with a sub-textual caution against isolationism in times of hardship - but I think that sounds a bit pretentious coming from my mouth. So here’s a cock joke. It is brilliant, though. The album, not the cock joke" - Rory Dollard

"At once huge, sprawling, almost boundless, and yet also delicate, almost reserved, Hadestown is a rich album of many layers" - Ian Parker

"Hadestown, Anais Mitchell’s folk opera transporting the Orpheus myth to depression-era America, is a truly impressive achievement. It boasts a variety of influences and styles - evoking speakeasies and jazz bars as well as the wild American outdoors - but coheres wonderfully, it’s allegorical without being preachy and it captivates from start to, well, almost finish" - Ali Mason

7. Foals - Total Life Forever (Warner)

58 points

Track - Total Life Forever

"Brimming with heart swelling tunes, introspective lyrics and typically spine-tingling denouements" - Guy Atkinson

"Like Bloc Party before them, some of the lyrics are cringeworthy, over earnest 6th Form nonsense on paper but they win you over through the sheer force of the band's collective attack, while cribbing from The Lemonheads showed they did have a sense of humour after all" - Steve Pill

"From opener Blue Blood onwards the arrangements are bold and the musicianship strong, while the high-energy songs positively bristle" - Rory Dollard

8. = Beach House - Teen Dream (Bella Union)

56 points

Track - Take Care

"It’s a little puzzling why Teen Dream put the Baltimore duo on the map to the extent it did. Perhaps the key lies in Norway, easily one of the best songs of 2010. Whatever the reason, Teen Dream is a magical album" - Andy Welch

"Beach House’s trade is a combo of one-setting synths, dreamy girl vocals and drum machines churning out chilled out beats, and it is beguiling" - Matt Collins

"I love this album as a whole and its combined effect as one long, occasionally mournful, dream sequence" - Rory Dollard

"Teen Dream, Beach House's third full-lengther but the first to have come to my attention, is a truly spellbinding piece of work" - Dom Farrell

= The Smoke Fairies - Through Low Light And Trees (V2)

56 points

Track - Morning Blues

"Seductive and bewitching, the Smoke Fairies create a world you can sink in to, that you may not have a choice but sink in to as their hypnotic compositions swirl about your ears. Don't fight it. Let yourself go" - Ian Parker

"It’s rural and eerie and lonely and, even when the country guitar kicks in on Strange Moon Rising, peculiarly British" - Ali Mason

"Drawing on the English folk tradition, reverb drenched guitars weave a beguiling pattern behind harmonies that are as haunting as they are beautiful" - Dom Farrell

10. Grinderman - Grinderman II (Mute)

54 points

Track - Evil

"There are no pretensions towards the poetry or piousness of the Bad Seeds so instead it’s guitars set to warp speed, rabid sexuality fit for the offenders’ register and Cave in his wild-eyed, scenery-chomping pomp" - Rory Dollard

"Ah, more high-kicking, finger-pointing, no-pussy, apocalypse-preaching blues from Cave and co. Noisy, funny and occasionally appalling – I found it a well-needed blast of high-octane fun" - Pranam Mahavalli

"Never has four randy old goats trying to relive their promiscuous youth sounded so triumphant, repulsive and down right sexy. His worm is not for taming" - Steve Pill

"Lean, primal and full of delicious insults, there are far too many highlights to list, but mocking an ex’s children sticks in my mind as particularly malicious" - Andy Welch

"When he sneers “you think you’re government will protect you, you are wrong” in Heathen Child, you find yourself marching, grizzled, right behind him" - Dom Farrell

- And that brings the 2010 Musical Advent Calendar to a close. Thanks for reading, and a Merry Christmas to all.


  1. I don't know quite how to feel about this overall top 10 - my favourite album of the year doesn't feature (I was genuinely surprised nobody else even put Avi Buffalo in their top 24) and my least favourite album of the year (Teen Dream, which I positively loathed) does - but, like last year, it feels like the right album definitely came top. So well done everyone. It's been fun, once again. Happy Christmas all and I'll see you on December 1, 2011...

  2. A worthy winner, as was last year's. Good solid choices all round...until next time...

  3. So glad to have discovered this little secret! I've thoroughly enjoyed following the blog, and hope you'll do another one next year.
    thanks for introducing me to some great tunes!