2010: the records of the year
Sunday, December 12, 2010 at 8:10AM

I know these lists are arbitrary and subjective and annoying...but good fun to do and a good opportunity to remind yourself what you've been buying and listening to over the last twelve months.

When I've put end-of-year compilations together in the past I've tended to mix in some older tracks that I've been listening to a lot, but there's certainly no need for such ballast in 2010. Even the first official releases of some great older stuff - Dylan's Witmark Demos, Springsteen's The Promise, Johnny Cash's Ain't No Grave - haven't been able to get a look in. Twenty five different artists squeezed onto my compilation and, narrowing the field further, here's the top ten:

10. Isla - Portico Quartet. I hadn't heard them before seeing them support Anouar Brahem in the Brighton Festival and bought the CD at the concert: inventive and immersive jazz, horns twining round the distinctive tones of the hang drums.

9. Love is Strange - Jackson Browne and David Lindley. Gorgeous live versions of many of Jackson's greatest songs with his finest accompanist and a range of Spanish guests adding complementary textures.

8. Bliss Release - Cloud Control. An unexpected joy: a blast of fresh air from an Antipodean Airplane. Thanks for the introduction BTV!

7. If I Don't Come Home, You'll Know I'm Gone - Wooden Sky. A fine young Canadian band I first heard at last year's Edmonton Folk Festival. Great songs - and bonus points for releasing on vinyl with a lovely gatefold sleeve.

6. Band of Joy - Robert Plant. Beautifully sung, inventively arranged, impeccable and eclectic song choices. Great stuff from an iconic singer.

5. For the Ghosts Within - Wyatt, Atzmon, Stephen. Robert Wyatt is another musical hero who refuses to trade on past glories and is always looking for something different: a fascinating collaboration with sax and strings, ending with a glorious cover of 'What a Wonderful World'.

4. Le Noise - Neil Young. The third of a trio of old buffaloes still  thundering across the prairie and raising dust...

3. I Speak Because I Can - Laura Marling. Moving back to the young turks...she can certainly sing as well as speak, and writes beautifully. A remarkably mature second album. Try also to hear the Dharohar Project EP she and Mumford & Sons made with a group of Indian musicians.

2. It's Not As Bad As It Looks - Jon Dee Graham & The Fighting Cocks. Chiming guitar rock from Austin, Texas with lived-in vocals and great songs from a former member of Alejandro Escovedo's band. Makes me smile every time I hear it, which has to be worth something.

1. ...And Then We Saw Land - Tunng. The band who've given me the most listening pleasure this year - not only with this, their fourth and beefier-sounding album, but getting to know the first three and seeing them at the Hop Farm. A winning combination of melody, racket and off-the-wall eccentricity.

What do you think? How does your list compare?

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