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Ali's 2010 - Albums

The first of my 2010 lists, songs and gigs to come, as well as a look ahead to 2011. Rec's from this or any year welcome as always.

The best debut of the year from a very promising new band. Their marriage of black metal and hardcore is surprisingly successful, and as such gripped me from the very first listen onwards. It?s a sound that potentially has massive appeal, and such is its accessibility that it?s hard to imagine any punk or metal fans not getting at least a bit of enjoyment from this record. There aren?t any obvious standouts here, just eleven very solid tracks packed with catchy but hard-hitting riffs, strong vocals and relentless energy. The overriding emotion I feel when listening to this album, though, is that it?s fun, without ever being overly upbeat or gimmicky in the slightest, a fine balance but one that they pull off very well throughout. Whether they can progress onto bigger and better things is open to question, but for now, at least, this is a very solid debut and one the years most pleasant surprises.
9The Gaslight Anthem
American Slang

It may not have the joyful life-defining qualities of The ?59 Sound, but comparisons between American Slang and its predecessor are unfair since they?re two very different records. While The ?59 Sound grabbed heartstrings and refused to let go, American Slang delivers ten no thrills numbers which contribute to a very consistent, albeit brief full-length. The punked-up Springsteen sound is still there, but here the songs are more accessible, simplistic and take minimal effort to digest. It may seem like a constrained follow-up to a modern classic, but ultimately American Slang stands as another great release from a band that will only continue to grow in stature.
8Arcade Fire
The Suburbs

Although it never really threatens to reach the hefty heights of their majestic debut, Funeral, Arcade Fire?s third record is another brilliant piece of work that cements their place as one of the best bands in the world today. It?s certainly a step up from its predecessor, the disappointing Neon Bible, and although the songs themselves are simpler in comparison to their earlier work the record as a whole is probably their most ambitious yet. The concept of the album, although slightly over-egged at times, works very well, and as such the records flow is very strong. It could maybe do with losing a few tracks here and there, but the highlights more than make up for the album being a little lengthy. Chief among these highlights is ?Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)?, which sees the band embarking on new synthpop territory, while the excellent singles ?Ready To Start? and ?The Suburbs? see the band progressing slightly with their core sound. In truth, they?ll probably never match Funeral, but it?s great to see that they?re definitely giving it a go.
7The Tallest Man On Earth
The Wild Hunt

Although his sound ? especially vocally ? is very reminiscent of Bob Dylan, Kristian Mattson is undoubtedly one of the most talented folk artists around. The fact that he has built such a reputation on the back of only two albums and a handful of EP?s shows just how special a songwriter he is, and The Wild Hunt is unquestionably his strongest output so far. I?m not a musician, and while I can appreciate what a good guitar player he is the main strength of the record, for me, is definitely the songwriting. King of Spain is a prime example, and is probably the best song Mattson has ever written, but there are other fabulous highlights here such as Kids On The Run, where he ditches the guitar in favour of a piano ballad while maintaining the warm atmosphere which makes the rest of the record such a joyful listen. If he keeps standards to a similar level on subsequent releases, it will surely only be a matter of time before more people sit up and take notice.
6The Dillinger Escape Plan
Option Paralysis

It may not be as technically masterful as Calculating Infinity or as experimental as Ire Works, but for me this is the best Dillinger Escape Plan release yet. I hold this opinion because ? despite its brief run time ? Option Paralysis manages to be the bands most focused, diverse and hard hitting offering yet. The bands songwriting is at its strongest, as shown by fabulous tracks like Farewell, Mona Lisa and Gold Teeth On A Bum, while Greg Pucatio?s monstrous vocals are nothing short of stunning throughout. This is also probably their most accessible work yet, and it strikes a fine balance between calmer moments like Widower and the full throttle blasts of energy that the band is best known for. It?s true that its impact softened a little after the initial ?woah!? factor wore off, but nine months on this still stands as as one of the years strongest metal releases.
5Motion City Soundtrack
My Dinosaur Life

Although pop punk is a genre that I have always enjoyed, there are very few, if any albums within it?s field which I would call true classics. This isn?t one, but there have been very few pop punk albums, especially over the past few years that have struck a chord quite in the same way that this has. I usually struggle to stomach albums that are exclusively upbeat like this one is, but each and every song here is so catchy it?s virtually impossible not to love them. Being within a genre that?s not known for its staying power, My Dinosaur Life also manages to hold up surprisingly well with repeated listens, and it?s this, more than anything else which makes it Motion City Soundtrack?s strongest release yet. In fact, since its release in January, this has only grown in my estimation, which is no mean feat given its huge initial appeal. Not pop-punk perfection, but certainly not far off it.
Diamond Eyes

Deftones still haven?t matched their masterpiece White Pony, but with Diamond Eyes they really couldn?t have come much closer. Probably the most effective marriage of their trademark atmospherics and heavy riffing yet, this is a phenomenally solid body of work which goes some way to proving that Deftones are still one of the best metal bands around. Probably the only thing which prevents Diamond Eyes from reaching the heights of White Pony is the lack of any truly astonishing individual tracks such as Knife Party or Change (In The House Of Flies), but that doesn?t mean that this record is without it?s fair share of great moments. Rocket Skates hits hard despite its repetition, the second half of Royal is simply breathtaking, and atmospheric closer This Place Is Death ends the record on a tremendous high. This album is made even more remarkable by the circumstances surrounding its creation, and given how good it is despite being rushed, expectations for Eros are sure to be enormous..
3Kanye West
My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy

His talent has never really been in doubt, but over the past few years Kanye West?s various antics and, of course, his famous inflated ego have led many to question whether he would ever become the classic artist he has, at times, threatened to. My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy was West?s answer to his critics; an emphatic statement of ambition, creativity and shear genius which deserves to be remembered as a hip-hop classic. Pretty much every beat on show is killer, the guest spots are often inspired an never unnecessary, and Kanye?s own performance is arguably his best yet. It?s true that the record can get self-indulgent in places ? especially the nine-minute epic ?Runaway? ? but that?s just part of it?s appeal, as it paints a perfect portrait of Kanye West as an artist, a person and the totally self-obsessed douche we all know him as. He?s always had an astronomically high opinion of himself, but now Kanye has the evidence to back up his claims - only a fool would dismiss this brilliant album.
2Titus Andronicus
The Monitor

In theory, at least, Titus Andronicus should be a terrible band, and The Monitor should be a terrible album. Patrick Stickles cant hold (or even hit) a note to save his life, the bands playing is sloppy at the best of times, and their songs show little to nothing in the way of traditional structure. Far from being the disaster it is on paper, however, The Monitor is a great record which delivers often breathtaking music to backup its ludicrous concept. Stickle?s lyrics are one of the main strengths of the record throughout, being both admirably blunt and intensely relatable, but the musical backdrop certainly isn?t bad either. No where is this more evident than The Battle Of Hampton Roads, the stunning fourteen minute closer which incorporates horns and bagpipes to create one of the most breathtaking climaxes you?re ever likely to hear on record. It takes quite a bit of effort to truly appreciate, especially during the meandering mid-section, but at the end of the day The Monitor is a brilliant record which could well prove timeless.
1The National
High Violet

Having released two widely recognised masterpieces in a row, The National had an enormous challenge with this fifth full-length. Amazingly though, they silenced the doubters in the best possible way ? by topping them both and in the process making a record that will surely be remembered in years to come. The bands sound as a whole improved to the point of near-perfection, with the Dessner brothers? walls of guitar filling the gaps which made Boxer hard work at times, and Matt Berninger putting in his strongest and most assured vocal performance to date. Perhaps what is most impressive about High Violet is that while it?s filled the the brim with tension an energy, its execution still comes across as effortless, almost as if the band is cruising in its comfort zone. As well as working brilliantly within the record, every single one of the eleven tracks here is absolutely stellar, with no obvious weak links during the run-time. Another stunning achievement from a band who are rightly beginning to get the recognition they deserve.
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