Hello! I'm Tom. I designed a game called Gunpoint, about rewiring things and punching people, and now I'm working on a new one called Heat Signature, about sneaking aboard randomly generated spaceships. Here's some more info on all the games I've worked on, here's the podcast I do, here are the videos I make on YouTube, here are some of the articles I wrote for PC Gamer, and here are two short stories I wrote for the Machine of Death collections.
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About the only new music I got into in 2010 was Said the Gramaphone’s round-up of the best music of 2009. So a while back, I asked Twitter for help, scoured The Onion AV Club, sifted through Spotify lists, and then pretty much went with Said the Gramaphone’s round-up of the best music of 2010.
Since I’m embedding a bunch of tracks from their site, I’ll also copy their referral codes for the buy links so any kickbacks go to them.
Apologies to anyone who recommended me something that didn’t make this top ten – I listened to over 700 tracks over the course of three weeks, so it’s likely I overlooked some good stuff.
The gentle crooning of Cape Dory would have made as much sense in the forties as today, and it’s about the prettiest concept album I’ve ever heard. The whole thing is a half hour holiday to a series of remote isles, each track a different nautical adventure among deserted beaches.
Marathon is the track Gramaphone picked – an almost too-sweet finger clicking ballad about exploring a coastline, and my favourite at first too. I ended up prefering Seafarer for the way it keeps shifting – I lose track of the number of hooks, and every time I find myself humming Tennis it turns out to be just a different part of this song.
I’ve never disliked a Joanna Newsom song, but they’re all so gentle and nice that I can’t distinguish between most of them. This is the one with a hook, and like a lot of artists who don’t usually do them, she turns out to be brilliant at it. The sharp curl of the chorus catches so beautifully on the way she rolls her unstressed syllables – she’s like if Holly Hunter was an elf.
It’s still sweet, and funny, it just happens to be catchy as well. So much so that I’m even happy to sit around while it takes a few meandering minutes to wind down at the end.
I love a song that can’t shut up, like there’s some itch in the vocal chords that tickles in every instrumental moment. Crown on the Ground was in last year’s Gramaphone roundup, but its poppiness is filtered through such a vicious assault on the ears I assumed the rest of their stuff would be something like a western Masonna.
Sleigh Bells are nicer than that, though, they just like seeing what your speakers can do. Rill Rill is a tumbling, clashing pop song with no unwanted teeth, which makes it the most listenable on the album. Elsewhere, Run The Heart has fun blending chorals with an oscillator and cutting in thick chunks of fuzz. Then Infinity Guitars jitters without momentum for most of its length before throwing itself through an unexpected brick wall of gut thumpingly thick noise.
They love to play with the texture of sound, and I love to hear them do it.
The King is Dead feels louder and brassier than the stuff that got me into the Decemberists in the first place. But that gives high points like Down By The Water a big, crisp satisfying sound that’s just fun to have around.
I had never heard of these guys, I have no idea what TAOS stands for, I don’t like anything else I can find of theirs on Spotify, but this track… God yes. Just the right mix of powerful riffs, fearless vocals and self-effacing lyrics that slowly turn sinister as the insecurities reveal their source.
Beep beepbeepbeepbeep beep. Beepbeepbeepbeep beep. Beep.
About the only one on this list I was able to figure out for myself – oh, Belle and Sebastian have a new album? You think I should listen to that? Good idea.
I Didn’t See It Coming is an anthem written to be shouted, a punch on every syllable, but sung as softly as possible. It’s really nice.
I love Fuck You for its incoherent impotence. It’s not a song about bragging – despite a disastrous ‘official’ second video that manages to miss both the point of the song and the video that made it popular. It’s not about self-pity, it’s not about betrayal, and it’s not even about putting someone down. It has plenty to say about the girl he’s lost, but she’s not the point either.
The chorus is addressed to someone else – the guy – and it’s a chorus for when you know why you’re pissed off, you know who you’re pissed off with, and you have absolutely no point to make about it. You’re not like, “Oh yeah? Well she’ll leave you too.” You’re not like, “Oh yeah? Well at least I’m better looking.” You’re not like “Oh yeah? Well I’ll get rich some day and make her jealous.” You’re like… fuck you.
A gorgeous band discovered via Duncan Geere’s excellent collaborative Spotify playlist: Sparse and Wintery. You can listen to the lovely Arjeplog there, and it was a close toss-up between that and Lund for my pic. Lund wins purely on music, that trickle of piano has a really distinctive atmosphere that reminds me of a time and place I can’t quite name.
I can’t stand hip-hop that’s about self-aggrandisement, money, violence or sluts. I am 100% behind hip-hop that’s about suitcases.
I can only understand about half the Acadian French in this song, but enough of it is in English to suggest they are, on some level, mocking the puerile materialism that leads hip-hop culture latch onto random accoutrements of anachronistic wealth ideals. But I love it for being so beautifully deadpan that after a few listens, you actually kind of lust after a really nice piece of luggage.
Lack26: I basically agree with all of these, I wasn't even aware that the Decemberists had anything new out, I really should pay more attention. Also, thanks for posting that Standard Fare track the other week, love it, haven't seen it in HMV though.
May I also recommend Hesta Prynn, great with her music, great with her fans, I've been a fan since her Northern State days but she's released a lot of material this past year. Not sure if she'll be your cup of tea, but worth trying.
TooNu: Track 8 is played on the radio all the damn time here in Gothenberg. 0800 it's on, 0915 it's on, 1117 it's on.....
They don't edit it, or leave out any words. It's just on. I'm fucking sick of it.
TooNu: Though I am liking 1 and 3. I like 3 more than I like 1. I think i've listened to 1 more than 3 though.
Anonymous: Now, to be fair all of your songs are very good and whatnot, but to throw my pick of something I found last year into the mix (not that it's from 2010, oh my no) have a song so hilariously crude that it goes straight past immaturely vulgar and hits the funny point. At least in my opinion.
I'll just be going now.
Jason L: French is a magnificent language for rap, hip-hop and aggressive lyrical street patois in general, possibly better than English. At university I lived with a fraternity whose DVD player had the amusing bug of occasionally spontaneously switching to another language track and turning on subtitles. I remember seeing 8-Mile playing and literally not realising for ten minutes that that had happened; it still sounded like Eminem and Detroit. In lieu of time to seriously explore, my personal .FR rap touchpoint is still MC Solaar, tracks including
Gangster Moderne http://www.youtube.c... ...DuPwIGq3Nw
RMI http://www.youtube.c... ...HLmruEe4ak
and La Vie Est Belle http://www.youtube.c... ...hh-liBF2qk
Have you seen Joe Versus the Volcano? I had dimly remembered it from Betamax days as a goofy forgettable '80s comedy, but I recently rewatched it and was completely blown away. It is cuttingly, gaspingly, bleakly hilarious with a clarion production voice; if it's not a Gilliam film in some way, it's his lost twin brother. Highly recommended, but I bring it up because of this wonderful scene about...luggage. http://www.youtube.c... ...ljOj6GVcnQ
I don't have time to take RSS from all these music blogs, so omitting stuff I learned from you I learned most of my 2010 favourites from that loveable scamp Stuart Campbell:
Bruno Mars' 'Marry You' - not via him, via Glee actually, not linked because I'm sure it's been saturated to death there as here. I like it. Sue me.
Weezer - (If You're Wondering If I want You To) I Want You To http://www.youtube.c... ...DIzMGh94vo
Emphatically not a 2010 work, but linked in 2010 Age of Chance - Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Noise http://www.youtube.c... ...XPcvksCs5c
OK Go - This Too Shall Pass (with viral epic video) http://www.youtube.c... ...ybUFnY7Y8w
Gorillaz - Glitter Freeze (and several other tracks on Plastic Beach) beep beep bep beebeebeeep beep beep beep beebeebeep http://www.youtube.c... ...5JDqGNXxCU
Sigur Ros in general, but most of Agaetis Byrjun in particular, thanks to that Minecraft waterslide video http://www.youtube.c... ...Ot39sgEMic
Arcade Fire - Wake Up via 'Science Saved My Soul' http://www.youtube.c... ...6w2M50_Xdk
Lots of Flogging Molly. I know, right? I do live under a big rock, actually.
Man With The Hex http://www.youtube.c... ...sAq7p-3TO4
Flower in the Sand [no link found]
and Swing Sweet Pussycat http://www.myspace.c... ...s/28891351
and most of the rest of Torch This Place make me want to move parts of me.
I was within days of a futile search for 'that techno/metal song with a demoscene rhythm from some ad or something' when I completely coincidentally dumped my Machinae Supremacy collection back on my player and discovered it was their Cryosleep, which nobody has used in an ad or movie ever. http://machinaesupre... ...es/arcade/
Other notables include Masquerade, I Turn To You, SIDology 3, Soundttrack to the Rebellion, and Gianna Sisters
From my attack on the archives of the inestimable Slacktivist, A John Waters Christmas gave me
The Coctails - First Snowfall (I think that's actually a saw!) http://www.youtube.c... ..._C6IZi5Z8E
and a social justice post gave me Robert Earl Keene's Merry Christmas From The Family http://www.youtube.c... ...37xPiRz1sg
In the holiday vein I also wound up with Tim Minchin's White Wine in the Sun. Minchin's stuff generally isn't pretty or nice, but at least as sung by Kate Miller-Heidke it's heartbreakingly sweet despite the taint of pedagogy. http://www.youtube.c... ..._IjhPpsIm8
From you, Gunfight Epiphany; 'nuff said.
I finally got off my butt and tracked down the hilarious but legitimately cheering Eurodance from an AMV called Bouncing Through the Years. I'm rather proud to say I failed, literally for years, to even notice that the video was about Gainax' decades of leadership in jubble animation...until I saw that the song wasn't called that, but Megaman by DJ Otzi http://www.youtube.c... ..._EfiymGVdU . On the whole, Otzi in exchange for retrospective skeeve has been a positive trade.
...and PPPPPP http://www.1up.com/d... ...Id=9022444
Phew. Dump complete.
omry.hanegby: Hey Tom,
TAOS (by Menomena) stands for
The Art Of Seduction.
They're actually a great band,
I don't know what's up on their spotify,
but you should look for a track called "The Pelican" (from 2007).
Jason L: I randomly went looking for the info on Marathon today, and discovered that Google says this page was once in the /music tag, but it now is not. Site 7 bug?