Monday, 13 December 2010

Best of 2010 - Music

For me the past twelve months have not been a great year for new music, at least not much of note seems to have passed my way. Maybe I’m just getting old and have heard too much music, but most rock music in particular sounds uninteresting and highly derivative of past bands. When I read the “best of” lists I find I haven’t heard of most of the singers and bands. When I then go to Myspace or their websites to listen to them, very few catch my attention.

Of the eleven albums listed below only two were released in 2010. Most of the albums I’ve listened to over the past year have been “world” music or jazz.

Salif Keita – La différence (2010)



My favourite album of the year was undoubtedly Salif Keita’s La différence. I’ve already written about the Malian singer on this blog and only need to repeat that his music is truly transcendental, largely driven by West African rhythms and dance beats, his soaring vocals and an Islamic spirit. However, the influence of North American blues, Afro-Cuban rhythms, soul and reggae can also be heard.


Khaled – Liberté (2009)


The other artist who falls into the “world” music category is the hugely popular Algerian singer Khaled, the so-called king of raï. I came across his album Liberté released in 2009 and loved it. Some of the songs start slowly and then simply explode with energy and a pulsating rhythm.

With regards to rock music, only two albums had a big impact on me.


Neil Young – Le Noise (2010)


The first was Neil Young’s Le Noise, amazingly the 35th studio record of the 65 year old musician’s career. With just Neil Young on guitar and vocals, Daniel Lanois provides a wonderful atmospheric production, full of distorted guitar and sound effects.


Josh Ritter – So Runs the World Away (2010)


The second rock album of the year for me was Josh Ritter’s So Runs the World Away, a diverse collection of literate and melodic songs, including Lantern, arguably my favourite song of the year.

Not finding much rock music to listen to, I spent a lot of the year looking for and discovering some great contemporary jazz music.


Esbjörn Svensson Trio – Seven Days of Falling (2003)
Esbjörn Svensson Trio – Tuesday Wonderland (2006)



My main discovery was the Swedish pianist Esbjörn Svensson and his fellow EST trio musicians Dan Berglund on double bass and Magnus Öström on drums. I can particularly recommend the albums Seven Days of Falling and Tuesday Wonderland. While Svensson mixes electronic sounds and even rock beats at times with his jazz piano, it’s his fluency and innovative playing that appeal to me. Sadly Svensson died in 2008 at the age of 44 in a diving accident.


Tord Gustavsen Trio – Changing Places (2003)
Tord Gustavsen Trio – The Ground (2005)
Tord Gustavsen Trio – Being There 
(2007)


Another jazz pianist I discovered was the Norwegian Tord Gustavsen. He’s released a trilogy of albums – Changing Places, The Ground and Being There. All these albums feature Gustavsen on solo piano. If he’s to be compared to anyone I suppose it would have to be Keith Jarrett’s solo improvisatory work.

Andy Sheppard – Movements in Colour (2009)



The jazz album that I’ve probably played more than any other this year is Andy Sheppard’s Movements in Colour. I first saw the English saxophonist in the jazz ensemble Loose Tubes many, many years ago but lost track of his work since then. Movements in Colour is a collection of beautiful dreamlike melodies, some with clear Middle Eastern influences.

Joshua Redman – Compass (2009)




My final jazz album of the year is Compass by the North American saxophonist Joshua Redman. Although I saw Redman play a great concert in Madrid a few years ago, I haven’t kept up to date with his output. Compass provides a fine collection of modern saxophone-based jazz.




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