Albums of the year 2010

This is a list of every album I’ve encountered that was released in 2010 and that I think is worthy of praise. The top 10 are in some sort of order, the rest are just listed in the vague order of how many plays they got on last.fm, rather than in any order of how much I like them.

  1. The Indelicates – Songs for Swinging Lovers – A lot of people don’t seem to have heard of this band, which is a great shame. This record is witty, literate and seeped in irony and sarcasm. It’s also the best thing I’ve heard this year in any genre, and is still available for free (or as much as you want to pay) from the Corporate Records website.
  2. The National – High Violet – In any other year this would be my album of the year. It managed to do well critically and commercially, and is yet another big step up from their previous work. I would imagine this would appeal to pretty much anyone who likes music with vocals and guitars, and as such I’d recommend it to most people reading this.
  3. Shearwater – The Golden Archipelago – Every year there is an album that I’m underwhelmed by when it comes out, but that by the end of the year I can’t live without. This year it’s by Shearwater, who I’d not even heard of a year ago. Each song is a sweeping majestic masterpiece, and the album as a whole makes early mornings make sense in a way nothing else can.
  4. The Love Language – Libraries – Imagine Brian Wilson and Phil Spector locked inside one man’s head for 25 years. If you like how that might sound then you’ll love this record. It could have been made in any year since 1965, but has some of the most perfect songwriting and production I’ve heard this year.
  5. The Pernice Brothers – Goodbye Killer – I like everything Joe Pernice has ever released, and this album acts as a good start to what is already a huge back catalogue. Some of this is out and out classic pop music, and it’s a brighter and catchier album than I think many people were expecting.
  6. Tindersticks – Falling Down A Mountain – I loved this band 15 years ago, and had no idea they still had this sort of record in them. It’s worth playing it after “High Violet” by the National, because parts of them are tapping the same smoky late night baritone vibe.
  7. Tame Impala – Innerspeaker – This was sold to me as an Australian band who sound like Led Zeppelin for 2010. And I can totally live with that. Another record that could have been made in the late 60’s, but one that I have grown to love this year to the point where I’ve since bought everything else they have ever made.
  8. Vampire Weekend – Contra  – I still think they sound like a cross between Talking Heads and Paul Simon. This is the album where that stops being a problem and starts being something I find oddly enthralling. It will be interesting to see where they go next though.
  9. Isobel Campbell and Mark Lanegan – Hawk – In some ways more of the same, but this time around they have stretched the musical palate slightly, as well as producing “Lately” which is a song of pure beauty and perfection.
  10. The Hold Steady – Heaven Is Whenever – In some ways a disappointment, because it doesn’t live up to the potential I was expecting after “Stay Positive!”. However, if you simply take it on face value then it’s a perfectly good example of a bar-rock record that is trying to move from the bar to the stadium. Very much a grower, which is not what I was expecting.

And the rest…

  • The New Pornographers – Together
  • Arcade Fire – The Suburbs
  • Midlake – The Courage Of Others
  • The Divine Comedy – Bang Goes The Knighthood
  • School of Seven Bells – Disconnect From Desire
  • Wild Nothing – Gemini
  • Richard Youngs – Beyond The Valley Of Ultrahits
  • Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti – Before Today
  • Ted Leo & the Pharmacists – The Brutalist Bricks
  • Thee Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra – Kollaps Tradixionales
  • Neil Young – Le Noise
  • Field Music – Field Music
  • Sufjan Stevens – The Age of Adz
  • Swans – My Father Will Guide Me Up a Rope to the Sky
  • Kele – The Boxer
  • Solex vs Cristina Martinez + Jon Spencer – Amsterdam Throwdown King Street Showdown!
  • Uniform Motion – Life
  • The Besnard Lakes – The Besnard Lakes Are The Roaring Night
  • Allo Darlin’ – Allo Darlin’
  • Paul Smith – Margins
  • John Zorn – Ipsissimus
  • Ryan Adams & The Cardinals – III/IV
  • The Knife – Tomorrow, in a Year
  • LCD Soundsystem – This is Happening
  • Les Savy Fav – Root for Ruin
  • M.I.A. – /\/\ /\ Y /\
  • These New Puritans – Hidden
  • Janelle Monáe – The ArchAndroid
  • Kanye West – My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy
  • Emeralds – Does it Look Like I’m Here?

Yes, that’s a lot of music. I dread to think how many hours of my life I’ve spent listening to these 40 records this year.

Singles of the year

I’m not sure the concept of singles still really exists in the digital age. It probably should if any of the following are in danger of extinction though.

What I’ve tried to do is to look at songs that don’t appear on albums, or that act as an edited preview for an album. These are in no order, and are clustered by artist. The hyperlinked song titles point to when you can get the song (not always for free I’m afraid), and there is a youtube link as well if I could find one.

The Veronica Falls – Found Love in a Graveyard  (youtube) and Beachy Head (youtube). The Veronica Falls sound like they recorded all their records in 1986, despite probably not having been born in 1986. Think jangling guitars, and a weird cross between Morrisey and Siouxsie that works in a way it probably shouldn’t. Neither song reaches the three minute mark, and both are better for it.

Amanda Palmer – Do You Swear To Tell The Truth The Whole Truth And Nothing But The Truth  (youtube) and Map of Tasmania  (youtube). I lke Amanda Palmer a lot, but both of these took me a couple of listens before they started to worm their way under my skin. I think they’re both still available for free as well.

British Sea Power – Zeus (youtube) and Living is so Easy (youtube). Both of these were released for a very limited time for free, and are edited previews for the Zeus E.P. and the Valhalla Dancehall album (due out in January). I’ve been a fan for years, but these two songs would probably be on this list even if I wasn’t.

The Japandroids – Art Czars  (youtube) and Younger Us  (youtube). A band I discovered last year, and who make loud guitar music of the sort I play a lot when I need to wind down after a hard day. This year they have released a few things, but these two are probably the most representative.

Ash also released a lot of new singles as part of their A-Z project. I’ve at least heard most of them, but am not quite sure which ones I’d recommend. In fact I’d probably recommend picking up the two CDs that compile all 26 singles (and a bit more), because I’ve got at least 10 of their singles on heavy rotation, and they are all good.

First thoughts on my new phone

This Christmas I got a Samsung Galaxy phone running Android. I’ve never had a phone that could do much more than make phone calls and send text messages before, and my new phone feels a lot more like a small computer than anything I’ve owned before.

My initial impression is very positive. It will deal with most of my email and internet needs, and because most of what I use is Google based, everything is integrated perfectly. I can see this phone being used for about half of what I use my netbook for, and I might even be tempted to leave the house with just the phone on occasion.

I’ve also set up an app called talkmyphone, which allows me to optionally forward all my phone’s alerts to my IM client on my computer. So if my phone is downstairs and I’m upstairs then I can still read and reply to texts and know I’ve been called. I may have to experiment with this further at a later date.

As far as other things go, I’ve got dropbox set up, and can take photos and make videos which sync straight to my dropbox account (and thus to all my computers). I’ve also copied a few Gb of music over, and was pleasantly surprised that it will sync with Rhythmbox, although I think I’ll be managing music manually as I have a lot of music and only 14Gb of space on the phone.

As far as phone calls and texts goes, it works fine, and does what I need it to, which was actually my main fear about getting a smart phone. I was a little worried that something that can do everything would do the core tasks less well, but this doesn’t seem to be the case at all.

Oh, and I discovered Angry Birds. It ate an hour of my life and about 20% of my battery. I may have to explore it again soon.

Backing up and syncing data

I was having a conversation recently about backups, and how Dropbox is great for ensuring that you don’t lose valuable files. However, the free version of Dropbox can only handle a maximum of 8Gb, and once you start looking at music and photographs then I think most of us would probably need a paid Dropbox account to make this method worthwhile.

Alas, the paid Dropbox accounts only come in 50 or 100Gb denominations, and can come across as quite pricey. I think there’s certainly a market for smaller and cheaper paid options, and I think that a 20Gb account at a reasonable price would get a lot of interest.

But yes, I digress. I though what would be useful (for me at least) would be to detail how I back up my data, and also how I sync it between the various machines I use (which is part of the same process for me).

I’m a great fan of Dropbox, and I use it to sync data between my machines and to collaborate with people on all sorts of work and non-work projects. What I keep in Dropbox is anything that might change, or that I will need to access on all my computers. This largely boils down to:

  • Work related documents that I need to share or collaborate on with my co-worker
  • Anything else I’m collaborating on
  • Anything that is an editable file (generally anything created with OpenOffice.org or Microsoft Office)
  • Documents I’m currently writing (usually as plain text files, unless they are collaborations)
  • PDFs of books/documents I’m currently reading
  • Useful phone numbers, next of kin details etc.

I also sync my browsing history and bookmarks through Firefox Sync, meaning that on a new/reinstalled computer I just need to install two applications and I can have a fair approximation of my most useful data within a few minutes, regardless of what operating system I’m using.

For actual backups I have a 2Tb NAS (Network attached storage) that backs up my Ubuntu laptop via DejaDup, and my Mac via Time Machine. All my other computers just reply on Dropbox and Firefox sync. I also maintain a few directories available to either just myself or to everyone on our home network. These are things I might want access to occasionally on multiple machines, but that are too weighty for Dropbox:

  • Photographs
  • Books
  • Music
  • Videos
  • Linux disc images
  • My .virtualbox file containing my virtual web server and a few other things

These total about 200 Gb, and I can access them from anywhere on our network (and further afield if I wished to configure the NAS to do so, which I don’t). Each of these items exists on one of my other computers already, but the NAS represents a repository of everything, and would be the one thing I’d save in a fire to ensure I had at least one copy of everything that was important.

I also have a 500Gb portable hard drive that I manually back up things to sometimes, but that I largely use when I’m away from home and want access to more movies and music that I can sensibly fit on my netbook.

I used to have a very complicated email backup system, but since I switched to Google Apps then I tend to let Google do most of the work and just back up my mailbox as part of my DejaDup/Time Machine backups. I also dump a copy of all my useful documents into Google Docs occasionally, and use it largely for real-time collaboration (which Dropbox can’t really handle).

So yes, that’s about it I think. I wouldn’t recommend this for everyone, but it certainly seems to be working for me at the moment.