Best Albums of 2010

Daniel Selwood picks the 20 platters that mattered

Barry wants to be a stand up comedian, but his dad doesn't approve.

Goths are like Simon Cowell and Daily Express readers: they don’t have souls. If they did, they’d shake their wretched asses to Groove Armada’s Black Light.

It’s gothic house: massive, sinister pop set to whomping beats and tired-n-emotional vocals from Will Young, Bryan Ferry and Empire of the Sun’s Nick Littlemore.

But it’s the unknown singer Jess Larrabee on whom the grainy spotlight shines the most, during tracks that smack of mysterious figures dancing in dangerously exclusive nightclubs to the new wave and electro sounds of the early ‘80s.

It would seem that 2010 was a good year for moody bleeders with lots of mates. Dark Night of the Soul by Dangermouse & Sparklehorse has a credit list longer than the novelty willy-warmer John Holmes’ missus bought him that Christmas – Iggy Pop, Frank Black, the Flaming Lips’ Wayne Coyne, Suzanne Vega, movie director David Lynch are among the voices – and it has some well-morbid baggage, too.

Its release was delayed because of dispute with record label EMI. By the time the album finally dropped, two of its main men, Mark Linkous and Vic Chestnutt, had topped themselves. They left behind a fascinating, dark and gorgeously produced collection.

Here’s another list of stars: Rihanna, Elton John, Alicia Keys, John Legend, Fergie of the Black Eyed Peas, former Gap Band front man Charlie Wilson, and La Roux’s Elly Jackson.

They do their thangs on a single – that’s one! – track, All of the Lights, for Kanye West’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. It’s his ‘my gang’s bigger than yours’ return to form: egomaniacal and self-loathing, hilarious and scary, smart and filthy.

It’s also mental – like on Runaway, a ‘toast for the douchebags’ that starts with the echoing plink-plink of a lone piano and ends, nine minutes later, with mass of undulating fuzz that turns out to be West’s singing voice distorted to buggery.

It’s the weirdness of the year – which is saying something given folk-pixie Joanna Newsom released her third album. On the face of it, Have One on Me, is typically wacky: 18 tracks, averaging at nearly seven minutes in length, divided over three discs.

And with lyrics like, “Miss Montez, the countess of Lansfeld, appealed to the King of Bavaria” (sing that, Justin Bieber!). Except… except Ms Newsom, woodland soulstress, no longer sounds like Bjork with hiccups (thanks to a throat operation) and the piano is her new instrument of choice, although the harp still makes appearances. And she’s still the best songwriter in fairyland – and, indeed, on the planet.

And the best of the rest…

  • Happiness – Hurts
  • Night Work – Sister Sisters
  • Postcards from a Young Man – Manic Street Preachers
  • I Speak Because I Can – Laura Marling
  • The Lady Killer – Cee Lo Green
  • B.o.B. Presents: the Adventures of Bobby Ray – B.o.B.
  • The Defamation of Strickland Banks – Plan B
  • July Flame – Laura Veirs
  • Lights – Ellie Goulding
  • Where Did the Night Fall – UNKLE
  • The Big To-Do – Drive-By Truckers
  • I’m New Here – Gill Scott-Heron
  • IRM – Charlotte Gainsbourg
  • Come Around Sundown – Kings of Leon
  • Odd Blood – Yeasayer
  • Surfing the Void – Klaxons