Sleigh Bells


5. Sleigh Bells Treats

Sleigh Bells make me want to believe in questionable tales. If the story that Alexis Krauss and Derek Miller were a failed girl group member and hardcore guitarist respectively isn’t true, it will still be a perfect way to explain their music. But if it is true, then that’s so much better, because it just makes the fact that this album could ever have been made that much more improbable and, thus, wonderful. I could spend time making up torturous ‘sounds like’ similes here, but nothing betters that origin story. Then again, this is my blog, so fuck you. This is the sound of a sugar-induced migraine. Ha, too easy.

Sleigh Bells – Infinity Guitars (YSI)

4. The Morning BendersBig Echo


Equally indebted to early Noughties indie and ’60s pop groups, Big Echo is an unpredictable album. Demure and harmonic at one moment, it can become familiarly punchy the next without warning. When I first listened to it, I thought it could quite easily be a “summer” album, one that never stands up against the first few blissful listens when you got it. Upon relistening, its charms are still brilliantly evident – Chris Chu’s Casablancas intonations, the willingness to slow the tempo (‘Pleasure Sighs’ is a simply incredible show of pacing and gradualised songwriting) and a propensity for simply excellent harmonies pop up throughout. Equilibrium is all here – a sense of action and restraint is ever-present, and it’s their constant struggle for dominance that makes this album such a brilliant listening experience.

The Morning Benders – Wet Cement (YSI)

3. DeerhunterHalcyon Digest


I’m almost incredulous at my previous indifference to this band now. Halcyon Digest is a tumult of experimentation, not in the noodly, self-indulgent sense, but in the sense of playing with how guitar music can be stretched and reformed into new and more interesting shapes. It never lets go of its central core – this is American indie at its heart, but Cox and co. never allow it to get stale. The underwater tones of ‘Helicopter’, ‘Sailing’s simplistic, faraway tone or ‘He Would Have Laughed’, a shambling tribute to Jay Reatard, all come from the same sensibility, but have ended up in very different musical territories. This is music that’s unafraid to take you somewhere you didn’t know you wanted to go.

Deerhunter – Helicopter (YSI)

2. HarlemHippies


This could be so easy to dismiss. It sounds like any number of other bands, it’s doing nothing new, it’s juvenile. But here’s the deciding factor. Show me another album this year that sounds like more fun than this one. Bet you can’t. Hippies is the sound of friends making music for fun and nothing more, and never suffers for that. Michael Coomer and Curtis O’Mara’s alternating, breathless deliveries seemingly never let up, the drumming’s fantastically frenetic and every song sounds like an old friend. When I’m listening to this kind of music, I ask for nothing more than this – that the songs that are short, sharp and barely professional. Harlem deliver on every front.

Harlem – Faces (YSI)


1. MeursaultAll Creatures Will Make Merry


2010 was the year that saw me properly, deeply fall in love with Meursault. Pissing On Bonfires/Kissing With Tongues hooked me good and deep. The Nothing Broke EP made me realise just how talented this band was. But it took All Creatures Will Make Merry for me to forego any kind of detached journalistic cool and throw myself wholeheartedly into unabashed fawning at their feet. No other album has made me run the gamut of emotions this one has; sheer sadness in ‘Crank Resolutions’, singalong contentment in ‘One Day This’ll All Be Fields’, sheer energy in ‘What You Don’t Have’ and barely concealed terror in ‘New Ruin’ – it has it all.

I’ve searched for a long time for how to articulate just why I think this isn’t just one of the best records I’ve heard this year, but in my life, and I think it comes down to this: There is no song on this album that feels constructed. By that I don’t mean in a songwriting sense, these are clearly meticulously designed and nurtured compositions, but in the sense that every one feels entirely natural to the band – whether it be the lyrics, the raw emotion in Neil’s vocals or the incredible interplay between electronics and more organic sound. There’s no experimentation if the feeling was there the whole time.

Meursault are not a band who are finding their sound, their niche or their fans – they are a band who seem to follow a path laid out for them alone, and the singular nature of All Creatures Will Make Merry shows that perfectly. This is the best album of the year, for me, because it sounds like no-one else, and I’m not sure anyone else could sound like this.

Basically, if you haven’t listened to this, your life isn’t as good as it could be, so, you know, get on it.

Meursault – All Creatures Will Make Merry (YSI)

Phew, what a day! So now that that’s all done, here’s the final list:

1. Meursault – All Creatures Will Make Merry
2. Harlem – Hippies
3. Deerhunter – Halcyon Digest
4. The Morning Benders – Big Echo
5. Sleigh Bells – Treats
6. Mountain Man – Made The Harbor
7. Beach House – Teen Dream
8. Laura Marling – I Speak Because I Can
9. Arcade Fire – The Suburbs
10. Good Shoes – No Hope, No Future
11. Bombay Bicycle Club – Flaws
12. The National – High Violet
13. Spoon – Transference
14. Woodpigeon – Die Stadt Muzikanten
15. Working For A Nuclear Free City – The Jojo Burger Tempest
16. Johnny Flynn – Been Listening
17. Timber Timbre – Timber Timbre
18. The Savings and Loan – Today I Need Light
19. Vampire Weekend – Contra
20. Scott Pilgrim vs. The World – OST

Merry Christmas one and all!

When music is described as ‘warped pop’ or ‘alt-pop’ or anything that implies that what I’m about to listen to is some kind of pop music that’s somehow been twisted into a new shape, I get suspicious. Almost every review I’ve read about Deerhunter insists that they’re some kind of pop band, but it’s just not true. Indie or alternative music can possess melody and not become pop music.

So when I finally got round to listening to Sleigh Bells and immediately saw that they’ve been described as ‘noise pop’, the familiar old mistrust came bubbling back up again. How wrong I was. Their album Treats is two things throughout – noisy and poppy. The best example is ‘Crown On The Ground’, a song that sounds like the screaming bastard sister of Gwen Stefani’s (already quite odd) ‘Hollaback Girl’ – all repeated refrains and overbearing drumbeat. This truly is warped pop; catchy, easy to remember songs made absolutely fucking terrifying – the whole album is the sound of a migraine, in a good way.

Sleigh Bells – Crown On The Ground (YSI)
Gwen Stefani – Hollaback Girl (YSI)