Tom Badsekta – Best of 2010

The first podcast from me this year is my “Best of 2010” (download + tracklisting here) but the choices deserve some explanation, especially as I think there are a few records people might be surprised about in there. So, without further ado, I present my Top 10 records of the year, in no particular order.

Shackleton - FabricLive55 Mix
Shackleton – Fabric 55
CD, Fabric, 2010
It’s hard to pick just one thing that Shackleton has done each year to single out as the best but, if it has to be done, I’d pick his inspired live mix for Fabric. Featuring a whole host of unreleased material, this isn’t just another ‘producer sequences his tunes’ yawn-fest but instead starts from the ground up and builds around fragments of the originals. The tunes blend seamlessly into one another and the hypnotic mood of the piece continues until the disc spins down. Not simply a peerless producer Shackleton extends his forward thinking approach to playing live and delivers something you won’t want to miss. [10/10]

Kanye West - My Dark Twisted Beautiful Fantasy
Kanye West – My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy
CD, Roc-A-Fella Records, 2010
This entry into my Top 10 might surprise some people, but anyone who knows me from Facebook or Twitter will know I’ve been banging on about it non-stop for the past month. A year ago I would have dismissed West as a talentless, acorn-faced idiot, but if he can change my jaded mind with this record, he can do the same for you. An unbelievably lavishly produced affair, West pulls out every trick in the book to make this album not only fantastic fun to listen to but something that musically stands up to repeated listening and, if anything, it gets richer and more involving with time. That’s not to say that some of West’s lyrics don’t leave you cringing slightly, but then he’s never been the most on-point lyricist of his time and it can be overlooked when the production is so good. This album has really raised the game for pop rap music production and anyone else in this field should take note that they need to raise their game now or get left behind. [9/10]

DJ Muggs Vs. Ill Bill - Kill Devil Hills
DJ Muggs Vs. Ill Bill – Kill Devil Hills
2LP/CD, Fat Beats, 2010
If you don’t like your hip-hop to be of the boom-bap variety and don’t get down to lyrics about assassins and the Illuminati then look away now because “Kill Devil Hills” brings this in spades, and this is undoubtedly the best Ill Bill record so far. DJ Muggs is largely to thank for this, as Bill’s lyrics have always been good but some of the production previously could have used some work – no such complaints this time around. Muggs brings it on every track and proves why he’s one of the best regarded producers in hip-hop whilst Bill works out some verbal dexterity over the top. Essential from start to finish. [9/10]

Downliners Sekt - We make hits, not the public
Downliners Sekt – We make hits, not the public
12″, Disboot, 2010
Downliners Sekt have been quietly making some of the finest music to come out in the last couple of years. “We make hits, not the public”, available to download free from their site, or for purchase on vinyl, is a heady blend of influences thrown into a psychedelic melting pot to create a hazy bassed-out experience. After listening to so much identikit dubstep and bass music this year, a release like this sounds unbelievably fresh and dangerously competent. [10/10]

B. Dolan - Fallen House, Sunken City
B. Dolan – Fallen House, Sunken City
2LP/CD, Strange Famous Records, 2010
In another inspired hip-hop pairing, Alias produces this album for B. Dolan and does an excellent job of echoing Dolan’s paranoid, politically aware lyrics. This quickly became a favorite of mine for aggressively cycling to work and essentially it’s the soundtrack to a world in crisis. Dolan demonstrates why he should be a much bigger star than he is with incredibly dexterous wordplay and powerful imagery. [8/10]

Anais Mitchell - Hadestown
Anais Mitchell – Hadestown
CD, Righteous Babe, 2010
Anais Mitchell makes the jump from sparsely arranged guitar/vocal work to a full blown soundtrack (folk-opera?) for this release. Featuring an all-star cast (Bon Iver, Ani DiFranco, Greg Brown, etc.) Anais updates the story of Hades and Persephone for depression-era America. The music is emotional and evocative, and arrangements from Michael Chorney tastefully enhance Mitchell’s obvious songwriting talent. Anais is bringing the live show to London in January, and clearly seeing something of this quality live is not to be missed. Although she may not yet be up there in the stratosphere with the Ani DiFrancos of the world, she deserves to join her. Undoubtedly one of the most beautifully crafted, emotional and wonderful albums of the year. [8/10]

Lorn - Nothing Else
Lorn – Nothing Else
LP/CD, Brainfeeded, 2010
Despite a massively underwhelming performance at the most recent London Brainfeeder night, Lorn’s debut album showcases everything that’s right with America’s wonderful L.A.-centric bass scene. At times coming across more like a mix tape, short track lengths keep things flowing and make sure the listener never gets bored, the intricacy of production and sound selection really lift this album above others in the field. If the new Flying Lotus was just a bit too free jazz for your taste, this album more than fills the void in your life for a spooky hip-hop influenced party freakout. [8/10]

Tyler, The Creator - Bastard
Tyler, The Creator – Bastard
free download, OFWGKTA, 2010
This one’s probably a hard sell if you are trying to convince your girlfriend to get into hip-hop, but with rhymes about Nazis, rape and coke and futuristic ultra-tough production this 19-year-old L.A. producer/rapper and his crew (Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All Crew) are going places other rappers can only dream of. Short-sighted reviewers might compare them to horrorcore like Necro or Gravediggaz but in fact Tyler sounds more like the bastard lovechild from a three-way between of MF Doom, El-P and Wu-Tang. Even better, all of their music is free and available to download from oddfuture.com. Expect big things from Tyler and his crew in the future. [9/10]

And that’s it for 2010! I could only come up with eight records I consider to be essential and I don’t bounce my honourable mentions to albums of the year just for numbers, so here are two from 2009 you should still be listening to:

Ben Frost - By the Throat
Ben Frost – By the Throat
CD/LP/digital, Bedroom Community, 2009
With moments of monumental beauty and darkness, this album has barely been out of my player since it came out in 2009. Get it on vinyl for the full experience, but whatever you do, listen to it. Absolutely essential stuff. [10/10]

This Immortal Coil - The Dark Age of Love
This Immortal Coil – The Dark Age of Love
CD/LP, Ici D’Ailleurs, 2009
Beautiful French Coil tribute album, I ignored this for a long time because I thought that anyone else doing Coil would ruin it, but the songs on offer here in some cases rival or even surpass the originals. A perfectly crafted album to listen to as the evenings draw in and the days get cold and you want to remember better times (or raise a glass to the sadly departed Peter Christopherson, who passed away recently). If you’re a fan of Coil, get it now! [9/10]

Honourable Mentions:

Necro - Die!
Necro – Die!
CD, Psycho+Logical-Records, 2010
More of what you’d expect from the world’s finest purveyor of gore. If you didn’t like his lyrics before, you certainly won’t feel any different this time around, but his production, as always, is top class and there’s an unbelievably cheeky Ani DiFranco sample in there that will have you in stitches. [7/10]

Stig of the Dump - Mood Swings
Stig of the Dump – Mood Swings
CD, trafficentertainment, 2010
The UK’s No. 1 battle MC brings in what you could call his first ‘proper’ album this year. Stylistically all over the place, Stig proves he can bring it whatever the beat, but he’s at his best when he’s serious, and “25/8” has become a proper anthem around here. More tunes like “Wind the Clock” and “Big City Blues” please. [6/10]

El-P - WeAreAllGoingToBurnInHell Megamix 3
El-P – Weareallgoingtoburninhellmegamixxx3
CD/LP, Gold Dust Media, 2010
A mix of El-P’s unreleased instrumental work, this should whet your appetite for next year’s new album (tentatively titled “cancerforcure”). Whilst the production is as top class as ever, El-P is at his best when killing it lyrically at the same time. [7/10]

Madlib - Miles Away
Madlib – Miles Away
CD, Stones Throw Records, 2010
Madlib’s space jazz release this year just confirms his status as one of the best producers around, amazingly sequenced intricate music. [7/10]

— Tom “Bad Sekta” Whiston