Top 5 Licks of 2010

2010's finest long players, according to Exposed.
TOP 1 Sufjan Stevens: The Age of Adz
As a fan of Sufjan Stevens I know to expect the unexpected.  It’s been five years since his last proper album, there were rumours of his quitting music, and then not one but two albums released within weeks of each other, and the second is quite possibly his greatest achievement yet. 
He has given electonica a new dimension by incorporating lush orchestrations and choirs, but as always threading it all together with beautiful melodies. 
This album is not always an easy listen; the final track is itself 25minutes long, but perseverance will bring a revelation and an insight into the mind of the most creative spirit recording in music today.
TOP 2 Steve Mason: Boy’s Outside
If ever testament were needed to the idea that great art is the product of great suffering, look no further than the former Beta Band front-man’s first solo album.  Thankfully he has come through his depression and seems to have overcome his demons. 
Part of this recovery has been writing an album of such deep emotion that it makes, at times, quite uneasy listening, but don’t let that put you off.  He is a song-writing genius, and has the ability to inhabit your life with his lyrical imagery and haunting tunes. 
TOP 3 Cherry Ghost: Beneath this Burning Shoreline
Once Cherry Ghost was once the musical pseudonym of Simon Aldred, but with this second album, they have become a fully fledged group.  Following on from 2007’s rich and heady Thirst for Romance, it seemed they would be hard pushed to top it, but somehow they have done just that.  
The songs are epic, almost cinematic in their scope, and although often dark and brooding, are truly stunning.  Aldred is establishing himself as a classy songwriter, and repeated listening to this album will reveal hidden beauty and depth.  This is the classic ‘slow-burner’, and once it has you hooked, it will not let you go.
TOP 4 John Grant: Queen of Denmark
One time singer with the The Czars, John Grant had almost abandoned the music business, when the sublime talents of Midlake happened on him and persuaded him back into the studio. 
This could so easily be a depressing album, born as it is from a recovery from drug and alcohol addiction, disappointment with his failed career and feelings of being an outsider, but it turns out to be an uplifting, funny and life-affirming view of the world. 
Where else would you find songs about sweet shops,  Sigourney Weaver and suicide?  If you only look out for one of these albums, let it be this one. 
TOP 5 I Am Kloot: The Sky at Night
John Bramwell has been ploughing the same furrow for the last 10 years, becoming in my opinion, one of this country’s best songwriter. 
He and his band, I Am Kloot from Manchester, spent 18 months recording this and were understandably excited about its release. 
The production from Elbow’s Guy Garvey and Graham Potter has helped to transform this into his most consistent album yet, with potentially the greatest mass-appeal, but despite a Mercury nomination this year, it seems unlikely to bring Bramwell the recognition he richly deserves.  
On the Exposed Radar for 2011 – What you really oughta be rather looking out for in 2011…
Human League: Credo
The new album from our local heroes is much anticipated, but for me the real excitement is that it is produced by the talented yet little known local duo, Jarrod Gosling and Dean Honor, known collectively as I Monster. 
Gruff Rhys: Hotel Shampoo
Gruff has said the Super Furry Animals are still alive but in hibernation, so in the mean time we’ll be looking for Hotel Shampoo to entertain us until they return.
Iron and Wine: Kiss Each Other Clean
Iron and Wine is really Samuel Beam from Austin, Texas.  This will be his fourth studio album and singer-songwriters do not get any better than this.
Fleet Foxes: Deepwater Horizon (working title)
Anything on the Bella Union label is much anticipated in my house, and their ‘baroque harmonic pop’ as they describe their music is a joy.  Let’s hope their second album contains more of the same.
The Decemberists: The King is Dead
Of all the bands named after unfinished Leo Tolstoy novels, these are my favourites.  The US indie folk-rockers can always be depended on to entertain and their third album is due for release early in 2011.

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