Our Remembering series does what it says on the tin: our writers jog their memories to reflect on what an old song, album or year meant to them.
This installment features Fran Slater and Tom Burrows reflecting on the (relatively) recent past: the year that was 2010.
Fran: So, Tom – I suppose I’ll start with a bit of context of where I was in 2010 and what this playlist told me about myself.
I was 3 years into uni in 2010, in a steady relationship, and largely, in many ways, plodding along. That is reflected in the majority of my playlist. It looks like 2010 was a year of little new discovery but a host of great music from acts I was already a big fan of. This stuff was what got me through revision and essays.
To be honest, there’s also only one song on here that I wouldn’t put on a playlist today. But I’m interested in the stasis this list suggests for me.
What about you? How old were you and what you were up to at this point in life? Your list (other than Drake) suggests someone who was either really cool, or was trying really hard to be cool…
Tom: Well Fran, it sounds like we were in a somewhat similar place. 2010 was first year going on second year of university for me. This collection of songs represents a year of avoiding writing essays by procrastinating on Pitchfork and discovering the stuff they’d acclaimed.
It was a fairly significant time in my life that I’ve blabbed about on this site before. 2010 felt like it completed the transition of my music taste from the stuff I liked as a teenager to the eclectic range I listen to as an adult (I still enjoy all of these songs). But it was also a pretty lonely time, so any notions of cool are wide of the mark (unless I was being cool sat alone in lecture theatres or my bedroom). Besides, I was and still am staunchly against the idea of listening to music because it’s cool – something I’m sure we can agree on.
And I do hope you’re not bashing Drizzy Drake there. Besides, let’s talk about the elephant in the room: that Eminem and Rihanna chart smash – what’s that doing here? It was such a step change from everything else that I actually chuckled when it came on! Does this reflect mid-20s-party-animal Fran?
Fran: I am definitely bashing the steaming trash pile that is Drake, I’m afraid. Happy to say I’ve avoided his music in the main – and sorry to say that ‘Over’ does little to convince me otherwise. Have just never understood this guy at all…
There are a few reasons for the Eminem track. One, I was actually finding it hard to finish this playlist given how closed off I was from new music at the time – and I was also sad to see how much hip hop had slid off my radar around this time. I do remember a few sessions with ‘Love The Way You Lie’ in my headphones, though – reminiscing on how much I once loved Eminem. Poppy as it was, that song was a slight return in terms of his performance.
Now that I realise you were in uni at the time, I think the cool thing is less pronounced. I thought I was dealing with a 14/15 year old who was listening to Beach House and Deerhunter. They are two acts that have always given off an edge of cool to me, even though I haven’t paid them as much attention as I probably should. Really like that Beach House song you chose.
So you talk about this being a lonely time – were there any of these songs that particularly spoke to you at that time?
Tom: Your comments about your relationship with hip hop in 2010 are interesting. I was heading the opposite way: my teens had been dominated by alternative rock, so the inclusion of Drake – an artist with R&B and pop sensibilities as well as rap – is symbolic of my widening tastes.
It’s a good question on the loneliness thing. I’m not sure there’s much here lyrically that represents that, though the typically melancholic mood of that brilliant album from The National is the best approximation.
It’s funny you mention the ‘cool’ vibe of Beach House – I had an ex-girlfriend who said exactly the same thing. But to me they always seemed rather unassuming, and Teen Dream, which came out in January of 2010, was the beginning of my journey with a band I now love. Would definitely recommend listening to that one if you liked ‘Zebra’.
Talking of beloved bands, I’ve already mentioned one of your favourites and I see a few others on your list. You mention 2010 as a point of stasis in terms of music discovery for you. So were the releases from the likes of Laura Marling and Frightened Rabbit just further confirmation of their place in your heart, or were they relatively new discoveries at this point?
Fran: Well I suppose, if Drake was the gateway to you getting into a wider range of music and finding a love for hip-hop, I’ll let you off for liking him. It’s interesting to me though, as I know you’re a big fan of some of my favourite hip-hop from much earlier (Outkast for example) so would live to know how that developed. But maybe that’s a conversation for another time.
And yeah, as far as The National, Frightened Rabbit, and Laura Marling – they all released exceptional albums in 2010, making it actually a really top year for releases for me. But they were all albums that grew my love rather than introduced anything new. High Violet was the first National release since I’d discovered them, though – so my first time of waiting excitedly for them to release something. I know you’re a big fan too – what was your experience of the album release?
Also just realising this was the first year I saw then live, too. Probably my favourite gig ever.
So I know your thoughts on The National – what do you think of the Frabbit and Laura songs? And were either one your radar in 2010?
And what about your list? Which acts were you already a big fan of before 2010 came about?
Tom: It was the same for me with The National. I’d got massively into Boxer the year before and High Violet totally delivered on the anticipation. I’ve still somehow not seen them live so I’m jealous!
In fact that’s reminded me – in 2010 I actually didn’t go to many gigs at all. It was part of the loneliness thing: my shyness meant I wasn’t yet at the point in my life where I’d just go “fuck it, I’ll go on my own”. Sorry for getting the violin out again.
So yeah, my music experience was restricted to recorded music. Because of my love for The Twilight Sad, Frightened Rabbit were forever on my list of stuff to check out – but I never did. ‘Swim Until You Can’t See Land’ doesn’t do much for me now, but I can imagine it would have back then. I hadn’t heard a full Laura Marling album until I became a Picky Bastard, but I liked ‘Goodbye England’ (despite its twee title).
And to answer your last question: I already loved Hot Chip, Arcade Fire and Kanye back then (I was beside myself with excitement for the latter two releases). I see Hot Chip on your list – how do you think that album (and the others on your list) hold up today?
Fran: Mate. I want a time machine so I can go back and give 2010 Tom a hug and take him to a gig. National tickets would’ve been on me.
Have you still not really investigated Frightened Rabbit then? I would say ‘Swim’ is on the poppier end of their material – would be happy to throw some of their stuff your way as a recommend. They really are the best.
As for Hot Chip, that was never their best album. I think we picked the two bangers from it. But their earlier stuff still holds I think. I saw them about 8 times during my uni years and they really are one of the most enjoyable live acts around.
As for the rest of my list, I think a lot of the albums stand up pretty well. The 3 I’ve talked about most still get regular listens and the Villagers, Massive Attack, and Foals albums are all still worth a listen.
Obviously that Eminem album was awful, and I would say Florence is the one from my list that I wouldn’t really go back to these days.
What about you? What’s lasted and what’s fallen by the wayside?
Tom: Haha, thanks mate. And no I haven’t listened to Frabbit at all so would be interested to know what the fuss is about.
Agree on Hot Chip. Total Life Forever went some way towards convincing me that Foals were halfway decent, even though it’s basically just a good Radiohead impression. Not heard the Villagers or Massive Attack ones (apart from that one that was used as the Luther theme).
As I mentioned before, my 2010 taste doesn’t divert too much from what I listen to now. Still, though I think all of these albums still hold up, I haven’t gone back to many of them recently. I think part of this is that all of these artists have released a lot since, and I find myself going back to different eras of their careers. I’m more inclined to revisit Kanye’s Yeezus or even The Life of Pablo these days, Arcade Fire’s Reflektor is a weirder, less explored listen than The Suburbs, and Drake has just released better stuff since Thank Me Later.
Also to an extent, 2010 feels like an in-between time period – too recent to be properly nostalgic but too long ago to be contemporary. So having fallen through this gap of time, I’ve enjoyed revisiting these songs.
But what about songs and albums from 2010 that you’ve discovered since? That Four Tet album would fall into that camp for me, and I get the impression you’ve been way more inquisitive about music in the years since?
Fran: Interesting question. I would say though, that my renewed inquisitiveness has largely been based on newly released music so I don’t always look back that often.
That being said, our fellow editor Matt introduced LCD Soundsystem in the Why I Love section of our podcast and my favourite album of theirs came out in 2010. There were also early releases from Kendrick and Open Mike Eagle that are decent – but both are far from their best work. The ArchAndroid by Janelle Monae is also a classic that I definitely would’ve totally dismissed back then.
What about you? Any big discoveries since? Anything you think I’m missing out on?
Plus. Just to let you know. You don’t have to listen to Arcade Fire if you don’t want to. It’s okay to admit they’re terrible…
Tom: Absolute slander on Arcade Fire there. I mean, I wasn’t fully on board with the breathless praise for their debut – but nearly everything since has been great and The Suburbs is still a fantastic album. Along with the Kanye one it was my favourite of that year!
In response, I can’t find much to slate on your list that you haven’t touched on already. Eminem’s talent went AWOL in 2004 never to be seen again, and in hindsight, how were we all duped by the hype about Florence + The Machine?
LCD Soundsystem (along with Vampire Weekend, you’ll be pleased to know) only just missed the cut on my playlist, although I’ve barely gone back to it since.
As for music discovered since, I became obsessed with the Odd Future collective the following year – and a lot of their early projects were released in 2010. Tyler, The Creator’s Bastard and Earl Sweatshirt’s Earl are juvenile, horrorcore albums influenced lyrically by Eminem and sonically by Pharrell and The Neptunes. Their misogynistic and homophobic lyrics sound as reprehensible now as they did then, but the raw talent is evident.
Any final thoughts on 2010 in general? I think of it fondly as a strong year for music, and I think the albums have largely stood the test of time.
Fran: Hey – don’t tar me with the same anti Vampire Weekend brush as some of our fellow bastards. I was actually quite a fan early doors.
Interestingly, I’ve never really got on board with any of the Odd Future lot. Earl Sweatshirt has always seemed a bit too plodding, Tyler a little try hard. Maybe I’m missing something.
And yeah, as for 2010, I would say it was pretty solid. The fact that it produced three albums by artists I love at the top of their game is definitely a large selling point. But on the other hand, I’m not sure there was loads that was new and exciting – the likes we saw in years like 2007 and 2016.
Well. It’s been nice chatting 2010 with you mate. I’m off to find a way to pretend that Arcade Fire and Drake never existed, but I might do that by sticking on some Beach House. So you win some/lose some, I suppose.
Tom: I’m actually getting you confused with Nick re: Vampire Weekend! My mistake.
Yeah, Odd Future are divisive, but I’d be interested to know what you think of Earl on first listen. He’d just turned 16(!) when it came out.
Would definitely agree with you that 2016 is the modern benchmark for music. I’m sure we’ll cover that at some point.
And same, it’s been interesting to go back a decade or so. I’m going to reinvigorate my penchant for Scottish indie rock by delving into Frightened Rabbit. It’s been a pleasure.