Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Athlete - Singles 01-10 (EMI)

Is it that time of year already? The first of countless Best Of albums of 2010 has hit our Creative Zen (because iPod = shut up), functioning almost as an advent calendar for the digital age. And should you find this neat little anthology from Deptford indiesmiths Athlete in your stocking in a couple months’ time, you might be rather chuffed. (Assuming, y’know, you’ve also got some big presents.)

Singles 01-10 documents the rather impressive catalogue of a band who were never quite the stadium-filling rock behemoths they were often close to being. And yet, as we look back along their musical timeline, it’s a testament to a unique charm that would most likely have been diluted in a bigger arena.

The sundrenched, emotive Beautiful remains an unqualified classic, leaving you wondering how long it’ll be until a hapless Danish Idol runner-up proffers a hideous dance version, and the contagious thump of both Hurricane and Superhuman Touch demonstrate that the band’s knack for uptempo is equally capable.

The transition from the outward kook of Vehicles & Animals to the comparably sensible, introverted Tourist seemed a rather awkward one, given that it occurred via the low-key radio behemoth Wires. However, the two albums sit incredibly comfortably nestled in amongst one another. Meanwhile, the bigger – Coldplayesque, some unfairly commented at the time – sound of later material also works remarkably well in the mix.

Although Singles 01-10 demonstrates a chronological progression (when considered in that order, at least), there are probably few examples of Best Of albums as cohesive and as fluid as this. And as if to prove the point, closing track - and new recording – Back Track has noticeably more in common with Vehicles & Animals-era Athlete than with more recent offerings, going full-circle and tying the compilation up rather nicely as an overall package.

For a band who've spent the best part of their career being likened to other acts, Athlete actually boast a truly identifiable sound. Gigantic melodies, back-to-front riffs, a penchant for the occasional electro-twiddle and a generous smattering of bold quirkiness all come together to create something that is solely and unequivocally Athlete.

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