Friday, November 19, 2010

Best Albums of 2010

My favorite albums. (That's really the only way to honestly categorize this thing.) Before you go and say what I know you're thinking, I only liked one song on The Suburbs, Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains). The same goes for LCD Soundsystem (Home). So don't even give me that business. Sufjan disappointed me too. I'm not even giving him nostalgia points. So that's that.

As usual, if you want to hear any of these albums just message me and I'll send you a download link.

15. The National - High Violet

Sometimes you just want to drink some neat whiskey in a downtown jazz lounge. I know The National isn't jazzy, but there's something so classy about Berninger's baritone. If you're an adult in 2010, you need High Violet. There's something reassuring about it, something that sounds like foggy skylines and the silence in your apartment when you get home too late.

14. Baths - Cerulean

Anticon is never quite on the cusp of electronic music, but always a half side-step over (not saying that's a bad thing though). Baths, on the other hand, is either completely lost on a deserted island or too far ahead of the group to even compare. The glitchy-breaky beats on Cerulean combine with found sounds to create the closest thing to Prefuse 73 Reads the Books since the EP that went by that title.

13. Big Boi - Sir Luscious Left Foot

I always thought my favorite half of Outkast was Andre 3000. Now I'm not so sure. Big Boi's 2010 release is just the right mix of weird fun and street rhymes. For me, this is the only kind of hip hop that's worth anyone's time. Just imagining a new 50 Cent album being released in this decade is cringe-inducing.

12. Gold Panda - Lucky Shiner

Lucky Shiner is exactly what I hope to hear whenever I put on a new electronic album. Part of it is the dubstep/chillwave residue, but Gold Panda works best because of its clarity. There aren't any lyrics mucking it up, just a bunch of beats shining brightly from start to finish. The melodies are phantoms, yet the album is totally engaging and listenable.

11. Robyn - Body Talk

Robyn wins best live performance of the year. On a 90+ degree day at Pitchfork Fest, she moved her body more than I thought was possible in such temperatures. All three parts of Body Talk make up ranking number 11, because they all came out this year, and they are all equally as fun and poppy when listened to together. After hearing this music, I'm amazed that anyone can care about Lady Gaga.

10. Janelle Monae - The Archandroid

Like a good Kanye West album, Janelle Monae created something paradoxically eclectic and accessible. The ArchAndroid doesn't follow the formula of a typical pop record, and that's why we love it. All of the hooks and melodies are there for mainstream radio success, but the unpredictability of the album is what earns Janelle heaps of respect from critics and the more stingy listeners like me.

9. Wolf Parade - Expo 86

If Canadian power pop could be epitomized, it is Expo 86. By LP number three, Wolf Parade sounds less interested in proving themselves, and more apt to just rock out. It's the Wilco effect, for Canada. Whereas Arcade Fire felt the same old pressure to create a powerfully anthemic album for their day in age, Wolf Parade simply turned their dial up to 11. In my opinion, it's much more enjoyable to simply rock well, for wisdom knows that even grandiosity can become monotonous.

8. Laura Veirs - July Flame

July Flame is one of those nearly perfect albums that nobody will remember in a few years. But whenever it comes back on in the shuffle we'll still smile. It's an example of songwriting as king. There is no marketing tactic, no hype machine that can compete with a skilled songwriter. Veirs is one of the best working today, and even if no one recognizes it, the music gods will remain with her and keep her listeners at peace.

7. Here We Go Magic - Pigeons

We're too suspicious of musicians. We see talented players, and we condemn them for not having enough heart. But when I listen to Here We Go Magic, I set aside my suspicions. These talents are well placed, like the best Frank Zappa or Radiohead albums. Patience and intelligence are epicenters of Pigeons, prophesying a world of auditoriums and amphitheaters for future Here We Go Magic concerts. And the bigger the better. This is the sort of band I wouldn't mind becoming more popular than Coldplay. They have what it takes too.

6. The Books - The Way Out

One of my favorite bands remains. I trust the Books. I can't imagine this gimmick's effect wearing off anytime soon either. The staple that will always keep the Books interesting is their humor. As long as they're funny, and not topically so, we'll remember this music. A surreal absurdity blesses their music in the same way Monty Python had the good graces of silliness. The effect is universal and timeless, and occasionally a laugh riot.

5. Beach House - Teen Dream

I'm still surprised by this ranking. I never really cared about Beach House, but I can listen to Teen Dream at any time of the day, during any season, and I won't skip a track on the album. There's a quiet magic in this music, something simple but something that plunges deep into my psyche. It doesn't transfer over to the live setting very well, but if I can enjoy an album for 12 months out of the year it automatically gets a spot in the top 5.

4. Menomena - Mines

I didn't expect a "grower" for the new Menomena album, but in retrospect, I guess they were due for one. The band's first three albums hit immediately and satisfyingly. Mines is different. It requires repeat listens. Its beauty is subtle, but possibly more potent than any other Menomena album.

3. The Tallest Man On Earth - The Wild Hunt and Sometimes the Blues is Just A Passing Bird EP

The Wild Hunt alone is enough to garner a top three spot, but a five song EP never hurt anybody either. The Tallest Man On Earth stretched just a little bit from his acoustic finger-pickin' debut, Shallow Graves, playing more electric guitar and even a little piano in 2010. But the strongest skill of the artist isn't his playing style, which can be heard by the most boring classical guitar virtuosos of the world, Matsson is first and foremost a songwriter. His songs have a timeless quality that seem neither old or new, but just right for whatever time they're being heard.

2. Delorean - Subiza

Subiza is the soundtrack for summer days at the city beach, dethroning whatever Beach Boys album that was there for the past 40 years. I had the pleasure of seeing Delorean live this year, which is always a helpful way to more fully understand a recorded album. After seeing their show, I realized that the purpose of Delorean's music is pure enjoyment. Subiza is a bringer of happy thoughts and pleasant dreams, whether it's heard in headphones or a live show.

1. Kanye West - My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy

A lot of great albums came out in 2010, but none with quite as much hype as My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. In an age when downloading a zip file is the primary means of adding to our music collection, Kanye took advantage of our eager-to-download habits instead of pretending it's still the 1900s'. He says it best in Power: "I'm livin' in a 21st century, doin' something mean to it, do it better than anybody you ever seen do it." He's still just as audacious as he was on College Dropout, and the bravado is as entertaining as ever. The marketing alone clued us in that this album was going to be huge. Releasing a free song download on his website every week. Directing his own short film. Orchestrating the most memorable live music performance on TV this decade. By the time we're able to even hear the album, it's a miracle we're not underwhelmed. But great albums deserve a lot of hype. Over the last decade, I almost forgot that truth. Kanye made me anxious for an album in 2010. I can't remember the last time I felt that.


A said...

Nice list.

I don't think my eventual list will have many of these (only really considering Kanye, Tallest Man and National from this list) but the justifications given are dead-on:

Kanye's album is a rare mass event that had virtually anyone who is interested in pop music anticipating its release.

I don't really like Beach House either, but it is eminently listenable, creates a unique atmosphere and works as a skip-no-tracks whole album. Fantastic album art too.

TMOE is timeless (or maybe out of time), perfect description. The National feels jazzy, in the sense of sophisticated adult music. Laura Veirs is forgotten already.

I'd say Sufjan should be on here, definitely RIYL this list. Good stuff,


dylanclub said...

Dear readers,
please note the date of this post (well before Pitchfork's perfect 10 rating.)
Thank you