Got to say, work and stuff had me a little delayed with creating my year end lists for 2010 and I did a little bit of a half-assed job with constructing them (I’ve already thought of two glaring omissions) but nevertheless, it’s time for a celebration!
For me, Twenty Ten was a stellar year in music, choke-full of inventive and highly imaginative albums, which made it incredibly difficult to narrow them down to a Top 100 yet alone a Top 35! For this year, I decided to do the list a little differently. Instead of scrupulously going through every album in my iTunes library to find the ones from this past year — a process which is a bit more time consuming than my limited free time allows — I decided to just use my memory to list out the albums which stuck with me the most.
For anyone who knows me, this process seems laughable (when it comes to names/facts, I have a terrible retention rate), however I feel like I got down almost all of my favorite albums. To correct any errors, I’m going to post a second part to the list entitled “The Best Of The Forgotten” a couple of weeks from now, so if you have any suggestions/recommendations of music which I’ve overlooked, feel free to leave a comment!
So without further ado, here are my favorite albums of 2010 which I remembered. Oh and one more thing, if you just want a bulleted list without the descriptions, scroll down to the very bottom (there is also a .zip file containing all the tracks featured). OK NOW, LET’S DO THIS:
Stalker // mp3s
This year’s recipient of the Scott Walker award — given annually to a far out-there yet interestingly enjoyable album — is not even an album at all, but more of a collection of molasses-paced mp3s by Chicago innovator Stalker. Signed to fellow forward-thinkers Tri Angle Records, Stalker’s modus operandi is chopping & screwing further than what most people like to chop & screw a track, pushing radio-friendly hits (Lindsey Lohan and These New Puritans have both been slow-moed) to uncomfortable boundaries.
Stalker // Final_1
Joanna Newsom // Have One on Me
I don’t know if it was unintentional or maybe a slight to the inevitable critics complaint that Have One on Me is a bit long-winded, but I absolutely loved how Ms. Newsom opens up her latest opus with a track entitled “Easy” – something that, for the listener, this album is definitely not. For those who still can’t get past the uniqueness of Newsom’s voice or choice of instrumentation (aka “the haters”), the 3xLP is three-times as grating, but for the lucky ones, we get two plus hours of sweetly melodic, musically intricate, and always lovely hit-after-hit.
Joanna Newsom // In California
Salad Fork // A Mixtape for Haiti
Probably more so than any other year, I’ve fallen prey to the ever expanding collections of mixtape compilations that circulate the web at roughly 3.00*10^8 m/s. In an effort to not overpopulate this list with these e-gems, I narrowed it down to a single one: Salad Fork’s Mixtape for Haiti. Although the cause was enough for a donation (relief for earthquake victims in Haiti), the album itself boasts one of the nicest blends of tracks that can fit on an artfully decorated two-sided cassette. Well done Lou!
Weekend // All-American
Woods // At Echo Lake
Like most, I was incredibly amped when Brooklyn based psych-folk outfit Woods released “Suffering Season” a mere days before At Echo Lake was scheduled to drop, instantly making it one of my most anticipated albums of the year. Unfortunately, these incredibly high expectations were ultimately too much to overcome (and placing below the number 15 ranking Songs of Shame garnered last year), but regardless, we’re left with a collection of ten well-composed palatable tracks that I’ll always like to listen to on rainy days.
Woods // Death Rattles
Pocahaunted // Make It Real
At the beginning of the year, I wouldn’t have dared put money that Bethany Costentino (aka Best Coast) would have found herself below the band she had jilted. Where Costentino went “safe” with her boy-crazy debut LP, Pocahaunted vaulted deeper into the freak-out/you-don’t-know-what-the-fuck-is-about-to-happen realm (something I was hoping a little bit more of from Woods), creating one of their best efforts to date.
Pocahaunted // UFO
Casiokids // Topp stemning på lokal bar
It’s been no secret that I’ve been following this fun-loving Norwegian electro-pop group since pretty much its I N C E P T I O N, championing anything and everything that the band has released in the past three years. After much waiting, we finally find ourselves with the debut from this collection of kids-at-heart that’s perfect for any afternoon play dates in the sandbox. As an added bonus, the remix album (featuring reimaginations of Casiokids’ songs from Familjen and Captain Credible among others) paired with the release is just as good!
Casiokids // Verdens største land
Cloud Nothings // Turning On
2010 seemed to be a year where up-and-comers overshadowed indie rock stalwarts, and Cleveland’s Cloud Nothings is one of the best examples of this. Turning On is chiefly a collection of the guitar-centric, fuzzed-out mp3 and 7’’ releases that Dylan Baldi had made through the latter parts of 2009 and early 2010 and was a staple on both my turntable and my car’s stereo.
Cloud Nothings // Hey Cool Kid
Flying Lotus // Cosmogramma
A schizophrenic assault on the ears, Fly Lo’s latest is a complicated assortment of sounds and layers that, although not as digestible as Los Angeles, shows when it comes to music producing no one is as experimental as him.
Flying Lotus // Computer Face / Pure Being
Gobble Gobble // mp3s
In a year that was deep with exciting new acts, there was nothing this year – or any year, in fact – quite like the spastic musical outpourings of the gang that call themselves Gobble Gobble. Whether it was taking a hyperactive spin to a classic favorites (The Pixies “Where Is My Mind”) or reinventions of other emerging groups (Diamond Rings, Cloud Nothings, DOM, etc…) or their very own dance-party-in-a-track concoctions, one thing is for certain with Gobble Gobble: you’re guaranteed to have a good time listening to every track!
Gobble Gobble // End of Days
Liars // Sisterworld
Got to admit, I was a bit disappointed with how Sisterworld turned out. I was hoping for a mind-altering musical experience when the needle struck the vinyl for the first time, and what I got was another album cut in almost the same weird-rock mold as its two predecessors. Although not meeting my expectations, I still thoroughly enjoyed Sisterworld. I guess if it ain’t broke don’t fix it, eh?
Liars // Proud Evolution
Crystal Castles // Crystal Castles
Not to be confused with the S/T which wound up near the top of my ’08 list, the sophomore release by the Canadian 8-bit/electro-er…-something duo was not an instant grab like its predecessor. In fact, I was going to omit it from the list completely if it wasn’t for Jheri from Get Off the Coast campaigning for a relisten! The album’s second chance came in the form of blasting it out on some high quality home stereo equipment (a method which made Sleigh Bell’s “Treats” passable for an album), and needless to say the dance-worthy tracks appeared less flat and more energetic than I remembered while the ballads remained just as potent as ever.
Crystal Castles // Vietnam
Toro y Moi // Causers of This
Another album that was a slow grower for me, I really didn’t get a complete impression of Chaz Bundwick & Co. until after I saw them live this past autumn. Too high-brow to be considered glo-fi (or whatever the nom du jour is) yet still capturing the nostalgic feeling as his contemporaries, Toro y Moi fulfills a niche that the myriad of imitators somehow missed. And did I mention his live show is awesome?!?
Toro y Moi // Causers Of This
Twin Sister // Color Your Life
I’ve had a Twin Sister post in my queue for about seven months now which I revisit often, never quite putting to words the impression this NYC band makes on me. I’ve tried and tried rewriting it countless times but somehow it’s always deficient and incomplete. So I’ll just throw up my hands and tell you you should download this album (if you are one of the two people who haven’t done that already) and get lost in their pleasant pop sounds.
Twin Sister // All Around and a Way We Go
White Denim // Last Day of Summer
Maybe it’s a Texas thing, but I’m always impressed by the recordings of Austin’s White Denim and am constantly surprised by the lack of coverage of them by the blog-o-world. For the past four years, this four-piece has been consistently releasing hit “indie-rock” (I use the term loosely) record after hit record yet they somehow get lost in the shuffle. Whether it’s your first exposure to them or if you’re already a fan, Last Day of Summer is sure to be a great listen.
White Denim // Some Wild Going Outward
jj // K I L L S Mixtape
Let’s be honest, jj’s no.3, also released in 2010, should have been a collection of B-sides to no.2 rather than a fresh LP. Thankfully, the Swedish hip-hop inspired electro-pop duo of Joakim Benon and Elin Kastlander redeemed themselves in the nick of time with the release of this badass mixtape on Christmas Eve. KILLS is a collection of hip-hop samples and rap lyrics (sung sweetly by Elin) amalgamated in quasi-random fashion to surprisingly great results – an end-of-year treat to a solid year of music!
jj // STILL
Harlem // Hippies
My favorite original garage rock release of the year, Harlem’s tracks are more like short stories with their albums bounding them into a nice collection. The group finds the perfect balance between hard-driving melodies and storybook lyrics that captivate you in perfect three-minute chunks. In an album of sixteen tracks, it’s amazing that there is not a throwaway in the bunch.
Harlem // Tila and I
Various Artists // Sahel Sounds
For lovers of “world music” (like chillwave, another moniker I can’t stand), this collection of cell-phone recorded tracks from Sahara Africa is a must-have. Nothing boils my blood more than when people describe African music as nothing more than a novelty listen – pleasant enough, but uninspired. With Sahel Sounds, you get such inventiveness in a dearth of instrumentation (most tracks feature just an acoustic guitar) that it makes you wonder about the state of monochromatic singer/songwriter “coffee shop” music that inundates the Western world.
Abba Ahmedou // Ishumar Guitar
Mountain Man // Made the Harbor
Even before a proper release, the near-a capella sounds of Vermont’s Mountain Man made many Best of 2009 lists (including yours truly). 2010 was a banner year for this all-female folk trio, releasing an EP on Underwater Peoples and an LP on Partisan Records that collected their massively downloaded mp3s of the prior year along with some new gems. Although the recording doesn’t come close to capturing their captivating live performance, it serves as a good representation of the band’s talent.
Mountain Man // Animal Tracks
Oneohtrix Point Never // Returnal
One would be crazy to think that you represent the complex synth sounds of Daniel Lopatin in a few sentences without the aid of psychotropic drugs, so I won’t even try…
Oneohtrix Point Never // Stress Waves
Explode Into Colors // Quilts
Similar to Mountain Man’s full-length, this “LP” by Portland garage rock band Explode Into Colors is more of a collection of their already released works (three sold-out 7’’s) than a new record. Regardless, for the uninitiated Quilts serves as a good introduction (or I guess conclusion since the band is now-defunct) to the wild bass/drum-dominated tracks this trio of women seem to effortlessly produce.
Explode Into Colors // Coffins
ceo // White Magic
You will not find a bigger lover of Swedish music than myself. It’s impossible. Whether it’s coming from Stockholm, Malmö, or Göteborg (arguably the epicenter) it doesn’t matter. If it has umlauts, some crazy vowel/consonant combination, or a feeling of icy ethereal to the music, I’m bound to love it. I’m constantly amazed by the impact this Scandinavian country of a paltry nine-million people have on music these days. Case in point, the electro-pop dance-tunes of ceo. The only complaint I have about the album is it’s short duration – twenty-eight minutes is enough to whet, but not satiate, my appetite for the inventive tracks of Eric Berglund.
ceo // White Magic
Glasser // Ring
Can we all agree that True Panther has been knocking every release out of the park? Ah man, just thinking about this album gives me the shivers: the combination of Cameron Mesirow’s angelic voice sung over sparsely laid instrumentation is a power to behold. I always love albums/songs which seem deceptively simple but when you start attentively listening to elements you find that they are overwhelming intricate, and Ring is one of the best examples of this this year.
Glasser // Apply
Pantha du Prince // Black Noise
When I first heard this album through the incredibly inadequate speakers on my laptop, I was like “meh”, but when I blasted from a more proper sound system I was like “Whole.Lee.Shit.” A lot has been made about Pantha’s dominance when it comes to composing bass lines, but I found myself gripped more from the oddball percussive elements he sprinkles and spatters across a track much like paint on a Pollock canvas. An amazing composition and no doubt one-step forward for electronic music.
Pantha du Prince // Abglanz
RxRy // Omega
Speaking of steps forward for electronic music, this year was fortunate to house the breakout albums (yes, plural) of semi-anonymous producer RxRy. Where most ambient electronic music is snooze-worthy, RxRy found a way to not only keep you interested in the music but also perk up your childhood imagination a little bit. When listening to Omega (the third of three LPs released this year by RxRy) you can’t help but envision a slew of fantasy micro-climates (lush rainforest, coastal crags, unending bodies of turbulent water, etc…) making it all the more enjoyable getting lost in the sound.
RxRy // Aertgo Lapsees
Memoryhouse // mp3s
Although releasing a couple of 7’’s, we unfortunately were not graced with a full length by bedroom-pop extraordinaires Memoryhouse. I don’t care, I’m including them on the list – and high up on it — anyways. I probably played every single mp3 of Evan Abeele and Denise Nouvion a hundred times, that’s how easily I drifted away alongside their sweet melodies and comforting vocals. One of my favorite emerging artists of this past year and I can’t wait for what 2011 has in store for them!
Memoryhouse // To the Lighthouse
Robyn // Body Talk
Team Sweden strikes again! If I had to describe to some alien what pop music is, I would probably slap Robyn’s Body Talk onto the turntable and give them a listen. To me, Robyn is the essence of pop and it’s unfortunate (or maybe, more appropriately, unjust) that it’s the Britney Spears of the world selling out arenas from Indonesia to Arizona rather than her.
Robyn // Hang With Me
Lower Dens // Twin-Hand Movement
Probably one of the few bands on this list that I can see both myself and a young adult version of parents listening to. Although distorted at times, Twin-Hand Movement is mostly a smooth enjoyable listen that’s fairly easy on the ears. The album is nothing particularly revolutionary but rather it’s just a great uncomplicated record done extremely well — something you don’t get too often nowadays.
Lower Dens // Completely Golden
Rraaiillss // 1098
I feel like Rraaiillss is The Sandwitches of 2010: a group (or in this case an individual) who makes unbelievably high quality music yet surprisingly doesn’t garner a shred of coverage. 1098 is an incredibly solid album that blazes through genres as diverse as shoegaze to bedroom-pop, leaving in its smoldering remnants a stunned and amazed listener whose only response is to hit replay. Equally unbelievable is the fact that the music – from drums, guitar, vocals, electronics – is produced solely by one person, Adam Anderson, who also somehow finds time to do some electronic stuff on the side.
Rraaiillss // Red String
Big Boi // Sir Lucious Left Foot
Although the masses might disagree, any diehard music fan would probably concede that Big Boi is the heart and soul of Outkast, with Andre 3000 providing the funk and funky. With Sir Lucious Left Foot, Big Boi showcases what he does best, writing fast-paced, complex rhymes over head-banging big-band beats which you can bump even in a 1996 Corolla. In a Lil Wayne-less year of music, Big Boi’s rapping provided a suitable replacement.
Big Boi (ft. Gucci Mane) // Shine Blockas
Kanye West // My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy
Of the stacks and stacks of positive reviews and effusing articles discussing the new Kanye album, the statement that stuck with me the most was from The New Yorker music critic Sasha Frere-Jones: “Good luck figuring out what kind of music this is, though it does contain rapping.” And that’s exactly why I love this album so much – it pushes the boundary in a genre that seems to have become overwhelmingly stagnant the past half decade. If anything, West deserves a gold medal for finally scrapping the most annoying thing about rap albums: skit interludes.
Kanye West // Power
How to Dress Well // Love Remains
I found myself coming back to this album by How to Dress Well more and more as the year ended. Maybe it’s the Bon Iver-esque falsetto vocals offset not by acoustic guitar but rather ambient R&B beats or the complexity in simplicity mantra (much like Glasser’s Ring), but whatever it is, I found myself absolutely loving this album when winter rolled around. Who knows, maybe if it was released a few months sooner it would have snuck into the top spot!
How to Dress Well // You Won’t Need Me Where I’m Goin’
The Knife In Collaboration with Mt. Sims and Planningtorock // Tomorrow, In A Year
No doubt the most cerebral of albums I listened to this year, this score for a Charles Darwin inspired opera composed by the Swedish electronic duo The Knife twisted and warped the concept of evolution in highly imaginative ways. Although their distinct pitch-shifted vocals are noticeably absent (except on the well-received track “Colouring of Pigeons” which features the singing of Karin Dreijer Andersson), the composition itself is a 22nd century incarnation of The Knife’s sharp synths and unusual sounding melodies. Tomorrow, In A Year is certainly not for the casual listener, but for the people who take the time to attentively listen and deconstruct the album, it’s a worthwhile treat.
The Knife // Colouring of Pigeons
Deerhunter // Halcyon Digest
What more can you say about Bradford Cox that hasn’t already been said? With a Ryan Adams-like proficiency – and more critically acclaimed to boot – the guy churns out high-quality albums like its second nature to him. Halcyon Digest is the latest in his dense discography (well, at the time of printing Halcyon Digest seems to have been replaced by a hefty FOUR albums Cox recorded in his bedroom that was released at the end of the year) and is one of his best. 60s pop-rock inspired, Cox shows that he knows a thing or two about how to string together simple melodies with sing-song songwriting to produce automatic hits.
Deerhunter // Desire Lines
James Blake // CMYK
Hands down, my favorite album(s) (CMYK is one of three EPs released in ’10) from an up-and-coming artist this year came by way of twenty-two year old British producer James Blake. Although dubstep and ambient are no doubt influences, I’m not quite sure you can conveniently pigeonhole Mr. Blake’s compositions into a nice little well-packaged genre. As you’ve seen from many of the prior Best Of picks, this lack of categorization seems to be desirable not only from my perspective but also from more influential music lovers (it’s only a matter of time before “ungenre” becomes a genre). The combination of the age and the music makes me so excited to see what Blake has in store for us with his February scheduled debut LP release.
James Blake // CMYK
Beach House // Teen Dream
Hands down, the most listened to and most loved album of the year for me (and it seems for a lot of other people as well). I was a little late to jump on the Beach House bandwagon — in ’08 I famously declared to many that I just didn’t “get it”— but Teen Dream helped bridged the gap in my lack of understanding. Like most, I’ve helplessly fallen head over heels for the sweet crooning of Victoria Legrand and the delicate melodies composed by her keyboard playing and Alex Scally’s guitar plucking. In a year that saw so much complex and boundary-pushing music, it was always refreshing knowing that I had Beach House’s simple, yet beautifully constructed tracks to cleanse the palate when all was said and done. A great album that tops a great year in music!
Beach House // 10 Mile Stereo
You can download all the tracks featured in this list from the two .zip files here and here. I recommend sorting via “Date Created” to get the tracks in order. Here’s a recap of my Top 35 Albums of 2010:
1: Beach House // Teen Dream
2: James Blake // CMYK
3: Deerhunter // Halcyon Digest
4: The Knife // Tomorrow, In a Year
5: How to Dress Well // Love Remains
6; Kanye West // My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy
7: Big Boi // Sir Lucious Left Foot…
8: Rraaiillss // 1098
9: Lower Dens // Twin-Hand Movement
10: Robyn // Body Talk
11: Memoryhouse // mp3s
12: RxRy // Omega
13: Pantha du Prince // Black Noise
14: Glasser // Ring
15: ceo // White Magic
16: Explode Into Colors // Quilts
17: Oneohtrix Point Never // Returnal
18: Mountain Man // Made the Harbor
19: Various Artists // Sahel Sounds
20: Harlem // Hippies
21: jj // KILLS
22: White Denim // Last Day of Summer
23: Twin Sister // Color Your Life
24: Toro y Moi // Causers Of This
25: Crystal Castles // Crystal Castles
26: Liars // Sisterworld
27: Gobble Gobble // mp3s
28: Flying Lotus // Cosmogramma
29: Cloud Nothings // Turning On
30: Casiokids // Topp Stemning På Lokal Bar
31: Pocahaunted // Make It Real
32: Woods // At Echo Lake
33: Salad Fork // Mixtape for Haiti
34: Joanna Newsom // Have One On Me
35: Stalker // mp3s