Home > Music > The Years Best Music… IMO.

The Years Best Music… IMO.

2010 gave us some pretty stellar stuff from old faces and new ones alike.   Here’s a rundown of what I liked and why. Truth be told, I’ve re-ordered and shifted and moved and prodded this list about a hundred and one times.  My musical tastes shift with the wind but what follows is what I believe are ten of the best albums released this year that should under no circumstance be missed.

10.  Kanye West – My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy:  This guy is an insufferable prick.  He starts the year off giving the business to Taylor Swift at the VMAs, unfortunately discovers Twitter, shows up on Ellen with fucking diamond teeth and releases one of (if not THE) best Hip Hop albums of 2010.  Here’s the deal with Kanye… he’s an asshole, but he knows it.  Much of this album is a tip of the hat to his off album shenanigans but for some reason it plays MUCH better than his disappointing last effort 808s.  I rarely listen to hip hop anymore.  Like the multitude of top 40 drivel we’re inundated with, most of it just doesn’t sound original to me anymore.  Not this.  Kanye proves that owing your douchbaggery can work wonders for a record… knowing what the fuck you’re doing sure doesn’t hurt either.  It’s that good.

9.     Black Keys – Brothers:  Seriously there hasn’t been a release from the Black Keys that hasn’t amazed me.  Their last offering was significantly better than this record purely because they had Danger Mouse produce it, something that would not have worked well at all on this one.  Everlasting Light opens up with a grungy guitar thump and on a couple of songs, lead singer Dan Auerbach steps well outside of his comfort zone, almost singing in a falsetto on a track, keeping this BK album as original as their previous efforts.  Any fan of standard blues will totally love these guys and this album.

8.   Black Angels – Phosphene Dream:  This album blew me away.  Think psychedelic rock mixed with 60s Brit Pop.   This Texas outfit, with one of the cutest lady drummers since Autolux, has three albums under their belt but for some reason I just found out about them.  They make the list as a testament to good music always being out there just under the radar.  If you are a fan of the Doors or the Bees, check this out for sure.  Listening to this album (or even just the opening track) makes you think you can kick a giant’s ass.  Dark, moody… deeply talented.

7.  Yeasayer – Odd Blood:  This group from Brooklyn gave us something different for their sophomore album.  It’s really all over the place.  Part techno-pop, part rock, this album plays like a kaleidoscope of sounds with every song taking you to a different part of your very own musical taste, whether intentional or not.  For example, in “Love Me Girl” there’s a techno root there that reminded me of watching Cool As Ice, that Vanilla Ice movie, with my brother in the 80s.  Sure the movie was crap but the memory it evoked by song was more monumental than the actual album.  At any rate, this is a solid effort.  Well worthy of it’s place on the list.  Check out O.N.E. and Rome and tell me you knew it was the same band.  Completely original.

6.     Deerhunter – Halcyon Digest:  A bit more accessible than their previous efforts, this is a Deerhunter for everyone.  Basically every track is great but the standout is the album’s closing goodbye to Jay Reatard “He Would Have Laughed” a multi tiered cacophony of sound that holds on and begs to be played on repeat.  Also check out “Desire Lines” and “Coronado” for the best sax solo in any record put out in the 2000s… I’ll stand by that.  Great driving music.

5.     The Walkmen – Lisbon:  Now don’t get me wrong, this album pissed me off at first.  As a HUGE Walkmen fan, I was disappointed at first when I listened to the opening track “Juveniles”.  During their live shows, prior to the albums release, they would sing this song with their horn section doing the melody in whistles.  It was so moody and dark and awesome enough for me to find flip camera recordings on youtube and convert the audio to wav files so i could listen to it repeatedly.  However, when the album came out there was guitar there, definitely picking up the pace of the song.  This bad taste in my mouth stuck around for about a week until I let the past go and really understood this album for what it was.  A record that starts off a bit slow but builds into something truly monumental by the title track it ends with.  Another solid effort from these guys.

4.     Gorillaz – Plastic Beach:  I was worried at first when I heard all of the guest stars that were taking part in this album but Damon Albarn rarely, if ever, disappoints.  Plastic Beach is more of what you’d expect from the world’s premier group of cartoon rockers with more than it’s fair share of hypnotic tracks and pseudo hip hop to keep your ears busy for weeks.  The sound quality is far superior on this album than any I can think of that came out this year.  Produced beautifully.  Plus, the band has created a brand new album to be given away for free on Christmas day that was created solely on the ipad.  Have a few drinks (or whatever libation you prefer) put on some headphones, and listen to this through… you’ll be blown away.

3.     Broken Bells- Broken Bells:  What do you get when you mix James Mercer of the Shins, and Danger Mouse?  Audio dopeness that’s what.  Danger mouse himself seems to put magic into basically anything he touches but when you add the brilliant song writer of the Shins into the mix you get an album that’s both dizzyingly beautiful and a pleasure to listen to.  On my favorite track, “October” James sings “I know what I know, wont fill a thimble, so let your mind go, straight down the runway”.  A perfect mix of strings, background vocals and spiraling guitar.  Simply a beautiful album.

2.     The National – High Violet:  My love of this Cincinnati to Brooklyn based band is quite legendary.  They’re not for everyone.  Lead singer Matt Berninger’s vocals are baritone so that throws a lot of folks off.  The real draw of the National for me is the pseudo alternate twin language the guitarists speak to each other.  In a DVD released to accompany their previous album Boxer (genius in it’s own right) the brothers worked out the opening to what would eventually be “Terrible Love” without speaking a word.  They simply played respective parts in a near unison until something sounded right and by a simple look in his brother’s direction, they had it figured out.  Literally every single song on High Violet evokes an emotion in me.  This is the true mark of a great album.  When you can remember a time in your life that each and every song relates to, the band has done their job.   Nothing is wasted, not a single song is a throw away, basically every other tracks has been my favorite song at one point or another.  Standouts include… basically the whole album, but if I had to pick one song to sell you on High Violet, it’d be England or Conversation 16.  Perfect background vocals, perfect timing, this is a simply perfect album… again.

1.  Arcade Fire- The Suburbs:   The band’s first effort Funeral didn’t do it for me and I’ll probably catch hell for that.  I understood the appeal, the songs of personal loss, the regality of it. But it didn’t speak to me like it did to everyone else. Neon Bible really struck a chord with me and had me hooked, this outing is no different.  Regine Chassagne and her husband Win Butler are the primary songwriters and do a solid job but Regine’s voice has always bothered the crap out of me on their first two albums with the exception of the cute little French number Black Wave on Neon Bible where I think she finally found her voice.  It’s a bit of a surprise that her track Sprawl II on this album is one of my favorite songs of the year.  But it didn’t stop there.  The album, although not technically a concept record, plays like one.  The Suburbs is an album that every single person can relate to.  These songs are about youth, peer pressure, relationships, and the fear of having to grow up.   On “We Used To Wait” Win sings “Now it seems strange, how we used to wait for letters to arrive.  But what’s stranger still, is how something so small can keep you alive.”  On “City With No Children” he describes his station in life as  “a garden left for ruin by a millionaire inside of a private prison” all with these ethereal background aah’s and oo’s… it’s amazing.  I’ll be listening to this for years to come and probably will never be tired of it.  Kinda like Interpol’s first two records… timeless.

HONERABLE MENTION:

~Mumford & Sons – Sigh No More:  Brilliant debut from this English 4 piece with a banjo player.  Terrific if not moody.

~Hot Panda- How Come I’m Dead:  Blitz of rock and punk mixed up with a bit of technopop… screaming vocals never sounded so sweet.

~Crocodiles – Sleep Forever:  Sounds old school, feels completely new.  Hard to pigeonhole but this album is great.

~Chief – Modern Rituals:  Love this band.  Dreamy guitar driven ballads, harmonies that will make you cry.  For a first effort, this is quite remarkable.

~MGMT – Congratulations:  These kids (20-something) are making rock that is WELL beyond their years.  Psychedelic rock that would make most genre pioneers crap in their pants as to how organic it sounds.

~Julian Casablancas – Phrazes for the Young:  “Out of the Blue” and “Left and Right in the Dark” make my head hurt they’re so good.

~Lightspeed Champion – Life is Sweet! Nice to Meet You:  Devonte Hynes folk driven pop melodies.  The only cat I know that can meld strings and a piano etude into a brilliant sophomore album.

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