Year In Music: Best Albums of 2010

>> Thursday, December 30, 2010

This year, for the first time in many years, seemed insignificant. One day bled into the next until this year felt like last. Stretching within my own confines proved to be a fruitless task, this year was doomed to be nothing special, static, and forgettable. Understand, this is not a bad thing; quite possibly, it is something to celebrate. No news is good news. My life, for the first time in years, was dramaless and boring. Dramaless and boring, is great for one thing. Losing oneself in those true inner passions. Rediscovering exactly how discovering something feels. This was my year in music. A year of discovery. And it was bountiful.
(Yes, that is the same intro I wrote for last year's Year In Music Review, but it is still prefect, so deal)

This year I purchased 163 records and EP's that were released between Oct. 2009 and Nov 2010. Just writing that makes me feel sick. Both with the concept of how much money I spent (I do not steal music) and the prospect of narrowing that down to 13 records. FUCK, a 163 records?!?!? Seriously, I need a life or something. The biggest issue with that, most were unremarkable.

So, it's that time. It's the list I work all year on. And even as I write it today, with all my choices narrowed down, I still do not feel great about it. It's not so much about the quality of the music, my issue is with the order. I feel like it is a clear near tie for the top 3, a solid number 4 and then another tie for the remaining 7. It is as if, any order will do. However, you will notice, this is easily my most eclectic collection ever. It ranges from piano pop driven stuff, to 80's revival, to egotistical hiphop, to a butt load of traditional folk and indie folk revival. It is quite the genre busting list.

I apologize, my reviews are not going to be as elaborate this year. I usually take about a month to review all these records and write all my thoughts down. But I had trouble narrowing down after the top 4, then got hit with a nasty flu bug. So, I will give brief reviews this year, and attach a sample song. Enjoy.

1a. Wakey!Wakey! - Almost Everything I Wish I'd Said The Last Time I Saw You...

Sexy. Heartpunching. Dancey. Sing-a-long-a-thon. Impactful.
So, piano pop melodies have never been something I gravitated towards in my musical endeavors. I try to stay as cool and indie as possible. But, some records just just need to be reckoned with, no matter how uncool they make you feel to love.
Sexy. Heartpunching. Dancey. Sing-a-long-a-thon. Impactful. This string of mostly made up words should never be used together to describe one artist, let alone one record. But, it barely does the job here. I have never had the urge to both harmonize, cry, boogie and make-out at the same time in my life. Nor would I recommend doing all those activities at the same time, but that is what this record does to me.
"Feral Love"


Songs that Hit: All. Yes, every single pop hook.
Songs that Miss: Nil.
Songs that I will listen to forever: Feral Love. Car Crash. Dance So Good. The Oh Song. Almost Everything...

1b. The Head and the Heart - The Head and the Heart
This Seattle band is going to be the biggest thing to come out of the area in the last 10 years. Easily.
I wrote this list in my head 10 different times, and this record was king of the hill 5 of those times. It was honestly a toss up. So, if you look closely, this is actually ranked 1b. Yeah, I cheated. But this Seattle band is going to be the biggest thing to come out of the area in the last 10 years. Easily. This album, from top to bottom is SPECTACULAR. It came down to the point where I was searching for something not to like about it. It took a while, but I found it, the one and only thing I cannot stand on this record is that 2 or 3 second gap they have between the songs. It's wasteful. Also, easily the best live band out there right now, and the second best show I have ever been too. So, yes, this is my local pick, but, they would make the list if they were from Germany.
"Ghosts"


Songs that Hit: Every GD amazing track.  
Songs that miss: The fact that they use real animal sounds on "Cat's and Dog's" bugs me, but it's still a gem of a song.
Songs that I will listen to forever: Ghosts. Down In The Valley. Sounds Like Hallelujah. Honey Come Home. Lost In My Mind. Winter Song. 

3. Tallest Man On Earth - The Wild Hunt
The warmth of this record permeates everything.
Sometimes, while trying to emulate your heroes, you fail and stumble into yourself. And that is about as much as I want to comment on all the Bob Dylan comparisons that are clearly unavoidable. This record is so much more than a Dylan knockoff.
"As it stands, as of 4/18/2010, this is one of the best records of the year. Top spot possible, top three probable." This is one of my bold predictions that actually held firm, and it's easy to see why. The warmth of this record permeates everything. I know I am ranking this record number 3 of the year, but I turn to it more often than any other this year. It's my music to write too record. My music to mope to record. My music too shut my eyes too record. This is my any excuse record.
"Love Is All"


Songs that Hit: Hard to find a fault in this entire record.
Songs that Miss: Burden of Tomorrow, but just barely.
Songs that I will listen to forever: Love Is All. King of Spain. Kids on the Run. The Drying of the Lawns. Troubles Will Be Gone.

4. Girls - Album 
It is a story of drunk teen angst, and beautiful sloppy rebellion. 
This is my big cheat of the year. This record was released in Sept of 2009. So, yes, that falls outside of my Oct-Nov yearly window, but who the hell cares when the music is this good. I am actually glad I discovered it after last years list was published, because last years list was so top heavy with outstanding music, this would have been lost in the shuffle and fallen too far down the rankings. From the first rushed guitar strings and stinging vocals, you can taste the angst. The pop melodies hurry along like they are being chased in songs like Lust For Life, and slow down to catch their breath in an Elvis Costello haze in tunes like Hellhole Ratrace. The pacing of this record is suburb. It is completely an album. This is not one to put on shuffle. Every note is specific and important. It is a story of drunk teen angst, and beautiful sloppy rebellion.
"Lust For Life"


Songs that Hit: All but one, see below.
Songs that Miss: Big Bad Mean Motherfucker
Songs that I will listen to forever: Lust For Life. Hellhole Ratrace. Lauren Marie. Laura. Ghostmouth.

5. Steel Train - Steel Train/Terrible Thrills Vol. 1
 It is 2010 indie rock at its finest, but with that whole 90's alt rock sensibility. Infectious.

This is not really a double album, it is only pretending, and it is genius. When Steel Train released their album, I was excited. I am a fan of Jack, the frontman from his work in the awesome band fun. So I was sold from day zero, but then, I was blown away. The band did something unthinkable. They released their album, but with a slew of female indie rock goddess' re-imagining their tunes. And I am sorry guys, but they out did you all. Not that Steel Train's record is not impressive in itself, it is very very good. It is 2010 indie rock at its finest, but with that whole 90's alt rock sensibility. Infectious. And would have undoubtedly made this list own its own merits, but the rerelease certainly moved the record up at least 4 spots.

Below you will see the same song twice, from each record. Both have something fantastic, and utterly different to offer. Enjoy.
"You Are Dangerous" - Steel Train

"You Are Dangerous" - Deradoorian


Songs that Hit: Nearly All.
Songs that Miss: The Speed Motor Racers Club (Steel Train). Bloody Lips (Both Versions)
Songs that I will listen to forever: Children of the 90's (Both). Bullet (Steel Train). Turnpike Ghost (Both). Fall Asleep (Steel Train) Soldier In The Army (Rachel Cantu). Touch Me Bad (Nellie McKay). You Are Dangerous (Deradoorian)

6. Samantha Crain - You (Understood)
 It is as far away from what one would typically consider soul music, but the closest thing I have personally found in my adult life.
I think this will win the award of the best record you have never heard of. I am not sure that I would have picked this up had she not blown me away as an unknown opening act earlier this year. I think I had 20 bucks to last me for 2 weeks when I was at this show, and I spent $10 on this record. Some stupid decisions work out. She stands as tall as her guitar, she is small in stature, however, her voice towers a good 9 feet tall. I cannot stress enough how much power and beauty she filled the room with.
Core shiveringly emotional, this record delves deep. It feeds those empty parts of you that you did not know were hungry. It is as far away from what one would typically consider soul music, but the closest thing I have personally found in my adult life.
"We Are The Same"


Songs that Hit: Lions. Equinox. We Are The Same. Sante Fe. Blue Prints. Wichitalright. Toothpicks. Holdin' That Wheel
Songs that Miss: Religious Wind.
Songs that I will listen to forever: Lions. Equinox. We Are The Same.

7. Kanye West - My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy
The things that Kanye is doing is just beyond.
As I have said, I wanted so bad to hate this record. I never ever want to fall for a record I am "expected" to like as a consumer. I know that sounds all extra indie and whatnot, but it is what it is. I want to form my own opinions, not fall in line with others. But this album is madness. It is so far past anything that I ever expected it to be. It smashes all boundaries and expectations. The things that Kanye is doing is just beyond. The fact that he pulled Justin Vernon of Bon Iver into his wicked web was a stroke of genius. This album will be referred too as a pinnacle point in the path of hiphop 20 years from now. The game has changed.
"Lost In The World"


Songs that Hit: Runaway. Power. Lost In The World. Monster. Gorgeous. So Appalled
Songs that Miss: Who Will Survive In America. Blame Game
Songs that I will listen to forever: Runaway. Power. Lost In The World.

8. Chromeo - Business Casual
There is not a lot of depth in the record, because there doesn't need to be.
I am at a loss of words on how to describe this record. It is just straight late70's/80's pop revival. All synthed out and awesome. Clearly the most fun I have found in a record all year. Every tune is turn it up and car dance qualities. There is not a lot of depth in the record, because there doesn't need to be. There is not a lot depth in this review either, because I am lazy.
However, this is probably the best music video of the year.
"Night By Night"


Songs that Hit: Almost the entire album.
Songs that Miss: (The Hook of) When The Night Falls
Songs that I will listen to forever: Hot Mess. I'm Not Contagious. Night By Night. 

9. First Aid Kit - Big Black & The Blue
It's a blanket or footie pajamas. It just fits on those rainy days.
If this list would have been written back in June, this record would be top three. And I feel bad saying that, because I really has done nothing wrong to lose its high ranking, it's just a little one note. Granted, that one note is spectacular, but it does not supply that staying power that a record with a little more varied tones would. Do not get me wrong, I love this record. I love these teenage Swedish sisters. It is a special record that does not have a hole in it. It's a blanket or footie pajamas. It just fits on those rainy days. It just lost a little luster.
"I Met Up With The King"


Songs that Hit: All
Songs that Miss: Honestly, none.
Songs that I will listen to forever: Josefin. I Met Up With The King. Sailor Song. Winter Is All Over You.

10. The Black Keys - Brothers
This record wins the award of making me look like the biggest retard in public.
This is the newest record on my list. I am still exploring it, and do not feel 100% comfortable giving it a full on review. However, it has clearly shown it deserves a spot on this list. Although, I may be over valuing it a bit. But, only time will tell. However, I will tell you that this record wins the award of making me look like the biggest retard in public. I cannot help but bob my head/shoulders/torso to every bluesy beat. And I do not look good when I bob.
"Too Afraid To Love You"

Songs that Hit: Too soon to tell.
Songs that Miss: Too soon to tell.
Songs that I will listen to forever: Tighten Up. She's Long Gone. Next Girl. Too Afraid To Love You.

11. the bird and the bee - Interpreting the Masters Volume 1: A Tribute to Daryl Hall and John Oates
This album should never have been made. But fuck, I am so glad it was. It should not work. But holy shit, does it ever. 
I have said it before, and I'll say it a hundred times more. This album should never have been made. But fuck, I am so glad it was. It should not work. But holy shit, does it ever. It just shows you that a good song is a good song, but a great song transcends. From top to bottom, this is a good mood spinning. I was so embarrassed to love it at first, now I am ashamed not to share it. This is fantastic.
"Maneater" 

Songs that Hit: All nine of em.
Songs that Miss: Nil.
Songs that I will listen to forever: The ENTIRE record is a forever record.

12. Local Natives - Gorilla Manor
This record took over my subconscious. It was like musical ninjary.
I thought this record was a throw away up until a month ago. Then, one of my closest musical advisors told me it was her album of the year. I was shocked and knew it was my fuck up and not hers. So I gave it another listen, well, a first real listen, and it really did kill. Turns out, I already loved it. I just didn't realize what I was listening too. Have you ever heard that song, that you don't realize you're singing along too, that you're tapping your toes too? That was this record. I knew almost all the songs, but never paid attention to the fact that it was actually the local natives. This record took over my subconscious. It was like musical ninjary.
"Airplanes"


Songs that Hit: Airplanes. Sun Hands. Wide Eyes. World News. Cards & Quarters. Warning Sign. Who Knows Who Cares.
Songs that Miss: Cubism Dream. Shape Shifter. Sticky Thread
Songs that I will listen to forever: Airplanes. Warning Sign. Who Knows Who Cares.


13. Yeasayer - Odd Blood
Do not get me wrong, this is one strange fucking record, but it is strange in all the right places.
I have switched back and forth between like 3 records for this last spot on the list. When I physically started writing this exact blog several hours ago, this spot belonged too The Dead Weather, a week ago, this spot was filled by Vampire Weekend, and you could make a case that both bands are very very worthy. It just came down to the excitement factor. This record, although it has its major faults, gets me happy. It really is that simple. Do not get me wrong, this is one strange fucking record, but it is strange in all the right places.
"Ambling Alp"


Songs that Hit: Ambling Alp. Madder Red. O.N.E. Rome. I Remember
Songs that Miss: The Children. Mondegreen
Songs that I will listen to forever: Ambling Alp. O.N.E.

Honorable Mention.
The Dead Weather - Sea Of Cowards
Vampire Weekend - Contra
Fences - Fences
Born Ruffians - Say It
Mumford & Sons - Sigh No More
Frightened Rabbit - The Winter Of Mixed Drinks

2 comments:

Stevie January 1, 2011 at 6:47 PM  

Thoughts...
Firstly no one else I know has bought 163 albums in one year that is not somehow employed by the music industry. Then again people in the music industry can't afford to buy albums so.. hmm... maybe that's some sort of anomaly.
I haven't listened to all of these albums all the way through so I'll have to take your word for some of them, some I'm intrigued to listen to (even if for a second time) and some I thought you were dead on. Here goes...
1. The Head and the Heart- yes yes yes. I would not have tied them with Wakey Wakey although I know you love them.
The Tallest Man on Earth album was AWESOME so I totally would have that up there too.
Yeasayer- yes again, awesome. Others that would have been on my list- Mumford and Sons, I know they're on your mentionables but they rock my life. Also, although I don't want to love it, Vampire Weekend. I'd also have had Fences and Frightened Rabbit on mine as well (all from your honorable mentions). I'd say this was a tricky list because a lot of the music I liked this year didn't come out this year or was on a terrible album (i.e. Neon Trees- terrible album with like one good song, MGMT came out in 2008 but I listened to it non-stop. Also, Lady Gaga came out in 2009- yes I know you hate it but it's fun/clever work). I'll have to think of what else would have been on my list.
Other notes, I listened to half the new Kanye last night- of course he's clever but I wasn't clammering to put it on my albums of the year list but I'm willing to give it another listen. Off to update my iPod then...

kyle January 3, 2011 at 9:59 PM  

What the hell! Tallest Man on Earth deserves the number 1 spot and we both know it.

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