Wednesday, December 15, 2010

My 10 of '10 - Albums

So, I guess it's that time for that requisite top 10 albums of the year list. This is a surprisingly difficult list to make, it's really easy to forget the albums I couldn't get enough of at the beginning of the year in favor of those I can't get enough now. I think, however, that I got my list about where I want it, here is my top ten of 2010.

10. Avey Tare Down There
Down There
This is an album I bought two times over. I downloaded it from iTunes the day it came, excited over what I had heard in an NPR preview. Listening to it on the bus to class one day I thought, "How great would this sound on vinyl?" The next day, I headed to Landlocked Music and purchased their last copy (though I'm sure they got more in since). Perhaps needless to say, it's great on's great in any format. Other members of Animal Collective who forayed into solo material, Panda Bear for instance, have made great stuff, but I feel Avey Tare has done it best so far.

"Lucky 1"

9. Beach House - Teen Dream
Teen Dream
I had checked out Beach House a little bit over the summer, but never delved deep into their music. This past fall, however, I saw them open for Vampire Weekend and I was awe-struck by their sound. Dream pop, at times, can become slightly boring and one-note. Victoria Legrand's voice really elevates this group's sound. At this point, to say I'm a fan of husky-voiced women may start to become a redundant theme around here.


8. Cee-Lo Green - The Lady Killer
The Lady Killler
I honestly didn't jump on the "Fuck You" bandwagon at the same time that everyone else did, I didn't even see the viral music video until last week. I got excited about Green's album after hearing a preview on NPR and realizing that he had recorded a cover of Band of Horses' "No One's Gonna Love You." As I've stated in a previous post, that song itself is amazing, but the rest of the album lives up. It has an old-school soul feel to it, but, in melding so many sounds and genres, still manages to come off distinctively modern.

"Bright Lights, Bigger City"

7. Vampire Weekend - Contra
I loved Vampire Weekend's first album and, given the attention that they gained from that release, I feared they would experience a sophomore slump. They didn't...while I don't consider it to be better than the first album, it's a great progression for a group that could probably very easily get stuck in a stylistic rut. They've managed to introduce a broader element to their music, but have still kept that Kwassa Kwassa sound that makes them great.

"Giving Up the Gun"

6. Yeasayer - Odd Blood
This is another album that I really didn't love the first time I heard it, but this one grew on me through multiple listens. I randomly listened to "Ambling Alp" one day and really liked it, listening at least two more times in a row. Once I sufficiently got myself into that one song, I explored the rest of the album and was more appreciative of its experimental, psychedelic sound. While "Ambling Alp" was my initial favorite, it has definitely taken a back seat to some of the other tracks on the album.

"I Remember"

5. Arcade Fire - The Suburbs
The Suburbs
Concept albums don't often excite me. At times, I find the songs to be too interrelated for any one to stand out and be great. It took a music video to get me into this great album. The interactive video for "We Used to Wait" took this band, in my mind, to a whole new level. I liked that they were willing to use technology to make the listening experience much different than most of what's out there. I can also relate to the album, having grown up in the suburbs and seeing people who felt what many of the lyrics describe. In support of this album, the band provided what is perhaps my favorite SNL performance of all time (sorry Kanye).

"Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)"

4. The Black Keys - Brothers
I developed a strange obsession with The Black Keys this past weekend, which I think was due to spending an entire Sunday afternoon on watching music videos. I watched their video for “Tighten Up” and loved the humorous approach they took to the lyrics...who knew 8-year-olds could lip-sync so well? Since then, I've been listening to the album almost non-stop. The music is simple and straightforward, no fancy bells and whistles (I like that term a lot lately...) This album also provided perhaps my favorite packaging this year, I love very specific labeling.

"Ten Cent Pistol"

3. Dum Dum Girls - I Will Be
I Will Be
This is one of those albums I loved the first time I heard it. However, this band certainly has not received the attention they deserve. Their sound is somewhat unique, given some of what's gotten the most attention recently. I've always likened them to a lo-fi Blondie. This is another band that opened for Vampire Weekend (that was obviously a good concert for me), and I was actually marginally more excited for them than I was for the main act.

"Bhang Bhang, I'm a Burnout"

2. The Tallest Man on Earth - The Wild Hunt
Some people can't get past this guy's voice; to me, it's what makes the music. He is also an amazing guitar player. I'd call him a guitar god, if that didn't bring up images of crazy electric guitar solos. Not only does he have a distinctive voice and mastery of the guitar, his lyrics are just beyond most of what you hear today. They're full of imagery and symbolism that, quite frankly, goes over my head at times, but he still manages to weave a vivid story with every song.

"Love is All"

1. Local Natives - Gorilla Manor
Gorilla Manor
I honestly don't know how I got into Local Natives. No one told me about them, I didn't read about them in a magazine or blog. I think I just saw their album come up as a suggestion on Napster and downloaded it on the spot. It was a good thing I did, it's a truly amazing album. Their sound evokes harmonized folk music, percussion-driven tribal music and 1980s new wave all at the same time. The result is wonderful and I'm happy I randomly downloaded it.

"Who Knows, Who Cares"

Just missed the top 10:
11. Spoon - Transference
12. the bird and the bee - Interpreting the Masters: Hall & Oates
13. The Drums - The Drums
14. The Walkmen - Lisbon
15. Glasser - Ring
16. Sufjan Stevens - The Age of Adz
17. The Morning Benders - Big Echo
18. Sleigh Bells - Treats
19. Laura Marling - I Speak Because I Can
20. She & Him - Volume 2

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