Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Honorable Mentions of 2010

Here's the albums that we felt were worthy of recognition but just didn't quite make our Best Albums. Stay tuned tomorrow for our Artist to Watch in 2011 list!

note: mp3s are no longer available as of 1/20, but you can still listen to them on our hype page.

Villagers - Becoming a Jackal
Lise was enthralled the first time she heard Irish-bred Conor O'Brien aka Villagers in June of last year, calling this debut album comprised "enriched numbers filled with instrumentation, wind-whipped into guitar-strafed sensations that are remarkably expansive yet intimate." Still, this album doesn't mount as high in style as others, but lays enough to reason that Villagers is well on its way to great albums to come.
Becoming a Jackal [mp3] (Amazon / iTunes)

Ellie Goulding - Lights
Although Ellie Goulding's Lights album has yet to officially hit the US, we state-side have gotten a good glimpse via An Introduction to Ellie Goulding. As one of our Artists to watch for in 2010, Ellie has done quite well for herself this year, topping the BBC Sound of 2010 poll,winning the Critics Choice Award at the 2010 BRIT Awards, landing no. 1 on the UK albums chart and having her lovely cover of Elton John's "Your Song" place as the 30th best selling single of the year. With trembling vocals that seem delicate but are surprisingly elastic, shiny Starsmith pop production, catchy hooks and the power of the UK's adoration, this album is worth the notice.
Under the Sheets[mp3] (Amazon / iTunes)

Sleigh Bells - Treats
No one can deny this album's infectious loudness by the grungy noise pop duo of Sleigh Bells, however, it is often over-fuzzed to the point of wondering why they even bother to use lyrics instead of meaningless babble ("Crown On The Ground," "Infinity Guitars"). Few stellar and clearer pop tracks such as "Rill Rill" and "Kids" and the superb infusion of hip hop beats (thanks, M.I.A.) give it enough oompf to place on our lists, with "Rill Rill" being one of our favorite singles of the year.
Rill Rill [mp3] (Amazon / iTunes)

James Yuill - Movement in a Storm
Some have said he's a genius, others have said he's inspired the folktronica generation, whatever that means. Keith just says he's amazing. His debut Turning Water For Air was a massively under-appreciated electro folk gem and he managed to follow it with a more accomplished album this year (although the US has yet to acquire it). Just amazing.
On Your Own [mp3] (Amazon)

Marina & the Diamonds - The Family Jewels
Marina is a New Wave Indie Pop diva who sings with the confidence of Kate Bush and the vigor of Florence and the Machine. Also listed as one of our Artists to Watch in 2010, Marina was runner-up in BBC Sound of 2010, won Best UK and Irish Act at the MTV Europe Music Awards and was featured on Vogue UK.com throughout November as their famous blogging fashionista. Although her albums has clear standout tracks such as "Mowgli's Road," "Oh No!," and the introduction-friendly "I Am Not A Robot," some find the mesh of 80's "Rio"-esque groove in "The Outsider" to be oddly placed and the overall album lacking total cohesiveness and strength. Still, it's clear that Marina and the Diamonds aren't going anywhere and have set their place amongst the new up and coming sensations of the decade.
I Am Not A Robot [mp3] (Amazon / iTunes)

Arcade Fire - The Suburbs

Arcade Fire broke down imaginative barriers this year with the release of their revolutionary interactive music video (best used on Google Chrome) for their song "We Used To Wait." Although none of the tracks reach the epic dramatic levels of 2004 Funerals' "Wake Up," it is still a wondrous compilation of well-constructed melodies, spacious-feeling guitars and anthem-laden lyrics.
We Used To Wait [mp3] (Amazon / iTunes)

Gorillaz - Plastic Beach
As expected, the Gorillaz released another solid album of future-pop marked by an even more illustrious group of collaborators (this time around: Snoop Dogg, Lou Reed, and members of the Clash, among others). Although this one's foregone the marquee superstar producer-of-the-moment, as head Gorilla Damon Albarn's produced much of the album himself. As the title suggests, things have gotten a bit more synthetic, but the electronics are deftly juxtaposed with the soul of Bobby Womack and the string of sinfonia ViVA. The result is dark and melancholy with a glittery sheen. And quite good, even if, as usual, it runs a bit long. (And now, as a holiday treat, Gorillaz have gone and released another album, The Fall, recorded entirely on the iPad. Enjoy that as well.)
Rhinestone Eyes [mp3] (Amazon / iTunes)

Andrew Belle - The Ladder
This simultaneously melancholy yet plucky debut album quickly set Andrew Belle apart from other male singer-songwriters with his well-written, thoughtful songs, warm voice and rich orchestration. Overall, a beautiful album.
Static Waves ft. Katie Herzig [mp3] - ( Amazon / iTunes )
Emanuel and the Fear - Listen
While a little heavy-handed at times (there's something a little hypocritical-sounding about a white guy who went to NYU, one of the most expensive schools in the country, singing lyrics like "but the gringo concerned only if the boy has washed his hands"), but his attempt to get people to really think about the world we live in and provoke social change is admirable, and the music that Emanuel and his 11-piece orchestra make is catchy, rockin' and highly enjoyable. And, in their defense, some of the lyrics are actually quite insightful.
Dear Friend [mp3] - ( Amazon / iTunes )

Fredrik - Trilogi
This album twists and turns with layers upon layers of haunting instrumentation that builds and subsides like waves, as seems to be Fredrik's style. This album was actually a trilogy of EPs that Fredrik created long ago, and it is certainly a bit darker than their previous album, but, as is always the case with Fredrik, the magnificent layers of each song reward multiple listens and makes the album grow on you with every play. They also came out with a vinyl-only 3-song EP this year that is quite wonderful.
Locked in the Basement [mp3] - ( Amazon / iTunes )

Glasser - Ring
This album is epically spacious in sound, swirling with slightly revered vocals on top of exotic instruments and infused with a swish of electronica. The result is something tribal, dream pop and quenching, seemingly taking you away to a different world. It twinkles in a way that never gets tiring or old, yet due to its dreamy nature, there are few tracks that immediately grab, meaning that this may go under-appreciated by the main masses.
Home [mp3] ( Amazon / iTunes )

Blood Red Shoes - Fire Like This

This is party rock at it's best - almost every song at a frenzied tempo with epic vocals, screaming guitars and thumping bass lines that you can't help but jump up and down to. Their single, Light it Up, is particularly catchy and fun to yell along with. All in all, a really fun album.
Light it Up [mp3] - ( Amazon / iTunes )

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