Monday, January 3, 2011

Best Albums of 2010

As you might be able to tell by our lack of posting, we were hard at work over the holidays putting together our end of the year lists. Today is the first of three lists - our Best Albums of 2010 list. As per usual, this is simply a list comprised of albums we've listened to this year and adored. We don’t post any album that we haven’t given solid ears to; likewise we don't give in to hype that we feel undeserved. In no particular order, we present them to you:

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

Mumford & Sons - Sigh No More
Although Sigh No More was released in the UK in 2009, we state-side didn't get it until February of 2010. Earning two Grammy nominations, this folk rock venture featured banjo, dramatic fiddles, honest lyrics, gritty southern harmony (however English they are), raw acoustic guitar, intelligent songwriting and just enough twang to add extra charm. Big singles included "Little Lion Man," "Awake My Soul" and "White Blank Page," although each track on the album crooned a heartfelt and sincere story, whether it be about love or learning or both, brilliantly woven in spectacular musicianship.
Little Lion Man [mp3] ( Amazon / iTunes )

Vampire Weekend - Contra
Can you belive that this was Vampire Weekend's second album? Contra was released so early in 2010 and gained such acceptance and radio play that it's easy to assume that it's been around for years. 2010 was "Horchata" and "Cousins" blasting on the radio, with the latter being covered by near every musician on the planet, most notably by the above Mumford & Sons. The energy and catchiness of rock-pop tracks helped this album sell more than 400,000 copies and truly set Vampire Weekend as a well known and established band.
Cousins [mp3] ( Amazon / iTunes )

Janelle Monae - The ArchAndroid
Upon first listen to Monae's most popular and catchy single, "Tightrope," it was clear that Monae had the talent to make it in the industry. Watching her videos and live performances with her confidence and often wacky personality ensured our interest. Another great song (and music video), "Cold War," soon followed, and people began to give the album a proper listen and realize that the girl refuses to keep to one genre. As we've stated previously, The ArchAndroid is an epic 18 tracks featuring all kinds of genres from R&B to classical to hair metal to old timey show tunes and much much more. It's innovative, assured and downright interesting in all the right ways.
Tightrope [mp3] ( Amazon / iTunes )

J Roddy Walston and the Business - J Roddy Walston and the Business
Some call it Rock n' Roll, some call it reborn Blues Rock, but whatever you think of this album by J Roddy Walston and the Business, you've got to admit the energy it high, the songs are legendary and every last member of this band plays their heart out. Few tracks sound straight from Queen ("Full Growing Man") while other we're certain Elvis would've loved to perform ("Don't Break the Needle"). When Lise was introduced to them in August, she said, "This is the kind of album that you want to turn up to 11 and blast out the windows, it's just that good."
Don't Break the Needle [mp3] ( Amazon / iTunes )

Jeremy Messersmith - The Reluctant Graveyard
Smart indie pop done right by a Minneapolis troubadour. Lise loved this album, finding each track worth multiple listens just to appreciate all the macabre substance packed within. Messersmith explores the spectrum of the enigmatic subject of death with unbelievable range and focus, and even though more than half of this record is bright and melodic, the dark undertone can't be missed (like in "Deathbed Salesman" where the song choruses living life to the fullest and finding someone to love all the while selling you your coffin extrinsically during the verses.) Messersmith's songwriting has evolved skillfully, gaining comparisons to the Beatles and the Beach Boys and shaping an album full of upbeat songs with 60's flair into something brilliant.
Organ Donor [mp3] ( Amazon / iTunes )

The Roots - How I Got Over
The Roots reliably put out quality music (and put on a spectacular live show), but they haven't released an album of this caliber in a good while, if ever. How I Got Over is incredibly tight and economical, with a consistent groove and a cohesive, cool-but-contemplative vibe that hits hard in a very chilled out fashion. Seamlessly woven in are stellar reworkings of tracks by Monsters of Folk and Joanna Newsom. Two other tracks tack quality samples to new heights: John Legend's "Again" becomes "Doin' It Again," and Major Lazer's silly auto-tuned "Baby" becomes "bonus" banger "Hustla," which has been consistently stuck in Ant's head for going on six months now.
The Day [mp3] ( Amazon / iTunes )

Two Door Cinema Club - Tourist History
Back in November of 2009, Keith wrote of TDCC, "Their debut album should be released in Feb 2010, if it's anywhere near as good as their EP, Four Words To Stand On, then we're in for a treat." He wasn't wrong. It's an almost faultless indie pop record, 10 tracks, 33 minutes. Done.
What You Know [mp3] ( Amazon / iTunes )

Kayne West - My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy
Watching the MTV Video Music Awards is a depressing ritual, but suffering through this year's string of carefully presented mini pop spectacles was well worth it for the jarring contrast of the evening's finale - the debut of Kanye West's "toast for the douchebags," "Runaway." It was dark, funny, awkward, frank, self-indulgent, and, on top of all that, a serious artistic achievement. And the album as a whole is just the same. It's not his best album (that title still belongs to Late Registration in Ant's opinion), but it's a fully realized musical embodiment of Kanye West at this moment, and where he's trying to take hip hop, and music in general. It's his beautiful, dark, twisted fantasy, and he's sharing it with all of us. We should count ourselves lucky.
Lost in the World/Who Will Survive in America [mp3] ( Amazon / iTunes )

Robyn - Body Talk
Long before the beloved Swedes of Refused, Bergman, or sexiest hockey player alive Henrik Lundqvist entered Matt's life, he was all of ten years old when Robyn's tracks were blowing up American pop charts and favorite Lori Beth Denberg vehicle All That. Fourteen years later, she still manages to blow him away. To Matt, saying that Body Talk is anything other than the most mature pop tour de force he has every listened to is blasphemy. He had two "I'll always remember where I was when I first heard ___" song moments this year because of this album. The first was "Fembot," thinking it was the most progressive pop song he had heard in quite some time, until he came across "Dancing On My Own." Matt wanted to turn to someone and say "Robyn is stay!" That was a thing he wanted to do. A trilogy of memorable albums in one year. Lost time- made up for. Thanks, Robyn. Throbyn.
Dancing On My Own [mp3] ( Amazon/ iTunes)

Beach House - Teen Dream
Music that'll instantly take all your negative energy away and entrance you into a calm slumber. Beautiful, serene and crashing reverbed electric guitar rifts with dreamy vocals provided by Victoria Legrand, this album was the epitome of simply lovely atmospheric and lullaby listening.
Zebra[mp3] ( Amazon / iTunes )

Yeasayer - Odd Blood
Yeasayer's blissful, exultant, shimmering pop music (and accompanying trippy videos) when straight for Ant's heart earlier this year. Like many great artists, their songwriting at the foundation is fairly traditional. Their lyrics are rarely anything special. The magic is in an experimental yet soulful presentation, consisting of pounding beats, electronics and amazing vocal melodies and harmonies. The group reaches great heights with both bouncers ("Ambling Alp" and "O.N.E.") and devotional ballads ("Madder Red" and "I Remember"). Ant's New Year's resolution is to catch them live.
O.N.E. [mp3] ( Amazon / iTunes )

Jukebox the Ghost - Everything Under the Sun
Jukebox the Ghost's Sophomore album is just as good as their debut was, expanding on their habit to create songs that are on the one hand, rather silly, but always entertaining and with beautiful, complex instrumentation. They really stand out from other bands. They are not silly for silly's sake - it is no gimmick. This album continues to prove that these guys have real talent.
Schizophrenia [mp3] - ( Amazon / iTunes )

Drink Up Buttercup - Born and Thrown on a Hook
This ruckus album full of banging percussion, wailing vocals, and raspy guitars is reminiscent of Sargent Pepper, if Sargent Pepper were at a creepy nightmarish circus. Being one of our bands to watch for 2010 last year, and having already built up a reputation for awesome performances, this was the Philadelphia band's debut album, and it showcases their unique style perfectly.
Sosey Dosey [mp3] - ( Amazon / iTunes )

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Personally I loved - Full Moon Fiasco - Cosmic Palms (Barrett like Pink Floyd), Street Chant- Means (All your Favourite 90's bands) and Rotate the Completors: Completed Rotations of the... (Weirdest stuff ever.) .All excellent artists from New Zealand. Internationally I really enjoyed the new Grinderman and Robert Plant albums.