Thursday, December 30, 2010

Kevin's 20 Favorite Albums of 2010

Well, its that time of year again. Looking back on 2010 and trying to come up with my list, I realized that this was actually a pretty interesting year music-wise and so I found it hard to whittle down just twenty.  You'll notice my honorable mention section is sort of long, perhaps too long. I agree with Roger Ebert in that idea of objectively ordering works of art is sort of strange. Who knows? In time all these albums can be moved around and even dropped off the list, but this is where it stands now, the order might be, MIGHT be, a bit iffy. But, here we go, my top 20 favorite albums of 2010:

20) Ghostface Killah, Apollo Kids
This is a perfect example of what I was talking about above. This was just released last week so I felt like I couldn't in good conscience rate this higher. This could have been in my top ten it's really that good. Ghostface, with a bunch of tremendous guests, and some amazing production, returning to what he does best after stumbling a bit with his last album. The number doesn't really denote how great this album is.

19) Sleigh Bells, Treats

No disrespect to the White Stripes, who, with just two people, make sounds like Led Zeppelin. But this year two person bands seem to have been branching out and finding sounds way beyond just bluesy rock n'roll. Sleigh Bells definitely do,. Oddly, at the end of the year I find this band to be pretty divisive. I can see why, they aren't for everybody. Two people into hip hop and metal get together in a collision course and make beautiful noise together.

18) Pulled Apart By Horses, Pulled Apart By Horses

Leave it to England to bring angry punk to indie kids. I have to thank Tina for hepping me to this, this album hasn't been released in the U.S. They are like if the Blood Brothers and Future of the Left got together and had an angry, witty baby.

17) Wheels On Fire, Liar, Liar

Sons and daughters and ancestors of early Rolling Stones. They make you want to hop around the room.

16) Strong Arm Steady, In Search Of Stoney Jackson

This and the album below share a few similarities. One being they are both of Stones Throw Records and the second being they were both produced by Madlib. In some ways they are a part of the same whole. Madlib creates this incredibly rich tapestry on these albums based around soul and funk from the seventies (he didn't produce Ghostface's album, but similar samples are used to great effect there too)

15) Guilty Simpson, O.J. Simpson

This is the best Guilty has ever sounded with his over-the-top street rhetoric. Madlib supplies the icing on the cake by creating a whole world out of not just that seventies soul and funk, but samples from blaxploitation movies and soundtracks, as well as comedians. You can usually rely on good work from Madlib, but these two albums he, as well as the rappers, really hit their stride. Which is amazing considering how prolific Madlib is.

14) Harlem, Hippies

Garage rock, as genre, keeps getting older, but the kids playing it stay the same age. Sure, there's not quite any sort of edge here, but you can't argue really with such a joyous noise that you can shake your hips to.

13) Yeasayer, Odd Blood

Warped, dense, synthey, sort-of eighties. Whats even weirder about it is that listening to the songs closely, the songs are surprisingly positive despite how it might actually sounds if that makes sense.

12) Daughters, Daughters

I was sad to find out that these guys had broken up and this was a posthumous release because it would have been amazing to see this crazy, loud, wall of sound done live. Too bad. But at least we have this record.

11) Spoon, Transference

Spoon is sort of like Pixar. Follow me here: they consistently put out such good albums, that it makes you sort of forget how good they are. Or you just start to expect it to be good. My point being, Transference continues this trend.

10) The Body, All The Waters Of The Earth Turn To Blood

Talk about a two man band coming up with some next level shit. I don't even know how to categorize this, although I hear the terms doom-metal thrown around quite a bit. But I'm not sure that even covers it. This is basically the soundtrack to the world ending, and its unbelievable that this is just two people. They put together an album with samples and even the Assembly of Light Choir which creates this loud, dense, dread-soaked atmosphere. Definitely not for everyone, but still so amazing. Seeing them live for their 10th anniversary show was mindblowing.

9) Tame Impala, Innerspeaker

These Aussie lads bring a lot to the table. A little bit of arena rock, some sixties psychedelia, riffs straight out of Motor City, and a bunch of British pop thrown in for good measure. Its really good, and I think they will get better. And their stage presence will also improve and be as loud as possible as they grow up.

8) Janelle Monae, The Archandroid

Talk about coming out of nowhere with a soul funk album that seems like it was beamed from the 4th dimension. I was lucky to see her live, opening for Of Montreal, and totally and completely blowing them away.

7) Titus Andronicus, The Monitor

These New Jersyites take the long away around in bringing a punk-ish sound and sensibility to the indie rock masses. There is no other band that can keep rocking and keep me interested in a 14 minute song. When I saw them they even closed their set with the Misfits' Where Eagles Dare. That ruled. 

6) The Roots, How I Got Over

In a weird comparison, The Roots have become sort of like Spoon in that since say Phrenology and The Tipping Point, they pretty generally have been putting out really good albums, and in some ways have improved from one album to the next. Special props for putting Joanna Newsom in a song and making it the most I have ever enjoyed Joanna Newsom.

5) Big Boi, Sir Luscious Leftfoot...The Son Of Chico Dusty

The only bad thing about this disc is that it makes me miss Outkast even more. Speaking of which, screw the industry people who made them leave the stuff he did do with Andre 3000 off the album. At any rate, I am not sure anyone expected this to be this good. I mean the seeds were planted with The Way You Move and what not, but then he brought it to the next level with banger after banger. Just amazing. I was also surprised at how good his lyrics were, I'm not sure why, but again I wasn't expecting that.

4) Kanye West, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy

True to form, Kanye puts out an album that has really divided people. My take is this: while it could use some editing (lose that Chris Rock bit that goes on for waaaaaaay too long), its mostly a crazily ambitious album using some of Kanye's most powerful beats to date. In some ways, its pretty much the album thats so nuts that one would expect from Kanye. And I really admire that its so crazy.

3) Wolf Parade, Expo 86

Wolf Parade has not put out a bad album yet, three in and thats a pretty good record. While not as ambitious as At Mount Zoomer, its still really solid.

2) The Arcade Fire, The Suburbs

They seemed to be on pace with Wolf Parade, as far as number of albums go. For me, though, Neon Bible was only okay. But The Suburbs sees them being able to return to form. It's not the same album as Funeral at all, in some ways its more intimate, but still loud and emotional, like we've come to expect from The Arcade Fire.

1) Frightened Rabbit, The Winter of Mixed Drinks

Some of Scotland's finest add members and bring an album with a bigger, better sound. I really liked this album (obviously) and seeing them live this year might have pushed them even further up the list. Good, good stuff.

Honorable Mentions:
Ceremony, Rohnert Park
Deftones, Diamond Eyes
Trash Kit, Trash Kit
Jeff The Brotherhood, Heavy Days
Aloe Blacc, Good Things
The Hold Steady, Heaven Is Whenever