My Favorite Music of 2010, Part 1: Albums
I’ve been blogging on and off for a good 4+ years with music being one of my main topics, yet I’ve never really jumped on the wagon for the “best of the year” listing ritual. I’m not really sure why. Maybe I never found the lists all that compelling or maybe I just wasn’t all that into the process of it.
But for some reason that I can’t really pinpoint, this year I felt the need to look back at 2010 and put together a list of my favorite music. I guess there was a lot of great music that came out last year, or maybe it’s that I’m really starting to feel the urge to blog about music again. Whatever the reason, I’ve officially decided to jump into the list game, albeit in my own way (without any specific numbers or hierarchy).
I originally had one, giant post so I’ve decided to split it into 2 parts. Part 1 is for all my favorite full albums of 2010. Check it…
LCD Soundsystem – This is Happening (buy)
This album basically provided the soundtrack to two major events of my year: my new job offer and our fantastic vacation in Hawaii. I literally got offered my new job at eMusic the Friday before getting on a plane for Maui. As soon as I accepted the offer by phone, I then proceeded to blast “I Can Change,” providing the absolute perfect soundtrack while I packed for what ended up being one of my favorite vacations ever. This album will be forever linked with that moment and the subsequent trip to one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been. I dig the entire album, but my favorite cuts are “I Can Change,” “All I Want,” “Home,” and “You Wanted a Hit.” Oh, and I gotta give a special little shout-out to the drum drop during “Dance Yrself Clean”….just epic.
“I Can Change”
Broken Social Scene – Forgiveness Rock Record (buy)
This is another record that I gave a ton of play earlier this spring. I loved “World Sick” the minute I heard the multi-guitar riffing in the chorus. And there’s plenty more big-band rock on this album to enjoy, but some of the softer, more subtle tracks really standout as the strong points….especially the Feist-led “All to All” and “Sentimental Xs.” I also dig the more quirky tracks like “Texico Bitches” and “Ungrateful Little Father.” Overall, just an awesome rock record for 2010.
“Sentimental X’s” (Feist on vocals)
Deerhunter – Halcyon Digest (buy)
I had been delving into Deerhunter and Bradford Cox’s side project Atlas Sound here and there for the early part of 2010. I liked what I was hearing but nothing really stuck with me as super memorable. But later in the year, Halcyon Digest dropped and totally changed that with a big blast to may ears. Bradford Cox locks in on some amazing sonic textures and pulls all the weird atmospherics together with a bunch of subtle, but perfect hooks and choruses. This album is about a distinct sound; it just has so many layers. Here are just a few of my favorite things on this record:
- the washy, fading outro to “Desire Lines”
- the opening guitar lick from “Memory Boy” (pure bliss)
- the slow, lilting funk of “Coronado,” combined with this absolutely monstrous baritone sax that mixes and matches with Cox’s vocal melodies
- the soft, subtle and beautiful acoustic guitar layers of “He Would have Laughed” to close out the record
Black Keys – Brothers (Buy)
Dank, drunken blues licks, rompin’ funk grooves, soul-stirring vocals. Brothers has all of the things that make classic rock’n'roll live on in 2010….all with that fresh and absolutely raw rock sound that the Black Keys have been honing for basically the last decade. Good stuff.
Broken Bells – Broken Bells (buy)
When you take the Shins frontman (James Mercer) and add the man behind Gnarls Barkley and the Grey album (Danger Mouse), you know you’re going to get something interesting, but who knew it would end up quite this special. What an album. It’s all over the map stylistically. I won’t even try to describe it with words. You just have to hear it. Here are my fav tracks…
“The Mall & Misery”
“The Ghost Inside”
Vampire Weekend – Contra (buy)
Despite the silliness of the blogger hype machine that went a-twitter when these guys came back on the scene in 2010, I thought this was a strong follow-up by the prepsters from Columbia. They dabbled in a little bit of everything on this album, but I love that they’ve continued with the West African guitar textures. It’s still reminiscent of Paul Simon’s Graceland but with a spunk and spark that’s just plain fresh for 2010. The majority of the other tracks are strong, but I really dig “California English,” “White Sky,” “Diplomat’s Son,” and “Run.”
Arcade Fire – The Suburbs (buy)
Although I still think Funeral was their strongest album to-date, the Suburbs was a solid conceptual follow-up to Neon Bible and featured a number of standout tracks that I just could not stop playing. I love the synth-based pulse of “Half Light II (No Celebration)” and the bass vamp from “City With No Children” taps into an almost Rolling Stones-style classic rock sound — this bassline immediately makes me think of the vocal melody from the verse of the Stones classic “Street Fighting Man”…anyone else hear that? Really solid….
“City with No Children”
Arcade Fire – Half Light II (No Celebration)
The Budos Band – Budos Band III (buy)
Take the backing band from Sharon Jones and The Dap-Kings, add a few more horns, and let them loose with a funky reckless abandon, and out comes the Budos Band. Their third album is steeped in old-school late 60 & early 70s-era horn-funk, but with a fresh twist you could only get in the new millennium. I don’t know how you can listen to them and not get your groove on.
“Rite of the Ancients”
(yep, that’s “Day Tripper” backwards and technically it is a cover of the original Beatles tune, albeit totally unique and oozing with wah-wah guitar funk and latin percussion. killer)
The Octopus Project – Hexadecagon (Buy)
Continuing with the all-instrumental albums, this was another standout from 2010. I just love what these guys/gals are doing. While their last album was chocked full of short, pithy instrumental nuggets, this one allows for more space, textures, and atmospherics….but it’s mainly about layers of sound. It’s great music for tedious work tasks, reading or studying, or just zoning out for a while. But don’t get me wrong, it’s not a total wash of sound or anything close to easy listening. There are very distinct structures and catchy melodies that stick with you.
Holy Fuck – Latin (buy)
Someday when I finally make the official “Hipster Workout Mix” — playing off of the tongue-in-cheek naming of the original “Hippie Workout Mix” — Holy Fuck will play a very prominent role. These crazy Canucks play some pretty serious groove-oriented, live electronic music. But, unlike other bands that might take a similar approach (the Disco Bisciuts, STS9, the New Deal, Lotus), these guys are definitely not coming from the jammy, ex-Phish fan realm. They seem to have grown much more out the Canadian Indie Rock scene. Either way, it’s good stuff and it definitely will get your body moving.
Marco Benevento – Between Needles and Nightfall (buy)
This is yet another standout album from the always-inventive keyboard wizard, Marco Benevento. Marco’s unique take on jazzy/indie instrumentals sets him squarely outside of traditional jazz realm but not quite anywhere else but in his own, unique world. While “Greenpoint” is the true gem of this record, he also gets brownie points for his ballsy cover of Amy Winehouse’s “You Know I’m No Good.”
“You Know I’m No Good”
Next up, Part 2: Standout Tracks and Honorable Mention(s).