My Favorite Music of 2010: Part 2, Tracks & EPs (and Honorable Mentions)

This is basically the spillover from my last post on my favorite albums from 2010. That post was getting a little long so I thought I’d do Part II to feature some of my favorite stand-alone tracks, EPs, and a few albums that I’m throwing into the “honorable mention” category.

STANDOUT TRACKS/EPs:

“Despicable Dogs” – Washed Out remix (buy)

Like some of the tracks from LCD Soundsystem’s This is Happening, this song brings me back to a distinct place and time in 2010. Back in March, I caught a show with Washed Out and Small Black, and then I proceeded to play this song endlessly in the weeks following that show. This song — along with the previously-mentioned new album by Broken Social Scene — basically became the soundtrack to my first spring in NYC. Although I really like the original tune by Small Black, I love Washed Out’s remix even more. It’s like some kind of 80s dream-pop that just sticks in the brain, though decidedly not as cheesy as anything from that era. Here’s the original version:

“Slow Motion” – Panda Bear (buy)

From the 1st drum drop of this song, I was immediately intrigued. It drops like a hardcore gangsta rap track and from the 1st few seconds, seems like it could easily go in that direction….but only until Noah kicks in with the vocals and makes it a completely different song. It’s rhythmically dense, but melodically rich, and a bit all over the map….patented Panda Bear. Like Noah’s other efforts, you never really get a verse-chorus approach; the song progresses in a series of melody-driven loops, with the weird atmospherics rounding out the sound. It’s out there, but the melodies still tap into something more familiar and poppy.

“Weight of the World” – American Babies (buy)

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Like with other Tom Hamilton & American Babies tunes, this one didn’t really get me immediately. At first brush, it was totally listen-able and enjoyable but nothing stood out. But after a few more runs through it, the chorus found a spot in my head and wouldn’t escape. I subsequently caught these guys live at Rockwood Music Hall and that’s when I started realizing that Tommy was onto something with this band….which basically amounts to his “Americana side project” to Brothers Past, his original band which is decidedly NOT Americana (it’s more of a indie rock/electronic dance music hybrid). Between this tune and “Winter War Games,” this EP is definitely worth the download.

“Fake Blues” – Real Estate (buy)

These guys are onto something. Real Estate is another band that has hit on a very distinct sound. And I dig it. There’s lots of clean-tone reverb in the guitars which is always a pleaser for my ears. Although the rest of the album is a bit more mellow and downtempo, I really dig this tune and will definitely be watching out for what these guys do next.

“O.N.E.” – Yeasayer (buy)

I love this track. I’m pretty sure it’s the opening echo/delay in the guitar that initally hooked me, but the rest of it unfolds perfectly. Lots of rhythmic interplay, great dynamics, and despite some of the cheesier keyboard and drum sounds, I even like the ending/outro. Unfortunately, I couldn’t really get into the rest of the this album (Odd Blood). It had some moments, but I thought it was just a bit too out there and I still can’t get past most of Chris Keaiting’s vocals…just not my thing.

ALBUM – HONORABLE MENTION(S):

There were also some albums from 2010 that I’m throwing into the “honorable mention” category, as I wouldn’t say they were the “best” music from 2010. Basically, these are bands that I dig, but whose 2010 output didn’t really match up to their previous efforts.

Toubab Krewe – TK2 (buy)
TK2 is a solid album, but these guys are just so much better live. If you dig “Area Code” (below) but crave a little more energy, then I’d recommend grabbing their live album first: Live at the Orange Peel

“Area Code”

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The Whigs – In the Dark (buy)
Again, another so-so follow-up from a band whose first two records I loved. It’s just straight-up rock with a Southern grit and growl. I love Parker Gispert’s vocals, but this one felt almost a bit too polished compared to the last two. It’s good, just not “top albums of the year” good.

“Hundred Million”

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Real Estate – Real Estate (buy)

As mentioned above, I love their overall sound. But, except for “Fake Blues” (from above), there just aren’t enough standout tracks or melodies. Overall, the mellow, dreamy vibe feels right, but it’s just not the full album package to garner a top spot on the list. I’ll definitely keep an eye on these guys though. Here’s another decent tune…

“Beach Comber”

The National – High Violet (buy)
I have a ton of friends and colleagues with this on their top records lists, so it’s almost feels like I should love this record. But it just didn’t grab me as much as I thought it would. The Boxer was cool, but this sounds very similar to my ears. I like a few tracks, including “Lemonworld,” but I never fell in love with the entire album. Do I need to give it a few more listens? What am I missing?

“Lemonworld”

Surfer Blood – Astro Coast (buy)
These guys made it onto a number of best album lists, and I dig a few key tracks and their overall sound in the same way I like Real Estate. I’ll definitely be keeping my eyes/ears open to see what they bring on the second round. “Swim” and “Floating Vibes” are probably the strongest tracks on the album, but I’ll also give a prominent nod to the outro for “Anchorage.” It features this killer looping guitar riff that — to my ears — has a strong maritime/shipyard quality to it. It’s almost like a ship coming into port…or something. Either way, it’s a great outro and definitely helps complete the ocean/beach vibe of the record. Good stuff

“Anchorage” (outro starts around the 3:30 mark)

Wavves- King of the Beach (buy)
Overall, this isn’t really my thing, but I dig a few racks and find that there’s just something cool coming from the lead vocals that grabs me and makes me feel like I’m 14 again. I especially love “Green Eyes.”

“Green Eyes”

Small Black – New Chain – (buy)
Great washy/electronic sound. I loved a few tracks from their EP and this full album stands up nicely.

“Photojournalist”

Maserati – Pyramid of the Sun (buy)
Again, this is a band whose older albums I really dig, but this one doesn’t match up in overall quality and sound to previous efforts like Inventions or Passages. I like that they’re trying something different, but it’s a bit all over the map sonically. That said, the fierce groove of “We Got The System To Fight The System” definitely stands out…

“We Got The System To Fight The System”

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