Best Albums of the Year: 2010
It's that time of year again! I don't want a personal live journal all year, but damnit this is the one exception. I document my opinions because I think it will be really fun to look back and see what I was listening to in Ye Olde 2010. I suppose this should be a "Top 14" list, but instead it's "Top 10" and some honorable mentions. Let's get started.
Nevermind The Bombings, Here's Your Six Figures
This hardcore supergroup creates loud, in-your-face music that you survive until the album is over. This EP is short, but it's a great palette cleanser after hearing some bullshit Glee single.
This classic Japanese hardcore band has slowly become more melodic, trading in hardcore-riffs for post-rock landscapes. The one thing that hasn't changed are the vocals. The interaction between the absolutely beatiful music and the tortured vocals works amazingly. The vocals don't grate because the music is inspiring, but the post-rock doesn't get slow, boring and repetitive because at any moment the peace could be broken by screams.
Portugal. The Man
Another year, another great Portugal. The Man album. The psychadelic sounds of last year's album are still present, but the edges are rougher. More guitars, more big rock moments and yet another perfectly sized record. The album is exactly as long as it should be, no filler.
B.o.B Presents: The Adventures of Bobby Ray
Lots of hip hop on my list this year. B.o.B came out of nowhere and released a very radio-friendly album with some great guest appearances, a glimpse of his skills as an MC and a lot of really clever lyrics. I put B.o.B in the same bucket as Lupe Fiasco. These guys are smart, eloquent and know what they want to say. There isn't any fake drug game bravado or wasted breaths. The songs have a purpose and it is focused rather than the scattershot someone like Lil Wayne excretes.
Cee Lo Green
The Lady Killer
Cee Lo finally let loose, brought the energy over from the first Gnarls Barkley album and created an incredibly fun, modern soul record. Thankfully the huge single "Fuck You" isn't the only highlight. You can tell Cee Lo wanted to have fun, croon his heart out and just do what he wants, even if the result is a heavily censored music video (and appearance on Glee).
Sir Lucious Left Foot: The Son of Chico Dusty
This is the best hip hop album in a long while. Kanye doesn't count, he did something entirely different. No, this is a classic hip hop album. Lots of range in both the production and Big Boi's styles, but obviously the product of the Dirty South and one of the most talented rappers alive. Too bad the label removed the songs featuring Andre 3000 due to the boys of Outkast being signed to separate labels.
Did anyone even know this album was coming out this year? It took me all of 2 days to fall in love with the most recent "best mashup album ever." Of course, it took the title again. Check out this visual player and it's easy to be amazed by the complexity of the album.
Last year I listened to a lot of Post Rock and eventually I hit the end of my interest in the same atmosphere of dread. Fang Island flips is all around and has created a fantastically fun instrumental album which a suprising amount of complexity for something you can nod-along to. I saw the band live and the 5! guitars were pretty impressive.
My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy
This album is the culmination of everything Kanye is, everything he has been through and everything he has been working on. Who is Kanye? He's a super popular rapper, he changing the speed and pitch of female vocalists to sounds somewhat whiny, he produced songs for Jay Z, he has had public women problems, his mother passed away, he played with drum machines and auto-tune, he loves fashion and has a flair for the ornate. Take all that, mix it up and you get a perfect album.
Emotional, bragging, massive strings, Jay Z twice, 30-minute music videos, still got that pitch shifting, artistic use of auto-tune, cohesive mood and a supreme feeling of confidence. This is not a hip hop album, it's a statement of art. Any portion which works differently than the rest of the album, such as Monster, just shows Kanye's balls in that experimentation. Finally, I love the way Kanye retreats on many songs, letting his music and his guests handle the rest of the song after his initial verse.
If you had asked me when I began writing this article if Plastic Beach was my favorite album of the year, I would have said no. But during the process of organizing these albums and looking at my Last.fm stats for the past year, it's clear that I listened to this album more often by any other. In fact, I listened to it 200% more than the second most-listened-to album. I love everything on this list, but Plastic Beach definitely has staying power.
Also surprising is the fact that I felt the album was a sad departure from the Danger Mouse produced Demon Days, which I loved. Plastic Beach had less interesting songs, a more deliberate pace, weird-ass songs like Superfast Jellyfish and a bit too much electronic influence for me. But you know the way it is, the difficult albums become your favorites. The impenetrable surface gives way to reveal depth. I now consider this album nearly perfect. The primary sign of that is when my iPhone loops back to the beginning of the album after it finishes and I neither notice or become bored by the repetition.
Amia Venera Landscape
The Long Procession
Absolutely huge metal album. If it'd been released earlier in the year, it would probably be in my top 10.
Most accessible Gogol Bordello album yet.
Fantastically inventive hip hop album. It's all over the place and most of it works. Janelle is destined to be a superstar.
The Black Keys
Another departure from a Danger Mouse produced album I loved, also great.
Danger Mouse gets his due. Abandonded by two of my favorites, but still able to turn out a fantastic album with the help of The Shins' James Mercer.