Monday, December 13, 2010

Music 2010

These are my favorite albums of the year. I have no idea if they're "the best" or not because there are lots of albums I didn't buy, didn't hear, or bought and didn't appreciate for whatever reason. I just want to talk a little bit about what I liked and why. They're kind of ranked from 20 to 1 but don't get too hung up on the order. After the "top 20" I have a few other things I thought deserved some mention. I'd love to hear some feedback on any of it. What did you like? What did you hate? Do you just want to call me a pretentious Pitchfork sniffing snob? Anyway, here they are:

Cee Lo Green - The Ladykiller
"Fuck You" was one of the best songs of the year and Cee Lo is definitely an interesting dude.

Vampire Weekend - Contra
Not as good as their first but I enjoyed it.

Salem - King Night
Ha, this is some scary, scary stuff. It's kind of like electronic music chopped up and then filtered through a horror movie. It does some of the old "screw" stuff on some tracks with rap vocals. Pass the purple drank?

Surfer Blood - Astro Coast
I'm putting a link to The Turnpike episode of their show because it was so much fun for me. It was absolutely wall to wall at Replay and there was a ton of sweaty, sweaty energy at the place.

Best Coast - Crazy for You
I kept seeing great reviews of this album then listening to the songs and thinking "they all sound exactly the same." Well, kind of, they may be somewhat simple but she does such a good job of selling them and getting to the heart of it that eventually it clicked for me. It just sounds good.
Kinda cute moment from the show I was at even though the sound isn't the best:

The Black Keys - Brothers
Another really good album from them. Moved into more of a soul thing than straight-up blues but I liked it a lot.

Caribou - Swim
Just some really cool electronic music. I hadn't listened to any of their older stuff but I really dug what they did with this. I don't know exactly what the hook was on "Odessa" but it was great.

Beach House - Teen Dream
This album is like being in a giant nostalgia cloud that's warm and full of soft, shimmering lighting. Which is kind of exactly what their concert was like. Really beautiful in a strange way.

Tallest Man on Earth - The Wild Hunt
I was going to try to write this without mentioning Bob Dylan but I can't. A man and a guitar doing those types of songs with a voice like that and it's the first thing that comes to mind. What's good is that despite that comparison TMoE can reinterpret them in new way.

Gorillaz - Plastic Beach
Another really good Gorillaz album. It had a few more weak spots than previous albums (or maybe I eventually just ignore those) but they're still managing to find ways to do new, interesting music.

The National - High Violet
I think this ended up being a little underrated because it followed The Boxer, which was so popular among the critics. I thought this song was fantastic.

The Walkmen - Lisbon
Just a consistently really good record. Does a great job setting up a certain atmosphere and seems like a band that's maturing beyond their angry side.

Arcade Fire - The Suburbs
Easily my most-anticipated album of the year. Arcade Fire takes on the Suburbs...kind of. I'll agree that it generally points out some of the shittier things about the suburbs that have all been said before but I thought it also was really nostalgic for them, or at least what they represented, and went after the same types that reflexively opposed a lot of those same things. I thought the album had some great moments but there are parts where it does tend to drag just a bit.

Sufjan Stevens - The Age of Adz
A weird, wildy interesting album. Just when you're starting to get in a groove or enjoy some really beautiful stuff he drops in blaring horns or trilling notes or some other annoyance. At one time I declared parts of the album to be "almost unlistenable" but then I went to see his sold-out concert where he basically sat down and explained his ideas and goals and process in words, really amazing video imagery, and some kind of terrible dancing. But it totally worked. With a new perspective I listened to it for a week straight and love it.

Sleigh Bells - Treats
I really feel like "Rill Rill" was one of the catchiest songs of the year and could have induced thousands of people to buy this album then never listen to anything else on it when they realized that nothing else on there sounds anything like it. If you don't like loud music you'll probably hate this but Sleigh Bells found a way to combine some of the loudest music out there with some really beautiful melodies tucked away.
Rill Rill:
Tell 'Em:

Kanye West - My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy
A brilliant album that basically came out of nowhere for me. It's not that I haven't enjoyed Kanye in the past it's just that I basically thought he was a decent rapper, brilliant producer, and kind of an asshole who was moving in a direction I wasn't interested in. For someone who can be amazingly oblivious to the rest of the world and how it perceives him versus how he perceives himself he actually some great moments of introspection. Plus, it's Kanye, so...hooks!

Big Boi - Sir Lucious Left Foot: The Son of Chico Dusty
I spent most of the year thinking this was the best hip hop album I'd heard in a long time and I still feel that way. Big Boi was always a little overshadowed in Outkast but this really works for me in a way that none of Andre's solo stuff has.

Janelle Monae - The ArchAndroid
I read someone describe her as basically the George Clinton at his peak of this generation. Amazingly audacious concept album from an extremely talented performer. She hits about every genre possible on this album and manages to pull off almost everything.
This is such an amazing video if you stick with it and listen to the lyrics:

LCD Soundsystem - This is Happening
James Murphy does human relationships with all the awesome dance-rock and oddly funny lyrics you would expect. "Drunk Girls" isn't my favorite song on the album but it has a weird video so here ya go:

And my favorite album of 2010:
Titus Andronicus - The Monitor
This album got stuck in my head early last spring when I first previewed it online and basically never left it. It's a sprawling, exhilarating, ambitious as hell (so much so it includes it's own "Suggested Further Reading" list) punk album that uses the Civil War and about a thousand other references to look at the internal conflicts people can face when they attempt to go against the dominant culture. Or at least that's kind of how I interpreted it but it's also about dealing with intense emotions, something they clearly evoke on this album. The lyrics are witty, the music is powerful, and I'm a sucker for someone who swings for the fences on something like this.

Deserves a mention for a great song or a great EP that doesn't quite qualify as an album:
Gayngs - Relayted "The Gaudy Side of Town"
You should be using this to seduce someone right now.

Wye Oak - My Neighbor/My Creator "I Hope You Die"
Saw them twice this year and think they're poised to break out. She has a great voice and the other guy plays keys and drums at the same time.

Cults - "Go Outside" Released a couple of songs out of nowhere that were really good. The hype machine is at work...

Carolina Chocolate Drops - Genuine Negro Jig
Best new bluegrass album I heard (which admittedly wasn't many).

Freddie Gibbs - Str8 Killa "National Anthem (Fuck the World)
Is it lame to still listen to gangsta rap? Maybe. But when he hits that verse at double speed....the dude has some talent.

Girl Talk - All Day
I always liked Girl Talk but it was always a little too frenetic for me to actually listen to. This album could "breathe" a little bit more and I thought it was amazing.

I was going to link to the last track which is phenomenal but I won't because you can't appreciate it fully unless you go through the entire album. Ha, I'm serious. Download it for free here instead:

Aziz Ansari - Intimate Moments for a Sensual Evening. Funniest comedy album I heard assuming Patton Oswalt didn't actually release his this year.

Worst album: Katy Perry - Teenage Dream. Granted I haven't actually listened to it and I think she's pretty good looking but I think her music that I have heard is brutal and she ripped off her album name from Beach House.

Most memorable shows I can think of right now and didn't mention earlier:
Sweatiest dance party: Black Joe Lewis and the Honeybees

Biggest event: Scion Garage Fest - King Khan would have won sweatiest dance party but he can't since he was part of this whole event which was amazing. Four venues, tons of people, lots of good bands. Great time.

Best crowd: Surfer Blood - Should have been a bigger venue and the fact it was in the Replay made it that much better.

Best discovery I'd never heard of before - tUnEyArDs opening for Dirty Projectors and Xiu Xiu in different shows. Very unique thing going on. I mentioned Wye Oak already so they didn't win but they were probably my favorite.

Loudest show: A Place to Bury Strangers/The Big Pink. After APTBS's set the crowd basically stumbled outside en masse just to get their bearings after 20 minutes of strobe and soul-crushing noise. Amazing experience.

Best Show: Janelle Monae. This girl is a performer! Maybe it helped that she was a local KCK girl performing in front of her family but she can sing, dance, create a show like few people I've seen.

Best local bands: the Kinetiks, Hospital Ships, Rooftop Vigilantes, Cowboy Indian Bear, Hello Biplane, Fourth of July, the Dactyls

Like I said, there was a lot of stuff I listened to that I liked but didn't mention because I forgot or just didn't feel like writing. Let me know what you think.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Those bands all suck. There are only 6 good bands.

11:20 PM  
Blogger Ben said...

Van Halen, STP, Rage, Led Zeppelin, and...I'm forgetting the other 2.

1:37 AM  
Blogger Shawn said...

Sweet. I am really going through struggles with Sufjan, but I'm not giving up.

Sometimes I can listen to Caribou, sometimes I cannot.

I feel like I haven't given Gorillaz a hard enough look, but when these songs pop up on shuffle, it just gets lost for me in a mid-tempo, electronically enhanced haze that doesn't excite me (see also: Broken Bells).

getting WAY into the Wye Oak... they're coming to Mpls in the Spring, definitely hitting that one.

I need to hear about the rest of Cee Lo's album... everyone only talks about the one song. Not that single tracks can't elevate the surrounding material!

Don't know if you gave me The Walkmen or not, but I am slowly coming around to that noise.... very interesting stuff with swagger.

Get ready for my list...sounds like it may look VERY similar....

11:26 AM  
Blogger Paul Hattan said...

All these bands must sound like the Get-Up Kids.

I really wish Sufjan Stevens would make more normal sounding albums like "...Illinoise." He makes such awesome music then renders it un-enjoyable with the jarring experimental noise garbage you mention.

...and i think the 2 you are forgetting are Metallica and Alice in Chains. But i'm glad you got Van Halen on the list.

1:58 PM  
Blogger Ben said...

Ha, I remembered AIC later but totally bricked on Metallica.

I like Wye Oak even better live than I do on their albums. I read they are releasing a full album early next year.

Sufjan...yeah, I don't know what to say. I think if people put some time in there's a lot of really great stuff there but, at the same time, there's more to life than listening to music that pisses you off in the hope that eventually you'll like it. Or so I've heard.

The rest of Cee Lo is alright, not great. Maybe it shouldn't have made the top 20. There are 2 songs that I love (the 1st 2), a bunch of pretty good ones, and a few that are a little uncomfortable to listen to.

6:47 PM  

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