Saturday, December 25, 2010
25 Favorite Albums of 2010
(25) Innerspeaker - Tame Impala (Modular)
Very cool sounding psychedelic rock from Australia. The best thing about this record is the way it sounds, much thanks to a stellar production job by Dave Fridmann.
Top jam: "Jeremy's Storm"
(24) Big Echo - The Morning Benders (Rough Trade)
Here is a pop record that wasn't all that different from last year's Grizzly Bear album. Nothing really daring about it. Nice production and nice songs. I'm not sure why I ended up liking this so much by the end of the year, but it is totally good.
Top jam: "All Day Day Light"
(23) The Drums - The Drums (Island/Moshi Moshi)
Obnoxious vocals singing really great melodies, subtle instrumentation, lots of drum machine. This year I rediscovered my love for 80s-sounding bands, and it started with The Drums.
Top jam: "Let's Go Surfing"
(22) High Violet - The National (4AD)
I fought with this record until it finally won. I still think 2005's Alligator is their best, but High Violet is leaps and bounds better than 2007's Boxer.
Top jams: "Lemon World"
(21) The Brutalist Bricks - Ted Leo and the Pharmacists (Matador)
Ted Leo and co. make a triumphant return with The Brutalist Bricks. So triumphant, I think this is their best album yet.
Top jam: "Bottled in Cork"
(20) Clinging to a Scheme - The Radio Dept. (Labrador)
Another 80s referencing album that I really appreciated this year. Nice singing, great wide open production. When it's at its best, Clinging to a Scheme sounds like The Cure at their best.
Top jam: "Heaven's on Fire"
(19) Subiza - Delorean (True Panther)
Every song on Subiza may sound the same, but this is some great (and pretty) dance music with some of the best chord progressions.
Top jam: "Simple Graces"
(18) Teen Dream - Beach House (Sub Pop)
Another set of slow yet beautiful organ-driven songs from Beach House that somehow are not as boring as they should be. The melodies and Victoria Legrand's vocals are killer.
Top jam: "Lover of Mine"
(17) Marnie Stern - Marnie Stern (Kill Rock Stars)
I've always loved the idea of Marnie Stern, but wasn't completely won over until her 2010 self-titled effort. This collection of songs still offers up the technical insanity of her previous albums, and in addition the melodies are cathier and the songs are poppier.
Top jam: "For Ash"
(16) Swim - Caribou (Merge)
After the psychedelic beauty presented on 2007's Andorra, Caribou guy Dan Snaith decided to record a dance record. This is that dance record, and the sounds on it could have only come from Snaith. Straightforward rhythms mesh with ambient backdrops and spacey vocals that bring Junior Boys more to mind than past Caribou releases. Personally, I prefer the psychedelia, but Swim does just fine for me too.
Top jam: "Leave House"
(15) Halcyon Digest - Deerhunter (4AD)
It seems like a lot of critics are claiming Halcyon Digest as Deerhunter's biggest and best moment yet. I completely disagree. 2008's Microcastle/Weird Era Cont. is obviously better. That being said, Halcyon Digest is still totally good. Lockett Pundt's songs are awesome, and the guitars sound great.
Top jam: "Helicopter"
(14) King of the Beach - Wavves (Fat Possum)
Nathan Williams recovered from his disasterous 2009 thanks to the righteous pop punk of King of the Beach, his only good LP so far. With Jay Reatard's rhtythm section in tow, absolutely everything here is better than anything he's ever done (that I've heard).
Top jam: "Super Soaker"
(13) Color Your Life EP - Twin Sister (Infinite Best)
I am so excited for what this band does next. The weird vocals coupled with the eerie tone of the music make this a fascinating listen every time.
Top jam: "Lady Daydream"
(12) Lisbon - The Walkmen (Fat Possum)
Since 2002, a new album by The Walkmen comes out every two years without fail and it is either really good or fantastic. Lisbon falls somewhere between the two. "Woe is Me" is their best song since "Little House of Savages."
Top jam: "Woe is Me"
(11) Everything in Between - No Age (Sub Pop)
I didn't quite get them on Nouns and then started getting there with last year's Losing Feeling EP. Now with Everything in Between I can say I am a No Age fan. There's still some punk edge, but a lot of the time it is shrouded in shoegaze. Thank God for songs like "Glitter" and "Sorts."
Top jam: "Glitter"
(10) Holiday Band - Memory Map (self-released)
Some buddies of mine from Bloomington turned me onto this band. Fun, technical, creepy guitar pop done just the way I like it.
Top jam: "Stowaway"
(9) Measure - Field Music (Memphis Industries)
I wish this was more focused, as it is supposed to be two separate LPs, but I find that I really have to struggle to find anything to complain about. All the best songs (with the exception of one) are found on the first half, but everything beyond that is still gorgeous. I'm just glad to have my boys back.
Top jam: "Measure"
(8) Transference - Spoon (Merge)
Jensen and Bravender both said it, and I'll elaborate slightly: The first half of Transference is the best thing Spoon has ever done. I'll add "Trouble Comes Running," "Out Go the Lights" and "Nobody Gets Me but You" to that statement.
Top jam: "Is Love Forever?"
(7) Crazy for You//Something in the Way 7" - Best Coast (Mexican Summer//PPM)
I don't care if Bethany Cosentino's lyrics are completely stupid (which they are), her songs are laced with the best melodies I've heard all year. My fondness for her music started with the Something in the Way 7" and culminated finally with her debut full length, Crazy for You. Yes, her music is excrutiatingly simple and does sort of seem like a cash-in, but when her melodies are that memorable, I am not going to complain.
Top jams: "Crazy for You"//"Wish He Was You"
(6) Out of Tune 7" - Real Estate (True Panther)
Only two songs, but they are perfect. "Out of Tune" might be Real Estate's best song yet. And, they are quickly becoming my favorite guitar band around.
Top jam: "Out of Tune"
(5) Contra - Vampire Weekend (XL)
2008's self-titled debut was a bit top heavy, and while a few of those songs are still Vampire Weekend's best, Contra just works much better as an album. I am impressed by how much of a success this, their sophomore LP is. It perfectly combines everything I loved about their first record with new sounds and ideas. I am pleasantly surprised that I came to love this so much more than the first one.
Top jam: "California English"
(4) Before Today - Arial Pink's Haunted Graffiti (4AD)
I will not blame you for thinking this album is perfect, if you in fact do. If I'm going to complain about anything regarding Before Today, it's simply that it's a little too dense for me, I guess. The majority of the songs are incredible, but more than that, the production and musicianship are really what make the album what it is.
Top jam: "Round and Round"
(3) Astro Coast - Surfer Blood (Kanine)
Surfer Blood made their debut with a safe sounding nod to all that was good about 90s indie rock. Fortunately, sentimentality isn't the only thing that kept me hooked to Astro Coast. Every song on the record rules, the guitars are perfect, the melodies are awesome blah blah blah, just like most everything that I like. What this has over other releases on this list is that it reminds me of the music I listened to mostly in high school (namely Weezer and Piebald). So, I guess sentimentality was a big deal here.
Top jam: "Swim"
(2) Public Strain - Women (Jagjaguwar)
Women's second (and potentially final) LP is another mess. It's missing the outright jams that their 2008 self-titled debut had, but as a whole, it's definitely a great note to end on. The album cover describes the vibe of Public Strain much better than any writer can: it is bleak, mysterious and weirdly beautiful. Chad VanGaalen's production is such an important piece to the puzzle that I can't deny it might be my favorite thing about the album. Though, the guitars, whether they grind, jangle or chime, are completely awesome, too. Public Strain is just such an all-encompassing listening experience, it's difficult to detail little elements as to why it deserves my #2 spot. You're just gonna have to trust me.
Top jam: "Eyesore"
(1) Gemini//Golden Haze EP - Wild Nothing (Captured Tracks)
Wild Nothing did it just right for me this year with their somber and gothic 80s pop not too unlike early to mid-80s Cure and (according to everyone else) Cocteau Twins (who apparently I should completely love). On both Gemini and Golden Haze, Wild Nothing brought to the table the best songs and (along with Best Coast) a lot of the best melodies of the year. Gemini is just shy of being a perfect album, and the three post-Gemini songs on Golden Haze prove that Jack Tatum is already honing his writing and producing skills. I will never tire of these recordings and absolutely cannot wait for whatever Tatum does next.
Top jams: "Chinatown"//"Take Me In"