Ok folks, this it! The moment you’ve been waiting for!!! Just kidding. But here is my pick for the best 20 records of twenty ten. Love ‘em, hate ‘em or don’t really have an opinion these albums were the creme de la creme. Alright, I’ll stop. Drum roll please (pun intended)
20. The Drums - The Drums
The Drums released a killer EP last year where “Let’s Go Surfing” propelled them into indie superstardom. However, it also labeled them as a beachy-cali-summertime-surfin’-bro band. Sure, that one single may fall into that category but when you delve deeper into The Drums, you realize that’s not what they’re about at all. The record is full of new wave inspired tracks, full of lush hooks and funny but captivating lyrics. The band has cute moments but balances it with a dramatic tone — take “Down By the Water” and the out-of-the-box “I’ll Never Drop My Sward” for example. Although the band will be best known for their surf anthem there is much more substance to The Drums which is quite evident only after a few listens of their debut LP.
19. of Montreal - False Presit
False Priest, of Montreal’s 500th album (ok 10th) is the band’s most fun. Kevin Barns really let lose on the third album since Hissing Fauna, You Are the Destroyer. He continued with the disjointedness and five-songs-in-one method from Skeletal Lamping but on FP there is more sensual soul and passion. Barns proves he is just as funny as ever with outrageous lyrics the band is known for. The album is solid but a grower and a perfect installment in the of Montreal discography.
18. Beach House - Teen Dream
Beach House have finally established themselves with their third album, Teen Dream. You know you’ve made it when Jay-Z and Beyonce attend your shows. But seriously, TD is a well crafted record. “Norway”, “Zebra” and “10 Mile Stereo” take the Baltimore band to the next level. Victoria’s voice is just as peaceful and beautiful as ever and with this record, Beach House have claimed they are a force to be reckoned and are the leaders of dream pop.
17. Wavves - King of the Beach
Wavves aka Nathan Williams has had a drama packed year. Maybe not as much as some other artists, but nonetheless he still managed to pull out another great album in less than a year from 2009’s semi-self-titled Wavvves. King of the Beach is a huge departure from Wavves’ lo-fi, punk rock. Yes the punk is still here but its much cleaner, more produced and more poppy. Think Blink-182 with more umph and better lyrics. The title track is some of the best work Williams has produced (see my favorite tracks of the year), along with “Green Eyes” and “Baby Say Goodbye”. KOTB is really not a grownup album but it is a progression and a new direction for Wavves and I can’t wait to see where he takes the band next.
16. Deerhunter - Halcyon Digest
Bradford Cox and co.’s Halcyon Digest is a haunting masterpiece. The band has come a long way from its semi-ambient debut. Opener “Earthquake” is one of the most jarring and beautiful songs of the year. But Deerhunter pushed themselves further and harder on this record. They still stuck with some of their 50s rock aesthetic (see “Basement Scene”) but with the awesome track “Coroando” where a sax solo busts and flourishes through, or where Lockett Pundt takes lead vocals in “Desired Lines” or the incredible sad closer “He Would Have Laughed” eerily takes over you, you know that Halcyon Digest is an well thought out, methodical and just all around impressive album.
15. Sleigh Bells - Treats
There’s nothing like blasting Treats through your headphones. The album is unique, simple and fun. Take it for what it is — the sexy and dainty vocals over totally obnoxious, loud and disgusting metal and striking guitars. Cheerleader stomps and metallic drums are what Sleigh Bells are all about. Lyrically the band is pretty poppy and simple as well. But what makes Treats so fucking good is when you blend all those polarizing and opposite atheistic into one cohesive album. Its not as easy as it sounds. On paper it seems interesting but it can be made into real shit. But thankfully Sleigh Bells know just how much blasting guitars to add over Alexis Krauss’ bubble gum voice.
14. She & Him - Volume Two
Volume Two picks up where M. Ward and Zooey Deschanel left off with 2008’s Volume One, except the duo excelle in almost every song on their sophomore album. “In the Sun” is an instant classic, and opener “Thieves” shows that Deschanel isn’t just a pretty face or an actor trying to make it in anywhere she can — the girl is actually talented. Songs, “Gonna Get Along Without You Now”, “Home” and “Ridin’ In My Car” are retro pop perfection. Every track offers something fresh that will get stuck in your head for days and days.
13. ceo - white magic
Eric Berglund, one half of The Tough Alliance is ceo and his debut album white magic may not have been exactly what most people expected or wanted. It was much darker, less poppy and dancey. Still, the record held its own and found many, many plays on my iPod. “no mercy”, “come with me”, “oh god oh dear” are all highlights that propel the album into another dimension. Moments of The Tough Alliance shine through (like the weird sound effects and random voice overs) but this is Berglund’s album. His vison. white magic takes you on a wild ride and there is truly no record like it.
12. SALEM - King Night
SALEM may be witch house’s finest product. The debut LP from the lazy, weird but genius(?) Michigan band is on all over the place but in every good way possible. It is haunting and chilling but at the same time something you can totally get down to. Title track “King Night”, chops and screws “O Holy Night” and makes it into an orgasmic, epic song. But the band also excelles in their experimental songs like single “Asia” and ethereal “Frost”. Some of the most interesting moments are on “Sick” and “Tair” where the band imitates Southern chop-n-screw rap. But what really seals the deal for King Night is the bone chilling closer “Killer” where it ties the cohesive record with a black bow.
11. Robyn - Body Talk
Hands down, Robyn put out the best pop record from start to finish this year. And she did it three times. Her Body Talk series kept us on our dancing toes throughout 2010. The Sweetish diva created instant classics, such as “Dancing On My Own”, “Hang With Me”, “Call Your Girlfriend” and “Dance Hall Queen.” The Body Talk installments was an impressive accomplishment and something you don’t see in pop…or any other genre of music really. Robyn’s lyrics are honest and endearing. They tell stories of wounded club girls, cheating boyfriends, putting you in the position of cheating and justifying it. Robyn transcends simple pop/club music. Sure you can find “Hang With Me” playing at any club on a Saturday night, but unlike Katy Perry, Ke$ha and at times, even Lady Gaga, her music goes deeper. It is hard for a pop artist to be taken lyrically seriously but Robyn has managed to just that, making her one of a kind.
TOP 10 ALBUMS OF 2010
10. The Radio Dept. - Clinging To a Scheme
I never understood why The Radio Dept. were so misunderstood and under appreciated. Looking through the end year lists this year, I don’t think I saw the band’s excellent Clinging to a Scheme anywhere. Regardless, the album is solid, progressive and more than deserving to be in anyone’s top 10 list. Mixing chill and relaxing Sweetish vocals with hiphop drum beats over violins and weird sound effects The Radio Dept. make one hell of an album.CTAS is a LP that is unexpected to be so real and cohesive but when songs like “A Token of Gratitude”, “David” “Heaven’s On Fire”, and “Domestic Scene” come on, there is no doubt that band knows what they are doing and are here to stay.
09. Best Coast - Crazy For You
Best Coast was a big surprise this year. Her almost laughable teen girl lyrics were more than just a page out of a diary. They were a page out of every girl’s diary. The universalness of being desperate for a boyfriend, missing the one you love, being mad and confused all those emotions that come with young love were jam packed in a short but impressive debut record. Mixed with the pop-punk and summertime lyrics and tones Crazy For You becomes an instant classic.
08. Arcade Fire - The Suburbs
Going from an album that was on hardly any top 10 lists to one that was on mostly everyone’s the Arcade Fire’s third album, The Suburbs is also deserving in its own right. A semi-concept album, the Canadian/Texas band returns to their roots and makes a record that everyone can see themselves in. I’d say a good majority of us grew up or near a suburb. The lyrics and themes are universal to no end; take the title track where Win Butler sings “move your feet from hot pavement into grass.” They are so simple but so perfect. “Rococo” is the anti-hipster anthem and “Modern Man” tells the tale of growing up. But it isn’t until you reach “Suburban War” and “Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Muntians)” where things really pick up both musically and lyrically. Reflecting on growing up and your childhood vs who you are today makes for an album no one can deny is a great idea. And who better to make such an album than the Arcade Fire?
07. Broken Social Scene - Forgiveness Rock Record
It has been five long years since an official Broken Social Scene album. Sure there were the two Presents… series, but Kevin Drew’s only held up for so long. Although Feist and Emily Heins only make small appearancesForgiveness Rock Record it still works as a modern BSS album. “All to All”, “Art House Director” and “Meet Me in the Basement” are all songs that showcase the Canadian superband’s talents. They have been gone for sometime but make a strong comeback with their all around major hit of a rock record.
06. Kanye West - My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy
Through the ups and downs, public meltdowns, crazy ass Tweets - none of that mattered when Kanye West backed his craziness up with an amazing record. Hailed as the Kid A of hiphop, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy is truly the work of a genius and the best rap record of the 21st century. From start to finish West unleashes a slew of guest stars and utilizes them in the best way possible. From Nicki Minaj’s best performance to date, to using Bon Iver, it is clear Kanye knows what he is doing. His raps and flow are out of this world and he is so clever it makes you hate yourself for not thinking of some of the stuff he comes up with. MBDTF will be referenced for years to come and be hailed as Kanye’s greatest album.
05. Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti - Before Today
Ariel Pink made a huge impact in 2010. “Round and Round” put him on the map when it appeared on blogs in this Spring. From here on out he was an out of control force. His album, Before Today made the huge transition from lo-fi to hi-fi. Rerecordings of previous work were perfected and made in to magnificent psychedelic, intense and catchy songs. Although Pink has been hailed the father of chillwave, lo-fi and whatever else, he goes beyond genre. Before Today is a masterpiece as are most of the albums in the top 10. Perfect songs like “Friday Night (Nevermore)”, “Beverly Kills”, “Menopause Man” and “Can’t Hear My Eyes” hold the album together and each track builds off each other in a weird but comedic perfect concoction of modern day music.
04. Vampire Weekend - Contra
Vampire Weekend came back stronger from their debut album. More than anyone could have expected. Contra became one of the best selling indie records of all time, and rightfully so. The record is full of new ideas from the New York preppy band and is a fluid transition from their self titled. Singing about modern art, homosexuality and of course girls Vampire Weekend set the tone for the California vibe that a lot of artists made this year. Contra is unexpected in every good way possible - from the M.I.A. sample in “Diplomat’s Son” to the elector “White Sky”, Contra is a universally acclaimed record for an obvious reason.
03. Charlotte Gainsbourg - IRM
IRM mixes beauty with an under layer or panic and urgency. The authentic noises found on the title track “IRM” (French for MRI) are actual sounds from the brain scanning machine. Gainsbourg’s sexy but monotone voice blended wonderfully through every track. And what really pushes IRM from good to amazing is Beck’s clear thumbprint on the record. Taking swooping violins from his Sea Change days (and perhaps a reference to Charlotte’s father), writing and even performing on the record increases the dramatic tone of the LP. This is some of Beck’s best work since 2005’s Guero. Gainsbourg and Beck work incredibly well together - like they have been partners for years. The sleekness that Gainsbourg exudes balances so well and interestingly off of Beck’s eclectic and off-the-wall ideas making IRM a killer album.
02. The National - High Violet
Each track on High Violet is pure indie rock gold. Musically and lyrically The National hit everything spot on. Destruction, struggle, drug use, broken hearts, questioning faith and failure are all themes on HV. I mean, how can you go wrong, especially when the masterminds of the National are creating the songs and music. “Anyone’s Ghost” tells the simple tale of a girl lying to a boy about not being able to see him — but with the National it becomes so much more dramatic, thus raising the emotional stakes. No one does depression like the National and it is evident all over HV. I could go on and on and explain why each song is perfect but the best thing to do is simply listen to the record. I guarantee, you will be thankful you did.
01. LCD Soundsystem - This Is Happening
This Is Happening could possibly LCD Soundsystem’s last album. If it is, James Murphy knows how to go out on a high note. Just like the high note he releases on the unbelievable opener “Dance Yrself Clean.” All 9 tracks on the record fit perfectly together like a puzzle piece. The radio friendly “Drunk Girls” is a dance-punk track that the band does best. But where the album really takes off is with “All I Want” — the David Bowie inspired, emotional wreck of a song. “Pow Pow” shows Murphy’s clever, Talking Heads party side and the closer “Home” reaches levels of “All My Friends” behind a sick disco beat. Once you get dig through the awesome musical surface of TIH you can sink your teeth into the lyrics. Murphy is clever and honest as ever. “I Can Change” proves that with his desperat lyrics in hopes to make an ex fall back in love with him. TIH is a monster of a record. It is well thought out and musically and lyrically powerful. If this is LCD Soundsystem’s last album, I will be devastated but it won’t stop me from relistening to the album again, and again and again and again and again.