Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Best Albums 2010

(Rhapsody will allow you to stream a limited number of free tracks without a membership; I've created a playlist including all recommended tracks except Joanna Newsom, who isn't in their catalog.)

Playlist link is the word "Enjoy" below:

Best Albums of 2010
1.       Scissor Sisters – Night Work 
Night Work was the album I couldn’t stop listening to this year: hot, angry, danceable music that kind of makes you want to sob at the same time. Funny, pithy, and tragic, the lyrical content is probably NSFW, but it’s still great music to blare down the hallway from your office on Friday afternoons. Night Work is also home to this year’s funniest misheard lyric – “and you can’t carry a skinless cat,” which turns out to be “come here kitty kitty, skin this cat.”

Tracks: Skip the “hit single” (I’m assuming, since I heard it on the speakers at H&M) “Fire with Fire.” Try “Running Out” for fun, “Sex and Violence” for serious, and don’t miss the dramatic finale “Invisible Light.”

2.       Owen Pallett – Heartland
From the first go, I wanted to hear Heartland again and again. I gather it’s a story album but don’t care much – the pathos in abstract was enough to hook me. The music is complicated and at times cacophonous, but always thoughtful and tender.

Tracks: I have barely distinguished one track from another on this album – just listen to the whole thing. Or try “Midnight Directives,” “Keep the Dog Quiet,” and “Lewis Takes Off His Shirt.”

3.       Joanna Newsom – Have One On Me
 Joanna Newsom’s music is hands down the best, most captivating, and most distinct I’ve listened to this year. Have One On Me is an expansive album with many jaw-droppingly beautiful moments. I’m not even close to finishing listening to this album – I continue to get lost in it every time I remember to pay attention. This is music for sitting alone on a rock with your eyes closed when it’s just slightly too cold to be outside; it also works for overnight cross-country drives home from your best friend’s wedding and transatlantic flights to see your bonnie over the ocean.

Tracks: “Good Intentions Paving Company” was the first track of hers I heard.  “You and Me, Bess” has been a recent favorite and “Does Not Suffice” is the most beautiful breakup song/album closer ever.

Special Note: Rhapsody doesn’t have her music, but you can listen to youtube versions under the links.

 4.       Janelle Monáe – The ArchAndroid
 The clear high point on this album is “Tightrope” – and if you haven’t already, go watch the music video right away so you get the full effect including awesome moves and wingtips. If memory serves, when this song came on at my brother’s wedding in August, I sort of clutched one of his other guests and brayed “IT’S JANELLE MONÁE” before attempting my own dance version of the “whether you're high or low” part. I took a while warming to the rest of the album, but have come to enjoy its perfect arc as well as a few other standout tracks.

Tracks: “Cold War,” “Tightrope,” and “BaBopBye Ya”

5.       The Roots – How I Got Over
This year’s dark horse, How I Got Over caught me by surprise. Like the whole world, I like “The Seed 2.0” but never got into anything else from The Roots. However, any album that samples Monsters of Folk and Joanna Newsom (twice – one obvious and one super subtle!) gets a second drive-by from me. Largely chill, feel-good tunes, most of the songs feature guest artists, to better or worse effect. I’d say the album weakens at the end but in truth it probably just drifts too far from the locus of my taste in music.

Tracks: “Dear God 2.0 featuring Monsters of Folk,” “How I Got Over,” “The Fire featuring John Legend”

6.       Clem Snide – Suburban Field Recordings III
There’s a Clem Snide album for every liminal moment; this is the one for leaving a gathering and beginning to process whatever bewildering interpersonal things happened there. Much gentler than The Meat of Life or Hungry Bird, this album is a kind of hazy hodgepodge of instrumental tracks, tracks with unique but very Eef-y non-word vocals, and normal lyricked tracks. I like all of them, a lot, although I would trade slightly less haze for slightly more punch at times.

Tracks: “Eemah,” “Pale Blue Eyes,” “The Party’s Over”

Special Note: Rhapsody displays, but won’t play, Suburban Field Recordings I and Suburban Field Recordings II – highly intriguing.

7.       The Extra Lens – Undercard
The sophomore album of The Extra Lens (that is, The Extra Glenns, that is, John Darnielle and Franklin Bruno) is like The Mountain Goats for people who don’t like lo-fi or anger. I am terribly fond of Martial Arts Weekend by The Extra Glenns, and Undercard didn’t disappoint, although it’s dissimilar. Like usual, it’s heavy on lyrics but well-balanced with captivating melody lines and even some vocal harmonies.

Tracks: “How I Left The Ministry,” “Some Other Way,” “Rockin’ Rockin’ Twilight of the Gods”


Antony and the Johnsons – Swanlights
Broken Bells – Broken Bells
CocoRosie – Grey Oceans
Hot Chip – One Life Stand
Sufjan Stevens – The Age of Adz

Albums I Should Have Liked Based on the Artist, But Didn’t Particularly, Or Liked So Dramatically Less Than Expected That I Couldn’t Concentrate On Their Merits, Such As They Were
(least to most disappointment)

Rufus Wainwright – All Days Are Nights: Songs for Lulu
Belle & Sebastian – Write About Love
The Books – The Way Out (some brilliant moments)

Albums I Loved in 2010 And Was Sad Turned Out To Be From 2009:

Monsters of Folk – Monsters of Folk
Phish – Joy

Albums I Loved in 2010 And Was Sad Turned Out To Be From 2007:

Brian Harnetty – American Winter

1 comment:

  1. I've never heard of any of these people. This list sux. :-p