Monday, February 14, 2011

Best of 2010: Top 60 Albums

Well, I’m a bit late to the party this year when it comes to year end lists. I’ve been making this sort of list for several years now, and have noticed that publications are beginning to post their lists earlier and earlier. This year it seems most lists were already complete and ready by late November. That’s just too early! December isn’t entirely a dead month for media releases. For instance Ghostface Killah released a really solid record this year on December 21st. But did it make any lists? No, it couldn’t! Then Gorillaz put out a surprise album on Christmas day! Sure it wasn’t very good, but it was still a significant December release.

Anyways, I’m probably just trying to justify my laziness for finalizing this list so late. I mean, I’m posting this thing AFTER the Grammy’s even. Shit. Well, these are my top sixty albums of 2010. Even though I listened to more than sixty albums this year, if I make the list longer than that I’ll have to start listing records I found to be mostly forgettable, and what’s the point of that? Well after much listening and re-listening, then reading lists and some more listening, here’s where it stands as of today. As always a single listen can throw off an album’s placement, though the top ten is nearly set in stone.

60. ceo - White Magic
59. Dirty Projectors + Bjork - Mount Wittenberg Orca
58. Perfume Genius - Learning
57. Rose Elinor Dougall - Without Why
56. Grinderman - Grinderman 2
55. Clinic - Bubblegum
54. The Vaselines - Sex with an X
53. Tame Impala - Innerspeaker
52. Glasser - Ring
51. Liars – Sisterworld
50. Wild Nothing - Gemini
49. Twin Shadow - Forget
48. Robyn - Body Talk
47. Das Racist - Shut Up, Dude
46. Charlotte Gainsbourg – IRM
45. Arcade Fire - The Suburbs
44. Antony & the Johnsons - Swanlights
43. The Black Keys - Brothers
42. Das Racist - Sit Down, Man
41. Daughters - Daughters
40. MGMT - Congratulations
39. Ghostface Killah - Apollo Kids
38. Harlem - Hippies
37. Holy Fuck - Latin
36. The Fall - Your Future Our Clutter
35. Wolf Parade - Expo 86
34. Four Tet - There is Love in You
33. Best Coast - Crazy For You
32. Avey Tare - Down There
31. Girl Talk - All Day
30. Surfer Blood - Astro Coast
29. No Age - Everything in Between
28. Crystal Castles - Crystal Castles II
27. Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings - I Learned the Hard Way
26. Owen Pallett - Heartland
25. Laura Marling - I Speak Because I Can
24. Beach Fossils - Beach Fossils
23. Belle & Sebastian - Belle & Sebastian Write About Love
22. Dom - Sun Bronzed Greek Gods
21. Girls - Broken Dreams Club
20. The Tallest Man on Earth – The Wild Hunt
19. Jonsi – Go
18. Caribou - Swim
17. The Drums - The Drums
16. Yeasayer – Odd Blood
15. Dum Dum Girls - I Will Be
14. Titus Andronicus – The Monitor
13. Menomena - Mines
12. Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti - Before Today
The National - High Violet

Janelle Monae - The Archandroid
9. The Walkmen - Lisbon
8. Gorillaz – Plastic Beach
7. Sleigh Bells – Treats
6. Sufjan Stevens - The Age of Adz
5. Deerhunter - Halcyon Digest
4. LCD Soundsystem – This Is Happening
3. Kanye West - My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy
2. Beach House – Teen Dream
1. Joanna Newsom – Have One on Me

My number #1 album is no surprise, as even from the day it leaked, nearly a year ago, I was certain that it would be my top of the year. This fall will mark five years of my Joanna obsession, and it certainly won’t be ceasing any time soon. There’s simply no one else out there writing on her level. Her songwriting, lyrics, and musicianship are all just of the highest quality. There’s no female singer-songwriter out there today who comes even close. That is an objective statement. Joanna Newsom is the best female singer-songwriter working today.

Taking a step backwards, despite my obvious infatuation, this album took me a long time to digest. Though not as musically dense as her previous album Ys (my favorite record of the last decade), its length is rather daunting. Though Ys was a double record with five songs, Have One on Me is a triple record, totaling eighteen songs, six on each record. There really haven’t been many triple albums in history- the most notable that come to mind are George Harrison’s All Things Must Pass, The Clash’s Sardanista!, and The Magnetic Fields’ 69 Love Songs. I enjoy all of these records (Sardanista to a lesser extent), and even consider 69 Love Songs to be my all-time favorite record. Yet all these records have their share of considerably lesser songs, and even filler. Have One on Me on the other hand has no filler of any sort. Each of the three records make their own concise statement. They each have a wonderful opening song that both feels like an album opener and sets the record’s momentum, and an particularly emotional closer that wraps up each record nicely. However, when you listen to all three in a row, like Voltron they form something even greater than the sum of their parts.

I was finally able to see the album as Voltron around the 6th listen, yet with every repeat listen I get more and more out of the record. This is truly a record for the long run. Songs that seemed almost unmelodic, meandering, and frankly, boring, with initial listens became highlights. Examples of this would include “Kingfisher,” “Go Long”, and especially the title track. I look back at myself listening to these songs with a hesitant ear and almost think “how I could have been so naive?”

With modern technology constantly changing the way we listen to music, I also find the timeless nature of this album to be incredibly refreshing. The internet gives us the ability to download practically any album we want, in minutes, for free. Nearly every new release leaks at least a week in advance, and there is always a rush to consume the record, and sprout your “definitive” opinion as quickly as possible. You grab a record on mediafire, unzip it, and listen to it through your shitty computer speakers. While you’re listening you might revel in the hype of another upcoming record, or contribute to the backlash against a recently acclaimed record that’s getting just a little too much attention (though in the scope of things isn’t really at all.) Everything becomes overrated. It’s like fast food. This is not what music listening should be.

Still, I can be just as much of a victim to this practice as anyone. If I wasn’t there’s no way I’d ever be able to make a ridiculous year end list like this. Albums like Have One On Me though bring you back to the ideal of music listening. Like all of Joanna’s albums it is beautifully packaged, with a gatefold box housing the three vinyl records, each with a custom dust jacket, and a huge elegant lyric booklet. It’s just made to be sprawled out on a bed, booklet poured through while the record plays over your stereo. Just listening to a record can really be one of the most exhilarating experiences you can have.

10 Least Favorite Albums of the Year

10. Salem - King Night
9. The Hold Steady - Heaven is Whenever
8. Magnetic Fields – Realism
7. Broken Social Scene - Forgiveness Rock Record
6. She & Him - Volume 2
5. Vampire Weekend - Contra
4. Wavves - King of the Beach
3. Broken Bells - Broken Bells
2. Chromeo - Business Casual
1. Mumford & Sons - Sigh No More

This list would have a different #1 if I could physically finish Lil Wayne’s rock album. It hasn’t been a bad year though, as I don’t actually hate a lot of these albums, but just find them rather boring. Some more than others. Others I find annoying and a bit irksome. Only one truly makes me want to barf. Why Dylan, why?

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