Well, 2010 is drawing to an end. Another year gone by means lots of new, amazing albums now living in my iTunes. Like 2009, this was another great year for music with many new bands making a splash and some old standards continuing their creative output. For whatever reason I thought I was going to have some trouble putting this list together but then I realized that this wasn’t that case. Rather easily I came up with a list of 15-ish albums that made my 2010 just a bit better.
If there was one album that stood out amongst all the rest of 2010 it was Sufjan Steven’s The Age of Adz. In doing a little research I realized that he released not one, not two, but three albums in a one year period. The BQE came out on October 20th, 2009, followed by All Delighted People EP on August 20, 2010 and ending up with The Age of Adz on October 12, 2010. This feat alone is incredible and shows what a creatively prolific artist he really is.
That said, The Age of Adz is one of the most unique and interesting albums I’ve ever heard. Gone is the safety of his previous albums, replaced by a soothing roar of instruments. The first time I heard the album I had no idea what I was listening to. It was so different from this previous albums that it was hard to process. But over time it grew on me, and more and more I’d find myself humming songs all the time. I think my favorite part of the album is the ending, with Vesuvius, All for Myself, I Want To Be Well and finishing up with the 25 minute epic, Impossible Soul.
As for the All Delighted People EP I felt compelled to include it as well. It seems to me more like a companion piece to the album, like an appetizer to an amazing meal. The songs Mouth of Gabriel, The Owl and the Tanager and the 17 minute Djohariah are all stand out songs.
One of the biggest surprises of the year was definitely Avi Buffalo’s self titled album which came out in April. These kids from Long Beach kind of came out of nowhere, were suddenly signed to Sub Pop records and made one of my favorite albums of the year. The range on this album, from upbeat summer hits to softer, introspective verses makes me long for much more from them. Hopefully this is just the beginning and they release a new album some time next year.
A sophomore album is always hard to record, especially if your first album was a huge hit. Such is the case with Vampire Weekend, though their follow-up album Contra proved to be one of the best. My first impression of the album was that people weren’t going to immediately like it, that it was going to need on grow on people to fully appreciate it. It definitely grew on me, but mostly the slower songs like Taxi Cab and I Think Ur A Contra. For me personally, this is now an all-time classic.
Yet another Los Angeles based musician made my list, the astounding Flying Lotus and his third album, Cosmogramma. This one kinda came out of nowhere from me. I had one of his EPs randomly but hadn’t really heard much beside that. What really got me to listen to this album was the artwork, I totally judged this album by it’s cover and it paid off. Cosmogramma is filled with all kinds of minimal, electronic beats that’s somewhere between Dilla and DJ Shadow. Hell, he even got Thom Yorke to do a song!
I’ve been a big fan of Stars for a while now, probably about 4 or 5 years I guess, and I swear they are the most consistent band on earth. Nearly every three years they’ve released a new album and each one has been a steady progression of the last. Their newest, The Five Ghosts, takes on a more electronic feeling than their previous albums, a little bit peppier and bit more dance-y. I’m not sure that it’s their best, but it certainly has some of the catchiest songs they’ve ever written.
I wasn’t sure how the new Deerhunter album, Halcyon Digest, would sound. Bradford Cox, the singer of the band, has been moving in his own direction while the Deerhunter “sound” is almost entirely differently, much more noisy and darker. But this ended up being one of their most open, friendly albums they’ve ever made. It’s got a lot of nostalgic sounds like saxophone on the song Coronado or an almost doo wop sound on Revival. My only complaint is that it feels like a short album, but maybe that’s just me?
Heartland was the one album that I was most looking forward to in 2010. I loved him as Final Fantasy and when he decided to stick with his own name I welcomed it as a change for him, a change to something even more amazing. I wasn’t disappointed in the least. For me this album is really personal, and I think it’s hard to explain. Owen Pallett is a gay man, as am I, and there’s something in his lyrics that really speak to me on that level. The song The Great Elsewhere is a perfect example. It’s got such a homoerotic tone to it, but one line in specific always gets me, “The scar upon my stomach I call it my flying V, and every time I show it I feel your eyes on me.” I might be misinterpreting what his meaning is, but that’s what it sounds like to me.
It’s also amazing to hear how complex and rich his orchestration has gotten, and I think this album has opened up a lot of doors for him as evidenced by his participation in 14 Actors Acting.
Five years since Demon Days, Gorillaz released Plastic Beach this year, yet another big album filled with a number of noteworthy guests. It’s mind-boggling to me that Damon Albarn is pretty much singlehandedly creating these vast troves of music, I mean, is there anyone creating as much as this guy right now? Anyhow, this album is one of my favorites because of the diversity of songs and artists like Mos Def and Little Dragon. Not to be forgotten are the insane visuals that Jamie Hewlett came up with to supplement the music, which in my mind are equally important.
I was completely surprised by how much I loved The Suburbs by Arcade Fire. I’ve enjoyed their previous albums, but I wasn’t a HUGE huge fan. That all changed with this album. I feel like they’ve finally found the most polished sound they’ve ever had. I also liked the overarching theme of the suburbs, which if you think about it, has been there since their first album.
For me, Swim was my dance album of 2010. Caribou, who was influenced by his friends from Junior Boys, decided to take an entirely new route with his music, opting for a more electronic, dance heavy sound. The final track Jamelia with Born Ruffians singer Luke Lalonde might just be one of my favorite tracks of the year.
Beach House’s Teen Dream should have technically been on my 2009 list of music because I heard it around the end of last year, but technically, it’s an album from 2010. Nonetheless this should be on everyone’s list this year. They took their sort of sad, depressing sound and turned it into lush, happy songs that only had a tinge of longing.
I think this might be the first time a Norwegian and has ever made it on my favorites list before. I was introduced to Casikids thanks to my buddy Kristoffer Borgli who sent me the video he directed for them. Their album Topp Stemning På Lokal Bar ended up being a favorite of mine over the summer, even though I had no idea what they were ever saying or singing about.
The Books really made my year with their album The Way Out, something I’ve been looking forward to for years now. When I got to see them play live they played a couple of the songs off of this album so I was pretty sure it was going to be great. I’d say this is the weirdest pop album of 2010.
We Built A Fire might be one of the most beautifu, happyl albums of 2010. Seabear’s last album The Ghost The Carried Us Away was a bit more somber but this album was filled with some of the best pop songs (or what I consider pop songs). If you’re looking for something entirely lighthearted and easy to listen to, this is the album for you.
The one album I was scared about this year was Belle & Sebastian’s Write About Love. I wasn’t a huge fan of their previous album so I was a bit worried about hearing more of the same stuff I didn’t like. Thankfully that wasn’t the case and it ended up being an album inspired the sounds of the late 60′s and early 70′s.