They say that what you do on New Year's Day is what you'll be doing the most during the upcoming year, so I'm blogging.
2010 was an awesome year in music, especially when compared to 2009. There are a few albums on the horizon for 2011 that I'm jazzed about (R.E.M. and Drive-By Truckers come to mind immediately). But let's pause for a moment to give 2010 its due.
My top ten albums of 2010:
10. Treats by Sleigh Bells
I wanted to dislike this album, but it was so good that I couldn't. See, I'm a lyrics person, and you can't really hear the lyrics on this album. Musically, speaking, it's amazing. And I think that's what eventually made me fall in love with it. It is literally what happens when a hardcore band crosses with a pop star. Miller's heavy beats provide just the right counter-point to Krauss' light, airy vocals. It took me a few listens, but it finally broke me down.
9. Childish Gambino--I am just a rapper 1 and 2
Donald Glover might be better known for his turn as Troy on the NBC sitcom Community. But Glover's talents extend far beyond his turn as a writer (30 Rock), a comic, and an actor. In 2010, Glover released three albums under the "stage name" Childish Gambino. The two that caught my eye were the "I am just a rapper" mixtapes. On these recordings, Glover raps over indie songs from bands like Sleigh Bells, Grizzly Bear, Yeasayer, and St. Vincent. His talent is nothing short of epic, especially when you consider that his music is self-produced and given away at no charge. Glover's rhymes are wittier and better conceived than Drake, to whom I often compare him. So if you're thinking of buying Drake's album, save the money and get better rhymes.
8. The Hold Steady--Heaven is Whenever
Finn and co. return with an album full of twisted tales and catchy melodies. If Constructive Summer is about growing older, Heaven is Whenever seems to me to be about redemption. This isn't my favorite THS album (Boys and Girls in America earns that honor), but it's really good. And it's totally worth a listen. From "The Weekenders," a down-tempo wistful ditty to "Rock Problems," an up-tempo song with a catchy hook, Heaven is Whenever is a rock'n'roll album with few missteps. As an aside, part of the reason that THS earned this spot on my list is that I saw them live in November in Columbia, Mo. and they were awesome.
7. Gorillaz--Plastic Beach
I have never really loved anything by Gorillaz. They seemed like too much of a novelty act for my taste. But, on Plastic Beach, the novelty works to their advantage. Heavy on guest artists, including Snoop Dog and Mos Def, this albums treks from whimsy (Superfast jellyfish) to sober (Plastic Beach) and back.
6. Drive-By Truckers--The Big To-Do
I will admit that DBT is currently my favorite act, so I might have given this album a lower spot on my list. As much as I thought this album worked well as individual tracks, it didn't always work as an album. It felt disjointed in places as it varied so much in both the tone and tempo of the songs. That being said, all of the songs are awesome. DBT has a knack for writing really great songs that are either alt country or southern rock in their sound. This might not be a starting point for DBT newbies, but it is certainly a wonderful addition to the catalog.
5. Kanye West--My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy
Okay. I admit it. It's good. If you know my complicated views on Kanye West, you know just how hard it was to admit that. And if I'm honest, this album probably should've been higher on my list. But I can't do it. Nearly every track on this album is perfect. But nearly every track is also self-indulgent. Clearly West is a genius, but his need to be alienating and weird makes me hate him for nearly every reason that I hate modernist authors. My favorite track on this album, hands down, is "Monster." Niki Minaj, channeling Lil' Kim, just kills it.
4. The Black Keys--Brothers
This album got a lot of hype before I finally checked it out. Turns out the hype is not a mistake--i's pretty much perfect from beginning to end. Bluesy and with biting lyrics, this album is one of the gems of 2010.
3. LCD Soundsystem--This is happening
Like Gorillaz, I was never a fan of LCD Soundsystem. But this album made it hard not to love them. Nearly every track on this album is over five minutes. The shortest, Drunk Girls, clocks in at 3:42. The longest, You wanted a hit, is 9:06. Each track is equally dance-able and fun.
2. The Roots--How I got over
My husband talked this album up for nearly 2 months before I was finally willing to give it a listen. I was instantly hooked. This album felt like a mish-mash of formats that fall under the umbrella of "hip-hop," though it didn't feel disjointed or fake. The Roots moved deftly between rap, reggae, and jazz and the album featured guests from John Legend to Joanna Newsom.
1. The National--High violet
I feel like it's anti-climatic to put High violet at the top of my list. Everyone I know talked this album up, and I'm always a little skeptical of an album that is that beloved. But when I finally got around to listening to this album, I knew upon my first listen that it would top my list. 2010 was kind of a crappy year for me, and I often found myself wanting to drown in moody, atmospheric music. High violet is both moody and atmospheric. Even on songs that weren't inherently sad, Matt Berninger's vocals left an introspective and melancholy impression. High violet affected me in a way that no other album did in 2010.
What do you think? Where did I get it wrong? What do you wish had been on this list?