Best and Worst Albums of 2010
The Hold Steady: still trying it eh guys?
Kanye West: Live, yes please. On LP, still overproduced. Clean doesn’t mean mean. I know you all object to this but get back to me in two years when you wonder what the hell you were doing playing this when you could’ve been learning a language or instrument. Or listening more to something less which in this case might just be more.
The Walkmen: I tried to deny this being the most anticipated album of the year for myself and maybe this denial turned into the reason I was quite … nonplussed with “Lisbon.” It’s just too much of (yep) the same. As such albums do, it might return later to become more listenable, once “You and Me” finally leaves the skull. As for now, it seems to involve patience and that is hard for our days.
Honorable Mentions: This was a good year, let us not think otherwise.
Deerhunter–“Halcyon Digest:” Over time I will fall victim to just how monstrous and layered this album is. However, it doesn’t feel complete to me yet. What does feel complete, though, is “He Would Have Laughed,” the best fucken song of the year, hands down!
Gorillaz–“Plastic Beach:” Not surprised that this is just solid all around. I’m pretty convinced that the charcoaled rhythm-happy myself of a year ago would have heralded this a top-three but I am not as moved right now. Quite nice though.
Crystal Castles–“Crystal Castles:” Not afraid to like this one either. Being stuck in random rooms in random boroughs probably made this happen. I have no excuse.
Hot Chip–“One Life Stand:” Because more Hot Chip is always good chip.
Yeasayer–“Odd Blood:” Because I still believe in them.
Matthew Dear–“Black City:” Perhaps this is my wanting-to-like-Brooklyn-more attempt toward life, at least via music, but this shit gets pretty hot at times. It’s nice to have some “pregame” music. I also think of this as my excuse to live in Manhattan and not be doing cocaine all the time. It’s dark and defines what it’s like to wander through a big house party where everything looks dead but is for some reason smiling and very highlighted by their own Nike laces.
Sleigh Bells–“Treats:” fun?
Sufjan Stevens–“The Age of Adz:” Damnit, I know that in like two months I will say this was top five. Here is that preface.
10. Vampire Weekend–“Contra:” I really don’t give a shit if these guys went to school at Columbia or if they are on every damn commercial the album is really tight, tight in the old jargon-jangling way of the word: musically, it spots on. Not to mention the fact that they are actually true to their inspirations; they are not stealing sounds but reintroducing them and doing so with a flicker of flavor. I seriously wanted to not like this album, but guess what, it really likes me! A reminder that we don’t get to choose our own genres for liking.
9. The National–“High Violet:” Finally grew on me after six months or so. After going to an early release show for this that was staged as to make a video for D.A. Pennebaker, I was a touch appalled at the glowing mendacity or, to keep it in a lighter and truer frame of reference, tinkling pomposity of the crew on stage, particularly Bryce. Yet there is something beyond desperate in the arrangement and seemingly lo-fi exoneration of voice here, there is a point being made but the point doesn’t take over the music. At times it seems to but this is because the point is big, it is footnoted by our own damn ears and I am still trying to hear it all out.
8. Tame Impala–“Innerspeaker:” There are quite honestly never enough psychedelic bands even if near all of them blend together and end up being tame rejoinders. When they’re Australian it helps a lot. These guys have been together long enough to not be toiling amateurishly in the confines of psych-rock either; they are swift and at times, like in the song “Solitude is Bliss” , genre-crossing maestros capable of winning choruses that make us question how it is we can sing and dance at the same time. I’m impressed and wish that I would have heard them before this even came out.
7. Beat Connection–“Surf Noir:” Props to a killer coworker for turning me onto this EP. “In the Water” is perhaps my favorite song of the year, next to Deerhunter’s mindbodycrushingbeast. It’s hard not to like a duo who has endless energy. Something tells me that this is just a starting point for what can easily become a much more harnessed and specific self-made sound for these guys. Sometimes we just need to get to a beach and thankfully dudes like this take us there.
6. Arcade Fire–“The Suburbs:” Straight up honest and beyond seasonal. I was worried that this would land in that “autumn only” category–as so many phenomenal albums own spring and fall–but I think that there is a gritty temperament here and one with memorable residue. They do crescendos in such a teasing and inimitable fashion that just applauding that slots them a top-ten. I think that this album leans less into its tensions too, as “Funeral” did a little too much; it doesn’t rely on the crescendo to be the thing that drives the listeners over into some sad cacophony of indefinable mantras. Listening to the “City of No Children” for the first time felt really really good–I want to listen to this track really loud when I enter the borders of any state. And now I want to go to Houston pretty damn bad as well.
5. Delorean–:“Subiza:” I really thought that the hypertension involved in being coastally inept would dislodge me from an arena in which I’d be summoned into listening to only music that makes one think they are sprinting down a damn beach, sans lifeguard and boggled unit unsheathed–so much more self-analysis. “Stay Close” is a truly joyous track, oddly similar to BC’s “In the Water.”
4. Caribou–“Swim:” Dancing never seemed more appropriate and I’m talking about dancing by oneself. Fuck getting into in a crowd, I’m talking about doing it alone in your foyer, knocking over an ottoman without noticing, upsetting the neighbor’s dog with the way your shadow is crossed along its punitive pupils, forgetting the soap, letting sound decide the color of the things you’ll wear, singing along to headphones in aisle three of Trader Joe’s, making other forms of art because of this here art–best compliment one can have.
3. LCD Soundsystem–“This is Happening:” What can I say? Listening to this album the day it came out front to back with friends Nick, Keith, and Scrumps literally drove me to, halfway through the last and best track “Home,” pick up a video camera and tell three delightfully drunk adult men to move around on a West Village roof for ten minutes for one long shot that became that video people keep linking. Share with your friends. James Murphy said if it hits 10,000 he’ll meet with me, he also tells lies, but they’re beautiful lies. Coupled with a live show that drove me into a river I have nothing more to say.
2. Joanna Newsom–“Have One on Me:” I cannot help it or can someone at least help me? Back, taken a.
1. Beach House–“Teen Dream:” This came out at the right time, sort of sent a fog over the summer, blanketed whatever foliage the first decade was linting between our toes. The lead vocalist has rung a fresh chord and in doing so is a bit stuck in time. One could so easily reference all the 80’s influences but that seems irrelevant because there is a rolling effect, one gets to ride for a while not peak. Yet there are peaks and they are refreshing. It also blows my mind to see these sounds come out of plain rooms. They feel like they are from wet stones that you might be the only one holding, contemplating some vast and objectionable theory on your little plateau of jagged complacency, somewhere, you guessed it again, near a beach or sea.
Next year, no albums that make me think of water.