12.20.2010

2010 Albums Of The Year (25-1)

25. The New Pornographers - Together

I'm not sure if I could trust someone that doesn't like The New Pornographers. Carl Newman seems to be an endless factory of catchy power pop tunes. Now on their fifth album and they have yet to release one that hasn't ended up on my favorite albums of the year list. As always it must be noted that if you have Neko Case and Dan Bejar just there singing backup and the occasional lead vocal, it's almost like you're cheating.





24. Black Mountain - Wilderness Heart

I'm running out of things to write about Stephen McBean's bands (Black Mountain, Pink Mountaintops) on my year end lists. Black Mountain's third album still evokes sounds of Sabbath and Zeppelin, but there is much more of a folk element in this most recent album. They've lead what's turned into quite the 70's hard rock revival in music today along with The Black Angels (who are on tour together, but note coming through KC).





23. LCD Soundsystem - This Is Happening

I wish I could put this one higher and I know it's going to (and already has) topped many year end lists, but This Is Happening just wasn't as good as it could have been. There are a few great, great tracks like 'All I Want', 'Home' and 'Dance Yrself Clean' but there are also at least a couple of songs that I skip some of the time I listen to the record. Still, all but those one or two songs are still better than most of the junk that gets played on the radio.




22. Suckers - Wild Smile

The thing that I love about Suckers debut album Wild Smile, is the same thing I fell in love with on Yeasayer and TV on the Radio's debut albums. It's electronic while still sounding organic and it's all over the map. There is a certain tribal quality that all three bands share as well that really comes through on standout tracks like 'Black Sheep' and 'A Mind I Knew'. This is a band that could definitely be big with a great sophomore effort.





21. Menomena - Mines

Although Menomena have taken a step away from the more experimental nature of their earlier stuff, the band's new direction really shows what fantastic songwriters they are. Although they still test the limits and sometimes sound on the verge of chaos, Mines also has some of the most mellow stuff I've heard from them. Ultimately they've shown themselves to be a consistently great band on album after album.





20. Laura Marling - I Speak Because I Can

If I hadn't gone through an intense phase earlier this year of listening to Mumford & Sons all of the time, I wouldn't have heard this great Laura Marling album. I had gotten a copy of it before I heard M&S but after finding the connection between the two bands I went back to Laura Marling's second album. I'm really glad I did because it's got a lot of what I loved about M&S debut. Laura Marling is able to be upbeat and intense on some tracks and absolutely melt my heart on others.




19. Cee Lo Green - Lady Killer

I wrote about this album in one of my last post before this list and mentioned that I'm a longtime fan of all things Cee Lo. The song everyone's heard by now, 'Fuck You', was catchy but grew old after hearing it so many times. Luckily, the rest of the album has a lot of great stuff on it. If you're looking for Cee Lo to rap at any point on the album, look elsewhere, this is all R&B and that's okay with me (for now anyway).





18. The Radio Dept. - Clinging To A Scheme

The third album from Sweden's The Radio Dept. is an album that I haven't seen on many year end lists. I'm a bit surprised because this is a really worthwhile album. There's always the possibility they just haven't gotten enough exposure in the states or that folks are disappointed with their move away from shoegaze. I'll almost always have a soft spot in my heart for them because a friend who passed away a few years back got me into them.




17. The Black Keys - Brothers

When I'm writing a list like this and am talking about The Black Keys new album being outside of the top 15, I know 2010 was a great year for music. This album could have made it in the top 10 last year easily. What might be The Black Keys most accessible (not that they were ever inaccessible) and well produced album, Brothers will certainly keep the Ohio band's fanbase ever growing.





16. Beach House - Teen Dream

This is a record that held a spot in the top 5 of my list for most of the year. To be honest, if it had came out in November instead of January, it might still be. Beach House was always a band that I enjoyed, but Teen Dream is an album I love. I always hated descriptions like this, but it's a comforting album...sort of like a sweater you've had for 20 years. Although this didn't make the top 15, it will definiltely be an album I'll still throw on every once in a while years from now.




15. Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti - Before Today

This album tops the list for "album from bands I never thought I'd have in my top 15". I'm not usually a fan of lo-fi, under produced basement pop that Ariel Pink's previous releases thrived on. Turns out when he makes an album full of sleazy, retro pop I'm all ears. This album has so many great songs: 'Bright Lit Blue Skies', 'Fright Night' and 'Can't Hear My Eyes' but the one I have to provide to you is what Pitchfork recently named the best song of 2010.




14. Janelle Monae - The Archandroid

I remember hearing a lot of buzz about Janelle Monae before this album came out. I'm sure it was partially due to her being a KCK native, but still she's lived up to every bit of hype. The Archandroid is full of the alt-friendly R&B that Erykah Badu has had locked down for the past decade. Janelle isn't just riding on hype, she has the pipes AND songs on her debut album to back it up.





13. The Walkmen - Lisbon

The Walkmen now join the ranks of bands who can't make a bad album in my mind. There was no way they'd live up to their previous album (You & Me) which is one of my favorite albums of the previous decade, but Lisbon is still a great record. The album still has that trademark guitar sound and one of the best vocalists around in Hamilton Leithauser. There is no reason why these guys aren't as big as Wilco or The National by now (I'm looking at you people that weren't at the Bottleneck to see them play earlier this year...there were a lot of you).



12. Twin Shadow - Forget

There are so many ridiculous genres in music today I usually try to ignore them. Chill-wave was a particularly dumb genre name and most of the music that fell into that bucket was pretty bland as well. I almost didn't check out Twin Shadow because I originally heard them classified as such. It's too bad because I would have missed out on my surprise album of the year. If I had to classify Forget, I'd certainly tag it as more New Wave than anything. The songs are just so catchy (I'm a sucker for catchy songs) that it's hard not to love it.



11. Wolf Parade - Expo 86

As a constant champion of anything Spencer Krug touches, of course the third Wolf Parade album, Expo 86, made the list. The band recently announced they are going on an "indefinite hiatus" so, although unlikely, this could be the bands last album. Like the first two records, this one is full of solid song after solid song from both Krug and Dan Boeckner. Synths seem to be much more prevalent on Expo which makes you wonder if this was more Krug's baby. Either way if the band never makes another album they'll have one of the best three album streaks in past decade.


10. Broken Social Scene - Forgiveness Rock Record

Another band that always seems to make my lists is Toronto's Broken Social Scene. They haven't ever seemed to step outside of their normal sound, but when you're able to keep things sounding this great when playing (somewhat) middle of the road indie rock I think you're okay. Of course having Feist, Emily Haines and Amy Milan all contribute vocals, you've got a decided advantage. Some of the bands best songs are on this album, particularly the instrumental track 'Meet Me in the Basement'.





9. The Black Angels - Phosphene Dream

The Black Angels are a band that absolutely killed me when I heard their debut album Passover. They were an amazing mix of some great 60's/70's bands (VU, Sabbath, The Doors) but their second album sort of fell flat with me. The band again impresses with their third album Phosphene Dream but they've evolved a bit as a band. They still have heavy stuff like 'Entrance Song' and 'River of Blood' but when you hear a song like 'Sunday Afternoon' and you can tell the band is willing grow musically.



8. Mumford & Sons - Sigh No More

I don't want to dwell on it too much, but I've heard and read this band get shit on a ton this year. Maybe it's because they're so popular after releasing only their debut album (they're even bigger in Europe). Either way, I'm not sure I get the hate. What I hear are a band that can play the hell out of their instruments and songs that continue to kill me after listening to this album endlessly. The one knock on the band I could see are the lyrics, which definitely have some cheese to them. It would be a shame though if someone passed over this album because of the hate it received on some hip music site.


7. Big Boi - Sir Lucious Left Foot...The Son Of Chico Dusty

If I made a list of my favorite rap groups of all time, it would be hard for not to put Outkast at the top. Andre might be my favorite MC of all time, but Big Boi isn't too far behind...and he's the only one of the two making rap albums right now. Big Boi is still one of the most entertaining lyricists in hip-hop and the level of production on these tracks is pretty insane. Just listen to songs like 'Shutterbug' and 'General Patton' and tell me you don't get fired up.




6. Local Natives - Gorilla Manor

LA's Local Natives also fall into the category of bands that should be much bigger than they are. They've got a sound that's friendly to mainstream alternative radio while not sounding out of place at a party in Brooklyn. The reason this album makes it as high on this list as it does is because every song on this album is great. If I'm looking for something to listen to where I know I won't be tempted to skip tracks, Gorilla Manor is my go-to.




5. Future Islands - In Evening Air

The first time I heard the second LP from North Carolina's Future Islands, I was instantly smitten. It sounded at first like Tom Waits fronting a Joy Division & New Order hybrid which is all I needed to be intrigued. I haven't seen this on too many year end lists so this might be a hidden treasure. Something about the perfect spot right between New Wave and Punk always ends up being my favorite types of music. Future Islands do that just about as well as anyone I've heard in recent years.




4. The National - High Violet

At the risk of overusing this phrase, The National are another band that I'm not sure are capable of making a bad album. 2005's Alligator was one of the best albums of that year, 2007's Boxer was even better (and one of my top albums of the last decade) and now High Violet is the third album in a row that is flat-out great. Matt Berninger has continued the lyrical theme of the brooding man negotiating the landscape of middle class adulthood. Re-reading that sentence sounds like a knock, but I don't mean it to be. In fact, Berninger is one of my favorite lyricists and vocalists in music today. This band just can't do any wrong in my eyes.

3. Arcade Fire - The Suburbs

Just like many music fans my age, I think Arcade Fire's debut album Funeral is one of the best albums in a few years. There is something so intense and palatable about it that listening to it now some 6 years later it still sounds as urgent as it did then. Although the band definitely sounds more polished these days, Arcade Fire are still somehow able to capture that nostalgia of youth in a lot of their music. The Suburbs is a pseudo concept album that is essentially about Win Butler and his brother growing up in suburban Houston. It's no Funeral, but it's a much more well rounded album than 2007's Neon Bible. It also has what is now in the running for my favorite song by the band with the album's second to last track 'Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)'.

2. Kanye West - My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy

I know, I know...you probably hate Kanye West. Most people probably do and I understand it. If you're one of those people that haven't listened to his music because of that then you're missing out on someone's who's talent actually matches up to their ego. This is now Kanye's 4th near perfect hip-hop album out of 5 total albums he's released. That's a pretty solid reputation so far. Again, the production is top notch. West is continuously one of the most interesting producers in hip-hop music and he's never short on the impressive guest lists either. The highlight for a music nerd me is definitely the feature of Bon Iver on vocals throughout much of the album.

1. Deerhunter - Halcyon Digest

Nothing in 2010 got as many spins for me as the fourth album from Georgia's Deerhunter. After so many attempts to get into Bradford Cox's music (other than Atlas Sound whom I've always loved) I thought maybe I was missing something that many music fans seemed to love. I feel in love with Halcyon Digest instantly due to it being more accessible overall than most of their earlier stuff. The first track I heard 'Helicopter' was unlike anything that Deerhunter had ever released. It's just one of many different sounding pieces that fit to make a perfect total album. Bradford is also responsible for the best album ending track of the year with the Jay Reatard tribute 'He Would Have Laughed'. The best part is that two of the best songs on the album aren't even sang by Bradford but rather guitarist Lockett Pundt ('Desire Lines' and 'Fountain Stairs'). Halcyon Digest at times reminds me of Yankee Hotel Foxtrot in the fact that a few imperfect songs can in context of a great album sound essential.

-Matt

12.14.2010

2010 Albums Of The Year (50-26)

My best-of post in 2009 stated that the year was a bit of a disappointment and that 2010 looked to be much better. Although I've heard folks say they thought 2010 was a bad year for music, I stand by my prediction. 2010 ended up being a really fantastic year as far as great albums go and was an especially great year for live music in KC & Lawrence.

Let's jump into it with 50-26:

50. Band Of Horses - Infinite Arms

The fact that this is my least favorite Band Of Horses album and it's only number 50 on my list indicates what a big fan I am of this band. Infinite Arms is really good, just not great. I missed their show at the Uptown this fall but saw them open for Pearl Jam. They are starting to make it big and definitely deserve every bit of fame they get. Much more so than a band like Kings of Leon.





49. Nicki Minaj - Pink Friday

Truth be told, I expected to hate this album. It's probably not an album I'd pick up in the first place. That was until I heard Nicki blow Jay-Z and Kanye West away on the Kanye track 'Monster'. That one verse alone prompted me to check out the album and I'm glad I did. It's a bit more R&B than hip-hop, but it's still an entertaining listen all the way through.






48. Holy Fuck - Latin

The Canadian duo Holy Fuck have been a favorite of mine since I heard LP in 2007. I've seen them a few times live since and they are a great live band. They aren't able to convey most of the energy in their live shows onto an album, but I'll listen to them keep trying. Not a knock on their albums because they're great, Holy Fuck is just better in a live setting. They are one of those electronic groups that you might think was a rock band until you saw them live.



47. Gorillaz - Plastic Beach

You'd think with a rotating cast of band members and guests artists it would be tough to keep things consistent over a three album period. Not only consistent in quality but consistent in tone as well, but Gorillaz have been able to do just that. With Plastic Beach, the collective have solidified themselves as being a band I'll continuously buy whatever music they want to sell me.






46. Blonde Redhead - Penny Sparkle

This is another one on the list that, although it was good enough to make the cut in the first place, feels a bit disappointing with how low it is. Blonde Redhead's last two albums are near perfect, intoxicating pop albums, this one is good...but isn't as great as the band is capable of. Sounds like they are veering dangerously towards adult alternative.






45. The Roots - How I Got Over

When compiling this list I noticed I had more hip-hop and R&B albums included than previous years. I hope that trend continues because seeing The Roots at only 45 reinforces what a good year in music this was. The Roots are now elder statesmen in the hip-hop industry and this is their best album since Things Fall Apart.






44. Isobel Campbell & Mark Lanegan - Hawk

To be honest, I could pretty much listen to Mark Lanegan sing anything...and I know I'm not the only one. I'll gladly find and consume almost any project he lends his voice to and this is one of the better ones. His third album with Isobel Campbell is the best one they've put out, and the first two are solid as well. It was hard to pick out a single track from this album so I suggest just picking the whole album up.





43. Antony & The Johnsons - Swanlights

Antony & The Johnsons are continuing quite a streak of releasing great album after great album. He still hasn't topped I Am A Bird Now, but I'm not sure if he ever will. Although some of the tracks are a bit more playful and upbeat than the past records, I'm still a sucker for the sad, depressing stuff, it's what Antony does best. Antony also has the distinct honor of being at the top of the list of artists I want to see live but haven't had a chance to see yet.




42. The War On Drugs - Future Weather

As if the the solo output of Kurt Vile wasn't great enough, we get to hear his genius with The War On Drugs as well. I haven't written about him enough but Kurt Vile is quickly become a favorite of mine and I highly recommend picking up all of his solo albums as well as this newest The War On Drugs album, you can thank me later.






41. Strand Of Oaks - Pope Killdragon

The first Strand Of Oaks album made my top 10 albums of 2009 and although Pope Killdragon isn't as good as Leave Ruin, it shows promise that this band could be around for a while. Taking the hushed vibe of the debut and mixing them with almost a prog sound works well for the band and proves they aren't a one note group.






40. Best Coast - Crazy For You

Best Coast is one of those bands that gets endlessly hyped by Pitchfork and hipsters everywhere before they even released a full album. Those are usually bands I end up hating before hearing a song on principle alone (dumb, I know). Best Coast proved my preconceived notions were wrong with a really solid debut full length album. Stoner surfer rock at it's finest.






39. Abe Vigoda - Crush

I almost never heard the second Abe Vigoda album Crush...mostly because I didn't really like their first album. I'm glad I gave this one a chance because I would have missed out on a great electro-indie pop album that falls along side stuff like Cut Copy and Junior Boys.







38. Phosphorescent - Here's To Taking It Easy

Phosphorescent have always had a country sound to their music and the country influenced continued onto an album full of Willie Nelson covers. On Here's To Taking It Easy, the band goes full-on Willie again with their own tunes. The band hasn't ever sounded this upbeat, especially on highlights like 'It's Hard To Be Humble (When You're From Alabama)'.






37. Blitzen Trapper - Destroyers Of The Void

When I first heard 2007's Wild Mountain Nation (the band's third album) I knew I'd found a band after my own heart. They've calmed down quite a bit since and have almost become the more natural successor to Wilco (sorry Fleet Foxes). The band's fifth album, Destroyers Of The Void, may not be as good as their last album, but it's still great.






36. Plants and Animals - La La Land

Although the great Canadian invasion of indie rock has seemed to slow, there are still a ton of great bands that came up in the past few years. Montreal's Plants and Animals are a band that's hard to categorize. They'd clearly be labeled as indie rock but their songs take a bit from every part of that spectrum. The band is also towards the top of the list of bands that need to come through KC or Lawrence for the first time.





35. The Tallest Man On Earth - The Wild Hunt

Sweden's Kristian Matsson is otherwise known as The Tallest Man On Earth and is no stranger to my lists as his first album was in my top 10 of 2008. If you enjoyed the first one, you'll certainly find more to like here. There aren't too many bands I enjoy listening to on a Sunday morning more than The Tallest Man On Earth. I should also note their also responsible for one of the best EP's of the year with Sometimes The Blues Is Just A Passing Bird.




34. Damien Jurado - Saint Bartlett

Damien Jurado is someone whom I've only gotten into recently. He's got a pretty extensive back catalog as well that I haven't had a chance to dip into quite yet. If their anything like his recent one Saint Bartlett, I'm sure to enjoy them. Jurado's music is also on the mellow side, but still captivating enough to warrant many frequent listens. He get's special recognition for one of the best songs on the album being titled 'Kansas City'.





33. Grinderman - Grinderman 2

I'm a lover of all things Nick Cave and Grinderman is no exception. It seems like Grinderman has become Cave's outlet to be a full on weirdo. Not that Cave was restrained before but this seems a bit more untamed and raw. I'm not sure if I'd play this album around my fiance, but if you're a fan Nick Cave, I highly suggest picking this up.






32. The Sword - Warp Riders

Though they might be a bit cheesy, metal stalwarts The Sword are also a lot of awesome. I like my heavy music with some melody and no screaming vocals and this one passes both tests. I'm sure some hardcore metal guy would kick my ass for thinking this is "metal" but it's heavy enough and the lyrics are as clich├ęd as a lot of the metal I've heard, so it's close enough.






31. Drive-By Truckers - The Big To-Do

The band that got me back into real rock and roll back in college was none other than Drive-By Truckers. Although I didn't love either of the last two albums, the band never puts out a bad album. The Big To-Do is the Truckers back to doing what they do best and that's tell a great story in each song. I just wish they'd bring back the huge rock riffs on a few new songs now and then!





30. Joanna Newsom - Have One On Me

So many double albums could've been considered great rather than just good with the help from a little editing. Even someone I enjoy as much as Joanna Newsom is a bit too much to take for two hours...in fact I'm not sure if I've ever listened to Have One On Me straight through. That being said there are some amazing songs on this album hidden throughout. If this would have been edited down into an hour, it might be a contender for album of the year




29. Junip - Fields

Jose Gonzalez is most famous for his solo career, especially his cover of fellow Swedes The Knife's song 'Heartbeats'. His first band Junip was actually formed back in the late 90's, but didn't release a full length album until Fields. Gonzalez is very much a presence throughout as the singer, but you can tell there are influences other than his own in play here as well. In fact, the album kicks of with one of the best tracks 'In Every Direction' which is way more upbeat than anything from Gonzalez's solo career.


28. Yeasayer - Odd Blood

I feel bad having this album so low on the list considering how much I love the first half. In fact, tracks two through five are all completely brilliant. The thing keeping it so low is that second half just falls off too much. Don't get me wrong, the whole album is worth your time, but this album is extremely top loaded with the best songs.






27. The Morning Benders - Big Echo

This was in my top 10 of the year for a while when it came out in March, but it fell just outside of the top 25 now. The Morning Benders are a very comforting band, they sound like a ton of bands that I'm sure you love and I (once again) don't mean that as a knock at all. The sound on Big Echo was crafted with help from Grizzly Bear's Chris Taylor and you can definitely hear the influence. The band also responsible for one of my favorite songs of the year with the album opener 'Excuses'




26. Wild Nothing - Gemini

Since growing up, I've had an affinity for hazy indie pop and new wave. If you've heard Wild Nothing's debut album Gemini then it's no surprise why I love them. The vocals kind of blend into the music and it sounds like it might have been recorded in a basement, but the songs are absolutely killer. This is definitely music that would have sounded perfect during a climatic scene of a John Hughes movie (probably during prom).





25-1 still to come.

-Matt