Arcade Fire - The Suburbs
I know this one is on everyone’s “best of” lists but that’s only because it really, really should be. If you enjoy listening to music and you’ve ever been a kid who grew up to resent the same things you once loved then this album could very well be your new life anthem.
Tracks of Note: The Suburbs, Modern Man, Month Of May, Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)
I made the mistake of first listening to this album in the car with lots of distractions and without choosing appropriate volume levels. All I could seem to make out was the pervasive use of musical distortion and my ears took none too kindly to it. As I came to find later, a lot of what serves to make this album as amazing and over and over again listenable is the band’s maniacal use of distortion and fuzz throughout. With this album you will find all the goodness of old-time Black Keys with an extra layer of kazoo infused zazz. FYI - Keep in mind the volume while giving it a listen. The louder the better.
Tracks of Note: Howlin’ For You, The Only One, Unknown Brother
For as much praise as their first album received and for as much as I loved the dance-y beat of “Electric Feel”, nothing adequately prepared me for the awesome that was this duo’s second disc. In fact, I much preferred this album to their first as the band deserted the trappings of what made them stars in the first place in search of inspiration from their idols. With tunes like “Song For Dan Treacy” and “Flash Delirium” the band delve into the trippy underbelly of sugary pop songs. This is one of those few albums that I really enjoy listening to on repeat.
Tracks of Note: Song For Dan Treacy, Flash Delirium, Brian Eno
I’m relatively new to the cult of Ms. Newsom but even a recent follower like me can understand the undeniable mystique surrounding the woman as a composer and lyricist. Not to mention that voice. A voice that draws a line in the sand and says “Either take me as I am or leave me as I be”. Her songs are like mini-courses in fables, linguistics and literature. She is unlike any other musician past or present and at the very least deserves a listen so you can figure out which side of the line to stand on.
Tracks of Note: Soft As Chalk, Have One On Me, Baby Birch
Easily one of my favorite bands for the seeming ease with which they deliver a new spin on classic sounds popularized by the pop-pioneers that came before them. These Philly boys bring something new to their repertoire by using elements of sound native to their hometown but somewhat foreign to their past efforts. As much as their detractors may want to claim they are nothing more than a glorified Beatles cover-band; this album shows real growth and proves they’ve got what it takes to stick around.
Tracks of Note: Unbearable Why, Mirror, Mirror, Jackie Wants A Black Eye, Shame, Shame
It’s hard not to love everything that Jenny Lewis does; with her, as always, witty lyrics and silky sweet vocals. Add to the equation her romantic paramour, Johnathan Rice, and you get a surf/pop feel good album full of songs doubtful of love but enamored with lush harmony and summery waves of sound.
Tracks of Note: Switchblade, Big Wave, Animal
I had only very recently heard this band. In that short amount of time they have become an easy favorite. Their sound might initially give off the impression they are aggressive but that’s only until you get to their trippy/psych/pop roots with songs like “Telephone”. Like many other “Black” named bands; they have a rich bluesy sound that isn’t hard to find as long as you’re willing to peel back a thick layer of hazy smoke to get there.
Tracks of Note: Bad Vibrations, Entrance Song, The Sniper
Although not the most groundbreaking album released this year it is by far one of the most unique. With a set of fictional conjoined twin sisters (voiced and portrayed by Amanda Palmer and Jason Webley) and the woeful story of their rise to fame, you will find a sweet and sour (not to mention *strange*) tale unfold throughout the album. Many tracks consist solely of well-spoken dialogue or a sing-song account of the twins’ back story, but that shouldn’t be cause to discount the originality and wit of songs like “My Space” and “Have You Seen My Sister Evelyn?”
At first I hesitated to put this album on my fave list out of pure jealousy. Upon first listen I only had a critical ear for it’s overly simplistic sound and hooks but then it hit me: it was great for just those reasons. The girl behind the album offers her best crash course in lazy 60’s psych/pop and her deeply self-critical lyrics are easy to relate to; making THIS girl want to get off the couch and make some music of her own.
Tracks of Note: Boyfriend, The End, When I’m With You
Much like the Best Coast album this was one of those offerings that upon first listen I may have turned my nose up at calling it “easy”. Give it another listen and a band with such obvious ties to The Beach Boys and their unmistakably breezy, beach-y pop songs, become harder not to love. Although The Drums may have majored in the sounds of their surf-styled predecessors, they most definitely minored in the grittiness of early 80‘s post-punk a’la Joy Division which sets them apart from the rest of the new wave of “surf” bands currently crowding the pool.
Tracks of Note: Let’s Go Surfing, We Tried
Favorite Singles(es?) (chosen because either i liked certain songs so much that I had to *single* them out or because i love the artists but the rest of the album only left me lukewarm. i’ll let you make your own assumptions about which are which.)
Mark Ronson & The Business Intl. (from the album Record Collection) - Bang Bang Bang [Feat. Q-Tip. MNDR] & Record Collection [Feat. Simon Le Bon, Mark Ronson]
Gorillaz (from the album Plastic Beach) - On Melancholy Hill
Sleigh Bells (from the album Treats) - Rill Rill
Favorite Albums you may (or may not) have never heard of that have had some sort of cultural/emotional/sociological significance for me (and possibly a few others, YOU perhaps?) this year otherwise i might not be mentioning them at all and that would be just sad because more people need to hear this stuff because it’s really, REALLY good. stuff.
I really hate the term “punk” when seriously discussing music. Or anything else for that matter. There are probably very, very few bands/songs/albums that can actually honor that moniker in the first place. This band, and this album specifically, is just that. A British, teen-aged, all-girl group who used their rudimentary musical knowledge to infuse reggae and standard rock and pop classics from their youth, to create a sound completely unique. R.I.P. Ari Up (1962 - 2010).
An amazing collection of hits from a man with quite possibly the best voice in music who lived an all too short life. I’m totally obsessed with him. If you don’t know what I’m talking about just listen to “These Arms of Mine” and I have a feeling you will.
One of my greatest hopes is that this band decide to make a follow-up album to this glorious little piece of musical artistry from a few years back. With members of The Strokes and Los Hermanos along with the help of multi-instrumentalist and hipster muse Binki Shapiro at the helm, this album may very well make it into my top 25 of all time. If this group decides to see-it-through and make another record, I foresee the potential for an amazing future in popular music.
Although quite enjoyable, I didn’t find it necessary to include “Lisbon”, the newest album from The Walkmen, on my “favorites of 2010” list. That being said, I am HUGELY in love with this older EP from another band which comprised many of The Walkmen’s current line-up. Listening to this, it seems really clear where The Strokes got so much of their inspiration.
Often dubbed as “Campfire Punk”, this band, sadly, disbanded in October of this year which makes their debut album all the more cherished. Their imperfections make them a band both relatable and genuine. Although it could be argued that without the other the sound would be somewhat unimpressive, together they transcend the mark of “garage-rock duo” or Rolling Stones riff-makers. Makes you wish they’d kept it together a little longer to hear what else they had in store past a Sophomore effort.
If you wan't proof that any of what I say is good and true you can check out my blip.fm page and listen to many of the tracks mentioned on this list.
Happy New Years, Bitches!