It wasn't hard to choose my favourite ten albums of 2010. For most, the past year in music may be remembered as the year some endured sweating through Beiber fever or the year of the feel good "Fuck You" anthem. However I'll remember the audio antics of 2010 another way. Here's the list of my favourite ten albums of the year; in no particular order.
Mark Ronson & the Business Intl. - Record Collection
Record Collection manages to sound unique and familiar all at once. Most likely because Ronson first entered the music industry as a turntablist who was known for mixing and producing (he won a Grammy as Producer of the Year for his work with Amy Winehouse; then had it out with her via twitter.) Ronson, the son of Foreigner guitarist Mick Ronson, is heavily influenced by hip-hop and the affect that genre had on him is evident on Record Collection. The album features pop anthems (Bang Bang Bang,) songs about love gone sour (You Gave Me Nothing, Somebody to Love Me) and instrumental snippets (Selector, Circuit Breaker, The Colour of Crumar.) Record Collection also boats an impressive guest list featuring MNDR, Q-Tip, Simon LeBon, Ghostface Killah and Rose Elinor Dougall of the Pipettes.
The Bike Song featuring Kyle Falconer & Spank Rock
TOKiMONSTA - Midnight Menu
Much like her techno contemporary Flying Lotus, L.A.'s Jennifer Lee melds electronic and orchestral sources to create something completely fresh. Midnight Menu has moments of chill out coolness (Sweet Day,) fuzzy journeys (Questing,) disco throwbacks (Death By Disco) and old school drum and bass (Cheese Smoothie.) Electronic music fans everywhere are clamouring to hear what TOKiMONSTA will serve up next.
Sa Mo Jung
The National - High Violet
The National's album High Violet certainly soared high on the charts; reaching #2 in Canada and #3 in the US. It's not hard to see,or hear, why this NYC-based band's fifth studio album has been so successful. Matt Berninger's beat down baritone vocals spin subdued stories matched by late '90s-inspired guitar driven music. Which is fitting as The National was born out of the post punk scene. Tracks like Blood Buzz Ohio and Afraid of Everyone manage to make High Violet depressive yet somehow delightful.
Gorillaz - Plastic Beach
Musician Damon Albarn and artist Jamie Hewlett are three times lucky with Gorillaz's third outing. With a diverse guest list including Snoop Dogg, Bobby Womack, Little Dragon, Lou Reed and Mos Def, this album will make you forget that its title is inspired by a huge environmental catastrophe. Plastic Beach includes moments of orchestral grandeur (Orchestral Intro, Pirate's Progress,) greatly done grime (White Flag,) and slippery, clubby grooves (Empire Ants.) Plastic Beach once again shows that these animated, anthropomorphised apes are able to appeal to all by constantly changing their creative chatter.
Welcome to the World of the Plastic Beach featuring Snoop Dog
Empire Ants featuring Little Dragon (live)
Surfer Blood - Astro Coast
Surfer Blood's sound is more snowy than sunny. However the band hails from West Palm Beach, Florida and their debut album, Astro Coast, has given countless critics the chills. Lead singer John Paul Pitts may have a kind of a d-bag voice but that hasn't stopped the music buying masses from falling in love with this album; especially the tracks Swim and Catholic Pagans.
Arcade Fire - The Suburbs
Back with another concept album, Montreal natives Arcade Fire have gone from an obscure indie rock band to world wide acclaim in seven short years. Deliciously distopian, The Suburbs has been nominated for the Album of the Year Grammy Award; further proof Win Butler and company are setting the world ablaze with their counterculture consciousness.
Crystal Castles - Crystal Castles (II/2010)
Occasionally caustic (Doe Deer, I Am Made of Chalk) and sometimes clear and cloudless (Suffocation, Vietnam,) Toronto duo Crystal Castles have built a fortress of in your face techno pop. The album was recorded at odd locations such as an abandoned church in Iceland and a cabin in Northern Ontario. Music maker Ethan Kath recorded the album's instrumentation and then handed off CD-Rs of the music to vocalist Alice Glass who would then pen lyrics. An innovative method for making music has made for an unprecedented record. Crystal Castles was long listed for the 2010 Polaris Music Prize and Pitchfork bestowed the album with the label "Best New Music."
Not In Love
Year of Silence
Land of Talk - Cloak & Cipher
In an interview I conducted with Land of Talk lead singer Liz Powell for SoundProof, Powell said she hoped her next album would find her getting back to the sound that made her want to play music in the first place. If the sound she was after was well thought out pop rock, then Powell has achieved her goal. On the Montreal band's second full length album, Powell effortlessly shifts from hard rock (Swift Coin) to billowy pop (Quarry Hymns) making for a fully realized and mature album.
Wavves - King of the Beach
Nathan Williams of Wavves may be a bit unconventional, much like his noise pop music. In 2009, after allegedly taking a combination of ecstasy and Valium, he was forced to cancel his set at the Barcelona Primevera Sound Festival. This incident caused caused the only other member of Wavves to quit. Yet on King of the Beach he doesn't shy away from talking about addiction (Post Acid) or self loathing (Green Eyes.) The title track is a kiss off song, demonstrating that Williams may be a screw up but he also possesses confidence and resilience. King of the Beach may not be for everyone but this album is far more coherent than anything else Wavves has put out (see Weed Demon or So Bored.) Wavves doesn't think outside of the box; Wavves uses the box as an amphitheater.
King of the Beach
Jenny & Johnny - I'm Having Fun Now
Girlfriend/boyfriend Jenny Lewis and Jonathan Rice have crafted an alternative country score that is both saccharine and bittersweet. Lewis may have an acid tongue however the lyrics she croons are as soft as rabbit fur. Sharp melodies like Scissor Runner perfectly showcase the duo's talents and their cutting narratives make for some of the best musical storytelling that's been put out in years.
Just Like Zeus