Top 10 Records of 2010

(Originally posted on the Facebooks on 12.3.10, now with commentary!)

10. Gorillaz- Plastic Beach


One of the most underrated albums of 2010, in my humblest of opinions. Gorillaz are one of those bands that most people know, yet few really get deep into their records. On Plastic Beach, Damon Albarn and his animated crew make sadness and detachment sound like a futuristic vacation. Of course, great collaborations abound and keep things interesting (See Little Dragon’s contributions, a surprising turn from Lou Reed, and the always appealing Mos Def). Favorite track: “Rhinestone Eyes”

9. The Morning Benders- Big Echo

Seeing that Grizzly Bear’s Veckatimest topped my best albums list in ’09, I had high hopes for this record as it drew early comparisons to GB and was co-produced by its bassist Chris Taylor. It didn’t disappoint. The standout tracks here are more accessible and hook tinged than GB’s sound, though less intricate and ambitious. Big Echo’s delicate melody carries you throughout and it will be exciting to see where these guys take their sound next. In a divergent pairing of acts they opened for The Black Keys at a one-off club gig during Lollapalooza; it was easily my choice show of the year. Favorite track: “Cold War”

8. Yeasayer- Odd Blood

It took me awhile to come around on Odd Blood. I loved 2007’s All Hour Cymbals and probably judged this one prematurely. I was initially drawn to Yeasayer’s weirdness- from their videos to the faraway sound that set them apart from other Brooklyn buzz bands. So, it took me awhile to digest the pure pop treatment of lead single “Ambling Alp” and the seemingly out of place positive vibes. But like all good records, it grew on me. It’s different than their debut; it’s not just more of the same and ultimately I see that as growth- weird and beautiful growth. Favorite track: “ONE”

7. Kanye West- My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy

It’s almost like people reserved a spot in their year end lists for Yeezy before tracks started to hit the interwebs. Love him or hate him, you knew this record was going to be something special. I won’t lie, the first full listen through I tried to disprove that notion. He can’t be that good. His crazy will get the best of him at some point. Not here, not on this album. Kanye’s simply one of the seminal artists of our generation. Twisted Fantasy takes everything he’s done before, combining the best of his earlier work with the side-stepping 808’s and Heartbreak, and outdoes it. Favorite track: “Runaway”

6. The Drums- S/T

After getting super into their Summertime! EP late last year, The Drums’ self titled full length was high on my list of anticipated summer releases. “Let’s Go Surfing” and “Saddest Summer” got some healthy rotation at the ballpark in 2010, so I was a little bummed to see the latter was left off the LP (in addition to highlights “Submarine” and “I Felt Stupid”). All things considered, those omissions don’t keep this record from being a great collection of simple pop songs. Like a heavily stripped down throwback to ‘80s groups I grew up listening to in my dad’s car, The Drums’ modest stylings are a welcome change of pace. Favorite track: “I Need Fun In My Life”

5. Sleigh Bells- Treats

Did you know that male half of the Sleigh Bells’ duo played guitar in Poison the Well? I didn’t. Although I have a couple of Poison the Well records from a brief hardcore phase in college, I never would have thought someone in that band could produce a sound like this. Sure there are aggressive beats and air raid guitars, but its euphoric anthem after euphoric anthem on Treats. Derek Miller and singer Allison Krauss capture lightning in a bottle, combining both fury and head bobbing enjoyment in every cut. Favorite track: “Kids”

4. Local Natives- Gorilla Manor

I’m a sucker for harmonies. Always have been, always will be. My friend Shaun and I discovered the harmony aficionados of Local Natives by total accident. We went to go see a college buddy play a solo show at Fresno’s Starline on a Wednesday night, then stuck around for the main act- all of whom appeared to be too scenester for their own good. They certainly looked the part and we didn’t give them much credit- until they started playing. Local Natives aren’t breaking much new ground, but on Gorilla Manor they distill a comprehensive indie sound that many others wish they could have done. Favorite track: “World News” 

3. LCD Soundsystem- This is Happening

Both This is Happening and The Black Keys’ Brothers were released on the same day in May. I waited to buy both albums until said day, but then I had to decide which record to play first. I went with LCD Soundsystem. There’s something infinitely exciting about James Murphy, a deep layering of sheer boldness, and sometimes it takes awhile to fully appreciate his genius. At times this album can be challenging, but its always fun. Even when the lyrical content is more serious or self-critical, its still a fun ride played out by a master composer and his talented band mates. Favorite track: “All I Want”

2. The Black Keys- Brothers

Anyone who really enjoys good music should be a fan of The Black Keys. These guys are just about as raw and talented as any rock and roll outfit going. They’re incredible live. The blues-heavy grooves created by Dan Auerbach and Pat Carney are undeniably good. While Attack & Release may have featured producer Danger Mouse’s flair as equally as the band’s sound, it’s Auerbach who runs Brothers to new heights. His voice fully envelops this record, standing on par with the riffs and rhythm. From the falsetto on the stellar opener “Everlasting Light” to the yearning on “Unknown Brother”, his voice is the secret weapon on an album that’s tough not to love. Favorite track: “Everlasting Light”

1. Arcade Fire- The Suburbs


There are very few bands that you expect masterpiece records from. Albums that are not only good, but albums that push everything forward and make other artists seem like they’re not even on the same playing field. At some point, hopefully very far from now, Win Butler’s collective won’t churn out albums as important as Funeral or The Suburbs. It’s a fact that even the brightest bands can’t stay totally relevant forever. But for now and the immediate future, Arcade Fire is at the top of the rock game. They are an endlessly talented and ambitious band that seems to make all the right moves and write all the perfect songs. In an era where connectivity to artists is at an all time high, they maintain a mystique reserved for the biggest bands in the land. During their headlining set at Lollapalooza, the band burned through a majority of The Suburbs only days after its release. From the crowd’s reaction though, you couldn’t pick out the new tracks. You relate to these songs immediately, but they get better with every listen. It’s unrealistic to keep expecting this kind of output from a band, so for now just enjoy artists at the peak of the creative prowess. Favorite track: “Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)”

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