Monday, December 20, 2010

Top 10 Albums of 2010

Quick note, I want to point out that I customized my title bar and am very pleased with it.  Everyone look at it.  You look at it?  Alright, moving on...

At first I didn't think I would actually do a Top 10.  I've gotten a lot of music this year and I haven't given all of it a really good listen.  However, over the past few days I've made an effort to listen to some albums that I've been meaning to get to.  With that being said, there's still a handful of albums I didn't listen to as much as I would have liked and those albums will not be on my Top 10 unfortunately.  Then, I almost didn't want to do it again because I found myself grinding my teeth and pulling my hair as to which albums would be in my Top 10.  I picked out twenty albums and narrowed it down from them, but even as I'm writing this, I'm trying to figure out which album will take the last spot in my Top 10 and I'm torn between three albums.  What's even harder is taking those albums and ranking them against one another.  Fortunately, I've managed to narrow it down and am proud to present my Top 10 albums of 2010.

First, I want to start off with a few honorable mentions that didn't make the list and I'm sad that they didn't:
  • The Black Keys - Brothers
  • The Dead Weather - Sea of Cowards
  • Philip Selway - Familial
  • Soft Circle - Shore Obsessed

10. Spoon - Transference

For anyone that knows me, it was hard for me to put Spoon in the tenth spot.  As much as I love them and as much as I would love to put them at #1, I just couldn't.  Fortunately for them, they still made the list and it isn't because I'm in love with them (in a completely platonic way, of course).  Spoon started out creating rock music with an incredible amount of experimentation and versatility.  In Transference, released early in 2010, they seem to have settled down into a comfort zone, but that isn't necessarily a bad thing.  While experimentation is almost completely absent, the band still manages to juxtapose their rock side and their soft side with songs such as "Got Nuffin" and "Good Night Laura" respectively.  Other songs play with awkward melodies such as "Written in Reverse" showing that the band may still be using a bit of implicit experimentation.

9. D-Sisive - Vaudeville

D-Sisive is my dark horse this year and Vaudeville is the only album to make it on the Top 10 from the radio station (not saying they gave me bad music, incredible music is just hard to come by).  Making the album after a bout with depression, D-Sisive blew the doors off with three full length albums and one EP.  He has a passion and drive for hip-hop like Jay-Z and a funny bone like Eminem.  Not only is his flow smooth and his voice unique, but he's versatile.  The amount of emotion in Vaudeville is incredible with several heart felt songs as well as bone crushing ones.  He also knows how to generate success, with certain tracks catering to a more main stream audience ("I Love a Girl") and others to a more independent one ("Ray Charles").  He's creative, smart, powerful and is definitely going to make a name for himself.  Who knew Canada could have a hip-hop movement?

8. The National - High Violet

I have some people that are going to be mad at me for this one.  Okay, maybe not mad, but... well, you know who you are.  High Violet is one of the albums that I didn't really get a chance to listen to it when it first came out.  The first time I heard it I was on a road trip and didn't really listen to it.  However, over the past couple of days, I've managed to really give it a solid listen and appreciate it.  While at times Matt Berninger's vocals might seem like a monotonous drone, what he's saying is deep and meaningful.  One lyric in particular caught me off guard in the song "Conversation 16" when he states "I was afraid, I'd eat your brains/ 'Cause I'm evil."  Once I heard that, I started the album over and really started concentrating on the lyrics.  The melodies do a good job of either mimicking Berninger's unique tone or contrasting it, both of which manage to work successfully for The National.  The most powerful blending of the two has to be in the song "Sorrow," especially when Berninger sings "Sorrow found me when I was young/ Sorrow waited, sorrow won."

7. Arcade Fire - The Suburbs

Again, this was an album that I didn't really give a good listen to until recently and was one of the albums I was pressed to put on the Top 10.  Arcade Fire has an incredible sound with their eight members and manage to make songs that are more like works of art.  While The Suburbs may not be their best album to date, it definitely manages to put a gold star on their repertoire of music.  Win Butler's vocals in "Rococo" are hypnotic and full of fervor as he makes slight alterations in the repeating of the song's title, ranging from shouting, to whining, to wailing.  The song is a masterpiece and definitely my favorite off of the album.  Furthermore, with a grand sized band comes a large scale sound and vision.  The Suburbs plays out like a story throughout, something no doubt planned out by the band with the last song echoing the opening track, "The Suburbs."

6. Cee-lo Green - The Lady Killer

Cee-lo almost burned me bad on this one.  Right before this came out, I downloaded one of his past albums and was blown away.  When I found out that The Lady Killer was nearing its release date, I lost my mind.  Unfortunately, at first, I was disappointed; The Lady Killer didn't have the same raw edge to it that Cee-lo Green is... the Soul Machine did.  Fortunately, as I continued to listen to the album, I realized that Cee-lo had a completely different approach to this album.  The Lady Killer features passion and sensuality instead of playful funk and sex.  "Bodies" is full of raw emotion and seduction, "I Want You" is a powerful love ballad, and "Bright Lights Bigger City" starts the album off with a funky search for love.  He still manages to have some more fun and sexy songs such as "Fuck You" (an unfortunate victim of Glee) and "Love Gun."  While Cee-lo isn't as playful and sexual as in his previous album, he's more mature and passionate, making The Lady Killer have a smooth, seducing sound. 

5. Atmosphere - To All My Friends, Blood Makes the Blade Holy: The Atmosphere EP's

Alright, anyone who REALLY knows me knows that it was hard for me to put Atmosphere at number five.  However, I had to put them here because I couldn't decide whether or not I wanted them here because the album is actually great or because I'm in love with them (in a completely sexual way, of course).  While this album is technically titled as a collection of EP's, I am an avid listener of Atmosphere and never before have I ever heard any of these songs.  With that being said, To All My Friends captures each and every aspect of Atmosphere: their aggressive, down to reality side; their fun loving, well wishing side; their oddly cynical side; and their lyrically creative, story telling side.  Slug, the lead rapper of Atmosphere, has a way of telling stories that is seldom heard in the hip-hop world and To All My Friends is no exception.  In one song, Slug tells a story of deceptive friends, expressing regret, anger, and frustration in "The Loser Wins," where as in "Hope" he curiously wishes someone a good day in a sarcastic, almost arrogant tone.  Atmosphere's versatility and longevity still manages to amaze me and they easily make this list.

4. Kanye West - My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy

It almost pains me to put Kanye above Atmosphere, but I had to.  Kanye West definitely surprised me with his newest album My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy; I had almost gone on strike against the man until he released this thing.  West manages to breath life into his career with the song "POWER" which is an intense, dynamic, slightly narcissistic song with a heavy bass and infectious sound.  He also manages to show musical prowess concerning mood with "Monster" and "Runaway," songs that are almost complete opposites in terms of feeling and vibe.  "Monster" is aggressive and primal, with smooth, yet unrelenting verses coming from Rick Ross, Jay-Z, and Nicki Minaj.  "Runaway" almost humbles West with his tribute to douche bags and is easily the high point of the album with the simple yet profound piano melody.  What strengthens this album, however, is West's incredible supporting cast with artists such as Jay-Z, Nicki Minaj, Pusha T, Rick Ross, and John Legend all making an appearance.  While this may not be the strongest album in West's discography, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Family will always be remembered as a successful album that came out of a torrential downpour of bullshit and an ever present negative spotlight.

3. Big Boi - Sir Lucious Left Foot: The Son of Chico Dusty

I'll be the first to admit that my favorite person from Outkast is Andre 3000.  I'll even say that Andre 3000 is one of my favorite rappers and I wouldn't even consider Big Boi in that category.  Well, Sir Lucious Left Foot shut me up.  This album, while highly anticipated, came out of no where for me.  While the production quality of the album is shocking, what is more surprising is Big Boi's new found musical versatility.  I always took him as the more aggressive, gangster like of the duo, but songs such as "The Train Part II (Sir Lucious Left Foot Save The Day)" and "Hustle Blood" (easily one of the best songs off of the album) show that he too has an emotional side to rival that of Andre 3000's.  "Shutterbug" and "Tangerine" are reminiscent of "The Way You Move" from Outkast's Speakerboxxx/ The Love Below and show that Big Boi still knows how to get a crowd going, in particular the women.  However many times I listen to "Shutterbug" I will never get sick of it; Big Boi's flow is as sick as ever in his homage to memories and good times.  "Tangerine" is sexy, smooth, and dark with the ever present tribal drum beat and guitar line, with an occasional appearance from the tambourine (an element echoed in the lyrics).  "Shutterbug" will go down as a viral club hit and "Hustle Blood" shouldn't be forgotten as the album's most surprising and successful song, coming together to make an incredibly versatile solo album for Big Boi.

2. Foals - Total Life Forever

People will be confused by this pick, most likely because not many people have heard of them.  I've even second guessed putting them here because of that fact.  However, whenever Total Life Forever comes on, I can't stop listening.  Every track stands out in my mind when I listen to it and while earlier this year I said I only picked them as a top album contender because I really like them, that no longer holds true.  Foals manage to create an interesting sound in Total Life Forever that can't really be pinned down.  They parallel bands like Friendly Fires at times with their more upbeat, staccato infested songs and high pitched vocals ("Blue Blood"), but other times they sound like Ratatat, utilizing a more floating, ambient, synthesized melody ("Alabaster").  At first glance, nothing about Total Life Forever seems incredibly ground breaking or even new, but the way they layer their sound and contrast certain timbres and sounds is without doubt fascinating both technically and musically.  Some people may disagree with me about this pick and may not even enjoy them as much as I do, but in my opinion, Foals is on the upswing and creates a complex, yet pleasant masterpiece with Total Life Forever.

1. Janelle Monae - The ArchAndroid

The ArchAndroid is an album that has received high praise from me and just about everyone this year.  It has received stellar reviews from critics and everyone I know who has listened to it has loved it.  I almost forgot how great this album was, but when I saw Janelle Monae open up for Of Montreal, I remembered how much I not only loved this album, but how much I loved her.  Janelle Monae is an entertainer to say the least and she loves doing what she does.  While this isn't straight from the horses mouth, I have a feeling that she not only does what she does because she loves it, but because she is constantly striving to change what music is.  Monae has an incredible voice and can without doubt belt, such as in "Come Alive (War Of The Roses)", but has a decent rap flow that can be seen in "Dance Or Die" and "Tightrope."  She's not only enchanting, but at times confusing and I sometimes struggle to understand how the same quirky, weird, sexual person I heard in "Wondaland" is the same elegant, smoky siren in "BaBopBye Ya."  While I haven't managed to listen to her past works, I understand they're extraordinary and I plan to listen to them immediately.  Monae is not only exciting on her album, but she is an incredible performer.  Never before have I been to a concert where I liked the opening band more than I liked the headliner.  Without question, I will see Janelle Monae when she tours through Colorado on her own.  She's sexy, fun, quirky, aggressive, smooth, smoky, rough, weird, inspired, passionate, intelligent, funky, and soulful and Janelle Monae's The ArchAndroid is easily my number one album of 2010.

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