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Albums of 2010 That Warmed My Cockles

December 11, 2010

December brings many of my favorite American traditions. TNT’s 24-hour marathon of A Christmas Story, relentless Christmas advertising, my birthday, and the infamous “best of the year” lists of all forms of media. 2010 hasn’t been the best year for music, but it’s been a damn good one that I’m proud to have been heavily involved in. While 2009 had amazing Magnum Opus’ from indie favorites and newcomers (Neon Indian, Girls, Animal Collective, Grizzly Bear, Atlas Sound, Best Coast, Bibio, Drake, Washed Out, and so on), 2010 consisted mostly of “Chillwave,” a very mellow, relaxed, electronic oriented sound developed in 2009 that swept music blog sites and indie radio by storm. However the death of Chillwave is rightfully looming after wearing out its welcome due to nearly every indie artist of 2010 seemingly attempting to emulate the sound. 2010 wasn’t the most diverse year for music but the artists who created their own style has left a lasting impression and made their way into my top 30(ish) albums of the year.

Sufjan Stevens- Age of Adz

Sufjan’s mellow folky music of the past has done nothing but bore me with each attempted listen. However Age of Adz is a more abrasive, electronic, almost spacey album that made love to my ears upon first listen and has and will be in constant rotation for a while.

Avey Tare- Down There

Love, love, love this album. Link above explains why.

Sleigh Bells – Treats

My favorite debut LP of the year. With pounding drums, harsh shrieking guitars, and lead singer Alex Krauss’ sensual poppy voice, Sleigh Bells is the type of music you have to listen to at number 11, regardless of how bad it may hurt.

Salem- King Night

My second favorite break though LP of the year. Salem interestingly enough created their own genre of dupstep, chopped and screwed, electronic oriented music. Their sound is dark, creepy, and harsh but done so well that I still can’t stop listening to them. Hate it or love it, Salem has been the most unique band of the year.

Kanye West- My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy

As much as I dislike the man as a person, Kanye West reminded me that he truly is an incredible musician with this album. West revisits the lyrical prowess and hard hitting hip-hop beats of his first two albums mixed with the lackluster yet intriguing affect of autotuned from his last LP, 808s and Heartbreak. These elements meld perfectly to create an impressive album from first to last song.

Erykah Badu- New Amerykah Part Two

New Amerykah Part One was an incredible album were Erykah used her soulful voice to lyrically focus on societal issues. Part Two is a more stripped down 70s soul/funk oriented personal album that touched me deep down in my heart. Maybe it’s because my personal life reflected many of her lyrics at the time or maybe because she’s simply a musical genius who knows how to express universal themes. Regardless, New Ameykah Part Two is one of the best most underrated albums of the year.

Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti- Before Today

Ariel Pink somehow effectively creates the sound of 1970s and early 80s underground indie bedroom music that was influence by 1960s rock. His music comes off authentic and although it’s its own entity, listening to Before Today feels like I’m listening to found cassette tapes made by some unknown artist decades ago. The entire album seems to embody Echo & The Bunnymen’s 1984 classic Ocean Rain.

Pill Wonder- Jungle/Surf

An album that has been on constant repeat since I first stumbled onto these guys at the beginning of the year. Pill Wonder is a band that sound like if The Beach Boys had a more independent less polished sound with lots reverb. Their music is upbeat, fun, and tropical and always brings a smile to my face when listening.

Phantogram- Eyelid Movies

A trip-hoppy electronic duo, Phantogram is one of my favorite break through artists of the year and the best live shows I’ve had the pleasure to attend. They entwine amazing guitar and vocal work with hip-hop influenced beats and samples to create ridiculously awesome dance music that has left me an empty shell of myself as I wait for a new album.

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

Andre 3000 has always been considered the most universal of the duo Outkast as much of his songs and solo work have contained such great use of psychedelic pop sensibilities, that kids and adults all over the world were singing “Hey Ya.” Yet Antwan Andre Patton aka Big Boi, proved himself as an equally amazing musician with his first solo effort. Sir Lucious Left Foot is an impressive mix of soul, funk, rock, and R&B with great musical production, lyrics and special guests.

Local Natives- Gorilla Manor

My favorite band, favorite concert and favorite album of the year. Local Natives was technically released in 2009 but got released in the states in February of 2010 and since first listen I’ve been addicted to their melodic harmonies, captivating lyrics and amazing musicianship. Everything about Local Natives just screams talent and they’re the type of band I can play at a party and have faith that everyone in the room will enjoy them. Granted their music videos leave much to be desired, their music is astounding.

Beach Fossils- Beach Fossils

Only a handful of artists can stop me in my tracks and just bring a smile to my face when listening to them. Beach Fossils is included in that handful. Their sound is simple: just lazy beachy music with lots of reverb but there’s such a nostalgia and innocence to their music that it just works. Listening to Beach Fossils is like sitting in a meadow of flowers being hugged by a loved one on beautiful, bright, cool, sunny day.

Das Racist- Shut up, Dude

I was initially confused when I first listened to Das Racist. I was sure they were a joke band considering lyrics like “I’m at the Pizza Hut, I’m at the Taco Bell, I’m at the combination Pizza Hut and Taco Bell” and “I hella gotta piss where’s the bathroom? Ask for whom the bell tolls for, ay yo where you get this place from the hellhole store?” But after listening to to Shut Up, Dude I realized they’re just two stoners who believe in stream of consciousness type of rapping and they’re fantastic at it. The thumping dance-friendly beats with intelligently hilarious lyrics make for an impressive and addicting debut album.

White Hinterland- Kairos

An intriguing mix of 90s R&B and low-fi indie pop, White Hinterland is one of the most impressive albums this year. Listening to Kairos calls to mind the golden days of R&B and hip-hop from the snappy beats that recall artists Timbaland & Magoo and Missy Elliott, to singer Casey Daniel’s sweet, soft and fluttering voice that conjures artists like Aaliyah. However while reminiscent of past artists and genres, Karios proves that White Hinterland stands on their own as an original and talented duo.

Miniature Tigers- FORTRESS

I’ve seen these guys perform about five times in a five month period and each performance has always been just as good as the last. Miniature Tigers takes their indie pop sound to new levels on FORTRESS combining electronics and more evolved personal lyrics from songwriter Charlie Brand. Their musical influences from Brian Wilson to Neon Indian come across in FORTRESS and while the album isn’t flawless the good songs are fantastic.

Wavves- King of the Beach
Crystal Castles- Crystal Castles (II)
Tame Impala- Inner Speaker
Cloud Nothings- Turning On
Black Keys- Brothers
Deerhunter- Halcyon Digest
Hannibal Buress- My Names is Hannibal
Gold Panda- Lucky Shiner
Gorillaz- Plastic Beach
Flying Lotus- Cosmogramma
Hooray!- Mixtape Memories
Morning Benders- Big Echo
Caribou- Swin
Freddie Gibbs- Str8 Killa No Filla
Wild Nothing- Gemini
Titus Andronicus- The Monitor

Best EPs of the Year

Balam AcabSee Birds EP

Balam Acab has a Salem effect in that his music is dark with hard hitting bass that make your speakers boom. However, there’s a dreamier, softer, cleaner sound to Balam Acab and I’m dying for an LP release soon.

SluteverSorry I’m Not Sorry EP

Love these girls so hardcore. Hard rocking, 1990s-ish indie punk rock sound with lyrics about girls bitching over guys. Their album cover of a girl sitting on her knees, panties exposed due to her short dress riding up, vomiting on to the floor says it all.

CultsCults 7″

Only three songs from this duo sprang up on music blogs in March and immediately the completely unknown band became an instant success. With beautiful bouncy 1960s vocals and music on top of haunting and even heartbreaking lyrics, Cults quickly became one of the most played artists in my iTunes. Just three songs.

Gauntlet HairEP

Like Cults, Gauntlet Hair randomly sprang up on music blogs early in the year, received buzz from indie blog site Pitchfork, and blew up in the indie music world and rightfully so. Only four songs have officially been released from the Colorado duo but already there’s promise in their music. With hard hitting drums with a snappy rhythmic guitar and beautiful reverb, Gauntlet Hair may be indie rocks saving grace.

GIVERSGivers EP

There’s so much to say about GIVERS as musicians and performers. The five piece group mixes folk, rock, afrobeat and dance music in a way that no other band has. Their sound is similar to Vampire Weekend but without the obvious Paul Simon influences. GIVERS top themselves as musicians during their live performances which involve lead vocalists Taylor and Tif performing as if their lives depended on it. Their music is infectious but seeing them live is a must and I’m waiting on pins and needles for the day they return to Atlanta.

Ima RobotAnother Man’s Treasure EP

Apparently this EP sounds nothing like Ima Robot’s previous works. However if that’s the case then I pray that this laid back, mellow, head nodding sound is the new direction the band takes.

Twin SisterColor Your Life

Initially I wasn’t impressed with Twin Sister’s whispering vocals and dreamy 80s oriented sound. But after seeing them perform live something clicked and the drum machine beats, wistful keyboards, angelic vocals, and elegant sound grew on me to the point of obsession with the music and the band members themselves.

Active ChildCurtis Lane EP

A man with a hard, sample pad, and choir voice. Nothing else needs to be said about Pat Grossi aka Active Child except his music is incredible and I will marry him some day because of it.

We Are TreesBoyfriend EP

19-year-old James Nee proves to be one of the most impressive newcomers under his moniker We Are Trees. Boyfriend is a four song EP that displays Nee’s beautifully focused voice with marvelously played instrumentation that just feels comforting to listen to. He’s like Grizzly Bear’s Daniel Rossen without the epic exaggerated ensemble.

Sunny Ali and KidTry Harder EP

This country rock oriented duo created an impressive EP that had me hoping for more of the same honest and open lyrics and rocking vibe from their follow up Spookwave Vol. 1 but was sorely disappointed.

GirlsBroken Dreams Club EP

Somehow Girls’ frontman Christopher Owens’ has an uncanny ability to tap into the mental distress of being a girl and regurgitate those feelings through lyrics and emotion in his songs. Nearly every song from the EP replicates the emotional ups and downs I’ve experience this year.

KeepawayBabystyle EP

Keepaway’s gotten a bad rap for sounding too much like Animal Collective. And while they do share similarities because of their multilayered songs, experimental structures and harmonies, Keepaway’s debut is a fresh enough sound that was played in solid rotation all year.

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