The rest of the best according to my ears in 2010. Be sure to leave your disagreements, agreements, top 5, 10 or whatever you’d like in the comments.
1. Kanye West – My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy
Probably the best album of Kanye’s career and certainly the best of 2010. In the past, Mr. West’s albums suffered from the inconsitency and cohesiveness of masterpiece. On MBDTF, West has triumphant pop records (“All of the Lights”), experimentation a la 808‘s (“Runaway”), grimy posse cuts (“So Appalled”) and focused hip-hop (“Power”). Though he certainly doesn’t sound as pained as he did on 808‘s, the tumultuous past few years has inspired Kanye to step up lyrically. “Lost In the World” masterfully expounds on a Bon Iver sample, while “Dark Fantasy” has some of the best punchlines ‘Ye has uttered in years. He even manages to get some impressive features from the likes of Nicki Minaj and Rick Ross who I normally refrain from. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1uS96qqF9Gg&feature=related
2. Local Natives – Gorilla Manor
The album I listened to the most in 2010 by far. Local Natives intrigued me with the tribal harmonies of “Sun Hands”, but reeled me in with the charm of the entire Gorilla Manor album. The layered vocals and sing-a-long nature draws most listeners in, but the story telling is probably the most underrated element of the band. The heartfelt letter of a missed relative on “Airplanes” and lustful conversation of “Cards and Quarters” aren’t to be missed.
Local Natives – Sun Hands (free mp3) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1QjvgWgHKCY
3. LCD Soundsystem – This Is Happening
I initially thought This Is Happening‘s long tracks (3:30 to 10 minutes) couldn’t work for today’s ADD listening habits, but the way songs shift and pack in so many elements couldn’t be more perfect. Prime example, the subtle first notes on “Dance Yrself Clean” build with subtle words, which lead to a pounding beat and a shout worthy hook from James Murphy. Things just get better from there with the disruptive relationship on “I Can Change” and letting go with “Home”. The only song that semi-annoyed me was “Drunk Girls”, but I ended up coming around to its nonsensical fun. If this really is LCD Soundsystem’s last album, they went out on a hell of a note.
4. The National – High Violet
After five albums, The National continue to be the model of consistency. High Violet has all of the epic-ly built sounds that play up Matt Berninger’s baritone vocals and paint great landscapes for tales of despair in city life. I’m always amazed at how they can turn songs about distress and anxiety into anthems (see “Bloodbuzz Ohio”, “I’m Afraid of Everyone”, “Anyone’s Ghost”).
5. Arcade Fire – The Suburbs
Coming off the especially dark, but superb Neon Bible, I expected Arcade Fire to stay in the somber lane. Instead, the band offered up their most accessible album to date in The Suburbs. There are still musings of fear (“City With No Children”) and anxiety with today’s society (“The Suburbs”), but there is a slight sound of hope and optimism (“Month of May”). On another positive note, Win Butler steps aside at times to showcase Regine’s Chassagne’s chilling vocals, especially on standout cut “Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)”. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UmXVH0gQuLw&feature=related
Top tracks of the year coming soon…