I'm finally getting around to picking out the ten albums which I think were among the best of last year. Keep in mind that I'm not the sort of reviewer that receives tons and tons of promotional material, so I have to limit myself to what I've actually heard. That doesn't mean that there aren't a ton of other records out there that would qualify!

For this post, I went through all of the albums that I had reviewed during 2010, and I noted any which I had given above an 8 on the scale of 1-10. Since my opinions changed over time, I took all of those, and I picked out ten records which have continued to provide satisfaction over time. There are several more albums which I rated highly, but that I haven't necessarily chose to listen to time after time. They were admirable for perhaps pushing popular music forward, or in a different direction, but they mostly consisted of music that stands neither the test of time or regularity. 

Of course, there are also albums which have managed to last on my playlists that I just didn't have room to include - that's what happens when you assign yourself an arbitrary number to showcase. 

So, in no particular order : 

Corinne Bailey Rae - The Sea

There was a long hiatus between the first album by Corinne and this second one. In that time, she lost her husband, music moved on, and she grew in stature. In other words, people were expecting a lot from her, and she delivered. There's a melancholy tinging "The Sea" which wasn't present on the first record, but that's to be expected. What was a pleasant surprise was the quality of the songwriting on songs such as "I'd Do It All Again" and "Paris Nights/New York Mornings". There's still a mellowness to her style that is as affecting as it was in the past. 

Kanye West - My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy

Much like his contemporaries, Kanye West has moved beyond the mindless braggadocio of a simple beat set to bluster. This album is one of the most complex things done not only last year, but for several years. The lyrical content remains mean and nasty, but the music chosen and performed runs the gamut from old progressive rock to newfangled electronica. This album is, by far, the best thing that Kanye's ever done.

Tunng - ...And Then We Saw Land

With the revival of British folk, even though the tropes of the genre have been twisted into new and occasionally unrecognizable shapes, this album by Tunng stood out for sheer cleverness of the arrangements. Listenable from beginning to end, and unmired in the miserableness of some of their contemporaries, the album represents a new peak for the group and the genre. 

Rumer - Seasons Of My Soul

This album is more than the Karen Carpenter-Burt Bacharach hodgepodge which many detractors have made it out to be. One of the most striking things about it - aside from the gorgeous arrangements and celestial vocals - is the fact that Rumer is a thoughtful and poignant songwriter. That's evident in nearly every song on the record, as she weaves intelligent lyrics into stories that give a clear picture of herself as a person and a performer. 

Tinie Tempah - The Disc-Overy

Patrick Okogwu has so much talent that this record is bursting with ideas and brightness. British rap and/or grime had been a largely ignored phenomenon up until the past two years, but it was recently becoming bogged down in its own popularity. Tinie Tempah revitalized the field right out of the gate with "Pass Out", and for the most part this album realizes his potential.

Beach House - Teen Dream

Nice to see this Baltimore duo take its place among the greats. They had labored in obscurity before this record, where everything they had tried to do in the past was brought together in a cohesive and attractive style. The album is as "indie" as it gets, but the songs transcend labels and maintain a soporific languor that sounds as undeliberate and natural as possible - even though it was probably all planned to the nth degree. 

Robyn - Body Talk

It's best to discuss the three mini-albums that Robyn released this year as one "body" of work. Perfectly in tune with modern pop music, and using the tricks that have served everyone from Katy Perry to Britney Spears in recent years, Robyn has a warmth and a style all her own. From "Hang With Me" to "Indestructible", these songs are absolutely the best that pop music has to offer in the 21st century.

Janelle Monae - The ArchAndroid

Using the Beatles "Sgt. Pepper" as a template, Janelle Monae put together an ambitious and beautiful record in "The ArchAndroid". R&B, soul, electronica, rock, jazz - it's all here, and it's laid out from beginning to end with care. This is an album that begs to be listened to as an ALBUM, rather than a discrete series of songs. 

Arcade Fire - The Suburbs

In the past, Arcade Fire teetered on the edge of unbelievability for me. Their music was clever, but it seemed to frequently be self-consciously analyzing itself for anthemic chutzpah. "The Suburbs" is the album where they truly matured, putting together a concept record that was varied and strong. They have made themselves into one of the best bands in the world with this record. 

Bombay Bicycle Club - Flaws

With a million "landfill" indie groups out there, it takes courage to completely change your style and opt for something a little different than the usual. BBC took a natural step and it paid off - the entire album is done acoustically. The record also tames their quirkiness and just delivers beautiful song after song. 

I realize that my list has some coincidence with what music reviewers have been putting on their own end-of-the-year lists, but that's probably because they were really good albums. There are also some records here that I haven't seen anywhere. 

So what do YOU think? What were your favorites this past year? The floor is open to discussion!
 


Comments




Leave a Reply