Tony Walters - Top Eleven Albums of 2010
Pretty interesting list; some well deserved spots like Big Boi in the top 5 (and yes, Fo Yo Sorrows with it’s chiptune/IDM beat shouldn’t work in a rap song but it does, and well) and of course, Beach House. Surprisingly enough, Sufjan Stevens and Arcade Fire are pretty low in the list! Excellent write up and I appreciate the thorough explanations. - Ryan
Tony Walters November 14 at 5:59pm
The Top Eleven
10. TIE between Future Islands-In Evening Air & Twin Shadow-Forget
Lame, I know, but I really just could not choose between the two, as these are two of my favorites of the year. Future Islands bring to fruition the talent their first album hinted at, and this album is synth pop at its finest. From the euphoric beginner, Walking Through That Door, to the rousing and dramatic centerpiece Inch of Dust, to the weary defeated ending As I Fall, the themes of love and loss are boldly proclaimed through synths and Samuel T. Herrings melodramatic rasp.
Twin Shadow is an equally powerful album, possessing a nostalgic quality throughout that adds power to George Lewis Jr.’s simple but profound lyrics. I Can’t Wait, At My Heels and Yellow Balloon are some of my personal favorites, but the hardest hitter may be the haunting and powerful closer, Forget. Consistently great from start to finish.
9. Crystal Castles-Crystal Castles
-Eagerly anticipated due to the huge success of their first, this one did not disappoint, and I was personally happier to see new direction instead of a rehash of their first. The diversity of this album can be summed up by the stark contrast between Celestica, a polished and touching track that perhaps is showing a tender side of Alice Glass, and the track that immediately follows it, Doe Deer, a rough, raw, energy filled minute and a half filled with screeches. Not a bad track on the album, and I am particularly fond of the sigur-ros sampling Year of Silence in addition to the previously mentioned Doe Deer.
8. Arcade Fire-The Suburbs
-Should be showing up on a lot of top ten lists, and with good reason. This is an immaculately crafted album, from a band that just cannot seem to disappoint. I long ago accepted that nothing they make will quite match up to Funeral, but damn if they haven’t been coming close with their albums. They still have that classic Arcade Fire sound, but add to their repertoire of sounds with some sonic exploration, culminating in the amazing Sprawl II. Epic.
7. Sufjan Stevens-The Age of Adz/All Delighted People EP
-Had to resist the temptation to bump this up to number 1 after seeing him live, these are two albums are truly incredible works of art. The world is a more beautiful place because of Sufjan’s music, and while the EP offers several gems (The Owl and the Tanager and Arnika have quickly become some of my favorite Sufjan songs), the Age of Adz is a triumph. Every song is good, Impossible Soul manages to be interesting for a full 25 minutes, and Sufjan has proved that pushing your boundaries as an artist can result in overwhelming success.
6. Local Natives-Gorilla Manor
-What a debut. Local Natives blew me away with this beautiful album, showing perfect polish yet keeping a loose, fun atmosphere. Every song is great, I can never get enough of the harmonies, and the song writing is impressive for a bunch of young guys. And god, what a centerpiece for the album they have in Camera Talk-easily one of the best songs of the year.
5. Big Boi-Sir Lucious Left Foot: The Song of Chico Dusty
-As a huge Outkast fan, I was a little nervous about this album. I wanted it to be great, but kind of just wished we could have another Outkast album. Well, after hearing this, I’m glad Big Boi went on his own and created this sprawling and creative showcase for his prodigious talent. His guests all impress, but Big Boi commands attention with his trademark style of rapping. General Patton may have the most swagger I’ve ever heard in a song, Fo Yo Sorrows feels like it shouldn’t work but somehow does perfectly, and Shine Blockas is just flawlessly fun.
4. Das Racist-Shut Up Dude/Sit Down Man
-Well, those combination pizza hut and taco bell guys showed me. I paid attention to them because of that catchy song, and after listening to both of their amazing mixtapes, it may be my least favorite song of theirs. These guys are smart, funny, and legitimately talented. I still find myself blown away by some of their internal rhyming, and I feel like every time I listen to these mixtapes I catch a new reference in their raps. The fact that they managed to put out not one but two incredible mixtapes (27 tracks) with hardly any duds gets these guys the well deserved fourth spot on this list. Give them a chance and you will not regret it, some good songs to start with are Rainbow in the Dark, hahahaha jk?, and rapping 2 u.
3. Gonjasufi-A Sufi and a Killer
-Weird and wonderful. Definitely not for everyone, but fully deserving of the third spot on this list. Gonjasufi’s vocals range from creaky whispers to wild wails, and is always at the center of his music. I know plenty of people who were turned off by the production, but it only makes the music more appealing to me. The filthy, creaky, tattered atmosphere coupled with Gonjasufi’s intimate voice makes me feel like I’m in a smoke-filled run down bar, mostly empty, being serenaded by a crazy man. For some reason, I can’t stop listening. You’ll find yourself nodding your head to tracks like Candylane and Kowboyz & Indians, but you’ll also have to pause to appreciate the haunting power of Kobwebz and Made. And what can I say about Sheep and She Gone, other than they defy genres and succeed amazingly.
2. Beach House-Teen Dream
-Woke up, went through my day, and went to sleep listening to this album for a significant portion of this year. It is just that good, I cannot say enough about Victoria Legrand’s incredible voice. I’m always impressed when there isn’t a bad song on an album, but I’m even more impressed when every single song on an album is great, and this is such an album. The lyrics deal with familiar themes of love and longing, as well as loss, but no matter your situation Legrand’s words are soothing, culminating in the tender Take Care. I don’t care whether you’ve experienced love or not, everyone owes it to themselves to at least give this a few listens all the way through.
1. Gorillaz-Plastic Beach
-Gorillaz ahead of heavyweights like Arcade Fire and Sufjan Stevens? Believe it. I had no expectations of this album, believing that after the first two solid albums, Damon Albarn would run out of ideas for this little project. Instead, he completely outdid himself, creating an incredible album. The guests are perfect, and what started off as a cartoon band has evolved into a musical collective, pushing the boundaries of accessible, fun music. Don’t ask me how this album works, because it looks like it shouldn’t (Snoop Dogg and Lou Reed on the same album!?). Yet somehow, I always find myself listening to it all the way through, feeling like despite the incredible variety and diversity in its songs, it is a complete, focused album. It flows perfectly, with appropriate highs and lows in tempo, and contrasts between rap and Albarn’s melancholy wail spread throughout songs. Albarn’s attention to detail and immaculate crafting of this album makes every song essential, and contributes to the overall greatness of this album. Definitely takes a few listens to fully appreciate, but I know I’ll be coming back to this one for years.