2010 was a interesting year in music, “indie” finally broke through into the mainstream, Beiber fever swept across the nation, and Lo-Fi, DYI music continued to push boundaries and reach more and more ears. So after millions of hours of intensive research, quite a few adult beverages and a slight case of corporal tunnel from Ipod usage I present to you a list of my 15 favorite releases of the year in no particular order.
Here We Go Magic - Pigeons
The second LP from this Brooklyn band continued on the path their first album sowed with its catchy “Hypno-Pop” songs that build on a backbone of psychedelic swirls and tangential lyrics while remaining strangely danceable. Here We Go Magic continue to develop into one of the most exciting bands around and its only a matter of time until every notices.
Woods - At Echo Lake
At Echo Lake is a psych/folk-rock album that is as eerie as it is beautiful. The music pays homage to 60’s hippie,classic rock and most of the songs are recorded in the minor key. But its front man Jeremy Earl’s falsetto that brings a unsettling element to the music and that coupled with his existentialist lyricism creates something that is altogether unique. Woods allow just enough sun to shine through their otherwise ominous and dark sounding music,resulting in one of the most multi-layered and interesting releases of the year.
Summer Camp - Young EP
Jeremy Warmsley and Elizabeth Sankey make up Summer Camp. On their debut EP Young the duo have created a summery synth-pop sound that sounds like it could be straight out of the 80’s movie Say Anything. Sankey’s melancholic vocals tug at the heartstrings while meshing nicely with the synth effects. “Ghost Train” remains one of my favorite songs of the year and if this tantalizing 6 song EP is any indication we should expect big things from Summer Camp in 2011.
Phantogram - Eyelid Movies
Yet another guy/girl duo who make wildly original sounding music. Phantogram are a cross between Portishead and Massive Attack so how could you go wrong. Eyelid Movies is undoubtedly a Trip-Hop record that is full of atmospheric beats that at times just make you feel cool. Sarah Barthel's angelic and breathy vocals draw you in and never let go. Just listen to “Mouthful of Diamonds”, its makes you want to put on a pair of dark sunglasses, a leather coat and walk into a dimly lit bar in slow motion, Matrix style.
The Black Keys - Brothers
If you would of told me 5 years ago that The Black Keys would be featured in a Cadillac and Verizon Wireless commercial in 2010, I would of asked you what your smoking. But alas they were and it looks like they will be featured in many more commercials,movies, and television shows in the future. Brothers is the breakthrough album Black Keys fans knew they have had in them since their debut album The Big Come Up in 2002. Its wonderfully produced, full of catchy blues inspired hooks and oh ya, it freaking rocks! I have a feeling this is just the beginning for The Black Keys, they have shown time and time again that Blues Rock can be endlessly entertaining and vital if done with creativity and soul.
The Morning Benders - Big Echo
Big Echo is practically overflowing with sunny and effervescent pop gems. It is full of Phil Spector-like production that creates a grandiose wall of sound that baths you in its poppy warm glow. There isn”t a track this is more evident on than “Excuses”. The ramshackle orchestral arrangements and soaring chorus is something to behold. All the songs are ambitious and flush with instruments which can be dizzying at times but its all held together with terrific pop sensibility. For such a young band The Morning Benders have achieved something with Big Echo that most bands can only aspire to.
Big Boi - Sir Lucious Left Foot: The Son Of Chico Dusty
This album is by far my favorite Hip-Hop release of 2010. Its full of ridiculously tight raps and production that will even have your Momma dancing. After multiple listens I can honestly say there isn’t a dud on the entire album. Big Boi started my love for southern rap and with Sir Lucious has reignited it. Further solidifying himself as one of the freshest rappers alive.
Various Artists: Afro-Beat Airways
Here we have a collection of songs dating from 1972-78 Ghana and Togo. If you are not akin to African music then this album would be a great introduction. It brings the funk and never lets up with layers of percussive rhythms that add up to a loose, funky flow throughout the entire 75 minutes. If anything this compilation will be like nothing you have heard all year and that is at least worth a listen or 20 in my case. Highly recommended for the adventurous music fan.
Caribou - Swim
Dan Snaith A.K.A. Caribou had become a somewhat of a prolific electronic artist. He has evolved from a ambient electronic musician to a artist that is diverse and hard to define. His music nowadays conjures 60’s psychedelia but is layered with samples, synths and atmosphere so meticulously that the past begins to sound like the future and all definitions go out the window. Still with me? Swim adds to a already impressive resume and its trance/dance/funk beats surprise you at every turn, it pushes boundaries and commands the listeners attention from the moment you push play and usually leaves you wandering what it is you just heard.
LCD Soundsystem - This Is Happening
This Is Happening was perhaps one of the most highly anticipated albums of 2010. Blogs speculated for months about how good it was going to be leading up to its release. But was there ever really any doubt? James Murphey has consistently impressed with his ability to dig up disco’s past and put a modern spin on it. From the epic opener “Dance Y’r Self Clean” to the heartfelt closer “Home”, This Is Happening has kept dorm rooms and dance floors shaking all year long.
Tame Impala - Innerspeaker
There are tiny snippets of all the classic rock bands I grew up listening to but with a twist on this album. The lushness and beauty of Innerspeaker is what keeps you coming back for more and the rhythm section is amazing. If The Magical Mystery Tour mated with Apples In Stereo and decided to take mushrooms the result would be Innerspeaker, and who doesn’t want to hear what that sounds like?
Arcade Fire - The Suburbs
A few years ago Arcade Fire released Funeral to critical acclaim, it ended up on countless best of the decade lists and etched them a spot in the hearts and minds of a generation of burgeoning indie rock fans. As successful as Funeral was in “Indie Rock” terms, the band remained relatively obscure. After a luke warm response to their follow up Neon Bible the band retreated to Montreal to record The Suburbs. Fast forward to present day and Arcade Fire are bonafide rock stars, selling out Madison Square Garden and every other venue in the world and becoming Merge Records first number 1 album beating out Eminem for the top spot. The way The Suburbs is able to create such epic, emotionally captivating music out of such everyday subjects as suburban sprawl and the disconnect with school friends is remarkable and deeply enriching. Arcade Fire prove with The Suburbs that our everyday normal lives belie something much more than what waits on the surface. The epic sweep of the music and lyrics on this album is truly breathtaking and classic.
Twin Shadow - Forget
The debut album Forget by Twin Shadow initially sounds like a 80’s pop revival record with lots of heavy synth lines and electronic noises but as it unfolds you become pleasantly surprised by the scope of the music. George Lewis Jr. a.k.a. Twin Shadow showcases his musical tastes and talents throughout this captivating album with odes to everything from Scott Walker to Neu!. Most of the lyrical content is of the nostalgic variety and centers around past indiscretions and seasonal love affairs but remains endearing and easily related to. For a debut album Forget is remarkably mature and diverse and will keep your ears on their toes, if ears had toes that is.
Girl Talk - All Day
Local boy Gregg Gillis proved once again that he is the undisputed sample king on All Day. With over 300 samples crunched into just over a hour long mix, Gillis amazes the listener with the broad mixture of genres he is able to combine into a seamless mix that is guaranteed to rock the dance floor. Each listen reveals more and more of his genius and command of the beat. To top it off Gillis released All Day for the amazing price of Free 99. So if you haven’t listened to this mix you have no excuses.
Local Natives- Gorilla Manor
Gorilla Manor is full of soaring harmonies and gang chorus’ you can sing at the top of your lungs to. It manages to combines the best of several Indie rock bands I like into a tightly packaged, well oiled rock machine. If you are a fan of My Morning Jacket, Spoon, Fleet Foxes or Grizzly Bear this is a must listen. There are several killer tracks on Gorilla Manor and its maintains a mid-tempo beat throughout that keeps your toe tapping but the vocal harmonies are the real star on Gorilla Manor. On songs like “Airplanes”, “World News” and Camera Talk” the choruses become intoxicating and rapturous, elevating the song to a whole new level. I had the pleasure of seeing them live this past year and I assure you their pipes are the real deal and not just fancy production.
If you would like to hear a selection of songs from the Best Of list just click here for the streaming playlist.