Photo by G.
I’m so happy that 2010 was a great year for music! Last year, I struggled to find 10 albums I liked enough and this year, I had to stop myself at my favorite 12. I was fortunate enough to meet 11 out of the 12 artists in 2010 (Arcade Fire being the exception) and I saw 11 out of the 12 albums performed live (with Kele being the exception) and I want to take this opportunity to thank all of the artists again for making my ears so happy in 2010. I’ve listened to all of these albums so many times this year and I love them all dearly.
Top Row (from left to right):
“Congratulations” by MGMT. In hindsight, it makes me laugh that I initially gave the album a “B” rating. I was obviously half expecting and half hoping for a sequel to MGMT’s brilliant debut “Oracular Spectacular.” Instead of giving the world a second album of pop perfection, they jumped the shark and delivered an album with lots of hook free songs and tunes that change genres in the span of sometimes 12 minutes in length. I admired that from the get go, but I initially wasn’t blown away. After more listens than I care to admit, I finally get it now. This album is a work of genius! I’ve decided to not really order these top 12 albums, but by far my favorite album of the year is “Congratulations” by MGMT. I definitely recommend checking out the title track (which sounds unlike everything else off the record) as it sounds like a lost T. Rex classic.
“Record Collection” by Mark Ronson and the Business Int’l. This album has it all: Funk/Rap (Bang Bang Bang), Soul (Somebody to Love Me) and Simon LeBon (Record Collection). Mark Ronson is turning into the world’s greatest producer as he has made a solid album from start to finish. There are so many highlights. Aside from a few brief segues and one full length instrumental, I can see every track on this record being a hit single. Ronson has enlisted heavy hitters such as Boy George, Simon LeBon (of Duran Duran) as well as D’Angelo and Q-Tip. Also featured are voices you might not be too familiar with but all are great: MNDR, Andrew Wyatt (of Miike Snow), Alex Greenwald (of Phantom Planet) and Rose Elinor Dougall.
“Acolyte” by Delphic. If you are a fan of later era New Order, I think you’ll love Delphic. Lead singer James Cook’s voice is nice and smooth and the electronic dance beats the band has put together are undeniably groovy. A lot of the songs run on, which is how their live shows tend to be and this album is made to be a party classic. For a debut album, it sounds like the band has been around for years and I am really looking forward to seeing what Delphic come up with next.
“The Arch-Android” by Janelle Monae. I will have to admit, I haven’t given this record the same amount of airplay as most of the other records that have made the list. I will tell you this though – this album from start to finish takes you on a journey that most artists these days are way too afraid to take. Janelle Monae pretty much covers every style of music in this album. She can sing, she can dance and she can put out a hell of a record. The problem I think is that we live in a Rhianna world where you work with an “it” producer and marginal talent rises to the top. Janelle Monae is trying to sell a concept record to teens in the land of Gaga. Definitely a ballsy move and I commend her for doing it.
2nd Row (from left to right):
“Transference” by Spoon. So many bands seem to hit a creative peak and keep releasing records long after they should call it a day. Not the case with Spoon. I think they continue to get better and more interesting with each album they release. This album came out at the beginning of 2010, so I’ll bet it’s forgotten from a lot of year end lists. This album has so many great tracks on it from the ultra funky “Who Makes Your Money,” to “Nobody Gets Me But You,” a track I can imagine being a lost outtake from Queen’s “Hot Space” era. I’m not just saying that because I am in the video either!
“Night Work” by Scissor Sisters. As much as I love the Scissor Sisters, and I love them a lot, their albums typically have a few tracks I am not too crazy about. ”Night Work” breaks that pattern and I love every track! They initially scrapped the entire album they had been working on and started over. Obviously that plan worked. The lyrics are playful, sexy, dirty and all the songs are up beat! This album is a non-stop dance machine that doesn’t let up from the opening notes to the title track to the Ian McKellen guest spot on the final song “Invisible Light.” In defense of the original version of the album, I heard most of it performed live at a secret show and I remember liking almost all of what I heard, so perhaps the Scissor Gods will smile upon us and release the material.
“The Boxer” by Kele. The lead singer of Bloc Party decided to make an album of dance music and I love it! I never followed Bloc Party when they were around (and I don’t think they’ve disbanded), so I heard Kele’s voice for the first time on this record. It of course made me go back and pick up all the goodness that I’ve missed out on all these years, but I have to say, I like Kele’s voice with a dance beat a bit better than with a rock band. Kele had visa problems during his tour and as a result, I was out of town when he came to visit New York. I was very sad not to hear live renditions of the tracks on this album and seeing youtube clips only made me more jealous.
“Un” by Dan Black. There was so much buzz on Dan Black as the year started, I went to see him live the first chance I got. I’d never heard his music until he walked out onto the stage and by the end of the show, I was the first person in line at the merch table to buy his album. His voice is soulful and his beats are funky. If you can track down his EP “Weird Science” which is a collection of covers (including a slowed down take on Bruce Springsteens’ “Dancing in the Dark,” Madonna’s “Into the Groove,” and Missy Elliot’s “Pass that Dutch,”) I recommend it. If you like Mika, you’ll like Dan Black, though Dan’s music is not as whimsical as Mika.
Bottom Row (from left to right):
“Interpol” by Interpol. A lot of die-hard Interpol fans dislike their 4th album. Bass player Carlos D has left the band (though he still appears on the album) and that has embittered a lot of fans. I am not one of those people. There are a lot of strong tracks including the ultra addictive “Barricade,” and the album features some very dark moments. The song “All of the Ways” is really creepy, but I love it. They even flirt with new sounds in the experimental (for them) tracks “Try It On” and “Summer Well.”
“Tourist History” by Two Door Cinema Club. This album truly does not sound like a debut record and instead, it plays like a greatest hits album. Every track is upbeat and there are so many songs (“Something Good Can Work” and “I Can Talk,” for starters) that I listen to over and over again when they come on my Ipod. I have compared their sound to the band Phoenix (but with better lyrics). I am really looking forward to seeing what they come up with next. In the course of one year, they’ve gone from playing tiny venues to places that hold 3000 people (in the US, any way) so the future is very bright for TDCC.
“Travelling Like The Light” by VV Brown. Another debut record that sounds like a greatest hits album. VV Brown’s voice is so soulful. She’s sort of like Amy Winehouse-ish, but without all the problems. I am so disappointed that her album didn’t do very well in the US because I think every track is great. I am hoping that her promotions team regroups and does a better job for her next album because I see no reason that she shouldn’t be a big star. She’s got the look, she’s got the voice and she delivers live. It makes me mad when people haven’t heard of her because when I play her music for friends, they like it instantly.
“The Suburbs” by Arcade Fire. Arcade Fire has been around for almost a decade, and for some reason, I had never heard their music until this year. When I was talking with someone about early picks for best albums of the year (luckily for me, a week before Arcade Fire toured New York), they couldn’t believe I hadn’t mentioned “The Suburbs.” I made a mental note to check out the album, and I am so glad I did. I heard it for the first time as they performed it in front of my eyes! This record is great from start to finish with so many songs having a really epic feel to them. Of course, part of the reason is that the band consists of no less than 8 members. I don’t know why I want to compare their sound to Tears for Fears, because I think the music is much different, but I guess my brain makes the comparison due to the fact that in 4 or 5 minutes, you feel like an entire story has been laid out for your ears.
So what were your top picks of 2010?