Best of 2010

It wouldn’t be a music blog if I didn’t do some sort of end of year wrapup.  Problem is, while I listen to a lot of music, new music isn’t always on the menu.  I’m not sure I could even come up with a top ten albums released in 2010 since I’m not sure I listened to 10 entire albums that were made this year.  So, instead I wanted to highlight some good stuff I found this year regardless of its age (I thought this was an ingenious idea until I saw that AVCLUB had already done the same thing, oh well).

  • LCD Soundsystem – This Is Happening (album, 2010).  A terrific album from beginning to end.  The album opener, Dance Yrself Clean, is also one of my favorite songs of the year.  Lyrically, James Murphy is at his wittiest and musically he continues to evolve from just floor-burning dance tunes to really nuanced, but still danceable, songs.  And seeing them live was a revelation.  It was one of the best shows I’ve been to in quite awhile.
  • Black Keys – Brothers (album, 2010).  I’ve been a huge fan of the Keys since their first album, but I think on this album they took it to another level.  For their first couple albums it was straightforward blues-based rock, but here they are spreading their wings, with some definite glam-rock influences and adding other instrumentation beyond that bruising drum and guitar.  Another band I finally got to see live this year and they didn’t disappoint either.
  • Broken Bells – The High Road (single, 2010).  Pairing the sonic tapestries of Dangermouse with the crystal clear voice of Shins lead singer James Mercer sounds like a good idea to me, and this song is proof it was.  The song begins with playful electronic noises and then gets a more orchestral bent as the music and Mercer’s vocals soar.  This song really has a positive and inspiring vibe; it’s a great pick-me-up.
  • Gang Starr – Obviously this was going back to one of early 90s rap’s signature groups.  With the passing of MC Guru this year, I spent some time revisiting their music.  I had never realized how many of their songs I really liked.  Everyone knows Mass Appeal, but there are a bunch of other songs they have that are just a notch below that masterpiece.  Premier’s beats are almost always exquisite and Guru’s gravelly delivery worked so well with those beats.  RIP Guru.
  • White Stripes – Under Great White Northern Lights (album and documentary, 2010).  I have never gotten to see the White Stripes live, but this album and the documentary which I saw do a pretty great job of making you feel like you’ve been to a show.  Even harder and louder than in the studio, these are great foot-stomping rock n’ roll songs.   The documentary bares the painful shyness of Meg White, leaving one to wonder how many more times we’ll get to hear these two play together.
  • Taj Mahal and Vampire Weekend – Why do I mention these two artists together.  Because whenever I hear one of their songs, I feel happy and upbeat.  Both are artists I know only marginally, and I’m trying to get up to speed on both.  Taj is nominally a blues artist, but he puts a lot of other musical styles into his songs, including reggae and Caribbean rhythms.  Vampire Weekend also is nominally a rock band, but they also let their other influences show, including various Afro styles.
  • Sleigh Bells – Treats (album, 2010) – When I went to see them at this year’s VirginFest I wondered why they only were given a half hour set, but then realized their debut album was only a couple minutes longer.  But boy do they pack a lot of sound into that 32 minutes.  While some see the loud guitar/beats with the bubble-gummy lyrics as a gimmick, I don’t see it any more of a gimmick than a lot of other bands in 2010 (and before) doing similar things.  Sleigh Bells just does it more over the top than anyone else.  For me, the beats are what keep me coming back.
  • Scott Down and DJ Cutler – Ultimate Breaks and Beatles (album, 2010).  Found about this interesting project via Soulsides, this is not an attempt to create another Grey Album.  Instead, they blend all kinds of Beatles music (including covers by Jimi Hendrix and others) with famous hip-hop breaks.  While there are some misses, when it all locks together it’s pretty amazing stuff.  Also, trying to identify what song a break is from is fun too.
  • KMD – Boy Who Cried Wolf (from Mr. Hood, 1991).  Sometimes a song just clicks for you.  I’d finally gotten a copy of KMD’s Mr. Hood and it’s a really good album.  But when I heard this song, I was mesmerized.  I could listen to the beat all day long, loping and laid-back but with a bite.  The chorus “he’s a woolllfff, and you a sheep” his super-catchy and the verses pop along with the snare in the beat.

I didn’t include Kanye’s new album, which I have but haven’t had a chance to really listen to yet, though I’ve heard nothing but good things.  Same goes for the new Walkmen album and Sharon Jones’ latest.  Enjoy the holidays and looking forward to another new year of music.

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One Response to “Best of 2010”

  1. Geoff Says:

    Yeah, new music that’s good is hard to come by lately unless you’re actively seeking some. Nothing really comes to mind for me for 2010.

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