Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Best Albums of 2010

Could 2010 go down as the greatest year in music? To put it simply… "no". It was, however, a fantastic year for music… perhaps the best we’ve seen for some time.

I tend to buy a lot of music… often without knowing a thing about the band before the purchase. According to my iTunes history I purchased 77 albums between January 01, 2010 (Lady GaGa) and December 30, 2010 (Florence + The Machine). That’s just downloads. It doesn’t include the actual CDs purchased then added to my iPod… or the CDs/copies given by/borrowed from friends. (Damn! I think I have a bit of a problem!)

Music is my life. Well… not really… but it IS extremely important to me… and I feel just as “naked” without my iPod as I do without my camera… which is just as “naked” as I feel without, well… clothes.

So how did 2010 fare musically? While not the greatest year in music history… it definitely gave us some amazing music. New faces… New Styles… Veterans re-inventing themselves…

The following are my picks for the “Top Ten Albums of 2010”… but I won’t play favorites. I’m not going to designate one album as No. 10 and work my way down to the album I feel is No. 1. All of these albums are fantastic for their own reasons… and some just can’t be compared to others due to the incredible differences in style. I’ll simply list them in the order in which they were released… and leave it up to the listener to decide.

“No Más” by JavelinReleased April 6th

Some say that the mark of a great song is that upon hearing it for the first time, you’re sure that you’ve heard it before. “No Más” has that feeling throughout… and I’m sure that I’ve been listening to these songs since the 1980s, at least. These are songs and beats that get stuck in your head for days. Highlights include: “Oh! Centra” and “We Ah Wi”.

“Congratulations” by MGMTReleased April 13th

I admit it… I was one of those MGMT fans who listened to this album for the first time and said “WTF!?!”. After the amazingness of 2008’s “Oracular Spectacular”, expectations were high.... and upon first listen “Congratulations” didn’t seem to deliver. Then I listened again. Then again. Then again… and again… and again. In the end I personally feel that “Congratulations” just might be the better album. Almost. I mean… take the songs “Electric Feel” and “Kids” off of “Oracular Spectacular”, and “Congratulations” will definitely blow it away! Highlights include: “Someone’s Missing” and “Brian Eno”

“Trans-Continental Hustle” by Gogol BordelloReleased April 27th

During the roughly 12 years of their existence thus far, Gypsy Punk band Gogol Bordello has grown and evolved to become more than just a band… but an “experience”. Their fifth album, “Trans-Continental Hustle” is pure evidence of this. It’s a very different album for Gogol… a bit more “mainstream” (well… as “mainstream” as Gypsy Punk can get, anyway). It’s their major-label debut… and was produced by Rick Rubin. Is that a good thing? Well… you be the judge. The album isn’t as “raw” as Gogol’s first few albums… and feels less “New York” and more “Brazil” (perhaps based on the fact that frontman Eugene Hütz now lives there) – but it is a strong album that gets you moving like nothing else. Highlights include: “Pala Tute” and “Immigraniada”

“Treats” by Sleigh BellsReleased May 11th

Brooklyn duo Sleigh Bells came on the scene strong in 2010 with their first release “Treats”. This is a lot of sound from only two people, even more so when you consider the fact that only one (Derek Miller) is playing any form of an instrument! Classified as “Noise Pop” and “Dance Punk”, this album isn’t for everyone. It’s extremely raw… and unlike anything else out there. Perhaps that’s what makes it so phenomenal? It’s fresh… new… and exciting. Highlights include: “Tell ‘Em” and “Riot Rhythm”

“This Is Happening” by LCD SoundsystemReleased May 17th

James Murphy has stated that LCD Soundsystem’s third studio album – “This Is Happening” – will also be their final studio album. I can only hope that this is not true! Since the release of their single “Losing My Edge” in 2002, LCD Soundsystem has been the ultimate in underground dance music. These songs aren’t just a bunch of mindless beats paired with silly, meaningless lyrics (which a lot of dance music tends to be). These songs are intricate… with lyrics that portray a poetic “realness” not found in much music these days. Listen to the songs. I mean REALLY listen to them. This could go down as being the best album of the decade! Highlights include: “Dance Yrself Clean” and “Home”

“Night Work” by Scissor SistersReleased June 28th

If the Robert Mapplethorpe photo of dancer Peter Reed’s ass on the cover of Scissor Sisters third album – “Night Work” – isn’t enough to get you hot… the songs definitely will! This album is sexy and erotic. Sure, it’s filled with innuendo… but isn’t all good dance music? Well… shouldn’t it be? Highlights include: “Fire With Fire” and “Skin Tight”

“The Suburbs” by Arcade FireReleased August 2nd

Arcade Fire’s third album “The Suburbs” comes a full three years after the fantastic “Neon Bible”. Which is the better album? It’s hard to say. “The Suburbs”, however, seems to be the most ‘personal’ Arcade Fire album thus far. Some of it seems a bit too “Neil Young” for me (I freakin’ HATE Neil Young!) – but overall this is a fantastic album. Highlights include: “Ready To Start” and “We Used To Wait”

“The Final Frontier” by Iron MaidenReleased August 17th

OK, OK, I know… you think I’ve added this album to the list simply based on the fact that Iron Maiden happens to be my single-favorite band of all-time. Well… you’re wrong! I’ll be the first to admit that Maiden has produced some less than stellar recordings in their 30 year history (the two albums they did with Blaze Bayley as lead singer, for example, are absolutely horrible!). Still, there’s no denying the fact that Iron Maiden – while not the biggest heavy metal band in the U.S. (that would be Metallica) are, by far, the biggest and most successful heavy metal band in the world. Hands down. But I digress…

“The Final Frontier” is Maiden’s 15th studio album… and at over 76-minutes, their longest to date. It marks a completely new direction for the band… considerably more “progressive” than previous releases. This album is intricate and hypnotic. Who would think that a band that has been around for three decades and has made more than a dozen albums could still come up with something so “fresh” – that completely reinvents what the heavy-metal genre is capable of? Well… I for one was not surprised! Highlights include: “Isle of Avalon” and “Starblind”.

“Halcyon Digest” by DeerhunterReleased September 28th

This is the fourth studio album by the Atlanta-based indie group Deerhunter. The band describes themselves as “ambient-punk”. OK. I see the “ambient”… not so much the “punk”… but OK. But that’s besides the point: This is a great album. Dreamy… Fuzzy… Catchy… Classic. Highlights include: “Earthquake” and “Helicopter”

“Sidewalks” by Matt & KimReleased November 2nd

To me, about the only thing better than listening to a Matt & Kim album is being at a Matt & Kim concert. High energy… Happy-ness… Life (and the added bonus of seeing the way-too-cute Kim Schifino in person!). “Sidewalks” is the third studio album by this Brooklyn duo, and is definitely their most refined and organized album to date. This album is just fun as hell. Highlights include: “Cameras” and “Silver Tiles”.


HONORABLE MENTION:

“Loneliest Generation” by Harper BlynnReleased May 11th

The debut album by Brooklyn quintet Harper Blynn (and how could people say that the Brooklyn music scene is dead!?!). This album is a sweet little folk-pop effort with catchy tunes, great harmonies and some great lyrics. I can’t wait to see where Harper Blynn goes from here! Highlights include: “25 Years”… “All Pretenders”… and “It May Be Late”.

SHOULDN’T HAVE BEEN MADE:

“Le Noise” by Neil YoungReleased September 28th

I was standing in a hippie-esque store in Mystic, CT when the owner put this album on. The store was packed. People started complaining. I mumbled something about how they really shouldn’t let this guy record anymore albums. The owner – reacting to all of the grumblings from the customers – quickly changed the album.

A week later I was at Borders in Danbury when again, this album was put on. People complained. My wife and I asked the barista who chooses the music that gets played, to which she replied “The manager… and there have already been a ton of complaints about this one!”. The album was quickly changed.

I don’t try to hide the fact that I can’t stand Neil Young. His voice irritates the crap out of me… but I can appreciate what he has done. Still, this album is bad. Very bad. 37-minutes and 59-seconds of bad. Still, it reached No. 2 on the charts… in Canada, where Neil Young is from. Then again, Canada gave us Celine Dion. Yep. That explains it!

MOST OVERRATED ALBUM OF 2010:

“My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy” by Kanye WestReleased November 22nd

Is it a horrible album? No. I mean, it’s not “Le Noise”. Still… for all of the hype centered around this album’s release, couldn’t it have been better? Shouldn’t it have been better? At least it didn’t have Neil Young on it… but it did have just about everybody else – and that wasn’t enough to save it! Try harder Kanye. Try harder!

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2 comments:

Walk in the Woods said...

A Neil Young, Celine Dion compare … there's something I've never witnessed before - and something I'll not likely witness ever again. Thanks for the new experience!

BTW … I love Neil, and I'm not Canadian. And while I've not heard anything yet from this latest release, even if it is Bad, I'd still love him. But … whadda ya want from me? I'm a Giants fan.

:)

Vincent James Pia said...

LOL! Well OK then, Miss Rose... I'll forgive you! ;-)