10. Best Coast – Crazy for You
Beginning 2010 as virtually anonymous and then opening for Weezer’s Memories Tour in November is quite a feat, but completely possible with this California duo delivering a bright and sunny ode to kittens, weed, and unrequited love. With a Spector-like wall of sound throughout the record, pop heaven is found with lead singer (and likely next queen of indie) Bethany Cosentino charming us all on pop gems like “Boyfriend” and “The End”.
9. Miles Kurosky – The Desert of Shallow Effects
After disbanding the wonderful-in-every-way indie champion Beulah in 2003, leader Miles Kurosky dropped off the planet for nearly 6 years and wrote an album in between multiple health problems and surgeries. Playing out like a would-be 5th Beulah album, Miles ventures into more experimental territory with the three part rock out “Apple for an Apple” while cursing his health problems in “Notes from the Polish Underground”. Lucky for us all, it is just as enjoyable as any Beulah album, and hopefully we won’t have to wait until 2017 to hear from him again.
8. The Arcade Fire – The Suburbs
Sure, The Arcade Fire succeeded in making perhaps the greatest debut album in a decade with the huge, anthemic Funeral in 2004, which might explain why the two following albums have been just a little underwhelming. Opening with the easy and reflective title track, it is a stark contrast to the urgency that is stomped and shouted in previous records, that is until they launch into the racing shoulda-been album opener “Ready to Start”. While the 80’s throwback “Sprawl 2” (Mountains Beyond Mountains) ranks with their best of songs, it also finds co-leader Regine Chassagne asking “will we ever get away from the sprawl?” My answer is no, but they will eventually conquer it completely when U2 and Bruce are done.
7. M.I.A. – /\/\/\Y/\
There are no “Paper Planes” or dancehall smashes to be found here, only a crazy-ass kaleidoscope of M.I.A. doing whatever the hell she pleases. Paranoid, ambitious, and wildly adventurous from beginning to end, it is led by one of the most memorable singles of the year “Born Free” that is based on a pounding Suicide sample. Constantly changing things up is the stoned out r&b jam “Tell Me Why” and the sweaty party anthem “Teqkilla”.
6. Gayngs – Relayted
This album could be one huge inside joke or perhaps a straight faced tribute to music found on late night Cinemax movies – decide for yourself. With every song set at 69 beats per minute, this is an atmospheric and over-sexed affair recorded by over 20 artists including Andrew Bird and Bon Iver frontman Justin Vernon. “On the Gaudy Side of Town” and “No Sweat” are smooth 80’s rock wannabe’s packed with retro synths and horny saxophone solos. I’m pretty sure someone forgot to hook up a D’Angelo cameo along the way.
5. LCD Soundsystem – This is Happening
LCD dictator James Murphy declares this is the end of LCD Soundsystem, but fortunately everything we expect from an LCD record is included – 9 minute raves in 4/4 (“Dance Yrself Clean”), heartbreak (“I Can Change”), tiptoeing outside the realm of mainstream (“You Wanted a Hit”), and a token indie dance party (“Drunk Girls”). If this is the last LCD record, atleast it is the best. Never change Murphy, this is why we fell in love.
4. Sufjan Stevens – The Age of Adz
The God of orchestral indie pop waited 5 long years to release this follow up to Illinois, and the wait was worth it. In grand Sufjan tradition, the Age of Adz is a sprawling opus of breakbeats, busted synths (and even a little auto-tune) paying homage to the obscure artist Royal Roberts. With lyrics focusing on love, loss, and losing your mind, it all comes to a head in the 25 minute epic journey “Impossible Soul”. As Stevens and his cronies chant “we can do much more together, it’s not so impossible”, even the strongest Sufjan doubters will want to break out their best robot dance.
3. Sleigh Bells – Treats
It’s the same old story. Guy (a waiter) meets a girl (a teacher) and says “want to start a band?”. They do, and in the process make the loudest, funnest, and most slamming record of 2010. Block-rocking beats and infinite guitars combine with the beautiful howl of vocalist Alexis Kraus to pop-metal delight. In my alternate life as a professional wrestler, “Crown on the Ground” would be my entrance theme.
2. The National – High Violet
Melding some of the vitriol from 2005’s Alligator and the urban paranoia from 2007’s Boxer, The National has succeeded in creating their best record yet. Opening with “Terrible Love”, lead singer Matt Berninger proclaims “it takes an ocean not to break” and establishes a constant theme of struggle and darkness throughout the record. Claims of “I don’t have the drugs to sort it out” and “I’m afraid of everyone” paint a grim picture, but are starkly contrasted with “the swans are a swimmin’, its all been forgiven” and “I’ll defend my family with my orange umbrella”. In times of uncertainty and despair, The National firmly reminds us to hang on with all we’ve got.
1. Deerhunter – Halcyon Digest
On their fourth LP, the Atlanta foursome scales back the unorganized chaos and mayhem that prevailed on prior records to accomplish their most focused album yet. In the haunting “Helicopters”, lead Deerhunter Bradford Cox weaves a tale of a used and abused young male prostitute facing his expiration around a drum loop that hypnotically sinks into a shimmering abyss of chords, and in the stomping “Coronado” it sounds as if saxophones have been jacked from an early Springsteen record. The record is also rounded out by guitarist Lockett Pundt delivering standout lead vocals for the two garage jams “Desire Lines” and “Fountain Stairs”. Constantly progressing, never predictable, and ultimately satisfying, Deerhunter outdid themselves and the rest of their contemporaries this year.
Alright, that’s it! Come back in a couple of days to see what awaits in 2011 in the world of music.