2010 was the year I struggled to complete my Master’s studies, was forced due to visa issues to leave a city I didn’t want to depart, fought off a rabid bear and struggled overall with the awkwardness of carving out who I’m supposed to be. Okay, so I didn’t fight a bear, but still, this was a year of upheaval, both for myself and for the rest of the world.
In light of All the Shit, I submit my audio nerd list of 2010 not as a “Best of” list. This year saw the release of many albums by wonderful artists, but I may not have heard them. Granted, no single top ten list is by any means definitive, as all of us, no matter how much we love listening to music, can’t have listened to every single album that came out, nor even every single good album. ‘Good’ is itself relative, after all; there isn’t any amount of Top Ten, Top Fifty or Top Eighty-two lists that can convince me The Suburbs is the best album of this year.
So, don’t call it a Top Ten list. Consider this instead an assemblage of albums released this year that I either spent a prodigious amount of time listening to or that I’ve listened to recently and want to yell at the hands of fate for not exposing me to them sooner. It’s a list of albums I might recommend to people, depending on their musical inclinations; a list of albums I came away with out of 2010, happy to have made their acquaintance.
Yeasayer ODD BLOOD
Odd Blood was a good album to listen to in order to combat the effects of having a sort of day that would make me want to hide under blankets the rest of the week. It would somehow make me feel brighter about having to go into work, having to lug groceries back from Angel to Clapton and having to pore through material for my dissertation. Whereas most people doing research at the British Library were operating in silence or hushed tones, I was listening to the bouncy, upbeat tracks of Yeasayer while taking notes. If you observed closely, you could probably see me periodically bopping my head along to “O.N.E,” tap my feet along to “Rome” or grinning to myself as “Mondegreen” came on.
Best Coast Crazy for You
This is a great album on the strength of its simplicity. Bethany Cosentino and company have put together a bunch of songs as sweet as the sun. It’s good because it’s an album that isn’t trying to impress you, but yet still manages to gain accolades and all kinds of other props by being so straightforward. I like it.
Toro y Moi Causers of This
Toro y Moi’s Causers of This is a lovely album, mixing a lot of good bits from different musical genres to create something very special. And he’s half-Filipino, too, so he could be, like, my cousin.
Listening to Glasser is wonderfully empowering, what with all the pounding drums and vocals that shift from soothing to “Rawr!” in two breaths. It’s evocative of some sort of indie shamanistic journey periodically punctuated with hand claps, spirited yelps, tinkly chimes, wooden taps, castanet clicks and a vocoder. Excellent music to do some late-night baking to, as I’ve been doing as a vocation. Overall, pretty awesome, I must say.
Beach House Teen Dream
Sublime. Everyone else has said everything that needs to be said about this album. ”Walk in the Park” is one of the loveliest songs released in 2010, and Teen Dream is likely to be one of those albums that people will keep playing for years and years to come.
The National High Violet
A turbulently beautiful album, I enjoyed listening to this a lot this year, and marvelled at its august melancholy. Beautiful, haunting, tormented and full of regret. This album helped make 2010 what it was for me.
The Tallest Man on Earth The Wild Hunt
The Tallest Man on Earth’s album this year was as great as his last one, and I enjoyed listening to it. There seems to be a sense of yearning I can relate to on some of the tracks. A popular pick on those days when I felt a wee bit exhausted and overwhelmed, and The Tallest Man on Earth coming through my iPod as I looked out the window of the upper deck of a bus made everything better. The Wild Hunt was one of the albums I went to when I was in need of some audio balm, when the hurly-burly of life got to be a bit too hectic.
Villagers Becoming a Jackal
I hated this when I first heard it. I was all, “Who is this guy, and why the hell is he so damn emotional?” After I got over being unnecessarily grumpy with Conor O’Brien, I wound up listening to his album on NPR, this time giving it a good, proper listen, and I realised what my earlier problem with Villagers was. As I wrote in a lengthy little article on my Last.fm account: “O’Brien puts himself out there, offering up his emotions raw to the table. He doesn’t hold up any lyrical façades to hide behind, nor does he seem to create any personas. He just makes music that ardently tugs at the stitches you’ve sewn up in your own heart.”
Blonde Redhead Penny Sparkle
Penny Sparkle is a straight-up sexy album. Its beats, the low vocals, the undulating rhythms = pure sex. Seriously, just play "Black Guitar" and you'll know what I'm talking about. Put it on and turn on your red lightbulb.
Lower Dens Twin Hand Movement
Twin Hand Movement may be my favourite album of 2010. It’s richly sensual, it’s rock n’ roll, it’s sort of sleepytime. It’s spanish moss hanging down from southern live oak trees, a sip of sweet iced tea as the sun goes down, ghosts lingering on a dirt road, the taste of whisky lingering in the mouth. It’s shoegaze sounds steeped in Southern gothic. In other words, what I’m trying to say is that it’s wonderful.
And because this isn’t a top ten list, I have a couple more albums and bits I’d like to mention, because I can (so nyah):
Future Islands In Evening Air
“Tin Man” blew my mind when I listened to it in the form of a YouTube recommendation off of a friend’s Twitter account. I later e-yelled at him for holding out on me. In Evening Air sound like a bunch of wolves got together and made a dance-rock band. Fuckin’ hell. “Long Flight” will incite dancing from my feet no matter where I am. It has the sort of excellence that can only come out of the parts of world that has to make up its own fun, that isn’t reliant on a perpetual scene of cool and hip.
Mountain Man Made In Harbor
Cute, quaint and utterly darling, the women of Mountain Man have created a completely charming lo-fi album that’s folksy and earnest without being too unabashed. They get extra points for singing a song about a woman called “Sadie Doreen.” My name is NEVER in songs! Not even as a middle name! I was so jolly.
The Twilight Sad - The Wrong Car EP
If this is any indication of what The Twilight Sad’s next work is going to be like, I am more excited than a five year-old on Christmas who still believes in Santa and thinks he’s really going to get that snowmobile he put down on his Christmas list. “The Wrong Car” is one of the most cathartic songs of 2010, and if the upcoming works are as visceral, I’m gonna lose my brains.
Have a 2011 filled with good things, everyone. Good music especially. In the meantime, I’m looking to get more acquainted with the releases that I didn’t get a chance to give a fair listen to this past year (Avi Buffalo and Connan Mockasin = awesome), and in other past years. What were some of your favourite albums to listen to in 2010?