Thursday, January 27, 2011

EJP's Very Late Favorite Albums of 2010

Well, better late than never, I guess. At least I'm doing this before the end of January.

Was 2010 a great year for music? Probably not. But I did fall in love with a few albums, and there were certainly some that I liked a lot. They weren't always the most critically acclaimed--Arcade Fire's album was pretty amazing, but ultimately I didn't listen to it all that much. Apparently Kanye West's album was pretty amazing, but I haven't heard more than a track of it.

So these are the 10 albums that I listened to the most, which is generally a pretty good indication that I like them. I'm not putting them in any particular order--I'll be a little more low key this year since this list is going up so late.

First, the albums I've already written about...

Not only did I thoroughly enjoy this album, but they made one of my favorite videos of all time. The video below, for the song "Daisy," looks pretty crudely made at first, but if you think about how it was clearly done all in one go, shot by one of the dancers with no cuts, it's pretty amazing. Plus it just makes me incredibly happy when I watch it.

  • Vampire Weekend: Contra (this album and previous 3 albums conveniently described all at once in this post)
And now some new stuff...
    There are a number of reasons this album shouldn't work for me. It's a concept album. It mixes every genre of music under the sun. It's loaded with guest artists. It's produced and produced and produced.

    And yet it does work for me. Any one of the above attributes can usually put me off an album, but I guess when they're combined, something magic happens. Which is not to detract from Monáe's voice, which is incredible. Her voice ties the whole beautiful mess together. I can't remember what compelled me to pick this album up originally, but I'm so glad I did.

    There seemed to be kind of a retro thing going on this year, with a lot of new or newish bands exploring old sounds. By old, I'm talking 50s and 60s-style rock. Gimmicky or not, I ate it up. Despite the fact that I'm constantly checking out new music, I grew up listening almost exclusively to oldies stations on the radio. That's where my heart is, and Sonny & the Sunsets--right down to their very name--tapped into my oldies-lovin' heart with this album.  Here we have a band that sounds like they're right out of the Happy Days era, only with lyrics that would have made the Fonz blush. It's simple, fun, and exactly what I wanted to listen to many times over the last several months. Check out the song that got me hooked, "Too Young to Burn":

    Like Sonny & the Sunsets, there is an appealing timelessness to The Goodnight Loving's music. I probably listened to this album more than any other this past year. I consistently grabbed for it when I was feeling indecisive. The songs can be...weird. One of my favorites, "The Pan", is sung from the point of view of a fish that ends up in a pan. You can think of it as a metaphor I suppose, but you certainly don't have to.

    I'm struggling here...I want people to listen to this album because I honestly think it's really, really good. The songs are incredibly catchy (there's even a track appropriately called "Earworm"). If you can imagine The Beach Boys as a garage band, that might be what The Goodnight Loving sound like. In some ways, this album is the antithesis of Arcade Fire's The Suburbs. Not in terms of quality--both are great. But I think the main reason I couldn't listen to The Suburbs all that much is that it was just a little too much. It was so dense that I felt a little exhausted after listening to it. Whereas Supper Club woke me up. It's a much simpler album, and yes, more fun.

    And that's my top 10! But it wouldn't be me if I didn't at least a decent list of honorable mentions. Here are some other stand-out albums to check out:
    • Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings: I Learned the Hard Way
    • Mumford & Sons: Sigh No More
    • Bouncing Souls: Ghosts on the Boardwalk
    • Drive By Truckers: The Big To-Do
    • She & Him: Volume Two
    • Freelance Whales: Weathervanes
    • Ted Leo & the Pharmacists: Brutalist Bricks
    • Let's Wrestle: In the Court of the Wrestling Let's