Download the 10 in 2010 compilation album here: 10 in 2010
1. The Knife - Silent Shout
Originally released in 2006, the Knife’s Silent Shout sat for several years in my iPod, unlisted to. Then, in early summer 2010 on a whim, I gave it a good listen, and within a week I was listening to nothing else. I finally had discovered what many people already knew.
The strange layered and pitch shifted vocal techniques were, at first, kind of bizzarre but caught my attention none-the-less to the point where I had to keep listening. Soon I began to realize this album was nothing short of amazing. One of the most impressive aspects is how the Knife manages to do something unique using what are normally considered cliche Euro-dance synths.
Despite being 4 years old, this was my favorite album of 2010.
2. Groove Armada - Black Light
Surprisingly this album did not seem to get much attention and that’s a shame because it’s truly a great album. Black Light strikes the right balance between of the elements and influences it contains. Like so many other albums in 2010 it is mildly flavored with subtle elements of New Wave and 80s pop. But unlike Empire of the Sun or Chromeo those influences are really subtle. In other ways the album has a modern hipster dance/rock feel but again more subtle than say Phoenix’s 1901.
Also the vocals really add a lot to this album. Featuring the variety of several different vocalists, some of the best tracks feature Nick Littlemore of Empire of the Sun. His stressed, almost-yelling vocals compliment the music well.
3. Chromeo - Fancy Footwork
This is another album not released in 2010. There was a new 2010 album release by Chromeo, called Business Casual, which is a good album. But Fancy Footwork is the album I really spent time listening to in 2010 and in my opinion better than Business Casual.
Fancy Footwork follows the trend at reviving the super cheese-athon music that existed in 80s. But more than just following that trend, Chromeo has produced an insanely catchy and genuinely fun, if not a little goofy, album.
4. The National - High Violet
High Violet is the National’s follow up to Boxer, which is a very hard album to follow up. Personally Boxer is one of my all time favorite albums, the kind that was in heavy rotation when first released and now is still something I enjoy listening to.
So with this release, needless to say, I had expectations. And I was indeed disappointed. At first the album didn’t seem to have quite the same strong drum presence that made the first one so appealing. Additionally it seemed quieter and more subtitle.
But I never totally gave up on it, and before I knew it I was listening to it on a regular basis. Like Boxer this album really gets a lot right, it retains the same type of casual story-like lyrics and stripped down sound. Plus the National is one of the few indie rock bands that features a baritone lead vocalist, which to me is a welcomed change from all of the whiney Thom Yorke wannabes.
5. Hot Chip - One Life Stand
This is another album I wasn’t sure about first. It was nothing like I expected, I had in mind something more like MGMT or Justice, which is not at all what Hot Chip is. But slowly I began to appreciate it for it’s uniqueness. While Hot Chip does feature many of the same sounds that hipster dance acts do, it separates itself with a subtle R&B feel.
6. Twin Shadow - Forget
You can easily sum up Twin Shadow’s sound with a term like “New Wave revival”. Which it absolutely embodies but more than just riding a trend wave, Forget is truely a good album.
7. Blonde Redhead - Penny Sparkle
Pitchfork hated this album, they gave it a 4 out of 10. So at first I mistakenly assumed if it scored that low, it must be awful. I gave it a quick listen and then moved onto something else.
But weeks later, with headphones on and in a melancholy mood, I gave it another listen. I very soon realized the critics were very wrong. This is basically the album I’ve always wanted Blonde Redhead to make. On previous albums, I would often skip many “rock out” songs in search of the calmer, reflective ones. I’ve always thought Kazu Makino’s vocals were best suited for those type of songs and on this album, I got my wish.
8. Katie Stelmanis - Join Us
Abrasive and a little painful on the ears. That the first thing I thought when I heard this album and sometimes I still think that. But beyond that, Join Us does something truly unique. It manages to be the first pop/electronic/opera album that I know of. And more than just doing something for sake of doing something, the album really has substance. It has all of the intensity and drama that you might expect from opera but shorter and in with enough pop aspects to be easily accessible. And it’s very welcomed change of pace from all of the fundamentally similarly structured music I mostly listen to.
9. Sufjan Stevens - Age of Adz
I really wanted this album to be at the top of my list but instead it’s at the bottom. Honestly I’m having a hard time thinking of a lot of good things to say about Age of Adz. That is partially because of, once again, my high expectations.
This album just doesn’t have the impact of previous Sufjan Stevens’ albums. There are very few songs that seem as sincere and genuine as there were on Illinois and Michigan. I don’t really have a problem with all of the keyboards and electronic beats on this album (and I applaud Sufjan for changing things up) but they don’t seem to really add anything. Sometimes I think the music might shine more if they were just removed. Additionally many of the beats and effects just feel dated, like Sufjan is a little late to the electronic party.
With that said, I do admit, it still is a quality album (I hold Sufjan to very high standards) and surprisingly the 25-minute long track, is really where the album shines.
10. Robyn - Body Talk
The only reason I really gave Body Talk a listen is because a lot of critics seemed to be raving aboutit. And in a lot of ways it isn’t all that different from normal bubble gum pop, not all that different than other more well known pop albums.
But anyway you look at this album it is pure sugary pop and it is a good album. There are subtle things that make the album perhaps a little more mature than the rest of the pop crowd. Like the reggeaton elements on Dancehall Queen for example. Honestly though I should have nothing to hide about my music tastes, after all I totally love some really cheesy J-Pop.