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An Aids-y 2010

Here it is for those interested. My ordered list of the fifty best albums of the year. I could only muster enough energy to do full write-ups for the top 15, but your feedback is appreciated. Here's to 2011 being just as good as 2010 was (that would be unbelievable O_O).
50Kings of Leon
Come Around Sundown


If the entire album was as strong as the first five or so tracks, this would be
much higher on this list.
49Caleb McAlpine
Science Fiction


That's right, Waior makes the cut.
48Vampire Weekend
Contra


Say what you want about this band, but this album if fun as fuck
47Eluvium
Similes


I already made a sperate EP list, so his EP Static Nocturne isn't here, but
it's brilliant. At least 10 times better than this. Still, this is good.
46Letlive
Fake History
45Tera Melos
Patagonian Rats


A lot of people here seem to hate this but I don't know it seems sweet.
Granted, I haven't heard their earlier efforts.
44The Felix Culpa
Sever Your Roots
43Delta Spirit
History From Below


This has grown off me quite a bit, but it's still good.
42Gold Panda
Lucky Shiner


Uhn-tss Uhn-tss
41The Republic Of Wolves
Varuna


This is the band responsible for the fake Brand New demos before Daisy
was released, lulz
40Jaga Jazzist
One-Armed Bandit


What We Must >>>>>>>>> This, but then again, What We Must
>>>>>>>>>> most music, so
39Flying Lotus
Cosmogramma
38Daughters
Daughters
37Laura Marling
I Speak Because I Can


To be honest, this was a disappointment. When I saw she had a release
slated for this year I thought "top 20, easy"
36Youth Pictures of Florence Henderson
Youth Pictures of Florence Henderson


Terrible band name
35Foxy Shazam
Foxy Shazam


what is this i dont even
34Envy
Recitation
33Brian Eno
Small Craft on a Milk Sea


Super good. Not Another Green World, but I mean, duh
32Look What I Did
Atlas Drugged


It's like if Minus The Bear went post-hardcore. Which they might as well do,
it's not like their current direction is any good... (spoiler alert! Minus The
Bear didn't make the cut)
31At The Soundawn
Shifting


This nearly slipped under my radar, don't let it slip under yours!
30Broken Bells
Broken Bells


"Buy this. Buy the vinyl. Buy ten." - Sobhi
29Red Sparowes
The Fear Is Excruciating, But Therein...


These guys kind of sound like my band. Or, I guess, we kind of sound like
them. Good stuff.
28The Black Keys
Brothers
27Jonsi
Go


I thought this was gonna be poopie for sure. Boy was I wrong.
26The Saddest Landscape
You Will Not Survive


Rest in Peace Brandon (youaremysilence), I think of you whenever I listen
to these guys
25Dangers
Messy, Isn't It?
24Kyte
Dead Waves


Not post-rock. I don't know why it's listed as such.
23Broken Social Scene
Forgiveness Rock Record
22Oceansize
Self Preserved While The Bodies Float Up
21Women
Public Strain
20More Than Life
Love Let Me Go


Boobies!
19Fang Island
Fang Island


Whichever reviewer said it hit the nail on the head, this album is totally the
sound of a group of friends giving each other high fives.
18Pantha Du Prince
Black Noise


Uhn-tss Uhn-tss
17Arcade Fire
The Suburbs
16Mountain Man
Made The Harbor


'Animal Tracks' is one of the prettiest songs I've ever heard.
15Crippled Black Phoenix
I, Vigilante


This is post-rock for the new era. With I, Vigilante, Crippled Black Pheonix
take the 'post' out of 'post-rock.' I know, sounds stupid, but bear with me,
it's actually awesome. Post-rock music usually aims to do everything that
rock did not. Gone are the vocals, gone are the clear, straightforward guitar
lines, and gone is the travesty that is the chorus. Enter Crippled Black
Phoenix. Let's call it "post-post-rock." (Actually let's not, but I think you
understand the general sentiment). I, Vigilante has vocals. It has slide-
guitar riffs. It has clean tones lacking tremolo. Cover your ears, but I think I
heard a chorus too. But there's one aspect of post-rock that remains intact
for this album: the epic sound. The crescendos, while somehow
incorporated with vocals and other rock cliches, are present and as glorious
as those of Mono. The brooding, epic tone carries throughout the entire
album and ties Crippled Black Phoenix securely to the post-rock side of the
spectrum. But that doesn't mean they can't insert a little flair of their own.
Seriously, the guitar solos (yes that's right, solos) could have been found in
a Led Zeppelin or Lynyrd Skynyrd song. But Crippled Black Phoenix still
manages to convince me that this is a post-rock album. It's for that
uniqueness (and for all it's epic tendencies) that I, Vigilante makes my top
15.
14Little Women
Throat


...I have no words to describe what this sounds like. I guess the closest
reference would be jazz, but even that is a bit of a stretch. Little Woman
are hard-hitting and batshit insane. That's about all I can say about that.
Just listen to the album, I am at a loss for words.
13Menomena
Mines


Mines, Menomena's fourth outing, admittedly starts off a little slow. As the
first song moves into its chorus for the first time, you would swear that you
were listening to Kings of Leon. No disrespect intended to Kings of Leon,
they're a fantastic rock band, but their music isn't exactly top 20 quality (not
in my books anyway). From track three on however, Mines is an exquisite
piece of clever music rooted in expansive song structures. Dirty Cartoons,
the fourth song on the album, is a stirring ballad which evokes memories of
relationships past. Tithe, track five, is an epic progressive track. The next
track, Bote, is a straight-up rocker with a sing- along pre-chorus.
Menomena are a great band continuing to make great, fun music. Mines,
while probably not their best (that would probably be 2007's Friend and
Foe), is a fantastic rock album.
12Six Gallery
Breakthroughs In Modern Art


Remember how Minus The Bear released an album this year? Remember
how it sucked compared to their previous albums? Well, it's alright. Rejoice,
fellow Minus The Bear fans, Six Gallery is here! Six Gallery are a talented
band musically; after all, they were formed as a purely instrumental group.
The guitar lines found throughout the album's ten tracks are angular and
difficult to play. In fact, most of the instrumentation is immensely compound
in its structure. Although the instrumentation is likely quite difficult to pull
off, the members of Six Gallery keep it all clean. The guitar notes are picked
cleanly and without a sense of rushing through a scale (as is often the case
with this sort of music). The band seems well-composed, like they're all
clear of their roles. They may be creating spacey complex sounds, but their
feet never leave the ground, and it's immensely refreshing. So let that copy
of Omni gather dust and wipe that tear from your eye. Minus The Bear may
be dead, but Six Gallery are here to ease the pain.
11Max Richter
Infra


Max Richter is a pianist and composer who was educated at The Royal
Academy of Music, among other prestigious music schools across Europe.
His 2010 album, Infra, follows in the lineage of his earlier works and
displays his phenomenal classical piano playing. Infra is far from an exercise
in neo-classical however. Richter is a wise man; he knows it's all been done
before. So, he keeps his music fresh. Behind his beautiful piano lines,
Richter inserts aspects from the Electronica realm of music. Computers
bleep and bloop away in the background as Richter's fingers fly over the
keys. While this might sound a little bit odd to the uninitiated, trust me
when I say that is it executed with the utmost expertise and in an
amazingly listenable fashion. Richter is a maestro on the piano. His playing
is touching and immensely poignant. But Infra is so much more than that. It
is proof that there is something to behold in the combination of old and
new.
10Parades
Foreign Tapes


Parades are an indie-rock band from Australia and Foreign Tapes in their
debut. And my oh my, what a debut it is. Parades seem to have skipped the
awkward phase of shoddy song-writing that usually plagues new rock
bands and have shot to the top of the heap. Whether you find yourself
listening to a jaw-dropping extended rock jam, or clever vocal tradeoffs
between the male and female vocalists, each moment of this album
contains something to behold. Parades show incredible poise and maturity
with this album. They stray away from cliche and opt instead to create
something that is entirely their own. What takes most bands three or four
mediocre albums to figure out, Parades have nailed on their first try.
9Rosetta
A Determinism Of Morality


Rosetta takes cue from some of post-metal's pioneers like Isis and Cult of
Luna. On their latest effort, A Determinism of Morality, their penchant for
creating heavy, atmospheric tracks reaches new heights. The album is a
whirlwind of fast riffing, moody guitar textures, and powerful vocal lines.
The post-metal approach to music is quite refreshing, and Rosetta pulls it
off perfectly. The heavy, riff-oriented song structure most commonly found
in metal is combined with the spacey aesthetic and atmosphere driven
dynamics usually found in post-rock. The result is an album that is at once
soothing and heavy. It is heavy and in your face, but relaxing and brooding.
Let me put it this way: A Determinism of Morality will crush your balls. But
it'll give them a nice soothing massage after. If that doesn't convince you to
listen to this, nothing will.
8Basia Bulat
Heart Of My Own


Basia Bulat is a Canadian singer-songwriter based out of Toronto. Hear of
My Own is here second album and is criminally underexposed. It's a
surprise that Bulat has yet to find the mainstream, because her music is
accessible and fantastic. Think Feist meets Laura Marling. Her music is
wonderfully inoffensive, which isn't to say that it's safe. Bulat lays her heart
on the line here (at the album title may suggest) and her sincerity shines
through. This is a woman who dropped out of school and used the
remainder of her student loan to pay for the production of her debut album
(2007's Oh My Darling, also great). Her passion for music is clear, as is her
talent for creating forward-thinking folk songs. The instrumentation on this
album is somewhat more varied than what one would usually find on an
album coming from the singer-songwriter arena. Besides the obvious
necessities of singing and playing acoustic guitar, Bulat plays the autoharp
on several songs and does so in a distinctive and intriguing manner. This
touch helps to separate Bulat from the heap of acoustic folk artists that
seem to be over saturating the market these days. Heart of My Own is
Basia Bulat's expression of passion for her music. She is a talented young
woman whose talents in lyric writing are comparable to that of a young Joni
Mitchell. Do yourself a favour and listen to this album before her next album
drops and she hits the mainstream. Then you can tell everybody how cool
you were; that were listening to her "before she was big."
7Sed Non Satiata
Sed Non Satiata


Hailing from Toulouse, France, Sed Non Satiata is one of emo music's last
great bands. They draw on the influence from punk legends like pg. 99 and
Orchid, but at the same time, create a sound that is new and fresh. Post-
rock is clearly a heavy influence here, as several of their songs foray into
beautifully dark instrumental sections devoid of any real driving riff or vocal
line. The vocal work on this release is incredibly polarizing. If you're not one
to enjoy a passionately delivered scream in a language you likely don't
understand (French), then you might want to shy away from this. If you've
broken your hardcore punk cherry and enjoy that rough sort of vocal work,
Sed Non Satiata is essential. Sed Non Satiata's self-titled LP is an
interesting and refreshing approach to the screamo scene, and one that is
sure to be emulated in the future. If emo is to survive as a genre, then
there needs to be more bands like this. There needs to be more bands that
are capable of constantly moving the genre forward with a unique approach
and intelligent song-writing.
6The Dillinger Escape Plan
Option Paralysis


The DEP returns in 2010 with yet another cryptic and infinitely complex
album. The band has seen line-up changes in the past years (notably the
switching of drummers), but Ben Weinman, the creative force behind the
music, remains. Instrumentally, Option Paralysis is vintage DEP. I'm not sure
if there's any truth to the rumours that the time-signatures are determined
by rolling a twenty-sided die, but I wouldn't be surprised at all to hear
confirmation of this myth. Just when you think you've figured out how to tap
that toe along to the beat, Weinman and friends launch into an angular riff-
centred breakdown that switches between obscure time signatures rarely
heard in popular music (or metalcore and grind for that matter). The
Dillinger Escape Plan is a very harsh sounding band. The vocals are usually
screamed in classic hardcore punk fashion. The drumming is chaotic and
hard to follow. Nothing about this band is radio friendly. So, what really
stands out about this album is its accessibility. Gold Teeth on a Bum is
probably the band's least heavy song in recent memory, but it's still
excellent. Album opener and lead single, Farwell, Mona Lisa, is (dare I say
it?) catchy. The album even closes with Parasitic Twins, a song that could
have been found on a Nine Inch Nails album, clean vocals and all. With
Option Paralysis, The Dillinger Escape Plan have created an album that
people outside of the metal scene may find themselves enjoying, but have
cleverly and expertly kept their edge about them to avoid accusations of
"selling out" or of "becoming too mainstream."
5Kerouac
Cold and Distant, Not Loving


Kerouac is a hardcore punk band from Southampton, and they don't screw
around. Clocking in at under seventeen minutes, Cold and Distant, Not
Loving, is an all-out aggressive assault of heavy hitting punk. Think
Converge on a deadline. That's not to say that this album sounds rushed.
It's anything but rushed. Every chords, every fill, every scream is perfectly
placed. It's like they made an average album of about forty minutes and
decided to cut all the filler, leaving nothing but pure awesomeness. Kerouac
plays fast and heavy, really heavy. The album only gets faster from the
opening moments and the heaviness rarely relents. When it does relent,
it's only for a moment, and it's only to lure the listener into some false
sense of comfort. For nearly twenty minutes, this album will have you sitting
on the edge of your seat; it will have your jaw on the floor. Multi- tasking
will become an impossibility; Kerouac's urgent approach and insistent
delivery demand the listener's full attention. By the time the album reaches
its final moments, I'll bet you a million doll hairs that you?ll be hitting
repeat.
4Warpaint
The Fool


At the risk of sounding like a silly boy, this release from the all-girl quartet
from Los Angeles astounded me. I mean, I respect women probably more
than the average guy, but music is a heavily male-dominated area. Sure, I
love Regina Spektor, Hole has some pretty OK songs, and Taylor Swift
writes a pretty great pop tune, but it's a rare thing that a woman makes
waves as an instrument playing member of a somewhat reputable band.
So, the stupid testosterone drive male inside of me approached this album
with a massive grain of salt. And boy did I feel stupid because after a
couple of tracks, it became clear the Warpaint is the real deal. Not only can
they sing like angels, they're masters of their musical instruments, all of
them. Wicked psychedelic guitar lines with perfect tone? Check. Tight,
expressive drumming? Check. Interesting basslines? Check. Track after
track, Warpaint deliver the goods. On this, their debut LP, they create a
unique sound that is equal parts post-punk and new-age psychedelic. So,
women everywhere, I am sorry for doubting your gender. Music, like
basically everything else these days, is male-dominated. So forgive me for
not having faith, or whatever you want to call it, but I didn't think I'd see
the day when an all-girl band would release an album that would push for a
top spot on a list of the year's best albums. So, my penis-wielding friends, I
beg of you to lay down your free weights. Pause whichever sports game
you happen to be watching. Put down that Jager-bomb, if only for a
moment. Now, go buy this album; it's better than a million fist pumps. Who
knew broads had it in them?
3Sufjan Stevens
The Age of Adz


I don't know what Sufjan is smoking, but I want some. Seriously, what is
with this album? Previous to this year, Sufjan Stevens was pretty easily
defined as a folk musician. With his latest effort pair of releases (the other
being his EP, All Delighted People), Sufjan has shown that he is impossible
to pigeonhole. Listen to The Age of Adz, and at any given moment, you'll be
caught in the middle of a musical wonderland. Keyboard melodies flutter
overheard as a percussion loop plods away. Meanwhile, Sufjan tinkers with
heavy industrial sounds and sings about his aging mind. On the album's
opening track, Sufjan sings "words are futile devices," and by golly, he?s
right. Words can not begin describe this album and trying to explain how it
sounds truly is futile. Analysis will never do it justice. Just hold your breath
and take the plunge.
2The National
High Violet


Does The National even know how to make bad music? Prior to the release
of High Violet, we were all waiting for The National to screw up. They were
four LPs into their career, and while their first two can't come close to the
brilliance of their later efforts, Alligator and Boxer, they were still to release
an album of less than excellent quality. Well, we're going to have to keep
waiting for an Interpol-like slip-up, because High Violet is probably the best
music they've made to date. The album is full of songs that are overflowing
with genuine emotion and heart. What is astonishing about this album is
the level of honesty that lyricist Matt Berringer is still presenting after four
gut-wrenching albums. The National writes songs that the listener can
connect with on a deeply personal level. Album opener "Terrible Love" is a
cut about the bitter disappointment of a great love turned sour. "Afraid of
Everyone" could easily be interpreted as an expression of anxiety and
loneliness. It's Berringer's affinity for choosing highly relatable topics that
makes The National such an easy band to enjoy. Lyric after lyric, song after
song, The National reaches out to their audience through their relatable
lyricism, as if to let them know that it's all been experience before, and
nothing is so bad that we cannot come out of the other side as a stronger
person. And then there's "Bloodbuzz Ohio," easily the best song of the
year. On this track, Berringer reaches new levels of honesty and openness
with his audience. I challenge you, dear reader, to listen to this track and
not be covered in goosebumps by the end. If you can do this, you are a
robot. Matt Berringer's trademark low vocals are back as emotionally
distraught as ever. The brothers Devendorf are as tight as ever and make a
case for greatest rhythm section in indie music with their phenomenal work
throughout the album. Lastly, the Dessner twins return with beautifully
melodic, soaring guitar lines. Put it all together, and combine it with the
genius lyricism of Matt Berringer, and you have The National: the
undisputed champions of the indie-scene, still perfect at 5-0.
1Kanye West
My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy


If you had told me one year ago, that I would be crowning Kanye West for
album of the year, I would have punched you in the face and then
defriended you on facebook. As a rule, I hate hip-hop. It's sexist,
egomaniacal, and self-indulgent; sometimes so much that I can't even listen
to an entire track without cringing, let alone an entire album. There's not
much different here. Kanye's latest effort is all of those things. It's full of
sexist lyrics, it's full of ego-stroking (come on, we're talking about Kanye
here) and it is, at time, so self-indulgent it's ridiculous. But the thing is the
songs are too good to care. They're excellent; brilliant even. Say what you
want about Kanye's terrible decision making skills in the public arena, but
the man knows how to make music. From Nicki Minaj's unsettling intro, to
Justin Vernon's electro-fiddling, through Chris Rock's hilarious rant, right up
until the closing moments of "Who Will Survive In America?" this album is
produced perfectly. Each beat, each sample, each subtle bit of
instrumentation is expertly applied. Not once in the 60+ minutes of playtime
does Kanye leave the listener wishing that the bridge had been slightly
different, or that the intro was too short. Musically, this album is objectively
perfect. And the rest is just attitude, trademark Kanye West, roll-your-eyes,
never-play-in-front-of-family, attitude. Kanye West is nothing if not aware
and he takes clever jabs at nearly everyone who had a negative word
about the man in the last 12 months. No one is safe, not even South Park's
writers. Not enough can be said about this album. It is a masterpiece in
every sense of the word. My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy is everything
you hoped it could be and more. It's catchy, it's clever, it's angry, it's funny,
and at times it's brilliant. But most of all, it's human. And while the human
may be a crazy, egomaniacal douchebag, did you really expect anything
different? Kanye's latest album is perfectly titled. Strap yourself in and
enjoy the ride. But don't say he didn't warn you.
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