Ok! I listened to all 39 of the 2010 albums I decided I cared about so far, all 474 songs, 1 and one-third full day’s worth of music, and then I spent like 3 weeks staring at this Word doc, and so now, finally finally finally, now I can post my list of the best albums of the year (meaning last year, because it is practically 2012 now).
This was the year I gave up on The National. I downloaded the whole discography, and I just couldn’t get through it, I didn’t like any of it. Much like the moment I decided that if I hadn’t liked carrots for the first 21 years of my life, I never would, I decided to, at long last, allow myself to not like The National. And with The National, I also can not like boring dude rock, the Gen X storyline of “punk, the terrible synthy 80’s, then REM, then PAVEMENT!”, then more dude rock. I just don’t like it. And so this year I tried to embrace what I like, to enjoy stuff I enjoyed (radical thought!) and not overthink it like I just did in this paragraph. And what do I like? High pitched girl voices, noisy droney fuzz, and hip-hop you can dance to. And, because some habits are hard to break, Sufjan Stevens and Vampire Weekend.
My favorite albums of 2010 (in reverse order this time, just for kicks!!)
- 20. The Thermals – Personal Life
10. Wavves – King of the Beach
For whatever reason, this beachy indie rock thing hits me right there. I love the fuzzy guitars, the wahh wahh melodies, the frenetic mishmashy chrosuses. Wavves does it all right, and makes it seem easy and familiar, like skippping school and skateboarding down a sun-bleached LA boulevard, headed to the beach [I’ve never done any of those things.]
9. Rihanna – Loud
If Rihanna is a girl whose job happens to be “popstar”, Loud is like the best day at work ever. Everyone’s relaxed, there’s some great new piece of gossip, there’s no stress, no drama. We’re all just having a good time, here, singing our John Mellencamp songs (above) and recording a new “I Shot The Sherriff” just because she can (and Katy Perry) can’t. Rihanna used to be kind of boring to me – she seemed personality-less. On Loud, I can finally recognize her as a person we need – a popstar who recognizes that ultimately, she’s just in the service industry.
8. Sufjan Stevens – Age of Adz
I haven’t listened to this one enough times yet to form a coherent statement, but man, that Sufjan, always surprising us, right? This album is so weird, so out of his wheelhouse but also like, it totally works. He has good insticts, our boy, and even when its syntheziser rasps and NIN drones, he knows when to put the big choir in, when to wail, when to add horns. Haunting and strange and beuaitulf, consstantly unfolding.
- 7. The-Dream – Love King
Look, you all know how I feel about The-Dream, so I’ll just keep going. Love King has some more one-of-a-kind incredible perfect songs (YAMAHA GO LISTEN TO YAMAHA), songs that make the entire practice of listening to music worth it. It also has some songs that are very enjoyable, if not life-changing. The-Dream never has much to say, but he came up with both “What rhymes with asshole? Asshole.” and the couplet “Put me on your block/I’m moving in/I would love to be love’s neighbor,” which I think is quite pretty, and when you can write huge synth lines like the entirety of “Abyss,” who needs words?
6. Robyn – Body Talk(s)
Its pretty much standard to lament that Robyn should be a huge international pop sensation, and bemoan this world that means she isn’t. But I don’t know – I like that she’s underground, and not only for the indie cred (ok, mostly for the cred). Her music, despite being catchy and dancey and bouncing and more of that perfectly formed pop that Sweden is so justly known for, has an edge to it, a weirdness, that she might not be able to flirt with as much if she was selling out MSG and appealing to the broadest demographics. Her songs are sad, and about robots, and about how she’s a stud, and sometimes she sings in Swedish and puts on acoustic covers of dirty Prince songs. On the other hand, if she was mainstream famous would she have more collaborations with mainstream rappers? Because a track from Robyn ft. Kanye about robotics and insecurity I would actually die for. Actually.
- 5. Katy Perry – Teenage Dream
Ok, I’ll admit it. I haven’t actually heard this whole album. Actually I have only heard five songs. But dude, Katy rocked 2010. There’s a lot to criticize about Katy Perry, but if you don’t find “Peacock” hilarious, “Last Friday Night” vaguely inspring, “Fireworks” kind of heartwrenching, and “Teenage Dream” actaully fucking gorgeous, then you are NO. FUN. There, I said it. And admit it – even if it was just for a few fleeting seconds, at one point we all kind of liked “California Gurls.”
4. Best Coast – Crazy For You
- As I mentioned, I like drone-y, beach-y rock, and 2010 was a good year for me. Especially when you put fuzzed out high girl vocals on top – well, that’s pretty much all I need. Best Coast was a band made for me, start to finish. But what makes Crazy For You transcend the “this + this” equation and come out as something more is its sweetness, its peircing ability to encapsulate totality of feeling in little, tossed off lyrics like “the other girl is not like me/she’s prettier and skinnier” or “and even when you’re gone/I listen to my favorite songs/ and think about you all night long/cause you’re the one for me.” I mean that’s it, right? That’s all there is to it. Buzz buzz buzz, chorus chorus chorus.
3. Big Boi – Sir Lucious Left Foot: The Son of Chico Dusty
This is one of those albums that is so perfect you don’t even notice; you just keep going back to it again and again, listening all the way through, and then starting over, and there is absoultely nothing not great about it. Even when I listen again and have mentally decided which are the weaker songs – “Be Still,” “Daddy Fat Sax” – when I listen again I’m like wait, those songs are totally great! Even picking which song to put up there was nearly impossible – the swagga burn of “Shine Blockas,” the seductive creep of “Tangerine” (which is “Sugar Magnolia” for 2010, I’m serious). The fact that there isn’t any more to say is proof of how perfectly crafted this thing is. Andre, you’re always in my heart, but Daddy Fat Sax wins this round.
2. Kanye West – My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy
What can possibly be said about Kanye that hasn’t been said already, by Kanye himself? As Nitsuh Abebe said, its hardly even worth noting that it is a great album – of course its great, its the work of a perfecionist with a big budget, connections, and the, er, confidence to do pretty much anything. For weeks after this album came out, it was all I talked about – it was all anyone talked about. It seemed that every article I read had another perfect line summing up the Kanye phenomemon. When I turned on the radio I was consistenly surprised that all the channels weren’t playing Kanye – maybe MBTDF on most, with some of College Dropout on the oldies stations, and the one song with Chris Martin on Fresh FM. What else was there to listen to?
All this may not exactly sound like an endorsement of the record, but whats amazing about it is how every time I go back to it, thinking that I will not be able to listen to it divorced from all the hype, that all this groupthink is covering up a plain old rap album, I find that its just as good – even better, maybe – than we all said. Its new, its weird, it reaches so high and pretty much gets there, every time. Kanye has become some kind of weird inverted national treasure of the internet age, one I feel nothing but affection for. In the midst of one of my declarations of love, my friend’s mom mentioned that she saw Kanye on Ellen, and he was just so obnoxious, so full of himself, so “graceless.” I just grinned. Of course he was. Oh, Kanye.
1. Sleigh Bells – Treats
Sleigh Bells was like a perfect storm of Shira – loud fuzzy guitars, high pitched girl group voices, fuzzed out clomping, catchy melodies. Its pretty much everything I like in one place. I mean are you listening to this stuff? It just slams straight at you and never lets up. “Got my a machines on the table got my b machines in the drawer!” we all scream together. No matter what you do with the volume, it just sounds loud.
I spent a lot of the summer listneing to this album in my minivan’s CD player as I drove around upstate New York, working as a camp counselor before moving back to DC to start Real Life. This album to me sounds like freedom, like summer, like irresponsibility and sweetness and the possibility of escape. It still sounds like that to me now – like the hidden crash under the breeziest summer, like a perfect peircing sweetness hovering above it all.