Tk’s Top 10 Albums of 2010

23Dec10

2010 in music was marked by a few things:

*It was the year that Americans finally learned how to party like the rest of the world. That’s right… trance/dance beats and riffs have taken over pop music charts and every self-respecting party animal and nightlife layperson is better off because of it. Hell, even Enrique Iglesias is giving it a shot. I like it!

 

Thank you, Pitbull.

*It was the year that auto-tune triumphantly broke out of its genre restrictions. In fact, both Sufjan Stevens and Vampire Weekend tried it on for size, proving that T-Pain does not have a monopoly on that particular technology.

*It was the year of the good. Not great. Good. Perhaps this is best exemplified by Arcade Fire’s entirely good, but entirely not great, release The Suburbs. It was the year of the solid. Not exciting. Solid. Perhaps this is best exemplified by Joanna Newsom’s entirely solid, but entirely not exciting, release Have One on Me.

A few notes about the Top 10 Albums below:

*4 of the albums are predominantly instrumental.

*2 of the artists are from England, 2 from Sweden, 1 from France, 1 from Chile, 1 from Canada, and 3 from the US.

—MY TOP 10 ALBUMS OF 2010—

10. Javiera Mena – Mena

Make no mistake. This is corny-ass 80s dance music. To some, though, that is the highest of compliments. Chile’s own Javiera Mena should be huge by now and if you don’t believe me, then click here. If you do believe me, then why are we still talking about this?

Javiera Mena somehow makes sense in the 21st century.

9. These New Puritans: Hidden

Contrary to popular belief, there are working British art-rock bands whose names don’t rhyme with Shmadiohead (which, of course, rules out Vadiohead). Hidden is a choppy, orchestral, percussive assault in the vein of Liars’ Drums Not Dead. This album sounds like an all-or-nothing hail mary from a band questioning its own relevance.

8. Local Natives – Gorilla Manor

I have officially been out-mustached. Local Natives, on the surface, come across as a too-cool-for-school indie rock band who simply serve as a point of convergence for recent trends of boyish tribalism and pastoral harmonies. Dig deeper, though, and you’ll see that this Los Angeles troop have a genuine commitment to churning out emotionally-gripping alt pop. Nothing they do feels new but everything they do feels real.

7. Caribou – Swim

Dan Snaith is a mathematician/recording artist who has reinvented himself fewer times than, say, Bowie but more times than, say, Band of Horses. Swim is a healthy electronic reinvention following the glittery pop of Andorra. It is an album permeated with aquatic sounds, textures, and movements and defined by a laid-back groove. He uses vocals only when necessary to enhance the song, rather than increase the fan base (as with most electronic artists). Check out this delicious number below.

6. Yann Tiersen – Dust Lane

Have you heard the Amelie soundtrack? It is definitely one of the better soundtracks of recent memory, but be warned, this sounds nothing like it. France’s pride and joy (I haven’t fact-checked that statement with France) takes a bold detour into stormy musical territory akin to Pink Floyd and without an ounce of twee. Okay, maybe an ounce or two of twee. There is a smattering of joy and terror here delivered via an eclectic army of instruments.

5. Jack Rose – Luck in the Valley

About 2 months ago I wrote about Valley and said: “One of the greatest living guitarists collaborates with talented friends on his 10th album chock full of old-timey, pre-war American music.” My present-day self couldn’t say it much better than my past self, especially considering that my present-day self is on vacation and kind of, uh, lazy. In all seriosity, though, this folksy instrumental album was a big ol’ healthy surprise for me this year.

4. Gold Panda – Lucky Shiner

The debut LP from London-based electronic producer Gold Panda is a compelling soundscape showing this artist to be more than just an ambitious young whippersnapper. It is as much inspired by Japan (where he studied) as it is England and opens with my pick for the catchiest song of the year, “You” – not quite the best song of 2010, though.

A class act.

 

3. Wildbirds & Peacedrums – Rivers

With a name like Wildbirds & Peacedrums, I was shocked to hear that this group did not originate in Eugene, OR. Truth be told, they are Swedish (which is beginning to be some sort of indie music cliche). Rivers is more double-EP than LP, as it is the fusion of the recent recordings, Retina and Iris. The husband-wife duo worked with an Icelandic choir in a church and have captured a warm, live aesthetic reminiscent of Feist and The Knife.

2. Steve Reich – Double Sextet, 2×5

The Pullitzer Prize-winning minimalist genius, Steve Reich, has released another gem with Double Sextet, 2×5. It is comprised of 2 compositions split into 6 tracks.  The first composition entitled “Double Sextet” has a flute, clarinet, vibraphone, piano, violin, and cello each playing against a recording of themselves. The second composition has guitars, piano, bass, and drumset playing over the top of a pre-recorded tape. Rock instruments venturing into high-concept classical grounds. John Cage would be proud.

1. Tallest Man on Earth – The Wild Hunt

On December 25, 2008, I was flying with my family in a plane towards Hawaii with a feeling of closure. I had finished a few important projects during my Winter Break in Oregon, including my 3rd annual Top 10 List. I felt confident about my decisions right up until the point when I non-chalantly pushed play on Tallest Man on Earth’s Shallow Grave. I was quickly won over by Kristian Matsson’s gravelly voice and timeless folk songs, and he has since become my favorite composing artist in the non-classical world. On The Wild Hunt, he makes all the right sophomore moves. The mix is louder and brighter than Grave, and there is even some piano thrown in to accompany his traditional vocals/guitar approach. An album defined by an utter absense of filler with all 10 songs contributing to a resplendent whole.

Tk's #1 album of 2010: The Wild Hunt by Tallest Man on Earth

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8 Responses to “Tk’s Top 10 Albums of 2010”

  1. damn straight, TK. I have a HUGE crush on Javiera… and the Tallest Man… and you.

  2. 3 Shane

    I don’t have the Steve Reich, but would like to. (*cough couDROPBOXgh*) Nice list. John Cage would be proud.

    • 4 tylersknox

      I’ve been Grooveshark-ing most of these tunes, including Reich’s, so no D-box capabilities. Make sure to check out Yann Tiersen’s work, if you haven’t already!

      • 5 Shane

        I finally got ahold of it. Good stuff! The second half, with electronic instrumentation, was like a minimalized 80’s Pat Metheny Group bridge section, the part after the ABAB form, building tension to lead to a bringin’-it-home glory chorus. I’m pretty sure Reich’s group uses the same guitar Pat used to use in the 80’s!

        I’ll work my way through the rest of these eventually. For now, Gold Panda and Local Natives totally jock my sh*t.

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