Saturday, January 1, 2011

Best Albums of 2010 (30-21)

30. The Depreciation Guild - Spirit Youth

The Depreciation Guild are an interesting mix of shoegaze, chiptune, and twee pop. While Slowdive or My Bloody Valentine would bury their melodies under waves and waves of hazy distortion, The Depreciation Guild opts to bury the waves of haze and put the melodies right up front. While I don't find Spirit Youth to be as charming as their debut album, In Her Gentle Jaws, it is still a very enjoyable listen. It reminds me a lot of his other band, The Pains of Being Pure At Heart. "Dream About Me" is a perfectly crafted pop song.

The Depreciation Guild - Dream About Me
29. Local Natives - Gorilla Minor
Although I enjoyed last years album by Fleet Foxes I never thought it was as good as everyone else seemed to think it was. It was a bit too polished and perfect; it didn't have any grittiness or reality to it. Gorilla Minor is much in the same vein as Fleet Foxes in its focus and reliance on beautiful vocal harmonies, yet it still has a bit of edge to it. To me this album sounds like waking up early and watching the sunrise while enjoying some coffee and some early morning music. Goddamn that sounds like a Folgers commercial or something.
Local Natives - World News
28. Wolf Parade - Expo 86
This went largely unappreciated in my opinion. Wolf Parade are in the same group of indie rock royalty as The National and Arcade Fire, and yet don't get as much of an instant pass as those bands. One reason for this could be the shear amount of material that they release through their side project bands, which are all very good in their own right. Every song on Expo 86 has enough musical ideas to form three to four full tracks, and yet nothing ever sounds cluttered or out of place. The best thing about the group is that the songwriting responsibilities are split just about equally between two amazing songwriters. Spencer Krug is also the singer in Sunset Rubdown, along with being associated in various ways with Sunset Rubdown and Frog Eyes. Dan Boeckner is also in the band The Handsome Furs, which he formed with his wife. The side projects make Wolf Parade itself that much more focused, in that the members can take their ideas that might not fit with the band proper to their other projects, instead of trying to graft them onto music which it wouldn't fit with. Unfortunately the band as of now is on indefinate hiatus; fortunately we haven't heard the last of anyone in this talented band.
Wolf Parade -
What Did My Lover Say (It Always Had To Go This Way
27. Les Savy Fav - Root For Ruin
Root For Ruin is the defining album for Les Savy Fav, which is high praise for a band who's discography is as solid as there's is. They aren't conquering any new themes here, and yet the album is so cohesive as a whole that I always find myself listening to the entire album. If it comes up on shuffle I typically will stop the song and start at track one. In an age where albums seem to be getting longer and longer, Les Savy Fav keep things short and to the point. Interestingly enough my favorite track is "Sleepless in Silverlake", which sounds the least like anything else on the album, and the most melodic. Its when they take the time to slow things down a bit when they shine most.
Les Savy Fav - Sleepless in Silverlake
26. Arcade Fire - The Suburbs
Admittedly I wasn't really that excited for this album. In the months leading up to this release there was so much press and hype about how amazing this album was going to be that I was turned off by the whole thing. Even on my first listen I found it to be a bit contrived, and yet I kept coming back; there was something about the album that bore into my brain. I instantly loved their previous two albums, even on my first listen. 2004's Funeral was in my top 10 that year, and 2007's Neon Bible introduced some elements to their sound that I previously would not have associated with them. On The Suburbs they have incorporated the lyrical themes of the first two albums and adapted them to the topics of aging, childhood, and urban sprawl among other things. It really is one of those albums you have to listen to a couple of times in order to get. One thing that I do remember "getting" on my first playthrough was the wonderful track Sprawl II, in which criminally underused member RĂ©gine Chassagne sums up in three minutes what main member Win Butler took 60 minutes getting across. Yes America is changing, yes consumerism is consuming us in some ways as a nation, but really its not as bad as it seems.
Arcade Fire -
Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains) (Unstaged)
25. How To Destroy Angels - EP
Upon hearing that Nine Inch Nails was going on hiatus, I was a little crushed. NIN were my favorite thing in the world from about the ages of 13-18, and I still enjoy nearly every single release. But upon hearing the work Trent Reznor is doing post-NIN, I am thinking that his decision was for the better. In this year alone he scored the movie The Social Network(which was the only good part of an overall uninteresting film), remastered his debut album Pretty Hate Machine with amazing results, and started a new band with his new wife. That band of course is How To Destroy Angels, and although the band name sounds like something a teenager would scrawl on his 8th grade math notebook, the music itself is much more. It actually reminds me a lot of the score for The Social Network, in that it ebbs and flows with such personality that by the end of the short EP it has taken on a life of its own. A couple of the tracks sound basically like what you would imagine NIN sounding like with a girl singing instead of Trent Reznor, but on others you can hear something new forming. I really have high hopes for their full length, which fingers crossed will come out this year.
How To Destroy Angels - A Drowning
24. Holy Fuck - Latin
Holy Fuck's Latin wins the reward for the best workout/running album of the year. To me they sound like LCD Soundsystem's more momentous moments mixed with the virtuosity of Battles mixed with the pure drive of Maserati (PUNS). The albums peaks and valleys are perfect for interval training, in that they give you moments to breathe and rest in between the bursts of pure sound and adrenaline. Imagine Explosions in the Sky but replace the sentimentality with pure drive. Also the video mixes features high speed chases between cats and dogs, so yeahhhhhhhhhhhhhHHHHHHHHHHHH.
Holy Fuck - Red Lights
23. Belle And Sebastian - Write About Love
Even though I have only had access to this album for about a month now I can already tell that it is my favorite release by this long lived band. Belle and Sebastian have been around since the mid 90's, during which they have slowly perfected their blend of twee pop and sentimentality. Their last album, The Life Pursuit, showed a side of them that hadn't been seen before. It featured bigger arrangements, multiple vocalists, and a generally fuller sound. Since then B&S mainman Stuart Murdoch released a side project album, last years God Help The Girl, which made my top albums list of 2009. This album seems like a logical progression from that project, and a couple of tracks wouldn't be out of place on a God Help The Girl release. I guess it comes down to whether you prefer the stripped down version of their earlier albums or the fuller sound of the previous releases, I am obviously in the latter camp. Also there is a Norah Jones guest track, which never hurts.
Belle And Sebastian - Write About Love
22. Emeralds - Does It Look Like I'm Here
This album is humongous. Even with nearly a complete lack of traditional percussion it fills up any space it happens to be in, whether it be the speakers into your room or the headphones into your ears. Emeralds are considered avant guard, but in my opinion they are very accessible. On previous releases they have written long form songs that rely on minutes and minutes of build before reaching a catharsis, similar to the post-rock format but with synths instead of guitars. However on Does It Look Like I'm Here they have honed and trimmed there sound. There are still the huge builds and releases, but they take place over a matter of minutes rather than tens of minutes. Imagine the earlier m83 albums but with an army of warm analogue synthesizers instead of just one or two. I can imagine someone reading the genre of the group and listening for a minute or two before dismissing Emeralds all together, but they would be missing out on one of the most rewarding listens of the year. It is hard for me to pick a song off the album to link, because it is very much an album album, but this is a good example of the range that Emeralds has.
Emeralds - Does It Look Like I'm Here
21. Delorean - Subiza
In terms of shear ecstatic happiness this would have to be my album of the year. It builds on what they created on last years Ayrton Senna (also on my year end list) to such a great degree that I was not disappointed whatsoever, even though this was one of my most anticipated releases of 2010. For the uninitiated, Delorean play a form of sunny Mediterranean pop that is nearly impossible to deny. Echoes of disembodied voices, mostly oohs and aahs, build along side an incredibly solid rhythm section into 5 minute doses of pure catharsis. The build and release during the song "Grow", which happens from 3:00 - 3:45, is maybe my favorite musical moment of the year. Even the fact that the last track on the album sounds an awful lot like Animal Collective doesn't bother me. This album, along with the Big Boi album, were THE albums of summer 2010. The only reason it isn't higher on my year end list is that after about 20 listens it gets a little bit stale, but those first 20 listens are rewarding. If you want to put a dance album on that isn't completely mindless, you could do a lot worse than Subiza.
Delorean - Endless Sunset
Delorean - Real Love

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