Monday, November 29, 2010

Best Music of 2010

1. LCD Soundsystem - This is Happening

What might be the last record by LCD Soundsystem is fittingly grand. It's the best record of the year, and seeing them play live a few times this year were the best shows I saw. The album ends with a song called "Home," which is appropriate since it's the most oft-repeated word in their entire catalogue, but also because that sense of desire for something you've lost pervades the whole record, if not James Murphy's whole career. If this is the end, I can't think of a better send off.

2. Spoon - Transference

The most reductive they've ever allowed their sound to be, it would be off putting if the songs weren't so consistently good. This is among the strongest stuff they've ever recorded.

3. Broken Social Scene - Forgiveness Rock Record

Forgiveness is as good an idea as any to promote, and as a theme it syncs perfectly with their aesthetic. It's one of their best, most focused albums.

4. Arcade Fire - The Suburbs

The first time I've warmed to any of their albums as a whole. It's a great record, personal but very large in scope. Works just as well in a stadium as it does in a bedroom.

5. Hot Chip - One Life Stand

Another great Hot Chip album, a more diverse sound. Harmonizing, honest emotion, weird synth sounds. I like it a lot.

6. Jónsi - Go

A brighter, happier version of Sigur Rós. Beautiful. Also worth seeking out is Dean Deblois' film of the acoustic version of the record, Go Quiet.

7. She & Him - Volume Two

An incredibly well produced, well performed record. The particulars of Deschanel's other career don't need to enter into the picture to appreciate it at all except that her other career surely informs her vocal performances which are, without exception, confident and emotional. It's an improvement over their very good first record, and goes well beyond pastiche.

8. MGMT - Congratulations

A record that I took a while to warm to, but when I did it was hard not to recognize the greatness. If it sounds a bit like a post-graduate study on the psychedelic, it can be forgiven by the enthusiasm in the songwriting and the dense production. Beyond that it's very enjoyable to listen to.

9. Sleigh Bells - Treats

A grower. I didn't like the EP, then I did. I didn't like this, then I did. They leave something to be desired live, and I wonder how long they can sustain as a band but for now it's great, loud, dumb pop music.

10. Gold Panda - Lucky Shiner

This came out of nowhere for me. It sounds like something I would have loved in High School. That sounds like a back-handed compliment or an insult, but it's an irresistibly charming record.

(The following artists' names are in bold, with the title of their release-if there is one-in parenthesis next to their name.)
Much of the rest of these are bands I'm probably more familiar with a small section of their work than their albums as a collective, but I also enjoyed (in some order at first and then not as much): The follow-up EP by a great live band, Twin Sister (Color Your Life), the excellent EP by DFA act Holy Ghost! (Static on the Wire), the slightly disappointing but still very good album by The Walkmen (Lisbon), the all over the place, but great in stretches album from Yeasayer (Odd Blood), the very enjoyable to listen to and see performed live stuff by The Morning Benders (Big Echo), longtime DFA DJ, first time origina...tor Shit Robot (From The Cradle To The Rave), the highly-influenced-by-Joy Division record from The Drums (The Drums), the disparate, hard to gather releases of Memoryhouse, the ridiculously catchy Swedish pop thing that Robyn (Body Talk) does, the promising EP by Tennis (Boston), I came around to portions of the much derided album by M.I.A. (Maya), the broody beer drinking thing of The National (High Violet), the egomanical, but still kinda good thing that Kanye West (My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy) does, the soft spoken, folky British thing that Laura Marling (I Speak Because I Can) does, the consistent output of Rufus Wainwright (All Days Are Nights: Songs for Lulu), the consistent output of The Roots (How I Got Over), the sure-to-improve-as-they-get-older music of Toro y Moi (Causers of This), the she's-better-in-a-live-setting-than-on-a-record recording by Nellie McKay (Home Sweet Mobile Home), the-never-as-good-as-the-first-EP of Amiina (Puzzle), the thing I'm sure I would have liked them a lot if I listened to it more of Joanna Newsom (Have One On Me) and Owen Pallett (Heartland).

I also enjoyed the various live recordings offered throughout the year, including those of LCD Soundsystem (London Sessions), LCD Soundsystem and Hot Chip (Live at Alexandra Palace), Phoenix (Live in Sydney), and Arcade Fire (Live at Madison Square Garden Broadcast on YouTube).

I've assembled a number of live performances by some of the artists mentioned over here.

As always, there a lot of holes in these things, and like most people I do not solely listen to new music. The top ten represent heavy rotators for me, the rest are largely things I did not listen to a great deal, but when I did, I enjoyed. There is a playlist below with a song from every artist mentioned.

Things other people seem like but I don't get: Drake, Best Coast, Florence and the Machine, Of Montreal, Sufjan Stevens, Maximum Balloon, Chromeo.