Best of 2010: 30-21

30. Club 8 – The People’s Record

On prior albums, Sweden’s Club 8 have floated about in a pretty, but otherwise unremarkable reverie of shimmery pop clouds, like countrymates Edson and Radio Dept.  Club 8’s Johan Angergård, in fact, helped run Labrador Records, original home to the aforementioned bands, and the primary source of all my mid-decade Swedepop investigations.  After a three-year hiatus, however, Club 8 return with The People’s Record, and, clearly, their own investigations took them well outside northern Europe.  The album is an upbeat and up-tempo mix of afrobeat and ritmo latino, offering a wonderful new way to appreciate Swedish optimism and sunshine.  Find further proof by resisting the singalong chorus to the ironically cheerful standout track, “We’re All Going To Die.” – MDG

29. Local Natives – Gorilla Manor

I’ll admit it…I’m a lazy music listener. By lazy, I mean I don’t actively seek out new bands anymore and if it wasn’t for my obsessed husband and his gang of uber-nerds (of which I used to be a part), I would never have heard Local Natives and their new album, Gorilla Manor. If there was anything I could deem “right up my alley” this album had it in spades. Abundant vocals and intricate harmonies, prominent and unique percussion, soulful delivery, and a jangly and messy sort of loose feel like these guys grabbed whatever instrument or pot or pan that was laying around and started playing or banging on it. It was love at first listen and easily the most listened to of all 2010 releases. Check out “Sun Hands” or “World News,” both excellent examples of its brilliance. – JH

28. Titus Andronicus – The Monitor

Named after the first “ironclad” (warship constructed out of metal), which saw action in the American Civil War, The Monitor deals with painful psychological issues like self-loathing, depression, and paranoia by powering through them with an anguished, ragged howl, and hoping to come out on the other end somewhat intact. Frequently returning to Civil War imagery as a metaphor for one’s internal battlefield, Titus Andronicus mashes historical references up with modern, shredding and shuffling together Shakespeare and Springsteen with equal fury.  Despite their stripped-down instrumentation (most often buzzaw guitars, sometimes stately pianos and old-time brass) the longer songs actaully develop and go places rather than chase their own tails, and the band manages to make chanted refrains like “you will always be a loser” and “the enemy is everywhere” sound…well, not exactly uplifting, but cathartic and defiant. – MI

27. Cee Lo Green – The Lady Killer

Cee Lo’s two albums under the Gnarls Barkley moniker were pastiches of 60’s and 70’s soul and funk. The Lady Killer is similar, but without G.B. partner Danger Mouse’s techno tweaks and innovative knob-twiddlings, we get a much more straightforward alternate history of what old-school R&B might have evolved into were it not hijacked by operatic pop-schlocksters like Whitney Houston and bland hacks like James Ingram in the 80’s. Green’s warm, gospel-inflected voice on top of a batch of jams spiked with horns and sassy backing vocals make this a great listen. And of course, it has “Fuck You,” a monster of a summer sing-along single, which sounds like the 1965 Marvin Gaye, all tunefulness and bounce, meeting the 1982 coked-out Marvin Gaye, all bitterness and persecution-complex. – MI

26. Deerhunter – Halcyon Digest

Halcyon Digest is the sound of a dream after the greatest night of your life. The looping guitars of “Earthquake” recall the moment your head hits the pillow and yourmind spins a little slower with every sluggish beat. Soon Cox and company take the listener on a nostalgic voyage full of the lovely shoe-gazer dream pop we’ve come to expect from Deerhunter. They’ve outdone themselves on the song-craft here too. “Helicopter” and “Desire Lines” are two of the greatest tracks of the new decade. – WH

25. Beach House – Teen Dream

A critical darling since they hit the scene, Beach House was not content to rest on their laurels when heading into the studio to record their third album. They knocked Teen Dream out of the park! Released very early in 2010, this one was in heavy rotation for the entire year. Hell, I’d probably put it on my 2011 list because I know I’ll still be listening this time next year. – WH

 

 

24. Love Is All – Ten Thousand and Ten Injuries

Love Is All, like fellow Swedes Shout Out Louds, is now a perfect three-for-three on the Idle Time taste-o-meter, and Two Thousand and Ten Injuries may be their best yet. Combining the energy and clamor of late-70’s British punk with the plaintive honesty of a twenty-first century heartbreak, Josephine Olausson leads another collection of undeniably catchy rock songs with the frenzy of a sonic bull loose in a record shop. “Early Warnings” is a comic string of freak injuries and implausible accidents that portents all the other Injuries in question: passionate hookups and breakups; too much sun and too little warmth. Give me vivacity and dance it out. Make Conor Oberst sad again, or Alec Ounsworth lonely once more, and you’ll hear the energy recharge.  Better yet, move to Sweden boys. Complaining never sounded so sweet. – MDG

23. Big Boi – Sir Lucious Left Foot: The Saga of Chico Dusty

In this hyper-produced hip hop record, Big Boi shows his capability and inventiveness as a solo artist. With lyrics covering the usual bases (Sex, drugs, love and egotism) the record also has interesting instrumental accompaniment, featuring a tidal wave of synthesizers, dj-scratching, samples and electronic sound effects. A highlight is track 4, “Follow Us Ft. Vonnegutt” (Produced by Salaam Remi). This song has a catchy and well sung chorus and instrumental melodies which make up for the fact that the lyrics are about nothing in particular and seem to focus more on flow and rhyming than coherence. – DH

22. The Drums

Not since “Young Folks” has a whistle been as catchy as the car-commercial-ready opening to “Let’s Go Surfing.” On their debut LP, these Brooklyn boys unite their obvious love for 50’s surf-rock to a penchant for Smiths-esque jangle.  Third Avenue House championed their handclapping sunshine in ‘09 with the Summertime! EP, and it’s wonderfully rewarding to see the anticipation pay off on this full-length.  When the movie lives up to the trailer’s hype, and the whole rollercoaster adventure is Oscar-worthy, you get the Favorite Forty stamp of approval.  Let’s call it the Vampire Weekend Award.  Nice job, boys. You earned it. – MDG

21. Girls – Broken Dreams Club EP

The EP is a format more artists need to embrace. If you’ve only got six good songs, don’t scrape up five subpar ones in order to fill out an album. It’s also a nice little nugget to drop on fans while in between albums. Broken Dreams Club succeeds as both. Girls burst on the scene and turned heads and now everyone is waiting for their sophomore effort. These six deliver on the promise of their debut, only this time they’ve gone to country a little more with great results. They’ve set the table for the masterpiece around the corner should it ever arrive. Until then we have a place in the broken dreams club. – WH

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