Albums Of The Year 2010
1. Danger Mouse & Sparklehorse - Dark Night Of The Soul
After being held up in legal limbo for over a year, 2010 finally saw the release of the soundtrack to the multi-media collaboration between Danger Mouse, Sparklehorse, and David Lynch. And for those who never got around to obtaining through alternate means (I'm probably in the minority of that category), it was worth the wait. Albums with multiple guest singers are usually a mixed bag, but there is remarkable continuity on this album. The music was composed by Danger Mouse and Mark Linkous, and then the guest vocalists (including Iggy Pop, Frank Black, Julian Casablancas, Suzanne Vega, Vic Chesnutt, Jason Lytle of Grandaddy, Gruff Ryhs of Super Furry Animals, James Mercer of The Shins, The Flaming Lips, and David Lynch) wrote the lyrics. Despite the fact that the singers were never given any direction or heard any of the other tracks, all the songs share similar themes of dealing with the darker side of life, giving the project remarkable continuity. The one-two punch of Black Francis' "Angel's Harp" and Iggy Pop's "Pain" give the album its rockingest moments, and "Man Who Played God" is the coolest thing I've ever heard from Suzanne Vega. The biggest surprise though is "Star Eyes (I Can't Reach It)," which proves that David Lynch can actually sing. Losing Mark Linkous to suicide was a blow to the music community last year, but at least he left us one more great album before he checked out. God speed.
2. The National - High Violet
This album didn't have quite the immediate effect with me that Boxer did, but over repeated listenings it's made a similar impact. Although "Bloodbuzz Ohio" and "Afraid of Everyone" were the songs that made the most sudden impact, it was slow burners like "Runaway" and "England" that ended up burrowing their way deepest into my head. Matt Berninger's lyrics might seem like a random collection of loosely associated phrases on first listen, but they seem to reveal themselves over time, and though they're rarely direct and to the point, he the brothers Dessner and Devendorf can create a mood like few other artists out there today. This was the year that The National officially made the list of my all time favorite bands.
3. Superchunk - Majesty Shredding
Oh Superchunk, how we missed you! It's not just that your only activity over the past nine years seemed to be limited to playing Merge anniversary shows and political rallies, and releasing the occasional track on a compilation album. It's also that your previous two albums seemed so, well... adult. We understand that bands need to develop and grow, so we accepted the keyboards and horns and such because the songs were still catchy as hell, even if they were a little slower. But to be honest, we kinda missed the Chunk we grew up with. And from the strains of feedback that open Majesty Shredding, it was obvious that this was a return to the band we hung out with in college. Louder. Faster. Slightly neurotic. It's great to see you again! Wanna grab a beer?
Superchunk - "Digging For Something" (mp3)
4. The New Pornographers – Together
I think I've gotten to the point with the New Pornographers that every new release is kind of like a trip to a favorite restaurant... there aren't going to be many surprises, but I know I'm going to love it. There isn't the thrill of discovery like there was the first time I heard Electric Version, or the first time I had a maple bar from Top Pot in Seattle. Over time that sense of revelation has been replaced with the anticipation of something you know is going to be great. And the fact that you know what to expect doesn't diminish the experience. And if that sounds boring to you, clearly you’ve never experienced the utter deliciousness that is a Top Pot donut. If you don’t believe me, ask Golden Tate. Read our full review from June.
5. Jónsi - Go
While it's not as atmospheric or experimental as Sigur Ros, it's funny to think that Go was intended to be a stripped down acoustic record. The instrumentation is still fairly eclectic, but the songs tend of have more traditional song structures. Combined with the fact that the lyrics are written in actually languages, it makes this much closer to "pop" than anything Jónsi has done in the past. It's hardly conventional, but the songs definitely have a happier, more upbeat feel than his past work. Where as Sigur Ros was always kind of a "put on your headphones and get lost" music, this makes for a surprisingly good driving album.
Labels: year end