Over the next couple of days, we’ll be sharing with you our best-loved releases of the year. We start today with part one of our 40 favorite albums of 2010, arranged in alphabetical order of course.
Arcade Fire – The Suburbs (Merge)
Win Butler never fails to write great lines, often with shades of bittersweet irony, sometimes cryptic, sometimes squarely pointing the finger. This time, the group chooses to deliver its message not with the highs and lows of its earlier two efforts, but as a sustained and very coherent whole. With wars we can’t win and cities with no children, The Suburbs hasn’t strayed far from the Arcade Fire’s neighborhood. Yet what sets it apart is how it burns deeper and more forcefully than anything they’ve done before. – Dan.
Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti – Before Today (4AD)
Before Today doesn’t seem interested in sounding like its peers; instead, it’s completely immersed in 70s/80s pop, borrowing heavily from the cheap, flimsy sounds and memorable hooks from that era. However, there’s something distinctly current about Ariel Pink’s approach, of his deliberate rearrangement of all these elements, riding on the wave of nostalgia while cleverly making new sense of it. Totally worth listening to round and round again, for both its tricks and treats. – Dan.
Autechre – Oversteps (Warp)
Autechre’s first album Incunabula was a disciplined techno affair, a sound they would go on to deconstruct in their subsequent albums with detached precision. In Oversteps, we find the British duo reinventing themselves in brighter tones and more palatable textures without compromising their well-known technical rigor. It’s a welcome move that makes for a thoroughly enjoyable listening experience – something I haven’t always been able to say for their music despite my long-standing admiration. – Dan.
Beach House – Teen Dream (Sub Pop)
Over the course of three much beloved albums, Beach House’s singer Victoria Legrand and guitarist Alex Scally have been churning out intimate songs of mercurial love and devotion that have already made them the toast of reluctant romantics. Their latest Teen Dream is somewhat of a mood enhancer. Legrand’s singing in particular resonates with a sense of profound melancholy, and her distinctive voice captures a certain feeling of nostalgia that can make the drama of everyday life sounds so sensuous and surreal. – Keith.
Ben Kenney – Burn The Tapes (Ghetto Crush)
You might know Ben Kenney for being an alumni member of The Roots, or as the current bassplayer for Incubus. Compared to these luminaries, Kenney’s third solo effort may be considered mundane in terms of genre, literally being a straight ahead garage rock record. But if you know where to look – underneath the poetic lyrics, simple yet true musical arrangements and incredible heart toward songcraft – you might find a rising and important star in the realm of independently recorded and distributed music. Y’see, Kenney literally played all the instruments himself, recorded them himself, and released it on his own label, Ghetto Crush. This is definitely this year’s DIY (or OSD as we like to say in Singapore) effort of the year, and perhaps the most important to musicians the world over. – Brian.
B-Quartet – Conformity Has Replaced Consciousness (Aging Youth)
Theodore Adorno’s indictment of the culture industry forms the backbone for B-Quartet’s second album. In Conformity Has Replaced Consciousness, the band shares a similar distaste for the homogenizing effects of mass culture, but extrapolates its social critique to the level of our everyday existence. In playful protest, the song structures through the album are never fixed to any single point, or worse still, genre; instead, their free-flowing form redirects us to what seems these days like a truly and tragically lost consciousness. – Dan.
Broken Social Scene – Forgiveness Rock Record (Arts & Crafts)
Over the years, Broken Social Scene has achieved a somewhat manic depressive sound: blistering highs and chiasmic lows. On their fourth record, they sound like they’re on lithium and getting better. Some may argue that getting treatment letterboxes the sound and makes them normal; however, if you’ve always wondered what the band would sound like as a functional human being, I think this is an interesting road to recovery. – Brian.
Caribou – Swim (Merge)
Dan Snaith does retro-futuristic pop better than most folks and on his latest album Swim, he taps into an evolutionary strand of psychedelic dance music that sounds sonically inventive as ever (he wanted to produce music that sounds like it’s made of water) and yet immensely accessible. The unadulterated bliss of cacophonous opening track “Odessa” best embodies the wealth of the song material, with Snaith’s opaque lyrics meshing perfectly with propulsive rhythms to create the perfect depth for diving straight into this heady brew. – Keith.
Chromeo – Business Casual (Atlantic)
Probably the most fun album I’ve heard all year. To me, Chromeo are genius for walking a very thin line between expertly crafted synth pop and being a parody 80′s band. The partnership of P-Thugg (synths, talk box) and Dave 1 (guitars, vocals) has been self-described as the most successful Arab/Jewish relationship and I would agree. With their eye-of-the-tiger, dirty-dancing inspired single “Night by Night” or the sensual 80′s love scene ditty “Don’t Walk Away”, this proves to be my favorite singalong album. – Brian.
Crystal Castles – Crystal Castles (Fiction)
Probably the year’s most cacophonous album. There’s a certain mania when it comes to Alice Glass, while the production of Ethan Kath acts as a sort of straightjacket when it comes to their brand of experimental electronica. Definitely a keeper when it came down to those nights of empty party feelings. – Brian.