In part three of our 40 favorite albums of 2010, we find ourselves amidst artists old and new, some doing what they always do best, others shaking things up a little, and newer discoveries giving the oldies a run for their money by showing just what they’re capable of. Go figure!
Laura Marling – I Speak Because I Can (Virgin)
We can probably say something about twenty year-old Laura Marling “coming of age” because of her sheer youth, but the truth is, there’s little in her music that’s even concerned with growing up. Instead, she seems to be already aiming for something beyond that in her sophomore effort I Speak Because I Can, which presents the singer-songwriter bold, ambitious and unafraid. Inspiring stuff from a young’un who sounds like an old soul. – Dan.
LCD Soundsystem – This is Happening (DFA)
A stellar sophomore effort by everyone’s favorite dance-punk outfit. The synthesizers are rampant, the bass fuzzed and punched out, while the beats clash with the brazen obnoxiousness of a kid bashing all the pots ‘n’ pans in a kitchen, held together by the mostly languid drawl of frontman James Murphy. It’s a perfect recipe for dancing, singing or beating your neighbor’s car with a nine iron. – Brian.
Mount Kimbie – Crooks and Lovers (Hotflush)
I’m not sure how helpful the self-coined post-dubstep label may be, but Mount Kimbie’s debut length – following two head-turning EPs released last year – glides effortlessly from one idea to the next without sounding schizophrenic. This young British duo show themselves to be a lot more concerned with process and experience than with final products, and in Crooks and Lovers, they draw precisely on that strength. – Dan.
The National – High Violet (4AD)
I constantly marvel at how Matt Berninger’s deadpan voice could possibly contain so much melodic breadth. In High Violet, that trademark drone – even if still an acquired taste – is put to good effect in conveying with greatest sensitivity the morbid and often paranoid sentiment of our times. Even in the bleakest of moments, though, The National manages to hold things together with performances of flawless consistency and measured urgency, keeping us on the edge of our seats but never ever letting us fall over. – Dan.
of Montreal – False Priest (Polyvinyl)
Having written off the band for their pretentious quirks, I’m glad for the persona that keeps me checking out most releases by the band anyway. Somehow, I felt different this year, especially with songs like “Famine Affair”, which becomes a highlight singalong session even whilst retaining that neurotic anger against people holding hands down the street. – Brian.
Owen Pallett – Heartland (Domino)
Owen Pallett has always made baroque avant pop records of intricate beauty and boundless imagination, and Heartland marks no real significant departure from his past work other than him dropping his Final Fantasy moniker. Graceful songs like “Flare Gun” and “Red Sun No.5” flit in and out of Owen’s self-invented universe Spectrum with hypnotic melodic splendor – and the symphonic pop of “Lewis Takes Off His Shirt” pretty much trumps every other single I’ve heard this year. – Keith.
Pantha Du Prince – Black Noise (Rough Trade)
With the lights out, it’s less dangerous; Pantha Du Prince‘s darkly lit techno music on Black Noise found favors among music folks who prefer their sonic headspace drenched in melodic melancholy. Hendrik Weber’s fittingly titled third album is one that luxuriates in minute electronics textures, and the quiet bliss that illuminates Black Noise sounds as fragile and mysterious as ever. – Keith.
The Roots – How I Got Over (Def Jam)
The Roots are evolving the concept of hip-hop with each album they produce. It doesn’t sound exactly like a soul record, and it doesn’t exactly sound like a hip-hop record. It’s rawer than the nu-soul cats, and it’s not as gangsta as the ghetto blasters. Yet, everything comes together like they’d been playing this brand of music for decades. I think they’ve transcended the hip-hop genre that they’ve been walking, and offered something especially new against the depressive monoculture that faces all of us today. – Brian.
Ryan Adams & The Cardinals – Cardinals III/IV (PAX AM)
Ryan Adams returns to us after a year-long break from music, and in Ryan Adams years, that’s probably something like four years. In his fifth album with The Cardinals and overall thirteenth release, Adams deviates from the whiskey smoking alt-country sound that he’s perfected over the years, instead delivering the songs in straight ahead rock fashion. It’s different, but not unfamiliar. All the things that make The Cardinals your favorite band are still here: the excellent songwriting, musicianship and bitter irony. – Brian.
Sharon Van Etten – Epic (Ba Da Bing)
If last year’s Because I was in Love introduced us to Sharon Van Etten’s emerging promise as a folk artist, this year’s Epic blows expectations out of proportion as she shows her grittier side with the one-two opening punch of “A Crime” and “Peace Sign”, all this without ever compromising the beauty of her work that endures every storm willingly taken on throughout the album. – Dan.