20. DRAKE- THANK ME LATER
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Drake is a middle class, Canadian rapper whose entertainment career began on the set of teen soap “Degrassi High” and he likely wouldn’t have existed in the rap music world before Kanye. As horrible a term as it is, Drake is emo-rap- his lyrics are laden with his feelings and even his braggadocio is tempered with mixed feelings about being a celebrity. Dude wishes he was in college hanging with his friends and is laments his profile lifestyle. His voice sounds like his mentor Lil Wayne minus the genius flow and he sings almost as much as he raps. That said “Thank Me Later” was the breakout rap album and Drake, along with Nicki Minaj, the breakout rap star of 2010. And there’s a reason for it. The album is fascinating and filled with unique yet radio ready songs. The best guest stars in the biz show up as well- Minaj, Kanye, T.I., Jay-Z, Wayne, Alicia Keys and Jeezy to name a few.
19. TITUS ANDRONICUS- THE MONITOR
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Out of every great album I bought this year, “The Monitor” took the longest to sink in for me even though I was already a fan of the band after their debut. The album is over 60 minutes with only 10 songs, half of which are over 7 minutes and is loosely based around a civil war concept- the album can be a bit impenetrable at first. But those who stick with it are rewarded with an album that sounds like it has nothing to lose. Its sound is indebted to both early 80’s Hardcore & Springsteen, as well as the Pogues. Singer Patrick Stickles can sound like Conor Oberst, but without the precocity. Titus is a bunch of hairy, young, drunk, smart & heartbroken misfits and I can’t wait to see what they do next. Also one of the only modern albums I can think of which actually sounds even better while reading the lyric sheet.
18. GORILLAZ- PLASTIC BEACH
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Despite the lack of a huge single along the lines of “Clint Eastwood” or “Feel Good Inc.”, Gorillaz mastermind and former Blur frontman Damon Albarn delivers the fake cartoon band’s best album by far with “Plastic Beach”, their third full-length release. Snoop Dogg, Lou Reed, Mos Def, Bobby Womack, De La Soul and Kano on guest star on the album heavy with good and great songs and music steeped in funk, rap, krautrock and dubstep.
17. BEST COAST- CRAZY FOR YOU
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California based Bethany Consentino sings simple, stoned out odes to romance, love gone bad, boredom & weed in a style indebted to 60’s surf rock and girl groups in a lo-fi haze. Though often filled with reverb, Consentino’s vocals are distinctive and amazing and the songs are accessible and filled with melody. The female, less-aggressive counterpart to Wavves. Perfect for the beach or for your bedroom.
16. BROKEN SOCIAL SCENE- FORGIVENESS ROCK RECORD
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Broken Social Scene’s “Forgiveness Rock Record” is another beautiful, sprawling, eclectic album from the Canadian art collective. It flew a bit under the radar this year but I find it better than their (still very good) second self-titled album and in time it may sit right alongside their de-facto debut “You Forgot It in People”. Leslie Feist and Amy Millan of Stars gest star and the record is produced by John McEntire of Tortoise. “World Sick”, “Texico Bitches” and “Water in Hell” predicted the Gulf Oil spill like “Yankee Hotel Foxtrot” seemed to predict 9/11- eerie!
15. TWIN SHADOW- FORGET
Twin Shadow is the alias of George Lewis Jr., a 20-something Brooklyn-ite of Dominican descent who grew up in Florida. “Forget” is his debut album and it is quite a winner- my 2010 version of The xx in that they came out of nowhere and hit me so quickly. Though Twin Shadow is quite indebted both to 80’s New Wave (especially the Talking Heads and The Smiths) as well as techno, their sound fits right in the modern musical landscape alongside groups like Neon Indian & the aforementioned xx. Album is produced by Chris Taylor of Grizzly Bear. It’s filled with great tracks and will likely grow in stature the more I hear it.
14. NO AGE- EVERYTHING IN BETWEEN
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The young, vegan, L.A. duo is back. Now a trio, No Age slightly ups the production quality, does away with the no wave instrumental fuzz, and delivers a follow-up to their debut “Nouns” that is different but at least equal in quality to its predecessor. For any of you peeps raised on hardcore or the heavier side of indie-rock and lament that nobody is delivering that style music anymore this is for you. “Fever Dreaming” is the punk song of the year.
13. ARIEL PINK’S HAUNTED GRAFFITI- BEFORE TODAY
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Ariel Pink is often referred to as the godfather of Chill Wave- a catch-all genre of psychedelic pop filtering 70’s light rock, 80’s synth-pop and 90’s shoegaze through samplers and heavily distorted vocals. Some of Pink’s modern day disciples include like Neon Indian, Washed Out, Memory Tapes, Here We Go Magic & Toro Y Moi- basically talented dudes who create music on laptops in their bedrooms and distribute it through either indie labels or the web only. Pink has been recording since in early Oughts mostly in relative obscurity. “Before Today” is his first album recorded with any budget and the songs are trumped up immensely compared with his older stuff. Includes bugged out psychedelia, punk rock & the instant classic single “Round and Round”
12. JANELLE MONAE- ARCHANDROID
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Janelle Monae is a major talent who switches genres faster than Lady Gaga switches outfits- classical, jazz, rap, soul, club music, new wave & torch song crooning and she somehow makes it all flow together. She was given a career boost years ago by her association with Outkast and “Archandroid” is her long awaited full-length debut after an EP several years ago. She is provocative, conceptual & theatrical full of ambition. Though her theatrics slow the album down a bit at the end, she also lets forth some stone cold classic singles in “Tightrope” (with Big Boi from Outkast) and “Cold War”. The nearest touchstone I can think of is “Sign o’ the Times” era Prince.
11. VAMPIRE WEEKEND- CONTRA
VW’s second album great album in a row is almost as good as their near-perfect debut. The band embraces the “collegiate” label put on them by their detractors- the name the first song on the album “Horchata” and put a pictures of an 80’s blonde with a popped-collar Polo shirt who could be right out of the movie “Valley Girl”- they are practically bating the haters. Though musically the album can still be labeled Afro-pop meets indie-rock, they are musically more ambitious than on the debut. “Contra” is loaded with could-be singles including “Cousins”, “Give Up the Gun”, and the now ubiquitous “Holiday” (due to its incessant usage on Christmas commercials). Vampire Weekend is a unique band these days- both smart & catchy, unique and fun.