10. BEACH HOUSE- TEEN DREAM
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Third and best album by dream pop duo from Baltimore. It’s the most flat out beautiful album of the year. Songwriting and production is trumped up and more focused than on their previous efforts. Sounds like an abandoned beach house in the fourth week of autumn.
9. SLEIGH BELLS- TREATS
Buzz band of 2009 CMJ becomes one of the best two new bands of the year and is the hands down winner for most original sound. Sweet female pop vocals underneath a cacophony of loud metal guitars minus the guitar solos. Distorted to the point that you think your speakers must be blown. Something different to piss the parents off, even if you are parents. And then “Rill Rill” standing out like a rose among thorns sung sweetly underneath a brilliant Funkadelic sample.
8. BIG BOI- SIR LUCIOUS LEFT FOOT: THE SON OF CHICO DUSTY
Would have been rap album of the year with no Kanye. Thought to be too uncommercial by his record label, like Clipse in ’06, and the finished product ends up being better than any Outkast release since “Stankonia”. Proves that Big Boi was just as essential to ‘Kast as Andre- check “Ghetto Muzik” from “Speakerboxx” for further proof. One of the best pure rappers in the game today. Funky, funny and never boring. Album would be even better of Andre’s label wouldn’t have blocked the clearance for “Royal Flush”.
Buy Shine Blockas [Explicit]Amazon
Buy Shutterbugg [Explicit]Amazon
7. SURFER BLOOD- ASTRO COAST
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My other favorite new band of the year- from West Palm Beach, Florida. A great guitar album, filled with great riffs and breezy harmonies. A throwback to surf pop more than aggressive surf rock but the band is unafraid to stretch out and jam. The first album I got in 2010 and likely the one I played the most. The infectious songs stuck to my brain more and more with each listen. Surprisingly little filler for a low profile debut that was kinda slept on.
6. FLYING LOTUS- COSMOGRAMMA
Instrumental/DJ album of the year and my favorite since ‘96’s “Entroducing” by DJ Shadow. A space opera which takes from hip hop, drum n’ bass, techno, dubstep & free jazz. A total and complete mindfrak. If you’re not normally into DJ/techno/electronica music but like to dabble from time to time to see what all this fuss is about this is the album to get. The “Headhunters” of its time?
5. ROBYN- BODY TALK
Buy Body Talk [Explicit] [+Digital Booklet]Amazon
The full length “Body Talk” finally releases at the end of Nov after a series of 3 “Body Talk” EP’s. Even though these songs are less than a year old, they already sound like her greatest hits. Robyn, a Swedish former teen pop star, writes and sings all of her tracks that aren’t covers and should be a worldwide star. The album is filled with smart, catchy and dance fueled electro-pop that is better than anything else like it on today’s radio- including Gaga. She is the best pop star of the last five years and it’s time for more of the world to take notice.
*Buyer beware- one of her best songs on the EP’s “Cry When You Get Older” was inexplicably left off of this set. Check out “Body Talk Part 1” for a listen and or buy.
4. LCD SOUNDSYSTEM- THIS IS HAPPENING
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A worthy follow-up to 2007’s world beating “Sound of Silver”, which sounds better to me than when I heard it last May. 8 out of 9 tracks are studs and all are growers. Album may not have a “Someone Great” or an “All My Friends” on it but it may be his most consistently great album yet. Supposedly this is LCD’s last album- hopefully not! Best combination of indie rock and dance music going today. Channels Bowie and Devo.
3. ARCADE FIRE- THE SUBURBS
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Arcade Fire are now a perfect three with their first three albums, solidifying their status as one of the best bands of this time period. I loved “Neon Bible”, some saw the album as a stumble. Either way “The Suburbs” is a step above it with more standout tracks than either of their previous albums. It’s an album both cynical and nostalgic. Against indebted to early Springsteen for inspiration. The band is so good that they are starting to become a household name, finding their songs on the radio, and selling albums in significant #’s- no small feat for a indie band. Regine Chassagne gets a vocal star turn with “Sprawl II”, a significantly different sounding song than any previous Arcade Fire track.
Buy Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)Amazon
2. DEERHUNTER- HALCYON DIGEST
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This one creeped up on me like crazy- after the first few listens in no way did I think it would rank this high and probably not even in my top ten. But after five or six listens I discovered that I absolutely loved almost every track, and even the few that I didn’t love I liked. It’s the most song-oriented, the most penetrable and best edited of Deerhunter’s albums. The Atlanta-based group ditched a lot of the white noise common on their past albums and just flat-out delivered more memorable songs- they were always good for two to three standout tracks per album- “Halcyon Digest” has at least nine! Main singer/songwriter and group leader Bradford Cox sings with more strength and clarity. This is not to imply that Deerhunter has become a radio band- they are still very much a part of the underground. But they now seemed poised to become a leader in it.
1. KANYE WEST- MY BEAUTIFUL DARK TWISTED FANTASY
Most unanimously praised album of the year- and justifiably so if now subject to backlash and overhype. Well here I am to overhype it some more- “Fantasy” is my album of the year and it’s not even close. Every track on it is a 5 star track and though there are certainly highlights- “Runaway” and “Monster” are both top ten songs of the year for sure, but every song can stand on its own. A fascinating album to hear on first listen that also gets better with each listen. The production, rapping and guest stars are all A list. Kanye is the most hard working, surprising, electrifying, thought provoking guy in the business right now. I know it’s early but right now I think this is the best album I’ve heard in ten years- at least since “Stankonia”, maybe since “OK Computer”. Let’s see if time proves me right or wrong.
Rick Ross- Teflon Don
Male Bonding- Nothing Hurts
Ted Leo & the Pharmacists- The Brutalist Bricks
The Drive-By Truckers- The Big To-Do
Four Tet- There Is No Love in You
How To Dress Well- Love Remains
Broken Bells- Broken Bells
CEO- White Magic