Friday, January 14, 2011
Top 10 Albums of ‘10
I know, I know; everyone’s wondering what music I loved last year. I can’t tell you how many people have come up to me on the street and said “hey Skip, would it be possible for you to rundown what you thought the best releases of 2010 were?”
Under normal circumstances I wouldn’t entertain such obvious requests. But it’s a new year and I’ve decided that one of the ways I’m going to be a better person is by being better to everyone checking in on Fish & Spaghetti.
But be warned; once you move beyond this you’ll have intimate knowledge of what came out in 2010 that knocked my socks off. And there’s no coming back from that.
Kanye West – My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy
Kanye created a masterpiece. With all eyes on him, critics and bloggers waiting with sharpened knives, Kanye West delivered best album of his already impressive career. The album features a battery of guest stars , none who overstay their welcome or embarrass their host. Comparing MBDTF to other Hip-Hop albums is like comparing network television to a movie; Kanye’s songs unfold at a deliberate pace rather than being forced to conform to someone else’s format. The tracks are allowed to grow and breathe before blossoming into lush aural tapestries. MBDTF isn’t just the best album the year; it’s a reason to believe in Hip-Hop again.
The Dead Weather – Sea of Cowards
Alison Mosshart is a supreme rock god. She’s got the swagger of a rock star from the 1970’s and the pipes to back it up. Furthermore she can outshine Jack White even when they share the same stage. On their sophomore effort The Dead Weather improve on their already impressive melding of alternative, garage and blues rock. Seriously, this album rocks.
Jenny and Johnny – I’m Having Fun Now
Indie Pop power couple Jenny Lewis and Johnathan Rice teamed up and released 2010’s most fun record. Pure pop enjoyment with occasional moments of somber reflection, I’m Having Fun Now manages to be topical without being preachy. Jenny sings her lyrics with a wink and a smile, while Johnny happily plays second fiddle. This was the album to listen to on your last trip to the beach before the Fall.
Ghostface Killah – Apollo Kids
Ghostface is easily one of the most consistent emcees out, so it’s no surprise that he makes the list. But Apollo Kids marks a return to form after last year’s exploration into the realm of R&B/Hip-Hop hybrid. It’s an album full of poisonous darts and soulful samples. Ghost rhymes with a ferocity and tenacity that’s seemingly been missing for years. Apollos Kids is vintage Ghost, which is always something to celebrate.
The Black Keys – Brothers
For a duo that’s wallowed in “mid-fi” blues revivalism for nearly a decade, Brothers felt like The Black Keys’ grimest record. But it’s grimey in a good way, like the friend you wouldn’t necessarily trust with your girl but you know he’d have your back if you needed to bury a body; it’s dependable without being predictable. Brothers plays like the soundtrack to an after-hours club, it’s got a familiar vibe, but there’s also a hint of menace and danger lurking in the air. Brothers stands as a testament that an album need not be luxuriously produced to be great.
Arcade Fire – The Suburbs
The Suburbs doesn’t rage against residential community and it doesn’t praise it either. Instead it documents life from within. The songs are as catchy as they are deep. “We Used To Wait” is an infectious song that laments the effect of technology on relationships, specifically the lost art of letter writing. Three albums in and it may be time to confront a possible reality; it’s quite possible that Arcade Fire can do no wrong.
Erykah Badu – New Amerykah Part Two (Return of the Ankh)
Erykah Badu albums are always worth the wait. She had the unique ability to be both completely vulnerable and personal while at the same time out there and borderline loony. But she never disappoints. She knows who to create a vibe and ride a groove and Return of the Ankh is perhaps her grooviest offering yet. It’s terribly easy to get lost in the beats and rhythms and miss out on her insightful lyrics. Whether she’s interpolating Biggie or pouring her heart out, she always delivers something worth listening to.
The Roots – How I Got Over
The Roots used their new 30 Rock connections to nab some interesting guests; in addition to the usual subjects (Peedi Peedi, Dice Raw, John Legend, Porn) they welcome Johanna Newsom and the ladies of Dirty Projectors as well as give Monsters of Folk’s “Dear God” the 2.0 treatment. How I Got Over is an album for it’s time; in the harsh economic climate The Roots express doubts and worries without getting overwhelmed and trapped in quagmire of darkness. It’s also their shortest release, which just leaves you wanting more.
Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings – I Learned the Hard Way
Any artist or label enamored with a certain sound always runs the risk of loving it so much that they become a slave to it. Fortunately that’s not the case with Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings; their love for the bygone era of Soul, R&B and Funk serves only as an inspiration not a blueprint. Like all great singers Jones sounds as though she’s experienced everything she sings about, whether it’s heartache or money troubles. And the Dap Kings perfectly capture the essence of the past without sliding into parody. This is the best album to come out in 2010 that sounds like it was recorded in 1968.
Sufjan Stevens – The Age of Adz
The Age of Adz starts out with the acoustic “Futile Devices” which sounds like classic Sufjan. However that’s just a swerve as the next song launches into synthesized cacophony as Sufjan takes the listener along for a new chapter in his life as an artist. But really it’s the same Sufjan just with a different palette; his tracks are still lush, only now they come with flourishes of Electronica as opposed to being Chamber Pop. It’s a bold experiment, sure, but he pulls it off and creates an exciting album.
Um, the end?