WPPJ Music Director’s Top 10 Albums of the Year
I Learned the Hard Way- Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings
I think I almost put this as number ten on my list, but it just didn’t quite beat that pick for me. The reason why I loved this album was because it was refreshing to hear what sounded like classical soul music being produced in a way that indie kids and audiophiles would die to listen to and sing along to. Sharon Jones sings with so much passion that if you aren’t singing along to it by the third time you listened to the album, you need some help. This album is one that I will keep for a long time because it fits so many of those “music moods” that a person can come by.
RIYL: old soul music
High Violet- The National
Oh my love for the National is quite a tumultuous one. Boxer is one of my favorite albums especially because Matt Berninger has one of the most haunting, manly (yes, think husky mountain man, wilderness type) singing voice in all the indie world. The lyrics on Boxer are perfect and simple yet here comes my dilemma. To me, High Violet was such a let down after Boxer; I feel that if the latter came out after High Violet, the transition would have made more sense. The new album, while yes is still wonderful and a great listen, I don’t think it was a good transition from Boxer. Therefore, my idea is to listen to High Violet first and revel in the wonderful dark music that The National has created, especially the song about zombies and eating brains. This is still a wonderful album, and the song Bloodbuzz Ohio is perfection in a song, I just couldn’t get out of the funk that they put me in.
RIYL: Arcade Fire, Frightened Rabbit, Interpol
Before Today- Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti
Ah, what a cool album. The time I listened to this album, I was getting really annoyed with all the lo-fi surfer rock albums that graced the indie world this summer, but Ariel Pink’s stood out immediately. Never keeping to one genre, Ariel Pink alias of Ariel Rosenberg, turned the lo-fi sound into something much more beautiful than grungy guitars and barely audible lyrics. It’s catchy, the songs range from poppy to experimental to just plain weird. But that is the charming aspect of the album—I’m very excited to see what he comes out with next.
RIYL: John Maus, Nite Jewel, Ducktails
Forgiveness Rock Record- Broken Social Scene
To start off, I can honestly say that I’ve never been into Broken Social Scene, don’t really like their old music and do not profess myself to be a Broken Social Scene connoisseur. That said, I really liked this album. I think it shows a more pop-oriented side to the band, and for me, making them more likeable. This album is just one of those albums that’s good from beginning to end, there may not be the standout song that occurs in most albums, but everything is consistent. I’d love to know if older BSS fans like this album or not.
RIYL: The Most Serene Republic, Stars, Metric
Body Talk- Robyn
Robyn has had a crazy busy and successful year, and I am so okay with that. I, like many other albums on this list, was close to putting it on my top ten, but I felt like most of the songs on Body Talk were all released on her previous albums which I’ve all loved, but I secretly actually loved Body Talk Part 2 the best, and it just felt weird putting it on my top list. Anyways, this album is the quintessential new disco, glam rock, riot grrrlll kind of music in my book. Robyn is powerful and knows how to hook the listener immediately. Her acoustic versions of some of her songs are shown to be beautiful but she can instantly glam them up making them very danceable. Listen to this album when you just want to tap your foot and sing at the top of your lungs.
RIYL: Kelis, I Blame Coco, Kylie Minogue
TOP 10 OF 2010:
10. Stridulum II- Zola Jesus
Okay, so I totally blame my boyfriend for this surprising, perhaps most random album on my list. He told me I might not like her because she was “gothic sounding and just overall dark”. And although that’s usually not my thing, I gave her a chance and immediately fell in love. I love this album, yes, it’s dark and gothic and her vocals are seriously haunting. But this girl has a serious voice on her and she’s quite young too (and apparently she trained as an opera singer). This is the perfect music for a solitary day; it’s quiet but quite loud at the same time. I think just her voice is what makes this album perfection for that kind of music.
RIYL: Bat for Lashes, Women, Siouxie & the Banshees
9. Contra- Vampire Weekend
Why so far down on the list Kelsey? This album is wonderful, poppy, full of Vampire Weekend-y vibes and sounds. While I do love this album, the reason for it being so far down is because I have been disappointed twice now with their live show. I can’t shake that while they sound wonderful on the album, they just suck live. But, Vampire Weekend’s sophomore album does not disappoint like most sophomore albums do. More tribal, African beats are used, but I’m just fascinated by their odd timing, changes in mood and rhythm that occurs in the middle of songs. It’s a wonderful surprise, and while it is good, it’s typical Vampire Weekend—but sometimes a band should just stick to what they know, and Vampire Weekend are very good at achieving that preppy, pop oriented music.
RIYL: Ra Ra Riot, Passion Pit, Two Door Cinema Club
8. Crazy For You- Best Coast
As stated before, the obsession with lo-fi surfer rock music was really apparent this year, it seems like all the “rookie” albums sounded exactly the same by employing the same sound with different lyrics tacked onto it. However, out of all those albums, Best Coast stayed with me and beat all those other albums by a long shot. Simplistic is the best word to use for this album because while there are no deep lyrics, they are fun and relevant to most college students (she mostly sings about weed, boys and her cat, Snacks). I think she mastered the art of 60’s beach music and her voice clearly fits perfectly for the sound. It’s such a fun listen from beginning to end and it’s quite short and the perfect thirty-one minutes of music.
RIYL: Wavves, Dum Dum Girls, Tennis
7. Broken Dreams Club EP- Girls
This is probably a first, to put an EP on my list, but this thirty minute EP is an album in itself. And it is perfect. Girls who put out an album last year, and while it was good it was nothing magical or lasting at all. However, this EP put Girls on the map and made me actually listen to them again. Every song on this EP is beautifully crafted and there is just no way to even pick a single out from it. Literally every song is catchy, interesting, different and wonderful in it’s own way. They seem to have veered away from the dreamy lo-fi vibe they had on their debut album, and they have obviously transitioned into a band that can produce a great quality of music. I’m very excited for the full-length album.
RIYL: Smith Westerns, No Age, Wild Nothing
6. The Lady Killer- Cue Lo Green
I should just profess my love for Cue Lo Green right now. I love this man. He can do no wrong in my eyes. As one of duo that makes up Gnarls Barkley, Cue Lo Green was never really a singular name. Then he basically blew up the Internet world by releasing my favorite song of the year, Fuck You. If you haven’t heard it, immediately listen to it. It’s the perfect break up song, or song to listen to when you’ve been dumped because it’s so happy yet so angry at the same time. So finally when his CD was released, I’m pretty sure I dropped everything I was doing to listen to it. I was not disappointed. It’s full of funk, soul, pop, electronic—literally everything. And he masters it all! Every song was like listening to a masterpiece, especially his cover of Band of Horses’ No One’s Gonne Love You. He’s brilliant and this album has instantly become one of my favorites.
RIYL: Gnarls Barkley, Big Boy, John Legend & the Roots
5. The Suburbs-Arcade Fire
Can the Arcade Fire really do wrong with their fans? I highly doubt it, and The Suburbs is everything we’ve hoped for from them. A weird kind of concept album about suburbia and all that is, I guess, wrong with it is displayed so beautifully by them. The strings and orchestrations that go along with Win Butler’s loud, harsh voice clash perfectly with each other creating another near perfect album for Arcade Fire. It seems like they cannot put out a bad album, and with songs like Sprawl II: Mountains Beyond Mountains, which is so beautiful my breath was taken away the first time I heard it. It’s the song that pulls the whole album together and ends it as the masterpiece that it is.
RIYL: the National, Wolf Parade, Sufjan Stevens
4. The Wild Hunt- Tallest Man on Earth
Probably one of the most recognizable voices next to Joanna Newsom, the Tallest Man on Earth produced one of my favorite albums of this year. While it may be nothing special to some, the songs on this album are all, in my opinion, perfectly crafted folk songs. Of course, I don’t mean classic folk, but this new wave folk that has creeped into our indie world. And he does it perfectly, a Swedish man, his English is sometimes a little difficult to understand, but the guitar and lyrics make it worth it. It’s another one of those “music mood” albums, but if listened to on a spur of the moment, it will be worth it. Another simplistic album, but one that will stay with you and you’ll keep humming the song, King of Spain in your head for at least a week. A definite great listen and one that will be in my library for a long time.
RIYL: Mumford & Sons, Bon Iver, Deer Tick
3. Odd Blood- Yeasayer
What a band, before Odd Blood there was All Hour Cymbals which was included on my top ten list a few years ago but it was an album that was mostly passed over with the exception of the single that became a little popular. However, Yeasayer came back with their sophomore attempt and it has definitely resonated with listeners this time. Ambling Alp is one of my favorite singles of the year because it is weird, experimental and a little funky. This sets the tone for the rest of the album, and if you read the lyrics they are actually very sweet and often romantic thereby creating this trippy love album that is near perfect. The album is a very ambient and groovy one, with tracks ranging all over the place, but the album as a whole is very connected and produced extremely well.
RIYL: Local Natives, Broken Bells, Bear in Heaven
2. This is Happening- LCD Soundsystem
Okay, so I’ve known my top two albums for a long time now, but I’ve been going back and forth as to which one will be where. LCD Soundsystem is officially at number two but it might as well be tied with number one. I’ve been talking all this time about the perfect album and this album is literally the perfect album. I can find nothing wrong with anything that James Murphy puts out. His mastery of alternative dance, disco, and grunge elements in songs is never lost in this album. He creates songs that are repetitious but are never boring or obnoxious. I believe that every line and beat that he put in there is there for a reason because it just sounds perfectly produced. Not only is his album amazing, but also his live show is one of the best I’ve seen. His lyrics are witty, self-loathing and personable, and when you put them to a dance beat, they create the perfect record that you get with This is Happening.
RIYL: Hot Chip, Deerhunter, !!!
1. Go- Jonsi
This is the best album of the year, and maybe in my personal library. I don’t think I’ve been so in love with an album for a while and for all different reasons. First of all, Jonsi’s orchestrations are breathtaking and ethereal, paired with his high falsetto, fragile sounding voice, the songs he creates are just gorgeous. He also took many instruments that are handmade or even child’s toys and made them into legitimate instruments that are even used in his live show. He does sing in English on this album (not like his made up language for his other band, Sigur Ros), but sometimes the lyrics are difficult to understand under his heavy accent, but even what sometimes sounds like gibberish sounds like poetry in the music. This album needs to be in every audiophile and music lover’s collection—it will definitely be one that will define Jonsi’s career and life, as well as mine.
RIYL: Sigur Ros, Parachutes, Olafur Arnalds