Posts Tagged 2010 albums

#1-ARIEL PINK’S HAUNTED GRAFFITI-Before Today (4AD)/KANYE WEST-My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy (Roc-A-Fella)


It hasn’t happened since 1997, when Radiohead with their acclaimed ‘OK Computer’ and Spiritualized’s psychedelic masterpiece ‘Ladies & Gentleman we are floating in space’ shared the number one position. In 2010, Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti exuberant lo-fi psychedelia and the definitive record in KanYe West’s career got the honors.

The former crowned a decade dedicated to sonic DIY and experimentation, joining the 4AD imprint; consolidating his band and discovering the possibilities of recording in a proper studio with amazing results. One of the pioneers of the much talked about glo-fi/chillwave so trendy during the year; the amount of ideas per minute collected in ‘Before Today’ had no equal in any other record released during the past 12 months. Still far from perfect, it worked as a sort of encyclopedia of radio oriented rock from the 70’s and the 80’s, filtered through his characteristic lo-fi, oozing urban decadence. It was neither the classic that will define this year –that honor may go to the hands of Arcade Fire- nor the most complete or flawless record, but undoubtedly the most surprising and the one we preferred through the year. This time Ariel Pink delivered a work that not only matched but amply beat his recognized capabilities.

The other side of the coin belongs to the biggest ego in today’s hip-hop and his masterpiece. KanYe West, hurt by the tepid reception obtained by that autotune feast that was ‘808 & Heartbreak’ hasn’t stopped until getting an almost perfect record –the first on his career to date. So many good songs he’d written that during the weeks preceding the album release he offered the remaining ones as free downloads through his G.O.O.D. Fridays –all of them still available and maybe destined to be part of a future deluxe edition. But it was the record what went beyond the highest expectations in an orgy of influences –samples of Mike Oldfield or King Crimson next to unexpected collaborations with the likes of Elton John or Bon Iver- and the who’s who in contemporary urban music, from Nicki Minaj to Raekwon, all invited to the event; a series self-confessions taking a fascinating look at the dark side in the life of today’s biggest rap star.

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#3-BEACH HOUSE-Teen Dream (Bella Union)

The recently coined denomination dream-pop – sort of a XXI century version of the ethereal waves of British Indie and shoegaze during the 80’s – can claim its first masterpiece in Beach House latest album. The Baltimore duo has mastered their haunting sound, of which Victoria Legrand’s vocal magic is a fundamental part, and released a superb collection of songs that made them grow into a higher artistic league, the same of artists often mentioned as their sonic precursors such as Mazzy Starr. Every track a complete delight, so sure they were of the quality of their new offer that a promo video has been made for each of them, which wasn’t even necessary as the music in ‘Teen Dream’ speaks for itself.

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#4-FOUR TET-There Is Love In You (Domino)

One of the happiest comebacks of the year after his avant-jazz incursions in collaboration with Steve Reich and coinciding with a new wave of young artists who revisited the sounds of 90’s electronica; Kieran Hebden once again was ahead of the pack dealing with the most advanced sounds in another spectacular record that easily matches the best of his former work where, among other achievements, he pioneered the folktronica movement. Five years since Four Tet’s previous album have not affected Hebden’s creative flare. ‘There Is Love In You’ benefited from his relentless curiosity as a DJ for new trends, updating his own sonic baggage through flirts with dubstep, two-step and everything else currently making waves within the boundaries of innovative contemporary music.

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#5-ARCADE FIRE-The Suburbs (Merge)

In their third offering Arcade Fire have finally come to terms with their new arena status, after the uneasy ride that was ‘Neon Bible’, and produced another classic that got to number one in the charts around the world. Its songs shared a common reflection about leaving the innocence and idealism of youth behind, while coping with the realities of life that come with maturity. Musically, they’ve kept their anthemic nature but turning their eyes a decade back –from 80’s indie to 70’s rock– to add a fresh batch of influences to their palette; lyrically, their songs packed a bigger emotional punch and, although many knives were being sharpened waiting for signs of selling out, ‘The Suburbs’ turned out to be the earnest testimony of a band that, no matter how big they get, are staying faithful to their principles.

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#6-BIG BOI-Sir Luscious Left Foot…The Son Of Chico Dusty (Def Jam)

An iconic example of the malaise the record industry is suffering from, Big Boi’s solo debut has gone through so many tracklist and release date changes waiting for a track that could break as a hit –it finally arrived with ‘Shutterbugg’-, that even songs formerly launched as advance singles didn’t make the final cut. This has become common practice within the R&B market and led many people to doubt about the final product having much to do with the album as it was conceived. However, as it was to expect from a half of Outkast, ‘Sir Luscious’ was such solid and slick piece of work that didn’t suffer in the least from all the obstacles on his way; the best proof of the superb shape the rapper from Atlanta’s is still in.

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#7-JANELLE MONAE-The ArchAndroid (Bad Boy)

Acclaimed as the female heir of Prince for her stylistic eclecticism, the first album of the Kansas City vocalist amazed everyone. A thematic follow-up to her debut EP telling the story of her alter ego Cindy Mayweather, an android living in a future where love is forbidden and revolution looming; Monáe revealed herself as a true renovator of the best soul, a real exception in the stereotyped-filled world of Today’s urban music. Her live shows also confirmed the strength of her talents. P. Diddy welcomed her in his label; Big Boi brought his rhymes to the first single ‘Tightrope’; Saul Williams his radical poetry and even the Prince of Minneappolis gave his seal of approval by inviting her to be the opening act on his latest tour.

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#8-DEERHUNTER-Halcyon Days (4AD)

Bradford Cox kept up with the frantic pace of his songwriting output. This year it was time for a new album with his band. As it has happened in records by many other artists who pioneered the shoegaze revival, Deerhunter’s third effort displayed a lesser influence of the popular British genre. Instead, there was an expansion of their musical palette through wider exploration of psychedelic and vintage sounds. The quality of the songs remained intact, though, with Cox bringing a new string of classics to the sum of his already existing ones.

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#9-CARIBOU-Swim (City Slang)

London based, Canadian born Victor Daniel Snaith’s second album in full fledged band mode begins where his former effort ‘Andorra’ ended and goes to brand new heights, perfectly mixing current DJ trends with pop-rock sensitivity. Since the dazzling ‘Odessa’ hit the airwaves we knew we were in for a treat, and ‘Swim’ didn’t disappoint our high expectations, becoming a worthy candidate for electronic record of the year. From the chilled vibes of ‘Sun’ to the master class in dream-pop that is ‘Kaili’, every other track of the album worked both individually as well as an unique piece in a stunning contemporary sound mosaic.

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#10-THE NATIONAL-High Violet (4AD)

After even breaking into the charts with ‘Boxer’ – a Rober Award nominee as album of the year – and their charity project for the Red Hot organization, ‘Dark Is The Night’; the band from Cincinnati took their time to create a work of impeccable facture without any noticeable flaw. ‘High Violet’ amply fulfilled that goal. Matt Berninger’s baritone vocals kept on underlining their highly emotive stories, whereas their commercial appeal kept on going stronger. The only possible criticism their fifth record could bear is that instead of attempting any changes, The National seem to have taken advantage of their new found popularity by digging deeper in the foundations of their characteristic sound; as if it was collection time of all the plaudits they’ve been earning until now.

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#11-FLYING LOTUS-Cosmogramma (Warp)

Alice Coltrane’s nephew Steve Ellison followed up his breakthrough opus ‘Los Angeles’ with what was described by the artist as a space opera, containing a tour of the Universe. ‘Cosmogramma’ was named after one of his aunt’s lectures. The influences pretty much matched the scope and ambition behind the concept: with jazz, hip-hop, house, etc. thrown in a mix that fits within the most adventurous electronica. Thundercat and even Thom Yorke were among the guest musicians and all combined it shaped up an astonishing piece of musical evolution.

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#12-HOW TO DRESS WELL-Love Remains (Lefse)

In 2010, R&B has begun to change from being a mere substitute for the most commercial pop music to become a source of inspiration among avant-pop musicians. Autre Ne Veut were heavily influenced by the much maligned genre, doing their own drunk-like take of it and Brooklyn artist Tom Krell has dug deep into the beats and hooks of the style during the 80’s as How To Dress Well. ‘Love Remains’ is chillwave genetically modified with R&B. Falsetto voices that recall singers like Al B. Sure or even tributes to bands like Ready For The World –one of his songs its named after them – and blissfully ethereal landscapes evoking the best shoegaze.

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#13-PANTHA DU PRINCE-Black Noise (Rough Trade)

Hendrik Weber, the acclaimed German producer of minimal techno, expanded his affinity with shoegaze towards the most challenging corners of today’s dream-pop under his Pantha Du Prince moniker and offered one of the most accomplished crossover records of the year; one that has made his audience notoriously grow. Panda Bear brought his psychedelic loops to ‘Stick To My Side’ and in ‘Im Bann’ he reached a moment of uniquely hypnotic beauty; to mention just two of the album’s many standout moments.

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#14-GONJASUFI-A Sufi And A Killer (Warp)

From the Mojave desert and bringing the warmth of blues and soul and a psychedelic, bordering on the religious, spirituality to the cold mathematic precission of made in Warp electronica or avant hip-hop, former yoga teacher Gonjasufi has earned a privileged place among lovers of true innovation. Developing his talent in the orbit of Flying Lotus’ mind-blowing beats, just by sampling Las Grecas in ‘Kowboyz & Indians’ he won our full attention. The album revealed itself as one of those rare experiences in which an unusual mix of influences produces something really original, nearly mystic.

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#15-JOANNA NEWSOM-Have One On Me (Drag City)

The question was on everybody’s mind. How could Joanna Newsom follow up her impressively ambitious second record ‘Ys’? The answer: with an even more ambitious proposition; a triple record in times where the conventional concept of album is getting dangerously close to become an anachronism and formats boasting fewer songs as well as the individual track download reign supreme; also coming back to a simplicity of arrangements that leaves behind the Baroque ways of Van Dyke Parks. Arguably ‘Have One On Me’ could have been a better record if shorter or more lavishly produced, but as an artistic statement is another establishment defying triumph.

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