Home stretch you guys! You want the truth? THIS. IS. SPARTA. I’m just a Julia Roberts standing in front of a Hugh Grant, etc. etc. These are some fine musical albums, let me tell you! So many questions, right? So many cliffhangers! What are the final ten albums? How much of an urge did I have to put Taylor Swift’s “Innocent” at every spot just for a joke? Could a Swedish singer beat a Chicago rapper or some Welsh-educated, British-born pop darlings? Who are the Oceanic Six? HERE IS WHAT WE TALK ABOUT WHEN WE TALK ABOUT TOP TEN ALBUMS NOW!
10). The Monitor by Titus Andronicus
I don’t know a lot about the Civil War and I have sort of a complex relationship with New Jersey, but neither of those things kept me from loving The Monitor. The Airing of Grievances established Titus as clever suburban kids imposing meaning on a meaningless world through rock music, and The Monitor focuses their music into a complete statement that deftly weaves the Civil War into leaving home, heartbreak, and television.
9). Stridulum by Zola Jesus
For a while, I was scared of Zola Jesus’s music. It seemed intense and dark, and for some reason in this case, those were bad things (Yeah, I am not really sure. Maybe I was really against sad music in the spring? Maybe I was afraid I would like it TOO much. What is past is past!). For a bit, I stayed away. Eventually, I heard “Night” and was blown away. The darkness and intensity and haunting aspects of Stridulum work wonderfully. Nika Roza Danilova’s has a magnificent voice. Whatever places she takes it, I will follow.
8). High Violet by The National
What is this whole “Dad Rock” thing? Can Dads not rock? That does not seem fair! I do not believe any member of The National has children yet (if I remember their NYT magazine profile correctly) but they still get lumped in with dad rock. That is kind of ageist! Look what you have wrought, Logan’s Run.
So, The National came out with a new album and it is great, no duh. The band was trying to make a happy album (HOW DID THAT TURN OUT GUYS?). After Boxer, I was excited to see a kinder, happier the National. However, I am not disappointed with this album. The simple care that the National takes with their music ensures its quality. It also means they are one of the few bands that can pull off lines like “I was afraid/ I’d eat your brains/ ‘Cause I’m evil” and “You and your sister live in Lemonworld.”
Returning to the dad rock, are we just concerned that for such sad songs, these guys seem to have a pretty sweet deal? Maybe. Dad rock is not the worst thing people can call you, and the National are on top of the world these days. They probably just dance up on them haters.
7). Treats by Sleigh Bells
Since the 2HELLWU CD-R came out in 2009, it feels like I had been waiting forever for this album to come out (Fun Fact: the vinyl release of
Treats had to be sent back initially because the picture disc was misprinted. You are tearing me apart, Sleigh Bells!) While waiting, I wondered, “Will Sleigh Bells clean up their sound? Could that hurt the songs? What does it mean?!” Luckily, Sleigh Bells played it perfectly, updating and ironing out the tunes that needed it, recognizing what didn’t (“Crown on the Ground” was perfect and continues to be perfect) and adding some new tunes. I’ve heard/ read some reviews where people wonder what Sleigh Bells will do next. That doesn’t matter right now. All that matters is that Treats has some of the most bombastic pop sensibilities not heard since Jock Jams Vol. 5.
6). My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy by Kanye West
You guys, this album is really good! Good ass job, Kanye! Hey, Kanye, who taught you how to make an album this great?
“Yeezy taught me.”
Yeezy taught you well! Yeezy taught you well.
5). Heartland by Owen Pallett
Man, Owen Pallett had a swell year! Between
Heartland and his work on The Suburbs, he’s like the George Clooney of end-of-the-year indie rock album lists. In how George Clooney is talented at making movies, Owen Pallett is good at making songs. He’s like a scientist, the way he is applying this (musical theory). A meticulous ear constructed this album without making it academic or condescending. Instead, Heartland is a wonderful collage of traditional instruments, electronic sounds, and Pallett’s round voice.
4). Love King by The-Dream
You like Beyoncé’s “Single Ladies (Put a Ring On It)” and Rihanna’s “Umbrella,” yes? Well, The-Dream wrote both of those! And he writes his own music! And it is
Under his own admission, The-Dream will never be a pop star (he’s too raw) so he is free to do whatever he pleases. He can make fierce, in-your-face songs like “Panties to the Side” (true story: I put
Love King in a car stereo. The next person to use said car was my mom. As she started the car, the opening to “Panties to the Side” played, which goes “Let me fuck you, baby” like fourteen times), he can do long-form songs like the “Yamaha/ Nikki Part. 2/ Abyss” trilogy, and he can do slow(er) james like “Turnt Out.” The-Dream has said his next album will be his last, so cherish him, everybody!
3). Learning by Perfume Genius
I hate Billy Joel. People try to make Billy Joel the Long Island version of Bruce Springsteen but that does not make sense. Bruce Springsteen is great and Billy Joel churns out platitudes like a celebrity’s Twitter account. I mean, “Miami 2017”? REALLY? Maybe part of the reason I love Perfume Genius’s album so much is because it is the anti-Billy Joel. Vulnerable, simple piano songs almost float by so you don’t notice their emotional weight. Almost.
Mike Hadreas addresses personal demons and hardships on Learning but always subtly. You can overstate sadness to the point of transforming it into a badge. Hadreas is more complex than that. The songs on Learning are large. They contain multitudes.
2). Body Talk by Robyn
Robyn will be playing Radio City Music Hall in February. That venue is historic! Good for Robyn. She makes people dance.
Sometimes, I’ll be listening to the radio and I will get very upset when “Like a G6” or “Hey Soul Sister” or any P!nk song or Neon Trees or whatever bullshit plays. They could be playing “Dancing On My Own” or “Time Machine” or “Call Your Girlfriend” or “Get Myself Together” or “Cry When You Get Older” or “Indestructible.”
You guys, Robyn has so many awesome songs.
I once took a class that discussed all the ways pop radio tricks people. We watched a video where Semisonic (that Semisonic) talked about the twenty different mixes of “Closing Time” and how they were marketed to different stations. There was also another idea about a radio station where none of the songs were longer than two minutes in order to keep people’s attention. With the internet, does radio need saving or a venue change? Does it deserved to be saved? Maybe if they played more Robyn songs!
Lastly: There was a picture on BrooklynVegan’s coverage of Robyn’s Terminal 5 show. Apparently, if you bought either Body Talks (Pt. 1 or 2) that were out at that point, you were able to meet Robyn. Some say that life is a series of missed opportunities, but whoever said that did not know the disappointment of missing out on meeting Robyn.
1). Romance is Boring by Los Campesinos!
For some time, I thought this wouldn’t be my album of the year (I was so silly!). When
Romance is Boring was announced to be released last January, I had a Bridges of Madison County-like dilemma. Would any music ever be as good as this album would be? Did it matter if things weren’t? I decided I would listen to the album, but I would enthusiastically and actively search for better music. I tried to not let my love for Los Campesinos! blind me to other artists doing great things this year.In effect, I was also discounting the great things Los Campesinos! did this year.
Romance is Boring is the most varied entry in Los Campesinos!’s catalog. The pop songs are there, more refined in “There are Listed Buildings” and “Straight in at 101.” The second half of the album is more grave, more serious. The second half of the album is full of fresh emotions that haven’t had enough time to be processed and turned into snark.
The songs on Romance is Boring aren’t about righting wrongs done to you through sing-along. Instead, the songs recognize the shitty situations we’re in and the shitty things we do to each other for shitty reasons. The songs also know we will probably do them again, but we will learn a little.
Is Romance is Boring
the best album of 2010? I don’t care. It hit me and it resonated and I love it. If that is wrong, I am sorry. That’s life!