Wednesday, December 22, 2010

My Top 10 Albums of 2010

For the first time in awhile, I've actually listened to enough new music to make a "best of" list for the year! Many of my colleagues are in agreement with me that 2010 was a very good year for music. Below is my top 10 for the year (in reverse order), along with commentary and a few of my fave tracks from each album.

10. Record Collection by Mark Ronson & The Business Intl.

Musician/vocalist/producer Ronson has created an album that is both retro and contemporary. While many of the tunes are pure head-bopping fun (for instance, “The Bike Song” and “Bang Bang Bang”), the album has its serious moments. One such example is the mid-tempo “Somebody to Love Me”, which features co-lead vocals by Boy George (whose now weathered voice fits the tune nicely) and Andrew Wyatt. The eclectic guest roster of Record Collection also includes Simon Le Bon and Nick Rhodes of Duran Duran, D’Angelo, Rose Elinor Dougall (formerly of The Pipettes), and ex-A Tribe Called Quest member Q-Tip among others.

Check these out: The Bike Song, Somebody To Love Me, and The Night Last Night

9. Libra Scale by Ne-Yo

This is an album that I enjoyed more than I expected. Part of it plays as a quasi-tribute to Michael Jackson… which isn’t a bad thing. While Ne-Yo thankfully manages not to completely lose himself in sequined glove splendor, some of the tracks on Libra Scale sound like outtakes from the Off the Wall/Thriller era. Hee hee!

Check these out: One In A Million, Cause I Said So, and Genuine Only

8. Broken Bells by Broken Bells

The debut collaboration between musician/producer “Danger Mouse” (who isn’t British and doesn’t sport an eye patch) and The Shins’ guitarist/lead vocalist James Mercer is a melodic feast, featuring airy vocals and experimental musicianship. A former colleague often raved about this album. After listening to it in its entirety earlier this month, I can understand her enthusiasm.

Side note: For fans of Broken Bells, the duo has announced their intention to record a follow-up!

Check these out: The High Road, The Ghost Inside, and Mongrel Heart

7. The Sea by Corinne Bailey Rae

Released in the aftermath of the death of her husband, Rae’s sophomore effort isn’t the gloom and doom affair one might expect. While there are songs like “Are You There” which deal with loss, the record also features such up-tempo numbers as “Paris Nights/New York Mornings” and “Paper Dolls”. The decision to use a live band on The Sea was a smart one, giving the album a “smoky, jazz club” vibe.

Check these out: The Blackest Lily, Closer, and Paris Nights/New York Mornings

6. Travelling Like the Light by V.V. Brown

On her debut album, V.V.’s brand of beehive soul grabs you by the collar and dares you not to get caught up in its infectious groove. If there was any justice, Brown would have received a Grammy nod for Best New Artist. The Grammy voters could have passed over a certain mop-topped upstart from Canada and nominated V.V. Brown instead.

Check these out: Game Over, Crying Blood, and Bottles

5. Congratulations by MGMT

For their 2nd release, MGMT takes us on a journey through the trippy world of psychedelia. The album’s highlight is the 12-minute plus track “Siberian Breaks”. I often don’t like long songs because they tend to drag on and on (dude, get that Chevy through the levee already!), but “Siberian Breaks” is like multiple songs in one!

Check these out: Someone’s Missing, Siberian Breaks, and Brian Eno

4. Plastic Beach by Gorillaz

Exotic, space-age, and soothing, Plastic Beach is like a soundtrack to a Ralph Bakshi film that hasn’t been made. Although a bulk of the vocals are handled by such guests as Bobby Womack, Mos Def, Lou Reed, and Yukimi Nagano, Gorillaz founder Damon Albarn steps out in front on songs such as Broken, Rhinestone Eyes, and the title track.

Check these out: White Flag, Stylo, and Broken

3. The Sound of Sunshine by Michael Franti & Spearhead

If you are feeling like “Debbie Downer” or “Gloomy Gus”, the aptly named The Sound of Sunshine is the perfect antidote. When you play this album, you can practically feel the sand beneath your feet and the tropical breeze in the air.

Check these out: The Sound of Sunshine, Hey Hey Hey, and The Thing That Helps Me Get Through

2. LOUD by Rihanna

Ms. Fenty offers up a potent mix of club jams and dancehall grooves on her 5th studio album. Lending solid support are Drake, Eminem, and the “Savoir-Faire Mouse of hip-hop” Nicki Minaj.

Check these out: What’s My Name, Cheers (Drink to That), and Man Down
1. My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy by Kanye West

Like a hip-hop Van Gogh, Kanye uses his musical palette to create the audio masterpiece of 2010. Clever, in-your-face, and daring are just a few of the adjectives to describe MBDTF. Because there is so much to digest, I find myself still discovering bits and pieces with each listen. Hate Kanye West if you want, but it’s hard to deny that he is one of the supreme talents in music.

Check these out: Dark Fantasy, Monster, and So Appalled

What are your favorite albums of 2010?


LL Cool Joe said...

Great idea, I'll have to think about it and get back to you. I know Devlin's Bud, Sweat & Beers would be in there, but I find most albums are disappointing. They contain 3 good tracks and then a great many mediocre fillers.

BeckEye said...

I love "Paris Nights/New York Mornings." I need to check out the rest of Corinne's album. And I'm forever meaning to pick up more VV Brown stuff, but I keep forgetting. I need to start writing more things down. Perhaps I should invent a kind of pants made from whiteboard.

Also, we may only have two of our top 10 albums in common, but Michael Franti made my Top Singles of 2010 list. That will be up on Sunday.

Malcolm said...

LL Cool Joe: I look forward to seeing what you come up with for your list of 2010 albums, assuming you put one together.

BeckEye: In early December, to help me finalize my "best of" list, I went back and pulled out the releases I liked. Otherwise, I may have forgotten about Corinne Bailey Rae's album because I listened to it so early in the year.

I took a look at your 2010 singles list. When I have more time, I'll swing back over to listen and comment.

Dave Splash said...

Malcolm, did you hear the record Danger Mouse did with Sparklehorse (billed as Danger Mouse and Sparklehorse)? It's called Dark Night of the Soul, and features a number of great guest vocalists. I think it turned out better than Broken Bells.

I still haven't been able to get into Rihanna's music, but damn do I love looking at her!

Malcolm said...

Dave: Thanks for stopping by! No, I haven't heard "Dark Night of the Soul" yet. I think I was given a copy and might still have it. I'll have to take a look. If I don't have it, I'll search You Tube to pull up the tracks.

As for Rihanna, there's no question she is very pleasing to the eyes!

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