Archive for February, 2011

Best Albums of 2010

February 5, 2011

25. Shut Up, Dude by Das Racist

“Combination Pizza Hut and Taco Bell” was my shit but I figured that would be it from these guys. Like Detroit Grand Pubahs and “Sandwiches”. Instead, they drop Shut Up, Dude with tracks like “Rainbow in the Dark” and “Who’s That? Brooown!” Can we talk about those laser synths in “Rainbow” and how they make life worth living? Because they do. The rhymes are funny and non-sensical and smart/dumb. I talked to someone recently who said they hate “joke rap”. Well, what is the alternative? Sometimes we laugh so not to cry.

24. Barbara by We Are Scientists

This was supposed to be the return to form record, kids! One album too late I guess. Ten tracks, all straight ahead rockers just like the first album. Some people like that kind of thing (me! Rachel! McCarty!), some people do not. However, this was the album where the liner notes were so “clever” that they became tedious to read. Quit it with that winky shit, WAS. It is remarkable that a band like We Are Scientists isn’t more popular. I think they made a fatal error somewhere down the line of being too accessible for the indie crowd and too punchy and fun for the radio. Have you listened to the music that falls under the “Rock Radio” banner? Shit’s unbelievable.

23. Love Letter by R. Kelly

R. Kelly albums have always been spotty, so to get one that you can let sit without having to skip a track? Goddamn miracle. The batshit craziness has been shunted to the side for most of Love Letter, the better to let R. Kelly remind you that he can sing, girl. And that he can bring you a catchy groove you’ll be humming for days(“Not Feeling the Love” is particularly infectious). Love Letter is not a throwback record as much as it is a record to remind all of us that R. Kelly might be a crazy dude but he started out in the game writing great songs. Dude is back.

22. Pilot Talk by Curren$y

Curren$y’s flow is sick and he has a great ear for beats. Usually loping, low key beats that match Curren$y’s smoked out persona of a guy who likes to get high, drive slow and play video games. The premise of tracks like “Address” and “Life Under The Scope” follow a similar through line of “Motherfuckers are out to get you but if you’re cool as fuck, don’t matter”. Makes sense to me.

21. Apollo Kids by Ghostface Killah

Last year’s Ghostdini was the first Ghostface Killah record that I didn’t like very much. What a sad turn of events. But hope springs eternal and here we are with Apollo Kids, a return to the Ghostface we know and love. Ghostface raps over soul beats, Trife shows up, and one song starts with Ghostface yelling at someone. Good to have you back, Ghost.

20. Real Life Is No Cool by Lindstrøm & Christabelle

Lindstrøm takes time out of his busy schedule of making super long and occasionally boring “dance” songs and cuts this supremely satisfying record with Christabelle, a flat voiced ingenue in the grand tradition of Nico and Kate Moss on that one Primal Scream record. This album kills. One track sounds like an outtake from Off The Wall but instead of Michael you get the soft coos of Christabelle, who has a charm all her own.

19. Head First by Goldfrapp

I didn’t think Goldfrapp would rebound from their last album but surprise of surprises they did. Head First is Goldfrapp’s warmest record with lyrics about putting on tight jeans and strutting out into the world. Who can’t relate to that? She also straps an ex-lover to a rocket and shoots him into space. All of this is backed by upbeat synth lines with just the slightest touch of grit. But it still has that slinky smoothness I associate with all quality releases from Ms. Goldfrapp and company.

18. Illumination by Miami Horror

A direct decedent of Daft Punk’s Discovery, Illumination is awash in giddy electronic dance joy. “I Look to You” and “Holidays” are the kind of funk samplers that Daft Punk used to make their stock and trade. Since those guys can’t be bothered with making good music anymore Miami Horror have picked up slack. More please.

17. Maniac Meat by Tobacco

Shit’s crazy. Sounds like a fuzzed out guitar run through a vacuum cleaner sound effect on top of break beats. Beck sings on a couple tracks and the rest sound like serial killer voicemails. RECOMMENDED!

16. Fenech-Soler by Fenech-Soler

I’m always in the mood for quality dance rock. Always. It makes my daily commute go faster and gives me something to bop along to while I sit in bumper to bumper traffic every damn day(You rock, Pittsburgh!) Fenech-Soler’s self titled record is the best dance rock record to come along since that Friendly Fires album, which you might recall was BALLIN’! Fenech-Soler is similarly ballin’ with plenty of jams as well as some slow burners that many bands of their ilk can’t pull off. Range, everyone should have it.

15. Surfing the Void by Klaxons

Klaxons walk the fine line of being inherently strange with the content of their lyrics while also maintaining an accessible rock sound with plenty of hooks and energy. No easy task when you frequently reference intersteller travel and Pynchon. Surfing The Void is one of the best sophomore records I’ve heard in awhile. It took it’s time in the making but is assured and powerful. And it still sounds like Klaxons, which is what we all liked about them in the first place, right? Man, what MGMT did was some bullshit amirite?

14. Sisterworld by Liars

I read an interview with Liars where they explained that Sisterworld is a dark, sad and scary record precisely because the world around us is a dark, sad and scary place. Nearly every track has a moment that hangs you in the air, like a threat of violence. Liars are still making difficult records, but they’re remembering to include songs in the mix.

13. Hologram Jams by Jaguar Love

What an unlikely group. The two lead singers from Blood Brothers writing pop jams using a drum machine. Topics include staying up all night on caffeine and candy and riding a mastodon to prom. Hologram Jams is what I pretend high school was like sometimes. The closing cover of “Piece Of My Heart” is on some hall of fame shit. Anyone who says the first JL album is better is fucking crazy since that first album doesn’t make me want to burn down houses!

12. Tourist History by Two Door Cinema Club

Props, claps, and fingers snaps for Lauren Guastella for bringing this album into all of our lives. Sure she didn’t produce or play on it but she did send me an email linking to a torrent of it.  And I hated it. I know! What was my problem? Tourist History is front to back joy. The guitars practically sparkle and the tempo never slows down enough to make you even *think* about not dancing. Sure, Two Door Cinema Club aren’t reinventing the wheel but a wheel can’t dance so who cares?(more dancing)

11. Amoral by Violens

I think I took to Twitter one day to decree upon Amoral the rating of Amazeballs. I don’t just throw that rating around randomly at whatever album I happen to be listening to on my phone at any given moment. A person can only award that rating when the music they’re listening to creates the perfect mesh of “amazing” and “ballin'”. Tough, I know. Amoral not only merges together “amazing” and “ballin'” but also takes time out to recall the better parts of 80’s radio and 2000’s dance rock. The peanut butter and jelly of musical tastes.

10. Bag Raiders by Bag Raiders

While no one can lobby for the records on this list(this is all me, baby) they can certainly do their best to get me to reconsider an album. Lauren Guastella urged me to reappraise this album by constantly exclaiming “Son! JEEZUS!” whenever we talked on the phone. Girl is right. Bag Raiders are quite a bit better than the 2nd rate Cut Copy tribute artists I originally took them for. Beats for days, giant hooky choruses. It’s like the girl said, “Son! JEEZUS!”

9. Diamond Eyes by Deftones

A track like “Rocket Skates” is Deftones at their Deftoniest. The guitars are hard and abrasive and the riff is sick. Chino is screaming “GUN! RAZORS! KNIVES!” Like I said, Deftones doing Deftones. “876-Evil” is Chino perfecting that spacey midtempo thing he always forces these guys to do but it doesn’t always work but shockingly here it does. He slows it down a couple other times and it is goddamn gorgeous. A pretty Deftones album? Yup, snuck in there in between those guns and knives.

8. Last Train to Paris by Diddy-Dirty Money

I never considered the concept of a contemplative Diddy. Reflecting on his high life antics, his love ’em and leave ’em relationships. That sounds like a terrible album in the making. Instead it’s his best work, a concept album where the concept is Diddy, who he was and who he has become. He drops in on the album when he wants to and is absent for entire stretches to allow his myriad guest stars a chance to shine while still talking about Diddy. The beats are sublime, a true mesh of R&B and electronic grooves from a smattering of mostly unknown producers that holds together as a cohesive statement. I guess Diddy’s “Make it hot!” production mentoring style really works.

7. This Is Happening by LCD Soundsystem

While we could talk about the thoughtful melancholy vibes that LCD Soundsystem call up whenever James Murphy writes a song like “All I Want” or “Home” this is old news. We know he knows how to write great songs like these and I hope he continues to do so for a long long time. But what about the rave-ups? Tracks like “Daft Punk is Playing at My House” and “North American Scum” tend to be ignored because they’re fun. Don’t dismiss these tracks, especially since Murphy finally perfected his formula with “Drunk Girls”. “Drunk Girls” is stupid brilliant. Don’t sleep.

6. Flockaveli by Waka Flocka Flame

“Pow Pow Pow Pow Pow Pow Pow Pow
Shoot first, ask questions last.
That’s how these so called gangsta’s last.
Waka Flocka Flame 1017

Pow Pow Pow Pow, Bitch I’m bustin’ at ’em”

The opening lyrics of “Bustin’ At Em”

Hardest album of the year. Waka Flocka Flame might not be the greatest rapper(ok, definitely not) but he brings a swagger and energy that is undeniable and he’s backed by producer of the year Lex Luger. Kid is 19 and is already killing it dead. Luger has taken the Mannie Fresh drum sound and amped it up a few RPMs because it sounds more awesome and menacing that way. Waka raps mostly about dying in these streets, killing and robbing and stealing for his dawgs, fucking up the club and that the record industry is wack. All true.

5. Love King by The-Dream

For a guy who fashions himself a Love King The-Dream spends a large chunk of time on Love King fucking up his relationships. Buying his girl a make up bag because he cheated (“Make Up Bag), thinking about old ex’s and second guessing current flames (“Nikki Pt. 2”, “Yamaha”), The-Dream isn’t what you’d call a reliable guy. BUT he is an incredible songwriter and the songs on Love King are spectacular. “Yamaha” is the best Prince song Prince never wrote and “Panties to the Side” the best self deprecating/boastful song ever written (“I’ll never be the hot act, I’m too cold”). The deluxe version features “Veteran”, a track remarkable for making douchebaggy behavior in the club appear admirable and endearing. Only The-Dream could pull off that feat.

4. Black Light by Groove Armada

At the time of it’s release a review pegged Black Light as a divisive record, one that will split Groove Armada’s fanbase down the middle between those who will love it and those that will loathe it. This prediction has proven accurate and obviously based on it’s appearance on this list, I fell in the former category. Black Light is Groove Armada are their most expansive. Live instruments, zero instrumentals, guest vocalists on every track, a sound rooted in 70’s and 80’s pop, with nods and homages to Fleetwood Mac and Roxy Music, to choose the more obvious references. GA don’t completely abandon their dance moments from previous albums(“Paper Romance”, “Time and Space”) but they spend most of Black Light‘s running time trying to sound like a band and succeeding.

3. Further by The Chemical Brothers

A good album by The Chemical Brothers seemed like a distant possibility. A bad one seemed more likely after the sad shit that was We Are The Night. I still wince at the mere mention of “The Salmon Dance”. Which makes Further such a surprise.  The biggest surprise is that it hits, hard. The Chems don’t sound like elder statesmen here, they sound like still vital innovators, twisting and tweaking their sound in exciting new directions. Best Chemical Brothers album ever. “Swoon”- best Chemical Brothers song ever.

2. Flesh Tone by Kelis

Kelis is a mom now and because she’s a mom she decided to make an album packed with dance bangers about how great it is being a mom and that she hopes she can be a good mom but hey life is tough we’ll figure it out as we go along. Of course she did. It’s great. Dance party from beginning to end, inspirational without ever being cheesy, and I don’t know how Kelis’s baby doesn’t turn out to be an awesome person. She wrote Flesh Tone for him, and it’s incredible! He’s going to be great.

1. My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy by Kanye West

See that title? A bit much, right? Could lose a word and probably wouldn’t hurt it. But then that wouldn’t be what Kanye had wanted, which is to be too much. My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy is a masterpiece of excess, it’s big not because Kanye wanted it to be big but because it had to be big. There was no other way to do it. He could have called it Go Big or Go Home and you know Kanye isn’t going home anytime soon. Can’t wait for when he tops himself again next summer. Shout out to “All of the Lights” and “Power” for being baller tracks.

Best Songs of 2010
  1. Paper Romance – Groove Armada
  2. Piece of my Heart – Jaguar Love
  3. All of the Lights – Kanye West
  4. Yamaha – The-Dream
  5. Dancing On My Own – Robyn
  6. POWER – Kanye West
  7. Alive – Goldfrapp
  8. Swoon – The Chemical Brothers
  9. Drunk Girls – LCD Soundsystem
  10. Song for Baby – Kelis