Well I’m a couple days late and a few dollars short but here’s my stab at a “Best of the Year” List. Rated in no particular order because I can’t really rank any of these above the others, just my ten favorite albums of the past year. Check them out, if you like ‘em buy ‘em. Support your local record store.
Baths / Cerulean - Ridiculous beats, layers and layers of lush synths, samples and vocals. If you like electronic music recorded on a laptop in a bedroom by a 21 year old that doesn’t sound anything like electronic music recorded in a bedroom by a 21 year old, you’ll love this. Will Wiesenfeld is a freaking genius, I can’t wait to see what he does next.
Veelee / The Future Sight - Off kilter pop from Durham, NC boyfriend/girlfriend duo. She plays drums and sings, he plays keyboards, guitars and sings. Sweet harmonies, catchy hooks, see them live if you can, they should be touring soon.
Here We Go Magic / Pigeons - When I first got this I wasn’t convinced it was as good as their debut effort but a few listens quashed that notion. Throbbing, looping, dreamy magic.
Menomena / Mines - This experimental rock/pop trio from Portland, Ore. put out one of the most dense, challenging albums of the year. Wonderful harmonies, heady lyrics, intricate melodies, masterful musicianship.
Tallest Man on Earth / The Wild Hunt - Kristian Matsson quietly breaks your heart on every song using only his sweet, sweet voice and acoustic guitar.
YelaWolf / Trunk Muzik (mixtape) - Breakout hip-hop artist of the year, shit, maybe the decade. He’s got this southern drawl/twang like no other and spits some of the sickest lines I’ve ever heard over beats that are among the best in hip-hop. It was tough to pick between the mixtape and his proper debut release (Trunk Muzik 0-60) but the mixtape won out barely for including gems like Speak Her Sex and Lick the Cat. Y’all should really get with this.
Sufjan Stevens / Age of Adz - Sufjan came out of nowhere and surprised everyone with two brilliant albums, the more traditional Sufjan-esque Mega-EP All Delighted People and the combination of all his previous efforts and influences in the Age of Adz. Electronic psychedelic folk? I don’t know how to categorize this or if you even can, but it’s an awe-inspiring tour de force.
Sharon Van Etten / Epic - Sharon took her gorgeous voice and beautifully crafted songs to places I never expected after her debut Because I Was in Love. Adding a full band behind her guitar picking and unique voice, taking her sad folk tunes to a new electrified pop level. Maybe the most beautiful album of the year. I also had the pleasure of befriending Sharon this year and she is truly one of the nicest, most genuine humans you will ever meet. If she is playing near you, please go see her.
The War on Drugs / Future Weather - Thank God the Drugs blessed us with this EP to tide everyone over until their next full length, due later in 2011, because it might just be the best rock album of the year. Layers and layers of hazy guitars, riveting rhythm section and perfectly downtrodden, lonely vocals.
Caribou / Swim - If I had to pick and album of the year it would this one. The story is Dan Snaith wrote this masterpiece while learning to swim and wanted to simulate the sound of dance music heard under water. He succeeded. Tripped out, psychedelic dance music that I haven’t been able to take out of my stereo since I first put it on. Every single song is a winner and the live interpretations are simply astounding.
Oh and one more, this album didn’t come out this year, not even close. 10 years ago Nick Lowe (writer of Elvis Costello’s biggest hits/proto punk producer of Costello, the Damned & The Pretenders/outstanding solo artist) released The Convincer and somehow I missed it until now. Thanks to Sharon and her band for forcing me to listen to this, it’s definitely one of my favorites of the year and I am currently on a quest to own everything he’s ever touched.
Honorable Mention (should have done a top 20/this could easily be my alternate top ten)
Beach House / Teen Dream
Megafaun / Heretofore
Big Boi: Sir Lucious Left Foot / The Son of Chico Dusty
Four Tet / There Is Love In You
LCD Soundsystem / This is Happening
Deerhunter / Halcyon Digest
Grinderman / Grinderman 2
Holy Fuck / Latin
Joanna Newsom / Have One On Me
Sufjan Stevens / All Delighted People
I could go one but I’ll stop here. Thank you.