2010: Music in Review Part 2

The saga continues.  Today, we complete the list with albums 15-1.  Hopefully, I’ll have completed my movies and comics lists by the end of next week.  Stay tuned!

15.      Forgiveness Rock Record-Broken Social Scene-It was a close call, but I think Broken Social Scene beat Arcade Fire in the melodramatic bombast Olympics.  Forgiveness Rock Record has the added advantage of kick-ass guitars.  This is indeed a rock record.  They win because they did have the decency to make album that rocked harder.  Forgiveness… also avoids a lot of the re-treaded feel of The Suburbs.  It’s not all new and exciting, but the old tricks feel less forced and the new tricks kick ass.

14.      Body Talk-Robyn-I’m a sucker for a good pop song.  Even this slick, futuristic synth pop stuff.  It seems to be the dominating style of music played these days, and it makes for some truly bizarre radio listening.  I no longer recognize these modern pop songs as songs, the structure is just so bizarre.  Nobody even seems to sing hooks anymore.  They just kind of drawl the title four to eight times.  It’s a weird pop world out there, and I’m getting lost.  Luckily Robyn was able to pull me back from the brink and into musical salvation!  Body Talk should be used in pop-star school.  This is what that synth-shit is supposed to sound like, so get it together, rest of the world.  It’s not that hard to make great songs, or at least it seems that way.  Robyn’s a good singer too, and she makes this brilliance sound easy.  It’s futuristic, but it’s still music.  For bonus points, “Call Your Girlfriend” even features an I-don’t-know-what solo.  It sounds like some sort of vocal manipulator, but I’ve got no idea what device is being played.  That’s exciting.

13.      Earl-Earl Sweatshirt-Last year, I called Freddie Gibbs the last true gangsta rapper.  That still holds true, even if he has been out-gangsta’d by a 16 year old kid.  Ya see, Earl Sweatshirt is beyond gangsta.  Most of these songs involve gangsta rap clichés taken beyond their extremes.  There’re a lot of songs here about murder, rape, theft, anal sex, etc.  It’s pretty ridiculous, but Earl’s smooth, low key delivery ground the songs in reality, and the beats by his brother Tyler the Creator are some of the best 8 bit synths I’ve heard since the first Crystal Castles album.  Earl’s a member of LA rap collective Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All, which you may recognize from their ridiculous name.  The album is available for free on their website, so get out there and download that shit.

12.      Halycon Digest-Deerhunter-I wish I could rank this higher, but I haven’t heard the songs performed at ear-blistering volume.  Deerhunter rocks surprisingly hard live, and their albums don’t really do them justice.  I demand to hear these songs live, because Halycon Digest is Deerhunter’s tamest record yet.  Sure, it’s still #12 on the list, but it would probably be #1 if it rocked.  I’ll give credit where credit is due-Helicopter is the best slow song they’ve ever done.

11.      This is Happening-LCD Soundsystem-It’s not as good as their last album, but it comes pretty damn close.  Sure, it gets reeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeaally boring towards the end, but this is still a kick-ass album, and it’s got the best songs they’ve ever done.  Honestly, if this was a three song EP, it’d still be charting this high, as long as one of the songs was “All I Want”.  It’s also the album that gave me “Drunk Girls,” “One Touch,” and “Pow.”  Right on James Murphy.  There’s nothing terribly new or thrilling about LCD Soundsystem.  They play it safe, but they still come up with more imaginative stuff than  most people trying to be different.

10.      All Day-Girl Talk-Oh my god, he went and got himself an attention span.  All Day is the best Girl Talk album yet, a wholly realized piece-of-music that demands to be heard in full.  Instead of the flashes of brilliance I’ve been putting up with, it’s got actual momentum.  The music gets enough breathing room to accomplish something.  Apparently, it’s also his most mainstream album too.  I guess most of these samples are from a lot of recent hit songs.  Not that I can tell.  I thought Wacka Flocka Flame was a Pokémon until a month or two ago.

9.      Plastic Beach-Gorillaz-Plastic Beach is about as far removed from the first two Gorillaz records as those were from Blur.  It’s a new chapter in this ridiculous art project, but from the opening swells of “Welcome to the World of the Plastic Beach” you can tell it’s going to be a good one.  Damon Albarn crafts a full, orchestral sound on this album, and relegates the guests to the background.  It’s a pop opus in the tradition of The Who or the Kinks, and damn is it good.

8.      /\/\ /\ Y /\ -M.I.A. (I liked it so much, I’m even going to spell it the stupid way.)-This album is really loud and dumb, but so is Black Sabbath and they fucking rule.  It doesn’t matter.  It’s still good.  MAYA’s a big mess but it probably benefits from it.  There’s some bizarre, ridiculous shit going on here. We’ve got Suicide samples, Sleigh Bells samples, paranoid sloganeering, and even some dubstep.  On top of that, I’d go so far as to call it good dubstep.  It’s like Sandinista except I don’t get bored quite so immediately.  The other difference being that Sandinista probably had something to say, whereas MAYA probably doesn’t.  I’m pretty sure you’re supposed to stop taking it seriously when she starts chanting “Google connected to the Government.”

7.      Cosmogramma-Flying Lotus-It’s about damn time.  We need more electronic musicians to structure their albums like instrumental rap albums.  And he’s still getting more done in 90 seconds than most technotrons do in ten minutes.  Really, was that so hard?

6.      Treats-Sleigh Bells-This album is a benchmark of loud.  Treats is designed with “obnoxious” in mind. It’s physically impossible for old people to like this.  How cool is that?  It’s noisy, abrasive, and catchy as fuck.  In a world where the Fleet Foxes are still allowed to exist, it’s nice knowing I’ve got Sleigh Bells on my side.  Besides, there’s a Chippy sample.

5.      Shut up Dude/Sit Down Man-Das Racist-Is it unfair to count two mixtapes as one album?  I need to quell this controversy, and quickly.  Let’s start with the bad then.  Despite a few incredible tunes, their first mixtape, Shut Up Dude, is mostly just incoherent babble that starts and stops in four minute intervals.  Sit Down Man is a vast improvement in the crafting of actual songs, but it also feels more reined-in.  There’s nothing quite as good as “Rainbow in the Dark” or “Ek Shaneesh.”  “Rapping 2 You” comes close.  Complaints aside, minor they may be, I’m glad somebody has finally gotten their act together enough to sound like the Beastie Boys-refreshingly different and actually good.  Das Racist is two New Yorkers, Heems and Kool AD.  Together, they combine powers to craft a hip-hop-hodge-podge of rhymes hilarious and insightful.  It’ll never catch on, but at least they’re trying.

4.      King of the Beach-Wavves-It was a rather bleak year for rock and roll.  Earlier, I might’ve complained that this was the best rock record I found, but looking back, I just feel grateful.  King of the Beach benefits from catchy songwriting and the tightest rhythm section around.  The teen angst oozes out of this disc and it benefits from it.  This is bratty fist-pumping music.  There’s nothing adult about it.  Stealing Stephen Pope and Billy Page from Jay Reatard, (It’s not like he was using them) Nathan Williams managed to make his punchiest, punkiest album yet.  Can’t wait for the next one.

3.      Crystal Castles-Crystal Castles-One of the most evil albums of the year.  It’s also one of my favorites.  They abandon most of the 8-bit sounds that were so prevalent on the first record, trading it in for some sort of electronic shoegaze.  They bring fuzz into the 21th century with a vengeance.  Alice Glass flexes her vocal chops for this, getting both believably intimate and surprisingly screechy, even for Crystal Castles.  They’ve polished every facet of their musical diamond, (sorry about that.  Had to indulge my inner Peter Travers) but it’s the evil songs that truly stand out.  They get more melodic, more abrasive, and they often do both at the same time.  Opening a track with a fifteen second fuzz drone?  Fuck yes.

2.      Sir Luscious Left Foot: The Son of Chico Dusty-Big Boi-I always thought Big Boi was the better member of Outkast, and I think this proves it.  Goddamn, this guy can rap.  Apart from a T.I. collaboration, there’s little  not to love on Big Boi’s second masterpiece.  Big Boi treats his raps like an instrument, reinventing the rules of hip hop as he goes along.  The guests are all top-notch too.  (I’m just not into T.I.)  Gucci Mane, Yelawolf, even George Clinton turns in a decent verse!  Really, this thing redeems the entire South, it’s so good.  It’s an album of nonstop bangers, and that’s the way I like it.

And the number one record of 2010 is………

What else?

I’ve got nothing new to say about this, except that maybe my proposed title of “Fantasy Ass Job” is still better, so here’s some of the best hyperbole from other reviews- With My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, Kanye West transgresses paradigms and defies the limitations of genre.  It’s a keen contender for the most ambitious LP in hip-hop history.  Fantasy will stand as an album that dares to push the entire medium of recorded music forward.   Its vibrantly aesthetic to the extremes with conceptual, avant-garde, cinematic beats to it.  An ornately orchestrated pop epic built on a classic hip-hop foundation.  Nobody else is making music this daring and weird.  Kanye’s man-myth dichotomy is at once modern and truly classic. Comparing him to other rappers is pointless.

In retrospect, I should’ve got the sources, but I’m not about to go find all of those again.

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