My Top 20 Albums of 2010


Jan 2 2011, 14h26

Happy New Year! As every year, I'd like to share with you my favourite albums for 2010. I realize the album format is in decline, but I still love it. And this year, we had no shortage of great records. I've kept the list to the 20 I loved the most.

#1 - Robyn "Body Talk" - This has been hailed by everyone as an electro-pop masterpiece. Even though I liked the first two EPs (Body Talk Pt. 1 and 2) a lot, this record still floored me. Great pop songs like "Dancing On My Own", "Time Machine", "Hang With Me" and "Call Your Girlfriend" sit side-by-side with hard-hitting club numbers like "None Of Dem" and "We Dance To The Beat". Robyn's voice does tough-yet-vulnerable better than anybody else's.

#2 - School of Seven Bells "Disconnect From Desire" - Icy and ethereal upbeat dance-rock with beautifully disaffected vocals from the Deheza sisters. It's hard to pick favourites but "Windstorm", "I L U", "Camarilla" and "Bye Bye Bye" are some of the stand-outs.

#3 - Brian Eno "Small Craft on a Milk Sea" - The ambient master shows us that he still knows how to rock, not just produce rock. Still, my favourite moments on this are the ambient ones, like "Complex Heaven", "Emerald and Stone", "Late Anthropocene" and the title track.

#4 - Yeasayer "Odd Blood" - Although their debut was no slouch, this album is an incredible leap forward. Wild, quirky-but-catchy pop songs with cutting-edge electronic rock production. After The Knife-influenced misstep of an opening track, the rest of the record is terrific. Check out "Ambling Alp", "O.N.E.", "Love Me Girl" and "Mondegreen".

#5 -
Jaga Jazzist "One-Armed Bandit" - Challenging, tight maxi-jazz from the Swedish collective. Rock, drum-and-bass and glitch-influenced ensemble jazz. I always expect great things from this Ninja Tune outfit and they never disappoint. "220V / Spektral", "Toccata", "Music! Dance! Drama!" and the title track are just some of the great tunes.

#6 - Janelle Monáe "The ArchAndroid" - Crazy weirdo space-age R&B for the Metropolis set. A little trimming would have tightened this sprawling outpouring of genius into an even greater record. Still, I was shocked at how good this is. The second half, with "Neon Valley Street", "Wonderland" and "Say You'll Go" is better than the first, with stand-outs "Dance Or Die" and "Tightrope".

#7 - LCD Soundsystem "This Is Happening" - James Murphy says this is the "final" full-length LCD Soundsytem record. I hope he's pulling our leg. He's been known to have a cranky sense of humour. This record, indeed, is happening, with its Bowie Krautrock No Wave dance party. Almost as good as "Sound Of Silver". My favourites are "Dance Yrself Clean", "One Touch", "I Can Change" and "Pow Pow". Oh, and the second half of "Drunk Girls" is wild.

#8 - Gorillaz "Plastic Beach" - I like pretty much anything Damon Albarn does, but this year he outdid himself. Electro rules this self-produced post-hip-hop album. "Stylo" is one of the very best track of the year, by anybody. Other great moments: "White Flag", "EmpireAnts" and "On Melancholy Hill".

#9 - Various Artists "Kompakt Total 11" - 11 years in, Kompakt's Total series is still going strong, but what a stark contrast between the 2 discs in this set. Disc 1 is minimal, experimental and difficult. Disc 2 is fantastic, dancy and inviting cutting-edge techno. I'm glad they keep taking big chances, but I would have rated this higher had they trimmed it to a single disc, so long as they kept Jonas Bering's "For Yves", Walls' "Hang Four (Allez-Allez Mix), Maxime Dangels' "Dysnoptik" and Coma's "Bruzelles".

#10 - [artist]The National "High Violet" - My friends have good taste. I trust their recommendations. Although I'd liked The National previously, I'd never been moved to buy one of their records, but "High Violet" is a great album of moody up-beat atmospheric rock. Some great moments: "errible Love", "Afraid Of Everyone", "Bloodbuzz Ohio" and "Runaway".

#11 - Lindstrøm & Christabelle "Real Life Is No Cool" - As a space disco enthusiast, I can't get enough of Lindstrøm, no matter who he's working with. But this great record, pairing him with punky, attitude-saturated Christabelle, is end-to-end fun. Still, it wouldn't have rated so highly without the awesome bonus disc, with the best tracks of the bunch - an Off The Wall homage in "Baby Can't Stop (Idjut Boys Remix)" and the Italo Disco flavours of "Looking for What ([artist]Sally Shapiro remix)".

#12 - Corinne Bailey Rae "The Sea" - After a solid first record, poor Corinne obviously suffered some really inspiring heartbreak and stepped up her songwriting and sense of adventure considerably. A way better (and slightly less accessible) record is the result. Great! High points: "I'd Do It Again", "Closer", "I Would Like To Call It Beauty" and "Paris Nights / New York Mornings".

#13 - Hot Chip "One Life Stand" - Again, a huge improvement from their last record, which while interesting, I couldn't quite love. This is great indie-rock-influenced synthpop. "Hand Me Down Your Love", "Brothers", "Keep Quiet" and the title track are stand-outs.

#14 - Tosca "Pony - No Hassle Versions" - A collection of remixes from tracks from their last, good-but-not-as-good-as-they-used-to-be, record? I guess so. But this collection far outshines everything they've done in 10 years. Guest producers should take the credit (and they do)! Whereas the originals were for chilling out, these mixes are for getting down. Highlights: "Springer (Smith & Mudd Version), "Rosa (Rodney Hunter Version), "Elektra Bregenz (Bottin's Disco Spritzer Mix" and "Joe Si Ha (Reverso 68 Version)".

#15 - Bonobo "Black Sands" - As much as I loved sample-based music in the '90's, I'm so thankful to seeing masterful musicianship emerge from artists like Bonobo. Great atmospheric jazz over laid-back grooves, with plenty of emotion and a sense of improvisation. Best tracks are "El Toro", "We Could Forever", "Stay The Same" and the title track.

#16 - Christian Prommer "Drumlesson Zwei" - Christian Prommer has taken the opposite approach - he's gone from being an accomplished jazz pianist to being a great electronica producer. In his Drumlesson series, Prommer uses electronically-treated acoustic instruments (traditional jazz instruments) in a live, storming techno jam. "Groove La Chord", "Acid Eiffel" and "Jaguar Pt 2" all have me begging for lesson drei!

#17 - Spoon "Transference" - Surprisingly great but mostly straightforward rock. I didn't expect to like this record as much as I did. The best tracks are "Is Love Forever?", "The Mystery Zone", "Who Makes Your Money" and "Out Go The Lights".

#18 - Ray LaMontagne and the Pariah Dogs "God Willin' & The Creek Don't Rise" - Who thought they'd see this on my list? Not me! But it is so great. Smoky, dreamy, blues-influence alt country ballads that caught me off guard and made me fall in love. "Repo Man", "Are We Really Through", "Like Rock & Roll Radio" and the title track all make this too good to miss, whatever your musical taste.

#19 - Arcade Fire "The Suburbs" - Since I met them at the Indie Awards back in 2004, Arcade Fire seem to have taken over the world, now releasing one of the biggest records of the year. And the praise is well-deserved. "The Suburbs" is an appropriately-sprawling collection of synthpop-influenced guitar rock, a mix of tempos and moods. Check out "Empty Room", "Half Light II (No Celebration)", "Surburban War" and "Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)".

#20 - Anais Mitchell "Hadestown" - An ambitious folk opera recasting of Orpheus and Eurydice in a post-apocalytic setting, I had to listen to this all the way through before I even started to form an opinion. And then that opinion was so strong and so positive that I had to listen again. And again. It's really a strong argument for the album as a format, because the songs work so much better as a suite. My favourite moment: " How Long?".

There were so many other good records this year, but for me, those are 20 I love most. Let me know which albums were your favourites!


  • AlanRanta

    Nice to see Jaga Jazzist and Anais Mitchell on someone else's list.

    Jan 11 2011, 17h53
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