Beach House | Teen Dream
This may seem like an odd choice for album of the year, however the more I listened to this album the more it just made sense. More than any other album this year, I was constantly finding myself coming back to this one. When it came out last winter, it's sultry sound made for the perfect winter jam. Then again in the spring I saw the band and the album was on constant rotation. By summertime, many of the tracks were staples on roof top party play lists, and finally by the fall there was no escape. More then anything, this album was a great comfort album for the entire year. While at first it seemed like another great Beach House record, it didn't take long for it to sink in as their best work to date. Everything really came together on this album. Victoria's vocals sound rich and powerful. Alex's guitar is the biggest I have heard and finally the percussion added the extra layer missing from their previous work. This is the only album from this year that I listen to as much now as I did the second the download finished.
02. LCD Soundsystem | This Is Happening
The one in which James Murphy writes the best record never made by Bowie and Eno. For what he claims to be the last LCD album, James Murphy left nothing to chance. The opening "Dance Yrself Clean" lingers briefly before kicking into a jam that last throughout the entire album. From the disco drum beats, to the funky bass lines, to the fuzzy guitars, this album takes the flashy sounds of Sounds of Silver and turns them into sparkling dance-punk jams that sound just as solid as any krautrock jam that came out of Berlin. Despite the fact that "Drunk Girls" might have been the funnest song of the year, "All I Want" may be the finest tribute to Bowie that has ever been recorded as that obnoxiously loud sliding guitar wails away for nearly seven minutes. Murphy has done a perfect job of recreating 70s nostalgia and bringing it to modern music without losing an ounce of freshness.
03. Deerhunter | Halcyon Digest
To call a Deerhunter album light would just simply be wrong. However when I first listened to Halycon Digest, I thought my speakers were broken. There was no punching song like "Nothing Ever Happened" and that shoegaze tag no longer seemed appropriate. After repeated listens it became clear that this album was still drowned in noise, however this band has grown up. The harshness has been refined to elegance and where previous albums were covered in noise collages, Halcyon Digest is powered by stunning production. It may even be the case that Deerhunter has tricked an audience into believing this is their most accessible work to date, however tracks like "Desire Lines" and the epic closer "He Would've Laughed" just go to show that this band still have plenty of tricks up their sleeves and they can never be taken for granted.
Kanye West | My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy
At the end of 2009, Kanye was celebrity enemy number 1. His ego seemed to have finally got the best of him. Then in June the legend returned. "Power" was a statement that Kanye was back ready to regain his place at the top. No more auto-tunned bullshit, just the rap attack over heavy samples that gave him a name in the first place. Over the course of the summer, his GOOD Friday singles built the anticipation to what would become My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. Nicki Manaj stole the show with her verse on "Monster" and when "Runaway" was debuted at the VMAs it was clear; Kanye was unstoppable. It is the kind of comeback that doesn't seem possible, then again that appears to be the way Kanye does everything. When people think it's too much he pushed it the extra step. This time everything paid off.
This was the record that gave me the most trouble at the beginning, yet had the biggest payoff. The daunting 18-tracks and over two hours were so intimidating that it took me almost two weeks to figure out how to approach this album. However when I finally dove in, I never wanted this record to end. After presenting the flawless Ys I wondered what Joanna would be able to produce next. Have One On Me was the perfect response. Epicly long tracks have become a Newsom staple and they do not disappoint here as proven by the title track, "Go Long" and the stunning "Good Intentions Paving Company". The glorious sounds that only Newsom can create come to life on this album in perhaps the most grandiose forms she has ever displayed.
Arcade Fire | The Suburbs
This was the album I listened to more than anything else all year. It was also the album that hit closest to home. Arcade Fire have continued to release amazing albums that have yet to disappoint. After headling two nights at Madison Square Garden, it really seems as if these Canadians have the indie world at the palm of their hands and it is only a matter of time before everyone else figures out. This is surely their longest album to date and the first to include tracks that I would consider skipping, however the grand statements made on "Rococo" "Half Light II" "We Used to Wait" and "Sprawl II" it makes me reconsider any reason I have for not liking something on this album. I can't recall an album before this one that I have been able to relate to in so many ways and I really hope it takes a while before this begins to fade.
07. Big Boi | Sir Lucious Left Foot The Son of Chico Dusty
Above anything else, this album wins best album name of the year (and possibly ever). It has often been said that Andre 3000 is the core member of the duo Outkast, however I challenge anyone to listen to this album and keep that opinion. After years of delay and record label disputes, Sir Lucious Left Foot... finally saw the light of day this summer. The funky southern sounds and dirty basslines are met with aggressive flow that only Big Boi can deliver and sound as fresh as any hip hop actually written in the past twelve months. The guest list can sometimes be questionable (Vonnegut?) but at other times almost majestic (Janelle Monae). This is southern hip hop at its finest. 1990s sounding tough R&B is paired with ferocious beats that leave only one thing to mind: What will Andre 3000 do next?
No Age | Everything In Between
2010's biggest sleeper album. After much anticipation to the follow-up of 2008's raucous Nouns, it seemed that after Everything In Between was released people simply forgot to talk about it. This album saw No Age make the progression to more straightforward rock songs and less of the tonal sounds of Nouns. There are less peaks and valleys on this album as the duo blended the sporadic looping drones and aggressive guitars into more of one distinguished sound. Randall's guitar shreds just as harshly on this record as anything he has done before, with the obvious nods to J Mascis and Thurston Moore, and established No Age as the supreme noise rock band of our time.
Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti | Before Today
Ariel Pink made the biggest shift in musical direction this year, as he left behind his avant guard noise jams for a stab at a psych-pop gem. While "Round and Round" seems to be the clear focus on the album, each track seems just as poppy as the last and any of them could fit in perfectly on a New Year's playlist. The vocal range on many of the tracks is impressive to say the least and the melodies suggest that Ariel could become a pop visionary if he ever desired to make anything inspired by soft rock songs of the 70s. Every time I go back to listen to this album I forget how much of it I remember and how much of it seems like I'm hearing for the first time. A true sign of perfection; instantly recognizable and forgetful the second it is over.
10. Sleigh Bells | Treats
I think of all the albums on this list, this may be the one that made it at the last second. It barely beat out others that I gave some serious consideration, but in the end just missed the cut. From the beginning blasts of "Tell 'Em" this album screams fun. It became my summer jam as I listened to it on what seemed like endless subway rides through the city all summer. Yet no matter how hot it felt, this album was hotter. Every song is an instant party with the exception of stand alone slow jam "Rill Rill" and the album never lets up. As soon as the acoustic guitar loop fades, it goes right back to the high energy ballistic audio assault. And it never seems to end.