Slowtrain owner, in-house voice of reason, and pizza lover
1. BEACH HOUSE - TEEN DREAM (SUB POP)
Every year there are incredible releases that come out in January and February that I’m so sure are going to be in my top ten of the year, only to have it completely fizzle out before June, and collect dust next to my unopened copy of that one Joanna Newsom album that I still can’t remember why I bought. So, when Teen Dream fell out of the sky in January of this year, I threw caution to the wind and started calling it the best album of 2010. I can’t pinpoint exactly what it is that I love so much about these songs. There’s just a great mixture of catchy melodies, interesting change ups, and lush guitar work paired with an array of keyboard sounds that compliment the incredible vocals of Victoria Legrand perfectly. Not only am I excited that I’m constantly deciding that a different track on this album is my new favorite, I also get the pleasure of saying that for once, 10 months after a record is released...I’m right. Teen Dream is the best album of the year.
2. TY SEGALL- MELTED (GONER)
As garage rock, or noise pop, or shitgaze, or whatever else it’s being called right now, gains more and more popularity it becomes increasingly clear that many flash in the pan bands are just drenching their pop music in unnecessary fuzz creating a forced feeling to their music and over saturating the genre with heaping piles of musical dung that we’re all forced to dig through. By embracing the pop side of his music, and utilizing the fuzz in all the right places, Ty Segall stands out as a true force to be reckoned with in the this ever expanding genre. It’s a genuine rock record that nods to the past and will inspire albums to come. Highly recommended for fans of Jay Reatard, Thee Ohsees, Kurt Vile, and awesome stuff.
3. LAURA VEIRS- JULY FLAME (RAVEN MARCHING BAND)
It’s hard to listen to a Laura Veirs record without thinking that Tucker Martine may possibly be the best producer in the business. That being said, the songs on July Flame are so solid they would stand out in this incredible year of great music, had they been recorded on a four track cassette with just Veirs and her guitar. It’s definitely the best collection of songs she’s given to us, and the overall feeling of the album is very cohesive. As usual, Veirs’ band is spot on, providing a really full sound but also appropriately restrained allowing the songs to grow in any direction imaginable. Not to mention an incredible cameo on a couple tracks by My Morning Jacket’s Jim James. Overall, I think July Flame is Laura Veirs best work and if you’re currently unfamiliar with her, this is the best starting point.
4. WHITE HINTERLAND - KAIROS (DEAD OCEANS)
I can’t believe what Casey Dienel is capable of. One minute I think she’s a folk musician, the next she’s starting dance parties with the beat-heavy ethereal-vocal soaked album, Kairos. It opens with one of the best songs I’ve heard this year, “Icarus”, which showcases Dienel’s ability to truly use her voice as an instrument. With it’s layered vocals, subtle piano taps, synthesizers, random loops, and impressive beats that at times are disjointed with delay effects, “Icarus” gives you a preview of what you’ll encounter through the duration of the album. Kairos is a truly stunning album from beginning to end.
5. DAMIEN JURADO - SAINT BARTLETT (SECRETLY CANADIAN)
Damien Jurado has always had a place in my record collection for those times I just wanted to hear something stripped down and really mellow, but he’s broken out of that mold and has given me something to truly cherish in any mood or circumstance. There is a definite 50’s doo-wop feel to several tracks, that were no doubt facilitated by the enigmatic Richard Swift, who produced Saint Bartlett. Though this is certainly a departure from Jurado’s repertoire, there’s no denying the haunting vocals and heartache Jurado naturally exudes, which makes Saint Bartlett fit comfortably in with his entire catalogue.
6. SHEARWATER- THE GOLDEN ARCHIPELAGO (MATADOR)
It’s no surprise, I’m sure, that Shearwater has yet again, made my top ten list. I assure you, it’s well deserved. I’ve always admired their ability to write a truly moving album with constant peaks of highs and lows full of tracks that can easily stand out on their own as singles, yet are intended only to be listened to in the context of an entire album in a single sitting. The Golden Archipelago shows just how good they really are at doing this. It’s quite possibly their most beautiful album, and is the most riveting to listen to from front to back. Meiburg & Co. have really mastered a technique they’ve been using since Palo Santo, which consists of bringing everything to a slow beautiful moment, and then hitting you with their loudest and most intense sounds. This is evident in the transition between the album opener “Meridian”, and the powerful second track “Black Eyes”. You can also hear this throughout the entire song, “Uniforms”, which is one of the most incredible songs I’ve seen performed live. Knowing that there are surprises to expect like this, completely captured my attention from the beginning and got me wrapped up in the whole experience. The Golden Archipelago is a work of art. I don’t expect everyone to appreciate it, but those that do, are forever grateful.
7. THE NATIONAL - HIGH VIOLET (4AD)
I feel like The National always put out a good album with a couple really great songs, however, this year they released High Violet, which I think is a really great album with good songs. I know that probably doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, but my point is that I’ve loved a few songs by The National on a couple of their records but never loved any of their records. This time, I’m totally loving High Violet, but I can’t pick out a single track as a standout. They didn’t write any “hits” this time around, they just wrote an incredibly solid record that I can’t seem to tire of. There’s not a bad song on the album, and if you haven’t heard it yet, you’re missing something special.
8. GLASSER- RING (TRUE PANTHER SOUNDS)
I was completely surprised by this one. It’s not often that I come across an electronic album that really impresses me. I think what grabbed me initially on Glasser’s Ring, was how much it reminded me of Fever Ray’s s/t album, which was the last electronic record to really move me. It’s not as weird and dark as Fever Ray, but has certain elements that really capture a similar mood. If you are at all interested in more down tempo electro-pop, you have to own this record. I can assure you that Ring is going to be in heavy rotation on my turntable at home this winter.
9. SMALL BLACK – NEW CHAIN (JAGJAGUWAR)
I think Small Black has one foot in the 80’s and the other in modern day Brooklyn. It’s not easy to resurrect sounds from a decade most of us tried so hard to forget, without it sounding unoriginal or just plain cheesy. By adding so many interesting textures and great vocal melodies, Small Black transforms a once outdated drum beat or synth sound into something new and exciting. I have to admit though, Chains does get me a little nostalgic for the 80’s and makes me wish I had a pair of Chuck Taylor’s and over-sized wire rimmed eyeglasses...oh wait, never mind.
10. SUFJAN STEVENS- THE AGE OF ADZ (ASTHMATIC KITTY)
I’m one of those people that always sort of appreciated Sufjan but never entirely understood his mass appeal. I’ll admit, I really like Illinois (or come on feel the Illinoise, or just Illinoise?) but haven’t been able to truly immerse myself into his music. That is, until I put The Age Of Adz on the turntable for the first time. I’m still a little shocked that he made this record. It makes me really happy that he didn’t continue that 50 state project, because I’m sure I wouldn’t be writing about Sufjan’s Delaware or The Dakotas. It’s a much bigger sounding record stripped of all pretentiousness, and packed full of brilliant song structure and beautiful instrumentation. I fell in love with this record the first time I heard it, and It gets better with every listen. Honestly, at the rate that it keeps climbing up my list of favorites this year, I wouldn’t be shocked if The Age Of Adz were near the top if I had a couple more months of listening.
11. ARCADE FIRE - THE SUBURBS
12. DEERHUNTER - HALCYON DIGEST
13. BATHS - CERULEAN
14. THE OHSEES - WARM SLIME
15. EFTERKLANG - MAGIC CHAIRS
16. HERE WE GO MAGIC - PIGEONS
17. BROKEN SOCIAL SCENE - FORGIVENESS ROCK RECORD
18. ELECTRIC SUNSET - S/T
19. BREATHE OWL BREATHE - MAGIC CENTRAL
20. JUNIP - FIELDS
21. WILD NOTHING - GEMINI
22. PETER WOLF CRIER - INTER-BE
23. EDWARD SHARPE & THE MAGNETIC ZEROS - UP FROM BELOW
24. THE BLACK KEYS - BROTHERS
25. ARIEL PINK’S HAUNTED GRAFFITTI - BEFORE TODAY
Top Ten Songs of 2010
1. Efterklang – Modern Drift
2. White Hinterland – Icarus
3. Sufjan Stevens – I Walked
4. Laura Veirs – July Flame
5. Radio Department – Domestic Scene
6. Baths – Plea
7. Morning Benders – Excuses
8. Damien Jurado - Cloudy Shoes
9. Arcade Fire – Half Light II (No Celebration)
10. Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros - Home
Christopher's fave shows:
1. Beach House @ Star Bar
2. Efterklang @ Urban Lounge
3. Wye Oak @ Subterranean
4. Laura Gibson & Ethan Rose @ Subterranean
5. Damien Jurado @ Slowtrain
6. Shearwater @ Pearl Theater (Matador at 21 Festival)
7. Decemberists @ Pendarvis Farm
8. Here We Go Magic @ Urban Lounge
9. Kurt Vile @ Palms Room (Matador at 21 Festival)
10. Roky Erickson & Okkervil River @ SXSW