Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Top 50 Albums of 2010 (50-41)

50. Gayngs - Relayted: Ever hear of Justin Vernon, he of the "Lost in the World," auto-tone fame on Kanye's latest album? He sings on a couple songs on this album too. He makes albums worth listening to. Okay, I kid, no one knows who this band is outside of Bon Iver's Justin Vernon, me included.

What first caught my ear about Gayng's music was the 80's R&B feel to a couple of the songs, reminding me of my childhood days listening to Jodeci and New Edition. Case in point, the Godley & Creme remake "Cry" would be my favorite track, exhibiting that old school feel. Even though the original is a bit cheezy, they did a good job modernizing it (listening to the original is borderline comical).

I probably enjoyed this album too much due to my nearly non-existent R&B listening this past year. There is a lot more to this album though, tribal beats with muted trumpets and howling horns, chopped up vocal samples and electronics. The album is all over the place, so it doesn't flow well, but that should be expected with over 20 contributing musicians. Plus, one of them is Bon Iver's Justin Vernon, if you didn't know. He makes albums worth listening to.

49. Delorean - Subiza: After listening to the first couple songs off this album, my first thought was, "great, another Hot Chip." Some days I dislike Hot Chip, other days I really dislike Hot Chip, yet I respect the fact that they have some really catchy beats. Delorean is similar, although less annoying, which is why they crack my top 50. I have this empty spot in my heart for mellow electronic acts like the Knife and M83, which is why I'm always willing to give bands like Delorean and Hot Chip several listens. Interesting thing though, after listening to this album five times, it grew on me. "Endless Sunset," is a soothing song, and the beats on "Infinite Desert," keep me tapping my foot.

This album has been dropping significantly in my top 50 over the past two months, so if I was writing this a month from now, it might not crack the top 70. I guess that's not a great endorsement. Oh well.

48. Portugal. The Man - American Ghetto: I got into Portugal. The Man because of their live shows before really diving into their recorded material. Each of their previous albums offer a different style, so it's tough to point to a starting point for a beginner. This album would be as good a place to start as any. They've put out six albums in the last five years, so you have a lot to choose from. Lead singer John Gourley's voice can be a bit higher pitched than most rock front men, so if that bugs you, you might not immediately connect to them. Some people dislike Rush because of Geddy Lee's voice after all (Gourley's voice isn't THAT high).

With background harmonies, stellar guitar work, strange synth noise, plus a crazy breakdown, "All My People" stands out as one of the best songs on this album (not to be confused with "People Say," the catchiest song on the Satanic Satinist). The odd, yet interesting breakdowns would be a theme throughout the album, and the steady electronics really separate their work from a traditional rock band. The highlight of the album comes in the final track, "When The War Ends," which is one of my favorite tracks of the year. It even features a sitar!

47. Ganjasufi - A Sufi And A Killer: Bluesy punk/soul electronic doo-wop low-fi jazz sung lounge style with an occasional death metal scream. Also, add distorted vocals. Before I lose you, check out the album's centerpiece, "Kowboyz and Indians," another one of my favorite tracks of the year. If you can't dig, move on.

I've always pictured Ganjasufi writing his lyrics in a tropical hut while kicking back in a giant bean bag surrounded by bikini models hand feeding him mango and bacon, with servants sporting giant feathers standing near swamp coolers fanning cold air his way. His style is so nonchalant, spitting knowledge on songs like "Advice," and "She's Gone." On the other hand, "Holidays" is a Holiday song, yet a dreary interpretation of one. It makes me wonder what type of strange world this guy lives in.

46. Surfer Blood - Astro Coast: I love catchy songs, this will be no secret reading my top 50 (if it isn't already). This album came out early in 2010, and "Swim" still is in competition for my favorite song of the year. I literally listen to this album because of that song, which would be why it is hanging out near the bottom of this list. I'm not saying the rest of the album sucks, there are some cool tunes, including the David Lynch ode, "Twin Peaks," and the concert closing jam, "Anchorage." After all, Anchorage is where the action is.

The lead singer has great pipes (I say this having seen them live), so I'm interested in what they come up with on their sophomore release. It would have me excited as shit if they picked up the tempo a bit, and showcased the highlight of this band, his voice.

45. Janelle Monae - The ArchAndroid: I've given this album several spins, but I keep feeling it is missing too much. I really enjoy the tracks, "Cold War," and "Tightrope," and the orchestral numbers with the backing choir are grand to say the least. Hearing the screaming guitar solo in "Mushrooms & Roses" is also a nice change from this style of music. Other than these highlights, this album leaves much more to be desired. Janelle Monae is an amazing performer, and I feel privileged to have seen her live a couple months ago. She'll get my money again, but I wouldn't be surprised if this album disappears from my rotation.

44. Kid Cudi - Man On The Moon II: The Legend Of Mr. Rager: I like pop music, so I'm not above putting someone like Kid Cudi on my favorites list. Drake almost made my list as well, however his album was part brilliant rap, but mostly bubble gum Hip Hop, so it failed. The first thing that stood out about this Kid Cudi album, especially compared to his previous, is how catchy it is. I was humming along to many of the songs by the third listen, when it normally takes me five listens to reach that point. I'll use that as a segway to this; you don't want to be unknowingly singing his lyrics out loud at work. "Pretty green buds, all in my blood," doesn't go over in a professional environment. It's not like he's being discrete either, the name of the song is "Marijuana." He likes drugs.

He has a "Mojo So Dope," he'll tell you about it. He's also not afraid to "give a fuck about your lifestyle." The title track, "Mr. Rager" is also catchy as hell. The stand-out track however is "Erase Me." I had an ex-girlfriend point this song out to me, a girl I've had an extremely complicated relationship with in the past. There are parts of this song that sum up our conjunction perfectly, except the part where Kanye raps, "I hope you die Aria." I would never wish that. By the way, am I the only one who finds humor in the phrase, "die Aria?" Scatological reference maybe?

43. Joanna Newsom - Have One On Me: I'll first say I respect the hell out of Joanna Newsom. She is the modern day female equivalent of Bob Dylan, able to craft eight minutes stories. With that said, I can't think of a situation where I would want to spend three hours listening to this album. Kudos giving your fans three albums worth of outstanding music. However, I would rather pay $20 seeing you perform. I haven't figured out what mood matches "I want to listen to Joanna Newsom," but when it hits, I'll just go back to Ys. Whatever, this isn't a collaborative list, it's one man's opinion. I'll see you next time you are in town (looking forward to it).

42. Suckers - Wild Smile: First things first, what the fuck does, "This world's a colonoscopy, save your love for me," mean? I'm not even going to speculate. This opening track, "Save Your Love For Me," is the most interesting song, and has a very memorable scream. It reminds me of Prince a bit in the sense that it might make you giggle. Impressive nonetheless. I don't know much about this band, but I'm picturing colorful scarfs.

"Roman Candles," and the two closing tracks, "2 Eyes 2 C," and the sing along "Loose Change," stand out as my other favorites. A bit of irony, the song titled, "It Gets Your Body Moving," does the opposite of get my body moving. Maybe they have a sense of humor? Some of their songs do make me laugh a bit. I can honestly say this is one of the few bands I can't wait to see live. Their music is pretty fun, and I can imagine it translates well live, which is much more than I can say about their recent touring partners, the Local Natives. I'll be seeing you Suckers soon.

41. Morning Benders - Big Echo: I feel like I'm not giving this band enough credit. These guys have a lot of potential. They know how to fill their sound, combining various types of percussion (clapping, noise makers, drums, whatever), keyboard/piano, acoustic/electric guitar, it doesn't feel standard, it's always moving around. It reminds me a bit of early Radiohead, but with Beatlesesque harmonies, Beatlehead if you will. Okay, that's stupid.

The back to back of "Excuses" and "Promises" starting the album are two of the best songs, so if you have never listened to this band, start there. One of my favorite songs of the year happens to be "Stitches," located near the back of the album. It's one of the reasons I keep coming back, and one of the those songs I've spent way to many times listening to on repeat.

I shouldn't have compared the Morning Benders to the Beatles, that is a pretty shitty tag. I don't like bands that sound like the Beatles (that would be you Tame Impala). But when a band's music reminds me of Radiohead, that gets me excited. The only reason this isn't a top ten album for me is because it can be a bit boring at times, and the lyrics don't really speak to me. I absolutely love their sound though, and look forward to what they have to offer in the future.

(40-31) / (30-21)

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