Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Top 50 Albums of 2010 (30-21)

(50-41) / (40-31)

30. The Walkmen - Lisbon: I swore this album would end up in my top five of 2010 the first time I heard it, but in the months I spent creating this list, it kept dropping and dropping. The reason I initially liked it so much was because I caught them live at MusicFestNW 2010 right before this album dropped, so the new songs were already embedded in my mind. I tend to overvalue albums with memorable tunes, but most of this album is pretty tame (lame). While I'll always recommend listening to an album over individual tracks, the difference between the great and average on Lisbon is more noticeable than most albums that came out in 2010. So I'll just give you the highlights.

The horns on "Stranded" are so simple, yet I found myself randomly humming them without realizing the source for weeks after my first listen. It's that catchy. "Angela Surf City" is another great tune, but the highlight of the album was one of my favorite live moments of 2010, the song "Victory." Again, it's much more powerful live, but the theme is something everyone can get behind; winning. The chorus seems too perfect for a World Series or Superbowl Champion montage. People get paid big bucks to put together shit like that, and picking the song has to be the toughest part. If only they read this blog. Just say no to Queen.

29. Lil B - Rain In England: A couple years ago, I bought a Stars of the Lid album based on nearly perfect reviews I was reading online, but had no idea what type of music it was. It turned out to be a double album of ambient sounds called, Stars of the Lid And Their Refinement Of the Decline. I paid good money for it, so I forced myself to listen to it several times, until I actually started liking it. I never gave ambient music a chance before that album, so I guess it was a good place to start. What happens when you mix such brilliant ambiance with rap? I guess you get Rain In England, a combination of two genres as unlikely as Lyle Lovett shacking up with Julia Roberts. It's a head scratcher.

What makes this album work is the lack of ambitious flow. Lil B's rapping remains mellow, matching the ambiance of the background music. If he started doing some Busta Rhymes type shit, I would have turned it off after two songs. Even if the lyrics don't speak to me (at all really), it's a perfect match. If I could actually praise the lyrics, this album would be top five for me, easily. The album is about life, literally. The first song is about birth, the last song is about death, and every other song has a theme about the events that take place in between. "Hate is Fear" is probably the most entertaining song on the album, especially when he talks about how hateful internet and youtube comments can be before stating it doesn't bother him. "You can tell me to fuck a sheep and die, and I'll just feel sorry for you rather than take offense." Um, I get the feeling he's lying.

28. The Tallest Man on Earth - The Wild Hunt: I've turned several folks on to the Tallest Man On Earth, and not one has spoken any less than praise. His music is about as simple as it gets, a man and a guitar (it must get lonely on the road). His voice is somewhat raspy (NO BOB DYLAN COMPARISONS PLEASE, I MEAN IT), but it's profoundly unique. I can't think of a singer who sounds remotely like the Tallest Man On Earth. Many of his songs are sad tunes, which doesn't match the mood of his live shows at all, because he is more of a comedian when performing.

The crowd favorite on this album is "King Of Spain," but the best introduction to get you acquainted to his style is "You're Going Back." He even says the F word, which didn't make him a mainstream superstar like it did for Mumford & Sons. He even has a song with "Lion" in the title, proving he must be attempting to emulate said band's "Little Lion Boy." The highlight of this album is one of the greatest songs of the year, a song written about his ex wife called, "Love Is All." I don't have an ex wife yet, so I can't relate, but I can still listen to that song on repeat for an hour. It's that good.

27. Clem Snide - The Meat Of Life: Clem Snide has been around for a while, but this was my introduction to the band. It literally took 15 seconds before I was hooked, with the opening line on the first track, "Punched in the heart, in the throat, in the kneecaps too, that's how it felt when you told me we were through." The name of the song is, "Walmart Parking Lot," which makes me laugh a little when I picture a break up occurring in a Walmart parking lot, and the type of people who frequent that area. Hicks are funny, no?

There are pretty stellar lyrics on this album, including another song highlight, "I Got High." "With hearts too young to youthanize, hungry pounding blood shot eyes, like censored porn, we compromise, on what to watch." I could go on and on about the fantastic lyrics on this album, but I have to finish this review in 500 words or less. For all you texting children out there, there is a song on this album called, "BFF." That's LOL, AMIRITE?

Another reason to love this band is the lead singer's name, Eef Barzelay. Cool parents.

26. Vampire Weekend - Contra: This band is a walking Abercrombie commercial, but they sure make catchy music. Wait, upon re-listening to this album, "Holiday" actually was in an Abercrombie commercial, wasn't it? Oh well, that opener wasn't very clever anyway. As cool as these cats portray themselves, who can actually take themselves seriously while belting out the high pitched yelps on the chorus of "White Sky?" The first time I heard that, I laughed. The second time I heard it, it was stuck in my head for days.

Nearly everyone who pays attention to music these days knows who this band is, so you already know they are bubble gum pop mixed with African style music. It's a preppier version of Graceland with a touch of electronics. Graceland is such an easy comparison when a band mixes earthy tones with pop, however, remember when the Police dabbled in earthy beats and reggae in their early days? That is what Vampire Weekend sounds like. In fact, they sound so much like early Police, You could throw together a serving of early Police recordings and convince 50% of Vampire Weekend's fans it is their new unreleased album.

25. Snowglobe - Little More Lived In: It doesn't take long for this album to catch the ear, with the super happy opening tune, "Space Song," followed by the catchiest song on the album, "Love." The fourth song "Kanaka Rapids" makes me wonder why it isn't being played out on the radio, and why this band is so unknown? One reason I like this album so much is how different each songs sounds and how great musically they are. As catchy as the opening songs are, the album slows down on the second half and gets a bit weird. The weirdness is great for their fans (all four of them), but it won't exactly help them gain the audience they deserve. The split personality of this album could be attributed to the band having two lead singers.

Little More Lived In ends strong with the song "Land Brains," which combines a banjo and trumpet, which isn't done very often. I know Wilco isn't a great comparison, but Wilco has those classic early albums that created a giant following, and that's what Snowglobe doesn't have. This album is as good as anything Wilco has put out since Yankee Hotel Foxtrot. Maybe one day Snowglobe will be as popular.

24. Girl Talk - All Day: I'm a huge Girl Talk fan. He does mash up music right, because he has an extensive knowledge of popular music from the last 40 years. Other mash up artists mix only what is new and relevant. Listening to Girl Talk is like playing "Name That Tune," and the more extensive your knowledge of music, the more fun it is. A decent portion of the MTV hits over the last five years I only recognize because of Girl Talk.

There are several highlights, including Wale's "Pretty Girls" mixed with the guitar from Beck's "Loser," but possibly the biggest miss of his career was Arcade Fire's "Wake Up" mixed with "Money to Burn" by Birdmand. That one was forced because of the popularity of Arcade Fire, which brings me to my next point. This is a long album, and could be made into a near masterpiece eliminating 20 minutes of filler. However, you never know what works until you try it, and I would rather have two hours of Girl Talk trying to see what works than two hours of any other mix up artist trying to make things work. People don't respect the music made before they were born anymore.

Another great moment is the very beginning with the Ludacris song, "Get Out The Way," mixed with "War Pigs," by Black Sabbath. I was at a Cake show shortly after this album came out, and went to get a couple drinks before Cake's encore. The encore started right as I was leaving the bar with a cover of "War Pigs." As I tried to make my way back through the crowd to get to my date, after each guitar riff, I kept singing the Ludacris line, "Get out the way bitch, get out the way." I will always think of Girl Talk when I hear "War Pigs." That's a pretty decent compliment for a mash up artist.

23. Matthew Dear - Black City: Technically, this is electronic music, but it feels like this could easily be pulled off with a percussionist, keyboard, bass, and singer. It's the mixture of the low pitched somber vocals with the upbeat hooks that makes this album stick out as unique. "Little People (Black City)" is one of the best songs on the album, but the final track "Gem" is intriguing in that it incorporates an interesting sample which sounds like pigeons chirping, but is actually a female laughing. Smoke a couple hits, and you'll hear it. "Soil To Seed" is also a fantastic song, and "More Surgery" is easily the creepiest song I've heard in years.

22. Deerhunter - Halcyon Digest: When I really pay attention to this album, I'm thrilled at the level of detail they have in their music. But frankly, this album is boring. Every time I listen to it, it feels like the first time, because I don't recognize anything. I don't understand why everyone loves it so much? So why do I have it ranked so high? Because it's really sharp, and one day I'm going to finally get it. Deerhunter reminds me of Animal Collective (my favorite band), so it doesn't make sense that I don't dig them. A couple years from now, I will laugh at my current self for ranking this album so low, but today is not that day.

21. These New Puritans - Hidden: There is an awesome dynamic about this album, it's Bach meets Massive Attick meets Stomp. The album starts out with a clarinet/oboe/wind instrument solo, which reappears throughout the album. The strongest songs are heavy in drums, especially the rim shots (sounds gross, that's not what I meant). The overall sound of this album is so damn great, but unfortunately, it's very incohesive and hit or miss. If I was trying to sound cool, I would say this is the greatest album of 2010, because you've never heard of it. Hipsters win. Instead I'll say, if half the songs were replaced by above average songs, it would have been my number one. Definitley give it a listen though, "Attack Music" is easily the most catchy song.

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