I feel completely uncomfortable trying to make a "best albums of 2010" list- I have not listened to enough albums to make any such pretensions. More so, I realize I've spent most my life developing a highly specified- and dare I say subjective- aesthetic that is completely unfathomable to the uninitiated and thereby disqualifies me from being able to choose what music should be esteemed by popular culture. That being said, I am completely comfortable sharing my "favorite albums of 2010"
#5. Sleigh Bells "Treats"
One of my biggest regrets about 2010: I never got to dance at a party playing Sleigh Bells. This album is big, loud, and genius. Literally every track makes me want to get on the floor. Ghetto-blasting beats, screaming guitar licks, and hipster sensibilities never sounded so good.
#4. Beach House "Teen Dream"
When I first heard this album early this year I thought it might just be my album of the year. It turns out it isn't, but I still love this droning dreamlike record.
#3. Arcade Fire "The Suburbs"
The Arcade Fire prove that a good concept is still a viable means of making a record more than the sum total of its parts. As a product of rural, small town America I can't completely identify with the subject matter, but I certainly understand the angst and disillusionment that comes from being part of middle class America. Thankfully this album is not shallow or sententious, but an honest investigation that's willing to point fingers at the mirror and not just just our parents. Thought provoking line of the year: "Do you think your righteousness could pay the interest on your debts? I have my doubts about it."
#2. Sufjan Stevens "The Age of Adz"
As an individual I'm prone to speak in superlatives and hyperboles. My only regret is that people often don't understand or believe how much I love Sufjan. This album only makes me love him more, and there's a lot of reasons why: the juxtaposition of digital and orchestral instrumentation, the emotional transparency, catchy-yet-complex melodies, the list goes on. But I think what I love the most is that Sufjan made a unique and unexpected album that still fits perfectly in his discography. I really don't see how any fan could be disappointed in this album.
Perhaps the simplest way to determine my favorite album of the year is to see which album I played the most and in that case there is only one option:
#1.The Wild Hunt by The Tallest Man on Earth .
The release of this album coincided with my move to Turkey and in many ways has been my soundtrack for the entire year. The adventure of unexplored horizons, the excitement of dreams coming to fruition, the elation and excruciating pain that loving someone can bring: all of these emotions/experiences have found a voice in Kristian Matsson's carefully crafted album. "Troubles will be Gone" optimistically describes the day I'm still hoping for; "You're Going Back" the frustration that we all experience in the meantime. The dissonance of "Love is All" and hauntingly simple piano of "Like the Wheel" provide pensive inflections in an otherwise positive outlook.
Perhaps more than any other song, Matsson's cover of Paul Simon's "Graceland", released as a single in conjunction with this album, voiced an authentic heartache I found strangely comforting. In a sense, Matsson provides for "Graceland" what Art Garfunkel once did for Simon's early work: a voice that somehow seems to capture the very soul of Simon's pen. When Matsson belts out "I see losing love is like a window in your heart/ everybody sees you blown apart/ everybody feels the wind blow" you feels as though you know Matsson/Simon, and the pain they feel is your own.
Vampire Weekend "Contra"
The Radio Dept. "Clinging to a Scheme"
Wovenhand "The Threshing Floor"
Kanye West "My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy" [admittedly if this had come out a little earlier it probably would have found it's way onto my top 5, but I just picked up this album and am still getting into it. definitely a masterpiece. ]