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December 07, 2010

Music Wrap-Up Special: The Best Music of 2010

The Music Wrap-Up is a monthly summary of my favorite and other notable new releases. Having trouble keeping up with all the new music? Need some music suggestions? Then the Music Wrap-Up is for you. And please support these musicians as that's the reason I'm featuring them in the first place.

The Music Wrap-Up forces me to keep up with new music every month so that I can share it with you. Without it I'd probably miss a lot of great albums. Some of the music I listen to a handful of times, pick out the songs I like the most, write them up in that month's Wrap-Up, and then never return to the CD again. Not because I disliked them, just because they didn't stick with me for some reason.

Other releases though, those stick with me all year long and well into the future. There's no doubt that if I'm still listening to it at the end of the year, it was one of my favorite albums of the year. So I've collected all that I hold most dear in this special edition of the Music Wrap-Up. While I never put anything in the other Wrap-Ups that I don't recommend, I extra recommend all of these releases. Seriously, buy these.

Vampire Weekend - Contra


#1 - White Sky

Excerpted from the January Music Wrap-Up: It's easy to hate these guys -- Just look at them! They look like the snobby rich kid characters from every college movie. The ones that we are clearly meant to despise. Still, there is no denying that they put out great music. Maybe a lot of stupid people like it, but it's good stuff. I don't feel ashamed jumping on the bandwagon.

Shearwater - The Golden Archipelago


#2 - Castaways

Excerpted from The Golden Archipelago review: Shearwater have a masterful ability to hold themselves back -- straddling just on the edge of bursting into some sort of euphoric splendor of sound.

They reserve themselves to a hauntingly touching beauty, almost ready to explode forth, and when you almost think they won't, it all comes out.

Son Lux - Weapons EP


#3 - Weapon V

Excerpted from the February Music Wrap-Up: The electronic music Ryan Lott puts together is like nothing else I've heard. I absolutely loved the Son Lux debut CD At War with Walls & Mazes.

It is full of sound collages in the same vein as Animal Collective, but much darker and aggressive, then beautiful and somber with violins. Just, listen.

Beach House - Teen Dream


#4 - Zebra

Beach House was one of the bands that was completely off of my radar until this year, and blew me away. Their songs are simultaneously haunting and beautiful, and I can't help but hum, tap my foot, and sing along.

This is what all pop music should be like. Though, I admit I'm a sucker for bitterly depressing pop music. That's why I like Stars so much as well.

She & Him - Volume Two


#5 - Don't Look Back

I'm completely over my crush on Zooey Deschanel. I mean, she's still cute and all, but her schtick just wore on me after awhile, I guess. Still, She & Him is a great band even without my undying love of the lead singer.

I think Volume One remains the better release, but this is easily one of the best albums this year nonetheless.

Jonsi - Go


#6 - Tornado

Excerpted from the March Music Wrap-Up: I loved past Sigur Ros releases, but their most recent would likely be the one I'd recommend to new listeners. Accessible is a pretty over-used word but it is fitting, and that goes for Jònsi's solo CD as well. I'm not even really sure why this isn't a Sigur Ros album, but I won't complain about that too much. A lot of times solo releases become boring upon multiple playthroughs, but there is no worry of that here.

Liars - Sisterworld


#7 - Scissor

Excerpted from the March Music Wrap-Up: I may be the only Liars fan that has liked each and every one of their albums. They've gone from goofy-dance-rock to creepy-ambient-concept-albums, and now a sort of mix of the latter with more rock thrown in. This release is most similar to their previous, self-titled CD -- so if you enjoyed that one you should like Sisterworld as well.

The National - High Violet


#8 - Bloodbuzz Ohio

Excerpted from the April/May Wrap-Up: Yet another band that I've tried out before but am only now starting to appreciate. I really enjoy the somber mood that carries throughout this whole CD, and the drums are spot on and drive the songs forward really well. The National's sound has a ton of production behind it, so you might be turned off if you like a bit less structure in your music, but give High Violet a few listens before you dismiss it. A lot of people say that their CDs are "growers", and I've definitely found that to be the case.

The New Pornographers - Together


#9 - Your Hands (Together)

The New Pornographers are one of the many bands that probably everyone else in the world knew about already by the time I finally jumped on the bandwagon. That's why I love doing the Music Wrap-Up despite the amount of effort it takes; it forces me to finally check out the bands I never bothered with before. Side note: The local Christian college booked them to play earlier this year and then canceled it later because parents kept calling them to complain about their name. Oooooh, religious people. Just calm down a little bit, will ya?

LCD Soundsystem - This Is Happening


#10 - Pow Pow

Excerpted from the April/May Wrap-Up: I'm not sure why Sound of Silver didn't catch for me, but I absolutely love This is Happening. The songs are all pretty long, but they seem to flow so well that you never notice. Pay attention to the amazing lyrics in this song. They're what keep me coming back for more, as well as the tendency of every song to make me tap my foot along to the beat.

The Villagers - Becoming A Jackal


#11 - I Saw the Dead

It's always a pleasant surprise when a debut release is as good as The Villager's Becoming A Jackal is. When All Songs Considered played I Saw the Dead, I nearly pooped my pants. Apparently the studio version was taken off of YouTube, so I had to include a live one, but it's good quality. It's such an amazing song, and while it's easily the best song on the whole CD, the rest is still pretty great.

Stars - The Five Ghosts


#12 - I Died So I Could Haunt You

Excerpted from the June Wrap-Up: Stars quickly became one of my favorite bands and with each new release they got even better. With this one they've stayed still instead of stepping forward. It's still an excellent pop album though, and if you've never heard of them before, don't be dissuaded from giving it a listen. Set Yourself on Fire might be a better starting point, though.

Sleigh Bells - Treats


#13 - Tell 'Em

Excerpted from the June Wrap-Up: Sleigh Bells is an assault on pop music. With only two members, they manage to barrage you with a wall of distortion and guitar. Even after multiple listens I'm having trouble taking it all in, but I keep coming back because it's fascinating. My only real gripe so far is it pretty much has to played loud as some of the overly distorted songs sound awful when quiet. Loud is always good, though.

The Books - The Way Out


#14 - I Am Who I Am

Excerpted from the July Wrap-Up: The new Books album is absolutely brilliant. Think about the amount of work that went into this. Someone slumped over a computer for hundreds of hours, making hundreds of tiny little edits to try to craft the vision in their head and tell a story without words. Something that no one will ever know the true meaning of, but only what it means to them. I love knowing that Internet forums will spring up to dissect these songs and over-analyze them to death because they love them so much. Then I remember that more people will be listening to the latest American Idol winner.

Against Me - White Crosses


#15 - Rapid Decompression

Excerpted from the July Wrap-Up: In a lot of ways I see the new Against Me CD as a way of saying, "The world is shitty, and everything I used to believe is bullshit, but hold out hope and things will get better." It is an adult reluctantly coming to terms with what life is really about. Giving up his former ideals and making sacrifices for his child. Tom Gabel has realized that things he really believed in as a teenager, like anarchy, just don't fit with his life anymore. Plenty of people have given the band shit for signing to a major label, and a majority of those people are probably still teenagers. They'll grow out of it. Life is about making sacrifices.

mc chris - ...goes to hell


#16 - Bossk on a Segway

This year marked the completion of mc chris' comeback in my eyes. I wasn't crazy about mc chris is dead and began to fear he was on a slow decline from which he would not recover. But the his Part Six albums in 2009 were some of my favorites, bringing back the short and sweet style he'd started on his very first release. Goes to hell completes the transformation by combining remixes of some of the best songs from all three of the Part Six mini-albums into one release.

Fake Problems - Real Ghosts Caught on Tape


#17 - ADT

Excerpted from the Real Ghosts Caught on Tape review: When I first heard of Fake Problems, the comparisons to Against Me were inevitable. They had a similar, folksy/punk sound, and just happened to also come from Florida. It might have been a shallow attempt at describing them, but it was a fairly accurate way of doing so. Still, I knew right from the start that they had promise and would become something great in a couple of albums. As far as I am concerned, this album is it.

Les Savy Fav - Root for Ruin


#18 - Dirty Knails

Excerpted from the September Wrap-Up: Another band I know very little about, but I was instantly blown away when I listened to this CD the first time. They have a very set structure to their sound, but deliver it in a slightly sloppy, impassioned manner. Wikipedia has labeled them with a smattering of assorted genres, something I'm not all too fond of, but the post-punk revival one interests me. I missed out on post-punk, at least I think, as I'm not entirely sure what it is. But I'm all for more music like this.

Brian Eno - Small Craft on a Milk Sea


#19 - Horse

Excerpted from the November Wrap-Up, written by Alex Martin: The guy who used to "play the recording studio" for Roxy Music, has come a long way since leaving the band in 1973. Moving away from glam rock, he coined the term "ambient music" and made beautiful albums designed to be heard in airports, behind films, or on the moon. Small Craft on a Milk Sea hit me as the soundtrack to a sci-fi movie -- if Blade Runner had been made in 2010, it might've sounded like this. It sounds urgent and driving and not what I was expecting from an Eno album.

The Hold Steady - Heaven is Whenever


#20 - The Weekenders

Excerpted from the April/May Wrap-Up: I don't think I've ever heard anybody say they didn't like The Hold Steady. They've evolved their sound very slowly since their very "bar band" -- not said in a pejorative way at all -- sound on their first release. But Heaven is Whenever is the biggest leap forward yet in their catalog. If you're a long time fan, then give it a couple listens before you decide if you like it or not.

Dr. Dog - Shame, Shame


#21 - Shame, Shame

Excerpted from the April/May Wrap-Up: This record has grown on me more and more with each listen. It is such a great sound. If the more simplistic structure of The Black Keys doesn't catch with you, then this is where you should go next. There is obviously some blues influence in here as well, but the songs are much more rich with sound, and the catchy as hell. I haven't been a rabid Dr. Dog fan, but I definitely like this CD more than We All Belong and Fate.


Alex Martin said...

I forgot the Hold Steady was this year. Didn't take long for that one to grow on me.

Suriel Vazquez said...

Personal seven best (in order): Plastic Beach, It Ain't Illegal Yet, The ArchAndroid, Dark Fantasy, High Velvet, K.I.D.S., How I Got Over.

Alex R. Cronk-Young said...

@Alex - Yeah, even after the first listen I thought, "Hmmm, I wasn't crazy about that, but I know I will be very soon."

@Suriel - Did you mean High Violet when you said High Velvet? Otherwise we have nothing in common and I should probably stop talking to you.

Suriel Vazquez said...

Yes! I did mean High Violet.

luis said...

Great stuff, Awesome post!

Don't be afraid to love Vampire Weekend, Alex! Don't let all the 13 yr. old giddy girls discourage you from listening to good music!

I am surprised to not see The Arcade Fire on that list though! Also, somehow after all this time I don't know if you're into female vocalists but, if you are I highly recommend Laura Marling and Camera Obscura.

Alex R. Cronk-Young said...

@Suriel - Good. I guess I can still talk to you.

@Luis - Yeah, I had Arcade Fire and Ra Ra Riot in there but as the list grew longer I decided I didn't really want to put them in there. I haven't listened to either since they came out. They're good albums, but they haven't stuck with me very much.

I had a Camera Obscura album on a Wrap-Up sometime last year but they didn't click with me over the longterm. I've been getting more into female vocals though. Even straight out pop music like Lily Allen and Norah Jones I like a lot.

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