Year in Review | Top Albums
by Joshua P. Ferguson
Now that 2010 is officially behind us, it's time to get to the meat of year end wrap-up. Over the course of the rest of this week, we'll be presenting our definitive list of the top albums, singles and artists that truly made the last twelve months in music. First up are our top albums:
5) Hot Chip One Life Stand - Astralwerks
In our May review, I wrote, "Playful electro-pop has always been at the heart of Hot Chip’s appeal; past hits like 2008’s melodic thumper “Ready for the Floor” hinted that the band is capable of boiling down its penchant for dance beats and intelligent songwriting into a potent brew. But whereas older albums have yielded only a smattering of high-proof jams, with this latest LP the quintet serves up a full 12-pack of bionic soul." Gone are the oompa loompa beats and overly repetitive vocals. One Life Stand is lush, lyrical and varied, and it features some mean steel drum.
4) Kanye West My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy - Rock-a-Fella
I never saw myself taking up the role of Kanye defender. Even as I do, I feel the need to temper it with disclaimers about his neuroses. I've always had an ability to separate the person from the music, to make a judgement based solely on the artistic output and not the celebrity drama that often goes with it. With Yeezy, I don't even think he'd want me to do this. The two aspects of his being are too closely intertwined. Reviewing a private screening for his "Runaway" music movie I wrote, "The new Kanye is 'striving as an artist to further his culture,' and pushing past lyrical metaphors to make concrete statements. His ego, not entirely humbled, has him wondering how he’ll be remembered. Will the ballerina scene inspire future generations of dancers? Will Kanye 2.0 (3.0?) push music and fashion to greater respectability in the eyes of his fans? Nurturing his ego and doing exactly what he probably hopes journalists like me will do, I’m going to play right into his trap and say that, based on what I saw last night, it will." Writing now, I've heard My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy at least ten times. I maintain that, while he continues to put his foot in his mouth with the press, he is one of the greatest innovators currently working in hip-hop and pop. He finely crafted one of the more entertaining hip-hop albums I've heard in some time, and I have no doubt that we have a future classic on our hands.
3) Yeasayer Odd Blood - Secretly Canadian
I saw Yeasayer for the first time in the summer of '09. They were performing at the Pitchfork music fest here in Chicago, and their then sound—a more folksy rambling sound—was a perfect mid-afternoon soundtrack. When murmurs about this year's Odd Blood release surfaced I was immediately interested in hearing it. When I nabbed it last December, I couldn't get over how perfectly fine tuned it was for the Dialogue Inc. music sensibility. Indie without the drone of too many guitars, electronic without giving way to a monotony stalled at 120 bpms, it's a post modern approach to music and that we hope persists as the sound of the future. Between "O.N.E.," "Ambling Alp" and "Madder Red" no single album got more rotation than Yeasayer's Odd Blood this year.
2) Matthew Dear Black City - Ghostly International
To toot our own horn a little bit, our review of Matthew Dear's Black City is probably the best we penned all year. In it, we had this to say, "Matthew Dear is no longer emerging. He’s juggled many musical explorations, cycling through his Audion, Jabberjaw and False aliases depending on his mood—which has spanned from stomping techno to airy minimalism. But chiefly he has remained Matt Dear, and this is where he does the most to challenge conventions. As Dear, he doesn’t make tracks, not in a looping, repetitive sense anyway. He makes songs. And Black City is full of them." Matthew Dear was put on this earth to make techno. Mixing his first love with new wave, pop and indie rock, Black City proves he's capable of so much more.
1) Skream Outside the Box - Tempa
"If I were a betting man, I would have lost my ass on the wager of whether or not dubstep would have grown to the worldwide phenomenon that it is currently. Similarly, I would have lost a second handsome sum had I put money down on whether or not Skream would release a sophomore record as confident, uncatergorizable and as listenable as Outside the Box." I made this statement in my review of Skream's 2010 album and there's no doubt that in all future grudge matches on the worth of dubstep, I will continue to return to this man from Croydon, and his mastery of the nuances of U.K. bass music. As if his work this year with Magnetic Man wasn't enough, Skream boiled down the best of the past twenty years of U.K. dance music history—drum 'n' bass, grime, two-step, dub and trip hop—and repackaged it as his latest solo LP, an LP we're happy to name as our album of the year.