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The top 20 albums of 2010 that I failed to mention earlier: #20 – #11 December 10, 2010

Posted by gwyoung in Album Reviews, Lists, Music.
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One of my favorite things about the holidays is the chance to scour year-end lists from internet music blogs for those few albums I didn’t hear about or didn’t get a chance to listen to upon their initial release. Sometimes it’s fun to see your favorite albums top the charts so you can have that “I told you so” moment justifying the progression of your tastes during the year, but the real treats in year-end lists are those that you’ve never even heard of.

In that spirit, I’ve decided to include in my list only those albums that I never mentioned throughout the course of 2010. While most of these would definitely make my top picks for the year otherwise, there are a few exceptional albums I’ve chosen to leave out mostly because I’ve already spent enough time raving about them (Menomena’s Mines, Delorean’s Subiza, Gayngs’ Relayted, and Jonsi’s Go all come to mind, and yes this is an intentional name-drop designed to clear my guilty conscience after excluding them). And of course albums like Sufjan’s Age Of Adz, Joanna’s Have One On Me, Arcade Fire’s The Suburbs, Gorillaz’s Plastic Beach, Deerhunter’s Halcyon Digest, and Sleigh Bells’ Treats are all deserving 2010 highlights, but you’ve undoubtedly heard plenty about them elsewhere.

So, enough about what I’m not going to put on the list. Without further adieu, I’ll give you the first 10 (#20-#11) today, and leave the rest for some other time in the indefinite future so you have something to check back for (as well as my top tracks of the year, which you won’t want to miss even if you generally prefer the full-album format). Here goes:

20. Dada Trash Collage – Cool Waves/Bad Days

Dada Trash Collage are one of many experimental bands labeled as “freak folk” just because nobody knows what else to call them. They make somewhat lo-fi electronic pop music in the same vein as Animal Collective’s Merriweather Post Pavilion, and though they have an impressive back catalog of releases, Cool Waves/Bad Days blows everything else they’ve done up to this point way out of the water. Check “Fantastic Planet” and “Construction Work In The Summertime” for the proof.

19. Ra Cailum – Walkabout

In a year full of nostalgic, hazy, atmospheric pop music, it’s tough to truly stand out in the “chillwave” genre that reached its peak in 2010. Ra Cailum came around with a new album towards the end of it, but, instead of feeling shallow and overdone like most of its temporal peers, Walkabout shows that there’s still a future for the genre, especially in tracks like “Fall In Chicago” and “Waiting”.

18. Pomegranates – One Of Us

For those looking for a good, pure rock band to ground them in guitar and drums while indie delves further and further into electronica, look no further than Pomegranates. One Of Us is lo-fi fuzz rock from every direction, fully exploring a wide range of emotions and vocal stylings while keeping things tight and cohesive. Some tracks are quick and catchy, some are soft and pretty, and all are most definitely worthy of your time.

17. The Delta Mirror – Machines That Listen

The Delta Mirror combine the diverse sounds of two of my favorite artists of past and present. They take the dark, emotive post-punk vocals of early Interpol and interweave it with the pulsing, glitchy electronics of Yesterday Was Dramatic-era mum, creating a sound which you’d expect to be terrible but is the opposite entirely. “Going To Town” and “He Was Worse Than The Needle He Gave You” are the key tracks here, a killer combo showcasing the band’s unusual aesthetic and melodic talent.

16. Blackbird Blackbird – Summer Heart

Consisting of twenty short pieces of electronic wonder, Summer Heart plays more like an album of sketches of less-developed musical ideas (including a rather unexpected cover of Modest Mouse’ “Float On”). When lush harmonies and rolling beats emerge out of the shimmery ethos, you can’t help but feel the emotion that Blackbird Blackbird poured into each one. Notables include “Pure” and “So Sorry Girl”, but the whole album is a remarkably rewarding experience.

15. Unknown Mortal Orchestra – Unknown Mortal Orchestra

Unknown Mortal Orchestra is an appropriate moniker for a fellow nobody yet knows much about. He’s released a few singles on his bandcamp over the course of this year, both of which had me clamoring for a full-length on the first listen, but hasn’t divulged anything else beyond that. This brand-new EP came as a huge surprise right in time to throw a wrench in my top 20, but the classic lo-fi psychedelic rock feel of songs like “Ffunny Ffrends” is just too affecting to leave off the charts.

14. Lord Huron – Mighty/Into The Sun

Another promising act who still has only just a few songs to his name, Lord Huron makes quite the charming mix of Fleet Foxes-style folk harmonies and gentle beachy electronics. He blends the sounds of the coast with sounds of Appalachia, and while that may sound appalling to some it sounds great on his two EPs from this year. “We Went Wild” and “The Stranger” show the most promise; I can only hope he has more in store for us in 2011.

13. Grimes – Halfaxa

The review on cokemachineglow that inspired me to listen to Grimes’ Halfaxa described it as “Mariah Carey’s Glitter re-imagined as acid flashback”, and while I’ve never heard Glitter in full, I can see exactly what they mean. This album is trippy, twisted, and at times dark, but still a danceable, ethereal groove-fest the likes of which experimentalists like the listed influence Gang Gang Dance would be extremely proud.

12. Pop Winds – The Turquoise

It’s ironic that The Turquoise, an album offered for free on Pop Winds’ bandcamp (you can get it here) is one of the few albums I would actually pay money to own. It’s not the first album I’d liken to Animal Collective’s Merriweather Post Pavilion (it’s not even the first in this post) nor will it be the last, but it definitely comes the closest to capturing the playful explosiveness embodied by that album, especially on tracks like the “My Girls”-esque “Owl Eyes”. An interesting deviation from the norm, though, is the addition of a horn section to tie together the racing electronics and creative sampling.

11. Small Black – New Chain

New Chain was dismissed by most critics this year, and while there’s nothing terribly novel or innovative about it, it pulled off its chillwave aesthetic so well that it beat out all the rest of its ilk on this list. Small Black, though seemingly cute and innocuous, pack a powerful emotional punch in the 30 minutes that make up this album, especially on the more subtle tunes “Hydra” and “Light Curse”.



1. Pop Winds – Earth To Friend « safer in the dark - May 1, 2012

[…] to start is with their debut, The Turquoise, which was just brilliant enough to land a spot on my top 20 albums list in 2010. The album mixed the styles found on two of my favorite releases as of late, capturing […]

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