The Upstate Life
The Upstate Life

Monday, December 20, 2010
The Top 10 Albums of 2010, Because You Really Care!

10) Janelle Monae – The ArchAndroid: While this year was stuffed with releases from some of our favorite bands, Janelle Monae brought something indescribably fresh to 2010 with her breakthrough album, The ArchAndroid. She delivers a level of soul we haven't seen since Motown's heyday while singing about robots, space, and time travel.

9) Arcade Fire – The Suburbs: Let's face it - nothing will ever hold a candle to Funeral. That album made the band, and since then, they have been trying to escape from its gorgeous shadow (i.e. - just watch an audience's reaction when the band performs a track from Funeral as opposed to other material). Following the deep but disappointing Neon Bible, The Suburbs might be the band's most straightforward approach yet. And it works quite well. While David Byrne's fingerprints are all over this record, potent songs like "We Used to Wait" and "Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)" clearly demonstrates that, despite 2005's masterpiece, they are still fully capable of crafting exquisite music.

8) Robyn – Body Talk, Part I: Now this is how pop should sound like. Robyn puts insufferable "talents" like Katy Perry and Ke$ha to shame with an album chockfull of delightful gems. The one-two punch of "Dancing on my Own" and "Cry When You Get Older" is the highlight of the first LP in Robyn's planned Body Talk trilogy. While the acoustic version of "Hang With Me" is not nearly as good as the one found on Body Talk Part II, closer "The Girl and the Robot" more than makes up for the lack of electronic beats. One of my favorite live acts this year, too.

7) Free Energy – Stuck on Nothing: KISS –Keep it simple, stupid. The Philadelphia-based band achieves this with great success on their debut release. With sounds that are heavily influenced by the 70s rock bands of yore, most notably Thin Lizzy, Stuck on Nothing takes the listener on a 45 minute trip back to a time where big hair, tight t-shirts, and catchy guitar hooks were all the rage. I guess not that much has changed since then, except replace the big hair with mustaches perhaps. At any rate, this is how a garage band should sound.

6) Hot Chip – One Life Stand: It's amazing to hear how far Hot Chip has come since 2003's debut Coming on Strong. The progression of their sound from then until now is pretty extraordinary. Alexis Taylor's vocals carry more weight and confidence while the band's production values have reached new highs. From jarring synthesized strings found in "I Feel Better" to the layers of harmonies in the album closer "Take It In", Hot Chip has gradually climbed the ladder and has yet to reach their zenith. I think the best is still to come.

5) The New Pornographers – Together: After the misstep of Challengers, the Canadian supergroup gives us their best album since the epic Twin Cinema. The harmonies are so lush it nearly brings a tear to your eye. And even if Destroyer comes off as a dick onstage, the dude can write some catchy-as-hell pop songs. Dan Bejar's "Silver Jenny Dollar" is one of his strongest TNP tracks to date.

4) MGMT – Congratulations: Yeah, I know I'm going to get a lot of shit for this, but you know what, for one reason or another I really, really enjoyed this album. Sure, it might be Ben Goldwasser and Andrew VanWyngarden's way of saying "fuck you if you only liked us because of ‘Kids'", but the versatility of this band shines through on the record's nine tracks (for the exception of "Lady Dada's Nightmare", that song is rather unlistenable). The heavy use of echo and reverb come off rather well and gives a complimentary nod to the 70s influences found throughout the album. The apex of "Someone's Missing" is a thing of beauty.

3) Kanye West – My Beautify Dark Twisted Fantasy: Just before the year had concluded, Yeezy brings us his most cohesive effort yet. After the muddled 808s and Heartbreak, Mr. West, whose production standards were already on another level, takes it one step further and creates a record that shines brightest in his already impressive catalogue. Dealing with topics such as self-doubt, fame, and reevaluation, My Beautify Dark Twisted Fantasy is Kanye's most introspective recording to date. He invites the listener into the life of 'Ye where one can practically watch him self-destruct then recollect himself all while sitting on his Versace sofa. I dare you to find another artist that would record let alone release a single as reflective as "Runaway."

2) Broken Social Scene – Forgiveness Rock Record: Probably their best album yet, it somehow got lost in the shuffle amidst all the heavyweight releases this year. Known for noodling around at times in earlier releases, Kevin Drew and company keep the jamming to a minimum (sans 'Highway Slipper Jam', I suppose) with 14 focused yet diverse numbers. From the toe-tapping "Texico Bitches" to the sweeping instrumental "Meet Me in the Basement", Broken Social Scene has released a prolific collection of music that is one of the year's very best.

1) LCD Soundsytem – This is Happening: If this is in fact James Murphy's swan song, he couldn't have closed out his LCD career with a bigger bang. Following 2007's tremendous Sound of Silver, LCD's latest effort is even better. Just listen to "All I Want" for all the evidence you need. One of Murphy's most haunting tracks, the guitar riff alone takes you back, and then the lyrics kick in: "And all I want is your pity, oh all I want are your bitter tears". Please don't leave us, James.

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