Sure, I'm a bit of a Johnny-come-lately with my top 10 list. That is because I like to see everyone else's lists, so I can hopefully make a few last minute discoveries. The majority of my list is formed throughout the year, but sometimes someone like Forest Swords will sneak in there out of nowhere. This is the first year I've really expounded on my list. Music is probably the biggest influence/inspiration on my highly visual career, so I thought I'd go into a little more depth this time... give it a try at least. I also included a bit of an "honorable mentions" category at the end. Anyway, perhaps this may be insightful for somebody out there in the interweb?
• Baths - Cerulean
It felt like there were a lot of albums that came out with a style and sound similar to Baths. In my opinion, the DIY Dubstep/DJ/Electronica movement had a big year in 2010. However the majority of these artists lacked a voice or meaningful lyrics. In addition to the hard hitting beats, ambient textures, and dream scape samples, Baths had a voice that made his work rise above the crowd. It was definitely one of my favorite albums of 2010.
• Avey Tare - Down There
What can I say? I tend to eat up anything Animal Collective and its members release. Avey Tare's solo effort was no exception. After reading less than stellar reviews, I didn't have big expectations going into this record. Then it grew more interesting, compelling, and above all else, inspiring with each spin. For an album that has been labeled dark, damp, and full of sludge... I find it to be quite sunny and joyful at times. Regardless of how it comes across to the listener, this AC member has made more art for your ears.
• Flying Lotus - Cosmograma
Flying Lotus brought a really interesting combination to the table. His album felt very progressive and experimental while simultaneously being quite nostalgic for me. The beats, arrangements, and collaborations were top notch. Then mix in some Wonder Woman string swells, Skeletor laser guns, and a good old fashioned game of table tennis and I'm hooked. The past, present, and future all exploding out your speakers simultaneously.
• The Morning Benders - Big Echo
This warm, sun soaked, summertime album had me from the first listen. The Morning Benders made a great move by having Chris Taylor help out with the production. It really added to their already stellar sound. It was a GOOD album right off the bat. Then I listened to it while hiking and climbing the cliffs of the Oregon coast and it became a GREAT album for me. The seagulls overhead, a salty breeze licking my cheeks, surfers catching waves... it sealed the deal.
• Sufjan Stevens - The Age Of Adz
The sonic apocalypse arrived via Sufjan Stevens in 2010. It is steeped in arrangements that swell, spit, and yell, all while riding an intergalactic spaceship of spiritual remorse. Sufjan pushed himself in a new direction with this album and I was delighted to hear it.
• Arcade Fire - The Suburbs
Upon first listen, I literally thought to myself, "I think I just wasted my money on this album?" The music initially came across quite bland in comparison to the bands previous efforts. Then I cranked it up and started listening to the message. It slowly started to come together for me with each subsequent spin. Being a creative professional that is a product of the suburbs, I connected with this album on multiple levels. I sometimes felt like they were telling my story. They knew people I knew, they hung out in the same parking lot under the same glow of artificial light. I now feel it was a rather wise purchase.
• Laura Gibson & Ethan Rose - Bridge Carols
I always need to have a few chill-out records on hand when the time is right. Bridge Carols is definitely one of those records. It is the sound of morning sunlight leaking through the trees. Seeing them perform Bridge Carols front to back in early 2010, deepened my appreciation for the record. It is a great collaborative effort between Gibson & Rose.
• Menomena - Mines
My wife requested that I play this album a lot, so I think I may have spent more time with Mines than I would have otherwise. I'm glad I did. I always enjoy the eclectic feel that Menomena has as the three members take turns as lead vocalist in individual songs. Though they are still very experimental with this album, it is much more subtle and not as in your face as some of their previous efforts. Even though I missed some of the weirdness found on previous Menomena records, the seemingly stronger lyrics helped make up for it.
• Forest Swords - Dagger Path (Deluxe Edition)
This is one of those albums that is more difficult to explain why I like it or why it stuck out to me from other albums in 2010. Tribal drums, haunting guitars, and Samurai ghosts fill this spacious record. It just took me to a different place.
• Band Of Horses - Infinite Arms
Okay, maybe some of the magic from previous BOH records is gone when listening to Infinite Arms? Maybe the squeaky clean production and pristine harmonies took a little of the edge off? But, in my book, Band Of Horses still made another awesome album. I'll admit, it is the first BOH record where I often skip one track (Compliments). However, the rest of the album makes up for it. It has some great foot stomping anthems, yet it is the quiet corners of an old house and warm nights on the porch that bring real strength to Infinite Arms.
Other Albums I Really Enjoyed In 2010:
• Spoon - Transference
They never let me down. One of my favorite bands of all time.
• Candy Claws - Hidden Lands
A swirling journey through mystical woods as the trees whisper their ancient stories.
• Josh Ritter - So Runs The World Away
Some of the best songs of the year are on this album. Ritter continues to prove why he is one of our greatest living song writers.
• Mount Kimbie - Crooks & Lovers
A great consistent vibe on this record. Nice beats and subtle textures.
• Memoryhouse - (EP,singles,demos)
Just like Beach House only different? I look forward to hearing more from this duo in 2011.
• The Ruby Suns - Fight Softly
World beat music put through some weird 80's synth filter, topped off with smooth vocals.
• Rogue Wave - Permalight
Another consistently good band. Some were put off by the slick pop production on this album, but I thought it was a nice change.
• Owen Pallet - Heartland
A literal symphony of angst and whirling emotion.
• The Black Keys - Brothers
The Black Keys are just plain cool. They can't help it. They just are and they always have been too, even though the main stream is just beginning to take notice.