Posted by: Jeff | January 6, 2011

Top 50 Albums of 2010: 25-16

For other entries in the top 50 albums of 2010, click here:

50-26 | 15-6 | 5-1

25. Lindstrøm & Christabelle – Real Life Is No Cool

Real Life Is No Cool has to be one of the more unlikely collaboration albums of 2010.  Hans-Thomas Lindstrøm is a Norwegian disco producer most famous in the United States for a 42-minute long space disco rendition of “The Little Drummer Boy”.  Yes, that Little Drummer Boy.   He met Christabelle, a smoky chanteuse from the island of Mauritius in the Indian Ocean, back in 2001, and they dreamed up this album before either had many releases to their name.  Fast forward nine years, and Real Life Is No Cool features one of the sickest beats (“Lovesick”) and greatest remixed track (Aeroplane’s remix of “Baby Can’t Stop”) of 2010.  Beyond that, the album melds futuristic production style with the flair of 70’s funk,

Lindstrøm & Christabelle – “Lovesick”

Lindstrøm & Christabelle – “Baby Can’t Stop”

24. Broken Social Scene – Forgiveness Rock Record

Perhaps it is unfair when a band contains 19 members.  But to be fair to Broken Social Scene, it must be very difficult to coordinate a band that large, especially when so many members have prominent roles in other prolific bands (Metric, Stars, Feist, etc.).  It’s a testiment, then, to the musicianship of this Toronto collective and the leadership of Kevin Drew that the band’s releases always feel so exact, so polished.  Known primarily for its bold art-rock experimenting, BSS trade the unusual time signatures, meandering instrumentals, and chopped vocal samples of previous albums for more straight-forward song-writing that feature choruses, hooks, and a more traditional song structure.  It’s another testament to the band that this simplification feels in no way cheap.  “All to All” and “Forced to Love” are both good pop rock, and the political prescience of “Texico B*****s”, cut months before news of the BP oil spill, more than makes up for whatever composition edginess has been lost.

Broken Social Scene – “All to All”

Broken Social Scene – “Forced to Love”

23. Delorean – Subiza

After a promising EP in 2009 (#21 on last year’s list), it was fair to expect a lot from Delorean’s debut full-length album this year.  And the Spaniards delivered on those expectations, fusing their balaeric pop with rock.  While dance-rock outfits in the United States tend to fuse punk with disco or Chicago house, Delorean took a uniquely Spanish approach, using balaeric house and trance as a base.  The result is an eminently danceable rock album, one that feels well-grounded in the musical trends of the Spanish island of Ibiza, to which this album title is subtly dedicated.  It’s a unique blend, and it’s exciting to see Delorean get such a warm reception from American audiences.

Delorean – “Real Love”

Delorean – “Stay Close”

22. Titus Andronicus – The Monitor

Here’s a sentence I never expected to write – a punk band from New Jersey named after a Shakespearian play released a concept album named for an ironclad warship and based on the American Civil War.  And it’s awesome.  Pitchfork’s review addresses the absurdity of the concept directly: “The Monitor may be one of the most absurd album concepts ever, invoking the battle that caused Abraham Lincoln to claim, ‘I am now the most miserable man living,’ to illustrate the sound and fury of suburban Jersey life in a shattered economy.”  Yet it really works.  Riffing on influences as wide-ranging as naval warfare in the Civil War to New Jersey’s patron Saint Springsteen, Titus Andronicus have crafted some grand rock epics, including a brilliant 14-minute magnus opus to “The Battle of Hampton Roads.”

Titus Andronicus – “A More Perfect Union”

Titus Andronicus – “Four Score and Seven”

21. Janelle Monae – The Arch-Android

One of the most refreshing releases of the year, The Arch-Android offers 70 minutes of funk, glam, and classical instrumental overtures worthy of a Hollywood blockbuster’s score.  In fact, Monae describes the concept of the album as an “Emotion Picture” and implores listeners to treat the LP as an artistic whole.   Monae displays a tremendous range in style, moving seamlessly between funk, hip-hop, R&B, new wave, and cinematic tracks, one reason that Monae has achieved equal fame among fans of Beyonce, Outkast, and indie rock ingenues Of Montreal.  The result is an album greater than the sum of its parts, even though many of the parts are pretty impressive in their own right.  After all, “Tightrope” just might be the most flat-out entertaining track of the year.

Janelle Monae – “Tightrope (ft. Big Boi)”

Janelle Monae – “Cold War”

20. Deerhunter – Halcyon Digest

Deerhunter frontman Bradford Cox is one of the more prolific artists in the indie scene.  He regularly pumps out unreleased demos and mixtapes featuring original material and underground gems on his blog, released an avant-garde electronic album last year under the name Atlas Sound (my 26th favorite album last year), and worked with Karen O as one of “The Kids” responsible for last year’s Where The While Things Are soundtrack (that only reached #28 on last year’s list).  Amidst all of that, he found time to release a new album for Deerhunter, his main band, that has quickly been accepted as the band’s best work to date.  There isn’t much bombast or sonic distortion typical of Deerhunter records, as the band stripped down their sound to the bare emotional components – acoustic guitar, folksy instrumentation at times, and some wonderful song-writing throughout. The result is an intimate, personal record that resonates more than anything they’ve ever released.

Deerhunter – “Revival”

Deerhunter – “Helicopter”

19. The Gaslight Anthem – American Slang

The Gaslight Anthem don’t seem to have any illusions about their originality (or lack thereof).  Embracing comparisons to fellow New Jersey native Bruce Springsteen, they’ve gone so far as to invite him on stage with them (to everyone’s surprise, The Boss accepted).  Musically, the band combines the folksiness of their idol with soul-inflected punk. But they do it exceedingly well, and on 2010’s American Slang the band hits its stride.  What does distinguish The Gaslight Anthem from every other New Jersey band emulating the sound of Springsteen is that they aren’t stuck entirely in the past.  Rather than waxing poetic about how much better things used to be (“Don’t sing me the songs about the good times/ Those days are gone and you should just let them go”), the band captures the sound associated with the good old days and turns the lens on the present.  It’s old school rock and roll with lyrics focused on modernity, and it works.

The Gaslight Anthem – “The Diamond Street Church Choir”

The Gaslight Anthem – “Stay Lucky”

18. The Morning Benders – Big Echo

It would be hard to discuss Big Echo without also making reference to Vecktamist, Grizzly Bear’s critically-acclaimed 2009 release (#6 album in 2009).  The obvious reason is that The Morning Benders tread much the same stylistic territory as Grizzly Bear here, inflecting straightforward chamber pop harmonies with a touch of the unusual (a nifty breakbeat here, a glockenspiel there).  The less obvious, and more forgivable, reason is that Grizzly Bear’s own Chris Taylor gets a production credit on this record. While the result of this collaboration isn’t quite as polished as Grizzly Bear with their expert production, it is probably a good measure catchier.  “Promises” is a straight-forward pop song, but it sparkles under the crescendoing vocal harmonies and big beat.  “Excuses” is a brilliant orchestral arrangement in its own right, with a timeless quality that made it a no-brainer for commercial exploitation (Reese’s commercial).  This is an album that makes up for re-treading trendy ground from last year by harnessing influences for some really good pop songs.

The Morning Benders – “Excuses”

The Morning Benders – “Promises”

17. Spoon – Transference

When I reviewed this album at the beginning of the year, I wrote: “The album is a departure, and like all departures marks some shaky ground.  Over the past three albums, Spoon has gathered a lot of momentum as an irreverent indie band with a penchant for pop hooks and a little funk.  This album is grittier, more serious, stylistically a bit less polished.  The only track that seems radio-ready is “Written in Reverse” and much of the rest of the album feels like the product of a jam session, in which Spoon went into the studio and hit record, leaving the final product as is without further mastering.”  Luckily, Spoon is a band of brilliant musicians, and even the rough edges sound fantastic.  The abrupt transitions, jarring guitar solos, and hoarse vocals make the record one of the most emotionally vibrant of Spoon’s magnificent discography.

Spoon – “Written in Reverse”

Spoon – “I Saw the Light”

16. Mumford & Sons – Sigh No More

It’s a bit unusual that the best country/folk release of the year came from this band of Brits from London.  With obvious banjo-inflected influence from American folk acts, Mumford & Sons seek to capture the vocal harmonization and acoustic arrangements that made Fleet Foxes and the Avett Brothers rising stars in the United States.  But they’ve amplified the emotion of those arrangements in the same way that Kings of Leon magnified southern blues to stadium size.  At its core, this is an acoustic four-piece band using Celtic and southern folk to set its sights on a very large audience.  The grandiosity of the intimate acoustic moments garnered the band two Grammy nominations and a large following on both sides of the Atlantic.

Mumford & Sons – “Sigh No More”

Mumford & Sons – “Little Lion Man”

To see #15-6, click here.

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Responses

  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Sanai Price, Jeffrey Mervosh. Jeffrey Mervosh said: Top 50 Albums of 2010: 25-16 http://dlvr.it/Cnz1M #Uncategorized […]

  2. […] To see albums #25-16, click here. […]

  3. […] For other entries in the top 50 albums of 2010, click here:  50-26 | 25-16 […]


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