We’ve made it! After 40 other albums that could be cannon fodder, we arrive at the top 10.
This short list, has the most varied forms of music and artists. I know you’ve been waiting to see who made the top of the list. I know some of these may be a surprise, and some of them you may not realize existed until now. Looking at other lists I thought I missed some albums, but always have to remember… if they were supposed to be that good, I would’ve remembered the CD.
These albums in the Top 10 are not only flawless front to back, they are albums that you can connect and relate to in life. Some of these albums are game changers, unconventional, and absolutely outside the box. They’re a rare combination of not being something for everyone, but everything for someone. I think that last line stands true for anyone’s Top 10.
As the consumers and listeners we tend to say, “I hate this (enter music) SO much!” but if I asked you “Why do you hate it?” and you say, “just…because” then I’m not satisfied. Learn to dig/listen deeper and vocally describe what you don’t like. You’d be surprised, because paying that much more attention while listening you may find yourself appreciating ALL music.
I hope you enjoyed this list of albums that mean so much more to me than “music” and I feel represents 2010. Thank you for reading, sharing, tweeting, commenting and messaging me about it!
Also, if you don’t have enough money to buy all these awesome albums, go to Grooveshark.com to find most of these CD’s (it’s a great website to make and save playlists, plus its free). Enjoy!
10. Kisses – Heart Of The Nightlife
I found this CD haphazardly this year. I was on a blog I used to go to and saw the cool, calm, summery cover. Then I listened to the CD. It’s everything summer! It captures the mood right at sunset, on the beach, at a beach house. It’s unreal how perfect the sound is.
I played the CD for about 7 months straight, (March-Sept) and especially the second half of the CD. This is their first proper release and boy, do they have so much potential!
Think of them as a Jens Lekman with low fi 80’s summer pop. And then dance! Basically if you think you missed out not being in your 20’s during 1980 in Miami beach, this would clue you in. I can’t say anymore than that, it’s just THE happy, feel-good album. There is also a song that has the lyrics, “I would like to take you out for a nice steak dinner, just me and you” and that alone is just beyond perfect. How many times have you heard that in a song?
9. Major Lazer + La Roux – LAZERPROOF
La Roux started to become a big deal this year even though her album had already surfaced in the UK the year prior.
Around the world and underground, Major Lazer (producer Diplo’s reggae bastard project that rules), was becoming huge for their live shows and first CD “Guns don’t kill people, lazers do”. At first, I said, “what? This doesn’t make sense”. Why would the two join forces? Will it work? Then you hear the reworkings and remixes of La Roux’s vocal/insrumental creations into reggaeton/jungle/dub and it’s like relighting a candle.
It worked so well, and blasted in my car so much, PLUS! it was free! La Roux’s big US hit “Bulletproof” got played out so much, I was concerned seeing it as the first track on the CD. Then after listening to the re-tweaking, minimalistic approach with piano was jaw dropping. It became the ballad it was meant to be.
The rest of the CD is flawless, each song flowing right into one another, proving to be much more than a mixtape. It combined the forces of two different artists and genres so well, dare I say, this version trumps La Roux’s self titled debut.
8. Lissie – Catching a Tiger
This was a CD that hardly left my car. Lissie started to garner attention for her EP “Why You Running?” in March of 2010.
Her music has been featured on shows too, but lately people who know her say, “oh, the girl from the UK?” Wrong. She’s not from the UK, she’s from America. Because of our crap radio, she didn’t get the recognition and she got picked up by Jacquire King who produced Kings Of Leon’s smash CD “Only By The Night” (2008). They are from America, but the UK brought them all the fame and wide spread acceptance.
I was heartbroken after getting her EP “Why You Runnin?” to learn that her full length would be in Europe first before the US because of the Kings Of Leon formula! NOT FAIR! It is such a fantastic, well rounded pop folk rock album that has great gems such as, “Why You Running”, “Cuckoo” and “When I’m Alone”.
Her voice is that more of a lion, and her heart and passion is in each and every song. I looked forward to seeing her on my birthday in 2011. If you’re looking for a female alternative rock artist to listen to, this is her. She packs tons of emotions into each song she’s even more fantastic live.
Did I mention her covers of “Bad Romance” (Lady Gaga) and “Pursuit Of Happiness” (KiD CuDi) are amazing? This is the strongest debut by an artist this year and I’m glad she’s getting universal critical acclaim.
7. Joanna Newsom – Have One On Me
Joanna Newsom is infamous for her “child-like”, “whinny” voice but after vocal damage she had to take a rest and learn how to properly control her voice. After this, she created this 3 CD album, that saw her stepping out from behind the harp and playing piano.
It’s very welcoming to see her change the instrumentation of the album, and combine it with her unbelievable gift of creating poetry (don’t dare call it lyrics), you have a great enjoyable CD in your hands.
This CD is very low key but PACKED with emotion and beautiful song writing/composing skills. Her words are crafted painstakingly well and would give any english major a workout. An ambitious album indeed, but the product is fantastic. She’s a regular on late night television and is also known for dating Andy Samberg. Yep, the dude from SNL. She’s also hilarious in her own right with some of her interviews. Think of her as the Natalie Portman of music with the voice of a prodigy 8-year-old.
6. How To Dress Well – Love Remains
I’m a HUGE, HUGE, MASSIVE, fan of the artist Burial and the dub music scene that exploded because of his international recognition. I followed Mary Anne Hobbs (radio DJ who gave this genre it’s fame) religiously and was in need for something to fill the void since Burial hasn’t made anything since 2006.
I heard the second track on the this CD, “Ready For The World” and knew… this was the CD i was looking for to feed that Burial crave that hasn’t been filled in 4 years! The rest just unlocked and became hooked in my mind every week. Having an R&B singer create this ambient lo fi sound really produces a new interesting take on music. Loved it, and the reverb. It’s very refreshing to see a guy who creates R&B music, step out of his boundary to create something very unique and very special.
5. Bjork + Dirty Projectors – Mount Wittenberg Orca
I found out that Bjork was doing a one stint concert with Dirty Projectors (Bitte Orca from last year had rave reviews and topped album of the year lists) and I was jealous. I couldn’t make it to NYC, and i knew it was going to be special. I thought I had missed out, but then news surfaced that they were going to record it in one day and sell it to benefit the National Geographic Society to protect marine areas. Joy ensued, as well as a countdown…
David Longstreth (lead singer of Dirty Projectors) was inspired by Bjork’s unconventional album Medulla that used strictly voices. Using a story/idea that Amber Coffman had about humans and whales. From there, this allowed David to create this amazing sonic story.
Using the voices of the ladies in the band, and Bjork, he pushes the conventional sound of voices. He has the ladies sing on awkward vowels, slides, and putting light instrumentation underneath. At first, it seems a bit weird. After the first listen, and allowing it to be on repeat, the journey makes sense. I had this CD on repeat so many times, climbing, relaxing, to get pumped up, to sing along with, anything really and it made me happy.
The CD celebrates the connection between the earth we walk on and the water, humans and nature. It’s for this reason that the vocals seem very raw, primal, and animal-like. It’s a perfect balance and while its a short EP, the listen is worth it to hear the end song “All We Are”. Plus, its Bjork. Couldn’t go wrong in my book.
4. Sufjan Stevens – Age Of Adz
Sufjan Stevens hasn’t released a proper full length since 2005 of Illinois. Hailed by many a CD of the year, musical genius, voice of an angel, and instrumentation of a John Adams/minimalist-approach lover he seemed destined to internally battle what the next album would be.
Would it be too much stress? It was.
Apparently, Sufjan Stevens had some sort of mental breakdown from working on the soundtrack to “The BQE” and realizing he would be forever changed in his composition methods, how he started to hate his voice, and how he started to hate his music. It seems as if he had a lot of internal struggles.
Then The National leaked the news that in June he was working on new material to be released sometime. No one held their breath. Then, mysteriously he released the EP All Delighted People with news the end of that week announcing Age Of Adz.
Once the leak happened, I was super intrigued with how he infused the hardcore glitch-tronic he adopted in his Christmas Volume 8 CD (he dabbled on the Illinois besides The Avalanche) and how he incorporated autotune/vocoder. Alas, the CD does not disappoint.
It’s a different sound, absolutely. However, there are STILL parts of what we loved in Illinois. When you listen to our generations version of Meatloaf’s “By The Dashboard Light” called, “Impossible Love” (Featuring Shara Worden aka My Brightest Diamond) you realize not all was lost. The voice is there, the banjo, the horns, the love, it’s there… you just have to find it. Then relistening to the CD you can find everything you loved about Sufjan hidden in this complex soundscape. I welcome this new change from Sufjan with an open heart and enjoyed this CD highly.
3. Robyn – Body Talk (technically “part 3” that includes parts 1+2)
Robyn is the undisputed champ of pop music. The Queen of “four-to-the-floor” sound. The only artist to perform TWICE at the Nobel Peace Prize Concert (2008, 2010). Whenever I mention Robyn everyone goes, “whoa, the girl from the 90s? Show Me Love?“.
Thats right, she’s been around since 2005 with her UK charting hit album entitled “Robyn” with the 2007 song of the year, “With Every Heartbeat”. “With Every Heartbeat” allowed an album released in 2005 in Sweden, be able to push its longevity until 2008 when she stopped touring. Not to mention, help from Perez Hilton (I hate adding him to this, but at least I wasn’t alone recognizing her brilliance) gave her a blip in the US.
After her successful Max Martin (the dude who wrote Britney Spear’s ‘Oops I Did It Again’) hit “Show Me Love”, Robyn disappeared from the limelight. In fact, she said “fuck you” to her record label, and created her own label. She then released a couple more albums with success only in Sweden, but nothing to push her over the waters until her 2005 album “Robyn”.
Enough about the past though. Let’s talk about how at the end of 2009 Robyn mentions, in passing mind you, “yeah I plan on releasing 3 albums next year.” No one believed it. Way too ambitious. Suddenly, Robyn announces the release date for “Body Talk Part 1” as in June. Packed with 8 songs, this EP was NO JOKE. It had the smash single “Dancing On My Own”, the female lets-go-out-and-get-some anthem “Fembot”, the I-just-want-to-dance-f*ck-ya’ll banger “None Of Dem”, the later-I-don’t-need-anyone anthem “Don’t Fucking Tell Me What To Do”, the hey-girl-pick-yourself-up-heartbreak-aint-that-bad “Cry When You Get Older”…. do you get the idea yet? The first EP, 8 tracks, featured some heavy hitting songs. The last song is the Swedish traditional song “Jag vet en dejlig Rosa” but before it feature this acoustic gem called “Hang With Me”.
Which takes us to Body Talk Part 2 that was released in September. Another 8 track monster EP which featured the hey-I’m-your-F*ck-buddy-nothing-serious-though hit “Hang With Me”. The trick to that song though, is that in Part 1 it sounded so sincere. Here, in its electric format you can tell she’s entirely controlling the situation and takes on a different connotation. She’s famous for reimaging her songs. Her previous hit “Be Mine!” had 3 unique versions (2005, acoustic, 2010). Each changed the feel, but she does it so well. Also on this EP were hits “Include Me Out”, “U Should Know Better” featuring Snoop Dogg, “Love Kills”, “We Dance To The Beat” and the acoustically orchestrated finisher “Indestructible”.
Then the big final compiling came. Body Talk Part 3 become simply known as the album Body Talk in its LP format. The lead single was “Indestructible” where the heavy orchestrated acoustic version was amped up on electronica and it banged, hard. While taking 5 of her favorite songs from Part 1, and Part 2, you feel as though you are listening to a greatest hits album. And then you realize, there are 5 more songs on here that are new, and the way they are all spread out in one album you realize that this is the proper format/flow. Added is the instant hit “Time Machine”, “Call Your Girlfriend” (which is the most unique perspective on a relationship, a girl telling the boy to break up with his girlfriend), and “Get Myself Together” with the aforementioned “Indestructible”. That’s right, this CD could be considered a “Best Of” but this is merely what she’s come up while touring for THIS YEAR.
Watching her perform live on YouTube videos, you can FEEL the energy she oozes out in each show. She was even elected to perform Bjork’s perfect pop song “HyperBallad” at her Polar Music Prize ceremony (also celebrated was Ennio Morricone). Her cover song skills are also unparalleled as she covered Alicia Keys, and Prince this year, to name a few. The VMA’s saw Robyn have a short appearance with Deadmau5 dub remix of “Dancing On My Own” but it was too short. Her appearance was also cut short thanks to a stupid overhead announcer about commercials. She also loves reinventing her classic songs like “Be Mine!” (original/acoustic/new), and the new take on “Show Me Love (live 2010)” and has recently included “Dancing Queen” as the intro to the latter.
Look for a strong year next year, and I wouldn’t be surprised if she makes the big festivals like Coachella and maybe even a proper stint on MTV VMAs. Robyn described this entire collection the best when she said, “I hope this album is gonna make you wanna cry and dance at the same time. Thank you”. Get it. Oh, she also just mentioned expect a new album spring 2011.
*Note to ladies. This is your idol when it comes to finding songs to explain your heartbreak and/or life
2. Kanye West – My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy
You had to see this coming. It’s on everyone else’s list and also in the top 3 here. Despite what you may feel about Kanye, you can’t deny that he can absolutely back any of his claims with his music.
I agree with Kanye that Taylor Swift’s music video was super subpar compared to Beyonce (how does she get Video of The Year and not win her female category? Contradictory?) BUT I do think he should’ve done it in private and not in such a huge public forum (or in front of T.Swift). Then again, we are talking about Kanye West, the man with no filter on his mouth. Honestly though, I appreciate his blunt ability to be such a wordsmith. You’ve heard his lyrics right?
The two CD’s prior to this, Graduation and 808 & Heartbreak, were eh and eh. They both had their pluses. Graduation was over the top in your face pop hiphop/rap. Sampling MJ, Daft Punk, he was pushing hard. Then there was 808 & Heartbreak; you either loved it for the minimalist production and intricate drums, or hated it because he was super emo and autotuned. There was his mother’s death, breaking up with his girlfriend, and being known for stagebombing video awards for best video of the year (lost twice in a row prior to T-Swift incident). Then he disappeared. I followed him since Thru The Wire, and looked at his blog when i could (he posts some cool shit).
And then, came G.O.O.D. Fridays. Then some interviews surfaced he was in Hawaii recording. On Pitchfork Justin Vernon, aka Bon Iver, mentioned how Kanye had him come out to record vocals on the album. My heart raced especially when he mentioned Kanye wanted to rework “Woods”, Bon Iver’s beautiful mantra/chant like vocoder song. And then came the short film, “Runaway” using songs from his upcoming album. Nevermind the cool color pallettes and the interviews, but the songs!
THEN, the album leaked. Instantly i was hooked. It is clearly his Opus. The intricate drums are there, the lyrical energy from College Dropout was there as well as the instrumentation, and it had the true passion of 808 & Heartbreak. Of course the samples of Bon Iver (Justin Vernon)’s “Woods” and Aphex Twin’s “Avril 14th” in “Blame Game” added the extra spice to get me excited. Of course, you can’t forget Nicki Minaj’s best verse of all time and steals the entire track “Monster”. I haven’t stopped listening to this album still.
Did I forget to mention the track “All Of The Lights”? The most epic list of names all time added, but what he did was show his ability to be such a strong producer on that track. He picked and highlighted the best people he could for the specific parts of the song. There is just way too much to say about the brilliance packed into the production of this album and how the by product is flawless.
I’m curious to see what he’ll do next, and I hope whatever he does, he puts as much personal passion into it. The truth matters, even if it hurts, (but oh so good). It was also his comment on “I am a soldier of art”, that really got me excited about his new vision.
I’m glad he’s here, and he’s here to stay. “I’m living in the future so the presence is my past, my presence is a present kiss my ass”
1. iamamiwhoami – Mandrake/ToWhomItMayConcern/”It Is What It Is”
I was discussing with a friend of mine about iamamiwhoami and i said, “never before has an artist captivated me for a whole year, everyday, every moment.” She replied, in a one word answer, “Bjork?”. If you look at this list, Bjork is not up here first (even though she’s my all time favorite) and I’ll tell you why.
At the end of December, a YouYube account called “iamamiwhoami” released a haunting/cryptic/eerie video titled, ” Prelude 699130082.451322-126.96.36.199.188.8.131.52.14.1.12″ (wtf?!) Then, more videos surfaced. No one knew who it was. There were talks of Christina Aguilera, Little Boots, Bjork… and then it came out of nowhere. Jonna Lee. Who? Oh, just a pop starlet from Sweden who had this little hit in Sweden only (check out other notable songs here/here). But how could an artist do such a 180? Now, the videos are unbelievable, and there are clues in each video to what the story is telling, who is in it, etc. etc…. but the music keeps me coming back for more.
It’s unreal to describe how Jonna Lee and her camp that created iamamiwhoami effected my life. Forever. I woke up EVERY day checking their YouTube page to find a new video, a new clue, a new song, a new addiction. And then, she announced a live concert. She created a contest on YouTube asking for a volunteer and on a YouTube channel… HUNDREDS of people willingly posted their address, number, country etc. One was picked, flew out to Sweden and their point of view for the videos were released. And then the “concert” came out….
… and it was only available online on another website, towhomitmayconcern.com, for 6 hours only. The first 30 minutes it was listed, the website had crashed from an overload. Then I watched the video… I cried, laughed, smiled, clapped, cried (maybe more than twice), was in awe and inspired.
60 minute long video of a reworking of the B, O, U-1, U-2, N, T, Y songs as well as the music from the shorter clips. Breathtaking. I have a feeling it isn’t done for this year, since the 1 year anniversary is coming up after Christmas.
If you’re a fan of electronic music, The Knife, Nine Inch Nails, Bjork, Cocorosie, Aphex Twin, Sweden, or want something to challenge you… this is it. THIS! is what I’ve been waiting for. This is how you end a decade. This is how you open the door to the next decade….. and now that we’ve mentioned it, this was the first CD/music I’ve purchased in years! Seriously! 5 years! I guess I was waiting for something that really was ART to purchase and show my appreciation to the artist.
And man, does Jonna Lee’s project Iamamiwhoami embody the word “artist” as a whole.
To understand this artist, start on the journey with the first video: