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MUSIC» The Top 30 Albums of 2010 - Fashionably, fabulously late, our favorite music (and believe me, there was a LOT) of 2010, the year that some have called the best year for music ever. And only some of those fools work here. Plenty of usual suspects, lots of ties and a few surprises that I won't spoil, including our unexpected #1.
MUSIC» Live: Surfer Blood/The Drums at Lincoln Hall, Chicago, IL - Remember when Weezer used to put together records that you could sing along to and rock out to? That's what Surfer Blood's show was like!
+ Of a possible 270 spots, staff writers voted for 149 unique albums on their individual Top Ten lists (this does not include "Honorable Mentions," "Top Ten Songs," or other additional categories that some writers chose to submit for squirts and giggles).
+ Albums included in staff selections cover virtually every relevant genre, ranging from whitebread indie and alternative rock to chamber pop, hip-hop/rap/grime, dubstep, avant/experimental, electronic/dance, dancehall, folk, bluegrass, country, noise, metal, punk, funk/soul, afrobeat, singer-songwriter, world, industrial, and unclassifiable hybrids of nearly all of those just mentioned.
+ Based on our inverted scoring system [10 points awarded for a first place position on an individual list, down to 1 point for a tenth position], the top-ranked album receiving the highest point tally was 79, the lowest was 1.
+ Radiohead's industry-shaking In Rainbows, if not the most loved album of the year easily the most talked about was cited most often, appearing on the lists of 15 writers. Thom Yorke is no stranger to being in high regard at LAS; his 2006 album The Eraser was ranked #8 in our Year-End Report (LINK).
+ Artists mentioned in the 27 individual staff lists used to compile this composite Top 20 represented more than 100 labels, ranging from big, ugly, globe-warming corporations like Universal to tiny independent niche labels like Moodgadget, with a few high-profile self-released albums in the mix to boot. // THE LAS STAFF
01. Arcade Fire - Neon Bible (Merge)
While Neon Bible is a safe and fairly predictable choice for album of the year, the fact remains that there are few contemporary artists as cunning and sonically intriguing as The Arcade Fire. Neon Bible is a more somber affair than its predecessor, Funeral, and features resplendent wanderings through dark corridors and a dystopian worldview. Yet the album lingers in the mind, and is to be celebrated for its consistently absorbing aura and unsettling undercurrents. // ERIC J. MORGAN
02. Radiohead - In Rainbows (self-released)
Unzipping the 160 kpbs mp3 In Rainbows folder is probably the closest I'll ever come to experiencing a musical event that can rival unwrapping a new Beatles album in 1967. I felt like I was part of a new movement, witnessing a turning point in popular music. No, it's not Kid A, no, it's not OK Computer, but it's still better than just about everything else around, and the album's release reminded everyone that they were still the big boys on the block. The future of intelligent pop music is in their hands, and it's nice to have a leader that deserves the title. // DAVE TOROPOV
03. LCD Soundsystem - Sound of Silver (DFA/Capitol)
Shades of tender new wave and less of a focus on hipster irony elevate this one to the top of the list, surpassing James Murphy's debut. // JONAH FLICKER
04. The National - Boxer (Beggars Banquet)
Straight-ahead rock 'n' roll with vocals by Matt Berninger, who channels Stuart Staples and Nick Cave. A very solid and enjoyable listen. The great thing about the band's appeal and about the record is that the more you listen, the more you hear and the more you like. // JON BURKE
05. (tie) Battles - Mirrored (Warp)
From the first time I heard "Atlas" I knew this record was special. It is a step in a new direction for music. Not your average boring instrumental record, not quite as manic as full-fledged math rock. A unique sounding record that stays with you. I think this will inspire many young bands in the future. // BOB LADEWIG
05. (tie) Kanye West - Graduation (Roc-A-Fella/Island Def Jam)
So many people are ready to write Kanye off because his head is bigger than his body (dude's short). But I'll be damned if I didn't find myself throwing on this record numerous times and picking up the fifteen dollar picture disc 12" singles from it. I even thought Chris Martin sounded good on this record (and that's a stretch for me), although it kind of felt like Kanye told Martin, "Ok, so we couldn't get Sting for this track - so do your absolute best to sound like him." Every track is a potential single, and he hasn't released the full record on LP so us DJs are suckered into buying the 12". Smart marketing, bad for my wallet. // JOHN BOHANNON
As a word-slinger, Kanye could never be as great as he perceives himself to be, and that's why he transformed himself from rapper to pop star. 13 tracks, no skits, T-Pain hooks, Daft Punk samples and the year's most logical hook - "Here's another hit: Barry Bonds" - made this pure pleasure from "Good Morning" to "…and that's where the story ends." West had already made a hip hop classic; now he has his masterpiece. // JONATHAN BRADLEY
07. Panda Bear - Person Pitch (Paw Tracks)
Vocal lines are intertwining, captivating, and every little bit the timbre of a youthful Brian Wilson. In some songs ("Comfy In Nautica") Noah Lennox angelically sings as part of a choir of his layered voice. With other standout tunes ("Take Pills," "I'm Not") he buoyantly hopscotches lyrics over handclaps and sampled clicks. The cohesive ease of Person Pitch is what really makes this a great album. // JOSH ZANGER
08. (tie) Dälek - Abandoned Language (Ipecac)
The only reason this Newark, New Jersey, outfit wasn't on my best of 2006 list was because they didn't have an album out last year. How refreshing is it to hear heavy, dirty, massive urban music that is full of intriguing beats, off-kilter melodies and sound layers rather than endless lines about getting paid, getting a gat, getting head, and getting even with your bitches? Very. // ERIC J HERBOTH
08. (tie) Burial - Untrue (Hyperstep)
Anonymous producer Burial has followed up his acclaimed debut in style. Untrue's trippy beats and lonely, swirling scapes are almost talismanic of dubstep. It's a product of a city cracked at the seams, and London through and through: treading the streets of the grotty East End isn't the same without Untrue feeding into your ears. // MIKE WRIGHT
10. Blonde Redhead - 23 (4AD)
On its second album for 4AD, Blonde Redhead continues to work an appropriately atmospheric angle, while offering up its most impressive set of songs to date. It's elegant, strange, tense, and-at times-thrillingly rocked-out. This is the sound of a band working at the peak of its powers. // ERIC SCHNEIDER
11. The Field - From Here We Go Sublime (Kompakt)
Unlike his peers, Axel Willner has inextricably tied his first full-length as the Field to not a genre, but a concept. A collection of name-that-tunes on both an epic and microscopic level, Willner's compositions breathe borrowed fire, each a seven-odd minute journey of discovery that loops quarter-second samples of Kate Bush or Fleetwood Mac or Lionel Richie, or someone you've heard before but won't recognize here. Rather than recreating the mash-up, the Field seems to revel in the smooth-down. // MIKE ORME
12. Eluvium - Copia (Temporary Residence)
Late last year, a week after I received Copia, I was faced with a tough decision; I found myself perilously close to putting it on my best of 2006 year-end list. Technically, it didn't come out until this year, but the advance from Temporary Residence was one of the most amazing albums I heard last year. Not wanting to rock the boat, I decided to play by the rules and wait until now, and a year later Copia still ranks at the top of my list. // KEVIN ALFOLDY
13. El-P - I'll Sleep When You're Dead (Def Jux)
I've probably championed this album more than any other this year, because it never got the billing it deserves as one of the great artistic achievements in hip-hop. The scariest, rawest, angriest, and smartest the genre has ever been. Chuck D's proud of you, El-P. // DAVE TOROPOV
14. A Place To Bury Strangers - A Place To Bury Strangers (Killer Pimp)
Reminds me of my teenage years, listening to Joy Division and The Stone Roses, but much, much louder. Initially attracted to the band for the name, but so happy I have rather morbid tastes in monikers. // RACHAEL NEILE-MCGREW
15. Menomena - Friend and Foe (Barsuk)
Armed with a bari sax and enough drums for ten bands, Menomena wrote, played and produced one of the first great records of 2007. Friend Or Foe offers a somewhat more organic take on the sound that bands like TV On The Radio have been pioneering. // JON BURKE
NOTE The final five entries on our list all received the same number of points (16) from our individual list scoring system. In order to tidy up the unsightly pile-up, the tie was partially broken by taking the number of lists each appeared on into account, leaving a clear-cut placement for positions 16 and 17, and a tree-way tie for 18th, which we can live with. NOTE
16. Caribou - Andorra (Merge)
Leave it to Dan Snaith, with a PhD in Mathematics, to expound the formula. Whereas some electronic music may lack emotion, the good Doctor sneaks in just enough human touch to redefine the equation. Like his native Canadian backwoods, the record plays like a remote, radiant campfire - you can't get too close to it, but its warmth draws you near. // ARI SHAPIRO
17. Jay-Z - American Gangster (Roc-A-Fella)
The return to his hustler roots was contrived, but it sounded anything but. A traditional Jay-Z album would have been satisfying; American Gangster was cinematic and inspired: a marvel. // JONATHAN BRADLEY
18. (tie) Daft Punk - Alive 2007 (Virgin)
The Parisian duo's recent live show, debuting with a light-up pyramid at Coachella '06 and continuing with the unstoppable Alive 2007 world tour, has moved critics and fans alike to obnoxious hyperbole. But even without the visual aid of progressively more complex light show, the tunes bang. This mixed-up conflagration of all the popular Daft Punk cuts is a progressive mind-fuck. Would you prefer "Television Rules The Nation" mixed in with "Crescendolls?" Have you ever wanted to hear "Around the World" and "Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger" in the same sonic space? Or "One More Time" and "Aerodynamic" mashed up to a face-melting sequencer line... Maybe this really is the greatest live show of all time. // MIKE ORME
18. (tie) Miranda Lambert - Crazy Ex-Girlfriend (Columbia)
Reality TV is forgiven; the shudder-inducing cloud of darkness that shrouds our evenings has spit out the singular drop of perfection that is Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. It would've been enough to merely put eleven country-crossover songs in a row that I'd like to hear twice, but some enchanted factory of magic elves in Nashville has gone above and beyond. These are eleven country-crossover songs in a row I'd rather hear than any other record this year except the above three. And for bonus ethics, there's not a red-state pride anthem or chauvinist cliché in sight. Really, Columbia, you shouldn't have! // DAN WEISS
18. (tie) Robert Wyatt - Comicopera (Domino)
Former Soft Machine drummer keeps reinventing himself after decades of releasing material. Comicopera highlights some of his best efforts at straight-forward songwriting in recent years. As he gets older, his voice gets stronger it seems - a rare case for vocalists. // JOHN BOHANNON
This was fun; we should do it again next year. In the meantime, be sure to check out the individual writer lists A-M and the individual writer lists N-Z to see how we arrived at our composite Top 20 albums for the 2007 Year-End Music Report. Let us all hope that 2008 is as rewarding a year in music.
The LAS Staff
A number of the Lost At Sea staff have worked and continue to work for various publications, both independent and commercial. Often very stifling in their narrow focus, conventional media outlets left our writers hungry for something bigger, more diverse, more communal. More active, because this is the twenty-first century and it makes sense. During it's short life LAS has accomplished many of its goals (but not all) and has in turn set new ones. Everything that we accomplish is through teamwork and cooperation, both with our regular staff writers and with our contributing writers. LAS is nothing short of a collective. Another contrasting point to some of the magazines out there is that we've checked our egos and scene ethics at the door. We welcome anyone and everyone to contribute and cover a wide range of topics. LAS does not follow your guide lines.
See other articles by The LAS Staff.
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