I've never been much of a rap fan. From songs I'd heard in the past, all rap had the same beat, same lyrics, same boring crap. So when I started hearing about Kanye's new album being incredible, I was skeptical. But, mainly for shits and giggles, I took a listen when it leaked a few weeks before release. Boy oh boy, was I surprised. This was way more than just some rap album. Every song had actual instrumentation behind it - incredible instrumentation, at that. Stuff like Power and So Appalled send chills down my spine. Interesting samples, as well - King Crimson, Bon Iver, Aphex Twin - all used quite well (except the King Crimson one, in my opinion). No doubt, my favorite track is Runaway. In a nutshell, it's Kanye saying "hey, I'm a douche bag, but I speak the truth", and it's done with such elegance and grace that only ballerinas could be on the music video. And that vocal solo at the end? Incredible. Of course I have my problems with the album, mainly with the lyrics. Pretty much every song is about money, pussy, or Kanye being awesome. It does wear thin after a while. But honestly, the music behind it makes up for it. It's more than just bass and snare. Is this the first post-hop album? Hopefully not, cause that sounds kinda dumb.
9. These New Puritans - Hidden
Keeping with the theme of musical enlightenment, These New Puritans are a band who combine orchestral elements with indie vocals and guitars and such, along with hip-hop rhythm. What comes out of that is a very interesting and (dare I say it?) epic album, with music that makes you want to get up, run around, and punch shit. In a good way, of course. My personal favorite track is Drum Courts. It showcases arguably one of the best aspects of this album, the drums. Pounding forever is pretty sweet when you've got horns behind it. Not much else I can say about this, honestly. It's a great album, and that's the long and short of it.
8. Owen Pallett - Heartland
This was my first favorite album from 2010, and for good reason - it's damn great. Someone described this album as "too much like a soundtrack", which I actually find to be one of the positives. It's very cinematic, quite like a soundtrack to some non-existent art flick. Owen is a violinist/keyboardist fellow, and on this album, he works with an entire orchestra (which gives it it's cinematic feeling) to make soaring pop tunes about an imaginary universe where he is God. Self indulgent? Maybe. But it's still great music. Best track is probably Lewis Takes Off His Shirt, where Owen's voice soars over quick horns. It's quite lovely.
7. Fuck, I'm A Ghost - Fuck, I'm A Ghost
This year, I started paying much more attention to the small labels and bands, and in doing so I found a number of gems. I developed a good relationship with Futurerecordings Label, a post rock label that hand-makes all of their releases. Nice guys over at Futurerecordings. I got a number of albums from them, but the one that really stuck with me was this one. It was less post-rock and more 'indie rock', if you wanna call it that. In the same vein as Slint or Modest Mouse. The first time I listened to this, I was playing Red Dead Redemption, so it kinda makes me think of cowboys. Favorite track is Short Straw. Swaying guitars, pounding drums, ended with soothing piano. Great, great album
6. John Knox Sex Club - Blud Rins Culd/Posirawkmademenego
It probably can't get smaller than this. A local band from Scotland (local enough that my copy of this album was their first shipped to the states...not that I'm bragging or anything :) ), playing music in the style of Frightened Rabbit and other such Scottish-Indie bands. The difference with these guys is that they add a touch of darkness and grit that makes it seem more...human? Something like that. So, along with the catchy-ness that comes along with Scottish Indie, there's a human nature that, while dark, certainly makes it that much more relatable. My favorite track is, without a doubt, In The Ditch. I think it's a song about being in war, and diving into a ditch away from enemy fire. And when you think about it, you really do get transported to that scene while listening. Fucking great stuff. When I bought this album way back when, it came packaged with a live EP, entitled Posirawkmademenego (your guess is as good as mine), which is a pretty nice artifact showcasing their reportedly incredible live shows. On this EP, they play similarly to the style of the album, but much dirtier and louder. I prefer the album but the EP is certainly great
5. LCD Soundsystem - This Is Happening
If I ever pick the music to a dance party, it would be this album on repeat all night. I mean, my GOD, this shit is so dance-able. Better than that hokey hair-whipping shit out there now. But the thing about this sucka aside from it's incredible dance-ability is it's musicianship. Really great stuff. Great, sentimental vocals too. Fuck it, just listen to it, I'm too busy jamming my ass off
4. Menomena - Mines
I owe a lot to Menomena. If it weren't for I Am The Fun Blame Monster, I probably wouldn't care about music as much as I do today. So of course when I heard about their new album coming out, I was excited. This is certainly Menomena's most 'mature' album - songs are still built on small loops as their other releases, but unlike their other releases, it's much harder to tell what's a loop and what's not. It all blends together seamlessly, where as on some older tracks it was pretty easy to figure out. The songs themselves are of course incredible; lots of vocal harmonies, lovely piano, blaring saxophone (one of my favorite aspects of Menomena) - it's all here. It's a near-flawless album. But I think thats why it's only 4th on my list. What I loved so much about Fun Blame Monster was how experimental it was - it almost sounded like it was written and recorded within an hour, which I like. This album, while incredible in it's own right, is almost too...'polished'. Too clean. There's not a whole lot of experimenting going on. Which, when the music is this good, is fine - but oh how I'd love another Fun Blame Monster. (There is, however, a 16 minute bonus track only available on vinyl called Bomb Me Back. Holy shit, this should have been on the album, or at least the album should have had more stuff like this. This is 16 minutes of those three dudes jamming the fuck out. If you're gonna listen to this album, do yourself a favor and check out Bomb Me Back as well.)
3. The Terror Pigeon Dance Revolt! - I Love You. I Love You. I Love You And I’m In Love With You. Have An Awesome Day! Have The Best Day Of Your Life!
If you don't know me very well, you might look at that album cover and say "What the fuck? That looks like some shitty twee pop shit! How can THAT be any good? And that NAME!" Well ladies and gents, this is Terror Pigeon Dance Revolt, self-proclaimed best band ever. This is their debut album (they released an EP a year or two ago, all the tracks on that are on this), and it's full of songs about love, friendship, hair and snowdays. This really is the happiest album I've come across, and one of the catchiest for sure. I've never been upset while listening to this album. I think it's impossible. But, okay, sure. Happy music about love, woo hoo. What's so great about that? Well, for one, you've got about 20 people singing about love, with instruments fucking everywhere. That's pretty sweet. And the other thing that I really love about this album is it's lyrics. These guys can take the cheesiest shit and make it the deepest thing you've ever heard. It's downright inspirational at points. "We're gonna make it through all the shit." "All my love's for you, you can have it all if you want it boo!" "We're alive, we're in love, we've got hope just because!" This album is full of stuff that could fill a hundred self help books. Do yourself a favor - listen to this, and hug everyone in the process.
I have a weird relationship with this band. I only started to like them around 2008 - way behind the rest of the world - and even then I wasn't the hugest fan. But I still realized that Arcade Fire could really do no wrong. I mean, I could argue that both Funeral and Neon Bible are 'perfect'. When I first listened to The Suburbs, however, I found it to be very lackluster. I mean, sure it was good and all, but it wasn't really anything spectacular. I started to fall in with the crowd calling this a concept album about the suburbs themselves - repetitive and boring. But one way or another, I kept coming back to this album, and started to realize how great it was. The Suburbs, Rococo, Empty Room, Month Of May, Sprawl I and II...all incredible, incredible songs. So, okay, another great album by Arcade Fire. Normally that wouldn't get so high on my list. This album, though...it came at one hell of a point in my life. I turn 17 in a few weeks. I'm looking at colleges. Nostalgia rears it's cruel head more and more nowadays. Growing up is really hard for me. Childhood was a beautiful thing, and this album encompasses childhood eerily well. I've honestly gotten teary-eyed at the title track - "move your feet from hot pavement and into the grass". I really connected with this album, as a young adult longing for the first time he played Pokemon. Maybe this album is a form of therapy for those feelings. Maybe it's just making that longing even greater.
1. Swans - My Father Will Guide Me Up A Rope To The Sky
Michael Gira is a god among men. Swans were an incredible, incredible band in the '80's and 90s', making music unlike anything else. The music was dark. The music was scary. The music was mind-blowing. When they decided to split, Gira continued his musical vision with Angels of Light, a 'folk-ey-er' version of Swans. This new album, the first under the Swans moniker in 15 or so years, is a combination of both styles. Along with the thrashing, crushing epics (No Words/No Thoughts, Eden Prison) there are country songs (Reeling The Liars In), love songs of sorts (Inside Madeline) and 3-year-olds (You Fucking People Make Me Sick). If you look at Gira's past, this progression makes complete sense. The music is, as always, incredible. Gira can still belt like a motherfucker at 56. The only issues with this album I found were it's length (it's too damn short!) and, like Menomena, it's lack of experimentation. I mean, Swans ended on Soundtracks For The Blind, a sprawling experiment unlike anything I've ever heard. That level of genius isn't really found here, unfortunately...on the main album, anyway. See, there's two versions of My Father - a standard, 40+minute album, and a 2-disc, which includes Look At Me Go, a nearly 50 minute instrumental attack on your senses, in the best possible way. Similar to Body Lovers/Body Haters, this track combines instrumental parts from the main album altered and built upon with grandeur, along with new sections that all come together very nicely. THIS is the kind of experimentation that I was waiting with bated breath for. And it shows that Gira still knows what the hell he's doing. Honestly if it weren't for Look At Me Go, this album would be around #2 or #3. But again, just like Menomena, the extra music makes this album one hell of an experience.