Yes, I realize how ridiculous it is to post a Best Albums of 2010 writeup in October of 2011. I thought I had finished this long ago, but turns out it was sitting in my draft queue gathering dust. Any other post I would have thrown away, but I love to look back years from now on how silly my taste was at the time. So here it is in all its glory.
Happy New Year everyone, another year behind us. There will always be a channel in my memory banks carved out specifically for 2010, it was a big year for the Giant Panther, not just because of the great music released but lots of personal life milestones/experiences that will undoubtedly always leave a special place in my heart for the music that provided the soundtrack to my life in 2010.
On to the music! By far they most jam-packed year for good music of recent memory, I really struggled to keep this down to only 20 albums this year, where as some years I’m just stretching to fill the list. I always look back on my previous lists as a sanity check to see how many of my so-called favorites stood the test of time and millions of plays on my ipod – sad how many albums fell victim to time or just being overplayed by yours truly to the point that I get sick of them.
Unlike John I spend all year looking forward to these lists. Whenever I crack open a new album I instantly start the mental filing cabinet in case this may be a potential end of year winner. No science or method to my madness beyond my personal favorites for the year, as always to be taken very lightly in the spirit of sharing favorites.
I also noticed a trend this year that more and more of my cherished “indie” bands started popping up larger scale, mostly in television commercials. This is a bittersweet situation for me, on the one hand good for the artists that they finally might get some exposure and actually make some scratch in this business, on the other, they play the same damn commercials like 20 times an hour and it’s complete overexposure for me. I was talking with a friend the other day about songs in commercials and he mentioned the Black Keys, I think we counted four commercials currently playing that feature Black Keys tunes.
I was also pleasantly surprised to find that I had actually done write ups on The Giant Panther for 10 of my Top 20 end of year bests throughout the year. That may not sound like a great stat but 50% coverage for this pathetically un-prolific blogger is actually pretty good. Thankfully my blogging co-author John Jay keeps the torch burning while I sleep at the keyboard. You can read his Top 20 post here, this year we found synchronicity on 3 albums. I always enjoy the fact that every year we end up only having a few albums in common, what fun would it be to have the same tastes and lists twice in a row?
I cruised over to Billboard’s Top Selling 200 Albums of 2010 to see if I could dig up any stats to help back up my exposure theory, and I was pleasantly surprised to see 3 of my Top 20 albums for 2010 in the Top 100 on Billboard’s charts – Black Keys at #79, Arcade Fire at #80, and Gorillaz at #89. I was also disturbed by the top 10 albums this insane country is going out to Wal-mart to purchase. Susan Boyle was the #1 album of 2010? What the hell is going on America?
Without further ado (trumpets please, those are the wrong trumpets)……
#20. Massive Attack – Heligoland
Listen: Massive Attack – Pray For Rain [audio:http://www.giantpanther.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/02/01-Pray-For-Rain-feat.-Tunde-Adebimp.mp3|titles=Massive Attack - Pray For Rain feat. Tunde Adebimp]
Fantastic new album from Massive Attack, one of the pioneers of modern day indie/electro, lots of great collaborations on this album. My favorite has to be Tunde Adebimp on the track “Pray For Rain”
Download Heligoland here
# 19. Phantogram – Eyelid Movies
Listen: Phantogram – When I’m Small [audio:http://www.giantpanther.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/08/02-When-Im-Small.mp3|titles=Phantogram - When I'm Small]
Dark synths, sampling, drum beats, melodic. Phantogram is based in NY, and consists of duo Josh Carter and Sarah Barthel. Every song on this record offers something different, but they all work together nicely. Josh and Sarah trade turns as vocalist track to track, both offer something unique. Check out my original review here.
Download Eyelid Movies here
#18. Wild Nothing – Gemini
Listen: Wild Nothing – Chinatown [audio:http://www.giantpanther.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/08/10-Chinatown.mp3|titles=Wild Nothing - Chinatown]
Hailing out of Virginia, Wild Nothing’s Jack Tatum has released an album soaked in 80′s goodness. While not the first artist in the last few years to offer their own take on 80s reverb laden guitars, indie pop hooks and dreamy synths, he has done it in his own way and quite well. In terms of comparison formulas, add the sound of The Smiths, The Cure, Cocteau Twins with the hooks of Pains Of Being Pure at Heart, M83′s take on the 80s, and a vocal delivery somewhere in between Belle & Sebastian and more recently, Toro Y Moi. Check out my original review here.
Download Gemini here
#17. Band Of Horses – Infinite Arms
Listen: Band Of Horses – Infinite Arms [audio:http://www.giantpanther.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/08/06-Infinite-Arms.mp3|titles=Band Of Horses - Infinite Arms]
This album took a while to grow on me, it was a bit softer than BOH’s first two LPs. After a few listens though, I really warmed up to this album, so much so that I played one of the tracks from this album at my wedding. Great stuff, if you are new to Band of Horses it would probably be best to start chronologically, if you are an old fan, give this album a chance to win you over. Check out my mini writeup on stuff I was excited about at the time here.
Download Infinite Arms here
#16. Gorillaz – Plastic Beach
Listen: Gorillaz – Empire Ants (Feat. Little Dragon) [audio:http://www.giantpanther.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/08/07-Empire-Ants-Feat.-Little-Dragon.mp3|titles=Gorillaz - Empire Ants (Feat. Little Dragon)]
One of the few albums that apparently made both John and my lists this year. I’ve been a long time Gorillaz fan and this album is no exception. Not their strongest LP but still a fun listen. This album also introduced me to the band Little Dragon from the collaboration on “Empire Ants”
Download Plastic Beach here
#15. Maps & Atlases – Perch Patchwork
Listen: Maps & Atlases – Living Decorations [audio:http://www.giantpanther.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/07/03-Living-Decorations.mp3|titles=Maps & Atlases - Living Decorations]
Wikipedia describes their genre as math rock. What a shitty genre. What it should say is lush, rhythmic indie rock with a tribal heartbeat. Not sure my made up genre is any better looking back at it now, this is really one of those records you just need to listen to. I’ve also seen comparisons to Animal Collective, I don’t agree with that at all either. If anything at times I hear elements of Phish (see track Pigeon) and Rusted Root. Check out my original review here.
Download Perch Patchwork here
#14. Four Tet – There Is Love In You
Listen: Four Tet – She Just Likes to Fight [audio:http://www.giantpanther.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/08/1-09-She-Just-Likes-to-Fight.mp3|titles=Four Tet - She Just Likes to Fight]
Kieran Hebden (otherwise known as Four Tet), is a UK based electronic musician/producer, and has been one of my favorites in this genre for some time. I always love Four Tet albums and the remixes he does for other artists, including great recent collaborations with Burial. Atmospheric landscapes with driving beats.
Download There Is Love In You here
#13. The New Pornographers – Together
Listen: The New Pornographers – Valkyrie In The Roller Disco [audio:http://www.giantpanther.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/02/09-Valkyrie-In-The-Roller-Disco.mp3|titles=The New Pornographers - Valkyrie In The Roller Disco]
I’ve always been a huge sucker for anything involving Neko Case. Previous New Pornographers were good, upbeat rock albums, but at times bordered on pure “Rock Pop” beyond my capability for cherishing. Together is by far their best effort, truly polished songs without one stinker. The formula works here and I’m on board.
Download Together here
#12. Black Keys – Brothers
Listen: The Black Keys – Sinister Kid [audio:http://www.giantpanther.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/08/10-Sinister-Kid.mp3|titles=The Black Keys - Sinister Kid]
What can I say about the Black Keys, they are unstoppable. The one grumpy indie comment I will make is that they are trending more and more towards pop songs and further and further away from their raw blues rock roots. That doesn’t stop the songs on this album from being incredible. Almost every song is an absolute knockout. Another album shared on both John and my lists this year.
Download Brothers here
#11. The Joy Formidable – A Balloon Called Moaning
Listen: The Joy Formidable – The Greatest Light Is The Great [audio:http://www.giantpanther.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/08/01-The-Greatest-Light-Is-The-Great.mp3|titles=The Joy Formidable - The Greatest Light Is The Great]
Big, rocking sounds with great female vocals. UK based Joy Formidable is loud enough to fill an arena, but the sound is never overwhelming to the ears. That’s the magic as a songwriter, mixer, or engineer that if you are able to master, can become a very powerful effect.
Download A Balloon Called Moaning here
#10. Bonobo – Black Sands
Listen: Bonobo – The Keeper [audio:http://www.giantpanther.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/10/09-The-Keeper.mp3|titles=Bonobo - The Keeper]
Ethereal, sometimes loungy, but always interesting beats and sampling from Bonobo, a friend turned me on to him this year and wish I had found him sooner. Any fan of Four Tet, Burial, or even someone like J Dilla will love this. Dances between electro beats, drum and bass, and chilled out lounge music. So good that although this may not be my cohort John’s favorite genre, he went out of his way to tell me Check out my original post here
Download Black Sands here
#9. Twin Shadow – Forget
Listen: Twin Shadow – I Can’t Wait [audio:http://www.giantpanther.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/10/03-I-Cant-Wait.mp3|titles=Twin Shadow - I Can't Wait]
Great stuff from Twin Shadow – got a bit of an 80s flavor to it. Vocals remind me a bit of Grizzly Bear mixed with synthy stuff like Toro Y Moi with more of an 80s feel like Erasure. It’s funny I mentioned Grizzly Bear – turns out Chris Taylor did the production for this album.
Download Forget here
#8. Small Black – New Chain
Listen: Small Black – Search Party [audio:http://www.giantpanther.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/01/02-Search-Party.mp3|titles=Small Black - Search Party]
Glistening 80s synth/chill wave sounds from Small Black. I was really impressed with their EP, which I found through a Washed Out remix of their track Despicable Dogs. Don’t think I could ever get sick of listening to this album over and over again, especially on a long train ride with headphones on. New Chain is a much more polished sound for Small Black, which I think works well, and really takes them to the next level from their more lo-fi EP.
Download New Chain here
#7. Arcade Fire – Suburbs
Listen: Arcade Fire – We Used To Wait [audio:http://www.giantpanther.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/10/13-We-Used-To-Wait.mp3|titles=Arcade Fire - We Used To Wait]
Not to be too lazy, but cmon – it’s Arcade Fire – ’nuff said. Though this is in my opinion some of their strongest material, I don’t think anything will ever top their first LP Funeral in my mind, so I often tend to overlook the subsequent Arcade Fire releases as the best of the year. Luckily the American public and the Grammy committee did not.
Download Suburbs here
#6. The Walkmen – Lisbon
Listen: Walkmen – Stranded [audio:http://www.giantpanther.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/10/05-Stranded.mp3|titles=Walkmen - Stranded]
From album #5 – #1 on my list, they are pretty much interchangeable. Love this album from the Walkmen – kind of a punk raspy modern day Frank Sinatra mixed with The Replacements – love this sound and every song is a gem. I’ve always liked the Walkmen but the songs on this album turned like into love.
Download Lisbon here
#5. Broken Social Scene – Forgiveness Rock Record
Listen: Broken Social Scene – Sweetest Kill [audio:http://www.giantpanther.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/10/11-Sweetest-Kill.mp3|titles=Broken Social Scene - Sweetest Kill]
After a bunch of solo BSS efforts that had tinges of true BSS through various “guest appearances”, I’ve been long awaiting an actual full length from my hands down favorite indie band of all time. This album didn’t disappointing, and was one of my most listened to albums in 2010. All the great “song types” like their previous classics shine through here – the songs featuring the talents of all the different members. Just like when you listen to a late Beatles record and you can always tell “oh this was a Paul or John or a George song”. Yeah that’s right, I just referenced the Beatles in a BSS commentary. Best indie band of all time. Check out my full review here.
Download Forgiveness Rock Record here
#4. The National – High Violet
Listen: The National – Lemonworld [audio:http://www.giantpanther.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/10/07-Lemonworld.mp3|titles=The National - Lemonworld]
I drowned in this album – have played this album over 50 times front to back – used to have actual play count stats until my hard drive died. These guys continue to get better and better with every album. This is their best yet, and my most played album of 2010. So many good albums this year, wish I had a top spot for all of these. Check out my full review here.
Download High Violet here
#3. LCD Soundsystem – This Is Happening
Listen: LCD Soundsystem – All I Want [audio:http://www.giantpanther.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/10/04-All-I-Want.mp3|titles=LCD Soundsystem - All I Want]
Even the album cover is iconic. This is what album covers used to look like when people still cared. This album will hopefully one day be in the classics category. I really really regret not ever getting to see these guys live before they split. Hopefully they will get back together. So many different influences shining through on this record, Talking Heads, Eno, Bowie, Devo, but of course with James Murphy’s unique style. Some of his themes have historically been about anti-cool or trying to hard – this album seems to be an all out experiment on pushing the boundries of his musical influences and whether he likes it or not, he is and always will be cool- check out my original review here
Download This Is Happening here
#2. Beach House – Teen Dream
Listen: Beach House – Norway [audio:http://www.giantpanther.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/10/03-Norway.mp3|titles=Beach House - Norway]
I only wish there were five number one spots this year. Each of these top 5 albums have spent some time at definitive #1 on my list. Especially so with Beach House. I’ve tried many times to explain what was so magical about this album and this band – and failed miserablly each time. You either love them or don’t. I’m the former. I find frontwoman Victoria Legrand’s vocals to be absolutely enchanting. Their previous albums were good, but I found the songs to kind of blend together after a while, and they didn’t necessarily command my attention. Not so with 2010′s Teen Dream, in which Beach House completely finds their groove. If you are new to Beach House, this is the album to start with, by far their most accessible and dynamic album. Read my full review of Teen Dream here.
Download Teen Dream here
#1. Phosphorescent – Here’s To Taking It Easy
Listen: Phosphorescent – Nothing Was Stolen (Love Me Foolishly) [audio:http://www.giantpanther.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/10/03-Norway.mp3|titles=Beach House - Norway]
I’m glad I procrastinated so long on finishing my Top albums list this year. It really gave me a chance to listen through each of these 20 albums many times. It’s all I’ve been listening to over the past month. I’ll be honest – this was not my top album choice when I first put this list together. But after so many listens through each album, I realized I didn’t cherish any album quite as much as I did Phosphorescent’s Here’s To Taking It Easy. Phosphorescent is Matthew Houk’s baby, and their 2010 release was an entirely new sound for them. They had done a Willie Nelson cover album in 2009 and clearly that helped set the mood for Here’s To Taking It Easy. This album has everything I love – shimmering pedal steel, whiskey soaked vocals, and vocals that were seemingly written from a lonely bar stool or late night highway. Read my full post on the album here. I’m not a fan of country music in general – but I’m a huge fan of whatever this sound is, Neil Young’s After The Gold Rush comes to mind. My favorite albums may not be aligned with everyone reading this, but I hope there were some albums for each of you in 2010 that you loved as much as I did.
Download Here’s To Taking It Easy here