Luke's Best of 2010

Six months into the year isn't normally a time in which best of year posts happen, but such is the way things happen on Tuesday's on the Phone. That said, I humbly present my favoriate ten albums of 2010 (note that there has been a change to the 2009 list, as Darwin Deez has moved from 2009 to 2010 due to his album being 'officially' released in 2010 after signing a record deal.  Wild Beasts have taken his previous place in the 2009 list).

P.S. Blogger, your formatting and list of features is atrocious.

10.) Laura Marling – I Speak Because I Can
View my album review here

9.) Spoon – Transference
View my album review here

8.) Field Music - Measure
View my album review here

7.) Vampire Weekend – Contra

Not much to say here… just quirky, catchy, incredible tunes.

6.) Radio Dept. – Clinging to a Scheme
Radio Dept. are the unlikeliest of top ten albums when it comes to my list: a band once at the top of my ten best who were completely left off after a sub-par release. Most of these bands never make it back on to my list (see South, Doves, Mellowdrone, Hope of the States, etc.), so the fact that Radio Dept. were able to make my list (especially at such a high number) speaks volumes about the quality of the record they produced.

Finding a happy medium between the noise-rock and shoegazey goodness of their debut and the annoyingly 80s inspired followup, Clinging to a Scheme finds Radio Dept. at their depressing best with catchy choruses swathed in luscious reverb.

5.) Darwin Deez – S/T

This abum was actually the 10th on my list for 2009, however, it saw an official release with absolutely no changes to its tracklisting or its recordings, so I have moved it to 2010 not only to properly categorize it because both this album and the Wild Beasts album from 2009 which took its place on last year’s list have grown on me in a huge way.

This is among the most unique and eccentric albums I’ve ever listened to and been a fan of… songs about corporate suicide, absolute hatred of another individual, nuclear war, and heartbreak are all present, with enough emotional luster and charm behind each to make them completely believable and absolutely lovable.

Forget the fact that the only drums present are electronic snare and bass (in that order, over and over), or that he sounds somewhat like Julian Casablancas and Jonathan Bates (Mellowdrone) and focus on the brilliant simplicity of the songs, their clever lyrics, and the pure joy of listening to this music.

4.) Broadcast 2000 – S/T
Folk music, or at least a modernized version of it, has made an impact on over the last year-and-a-half with Avett Brothers and Mumford and Sons (Top Ten also ran in 2009) making significant popular inroads. However, the best modern folk album over the course of this time belongs to a single man operating under the recording name of Broadcast 2000.

Every second of vocals on the Self-Title debut is double tracked with a harmony and accompanied by a sparse menagerie of plucked guitars, violins, cellos, and almost entirely created percussion. A bass drum can be heard for effect on occasion, but each song’s percussion is essentially hand-crafted from finger snaps, hand clips, string slaps, and guitar body tapping. The fact that this is almost completely unnoticeable within the beauty of the songs is remarkable and speaks to the fact that the songs present on this album are truly infectious, heartfelt, and gorgeous.

It’s an album which serves as a perfect soundtrack to the first warm day of spring.

3.) Stornoway – Beachcomber’s Windowsill
An album of truly literary proportions, Beachcomber’s Windowsill is a remarkable feat. Sounding somewhere between the space occupied by traditional irish drinking songs and straight 1971 folk rock, Stornoway unfold their songs like three-part, epic novels, layering lyrical themes upon each other on each track until they each reach their culmination. Rarely are lyrics treated with as much importance as the music, particularly in a genre in which songs can sound like retreads.

2.) Mystery Jets – Serotonin
I’ve listened to no album more than Serotonin in the last 12 months, which not only hints at my weakness for well-produced and executed indie-rockpop, but also highlights my transformation from someone really only interested in the Jameson Czech and Jordan Biniker trademarked “Sad Bastard Music” to someone much more at home with an album built around surprising and fresh songcraft, top-notch musicianship, and stuck-in-your-head-for-a-month melodies.

My top ten lists over the previous few years has shown a major shift from “Sad Bastard Music” to less intense, more melodic fare, but the culmination of that movement is, quite obviously, 2010. Serotonin, along with 4 other albums on my top ten, is pure pop mixed with a heavy dose of vintage rock-hat tipping, and it is easily the best example from 2010 of my predilection for this type of infectious and completely addicting pop-rock.

Serotonin, in contrast with High Violet, does not require multiple listens to fully grasp, but it does become more spirit-raising with each additional listen, until it is nearly imperative for the listener to sing along at the top of their lungs.
It is a completely joyous, raucous, and lovable album full of 1970s choruses, blatant melodic rip-offs, and pure fun.

1.) The National – High Violet
There are few nearly perfect albums; those albums which upon first listen immediately grab the listener in a unique and new way, which grow in complexity upon repeated listens, which have absolutely no throw-away or inconsistent tracks.

High Violet is not a perfect album, but it is quite close. I previously thought that The National had peaked with Alligator and would follow a path similar to bands such as Doves, South, and Hope of the States in terms of their relevancy to my progressing listening moods, but High Violet reaffirms not only their formidable standing in current music, but propels them beyond what I thought they were: a heavily underappreciated, but ultimately somewhat flawed indie rock band.

High Violet proves The National to be among the most significant and continually pertinent musical acts operating today. It’s only downfall (in my eyes), the rather lackluster “Runaway”, which feels like an afterthought, does not weigh it’s brilliance down as songs with the resonance and import of “Sorrow” and “England” perfectly partner with the noisiness of “Terrible Love” and “Bloodbuzz Ohio”.
High Violet is, quite simply, substantial and significant.


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