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Sean’s Top Ten Albums of 2010

When I look back at 2010, I’ll remember it as the year that I tried to get into two new genres. One was electronic music, which I would say was a great success thanks to terrific albums from the likes of Flying Lotus and Four Tet. Then there was my failed attempt to get into hip hop, although I didn’t really listen to modern music from that genre. I did think My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy was kind of amazing in a terrible way. That Titus Andronicus album was really good. So was that album Brothers by that band the Black Keys. I even liked the new New Pornographers album. In fact, I listened to 41 albums in 2010, and had to make some painful cuts for this post. But these are the ones that stuck with me.

10. Menomena – Mines

Gotta rep a Portland band while I still can. Because everyone knows once you move out of Oregon you must forget about it and your time spent there forever. Menomena has an interesting recording process that has resulted in a beautiful collection of intricate, complex songs. They’re melodic when they need to be, rocking when necessary. So what gave Mines an edge over some of the other amazing albums from the past year? Well, I’m not quite sure. I guess I like it a lot. I keep coming back for more, and I’d say that “Killemall” and “Tithe” are among my favorite tracks of all of 2010. While I loved something like The Monitor, I haven’t listened to it in its entirety since July. I listened to Mines over the weekend. This is just one of those terrifically accessible albums that anyone could enjoy and keep coming back to – even in the scary blank slate that is 2011.

9. Broken Bells – Broken Bells

Yeah, that’s right. More of that Oregon sound. Well, that’s probably not fair, since this sounds a lot more like Danger Mouse than the Shins. Whatever. I know Broken Bells is not the most popular pick for these lists since, well, the album was not that popular. But if you look at the criticism a lot of people levied against it, the main complaint is that it wasn’t a big enough departure for either of the artists. Maybe it’s because I haven’t heard much from either of them the past few years, but I’m OK with them not breaking a ton of new ground. This is one of the catchiest albums I heard all of last year, and the first album I was really looking forward to back in 2009. In a year with middling releases from the Gaslight Anthem, the Hold Steady, Interpol, MGMT, Murder By Death, and even Shout Out Louds, it was nice to hear some new material from guys I already knew that was really good.

8. Broken Social Scene – Forgiveness Rock Record

Hey, here’s a band I knew nothing about a year ago. And yet there I was on the first day of summer perched on a hill watching them rock it out. So when I finally got home, I had to check out there new album, and, well, it’s awesome. I don’t know if you know this about me, but I like things that are awesome. I still haven’t gone back and checked out most of the Broken Social Scene discography, but Forgiveness Rock Record is, at the very least, enjoyable for newbies. Man, I actually saw a lot of bands live last year, didn’t I? It’s so easy to forget. Phoenix, Japandroids, My Morning Jacket, even that silly not-cowboy band. And Patton Oswalt! That guy’s funny. Remember when he made fun of “Home,” Colin? That’s a special moment that we’ll get to cherish forever.

7. Caribou – Swim

Speaking of Colin, I believe he admitted to me that he at least really liked the first track off Swim. So that’s something I guess. I like most of them, but “Odessa” sure is nice. I love that Caribou called the album “swim” because they managed to give the entire thing an underwater feeling that I am in no way qualified to explain or even quantify. That’s right, double q-word sentence. Fuck me I’m tired. Um, here’s my advise for anyone who is not sure if they’ll like this album. Download it, put the whole thing in your library, and start playing the first track. Now here’s the tricky part: walk away. Not too far, you still want to be able to hear it. Just far enough that you won’t be tempted to change to something else. Just listen to the whole damn thing. You’ll get it. And then you’ll be like, “ah yeah, this is good.” Or, in the worst case scenario: “those were 40 minutes that I feel I wasted.”

6. Sufjan Stevens – The Age of Adz

Here’s another album that I feel like I enjoyed more than other critics simply because I haven’t listened to a Sufjan Stevens that wasn’t Illinoise. So, from my crazy point of view, that was his first album and this is his many-years-later followup. Maybe I should listen to more EPs. Anyway, oddly enough my most listened to track on The Age of Adz is the 25-minute “Impossible Soul” at the end of the album. Now, I like long songs, but that seems ridiculous even to me. How could this happen? I could have listened to the first track, “Futile Devices” over a hundred times more if I had spent my time listening to it instead of “Impossible Soul.” Boy, we can do much more together.

5. Deerhunter – Halcyon Digest

Is this real life? Is this a dream? Is this going to be forever? Questions such as these, which may or may not have been asked (and some would say, answered) by David after dentist will haunt your mind every second you spend listening to Halcyon Digest. You know what I mean? Of course you don’t, no one does. It never happens. Sorry, Ted, that’s a dumb question, skip that. Skip all these questions. Just go listen to the lush, beautiful album from another tremendous band from Georgia. No! That’s just what I’ll be expecting you to do! There’s a sale at Penny’s! It’s a damn good thing you don’t know how much he hates your guts. I guess the foot’s on the other hand now, isn’t it, reader?

4. LCD Soundsystem – This is Happening

I’ve never been raped, but I imagine rapists say something along the lines of “this is happening” while they’re assaulting you and you’re trying to fight them off. So this is kind of like LCD Soundsystem is raping me. He lures you in, sounding all quiet and friendly, talking like a jerk, except you actually are a jerk. Then he lunges at you, instantly getting louder, and indeed, bolder. He has his way with you, making you feel like drunk girls as he takes his one touch. All I want is to get away at this point, but he won’t let me. “I can change,” he says. “You wanted a hit, right?” I ask, he hesitates, trying to understand what I meant and then: Pow Pow! My one two punch knocks him off as I get away. Somebody’s calling me, I hear him trying to give chase. But it’s too late, I’ve escaped. Time to go home.

3. Beach House – Teen Dream

You ever wonder why this album is called Teen Dream? I’m not sure what’s so “teen” about it, although it certainly is dreamlike. Seems to me like albums as good as this should be given away for free to anyone who’s having a bad day or is just really tired or over-thinking things. There is a tender, emotional quality to Beach House’s music that soothes me, like one of those dudes who makes snakes dance. It’s just that charming. According to this iTunes I’ve listened to Teen Dream 27 times since I last restored my iTunes library, which was, I believe, around September. Is that a lot? For me, yes. Not for all people though. Frankly, it’s a rather useless bit of information that will ultimately make no difference in anyone’s life. I’m sorry for wasting your time.

2. The National – High Violet

This just goes on forever, doesn’t it? I’m so goddamn tired. Anyway, like Johnny O I just got into the National this year in time to go see them live. That makes me sound really spoiled, doesn’t it? I’m seeing them live, so I should probably familiarize myself with their music. Meanwhile, there are people all over the country who have loved the National since they released their first single who have never been afforded a chance to see them live. Please forgive me for my selfishness. If it makes you feel any better, I did really like High Violet. Especially as the weather took a turn for the colder and I lost sleep in favor of schoolwork. I should probably write some specifics, but frankly I’m still listening to Teen Dream right now and that’s making me keep forgetting what the National sound like.

1. Arcade Fire – The Suburbs

These people out there, they look at Arcade Fire and Funeral and say, “Whelp, they’re done.” Well, let me let you in on a secret: Arcade Fire’s been getting better with each album. Sure, they haven’t matched the raw emotionality of Funeral in there last two albums, but the group has continued to pursue more complex songwriting and themes somehow more challenging than life and death. We all live and we all will die. Arcade Fire has moved on, and their latest project, about growing up in the suburbs, shows the universality of that experience, the good and the bad. While that means they won’t be scoring any amazing movie trailers with the new stuff, that doesn’t mean the new stuff isn’t good. In fact, it’s amazing. Wow, what a terrible ending to a questionable post. I apologize for my writing.

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