Top 25 Albums of 2010 Top 25 Albums of 2010

Artwork by Phillip Manning (www.paintpotdesign.com)

Pinpoint Music’s

Top 25 Albums of 2010

Pinpoint’s now in our terrible twos and we’re going to throw a fit until we get what we want. Luckily though momma snuck in some brandy with our bottle and now we’re ready to wrap on 2010. A year with a few huge name releases that lived up to the hype, and several new comers with debuts that brashly announced their arrival.
This year we wanted to make sure that you at least sound like you know what you’re talking about when your next date asks you what you’ve been listening to. So go ahead and stream any of the music that makes us melt. If you happen to find some loving with the music we’re sweet on than go ahead and high five the wall, we’ll feel it.

So here it is the collective voting of all our staff, every staffer counted equal, from the Editors, to the writers, down to the dudes who clean the toilets; sadly enough also the editors. We’re pretty sure our mind hive gives us a diverse Best of 2010 list that will keep you warm even under the snow of winter.

Now put your drinking jacket on and enjoy a little fuzz.

The Books

The Way Out

The Way Out is more journey than joy ride.  Beginning in a meditative state (literally, since the vocals instruct the listener to “relax”), the album moves forward to carefree pop, dance, gospel-like recitations. A refined, intellectual album; meaty and thought-inducing when played in its entirety, but the individual songs possess clout as well.

“The Books” – The Way Out

The Roots

How I Got Over

It’s simply impossible for The Roots to make a bad album. The worst that the crew from Philly can do is record an album less-good than their others. And even their less-good shit is twice as good as almost everything out there.

Scientifically speaking:

(The Roots-Album X ≥ The Roots-Album Y) > Everything Else…Its simple mathematics.

I can’t wait to listen to this album. I can’t wait for the next track; I can’t wait to hear that snare. This is great hip hop and let’s never takes The Roots for granted.

The Roots

Big Boi

Sir Lucious Left Foot: The Son of Chico Dusty

Maybe this whole underdog, fighter thing fuels Big Boi, partly, at least, and maybe it’s how he is able to absolutely eviscerate your “that other guy from Outkast” projections from the second you hear his voice on Sir Lucious Left Foot.  The artist collaborations on this album are so smart they’re sensual, if that’s even possible, and the beats are so hot you’ll make ugly faces the first time you hear em.

Big Boi – Shutterbugg

Four Tet

There Is Love in You

There Is Love In You is one of the most focused releases from Four Tet. It succeeds not only in shrewdly drawing from other musical landscapes, but of eeking out a surprising amount of emotion and feeling from instruments so obviously lifeless as those associated with electronic music.

Four Tet There Is Love in You

Sufjan Stevens

The Age of Adz

It’s hard to think of a more provocative release in 2010 than Stevens’ The Age of Adz.  Each song’s completion almost uncomfortably forces you to beg “what next?”  But the good kind of uncomfortable.  And wrapped in all the synth-iness and weird noises is real emotion and a level of organic creativity that endears you toward the artist with every listen.

Sufjan Stevens The Age of Adz

Beach House

Teen Dream

Everything is better in Beach House world.  Edges are softened, corners are rounded, sounds are soothing, and memories are fuzzy.  Seriously, I wouldn’t mind witnessing a horrific crime if Teen Dream was somehow on in the background.  As soon as the technology is there, I’d like to step into one of those film-yellowing home videos from the sixties and take this album with me and stay for a while.

Beach House

Sleepy Sun

Fever

It’s impossible to listen to Fever without aurally recalling the late 60s and 70s, or at the very least several bands from that era that made the heavy psych, blues, and twisted folk music that has become synonymous with Classic Rock.

When examined in a vacuum a band wearing their influences isn’t a negative thing. The reason why having a familiar sound gets a bad name is it can often trigger feelings that you’re listening to a knock off, which is usually the end product of stunted originality. Yet Fever never suffers this fate, primarily due to the overwhelming amount of energy and warmth injected into each and every moment by both lead Bret Constantino and female vocalist Rachel Fannan (no longer with band).

Like a past lover returning with some new tricks after extended time apart, you may have déjà vu type moments but they just serve as the fuel for passion and intimacy.

Sleepy Sun – Open Eyes

Crippled Black Phoenix

I, Vigilante

Crippled Black Phoenix’s music could be described as pop songs sung with a type of desperation that comes from the realization that the world is about to end. Slow and elongated ballads with the familiar drone of antiquated instruments and whimsically bleak song titles.

Their first two albums captured the essence of a Victorian funeral for an Irish immigrant. The theme was straightforward and poetic.

I, Vigilante is just weird.

I, Vigilante is just incredible.

Crippled Black Phoenix

Crystal Castles

(II)

Crystal Castles (II) ends up being a strong effort, 14 tracks, with the majority of them quite palatable. Through countless plays I found that the album stuck with me wherever I traveled or sat.  This is the best thing Crystal Castles have ever done.

Crystal Castles

Titus Andronicus

The Monitor

The Monitor is just about as epic as three-chord rock can get while still managing to retain an undercurrent of conflict, self-loathing, and (here’s the reason it all works) humility.

What it comes down to is that The Monitor, more than anything else, is an exuberant celebration of American culture, warts and all. And if you’ve forgotten that America even had culture, or if you weren’t really ever aware of it in the first place (as was my case), Titus Andronicus are here to remind you. Loudly.

Titus Andronicus The Monitor

Isobel Campbell & Mark Lanegan

Hawk

Fair has nothing to do with it. The first two albums that Isobel Campbell & Mark Lanegan did fell short of the massive expectations that they both earned but neither of them asked for. Then, along comes Hawk, an album that fully lives up to the potential of what this mismatched duo should be capable of.

At points Hawk is gritty, dark and full of twang. Then on a dime it takes you to a place that’s almost unbearably sexy and full of longing. It’s about falling apart in the presence of someone, feeling your actions are uncontrollable, with all rationale flying out the window.

Hawk is a pillar commemorating the realized potential of Isobel Campbell and Mark Lanegan. It’s full of talent, it’s unnerving, it’s well written, it’s well performed, it’s comforting. These two have no business working together, and while their music reflects just that, that is precisely what makes it so good.

Isobel Campbell & Mark Lanegan – Hawk

The Walkmen

Lisbon

The Walkmen are a lovers’ band. They always have been. From their shambolic inception through their dark drunks and blistering insularity to the new, tender glory of Lisbon, the Walkmen have written songs for the heart filled with promise.  They write the songs of New York City. Not as it is, but as it should be. As it was. As it remains for those of us who call this town our home no matter how crude or overpriced or demeaning her incessant shimmer can be.

And the Walkmen are her emissaries.

The Walkmen Lisbon

Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings

I Learned The Hard Way

As with any good Motown release, this album is just plain sexy. The music is about slow grooves and danceable rhythms. The lyrics are all centered on independence, confidence, and overcoming heartbreak. The combination culminates into a perfect spring album; it conveys a rebirth; a sense of renewal.

Sharon Jones

Fang Island

Fang Island

I think Fang Island might have saved us. Given us that sunshine succour that washes away all the shame. The grit and grime and grief of this treacherous season and replaced it with a glory. An ode to joy with choruses wide as the summer sea and moments that warm us like the hidden kiss of young lovers in spring.

Boundless and enthusiastic, I’m reduced to simile.

Fang Island

Inspired Flight

We All Want to Fly

Great electronica relies on a delicate balance of beat and minimalist vocals, and Inspired Flight managed such a feat with this full length debut.  Scarub and Eligh from Living Legends, as well as Inspectah Deck and Rugged Monk of Wu-Tang Clan fame are serious and meaningful additions to their respective tracks.  A certain tenacity is included in every beat and lyric, and you can tell Inspired Flight are putting everything they have into each track.

Inspired Flight

New Mexico

Have You Met My Friend?

There are a handful of bands that Pinpoint Music relentlessly follows. Whether they wanted in that ring of fire or not New Mexico is one of these select few bands. An infatuation thats genesis is New Mexico’s unwavering and unrelenting attack on popular music.

Formally a four piece band well known as Apes of Wrath, it’s clear that New Mexico will build their own name with this streamlined three person formation. Making a conscious decision to move away from the danceier punk sound the Apes cut their teeth on New Mexico’s Have You Met My Friend is full blast and effortless. That’s not to say this is a carefree record, it’s really anything but. Wrapped up in those accessible hooks lies the beast spirit of discontent, feeding itself on the youth as it coils for an uprising. That’s the attraction though; it’s the good girl in sundress who just handed you her panties. Hearts racing you’re tense enough to rip asphalt up with your teeth but all the onlookers remain unsuspecting.

Tijuana Panthers

Max Baker

If you asked the Tijuana Panthers they’d tell you they “play it straight up”. Forgoing pageantry and seemingly absent of vanity the TJ Panthers have left themselves a blank canvas for their music to paint. And their debut full length Max Baker has started this mural with a basecoat of palpable urgency. No doubt it’s poppy, that’s not a knock it’s simply the veneer. The songs don’t attempt to tackle any type of social or political agendas, in fact the lyrics rarely broach anything that could be considered serious. Yet listening to the Panthers is undeniably gripping. Without smashing you over the head, or so much as stepping on your feet Max Baker will quickly find your undivided attention.

The nose of the album consists of familiar beach sounds that will casually satisfy a huge spectrum of music tastes. Those who dig deeper will find miles of substance driving roads of yesteryear youth. It’s simultaneously an album that you can unleash a month’s load of stress with, or put on and have a carefree dance.

Tijuana Panthers

Kanye West

My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy

Kanye West made another really good album. It’s not the album of the year, but make no mistake, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy is Kanye West’s best album, and no minor criticism can negate how good it really is. It’s not the best album ever in the history of all music ever, but goddamn, if I’m not craving this album every day.

Kanye West

The Soft Pack

The Soft Pack

Right around the time our nation’s absurdity hit an all-time high (all signs point to us looking to break our own record in 2011), and we were told using the word Muslim was profane The Muslims retooled and became The Soft Pack.

Do a little research on what a soft pack is. It ain’t cigarettes so proceed at your own risk. You’ll have a real good idea of the attitude of these guys; tongue and cheek the whole way but hardcore as shit. The attention to detail in their Self-Titled LP is unmistakable and best evidenced by a sound that while loose and relatable reveals itself to be layered thick with meaning.

It’s as if this LP has been whittled down to strip out everything that’s not holding the frame up. Don’t get the impression that the music is in anyway minimalist, apparently the impurities have just been burned off too leave an album that’s sharp, and dangerous while small enough to take everyone by surprise.

The Soft Pack

Gorillaz

Plastic Beach

On the surface Plastic Beach is a gargantuan concept album.  There is a lot to digest here.  Synth-pop is what comes out of the oven after all the ingredients are mixed, and boy is it a long list of ingredients.  The first single (“Stylo”) puts Mos Def behind the mic before Bobby Womack takes things over and cements the song as a powerhouse single.  This is the commencement of the newcomers to the Gorillaz world.  Other guests include stirring vocals from Yukimi Nagano and her band Little Dragon, a haunting Mark E. Smith, Gruff Ryhs (of Super Furry Animals fame), De La Soul, and the Hypnotic Brass Ensemble.

gorillaz

Les Savy Fav

Root for Ruin

Les Savy Fav has been shifting and storming through the past fifteen years almost entirely without peer. They’ve had contemporaries. The Yeah Yeah Yeahs. Liars. Black Dice. Lifter Puller. But where those bands grew comfortable in their derivatives or pothead expansion (read, boring) Les Savy Fav worked their good goddamnedest at refining the pomp and creativity that’s captured a cult following.

It’s a rock record. It has fast songs. It has tender passages. It moves seamlessly through its initial statement of purpose, “WE’VE STILL GOT OUR APPETITE!” to its quizzical conclusion, “just we like just don’t care”. Without ever pulling one over on the audience. It’s never too smart. Never too abrasive. Never more than it needs to be.

It’s a record you can put on and sing along to without looking like an asshole and that, my friends, is a rare thing indeed.

Les Savy Fav

Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti

Before Today

The consensus about Ariel Pink’s prior works is that most people will receive them with varying levels of indifference. I’m not implying that this is intentional but the vast majority of stuff released from 2004-2008 is the type of Lo-Fi and/or homemade EPs, LPs, and 45s that hipsters love to dry-hump.

Before Today has managed to sound more vintage than anything else Ariel Pink’s released to date, while also distinctly less Lo-Fi. It’s completely unpredictable and weaves between instantly gratifying pop hooks, completely chaotic garage sounds, 70s soul, and New Wave smoothness. Like an accomplished chef deconstructing a dish there is a lot of adventure garnered through Ariel Pink stripping down his music for this effort.

Even in dreamy and spacey songs like “Beverly Kills”, where sounds of jungle animals paint the aural landscape, you still feel like the music is tight to the rails. Right around the time the B side of the album begins with the crushing guitar of “Butt-House Blondies” you start to appreciate the variety that is being achieved while still maintaining a central sound. It’s as if Before Today is Ariel Pink’s statement that he gets it, and has every intention of ignoring what you think it is.

Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti

The Black Keys

Brothers

The Black Keys have evolved a lot in the last few years. Starting with the Danger Mouse produced Attack & Release in 2008; they began to explore the idea of how the Blues have affected modern music, incorporating that into their repertoire of dirty, garage-style sound. Bringing elements of hip-hop, jazz and funk into their already heavy Blues affected rock was just the beginning of a great explorative run.  Musically, the band has more soul than ever.

Black Keys

LCD Soundsystem

This Is Happening

Much ado has been made about the fact that this is reportedly, LCD Soundsystem’s final album. Thankfully, This Is Happening is a fantastic record, and frankly for James Murphy to have followed up 2007’s seminal Sound Of Silver with such a strong album deserves applause.  At the tender age of 40, Murphy (and the rest of LCD Soundsystem) follows the golden rule: Always leave them wanting more.

LCD Soundsystem

Arcade Fire

The Suburbs

Let’s talk like adults here. Even before its release most people already assumed Arcade Fire’s newest album, The Suburbs, would be decent if not phenomenal. In fact, the expectations for Arcade Fire albums are so astronomical; it is almost baffling how they manage to exceed these goals. The bottom line is we were supposed to love this, it was almost mandated, which is enough to set off a powerful urge in most people to try to do the exact opposite; good luck.

Everything on the Suburbs comes with ease and feels like the only logical choice. Never once does this record feel contrived or content to rest on previous laurels.

Because the setting provides literally nothing to work with, the drama of the Suburbs comes from the imaginations and perceptions of the album’s nameless protagonists. Nothing happens but everything is happening at once. There is adventure, tension and terror among manicured lawns and shopping malls. The Suburbs is fantastical in its depiction of small town life. The obvious pessimism and disdain is costumed in extravagant narratives. The true charm of the Suburbs is not its ability to construct surreal vignettes in a world wrought with normalcy but how well it uses those already treaded concepts. Making an album bitching about small town life is nothing new. Making that same album amazing is.

Arcade Fire



4 Responses about “Top 25 Albums of 2010”

  • rowe says:

    cool graphic

  • Bill R says:

    I thought the list is pretty spot on even though I’ve clearly got some listening to do, but that’s when it struck me. Why is this the only site I’ve seen embedding full songs and in a few instances entire albums with their best of lists? Pitchfork has some 30 second clips and a few one trackers but for the artists I’ve never heard of 30 seconds doesn’t cut it.As for one of my favorite sites Prefix there is nothing to listen to!

    Just saying I think this is so obvious I’m shocked you’re the ones who are doing it and not the big boys (I don’t mean that as an insult).

    Keep it up

  • hip hop fan says:

    Not sure I can trust a list without Eminem’s Recovery or Nas & Damian Marley’s Distant Relatives on it.

  • Ben Sommer says:

    Sorry – don’t get why the craziness over Arcade Fire.

    The Soft Pack hits it – like them. Thanks