Now we are into the good stuff! No doubt numbers 30 through 1 are THE big albums of the year. From here on out, these are albums that exemplify 2010 across all genres, across all countries.
If you enjoyed numbers part 1 (50-40) and part 2 (39-30), you are no doubt in for some treasures. Today, we’ll be going from 29 to 20 as you’ll definitely need some time to give these albums the proper listen they deserve.
29. Jonsi – Go
The lead singer of Sigur Ros goes solo and creates a fantastic debut. Jonsi took the complex atmospheric laying of Sigur Ros and turned it into something unique. Focusing on lush percussion arrangements and his soft vocals ontop, he proves that he can be on his own.
His music was so respected, he was asked to create the song “Sticks and Stones” for Dreamwork’s “How To Tame A Dragon” movie. With a very “epic” sound, it fitted Jonsi’s style well to compliment the movie with the aforementioned track. If you enjoyed Sigur Ros’s bigger hit, “Sæglópur”, Florence + The Machine or Bat For Lashes, definitely check out this album. Also, this may arguably be the best album cover of the year.
28. Minus The Bear – OMNI
Minus The Bear’s biggest CD was “Menos El Oso” that they received positive response as a band to watch out for. “Menos El Oso” is one of my favorite cds of all time, probably rounding out the top 10, but the follow up “Planets Of Ice” begged for more. On the follow-up, they focused too much on the instrumentation and the vocals got lost. Here, on OMNI, they found the balance.
While it doesn’t have the replay factor “Menos El Oso” does, OMNI proves that they are back on track writing music that sounds simple, but is SUPER complex musically. Not to mention, the melodies are strong and guitar work is super intense. It’s a great cd to listen to from start to end.
27. Die Antwoord – $o$
The hip hop group from Cape Town, South Africa who became noticed from their viral fame with the video for the song “Enter The Ninja”. No one knew what was going on. Was it real? Is this for real? Die Antwoord means “The Answer” and still, no one knows what they are the answer to.
Honestly, I don’t think Ninja, Yolandi Vi$$er and DJ Hi-Tek know either. This album was released in 2009, but got the proper release this year from signing with Interscope Records via Cherrytree Records (who bring over all the good music from the UK).
Lyrically, they span the strangest ideas and involve the Afrikaans language. If you could mix the electronic intensity found in Aphex Twin and put it into the rap/hip-hop sound it would perfectly describe Die Antwoord. They’re on this list for being one of the first to cross the genre of rap with the new electro sound dominating everywhere outside the US. Jay-z mentioned in an interview that the “indie” scene is pushing the envelope and the hip hop/rap scene is at a standstill. This is a brave foot forward in the right direction.
26. Vampire Weekend – Contra
One of the first great cd’s of the year. While others will have this on the top of their lists, I can’t agree. It’s the same sound as the last album, but they’ve honed their strengths to battle over their weaknesses. They fine tuned all the spots that made their last album great, to really make a fantastic sophmore album.
You’ve probably heard some of these songs in new car commercials and caught yourself bobbing your head. It’s alright too! It’s okay! Vampire Weekend takes the sound that made Paul Simon’s Graceland a massive hit with a modern spin. The added keyboard lays on top of the up beat guitars and drums and Ezra Koenig’s vocal range is impressively highlighted in this album (and thankfully with more control than the last one). Also, “Giving Up The Gun” may be one of the best music videos of the year featuring Joe Jonas, RZA, and Jake Gyllenhaal.
25. Smoosh – Withershins
SMOOSH! The Death Cab For Cutie proteges (both had private lessons from the drummer of Death Cab For Cutie and had their first tour with them) have FINALLY become the group we all feared they would become. At the young and tender age of 18 (lead singer), 17 (drummer) and 12 (bassist), these girls know how to create an album.
Their first CD’s impressed critics with their ability to craft great tunes, but desired more lyrically. Here they nailed the sonic sound, and finally show signs of maturity. The ambience they create is surreal, and the lyrics are more in depth, but I can’t wait until they learn about “love”. Then we’ll see them become the indie superstars critics predicted they would become having a more experienced life under their belt.
24. Cee-lo Green – The Lady Killer
Cee-lo Green has had his personal share of ups and downs. He was ignored by his record label, dropped, and only became prominent in the worlds’ eyes with Gnarls Barkley. His soulful, gospel, high voice riddled us senseless with Gnarls Barkley’s CD’s “St. Elsewhere” and “The Odd Couple”. However, this August 6th a wonderful little track appeared on Youtube called “Fuck You” (produced by B.o.b and his team). As soon as it came out I knew this was something special.
Even my parents loved the song without realizing what the lyrics were saying. It had a feel good sound, with a punch in the lyrics. It was a good indication of what was to come for “Lady Killer”. I think Cee-Lo Green was trying to grab the soul era of the 70s James Bond sound (see intro song “The Lady Killer Theme”) and he nailed. A job well done, and hopefully this is an indication that he’ll be around for a while.
23. Drake – Thank Me Later
With Lil’ Wayne gone, the king of Young Money, the Prince had to step up. With his monstrous mixtape “So Far Gone” in 2009, all eyes were on his full release. The mixtape was flawless. The samples were addictive. His voice was unique. He was from Degrassi (this may be the most valid point here…right?).
When “Thank Me Later” came out everyone was excited to see what it would sound like. This is the CD i think Kid Cudi was originally hyped up to create. It had a very unique sound, spacey, but hip hop beat driven. His verses seemed flawless and natural but where he seems to shine, are the ballads like “Shut It Down” and “Cece’s Interlude”. For some reason those tracks, along with “Fancy”, really show his versatility to me.
The whole cd together is well rounded, with a little bit (pun intended; see So Far Gone to understand that) of everything well balanced. If you haven’t listened to this cd, it’s confirmed, you live under a rock. If you have, then you were among the many who looked in the mirror before Friday nights saying “oh you fancy huh?”
22. The Knife – Tomorrow In A Year
This album probably no one heard about and I couldn’t have been more excited. After all, this is an opera. Repeat that last line.
Ok, lets continue. The opera “Tomorrow, In A Year” (about Charles Darwin) was proclaimed by many to be this hybrid of opera and electronica before its release. Of course, it peaked my interest just because The Knife wrote it… and then I heard, “Colouring Of Pigeons”.
The 11 minute single was released for free by the band and my mouth dropped. Then I saw the youtube clips of the dancing, and the stage set. THIS is something VERY special, and while it wasn’t on everyone’s radar, this is the beginning of modern artists dipping into the “classical” trained world to look for ways to push their own music into something new.
It’s exciting to see artists challenge themselves to do something entirely different and basing their own unique sound to develop into something completely outside the box. This is not classical music, this is not your Top 40 radio, this is otherworldly and the hardest album to listen to if you’re not into experimental, “out in left field” music, but worth it to appreciate and understand this as an important stepping stone towards the future.
21. CEO – White Magic
Damn you Sweden for being amazing. Damn you. WHY! Why do you make unbelievable music, that grooves, that has a beat, and that is still POP despite how weird you can be?
CEO is considered an “electronic experimental” sound but has the lo-fi dance instrumental work that is becoming prominent in the underground, but with light vocals gracing the dreamy “pop” instrumentation work. If you had Flaming Lips and Animal Collective take their poppiest songs and plant them in Sweden’s pop electronic machine, this would certainly pop out.
20. Diddy-Dirty Money – Last Train To Paris
I’m going to be the only person to have this in the top 50. It officially came out December 13th and everyone had their lists already in. Rest assured, they are MISSING, I repeat, MISSING this fantastic cd.
People used to laugh at me when I said Danity Kane’s “Damaged” was a monstrous jam, superbly written with a sick breakdown to bump and grind. Looks like Diddy took a hint at this unique sound they produced and combined it with the best points of R&B from the 90’s (example; Janet Jackson’s “I Get Lonely” from the genre bending “Velvet Rope” album). Yes, I too thought that P. Diddy changed his name again to “Diddy-Dirty-Money” but I’m glad to find out that it included two fantastic singers who compliment each other (Dawn Richard and Kalenna Harper).
However, the album also contains 14 other impressive vocalists. A tremendous debut no doubt and FINALLY we get an R&B album that pushes it. Plus they sample “Pon De Floor” from Major Lazer on the track produced by Swizz Beatz “Ass On The Floor”. This is the most relevant thing P.Diddy has created on his own in a while AND, it is entirely worth it. GET IT. NOW. *Note, the “deluxe edition” is a must